Tag Archives: writing tips

Writing Life: The Secret Project

Last week I wrote about going through SPLAT, but before I could face my own personal splat, I had a few questions for it. Like why were my procrastination and resistance so hard core around the rewriting of Book Three?

The answer came to me Sunday morning. Expectations. My own high expectations and the expectations of my publisher, my friends, my family, and my fans. Writing the next book in a series isn’t easier, at least not to me, and for some reason I thought it would be. It’s much harder. There’s an absence of freedom around it due not only to all the expectations, but also the pressure deadlines.

by Gizem Vural

I compared my lack of enthusiasm while writing Book Three to the complete joy I experienced working on my new book Intergalactic. No one, not even myself, had any expectation around Intergalactic. It was a complete experiment. A NaNo even. There were no deadlines but my own, no eyes waiting to tear into it, or tear it apart, it was a secret from the entire world.

I’m not a fan of working on more than one novel at a time, especially in this case. I know Intergalactic could easily steal my attention away from my Book Three rewrite. But I decided to try a little experiment. What if I worked on another kind of writing as a warm-up each day? A creative essay? A poem? A song? A short story? Write for the sheer joy and pleasure of writing, with no strings attached, to get me into my writing mode.

And you know what? It worked! Over the past three days I’ve dabbled in a “secret” creative project, worked on some songs, and drafted a creative essay and was so elated to be doing so that when I turned to my Book Three rewrite, I was in a much happier space.

From that space I knew I could tell this story. I was still creative. I did not forget how to write overnight.

Perhaps you, too, are procrastinating to the page because of your own expectations. Maybe you’re afraid of imperfection, maybe you have a lack of confidence. Whatever the reason, perhaps this little experiment will work for you as well. When you’re up against splat, try warming up by writing creatively in another form just for pleasure, to remember why you write in the first place.

The trick is not to use the “secret project” as an excuse not to work on your novel or to procrastinate even more. What I do is set my timer for 20-40 minutes to warm up with this new idea. If it’s a poem, I might be able to crank out a first draft. If it’s a song, I can jot notes, sing and record the melody on my computer. If it’s a short story or essay, I can make an outline or jump on in with a cannonball splash.

With no expectations, it’s been a great way to start each writing day.

How do you get yourself to the page when you’re up against your own SPLAT?

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Filed under Practical Procrastination, writing life

Weekend Workout: More NaNo / Novel Prep

In two days I’ll be off on a 3 week book tour in the U.S. so my posts might be sporadic (or simply reruns). But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you.

For those in preparation of NaNo, I’ve collected a few things for you:

From Bob Ray and Jack Remick’s Writing Blog: New Tips for the 2012 NaNo

This post covers setting, character, backstory, subplots, and structure. This is not just good advice for NaNo writers, it’s good advice for anyone starting any novel any time. And Bob and Jack have plenty of other exercises to keep you going for the entire month. This is an extremely helpful site for people working on novels run by two of the best writing instructors I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

And if that’s not enough, there’s an entire PAGE of NaNo Prep advice, exercises, and offers on the NaNo site itself. Again, there’s plenty of information here for those not participating, but going to the site might inspire you to do so. I know it inspired me last year.

I wish I had time to write a new post for you. But, I did pop over to last year’s NaNo Prep and found THIS POST about how I prepared. It’s part inspiration, part permission, part practical preparation.

And just for kicks and giggles, here’s my NaNo Day One: Don’t Panic! post from last year if you’ve never NaNo’d before.

Have a great weekend!

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

NaNoWriMo Day 16 – Down the Other Side (aka Tips, Tricks, Inspiration to Get Through the 2nd Half of NaNo)

Today’s Goal: 2,000 words
Actual Words: 2,568 words
Total Words to Date: 36,142

I have two NaNo friends who chose to quit last week because they were too far behind. I’m not going to give them a hard time b/c I know life gets in the way, we all have different priorities and responsibilities, and sometimes it’s not the right time. That doesn’t mean it was in vain, though, because 6 or 8 or 10,000 words on a new novel is a great start.

If you are on the cusp of deciding whether to continue or not, I encourage you to stick with it. If you’re having procrastination issues, time management issues, focus issues, perhaps there’s a tip or word of encouragement in here to see you through.

Tip #1) Your Timer is Your Friend


I have had my Pillsbury Dough-boy Timer for almost 15 years. I use it in my writing classes for timed writing exercises and to keep my classes running according to my agenda for the day. I also use it as an anti-procrastination device and a way to stay focused.

Here are some of my own personal timer tricks.

+ If I’m feeling really unmotivated, I give myself a timed writing warm-up to get my mind going.

+ If I’m really dragging myself to the page/computer, I tell myself to just write for 20 or 30 minutes and see how it goes. I set my timer and GO. (usually after 20 or 30 minutes I’m so into the story I don’t want to stop). Setting the timer helps me to start and focus. I have no idea how PBD tricks me into writing every time. I must be very gullible.

+ Even if I’m totally motivated to get to the page, I set it for 30 minutes anyway so I’ll remember to get up and stretch or do some yoga sun salutations.

+ If I really feel like checking my Facebook or email after breakfast, I give myself permission to do so, but set my timer for 20 minutes and when the time is up, I stop. That way it’s a conscious choice and I don’t feel guilty afterwards.

+ Say my daily goals are to work on my novel, clean the kitchen, do some marketing, and write a blog post – I set my timer for each task. I can take 60 minutes to clean the kitchen if I’m not timing it. 20 minutes if I am. It makes a huge difference.

IMPORTANT: USE A TIMER and not a clock. Clock-watching is distracting. Timers go off when you tell them to. Do not use the one on your cell phone. I keep all phones away from my cottage when writing.

Tip #2) Don’t watch your word count

I’m typing my NaNo into a Word Doc. At the bottom of the page is the Word Count. It’s so easy to get obsessed with those little numbers down there, so I always scoot my Doc down enough so that the word count is off screen. I find that I go faster when I can’t see it and usually by the time I do check it, I’ve surpassed my goal.

Tip #3 ) Go for a WALK

If you are stuck, frustrated, foggy, unfocused then reread your last several pages and take a walk. Think about what just happened, what needs to happen in the next sequence, and where you want to go. Play out different scenarios in your mind. Run through some “what ifs.” It’s so safe when it’s all happening in your head.

Tip #4) Put Another Obstacle in the Way

At 20,000 words I panicked a little because I thought I was almost done with my story. What? I know I’m an economic writer, but that’s not even a novelette. But idoLL and Jettison had already reached their final destination, where I had imagined my profound climax. Oops. What did I do? I figured out a reason they had to leave the planet, then threw a new monkey wrench into their plans.

When you’re looking to make your story more interesting, throw something else in the MC’s way. Make their goal harder to attain. Never make it easy for them.

Tip #5) The Final Quarter Beat Sheet

When I’m about 2/3 or 3/4 into the story and closing in on the climax, I write a new beat sheet. Generally by this time my old one is useless anyway, b/c the story has taken a left turn at Albuquerque.

This is a great way to see what’s left to do and gets you out of overwhelm. It puts the end in sight and a map to get there.

I will go into this more on my Friday Weekend Workout (and guess what your weekend workout will be?)

INSPIRATION and TIPS from OTHERS

If you haven’t noticed it yet, there are writers out there who have published their NaNo novels. Some of them give pep talks on the NaNo website.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, which she wrote, yes, for NaNoWriMo, gave this little pep talk I enjoyed.

Author Deb Olin Unferth adds THESE TIPS.

Lastly, even though I know I’m in danger of giving you too many tips as to distract you from your writing, one of my favourite YA authors, Scott Westerfeld, reposted his NaNo Tips from 2009 if you’d like to check them out.

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, Practical Procrastination, writing life

NaNoWriMo Day One: Don’t Panic!

NaNo Goal Today:  2,500 words
ACTUAL words as of 5:30 pm: 4,591

So you were all set to get up bright and early and write for two hours before you had to go to work / take the kids to school / fly to San Francisco, but you overslept / your kid had the flu / you opened Facebook and lost track of time.

Stay calm. There’s lots of time and you’re going to manage it better from now on (or not, but you’ll forgive yourself for it).

My philosophy is that it’s best to immerse yourself in your story as much as possible. Writing every day, even if it’s just a little bit, will help. The more immersed you are in your story, the less time you will need to review it when you do write.

You don’t have to have 4 hours to do some actual writing. If you can “get yourself to the page” you can make great progress in 30 minutes. (I’ll blog about tips for getting to the page next week) Getting to the page is 1/2 the battle. Just do it and make the most of the short time you might have.

Can you:

get up 1/2 hour earlier /  stay up 1/2 hour later?
make meals simpler with less prep time?
sacrifice your favourite TV show?
sacrifice your social media time?
ride the bus instead of drive (I get tons of reading and writing done on public transit)
bring a lunch instead of go out and write during your lunch break?
stay after work for 1/2 hr to write just so you won’t be disturbed?
send your kids to a friends or relatives at least once a week for a few hours?

Even if you can’t do any actual writing, here are some ways to stay IN your story during the month (and let your family and friends know you may be a space cadet for the month because your mind will be preoccupied):

-if you need to get somewhere and it’s not too far, walk instead of drive. Walking and thinking about your story is a great way to develop it without distraction. Thinking about it while driving is not as easy and probably unsafe.

-think about it in the shower or bath. I kid you not, I use this all the time. Say I don’t have much time to write before going to work, I do some writing then immediately jump in the shower and go over the next scene in my head. It has the same affect as walking, but even more focused. Of course, it’s important to write these thoughts down, so then – -

-bring a small notebook with you wherever you go! or index cards. I use both. they ALWAYS come with me so I can jot ideas and actions down during the day.

-talk your story out with anyone who will listen. sometimes I go on walks with Baby and tell him that he doesn’t even have to pay attention to me, I just want to talk my story out loud. this is a technique suggested by Alex Epstein of Crafty Screenwriting fame and it’s extremely helpful.

For some of you this last suggestion may be very challenging, but you can do it.

STAY OFFLINE IN THE MORNING

If you check your email / facebook / blog / twitter / goodreads / etc before you start writing, chances are you will get sucked into a black hole of time and your thoughts will scatter to the ethers. WRITE FIRST.

If you have to, disable your internet connection in the morning. Create an auto alert or change your facebook status if you must let people know why you haven’t responded to them in 30 seconds.

I guarantee you the world will not end in the hour you are unconnected.

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It’s not a giggle, a chuckle, or a titter

Okay, this has come up on numerous occasions while working on my novel series. Say you have a mature/respected character, like a high priestess, and she gives a small laugh. I’ve been wracking my brains as to what to call it. It’s not laughy enough to be called a full laugh. It’s a restrained laugh. (and don’t tell me to write Ondelle gave a restrained laugh. That’s lame; I want a verb. Ondelle _______ed.)

It’s not a giggle, she’s not a little girl.

It’s not a chuckle, she’s not a fat creepy uncle.

It’s not a titter, that’s too demeaning.

It’s not a snicker or a snigger.

And yes, I’ve gone through a thesaurus.

(My publisher Tod said, “How about a guffaw!” and I nearly lost my coffee through my nose. High Priestess Ondelle guffawed!)

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Filed under Brigitta of the White Forest, novel adventures, random poop