Category Archives: Writing Tips and Advice

Can Distraction Work For You?

As writers we’re always told to make time for writing and to avoid distractions, important advice especially when writing under a deadline–and for JuNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days is one huge looming deadline. But, taking the time to find inspiration is equally important.

Everyone finds inspiration differently.

I think we can agree that most original ideas aren’t developed by locking ourselves in an office, sitting at our computers looking at a blinking cursor. We develop ideas by getting out of our own heads, getting away from the computer and living our lives. Some of us feel we get enough of the outside world with jobs, family obligations, shopping, and the activities of our day to day routines–they certainly do enough to cut into writing time.

live to writeBut does the thought of watching that movie you’ve been dying to see, or just sprawling out on the couch with your favorite drink for mindless TV antics make you cringe in guilt? Your conscience screams, “No distractions when there’s a book to write!” But. . .

Is watching an old Hitchcock movie a distraction from what you’re supposed to be writing, or does it have inspirational merit? For me Hitchcock movies and his TV series have a great way of making me think about things differently. What if I throw in a little taste of the feeling that Hitchcock inspires into my next story? What if, after getting lost in that half hour of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I suddenly have a new insight into my own character’s motivation? Then, the distraction was well worth the time.

There’s a connection between distraction and inspiration.

The best writing tool you have is your brain, and it has its own stubborn and cockamamie way of doing things. How often do you have brilliant ideas while doing mindless tasks–taking a shower or doing the dishes? Or during family time–playing with the kids or watching a movie? Even in the moments that seem like a distraction, our minds continue working in the background, putting the pieces of our fictional worlds together. We may not realize that the process is going on or have any control over it, but that’s when the brilliant ideas develop.

Maybe we shouldn’t think so critically about distractions–we all need a moment to unwind. The important thing is balance. Successful writers need the determination and discipline to know when it’s best to have your butt in the chair writing, and the instinct to know when it’s time to take a break. As you’re trying to rack up those word counts next month, remember to give yourself a moment every now and then to indulge in a distraction without feeling guilty, your mind, body (and story!) will thank you for it.

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Fel WetzigFel Wetzig is a paranormal writer, book blogger, and lover of folklore. After completing an MA in History, she’d had enough of the real world and armed with a fountain pen, she started writing fiction and building a blog, with the Peasants who live in her head. When not wrapped up in fantasy worlds, she’s usually at the day job designing publications, or relaxing with her husband and two erratic ferrets. You can find her at The Peasants Revolt.

 

 

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So You Want to Be a Writer

So You Want to Be a Writer

Sign up for JuNoWriMo and Win Prizes

Sign up for JuNoWriMo and Win Prizes

New Swag for 2013

New Swag for 2013

 

 

So You Want To Be A Writer

If you’re thinking of writing your first novel in June but are a little daunted by the prospect, don’t be afraid! Susan Kaye Quinn has some excellent advice for new writers. Keep reading for some great tips on how to be a writer. (Originally posted here.)

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So You Want To Be A Writer …

I often have people ask how to get started in writing. Or perhaps they’ve started a novel, but aren’t sure where to go from there. Or even finished their novel and want to explore publishing. This post is a general guide to help my friends explore writing to see if it’s right for them.

If You’ve Always Wanted to Write A Novel …

…but you haven’t started yet, this section is for you. The most important thing for a beginning writer to do is simply write. Invariably, beginning writers do not believe me. Shouldn’t they take a class? Or read a book on writing? Or possibly make an outline first? After all, they have no idea where to start. The hard answer is that no one knows where to start. They just do it. This is hard to hear, because it’s like wandering out into the dark without a flashlight or a map, much less a GPS. Who on earth would do that? There’s one person that does: a writer. Every time she stares at the blank page, or he takes a leap into an unknown plot twist, the writer forges out into the dark with no idea where they will end up but willing to take the dangerous journey anyway. DO THIS. Take the leap into putting words on the page without caution. It’s the quickest way to find out if you’ve got the mettle to take on such a risky undertaking. A less frightening analogy: suppose you decided that you wanted to run a marathon. You shouldn’t start out by reading about marathons, or signing up for a marathon trainer, or even watching marathons on TV. The first thing you should do is run. Every day. When you’ve built up some stamina, you can start worrying about things like interval training and carbo-loading and even reading books about marathons. But for now, just write.

If You’ve Started a Novel, But Don’t Know How to Finish …

…don’t panic. Writing a novel is a tremendously large undertaking. It’s not something you’ll whip out in a weekend, and the first several novels will likely all be steep learning curves where you start to understand things like voicecraft, and storytelling. There’s a famous saying that you have to write a million bad words before you start writing the good ones. Ira Glass has a delightful video on beginning artists (which includes writers) needing to fight through a large body of work before they can bridge the gap between what they can imagine and what they can produce. So, you have a long road ahead of you: don’t be impatient. But the first (and very important) step is to finish that first novel. I highly encourage writers still working on their first novel to finish it, as in write it all the way to The End. It may be crap. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to be crap (with tidbits of awesome). Here’s a secret for you: all first drafts are crap. It’s learning how to get the words on the page, then going back and reworking them into something that SHINES that separates the beginners from the less-beginners (because I swear we’re all still learning along the way).

If You’ve Finished a Novel, But Don’t Know What To Do Now …

…you’re not done. Finishing the first draft is a wonderful accomplishment, especially the first time! Pat yourself on the back, have a glass of wine, and decide if that (writing a novel) is something you ever, ever, in your life, want to do again. The answer may be “no” and that’s perfectly acceptable. But if you want to produce something you can be proud to share with others (even possibly beyond your family and friends), you will need to revise. And by revision, I don’t mean checking your punctuation or sentence structure (always good to do as well). I mean, this is where you decide, Am I serious about learning this craft and art of writing, knowing how much work it is? If the answer is “yes” congratulations! You’re a writer! Also, condolences, as you have just picked a life of misery and suffering, I mean, great artistic fulfillment! See my For Writers page with links to all kinds of posts on writerly craft. Seek out other writers in your genre and offer to swap critiques with them (first chapters in the beginning, then progress to swapping whole manuscripts). Listen hard to criticism and treat it as the gift that it is. Begin the slow, unending journey toward improving your craft and your storytelling. Find your Voice. Discover what makes you unique as a writer. And remember this is a journey of discovery of yourself as much as your story. And most importantly: write another novel. Your first novel, no matter how many drafts you put into it, is unlikely to be one you want to publish. Many writers have several novels under their belts before they have something ready to show the world.

If You Think You Want to Publish Your Novel, But Don’t Know Where to Start …

…stop. Do not leap immediately into self-publishing. Ask yourself these Seven Questions before self-publishing and evaluate your Writer’s Mission Statement (don’t have one? Make one). You need to know what your goals are before you publish, in order to have any hope of it being a fulfilling experience for you. See my For Writerspage for links to posts about publishing. There has never been a greater time to be a writer, because of all the choices that writers have, from self-publishing to small publishers to Big Six Publishers. The choices are yours, but it pays to know what you’re after and be well informed before taking the leap into publishing. If you thought being a writer was hard, trust me that being a published writer just makes everything more complicated. And rewarding and awesome, but only if you’ve got realistic and attainable goals in your sights.

Welcome to the wild and wonderful life of being a writer! I hope this post helps, and I’m always open to questions. Paying forward the many, many times that other writers have helped me … well, that’s part of my Writer’s Mission Statement. 🙂

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Susan Kaye QuinnSusan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA SF Mindjack series. Her new Debt Collector serial is her more grown-up SF, which she likes to call future-noir. Susan has a lot of degrees in engineering, which come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mind powers, future dystopias, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. Mostly she plays on Facebook, in awe that she gets make up stuff full-time. You can find her at www.susankayequinn.com.

 

@WriMo is a Must Read for #NaNoWriMo – Win a Copy Here!

Hey WriMos! I’m excited to share a great new book with you. If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, you won’t want to miss this one. In fact, I’m going to give away a copy at the end of this post, so keep reading!

My Review

Are you new to writing, as in never finished (or maybe started!) a novel? @WriMo is for you.

Are you a National Novel Writing Month (or JuNoWriMo) virgin? @WriMo is for you.

Did you attempt NaNoWriMo and not quite make it to the end? @WriMo is for you.

Are you a several-time NaNoWriMo champion who’s on the [long, grueling] road to publishing? @WriMo is for you.

@WriMo: A 30-day Survival Guide for Writers isn’t a writing handbook—it’s a motivational tool. It’s like a concentrated dose of writing-pep-me-up in a shot glass: the antivirus for that pesky Resistance strain. The book is crafted into 30 bite-sized chunks (one for each day of the month) that are easy to swallow in a short time frame. It’s perfect for a five or ten minute get-into-the-groove before you start your daily writing.

Kaiser covers such topics as: “Inspiration is Overrated,” “When the Muses Head to Vegas,” “5 Things to Stop Doing Right Now (if you want to finish your novel),” and “What Bestsellers Do Differently Than Everyone Else.”

Sometimes when I’m stuck I need to be gently encouraged about my talent and potential. Other times I need someone to pull the La-Z-Boy out from under me, knocking me off of my all-too-comfortable butt and drag me back to the writing desk. Kaiser hits both ends of the spectrum with this one. From quoting Yoda (“Do or do not. There is no try.”) to the drill-sergeant-esque “You want to write, don’t you? Then write!” (exclamation point added for emphasis), @WriMo packs the punch.

This book is geared toward NaNoWriMo participants, but is also great for anyone who fights writer’s block, has a difficult time getting motivated, or needs some extra encouragement in his or her daily writing routine—regardless of what month it is. When I picked up this book, I’d been procrastinating on a few projects. After reading just a few sections, I was ready to get back in the ring and have a throw down with my story. Reading @WriMo made me feel strengthened, revitalized, and determined not to give in to Resistance.

If you’re going to do NaNoWriMo, I suggest you get this book now, read it once before you begin, and then read the content for each day as you move through November. It contains a lot of great nuggets you might want to consider before starting, but it will also be a welcome refresher during the experience. Either way, there’s never a wrong time to read @WriMo.

Interview with the Author

Check out this interview with Kevin Kaiser to find out more about the book and his life as a writer. Then make sure and enter the giveaway below!

BC: @WriMo: A 30-day Survival Guide for Writers is geared toward those who participate in National Novel Writing Month. Have you participated in the challenge, and do you have one (or more) NaNoWriMo winner’s badges to your name?

KK: My only NaNoWriMo was in 2005 after a friend had told me about it. At the time, I was puttering around with writing a novel. Like a lot of people, I had an idea, but that’s about all I had.  I didn’t sign up officially through their website, but I loved the idea of all these people working on books at the same time. Even if I didn’t know any of them, I at least wasn’t alone. So I started getting up at 5:00 a.m. and wrote before work, then wrote at night after I had spent some time with my wife. I hit 60,000 words that year, every single one of them terrible, but that sent me on a new path. I was hooked.

BC: You’ve giving all the proceeds of this book to the folks at NaNoWriMo. What drove that decision?

KK: If I hadn’t written that novel in 2005, my life would look very different today. Back then I was in the investment world. NaNoWriMo was a truly defining event in my life that made me realize what I wanted to do with my life. Now I make my living in entertainment, mostly in publishing, and I have NaNoWriMo partly to thank for that. Doing @WriMo was the simplest way I knew to pay it forward and say thanks.

BC: @WriMo is jam-packed with wise advice about how to beat Resistance. How did you find these truths? Were they mostly taught, borrowed, or personally discovered?

KK: All of the above. They all started out as bits of advice and wisdom that I’d heard or read somewhere. Truth is, knowing about something isn’t nearly the same thing as knowing it firsthand. At some point you have to begin discovering and experiencing these things for yourself, otherwise it’s all just hearsay. There’s nothing transformative about hearsay. But experience, well that’s altogether different. Everything I write about now comes from my personal discovery process. I want to know for myself how to beat Resistance and that can only come one way: by doing.

BC: You have a great quote in the book. “Distractions slay more novels than anything else.” As a writer, what distractions do you face and how do you deal with them?

KK: The same ones everyone else does, though I think my greatest distraction is fear. Many writers may not consider fear a distraction, but it’s what derails us more often than not–fear about whether we’re good enough, fear about discovering that we’re really a fraud and can’t write after all. For me, moving past fear when it creeps in is essential. There’s nothing more paralyzing to the creative process. Not even Facebook or Twitter. : )

BC: Your writing blog StorySellerPRO provides the same type of encouragement and motivation that @WriMo does. One of the things I like best is your brutal honesty about what it takes to be a writer. You don’t kowtow to the excuse of writer’s block. In that way, your posts are often like my own personal writing drill sergeant. Who or what pushes you to write?

KK: I’m in a stage at the moment where I’m writing at least partially for a paycheck. Writer’s block is a luxury, if you want to call it that, I can’t afford because I have deadlines. But even that isn’t enough, which is why having people in your life that you can trust is important. I have a few friends, other writers mostly, who have no qualms with calling me out if I’m making excuses. My wife is my own personal drill sergeant and keeps me on track. Being the spouse or significant other of a writer is tough. They’re the unsung heroes, really, and the real reason why so many successful writers never gave up.

BC: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

KK: I’m not really sure, honestly. I remember drawing my own comic books when I was kid and writing short stories. It didn’t cross my mind that I might actually be a writer until a few years ago when my wife corrected me during a conversation. She’d said, “Stop saying that writing is your hobby. It’s not. You are a writer. Accept it because it’s true.” It seems like a little thing, but that was the spark that made all the difference. Still does.

BC: Have you written any fiction? If so, what genre and what was the story about?

KK: I have. Quite a bit, actually. I have many many short stories, which I’ll eventually share with the world. I’ve also done several novel to graphic novel adaptations, a handful of screenplays, and three full length novels, one of which is published under a pen name. I gravitate toward thrillers, but thrillers that bend toward the supernatural. I think I have my taste in comics to movies to thank for that.

BC: You’ve worked with a variety of talented authors, including New York Times Bestseller Ted Dekker. What’s it like hanging around so many creative minds?

KK: When we actually get the chance to hang out it’s fun and truly encouraging. I’ve learned that everyone is essentially the same no matter what level of success they’ve achieved. We’re all just people trying to do something meaningful in life that we can enjoy. There’s a unique thing that happens, too, when like-minded people come together. New ideas happen that wouldn’t otherwise come to life, and sometimes sets one or all of us on a new path.

BC: What other projects are in the works? Do you have plans to publish again anytime soon?

KK: I just finished the first novel in a series that I was asked to co-write with a successful author. I can’t say who just yet, only that it’s the biggest project I’ve worked on to date. It will release sometime in early January 2013. I also will be finishing the second pen name novel in the next few months, and it will be published probably at the first of the year.

BC: If you could sum it all up in one thing, what would be the single, most important piece of advice for those hoping to win NaNoWriMo this year?

KK: Write because books don’t write themselves. Everyone does it the same way: one word at a time.

Giveaway

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On Scene Lists: What Your Story Needs

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

Only a few days left until June! Are you ready? Here’s Aaron Pogue’s last post in the prewriting series. Complete all the steps and you’ll be set to have a great JuNoWriMo writing experience. Good luck!

Aaron Pogue

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We’ve been talking about long synopses and scene lists this week. Yesterday I went into some detail on what scene lists are for.

Today I want to tell you how to write one. It shouldn’t be hard, but it’s definitely going to take some time and thought. So let’s get started!

Meat on the Bones

By this point in your prewriting process, you have everything you need to make a story. You’ve got a beginning and an end. You’ve got characters, you’ve got conflict, you’ve got an overview of the plot. Making the novel requires you to flesh out that skeleton, though. Continue reading

On Scene Lists: Building a Novel

***This post is one of several in our prewriting series. To read the first post, click here.***

Hopefully you’ve been making great progress on your prewriting and are almost all ready for June. If you’ve been following the steps in this series by Aaron Pogue, you will go into JuNoWriMo prepared. It’s the best way to start!

Today Aaron talks about writing a long synopsis, the biggest weapon in your prewriting arsenal.

Aaron Pogue

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This week, your big JuNoWriMo prewriting assignment is to develop a long synopsis, or scene list.  Here is a brief description of a scene list:

A scene list is primarily useful as a prewriting or editing tool. It forces you to map out the actual structure of your story, down to the very building blocks, and then gives you an easy place to spot errors or weak points, to tinker and rearrange.

To make a scene list, you start at the very beginning of your story, and write one to two paragraphs describing what happens in every scene. When you’re finished, you’ll have your entire plot down on paper — every twist and every turn — without all that messy set design, characterization, and description.

That’s certainly how we’re using it this week. Today I want to go into a little more detail than those two short paragraphs give. Continue reading