My January newsletter has some brief thoughts on my favorite reads of the month. You can read it here!
My December newsletter is live, and it’s a look back at this year’s writing highlights and favorite reads. If you haven’t subscribed, you can read it here!
Happy New Year, everyone!
I’m back and very pleased to say I’m all moved in! Not fully unpacked yet, but happily I have finally found my silverware.
In other news, I joined Instagram! I’m a fan, for lots of reasons, but the main one is simple: inspiration. If you’re a follower (or even a casual reader), then you probably know I’m always on the hunt for ways to liven up my writing life. I love storytelling, and I’m grateful every day for the role writing plays in my life. Still, drafting can be tough slog, so it’s good to have a little inspiration hanging around.
What I love about Instagram is that I’ve used it to help me slow down and pay more attention to the world around me. This is my favorite picture from last week:
I took it when I was in northern Michigan, and I loved the surprise of finding so much beauty growing right out of the sand. They’re prickly and fairly painful to walk over, but that just makes it more interesting.
Last week, I determined to create myself an inspirational playlist. I love the idea, but I love my critique partner Kate Sheeran Swed more, who shared the idea of continuing to write in silence if that makes me happy (it does) and creating a playlist to listen to throughout the day.
Here’s the thing I’ve truly learned over the past few weeks. I can try all kinds of exercises and techniques, but I’m still going to love to revise and not love to draft. Translating vibrant, life-like movies in my head onto paper never quite works and always disappoints me. That’s okay, because of the revision, but it doesn’t make the initial drafting any easier.
What I can do is keep at it and seek out constant bits of inspiration. I love the playlist for exactly that reason. It’s easy to stay with my characters and keep a scene fresh in my mind when the writing went well that morning and everything felt great. But when it was slow and every word took five minutes to bang out on the keyboard? That’s when some great tunes or pictures tacked up behind my work computer can come in handy.
I’ll be on a short blog hiatus for a few weeks! I’m moving, so I’m going to focus the next few weeks on packing and freaking out. The exciting news is that my new place will have a dedicated writing space! (We will name it “Office.”) I haven’t ever had an actual space (right now I don’t even have a desk), so this is pretty epic.
So, trying all these exercises and new techniques is pretty time consuming. Especially when you add in the time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t and whether I want to add them to my regular writing routine (and therefore practice them so I can become reasonably competent). Here’s what I love: I’ve learned some amazing new techniques to add to my bag of tricks, true. But more importantly, I’ve learned so much about my own style and what works best for me – how I work, what I need, what works, what doesn’t.
To that end, the addition last week of the close-your-eyes technique was a great success, and it got me thinking about visualization and inspirational cues. So many writers use playlists and photographs – all kinds of things to inspire them when they’re writing. I tend to write in silence, but if I’ve learned anything these past several weeks, it’s that I need to be open to trying new things to see if they might work for me. So this week’s project is to create a playlist for my current WIP. I’m starting small here (no Pinterest for me yet!), but I’m dipping a tentative toe into unchartered waters. I’m excited to get started!
Last week, the drafting technique I wanted to master was the write-in-short-bursts plan. Well. As it turns out, this is not my strong suit. I shouldn’t be surprised, really (and nor should you, if you read last week’s post), since I’m a self-confessed stare-at-the-screen-until-it-comes-alive-and-writes-the-book-for-me (or until I give up that fantasy for the day) type of person. Nevertheless, I will not give in!
This week, I’ll continue to chip away at my stubborn nature and attempt to force myself to take breaks. I’ll also add in a new technique: closing my eyes. Do you do this? I actually do on occasion, and it makes a huge difference in how quickly a scene comes together. (Why don’t I do it more often? you ask. Great question.)
When I think about it and do, two things happen. First, I visualize the scene more clearly, so the writing flows more quickly and the scene comes together more easily. Second, I can’t see the page, so my internal editor is required to shut up. I literally can’t use the backspace key, so no time is spent staring at the page trying to figure out the exact right form of “look” or “walk” or some other word that will likely get cut when I chop ten thousand words in the first revision.
If you’ve been following the blog, you know that last week was my shift over from daily writing exercises into drafting mode. I wanted to write more, so I did the obvious thing: I scheduled more time to write. It worked, too! Actually, outside of the time itself (which, don’t get me wrong, is fantastic), having specific intervals of my day designated for writing makes a big difference. My brain recognizes the schedule now and dives right in, whereas before when I wrote at random hours, it took much longer to settle into the task.
I’ll grant you, I’m an organizer. I have several paper calendars and an electronic one (what? that’s normal). Still, I imagine having a regular writing time (or a couple, if you’re a full-time day-jobber like me) could be beneficial for most writers.
This week, the technique I’m adding to my bag o’ tricks is the write-in-short-bursts plan. This is pretty popular and well-known, but the idea seems pretty crazy to me. If, like me, you’re a sit-down-and-write-until-your-skull-cracks-open person, then you may have missed it too (or just think it’s weird). The basic premise is that you should take a lot of breaks. Like, write for 15-30 minutes, then walk around for 5 minutes. Rinse. Repeat. Healthy or whatever, but it’s a whole mentality change for me. Still, I’m looking forward to giving it a go. I’ve heard great things about it!
Now that I’m back from the long holiday weekend, it’s time to start drafting! One of my personal challenges is that I’m an as-I-go-editor, so drafting is a slow process. You may think that means revision is faster, but not so. I make lots of plot, character, and conflict changes even before I send out the “first” draft to my beta readers, and once I get their critiques, there are other changes to make from there.
Though I’ve been trying (with limited success) for some time now, my goals during the next several weeks are to draft a lot and to teach myself to let go of that internal editor and draft faster. I don’t want to attack every technique at once, so I’ll build on them as I go, and of course I’ll share the techniques and my progress – more like once a week rather than the daily posts I’ve been doing recently. Most of the techniques are pretty basic and well-known, so not a lot of links with this series. Just me trying to put them into practice!
First up is pretty simple: create a writing schedule and stick to it. Off we go!
Exercise 12: The Covetous Competition
From Kristina Bjoran (#5)
For a romance, this is a particularly useful exercise to brainstorm your way into a great conflict. I had a great time with this one because there are so many fun directions to take it!
I finally decided to put my hero in competition with a secondary character, and of course while the competition is a sporting affair, the undertones are all about the heroine. It was great to write, but more importantly, I wouldn’t have thought to approach it this way if I hadn’t done these exercises.
And now they’re done! So what next? Drafting, of course! I’m an incredibly slow writer, so my next project will be to explore some techniques to let go of my edit-as-I-go approach and draft more quickly, and I’ll blog about it as I go. I hope you’ll join me when I get started after Labor Day!
Exercise 11: The Avenger
From Kristina Bjoran (#4)
This exercise was a bit tougher for me. I had to do quite a bit of brainstorming to figure out which character to use and what kind of crime he/she could witness to start the chain of events. Once I figured something out, though, the results were definitely worth it.
I ended up working with my heroine and starting with a plot point that was already in place, but tweaking it a bit to fit the exercise. What happened was that I ended up with all sorts of awesome ideas, and she ended up on a great adventure (of vengeance!). It was fun to write, but with the added benefit of sorting through several issues I’d been trying to work out. It also led me to a character I’d been planning but hadn’t quite fit into the main storyline yet. All in all, a great success!
The Covetous Competition (#5)