The MRWG wishes all our readership a very Happy Mother's Day. Perhaps you're in the mood to read something writerly during "The Voice' ad breaks or having got the little ones into bed are ready to fire up the lap top and have some me time in cyber space. Here's a lovely post from Ebony McKenna on enjoying a hobby, something all mothers need, an activity that is purely for their enjoyment. It's Fine To Have A Hobby
Hobbies are what give our lives simple joys and pleasure. Seeing the result of a finished project and admiring the work and love that went into it.
I love bonsai, I've been creating them and tending them for twenty years. Yet I've never exhibited. I do it because I enjoy it and it brings me pleasure. I also love model railway sets and adore building the model houses that go with them, but I hardly attend train fairs and I've never joined a club. Because it's a hobby, so I do it for me. Just because I can cook doesn't mean I will appear on Masterchef any time soon.
And yet, writing seems to be the one hobby where if you take it up, you're suddenly under pressure to do everything. Have a blog, be on twitter, write 10,000 words a day, send things to agents and editors, get those 90k novels done, have them reach the dizzying heights of the bestseller lists.
All because you had a little story noodling in your brain and you liked writing.
So perhaps it's time to step back for a moment and have a think. Do you write for fun? Excellent. Keep doing it. Does the thought of sending your story out into the world, to be ripped apart by critics kill you inside? Good then, don't do that. Do the bit you love, without the other stuff. The pressure stuff, that will suck all the joy from your hobby.
Of course, if you're rampantly ambitious, like me, and you want the pressure and in fact thrive on it, then by all means, turn your writing hobby into a full time pursuit and give it everything you've got. Write, write, and write some more. Then rewrite. Then put it in a drawer for a few months. Then rewrite it again. Then write something new (because that other thing will be so derivative you won't believe it) and keep on going.
But in the mean time, those who write as a hobby - ignore the pressure. Don't get drawn into the competitive nature of writing as a full time job. Write for the pure, simple joy it brings you. Write for yourself. Write to feed your heart.
Ebony McKenna, is published in Young Adult, Her first two Ondine novels, The Summer of Shambles and The Autumn Palace, are available in paperback from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search/advanced?searchAuthor=Ebony+McKenna
with free worldwide postage.
They are also available as ebooks in the UK and Australia from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebony-McKenna/e/B0057PRSL2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1366672783&sr=8-1
and then the trequel and the conclusion release dates are:
Ondine: The Winter of Magic - worldwide ebook release December 6, 2013
Ondine: The Spring Revolution - worldwide ebook release March 6, 2014
We all know about the writer’s notebook. But since publication, I’ve come to realise I also need a writer’s diary. I’m not talking about a journal, a place to wander entranced through my subconscious. Nor am I’m talking about a diary that includes scribbled shopping lists, indecipherable recipes or doctor’s appointments. It won’t have anything to do with my day job. After all, those hours are already reserved and accounted for. I just need a place to put all the practical stuff that comes with being a published author.
I need something that tells me when I’m scheduled to submit a guest blog post and remind me to drop by and comment once it’s posted. I’ve also got a blog (link to: email@example.com) and need to diarise the guest authors scheduled on mine.
Revisions or edits come with strict deadlines and I’ll record those and flag some warning cues letting me know time is passing.
I need to create goals, tagged with definite dates. If I want to write two or three books a year I need a plan
and the diary is my roadmap.
Maybe I have a coffee date with a fellow writer, an important part of staying connected in the writing community. I don’t want to forget that because those relationships are precious.
And every month a diary reminder to email website updates to my website manager by the cut-off date makes sure I make the most of my investment.
I need to schedule stuff around my new releases, probably the trickiest thing to do; contact my publisher’s PR person, ask bloggers for a spot, request reviews. I need to hone a program that puts me out there but stops short of making people throw up.
When I go on holiday, and that holiday is really a thinly disguised research trip, I want a note of what I need to check and research each day. I may not pass that way again and if it’s related to the book I’m writing, I’d better make sure I diarise the things I need to research at each stop.
My diary will have a note about closing dates of interesting short story competitions I want to enter. Some of those will represent unrealised dreams. It’s so important to have these and record them.
I’ll also use it as a record of what I’ve done
not just what I plan to do. Dates of submissions, rejections received, short pieces I’ve written.
In short, I need something that helps me progress my career, keeps my head screwed on straight and stops me waking at 3am with that ‘uh-o’ moment about something I’d forgotten to do. The practical Lou, she of the day-job, reaches for a serviceable black Debden diary. But writer Lou wants Kikki K, something colourful and full of fun that reflects the sort of heroines I write.
What about you? Do you keep a writer’s diary? Or are all the things you need to do kept in your head?
Louise can be found at:
If an editor suggests writing things in active voice, what does this really mean?
In a nutshell, with sentences written in active voice, the subject performs the action that is expressed in the verb. It can sometimes be a strange concept to grasp, but with practice and repetition, you’ll start to notice it everywhere, especially on radio & TV news bulletins.
For our first example:
Active: The company ships the computers overseas.
In this instance, the company is the subject, and performs the action, which in this instance is the word ‘ships’.
However, in passive voice, the subject sometimes disappears, and the object – in this case the computers – have the action performed on them by the subject.
Passive: Computers are shipped overseas.
In this example, we don’t know the subject, so the reader is left to assume that the computers are shipped “by the company”
Active voice tells us who is doing what.
Active: The chef is preparing the food.
Compare this to the Passive: The food is being prepared.
The implication in the passive example is that someone is preparing food, but the writer hasn’t told us the subject. It could be a group of students, chefs, or even criminals keen to mend their ways.
They key “flag” to look for in passive voice is not past tense, but the implied “by whom”, usually left off the end of a sentence.
The boy kicked the ball – active
The ball was kicked by the boy – passive
The delivery man brought the package yesterday - active
The package was delivered yesterday – passive.
Implied “by whom” – you assume it was the postie. But it might have been a neighbour, a lover, or a carrier pigeon.
Passive voice is often indirect, whereas active voice makes things more direct. Use active voice when you want to pick up the pace and move things along.
There is nothing wrong with their passive or active voice, it’s more a matter of working out which works best for your situation. If you’re writing a non-fiction report or analysis, then passive voice can work well. If you’re writing a novel full of action and romance, (gee, really?) then active can keep things humming.
One of the drawbacks of passive voice is that it can let people off the hook.
We made mistakes – active. This means you’ve owned up to your mistakes.
Mistakes were made – passive – leading the reader to wonder, “yes, but who made them and who can I blame?”
So the key is to read a sentence and ask yourself if you know who’s doing it, or who’s done it. If you’re left wondering ‘by what or by whom’ then it’s passive voice.
Snares, traps and blunders:
Avoid starting a sentence in active voice and then shifting to passive, or vice versa.
Voice shift: Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but it was still ordered frequently.
Revised: Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but they still ordered it frequently.
Voice shift: He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but he was still laughed at by the other students.
Revised: He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but the other students still laughed at him.
Now that you’ve seen a few examples, you’ll find yourself noticing them more and more. It doesn’t mean passive is ‘wrong’ but when it’s overused, it makes things sound dull and lifeless. Listen to ABC 774 news and it’s full of passive voice. I’ll bet they haven’t noticed!
Where Passive voice works well.
There are often times when passive voice requires less text, because of the implied subject.
"Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly. Is a great use of passive voice. To put this in active voice, would weaken the idea that some rules really are made to be broken. “I was made to break rules” makes me sound like I’m up myself
“Trespassers prosecuted”. Is a fine example of good passive. To write this in active, you’d need to say something like “We will prosecute trespassers”
For the comprehensive worksheet that accompanies this article, please visit the "Articles on Writing Craft Page of our website and you'll find the complete workshop.
Ebony McKenna is published in Young Adult fiction her webpage is http://www.ebonymckenna.com/
Happy Easter Everyone
Here I go, finally a blog about my hero. I’m being very severe with myself and am strictly limiting the word count so as your eyes don’t glaze over while I indulge myself dissecting each of her books. Having said that, as far as contemporary authors go, Jane Austen keeps me re-reading her books again and again. Wait a minute, isn't she a historical author? Not in my view. She lived during the regency period but didn't write historical novels. She wrote about her contemporaries.
The allure of the period costume drama aside. I read Pride and Prejudice thinking it was going to be some kind of intellectual read. I dare say Mills and Boon would have thought up a more romantic title which could have tempted me to open the cover a good five years earlier. Any who, as a self confessed fan, I guess at age 21 and just discovering J A is a bit lame. Most people I know read her as a teenager. I can only put it down to a distaste for the “Classics”, Dickens etc. I thought it meant the same as reading books for school.
After my coming of age birthday I felt it was time I bit the bullet and got on with improving my reading resume. OMG I LOVED P & P. I whipped through the rest of the novels and settled on Persuasion as my all time fave. For the last 30 years (eek, how many?) I've thought a great deal about J A. I’ve been to England to visit Chawton and various other J A historic spots so, you know, I mean slightly obsessed when I say thought a bit about her. What gets me fired up, nowadays, is how her writing style isn't in fashion and she’d probably not get a contract if she cold submitted around the traps. I know, a lot of you think she would. But we can agree, her books hold their own with current romance novelists and give us an emotional ride every time we read them, again and again. I still get anxious that Anne Elliot won’t meet up with Captain Wentworth after reading his marriage proposal. No I’m not pathetic, J A is that great. She can still intimately pull us in.
I believe one of the, too many to mention here, reasons is that at times she adopts a conversational style, not dissimilar to her letters to sister Cassandra. She wrote about what went on in her current time. She was a contemporary author taking the reader into her confidence, whether poking fun at her supporting cast or getting her heroine to notice if the hero wore a blue coat or not (very in at the time). In some respects it’s like modern Women’s Lit. In taking the almost insufferable circumstances of a woman’s lot and sharing a private joke with the reader and making fun of it. For example, when the poor (in more ways than one) Dashwood sisters are expected to enjoy playing with spoiled noisy children. J A has Eleanor make a comment that goes something like, when she is around her cousin’s children, she can never think of quiet children with any abhorrence. It carries so strongly with how we feel today, when the last vestiges of stereotypical gender types are sometimes still ill applied.
I admire J A as I would any brave woman, from any period of time, who chose to live as an author rather than marry someone she didn't love. Even the comfort of her sister and mother were not enough to induce her into a marriage of convenience. She wrote what love should be like. Not what her real experience of love had served up in her own life. The gradual awakening of her characters to their own faults, which have kept them from love, and the change in their attitude leading them finally into marriages of bliss, is totally relevant today. Mr Darcy admitting his faulty pride, to his dearest loveliest Elizabeth, has to be the most romantic scene ever written. If J A wrote that this year and it came out in paperback with that scene, my bet is that it would be a NYT bestseller.
The picture of the lady at the top of the page is officially not of Dora Bramden. It is however an unauthenticated portrait believed by some (including me) to be of Jane Austen. Photo sourced from http://worldbooktrade.blogspot.com.au
Someone recently asked me this question: how long does it take you to write a book? I paused for a moment before answering, because I was pretty sure the other person expected a pretty straightforward answer. Something like, “three months, two weeks and four days, give or take”.
Of course, as anyone who’s done any kind of fiction writing knows, the answer is way more complicated than that.
Every book is different
For a start, the answer is different for each book I’ve written. And in some cases it doesn’t even have anything to do with word count. Some books just write themselves – they come quickly and relatively easily (I’m cautious about using the word “easy” when it comes to writing!) and before you know it, you’re typing “The End”.
Other books make you struggle for every word. Or they start off fine, and then the muse up and disappears after chapter three. Then, six months later she’s back, whispering in your ear, “Hey, remember that story we abandoned? Well, how about...”
You can’t really count the time in between as writing time. Although obviously, somewhere in your subconscious, it’s still been kicking around, working itself out. So it still kind of counts!
What do you mean by “finished”?
As we know, there isn’t one finish line when it comes to writing. Typing “The End” on your first draft is really a beginning, just as much as a finishing. There’s editing, redrafting, rewriting, restructuring...
And then, when your story makes it into the hands of a publisher there’s a whole new finish line ahead. Editorial/structural edits. Then line edits. Then author alterations. Then, THEN, finally, your book is done and off to the printing presses (or equivalent e-book formatting!).
“I never finish anyway...”
I know a lot of writers who struggle with finishing their stories. A lot of agents and publishers only want the first three chapters for submission, so there is a temptation not to bother with writing the book much past that. And, let’s face it, the first part of a book is usually the easiest – we’re still in love with our characters and the novelty of our story is still fresh and exciting.
I’m a bit of a believer in the school of thought around the law of attraction. It basically says that your attitudes and behaviours have a lot to do with the kind of opportunities life sends your way. And I think if you only ever write three chapters, you’re kind of putting it out there that it’s okay that no one ever asks you for more than that. Not to mention the fact that you’re really not giving yourself the full experience of being a writer. Writing the opening of a story is relatively easy. Seeing it through to fruition, watching your conflicts play out, keeping the tension alive, avoiding the “saggy middle” – they’re all writing skills that you’ll never use if you never go past the first three chapters.
And, on a very practical level, when the right editor does hit upon your work and asks to see the rest, if you’ve already written it (or at least most of it) you’re in a fantastic position to do some polishing, some final writing and send it off quick-smart before they forget about you! Responding quickly as a writer is important (even if responding quickly as publishers and editors is practically unheard of!).
So what’s the answer?
How long is a piece of string? How long it takes is up to you. As with so much in writing, there’s no right or wrong answer. The only misstep you make, I think, is in not meeting the challenge to reach “The End”.
Emmie’s latest book is a novella, Spellbound. She thinks it probably took about three weeks to write, three months to polish, and three years to get published.
Spellbound link: http://www.destinyromance.com/products/9781743481035/spellbound
Find Emmie on the web:
As an author, I've discovered my creative process needs to be supported by a physically and mentally fit body. Occupational health and safety is as important to me, working alone on a laptop at the kitchen table, as it is to a construction worker.
A sore neck, a horrible ache between the shoulders, and other physical problems associated with poor posture, can bring my creative process to a halt. Also an all work and no play attitude can lead to fallow periods of creative and physical exhaustion. OH&S is, in my opinion, not so much a fear based be-careful-and-be-aware-process as much as it is a common sense approach that helps me to spend more productive time at the keyboard, doing what I love.
Construction workers learn how to bend and pick up heavy items. An author needs to be able to do that too. I'm getting ready for when the promo copies of my first published book arrives from the publisher (positive thinking at work here). Lift with the legs, keep your back straight and hold the precious box of books close to my body. When sitting and typing for long periods of time I need to be realistic. It can take a toll on my body and mind if we don’t observe some OH&S guidelines to keep me in the best condition for creativity.
There are many websites available on Google that will give you exact measurements for sitting at a computer and I advise you visit some and get the facts. I’ve done that, but if I need to get out the measuring tape I won’t bother. So here’s what works for me. I sit on an ergonomic chair that is adjusted so that my knees are at a right angle and both feet rest flat on the floor. If I weaken and cross my legs, I have to jump around on one foot when I get up because the other has fallen to sleep.
The small of my back is supported with a cushion and my shoulders are back and neck is erect so the keyboard placement reflects this, as does the screen height. The mouse is kept close as possible to my keyboard. It may sound obvious to make sure the keyboard and screen are directly in front of you and you aren't twisting your back or neck to view it, but I've often become out of alignment. I place my screen about an arm and a palms distance away and have special had reading glasses made up to focus at this distance.
I get up and take breaks. Wow, that can be so difficult. When I’m on a roll, I can sit and type until my bladder is as big as a fit ball and have to walk cross legged to the loo. So I have learned this is best avoided by keeping track of the time in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and taking a break every hour. Yep every hour. I go to the loo and then refill my glass of water. I've found my brain works so much better when it isn't resembling a prune.
I stop for lunch and weather permitting I eat it outside in the courtyard. I look at the trees far away and then at the flowers up close and I breath deep. This gives my eye muscles a work out and gets my heart pumping oxygen around, fabulous for the brain too. You should probably do this every half hour but I can’t honestly say that I do. I do however repeat this routine in the garden whenever I become stuck. It seems to clear the blockage for me. Two to five minutes contemplation in the garden and I usually get a breakthrough.
I go for a walk at least three times a week. My favorite walk, in the current Melbourne heat, is up and down the air-conditioned, local shopping mall. On pleasanter days I like to visit a nearby lake.
Remember the RDO the construction worker has? Yes? Well, I totally agree with this for authors. It’s different from the weekend. This is a day you’d normally be working on your writing or other job. You can still exercise what fab romance writer and tutor, Anne Gracie, calls the writing muscle and put some words down but just do half an hour or so. Keeping happy has to be the most important ingredient in the creative process. The passion for writing may feed your happiness but someone who is so depressed they can’t get out of bed, isn't going to write anything.
I began taking a day for myself once a week. I called it Dora Day. Dora Day now happens about once a month and it involves doing anything I fancy. A massage, visiting an art gallery, going on a boat cruise from Melbourne’s South Bank to Williamstown, a stroll along the St Kilda pier, or lunch at the Block Arcade followed by a long browse in a bookshop. These are just a few of the things that constitute a Dora Day.
You get the idea. It’s day you give to yourself, to be filled with anything you like. I’m always uplifted and refreshed after my RDO. So, if I’m a little jaded and it feels as though I’m swimming upstream, I prescribe myself a Dora Day. It always does the trick.
I invite you to have a think. What would you do on your (fill in your name) Day?
Have you read the weekend papers and now sit, with third latte in hand, looking for something writerly to read? I have it for you. Here at the MRWG we are blessed with talented writers.
As it’s the first Sunday of the month, I thought I’d round up some of February’s blogs, just in case you missed a gem.
In alphabetical order, here’s a brief outline of what’s been posted.
Anna Cowen has been blogging about the art and essence of storytelling on her blog, Diary of an Accidental Housewife. (http://annacowan.com/
),yes this is the right link. During February, Anna visits the movie Dirty Dancing and also recounts an enchanting fairy tale with a strong heroine as opposed to the kind that waits around to be saved.
Emmie Dark (http://emmiedark.blogspot.com.au/
) has been posting an informal diary of her sojourn in the USA. Her photos and experiences take us off the usual tourist path and show us some of the quirky side of Texas and California. Even though we’re quite Americanized in many ways, here in Australia, Emmie shows us some fun differences.
Louise Reynolds at Lou Writes ( http://louwrites.wordpress.com/
) has been entertaining subscribers with a series called Cooking The Books. In my life as a bookkeeper it mean’s telling a few porkies, however Louise’s guests have been talking honestly about writing and cooking. A reoccurring theme is the emotional link food creates with our past and how that can evolve into inspiration for stories.
Serena Tatti of Story Editor (http://serenatattistoryeditor.blogspot.com/
) has been interviewing writers during Feb. Her guests have been sharing accounts of their writing experience. Juanita Kee’s explores loving your character and Suzanna Ross shares her experience regarding the magic of writing friends.
Well that’s a taste of what some of the MRWG members have been offering through their blog’s. If you've read them, I hope my post helped you to remember how great they were. If you haven’t seen them yet, you have a treat in store.
At my first Romance Writers of Australia conference I was like most newbies; bean-green, wide-eyed and just a little star struck.
The keynote speaker was Jenny Crusie whose blog I’ve followed with interest for a number of years. Crusie is one of those generous writers who let you into their lives so you meet their crazy friends, psychotic pets and mildly dysfunctional families.
Crusie had a major cold. She felt like crap and told us so in typical style. But when she started to talk about writing friendships she glowed. Her great mate Krissie (author Anne Stuart) had accompanied her ‘down under’. To a comment by a snuffly Crusie that she wasn’t sure an equally ill Krissie was in the audience that morning there was a shout from the audience, ‘I’m here, sister!’ Joyous stuff.
In a world of social media it’s easy to be “friends” with everyone. Writers who toiled away in isolation 20 years ago are now in touch with as many friends as they can handle at the press of a button. Not all these friends will make the ideal critique partner.
Choose your crit partner wisely. Here are my tips:
1. Each should bring as much, if not more, to the relationship. Share on a one-for-one basis to start with. Later, as the relationship develops, you can make allowances for the varying demands the other might have on her time. Synchronise writing speeds. There’s nothing worse than sending a chapter and receiving 3 in reply. It will change from time to time but you should get the feeling that you are roughly equal in the equation.
2. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
3. Check out their online identity. If they’re published, check out their reviews. See how they interact with others on their face book page, twitter, etc.
4. Decide whether you want to match interests and writing styles or go for something different. If you write sweet romance but want to prise that bedroom door open an erotic romance writer may help.
5. Look for someone you think you can learn from. If you’re in a face-to-face group already and you admire someone’s writing, ask. It may not be a yes but could lead to…
6. Consider having a couple of people you only send stuff to occasionally, prefaced by something like ‘I’m having trouble with this but can’t work out why.’ A writer on the next level is more likely to take an interest in helping if they don’t feel pressured to be a full-time CP.
7. Don’t have so many critique partners that you spend too much time reading their work and don’t have time to do your own. For me, two – three is max.
8. Commit equally to honest appraisal. Everyone loves to hear “OMG, I love it!” But we’re looking for someone who can help us move up to the next level. I like a crit partner to apply the blowtorch where warranted otherwise I’m just treading water. So put the big girl panties on and take some criticism. Fair, robust criticism will push you on. Comfy criticism will cripple you.
9. You didn’t exchange rings so don’t be scared to call it off. Some critique partnerships dwindle through lack of interest. Others need to be finished by either party. You don’t need a court order to get out of this. A simple email thanking the person for their time (which after all you have repaid if you’ve followed Rule 1) and wishing them well will go a long way to maintaining a friendship.
10. Have an honest discussion about plagiarism, use of ideas etc. Some beginning writers don’t have an understanding of this and may not respect the writing and ideas of their CP. Define right up front where the boundaries are. Spell out that all exchanged work is not to be on-forwarded and is to be destroyed on request.
11. Don’t send your writing into the void. This is your hard earned work, your property and the stuff of your dreams. Don’t send it right left and centre to people hiding behind Writerbabe69 or whatever.
12. Work out when a crit partner has taken you over. Your book is more hers than yours. She’s stronger, dominant, convinced of her opinions. You’ve received critiques with more track changes than a capital city rail system. Remember this is your book.
A good critique partner is worth her weight in gold. Good luck with your search! You can visit Louise on her website, blog or Facebook.
I often struggle with silencing my internal editor. It’s the little voice that provides a running commentary on everything I’m doing wrong with my writing. Of course, that little voice can be helpful in small, controlled doses when I’ve transferred my ideas to the page and am ready to refine them, but during the creative process, all it manages to do is feed my doubts and block creativity.
Ever stared at a blank screen, the cursor taunting you with its incessant blinking, and felt paralysed? What is so scary about that blank page? Often we have more ideas than time to work on them, so why can it be so difficult to get them from head to paper (or computer)? For me, it’s the fear of failure. The ideas seem so perfect in my head, and I want to do them justice, so I put a lot of pressure of myself. Now, when this happens I simply remind myself of the following advice that many writers would have heard time and again. ‘You can fix a bad page, but you can’t fix a blank one’
We waste a lot of energy talking ourselves out of writing because it might not be perfect. Why not refocus that energy into putting words to paper as they come. We can go back and ‘fix’ anything we’re not happy with later.
These fears can often continue throughout the writing process. Rather than taking off with an idea and letting the words flow onto the page, I find myself critiquing each paragraph, sentence or even each word, as I go along. I’ve even been known to stop mid-sentence searching for the ‘perfect’ word to describe something as inane as the colour of the dirt on a character’s shoe. Thankfully, I’ve been able to work on that bad habit, and rather than dwelling on something so small, I will move on, or alternatively, place a small note to come back to during the editing stage.
It’s important to remember that a first draft isn’t meant to be perfect. It’s a way to let your creativity flow; to find your voice and let your ideas run wild. Once you’ve let all of that creativity out and have something to build on, then you can go back and edit. The next trick is being kind to yourself. Your inner critic will judge you and tear you apart... but if you find something you’ve written is just ‘rubbish’, have a laugh and try again. I’m sure even the most successful writers out there have cringe-worthy moments when reading over their initial drafts. It’s all part of the process.
Here are some tips to help you turn off that internal editor:
· Put a ban on editing of any kind. This can be as simple as not being allowed to read over what you’ve written, or to be even more extreme, stop yourself from using the ‘backspace’ button at all. If you’ve made a typo it can be fixed later.
· Set yourself goals. Even if you have limited writing time, aim high. This is the idea behind the popular NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Participants need to complete 50,000 words in one month. It’s a big ask, and meeting that goal requires non-stop writing during precious writing time. For most people there’s no time to edit, therefore the words, and creativity, flows. Use a productivity app/program such as ‘Write or Die’ where you can set goals around word counts or time limits. There are also consequences for not writing continuously. The descriptions below are taken from the Write or Die website.
- Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
- Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if, and only if, you continue to write.
- Kamikaze Mode: Keep writing or your work Will ‘unwrite’ itself (I’ve never been brave enough to try this one).
· If you couldn’t possibly fathom writing an entire story without editing (*puts hand up*), then restrict it to one chapter at a time, or if that still causes heart palpitations, cut that back to one scene. C’mon, I know you can get through one scene without editing!
· Plan. This will be hard for my fellow ‘pantsers’, but it’s worth trying. Have a rough plan for your story. Sometimes, the more detailed, the better. I find if I have scenes planned out at certain points of the story, even if it’s just the overall objective of a scene (e.g. Show the development of trust between hero and heroine), it helps keep momentum. Stalling, or becoming ‘blocked’, is like holding up a ‘welcome’ sign to my internal editor. I must keep moving. Note: Pantser = A novelist who writes by the Seat of their Pants, not taking time to plan the novel before beginning to write.
· Try something different. If your self-control has disappeared and you absolutely cannot stop yourself from editing, it’s time to turn off the computer and try something else. Why not grab a pen and paper? Rewriting and amending the same sentence ten times suddenly becomes more difficult. Another alternative is to dictate your story. You don’t even need a Dictaphone. Most smart phones have a voice record/memo facility. Just hit record and start talking. No editing here. That can wait for when you transcribe it all later.
After reading a great little book ‘How to write a book in 48 hours’ by Jack Morrow, I realised 1) there is money in self-help books and 2) you must be prepared before you sit down to write.
For me the ideas don’t spring forward the moment I sit at my blank computer screen, with fresh coffee, loads of chocolate and raring to go. For me it’s like extracting a tooth and I agonise over every word, paragraph and page, which can choke any spark I have.
But what if I’ve spent time thinking about my characters as I go through the day. I can plan what I’ll do to them, and see how they react. I can think about the places I can put them, where they will be out of their comfort zone. Depending on your memory jot down brief notes, or keep it tucked up in your head until it’s writing time.
And as Jack mentions, if you have a plan already in your head or jotted down, bare bones only, it must speed up your word count.
We don’t have to sit around wool gathering to do it either; we can do it while driving, in the shower, cooking the dinner, waiting in a line at the supermarket.
A few years back I did a workshop at an RWA conference and we practised meditation and the exercise of trying to picture your book, a scene, a point of change, and then sleep on it. We make this our final focus before sleep. Forget the cat, the kids’ lunches, the wet washing in the machine and just zone into your fictional world and see where it leads.
Another good tip to increase word count is to cut the internal editor out of the equation.
Assure your internal editor, and we all have one, you are getting words down. Thank him for his advice that your writing is crap and assure him you will edit it tomorrow – but not today.
Give it a go and maybe get Morrow’s book to see if you can increase your word counts.
Go with the flow and may the words and inspiration be with you.