Posts Tagged With: advice

Nanowrimo Advice


This is just a quickie blog post.  Since Nanowrimo is just a little more than a week away (yikes!) I thought I would post some links to some advice/writing I had crafted from earlier years.  I have six wins under my belt at this point, so I feel like my street cred is valid.

Also, all of this advice still applies.

Why Nano is worth it:

General Nano Tips:

A breakdown of my planning process, in detail:

That’s it for today.  I’m writing short stories this time, which are both easier and harder.  And, of course, I’ll be interrupted by the end of the month by a small, hungry, and active boy.  The madness just got madder.

If you’re joining the party, good luck!



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Writer’s Block is Not a Myth


Because it’s Nano time, I’m thinking about the writing process a bit more than usual…

There is a lot of mystery around writing that isn’t necessarily good for those who are trying to learn the craft, I think.  Learning how to write is full of cliché, bad advice, myth, and superstition.  One of my biggest pet-peeves, one I see all the time, is this idea that Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.  Or to quote Terry Pratchet (sigh: I like him so much – why does he have to be so wrong?) “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

I think it’s not just silly, but actually harmful to deny the existence of Writer’s Block.  Although full disclosure: I do live in California.


Oh good, I’m glad you asked.  Here is the answer: If we pretend that there is no such thing, then we never learn how to overcome it and/or may feel like a failure if we do experience it.  Let’s be honest.  The creative process doesn’t need any extra help in making us personally feel like failures.

Learning how to overcome writer’s block is a fundamental part of being a writer.  There are always going to be times when your story isn’t working and you have no idea what to do next.  The blank page is sometimes the most anxiety-inducing thing you can encounter.  Being a writer is mastering that fear and angst, wrestling with the inability to do something, and to win.

Incidentally, I think this is why seasoned writers claim there isn’t any such thing.  Because they’ve become so adept at tricking themselves out of it that writer’s block doesn’t matter much anymore to their output.

So…  How do you, a fledgling author, win against Writer’s Block?  Like much writing advice, it’s different for everyone.  But here’s a host of things you can try that might do the trick and snap you out of it, and most of these have worked for me.

1)      Lock yourself in a room with nothing but your writing implement of choice (pen and paper? Laptop?) and don’t let yourself out until you’ve been in there a couple of hours.  This is the one that works best for me.  It only takes fifteen-twenty minutes before I get bored out of my mind and start putting things on paper.  Eventually, the stuff I put on paper gets good and starts to feel like regular writing, as opposed to the forced kind.  This DOES NOT work if you bring in anything else with you.  No smartphone, no internet, no games, nothing.

2)      Work on something else.  I don’t know about you, but I always have 12 billion ideas brewing half-formed somewhere.  If I’m stalled on whatever I’m currently writing, I will often find that something else is just flowing prettily along and I can get a lot of writing done on that other thing.  Don’t be afraid to swap back and forth as long as you’re still finishing what you start eventually.

3)      Take a break and live some life.  Ever gone to a museum and suddenly felt like creating a whole slew of things?  How about a hike, or a picnic, a walk, or seeing a show?  Get out and do something that isn’t writing and you might find that your well of words has filled back up again.

4)      Take a close look at your story.  Maybe it isn’t something missing in you, but something missing in your work.  I once couldn’t move forward on a story for months before realizing that the character had behaved in a way totally unauthentic to herself – which is why nothing came next.  A quick re-write solved it and got me going again.  Joss Whedon swears by cutting his favorite scene and seeing where that takes him forward.  I had a professor who was huge on rearranging paragraphs and chapters when stuck.  Keep the original if you’re worried, sure, but fiddling with things is never a bad move.

5)      Ask yourself what WOULDN’T happen next.  Sometimes it’s easier to see where the right path is when you’ve taken some of the other wrong paths off the table.

6)      Skip to a part where you know what happens.  There are no Fiction Writing Rules.  There is nothing anywhere that says you have to write the thing in any kind of order.  Sometimes if you skip to where you do know what happens and keep going from there, the middle you couldn’t write becomes evident.

7)      Lower the expectations you are putting on yourself.  Nothing you write will ever live up to what the story looks like in your head.  That’s okay.  In fact, that’s how it should be.  The best news for you is this: you can write the worst prose in the entire world and it is just between you and that white piece of paper, if you want it to be.  Being bad at something is the first step to being good at something, and that’s all you need to do right now.  Take that first step.

Hopefully this post will help, at least a little bit.  Writer’s block is only catastrophically bad if you let yourself imagine that because of it you can’t produce.  Otherwise, it’s just an unpleasant part of the job of Writer.  What it isn’t is a myth, or something else you should feel failure about for experiencing.

Best of luck on your latest work.  I know I’ll need luck on mine – Nano word count as of this morning is 7522.  For the first time this month, I’m behind.  Time to take some of my own advice!

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NaNoWriMo Advice:


I wrote last week about my own journey to Nanowrimo.  I wanted to do a second post, though, about some recommendations that I have for sticking it through.  I’m feeling like a veteran at this since it’s my 5th year and all (and I’ve done Camp a couple of times too).  This is my guide to thirty days of writing insanity, specially geared towards first-timers.

  1. Let your family and friends know, and recruit a cheering section. You’re going to be spending a LOT of time alone with your computer.  Make sure everyone knows it’s because you’re an intrepid novelist and not because you hate them or are suddenly feeling anti-social.  Other bonuses include motivating guilt when people ask you how it’s going and you’re inevitably behind, possible dinners and/or candy brought to you by sympathetic pals, and encouragement when you’re feeling deep in the dumps because it’s not working out.  If you don’t have that kind of support system at home, the message boards can be a great stand-in.  So can writer meet-ups.
  2. DO NOT GO IN WITHOUT A PLAN. No, really.  I know there’s this awesome debate about planners vs pantsers and that it’s equally legitimate to be either.  If this is your first rodeo, DO NOT go in without a plan of some kind.  You don’t have to have a detailed outline like a “planner” would, but you should at least know in your head the beginning, some of the middle, and where it will end.  If it’s your first novel-writing experience, I recommend that you steal a plot.  I know that sounds bad at first glance, but it’s totally legit. All you have to do is pick your favorite tale, set it in a different time period, and write away.  A Macbeth/Mean Girls mashup where they murder the alpha-girl, A steampunk Odyssey in a dirigible balloon (one-eyed aliens, anyone?), a Sleeping Beauty on a far-away planet, where she’s incased not in briars but in ice… the options are endless.  Pick a story you know well, and mess with the wheres and whens.  You will thank me in week 2 when the Hatred hits.
  3. Be prepared for the week 2 Hatred. I always think I’m prepared for week 2.  And then I’m always surprised by how authentically and genuinely I loathe the story I’m writing.  You don’t have to like it, you just have to write it.  I recommend the pep talks on the Nanowrimo website at this point, especially Neil Gaiman’s.  Bribery and punishment also work for some.  Although I’ve never used them, I have heard great things about Write Or Die and Written Kitten.  Keep going.  Do not ditch this in favor of another idea.  You will hate it less in a few days, and if you have stolen a plot you probably know how to get to the next thing that happens.  If you have not stolen a plot, you may be feeling at this point like you’ve exhausted all your creativity and/or like your story has gone off the rails.  For this problem, try adding something completely unexpected, something from the prompt message boards on the Nano site, OR just skip to that part that happens super far in the future but that you’re looking forward to writing.  No one said you had to write the book in the right order.
  4. For the love of God, do not re-read your work! It will only end in tears. And in less writing.  There’s plenty of time after Nano to fix whatever isn’t working.  Whatever you do, just keep going and ignore the rest.  Also, this makes draft 2 really fun when you find the horrible things you’ve written and you laugh at yourself.
  5. Make the most of your weekends. Work will get crazy.  Relatives will fly in for Thanksgiving.  You will have that thing that night that you can’t get out of.  It will happen, and the word count mounts up so fast that it will seem impossible for you to ever catch up.  Use your weekends to pad your word count.  Even if you can’t get those extra words in on both days, you will usually have one day to really crank it out.  Make the most of these times and you will keep yourself sane (okay, sane-ish).
  6. It’s possible to write more than you think it is. I did 9,000 words one day.  My shoulders ached and my brain felt pretty fried at the end, but I caught myself up with some word count to spare.  If you had asked me before I did it, I would have said that 3,000 a day was my absolute upward limit.  You are capable of more than you think if you push yourself hard.  Who ever said that winning was easy?
  7. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give it your all, certainly, but it’s useful to remember a few things along the way.  #1 is that no one will ever see this draft.  It will be bad.  It will be the worst thing you have ever written sometimes.  You are still lapping the people on the couch who have never written a novel, and anyway, all you want is something you can edit.  It’s SUPPOSED to be bad.  If it isn’t bad, you aren’t doing it right.  #2 is that Nano isn’t for everyone.  Not everyone is capable of working like that, and that’s okay.  You are a winner if you wrote more words than you would have otherwise this month, and that’s all that matters.  This is also the reason you should keep going once you start, even if you definitely aren’t going to make it to 50,000.  More words are better words.  Quantity over quality forever! (or at least until draft 2).  #3 is to ignore everyone else’s word count on the message boards.  I’ll tell you right now that those people who have 20,000 words  of a novel on day 2 are either professionals with dozens of books in print, super humans, or lying.  Run your own race against yourself, and just know that the rest of us are mad at those overachievers for blowing the bell-curve too.

So that’s all I’ll say today.  Any other advice I have is probably specific for my writing style anyway.  I leave you to enjoy the Viking hats, the traveling shovel of death, to get acquainted with Mr. Ian Woon, and otherwise revel in the explosion of words that happens every November.  Best of luck!

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