Writing · Writing Process

Do You Listen to Music While Writing?

Whenever I write I usually tend to listen to white noise. I find listening to music with lyrics easily distracting as the words that I’m hearing tend to clash with the words that are forming in my head. This is why I tend to listen to such music between writing sessions, as I find music can be a great motivator and can also help if you are experiencing writer’s block.

While writing my most recent WIP, I managed to make a couple of changes. One was to listen to the sounds of nature instead of always listening to white noise. My nature of choice was listening to waves crashing upon the beach, one of my favourite sounds since childhood. I’ve discovered that not only can some of these sounds be relaxing while you write, but some can also help bring about a sense of atmosphere to our scenes.

The other change I made was listening to certain songs that fitted in well with my WIP’s themes and characters. This allowed me to know my characters better, what their motivations were and helped to develop my plot. This would explain why a lot of writers tend to create playlists for their novels.

During the writing of my WIP, I listened to the album A Beautiful Lie by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Almost every song on that album resonated with me one way or another, for both my characters and for myself on a more personal level during the time I was writing. The lyrics from the title song became embedded into my head, not only for the song itself, but because it was suitably suited to my story. The Kill in particular really stuck and how could I not go past the references to The Shining in this video? 😉

Just as much as we need to experiment with our writing, there are times when we may also need to experiment with our entire writing process. Listening to a variety of music and sounds, as well as creating playlists can all become a part of that creative process.

Do you listen to music while writing or do you prefer silence? Have you found music helpful with your writing process? Do you create playlists for your novels?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

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Writing · Writing Process

Do You Share Your Current Writing Projects?

For some months now I had been working on one of the longest pieces of writing I have done so far. It proved to be a bit of a challenge, including whether or not to mention anything about it on social media.

When we come up with new story ideas or are in the middle of a writing project, it can sometimes be difficult to contain our excitement. We want others to be excited about it too.

Many years ago, I would let my friends read the stories I was writing at the time. My friends were always interested in what I was writing and were eager to read more, but I would eventually reach the point where I had lost interest. I had no idea where the stories were going; there was no real plot and I only had the basic knowledge of my characters. It therefore came as no surprise to me that I never finished these stories, thus leaving my friends disappointed and I had many incomplete stories lying around. I learned the hard way that I was a plotter and not a pantser.

I have seen some authors on social media discuss with their readers about their current projects, but personally I find that can be distracting. Some may think that by telling our readers about what we are currently working on can be a good way of keeping ourselves accountable. I applaud those authors who can pull this off – whatever works, right? However, for writers like me, I have learned the hard way to keep my writing under wraps until the current project is finished.

Talking to others about our projects before we fully understand them ourselves can sometimes destroy an idea before it really gets started. It may be hard to keep a lid on things, especially when we are in the middle of a writing streak or ‘in the zone’.

Perhaps just stating that we are working on a new project or leaving a tiny hint about it on social media may well be enough to satisfy our readers to know that we are writing without giving too much away (and they will be eager for us to finish).

What are your thoughts? Do you tell others what you are currently working on? Do you find it to be a help or a hindrance? Do you prefer to keep quiet about your work in progress?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

 

Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons Learned from Writing a Novel.

For some months now I have been busy re-writing an old novel I had written during NaNoWriMo back in 2015. The good news is I have finally finished writing it and at around 80k has become one of the longest pieces of writing I have ever done. It has certainly been a struggle for this short story writer!

During this entire process, there have been a few things that I have learned along the way.

1. Have a plan/outline

Previous experience has taught me that in order to finish a long writing project I need to have some kind of outline before I start. At the beginning of each chapter, I therefore wrote what I wanted to happen within that chapter in order to maintain my focus. It does not have to be a detailed outline for many pages that some writers are known to do; you may only need a couple of lines in order to get some sense of direction to move forward.

2. Listen to of your characters

Despite having some kind of plot outline, my characters would say and do things a little bit ‘off script’, sometimes making things better than I had originally imagined. This was great when it came to building my word count or to write again when I needed to take a break, however, this would also take me down the path of panster once again, meaning that I may never finish. When this happens, you may need to reassess what you want with what your character wants and take another look at your plot.

3. Use a timer and have a quota

Ever since I tried NaNoWriMo, I have been using a timer to help get the words written, otherwise my internal editor or perfectionist self can sneak in and it can take too long to get the words written down. Start with a quota that you find doable and gradually challenge yourself to go that little bit further. I began with a daily quota of 1,000 words and used a timer in order to get the words down faster. I would set a timer for 15 minutes and would average 500 words each session. As my 1000 word limit would be reached within half an hour, I then doubled my daily quota so that I wrote 2000 words in one hour. I then increased that to 4000 words a day, broken up into two separate hourly slots.

4. Aim to strike while the iron is hot

I returned to this old NaNoWriMo project because the idea still resonated with me. The more I thought about my characters and plot, the bigger the project had become. Sometimes new ideas may have to be placed on the back-burner if we are currently working on something, but the best time to begin writing a new project is while we are still brimming with enthusiasm, so make the most of such opportunities whenever possible.

5. Have a deadline and word limit.

Because my novel was becoming longer than I had anticipated, I needed to create some kind of deadline as well as consider my word limit, otherwise I would never finish. I had read that the average word limit for debut novels these days tend to be around 80k, so that’s what I aimed for (as well as taking my genre into account). Also I began to feel that the longer it took, my enthusiasm began to wane and I therefore needed a break. With a deadline and word limit in mind, it certainly helped to get the words written down faster.

One of my goals for this year was to step out of my comfort zone and by writing an 80k novel, I think I can safely say I’ve achieved that! It certainly has been a learning experience. 😉

Have you written your first novel and what advice would you give? How are you progressing with your writing goals? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone this year with your writing? Are you a plotter or a panster or somewhere in-between? Have you revisited an old NaNoWriMo project?

Main image courtesy of Unsplash

Writing · Writing Process

5 Things Writers can do During Winter (Besides Writing).

It’s hard to believe we have made it to June already. June! Here in Australia, we are now officially in winter, so it’s the season where people like myself usually act like a complete hermit and hibernate for the entire three months.

We are now halfway through the year and it’s time to take stock on what has (or hasn’t) been achieved so far this year. Going over the goals I set out at the beginning of the year, I can see I have a lot of work to get through. So, besides writing, what exactly can writers do during the cooler months to improve their craft and help achieve their writing goals?

1. Read

This one goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway (after all I haven’t done much reading myself this year). 😉 When not writing, we writers should spend a fair amount of time with our noses firmly placed in a book, whether that is fiction or non-fiction. In order to improve our craft we should always aim at reading books on how to make our writing better, or perhaps even read books on marketing and social media. Reading as much fiction as possible in our chosen genre/genres ensures we are aware of our genres tropes and what is currently available on the shelves.

2. Research

Doing research for our novels and stories can either be conducted in our own homes, or we can use the excuse to leave our writing caves and visit the local library. Depending on our stories, we may even venture out completely and visit places of note that may inhabit our novels and perhaps take photos and talk to experts.

3. Do a short writing course

It is always beneficial to keep improving our craft, no matter what level we are at. Short courses can sometimes be held through writing groups and libraries and even on-line. Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and take up a course that may be of help, or you may want something a bit more general. For a while now I have considered doing the online Masterclass with James Patterson and will be doing that during these winter months.

4. Listen to podcasts

The advantage of podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere. So getting away from your desk and having a walk while listening to a writing podcast can be extremely beneficial in more ways than one. There are quite a few good writing podcasts out there, it’s impossible to list them all. You will find a listing here at Writer’s Digest to help get you started.

5. Attend a Writing Conference/Writing Retreat

Attending a writing conference or retreat during the winter months is a great way of getting out of our writing cave and meeting like-minded people as well as recharging our batteries as enthusiasm can sometimes wane during the cooler weather. If there is nothing available nearby, perhaps you can create your own retreat by going away for a quiet weekend and use that change of scene to get some writing done. This is the time when the thought of being nestled away in a log cabin by an open fire can hold some appeal.

Of-course, doing these things can be done all year round, but in the cooler weather, we may need a little bit of motivation in order to keep us going. 😉

Besides writing, what do you like to do during the winter months towards your goals? How are your writing goals progressing so far this year? Do you have a tendency to hibernate during winter?

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This Writer's Life · Writing Process

Setting Boundaries for Your Writing.

Recently I’ve been re-working the novel I had written for NaNoWriMo back in 2015. There have been times when I had been so frustrated with it that I wanted to throw it in. It was also around this time that some personal issues had occurred, forcing me to really put my foot down on setting particular boundaries when it comes to writing.

For some years now I have been the stay at home mum, raising my children, doing the occasional bit of casual work in a ‘real’ job, spending several years studying for a University degree, as well as writing and blogging. Despite all this though, because I’m mainly at home, family members see me as a ‘woman of leisure’ and think that I can be called upon whenever it suits them. I had managed to stave off friends in order to get some writing done, but somehow family had become a lot more difficult (after all, they are family). This time around, however, I had reached my limit and asserted some authority. It didn’t go down well with others, but for me it felt something like this (minus the socks of-course 😉 ):-

This has always been the problem. If you work from home, some believe that this makes it a bit of a free for all. People believe that you can be contacted at any time or go out at any time. Of-course the other problem can be we allow all that to happen because we are people pleasers; we find it difficult to just say ‘no’ (hence the ‘woman of leisure’ tag). Other people’s problems can then become ours; their needs and wants overtake our own. We can eventually reach the point where nothing gets accomplished as we can become both physically and emotionally drained.

Of-course, these people do not see you being at home all day long as actually ‘working’ or doing anything significant. When I finally completed several years of University study I was told by a family member that ‘maybe now you can get yourself a little job’ (yeah, I’ll never forget that statement). Not having a ‘real’ job and earning a traditional salary can be unimaginable to some and yet more and more people are becoming self-employed, which includes writers. Putting up boundaries to people with such thoughts may seem at times a bit selfish, but it is completely necessary if we want to be successful. A line needs to be drawn.

The same can also be said for social media. We may just want to hop on for a couple of minutes, only to find half an hour or more has flown by. It’s a great distraction that can control our lives if we let it. After reading a helpful blog post about what to put on my ‘not to do’ list, I have changed some of my old habits and have managed to get more things done.

By putting up some much needed boundaries, for the first time in a long time, I am actually enjoying my current writing process. We may end up putting some noses out of joint in our efforts to focus on our goals, but those who truly support our efforts will understand in the long run.

Have you found it difficult to set boundaries in your life? Do you find it hard to say ‘no’, especially to family members? How do you avoid distractions, such as social media?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, it’s all in a good cause. 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

When Self-Doubt Kills Productivity.

Recently, I’d been struck with a wave of self-doubt. As I worked on my re-writes, it began as a trickle; my first six chapters were a complete mess and felt I couldn’t continue until they were fixed. That was my internal editor speaking to me and as they kicked in; the self-doubt began to swirl around me until it stopped me in my tracks. I was doing nothing more than going around in circles. It was then that I stepped away from the keyboard.

It was also around this time that I was reading up on self-publishing. This coincided with reading about the odds of author success. I always knew that going down the road to self-publishing was not going to be easy, but I guess the reality of it all really hit home.

I’d been dealt a blow from the stick of truth (thanks South Park 😉 )!

The reality was that when it came to these re-writes, once again, I was stalling. I was using perfectionism as a crutch; going back over something I had already covered was not moving me forward and getting the work done. Editing prematurely was hampering my efforts. My self-doubt had turned into perfectionism and they fed into each other.

After taking some time away to gather my thoughts, I was reminded that when it comes to writing professionally, it is a marathon, not a sprint. We just have to keep on going, one small step at a time. Those moments when we encounter self-doubt, get rejections, when we’re told we’re not good enough or to get a ‘real job’, if we really want to succeed as writers, we have to keep going. Self-doubt will always hamper our progress and it is at these times that determination and perseverance will be our greatest asset.

The trouble with going over the same ground, I was too busy thinking of the end result, rather than enjoying the journey. I was considering the big picture, and instead needed to concentrate on what I can control (James Scott Bell has a helpful post on what to expect from your first novel). Thinking of my writing as a ‘business’, what I really need to focus on right now is my product; my writing (of-course, the key word there being focus). The best way to do that is to just keep writing my stories and focus on my craft; everything else is secondary.

It’s easy to let disappointments and doubts get the better of us, but by focusing on our goals and being held accountable, either through a writing buddy or a group, we can continue the momentum to keep moving forward.

Do you ever feel the need to edit before you finish a writing project? What things do you do to help you move forward and finish? Do you tend to focus on the end result rather than just enjoying the journey?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

Writing in More than One Genre.

Before the end of last year, I began to consider writing in a different genre. I think it’s good for writers to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t. It takes us out of our ‘comfort zones’ and gives that elusive muse plenty to work with. For quite some time writing a romance remained in the back of my mind and for someone that doesn’t always write happy endings, the thought had become quite a challenge.

I always envied those authors that chose one particular genre and stuck with it. My muse would jump from one idea to another, leaving me wondering what genre I actually wrote in and therefore making it difficult to ‘brand’ myself on social media.

More recently, though, the more I looked into my chosen genres, the more I realised that they all kind of blend in together. As I mainly write paranormal, at least romance can always be included. My current work in progress is the ‘novel’ I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015 and a romantic element plays a major role. Yes, it’s a mess, but I am having fun with it and could well be the longest thing I have written so far.

Recently I read a post from Cait Reynolds on Kristen Lamb’s blog regarding genre, which posed some interesting issues. If you haven’t already read it, it’s well worth a look. The main takeaway regarding genres is this – pick a genre and stick with it for about three years and keep other genres to a minimum. For someone who has had issues with plot bunnies for many years, this became a bit of a wake-up call.

Writing can be fun, especially if we give our muse free rein, which is great for those of us who write as a hobby or are just starting out. The thing is, though, if we are seriously considering publication, we may need to focus on one genre for a while (preferably the one that we get the most pleasure in). This allows us time to establish a readership.

Writing in one genre shouldn’t stop our muse completely; we just need to keep our ideas in different genres on the back burner for a little while before we can take our readers along for the ride.

Do you agree with sticking with one genre before trying something else? Do you struggle to control your plot bunnies? Have you published in different genres and how has that worked for you? If you write in more than one genre, are they similar genres or completely different?

Image courtesy of Pixabay