5 Tips for New Writers.

old-letters-436502_1280A few weeks ago, I talked about the pitfalls of social media and the pull of marketing as writers. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find these things a curse when you’re easily distracted (yeah, squirrel). Sometimes it can be hard to even get started.

Listed below are a few techniques I’ve used. Hopefully they will also help you focus and get you back on track with your own writing.

1. Write Every Day

This is an old piece of writing advice that I never really took to until recently. In order to help me with this, I began a writing journal; writing as much or as little as required. This then led to new story ideas developing or existing ones expanded. My writing process may have been slow to begin with, but since then, I have begun writing longer pieces. At the end of each day, I have felt a sense of accomplishment. Writing every day then becomes a habit, and a new routine that moves you forward towards your goals.

2. Write What You Want to Write

Years ago, I tried my hand at writing a romance, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it. Trouble was I was too busy concentrating on trends. The only way to truly find your own voice is to write the stories you want to write, otherwise you’ll lose interest very quickly.

3. Forget about Publication (for now)

Sometimes when we’re writing (or even before we even get started), we can be too busy thinking about the finished product. During my teenage years I wrote stories in serial form and let some of my friends read them. I certainly wasn’t thinking about publication back then. I wasn’t worried about perfection either. I wrote that mush simply for the pleasure of making things up. I was enjoying the process. As unpublished writers we don’t have to worry about deadlines either. Write for your own enjoyment. Experiment with different genres and styles of writing – take the time to work out what works for you. Have fun with it – worry about publication later.

4. Concentrate on One Thing at a Time

Some writers thrive on multi-tasking. I’ve tried it that way myself, for a while, yet found myself unable to focus and left a lot of work incomplete. Whenever a new idea pops up now, I write it down and let it simmer in the back of my mind for a while. I found this helps in two ways. It (a) allows you to work out characters, plot, etc for the new project instead of writing it up until you reach another dead end, and (b) my eagerness for starting the new project forces me to work faster on the current one.

5. Have a Plan

Think about what your ultimate writing goal is and consider the steps you need to take in order to make that goal possible. What kind of writing do you do other than novels, if any? In order to make a name for yourself, it helps to build up writing credits. Have a plan of what other types of writing you’d like to pursue, where they could be published and/or if you’d like to enter competitions. Every step you take can help you in building up a body of work.

Is there any advice that I’m missing? What advice do you have for other writers? What mistakes did you make when you first started writing?

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5 Discipline Techniques for New Writers.

Hourglass_Sand_CeremonyWhen I finished my University studies, I wanted to throw myself into writing, but I quickly found out that I was too mentally drained. I needed a break. That break turned into many months (yes, I know – hangs head in shame); my writing had become sporadic and I had accomplished little.

I didn’t want to admit it even to myself, that I had wasted too much time (Kristen Lamb has a recent post on this subject). I needed ways to manage my time better, come up with achievable, realistic goals and re-focus. It didn’t take long for me to realise I had a major problem with discipline.

Here are five techniques I’ve started using to help combat the issue.

1. Accountability buddy/writing group
As new writers, it’s great that we can write what we want, when we want. We are lucky that we have no boss to answer to, yet if we don’t get any writing done, we have no-one to blame but ourselves. We have to learn to be self-motivated and sometimes we could do with a little extra help. Find someone who is willing to become an accountability buddy – a fellow writer, a supportive friend or partner. I’ve made my husband my accountability buddy and ‘report in’ at the end of every week. Yes, I get the pep talk if I’ve been slack, but I also get the praise when I’m making progress. Writing groups can also be beneficial, especially those that meet regularly and set tasks for each session.

2. Deadlines
When studying for my University degree, I had numerous deadlines to meet. Once I knew when assignments were due for each subject, I planned accordingly. The closer to the deadline, the more effort I put in. As new writers, we have the luxury of not having to meet deadlines, however we can give ourselves self-imposed deadlines to make sure the writing gets done; otherwise we can slacken off. Give yourself realistic timeframes for each goal.

3. Daily Quotas
I’ve never really done well with these, which is one of the reasons why I have participated in NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Having to push yourself to reach a daily quota is very rewarding, especially when you manage to go over that quota. The more words you write, the more pages you produce (yes, starting small is still progress 🙂 ).

4. Time Yourself
Time can be the enemy for writers, even more so when you write against the clock. Use a timer to see how much you can write within a certain time frame. This also helps to determine whether you’re good at working under pressure or not.

5. Reward System
Hey, it works for kids and animals, right? Allow yourself to read that book, watch television, go on social media, or whatever it is you fancy once you’ve reached your daily quota. Treat yourself to something special when you’ve finished writing that novel draft. Every step is an accomplishment – you deserve the rewards.

Have you also struggled to get back into writing lately? Do you have a problem with discipline? What techniques do you use to make sure you get your writing done?

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Graduation and The End of Study.

GraduationAfter several long years, my University studies are finally over and well and truly behind me. On 21 March, I attended my graduation ceremony. It was a day that held mixed emotions for me; I was so nervous I was dreading every minutes of it, yet wanted it over with at the same time. I felt so uncomfortable, and having to wear the outfit and hat didn’t help (at least I wasn’t alone in that – I could look silly along with hundreds of others)!

My husband insisted I attend and I’m glad he did, for I know I would regret it if I didn’t. Graduating like this was something I would never do again, as I have no intention of furthering my studies. I received a degree I did not require to further my career; I studied because I simply wanted to. Years ago I wanted to study for a Bachelor of Arts, yet family members mocked it, labelling it a ‘Bachelor of Bludging’. Certainly there were some subjects during the course of my studies that I didn’t find too difficult, and I can see how the arts are perceived, yet I was not satisfied with cruising through University. If I was going to study, I was going to do it properly and work hard to earn that degree. And I did. In all twenty-four subjects, I only received one pass; the rest were credits and above. I studied because I was interested in learning and I wanted to further my writing skills, as well as learning to discipline myself and work to deadlines. My studies were completely online – never once did I attend lectures like my husband. Writing is a solitary occupation; studying in this way helped prepare me for the future.

Sitting and waiting in the back row.
Sitting and waiting in the back row.

It wasn’t until almost two weeks later, that the reality really sunk in. I had never realised until I was home alone for a few days just how much time I had devoted to my studies. It has been a lot of hard work and it has certainly been rewarding. I feel that my writing has become stronger by it – so much so a lecturer once asked if I was going on to do my Masters. Writing full time is going to need the same amount of discipline and hard work, but through my studies, I know I can do it. Sometimes, we don’t know what we can achieve unless we really try.

What have you done that you felt you really had to work hard for? Do you struggle with discipline? Have you ever done something that others have mocked you for?

Images by Debbie Johansson

I’ll be taking another break from blogging and will return on 29 April. Happy Easter everyone and I hope the Easter bunny is good to you all! 🙂