Category Archives: writing tips

Overcoming Writer’s Block

 

 

We all love being in the throes of that mystical thing we writers call “flow.” Those moments where hours slip away as we pour out our vividly imagined scenes onto paper (or computer documents).

We revel in these moments somewhat frantically, knowing that they won’t last. Knowing that as beautiful as these moments are, there is another, more sinister side to the coin.

Writer’s block.

It seems to come out of no where. One day you are writing happily along, the next you leave your writing session with nothing to show for your time. Or you can’t even find the motivation to sit at your desk at all.

We ask ourselves the question all writers have or eventually will: How can I keep writing when my writing muse has left?

Sadly, my muse has been cruel enough to leave me as well, so I’ve come up with some ways to get it back.  I’ve also learned that there are at least three reasons why writer’s block has suddenly reared its ugly head.

 

 

There is a problem that needs fixing in your story

Sometimes that feeling of not wanting to write is your subconscious trying to warn you that something isn’t working in your story so you can fix it now instead of plowing through and making a mess that will be difficult to unravel later.

If this is the case, then all we have to do to get our writing muse back is to fix the thing that isn’t working.

Easier said than done, huh? If you knew what wasn’t working, you would have fixed it already and went on happily writing.

If you ask yourself why you don’t feel like writing and you feel that something isn’t working in your story, but you aren’t sure what, don’t panic. All you need to do is ask yourself more questions.

Consulting Detective [MB/S] - GIF Starters - Wattpad

How do I feel about my main character? If she is boring or I just can’t connect with him is the answer then go back to the character-creation drawing board and discover some things about your MC that will make them interesting and help you connect.

If your main character isn’t the issue, then move on to the other characters. If they aren’t the problem, then ask yourself about the plot, the dialogue, the tension (or lack of tension) in the scene you are working on.

There are so many more questions to ask yourself why you feel something is “off” with your story but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. There are so many, that I could write a whole blog post on that alone (and will 🙂 ).

Chances are, there is a good reason your brain seems to have checked out and refuses to write more words. Something is niggling at it, whispering that writing more words at this point is a waste until you fix the problem.

But what if you fix the broken piece of your novel (or find nothing is broken) and you still can’t find the will to write?

 

There is an emotional reason for your writing-related apathy. 

Early this year, I went through months of writer’s block because the project I’d spent a whole year on didn’t turn out as expected. Well, that’s putting it nicely. It turned out to be a disaster. Were there things I could pull from the wreckage to use in creating a new and improved version of the story? Definitely. Did I learn a lot from the process even it the end result wasn’t something publishable? Absolutely.

Was I enthusiastic about starting my next project with all my hard-won wisdom? Absolutely not.

Even though my logical side could see that the experience wasn’t a total loss, that didn’t stop my emotions from reminding me how much time was “wasted” on the project and sending a wave of doom over my next project.

If you find that your writer’s block is because of some less-than-stellar work you did previously or a case of imposter syndrome (where you have crippling self doubt that you can’t produce another book as good as your first), then there isn’t an easy fix. At least I haven’t found one (if you know of one, please share!).

But there are some steps you can take to overcome these emotions.

First, acknowledge that they are there and figure out what thought or belief they are coming from. Then, ask yourself if these thoughts or beliefs are actually true.

If you are afraid that your first novel’s success was a fluke and you won’t be able to writing something like that again, then ask yourself if this is absolutely true. Do you really know that you won’t be able to write another great novel? Is it an absolute truth that the project you are working on will turn out a mess like your last one?

NO. (If you are wondering what the answer is 😉 )

You can’t look into the future and see that this project is doomed for failure (unless you have some powers I don’t know about…in which case, share them with me!). You can, however, ruin your chances at writing a beautiful new story by allowing those thoughts and emotions to control your actions.

Sure, your WIP might end up being one that you shelve at the end, but it also might be one of the best books you’ve written. You will never know if you don’t keep writing it.

But, I get it. NOT feeling like writing is why you are here, so simply telling you to keep writing isn’t that helpful. I have no magic answer for banishing these gloomy emotions, but I do have some ways to get through them.

1.Stop writing. I took a break from writing for a month. Took some time to go back to the basics and read some great books and listen to podcasts on writing. Getting some new information in your head does wonders for those pesky, negative feelings. You might learn the reason your last novel didn’t turn out or learn a new technique that excites you so much, it pushes all those haunting emotions away.

If you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo and don’t want to stop writing, continue to number three. Or, heck, stop writing in the middle of NaNo. Quit NaNo if you need to. It is a means to an end, a tool in your hand. Winning NaNo isn’t the goal itself–finishing your story is–and if you need to take a break to do that, then do it.

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2. Write something new. Maybe you don’t want to take a break from writing altogether, but your current WIP has too many feelings of guilt or trepidation attached to it for you to look at it with fresh eyes. So, take a small break and work on something else. You could do some worldbuilding or create new characters for another project, or you could write a short story. When I am needing a break from my WIP, but I don’t want to start anything new and lengthy, I love to look up writing prompts on Pinterest and free write whatever comes to mind. It is a great exercise that gets your writing muscles moving again.

3. Add something new in your story to get you excited about writing it. A great way to get rid of unwanted emotions is to replace them. Brainstorm some ideas of things you can add to the scene or chapter that you are working on that makes you want to write it. The twist? This doesn’t have to be something you actually want to keep. Make it something completely unexpected and wacky. The crazier, the better. Does a storm come out of no where and blow your character’s ship off course? How would it change your story if the MC’s best friend suddenly died? What if a complete stranger barged their way into the conversation you are writing?

Don’t worry about how a sudden twist might change the plot or derails your story from the outline. You are only adding it to trick your stubborn brain into writing again. You can take whatever happens out in the next draft. Or you may like it and decide to keep it.

I added a new character in act three of my first draft of The Hashna Stone, simply because I didn’t know what to write and needed some spice to keep me going because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I ended keeping her, and she is one of my favorite characters in the book.

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You’ve fallen out of infatuation with your story

What if you’ve given your novel a critical look over and done some soul searching and determined that it isn’t a problem in the novel or some deeper emotional reason for your writer’s block?

It may simply be that you are feeling the magical spark of new-story-infatuation fade away. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s that obsession you have when you first get an idea, the bubbling excitement as you write your first chapter, the blinding adoration for your main character, and the absolute assurance that this story is going to be the one that gets you the agent of your dreams/lands you a book deal/sells a million copies.

We all go through an infatuation stage with our story. It might last a few weeks, it might last a few months, but however long it lasts it won’t be for the entire duration of your novel.

If your lack of interest is because your story isn’t new and shiny anymore, know that this is perfectly normal. This is the easiest of the reasons fix, because there really isn’t anything to fix.

You just have to keep writing. There will be a moment in your story where you find that spark again. It may be as you write the ending or it might be in draft three when you discovers something that adds that special touch to a character’s arc that you were looking for.

Sloth Slow GIF - Sloth Slow Hahahaha - Discover & Share GIFs

Whatever the reason for you writing apathy–a problem in the novel that needs fixing, hindering beliefs and emotions, or a fading away of new-story infatuation–know that it is temporary.

You are still a writer, even it you don’t feel like writing. Your story is still a work of art, even if you don’t feel it is. Writing is a process that is filled with ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs. No one writes a novel and has nothing but happy, rainbow feelings throughout the process.

Not feeling like writing is normal. Having a muse that leaves you at the most inconvenient times is normal.  Not all writing sessions are moments of “flow” and that is okay.

Figure out why you’ve lost the will to write, try different methods to get over that writer’s block, but whatever you do, don’t give up on your writing because of a season of “dryness” in your writing.

Keep learning. Keep writing. Your muse will be so impressed with your resilience, that they will have no choice but to come back.

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Three Best Ways to Outline Your Novel

Outlining a novel is a daunting task. When we sit down to write an outline, there are so many questions running through our head. Is it enough to write a sentence for each scene or should I get detailed and write a paragraph? What if I don’t know every scene that is going to happen? Should go back to brainstorming if I don’t know enough to make a detailed outline of every single thing that is going to happen in my novel?

It’s enough to make us freeze up and decide not to write an outline at all.

I wrote my debut novel, The Hashna Stone, without ever creating a formal outline, so for my next writing project, I had to go back to the basics and figure it out.

An outline can be as simple as writing a sentence for each of the major plot points or as detailed as writing a rundown of each scene. With such varied methods, it leaves us wondering which is the “right” way to outline?

The answer: there isn’t a right way to outline.

There are many methods out there and they might all be “right” as long as they work for the individual using them. Outlining is just like novel writing. Each writer has to find the process that works for them by trail and error.

That being said, there are some methods that are tried and true and will get you “the best bang for you buck.” To save you some time so your aren’t stuck trying all the methods out there, I’m sharing the three that I’ve had the most success with.

The Seven Point Story Structure

This method will probably be best for the pantsers out there (writers who don’t like detailed outlines and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants). It can be done relatively quickly and there is no need to come up with every little detail of your story.

For all the plotters out there, it may not be detailed enough for you to use as an outline, but is a useful tool for shaping ideas into a story.

Here’s how it works.

  • The Hook–Answer the question, “What keeps my reader reading after the first few pages?” Write down what it is that will make your reader wonder what happens next.
  • First Plot Point–This is the point of no return for your character (think when Harry finds out that he is a wizard and leaves with Hagrid or when Frodo leaves the Shire).
  • Pinch Point One–This is where something happens to make your character take action.
  • Midpoint–Your character makes the decision to start going after his problem instead of running from it. It dramatically changes the direction your character was going.
  • Pinch Point Two–Whatever is going wrong at this point in the story, make it get even worse. Make it so bad that it seems like the bad guy will actually win.
  • Second Plot Point–This is where your character gets the last bit of information he needed to defeat the villain.
  • Resolution–Defeat the bad guy, resolve the conflicts, and answer all the questions.

I learned about this method from Dan Wells in a podcast by Writing Excuses (give it a listen). It’s really fun and simple to use, making it a wonderful tool for developing ideas into stories early on, but it didn’t quite give me enough information to start writing my first draft.

Enter the 3 act-9 block-27 chapter method… (Yes, it is a mouthful)

3 act – 9 Block – 27 Chapter Method

This method doesn’t just have you come up with major plot points, but  gives you three “blocks” within each act and has you break down each chapter within those blocks.

I was looking for more detail. This method’s middle name is “detail.” In fact, it was a little too detailed for me. I got really excited by the thought that I could have my whole novel so neatly set up before  writing a single word of draft one but, for whatever reason, this method only worked partially for me.

I ended up with a lot of good plot points and a lot more information than if I hadn’t filled out this sheet, but I still didn’t feel ready to write the first draft after this. What I had under a lot of the chapters  were single lines like “they come up with a plan to escape” or “plan successful.” It wasn’t enough to tell me what exactly happened in each chapter. When I tried to figure it out, my mind went blank and I lost interest.

For the most part, I really liked this method, but I still felt like something was missing.

(This article explains this method in much more detail)

The 15 Beat Story Structure 

I didn’t stumble on this method until early this year, but I fell in love with it the moment I discovered it in a screenwriting book, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. He suggests using notecards to come up with each beat, and even thought I’d used notecards before, the combination between them and this method worked like magic for me.

Act 1 / The Beginning

  1. Opening Image (0% to 1%) – A single scene beat that shows a “before” snapshot of the protagonist and the flawed world that he or she lives in.
  2. Theme Stated (5%) – A single scene beat in which a statement is made by someone (other than the protagonist) that hints at what the protagonist will learn before the end of the story.
  3. Setup (1% to 10%) – A multi-scene beat in which the reader gets to see what the protagonist’s life and the world are like–flaws and all.
  4. Catalyst (10%) – Inciting incident
  5. Debate (10% to 20%) – A multi-scene beat where the protagonist debates what he or she will do next.
  6. Break Into Two (20%) – Something big happens to make hero DECIDE to go to act 2.

 Act 2A / The Middle (Part 1)

  1. B Story (22%) – A single scene beat that introduces a new character or characters who will ultimately serve to help the hero learn the theme.
  1. Fun and Games (20% to 50%) – A multi-scene beat where the reader gets to see the protagonist either shinning or floundering in their new world.
  1. Midpoint (50%) –a “false victory” or “false fail.”

Act 2B / The Middle (Part 2)

  1. Bad Guys Close In (50% to 75%) – 
  1. All is Lost (75%) – Seems like total defeat (usually death happens)
  1. Dark Night of the Soul (75% to 80%) – A multi-scene beat in which the protagonist takes time to process everything that’s happened so far. 
  1. Break Into Three (80%) – Hero realizes what they must do to overcome

 Act 3 / The End

  1. Finale (80% to 99%)– A multi-scene beat where the protagonist proves they have learned the story’s theme.
  1. Final Image (99% to 100%) (Should be the opposite of what the opening scene shows)

When using other methods, trying to come up with more than the most important plot points before having the first draft written left me feeling like I was hopeless at plotting or outlining (at one point, I was convinced that I was a pantser).

Suddenly plotting an outline went from something I mostly dreaded and struggled with to something I was excited to do.

This doesn’t mean that it is the best way to outline. It is just the one that clicked with me. I will probably continue using all three at some stage in the brainstorming/plotting process, but this is the one I use to get a more complete understanding of my story before I start drafting.

(Check out this blog post for a deeper explanation on how to use these plot points. I must have visited 50 times while plotting my novel.  😀 )

So while there may not be one “right” way to outline, there is a “right” way out there for you. You just have to find it.

I hope one of these methods will be yours. Try them all out with an old story you tossed aside or with your current work in progress and see what works for you. Who knows, maybe you will create your own hybrid outlining method. 🙂

Have you heard or tried of any of these methods before? What is your favorite way to plot/outline?

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How I Got Over my Month-Long Writer’s Block

After reading the print out of my first draft, I sat down to start on the second draft…and immediately became overwhelmed.

There was so much I wanted to add: relationships between characters needed strengthening, story threads needed to be woven tighter together, new scenes added, old scenes revised. The list seemed never-ending.

Because I had pantsed my way through the first draft, I knew that I would have to rewrite every chapter to get it the way that I wanted it. At first, this idea was exciting because I was looking forward to adding in all the fun ideas I’d had while reading through the first draft, but as I began writing chapter one again I got these overwhelming feelings of lethargy. I felt like I was walking in circles—like I’d beaten a game only to have it crash and make me start back at square one.

I realized that I would have to do more than just add in some things and rewrite some paragraphs here and there. I would have to completely rewrite ever single chapter.

Chapter one suddenly seemed more daunting than when I was starting from scratch.

It didn’t help that I had this huge list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the first chapter. There were so many world-building elements I wanted to add, characters I wanted introduced, back stories and tension between characters that I wanted to hint at. Making the list was helpful, but having it loom above me while trying to write the first chapter made me feel more like I was writing a college essay than a story.

So there I was, barley a chapter into my second draft, and the only feelings I had were a sense of starting at ground zero after months of work, and the nagging feeling to make it perfect this time through so there wouldn’t be so much to add in the next draft.

Working on the story left me feeling frustrated and frustration dried up any creativity which might have helped me out…which left me more discouraged and frustrated.

I kept thinking that it was just a faze and I’d snap out of it, but my writing sessions were pitifully unproductive and I started wanting to write less and less.

Finally, I got tired of waiting for my writer’s block to leave me and sat down at my lap top determined to figure out WHY I had writer’s block in the first place.  Everyone goes through times where their writing sessions are sluggish or they are a little lethargic…but a month of no writing? Yikes!

First I figured out everything I wrote above. I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to be mostly finished with this story when the second draft (at least for a pantser) is basically just the first draft since the first draft was simply me figuring the story out and serves as more of an outline than a first draft. (Why do I have to be a pantser? Seems like a curse.)

Instead of focusing on all the little details that needed to be added in and trying to fit them in at just the right place with just the right wording, I needed to continue focusing on the big picture and overall flow of the story just as I did in the first draft.

I was feeling bored and frustrated with it because I was trying to get everything set in place and nailed down too soon.

I was allowing myself to get bogged down with the dos and don’ts of story writing—looking at it like a list of boxes I had to check— instead of simply continuing to let the story tell itself, which for me still means keeping those concepts in mind but still letting the characters and theme drive the story.

One of the reasons I love writing the first draft so much is because of the dream-like quality it has for me, the sense that anything can happen, and the excitement of getting to know the characters and world. Writing those first drafts are a lot like smearing paint in colorful blobs on a canvas: anyone watching will see meaningless shapes, but the artist sees the overall picture, including the details he will add later.

I was trying to make my second draft like a math equation: Perfectly formulated character arc + perfect place for back story + every detail given in the “right spot” = a perfect story.

While there are times to evaluate a story like an equation to find what’s going wrong or what aspect could be strengthened, that approach simply wasn’t working for me at that stage. I needed to let surprises happen, start writing without knowing exactly where the scene was going, and begin a chapter without looking too closely at how the first draft of that chapter was written.

In short, I had to pretend that this was the first draft and—to keep from feeling like the first draft was a complete waste of time—pretend that the actual first draft was a messy, overly-detailed outline.

If you are reading this because you a struggling with a case of writer’s block and are hoping for a magic “trick” to help you out of it, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have one. There are so many reasons for writer’s block and what works once to get you out of writer’s block three months ago may not work for you in your current state of writer’s block.

But what helped me get out of this particularly long slump is something that can get you started on writer’s-block recovery even if it doesn’t cure it outright. I had to let go of how far along I thought my story should be—stop looking at it like a puzzle with a thousand frustrating pieces—and look at it as an adventure I get to go on every day. Some days are tough, but some days bring me the most beautiful scenery.

The only magic trick that can cure writer’s block is rediscovering that magic that drew you to the story in the first place. Find that spark that ignited the idea—a character, a scene, an aspect of the world—and focus on refining or expanding that character or idea until whatever is blocking your flow is forced to melt away.

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I’m excited to announce that The Hashna Stone has been selected for the book cover contest on allauthor.com!

The winning book gets some pretty sweet prizes, including free advertising.

It would help me out so much if you clicked the link below and voted! My book needs to stay in the top 100 covers in order to go to the next round.

Thanks friends!!! 🙂

VOTE FOR THE HASHNA STONE

Growing as a Writer: NaNoWriMo

If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo and you are an aspiring writer, you should go to their site and sign up right now.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Okay, really though, NaNo played a huge part in getting me to take my writing seriously and in motivated me to take my writing to new levels.

If you’ve somehow never come across this magical place and time for writers, I’ll explain what and how NaNo works.

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Let’s start for what this strange group of letters means: National Novel Writing Month.

It’s exactly what it sounds like; Writers from across the country band together to do the unthinkable and write an entire novel (50,000 to be more accurate) in a month.

It all takes place online, so no need to travel to another state of pay for a conference. 🙂

When does this mad rush begin? November! So for those of you who haven’t heard of it and want to try it, this is perfect timing. You can still do some last-minute planning before November and NaNo begins.

If you aren’t sure if you want to participate, well, I’m about to make you want to. 😉

 

Gives you a support group

Writing a novel can be a lonely process. Even if you aren’t writing a novel and write short stories or flash fiction for your blog, it can be difficult to find others who enjoy writing fiction like you do.

NaNo gives you a way to meet other writers so you aren’t so alone in this this solitary art.

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Pushes you to your edge

When I participated in my first NaNo, I’d never wrote 50,000 words in one project before. My largest story at the time was about 12,000 words. So yeah, taking on NaNo was a leap for me, but it pushed me to write more than I thought I could and taught me that I had more in me than what I was using.

Image result for I can do it disney gif

Sure that first NaNo project was a mess that I would never show anyone (I should probably go back and read it so I can get a good laugh), but with every year that I participated, my writing and word count per writing session improved.

I  began to create plots easier, get to the essence of a character faster, and writing scenes came more naturally.

I even wrote the first draft of my book, The Hashna Stone, during NaNo. 🙂

 

Gives you a rush of accomplishment

If you feel stuck in your writing, want to challenge yourself, or just want to explore working on a bigger project, NaNo is perfect for that.

I knew what I wrote for that first NaNo project would never be used for a published book (or even shown to a single person) but I’d never felt more proud then when I verified my word count and officially wrote my first 50,000-word novel (which is actually a really small novel, but it was a lot of words for a single story than I’d ever done before 😛 ).

If you don’t do it for another reason, do it to prove to yourself that you are a writer. Sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you can do it…that you take writing seriously enough to make it a priority.

Completing NaNo gives you a different mindset.  “Oh I’m just playing around with this writing thing,” becomes “I am a writer. There’s no reason I can’t write a book just like all the authors I look up to.”

Once you do that, writing a 140,000-word novel seems more possible (looking at you Hashna Stone 😛 ) and you go from aspiring writer to writer. 

All that said, you better join NaNo this November. *wink*

If you want to do NaNo together, look me up. I’ll be happy to be your NaNo buddy! My user name is AnnaFoxwrites. Or just click here

Oh, and since I’ll be busy novel writing, I won’t be posting for the month of November…as is my custom. 😉

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Writing Doesn’t Have to Come Naturally

Sometimes it seems like writing comes so much more naturally to everyone else. I mean, Brandon Sanderson can sit and write for 8-10 hours a day and I’m over here trying to keep myself from thinking about the ice cream in the freezer so I don’t get out of my seat for the seventh million time in ten minutes.

After the year and a half it’s taken me to finish the four drafts of my WIP, I feel like I’ve been hunted by the nine riders, stalked by a schizophrenic mole-looking creature who only knows one word (precious), and carried an all-powerful ring that will only make you go stark-raving mad if you hang on to it for too long.  In other words; finishing a book is like traveling to Mordor and back.

(This is me when I finally finish a story.  Yes, the rigors of writing leave your face smeared with dirt and scattered with scratches.  You didn’t know that?)

But before I can celebrate my hard-one victory, I realize that Brandon Sanderson’s book totaled 1,087 pages.  Talk about wanting to crumple up my 419 pages and throw them into the fires of Mordor.

I think I’ll get that ice cream now and eat the whole carton.

That’s it.  I should give up writing.  Let’s face it; Writing is harder for me than everyone else. Some days it takes me an hour to come up with a hundred words because I’m like Kronk in Emperors New Groove.

Okay, okay.  I shouldn’t compare myself to other writers. There’s a lot of talent out there, but that doesn’t make me less talented. Besides, every word I do write is a drop in the vast amount of practice needed to be a successful writer. It’s alright if writing is hard. It isn’t supposed to be easy.  Like Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

That’s not painful at all.

Writing is a challenge, and it’s okay to admit that to yourself. You may think that you’re the only one struggling with it, but guess what?

You aren’t.

Want to know a secret? (Okay, well it’s not exactly a secret, but act surprised anyway). It took Sanderson twelve novels before he was published. Twelve of them! What was wrong with the guy? Didn’t he realize that writing was too hard for him?

No, he didn’t. Because it wasn’t. Writing is a process that gets better with time. The more you write, the better you get.

What would have happened if he’d given up after that 12th novel? We wouldn’t have impossibly long books to read, that’s what!

huge book Brandon Sanderson book

(An actual Sanderson novel)

I’m sure sometimes he thought, “This writing thing is so much harder for me than everyone else,” but he didn’t let that stop him. And because he kept going, he is now a best-selling author with more than 20 books and novellas published. The guy is so popular, that his signings can last up to five hours!  (He needs someone to build him a robot arm that can sign things for him. I mean, he probably has to wear a cast after all that).

The next time that you think writing is only difficult for you, be glad that you aren’t Sanderson in an arm cast.

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Grow as a Writer: Pick up a New Hobby

We’ve all felt guilty for spending our free time doing something other than writing, but what if I told you those hobbies that stole from your writing time actually helped your writing?

It may seem counter intuitive to take time to do something that isn’t writing and expect it to improve your writing, but there are some really good reasons why hobbies make you a better writer.

 

Helps you relate to characters

If all of your characters have shelves of books and stacks of notebooks with half-finished stories in them, you have a problem.

Image result for hermione books gif

Sure, it can be fun to give characters a love for reading or writing since it is what you are passionate about (and it’s definitely not wrong to do so) but your characters won’t seem real if they all enjoy the same things. People in real life have divers interests, so your character should be no different.

But how do you give your characters different interests and still make those interests seem real?

Give them an interest in one of you non-writing hobbies.

You will already know a lot on the subject, so you can pepper your knowledge into the character’s thoughts or dialogue to make the character’s interest authentic, and since you are passionate about that subject, it will be easier to translate that passion on the page.

And to give yourself more options, it doesn’t even have to be the exact thing that you do. For example, I love to sing and took piano lessons as a young teen and wanted one of my characters to have a love for music as well, so I gave him an aptitude for the guitar.

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I may not play the guitar, but I could use my memories of my first piano lessons to write his first attempt to play the guitar–all the wrong notes,  feeling awkward as you try to get your fingers in the right positions, the thrill you feel when you get a succession of chords right and excitement that you are actually playing a song. 😀

You can do this with any hobby. If you love to knit, give your character a love for crochet or sewing dresses. If you create digital art, your character could love to paint.  If you took ballet as a kid, your character could love to salsa dance or break dance.

*(I thought I’d add that there is nothing wrong with researching a hobby if you want to give your character a love for something that you’ve never done. It just saves time and makes it easier to write when you already know and love the hobby you give your character.)

 

Gives your brain a break!

Have you ever had a tune stuck in your head, but you couldn’t remember the lyrics? You would sit there for minutes, thinking so hard about it, but the words just wouldn’t come. Finally, you’d give up and go do something else. The moment your brain completely unfocused on trying to remember and got absorbed in something else, those lyrics would miraculous spring into your head.

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The same thing happens with writing. When we come across a problem in our story or an obstacle our character is facing that we need to create a solution for, we will sit at the computer screen and agonize over it when sometimes all we need to do is step away.

Our subconscious is a brilliant thing and will come up with a solution for us as soon as we distract our thinking minds and push our problem to the back of our minds to work out.

If you hobby is something like jogging or biking, then it gets you out of your head and gets oxygen and blood flowing to your brain so you can better solve those problems.

If it is something like sketching or photography, it keeps your creativity flowing while still giving you a rest from writing.

Whether your hobby is active  or more sedentary, it gives your brain a break so even if you don’t come up with an answer to your story’s problems while doing whatever you are doing, you’ll be refreshed and ready to think of something creative to fix it.

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So, writers, don’t feel guilty for spending some time doing other activities besides writing. You’ll get some valuable incite to your characters (not to mention you’ll know how to write a fight scene if your hobby happens to be something like jiu jitsu or boxing 😉 ), and make your writing time more productive because you’ll avoid feelings of being “stuck.”

I hope I’ve inspired you to start a new hobby or go back to an old one you’ve dropped!

I’d love to know what hobbies my fellow writers have! I enjoy singing, as I’ve mentioned, and I also like to paint (and am guilty of pushing it aside so I can write…I haven’t picked up a paint brush in months!)

 



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Growing as a Writer: Read!

If you want to write, you have to read. There’s no getting around it. Writing without first reading is like trying to paint a watercolor without having ever seen one, or trying to compose a song without every hearing one. If you want to get a sense for the style and genre you want to write, you have to first explore it by reading.

If you’re like me and the whole reason you started writing was because you loved reading, then you’re probably thinking that reading isn’t going to help you grow as a writer: you already do it. But I’m not just talking about any type of reading. There are two types of reading that will really boost your writing skills.

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1. Read books on writing

While reading fiction is useful in learning the craft, there are just some things you aren’t going to absorb subconsciously by reading fiction. You can get a sense for the kinds of things that done in a story and the kinds of things that are expected in your genre, but sometimes you need someone to just tell you.

You can see from reading a story, that the characters change from the way they were at the beginning of the story to the way that they were at the end, but you may not notice all the subtle ways they were changing in the middle of the story or the way the author artfully set the character in situations where they were forced to confront their flaws.

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You may have a pretty good handle on the flow of dialogue from all of the fictional conversations you’ve read, but not know the tricks authors use to get inside their characters heads to make their dialogue authentic. You may know that a plot is needed for your novel, but be lost when coming up with one.

The list goes on and on.

Sometimes we really just need someone who’s done this novel-writing-thing before to tell us how to do it.

 

2. Read books outside of your genre.

Remember when you were a kid and you would skip around from mysteries, to literary fiction, to comics, to manga? You didn’t know what your favorite genre was, so you didn’t limit yourself.

For some reason, when we get older, we stop exploring. We know what we like, so we stick to that–especially if we start writing in a certain genre. We think that we need to accumulate a vast knowledge of every book ever written in that genre so we can write the best (name of your genre).

While it is wise to know the ins and outs of the genre you’re writing in, it can actually stifle you to only read in that genre. This is where we fall into the danger of using over-used tropes of that genre such as the old-man-with-a-grey-beard mentor character or the chosen-one-whom-the-prophesy-spoke-about-will-save-us-all plot.

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We need to read outside of the genre we write to give us fresh ideas, to keep us from using what’s already been done, and to give us new ways of looking at things. And who knows? You may decide to write in a different genre.

Do you read a lot of different genres or do you stick to the same one? I tend to read a lot of fantasy (both high and all the sub genres) because that’s what I write. Yes, I’m guilty of this too. 😉 I do love a good historical fiction novel too.

Speaking of reading…my book is coming along nicely and it looks like it will be out in August! So put The Hashna Stone on your reading list because it will be available soon! 🙂

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The first 20 to become patrons will get their name mentioned in the “thank you” section of my book. This is regardless of which tier you select. That means you can get your name mentioned (which is something only the highest level patrons get) for only $1. Yes, one dollar will get your name in my book!



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