6 Tips to Recharge Your Creative Energies

There are times in every writer’s life when they need to step back and refill their creative juices.

Most of us can only write and create, filling all our possible writing time with words, for so long. It doesn’t matter if the words flowed freely from brain to paper, or if each word written was hard won, recharging is a thing that everyone can use from time to time.

And don’t get me started on the doldrums of editing when you’ve done three rounds and you feel like you’ll never finish…

But recharging can look different for different people. So, I thought long and hard–or you know, at least 15 seconds–about how I spend my downtime and asked a few of my writing friends exactly what they do to recharge. Here are six of our answers:
  1. Ben L says: “I write poetry, because it exercises my writing but in such a different way that it recharges me. Especially form poetry with lots of rhyming and rules, because then I can feel the freedom when I go back to prose. (This can just be limericks if you don’t feel confident in sonnets or villanelles, but haiku doesn’t help much, at least for me.)
  2. According to Patrick H., what he needs is something completely different. “I get entirely away from my creative process, usually via computer games. That’s when my characters tell me they’re tired and they need to stop working through drama.” But he adds a caveat to that advice, to be careful what sort of games you’re playing. “I had to stop playing Civ 3 because it was getting in the way of writing, though for a different reason. (Apparently, six-hour gaming sessions on high difficulty levels are tiring?)
  3. Kimberly B shares, “I find strolling through a bookstore or library helps invigorate me. It’s also really helpful to have other creative outlets that I have no pressure to be good at. Dancing used to be that for me, before we started performing.
  4. Marti P? She says, “I like to search around on Pinterest, read good books in my genre & watch good movies.”
  5. Anup M likes to “treadmill or take a nap or simply keep it away for a day or two.
  6. And me? Well, I like to binge watch Netflicks, read a few books in my massive to-read pile, and try to remember what the gym looks like.

How do you recharge?

P.S. If one eye looks off, I’m recovering from pink eye right now. But! I did manage to rough draft that new opening scene. Waiting on feedback now!

 

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So You Finished Your Rough Draft, Now What?

Nano is over and with that, the urgency for many writers seems to dissipate once they hit December. For me? The first week of December is often time to catch up on all the chores I let slide while trying to get my words in.

This year, I’m also adjusting to a new sleep schedule for the new job I started the last week of November. And prepping my home for the holidays my family celebrates…

But what about my writing? What about yours?

The Next Steps

Well, the next step depends on you. What do you want to do next? There are two main options and either could be right for you.

First – Take time off

In years past, I’ve taken December off and started again, to finish my work-in-progress (WIP), in January. For many of us, with family obligations or kids having breaks, December is a hard time to create new habits and is rough on the old ones. Be kind to yourself an give yourself permission to take the month off. Or to only work on your writing when you have free time, rather than scheduling everything else around your writing.

Maybe you just need an afternoon. Maybe you only write during NaNoWriMo. Most of us fit somewhere in between.

Second – Decide what your next project should be

NaNoWriMo has a traditional goal – write 50,000 words in 30 days. Not everyone follows those goals, but they’re there if you want to.

But November is over. That means it’s time for you to decide what you should work on next.

Finish your novel

So, if you were writing a rough draft in November, whether you won or not, it’s likely that you still have a ways to go to finish your novel!

Some of you wrote 100,000 words or 500,000 words, some of you barely squeaked out those 50,000 words, and some of you… well, you made some progress. You put words together on paper and you’ve got more than you started November with. Be proud of yourself.

But. Modern novels, at least YA and Adult novels are longer than 50,000 words. usually, they START at 65,000 words, and more fantasy things with a lot of world building can be as long as 120,000 words.

There’s a good chance your story isn’t done yet. In which case, your next project might be finishing your NaNoWriMo project!

Edit your novel

Perhaps you’re like me, this year. For the first time ever, I managed to FINISH my rough draft during NaNo. (With 50,612 words, but still.)

Maybe you’ve decided that you’ve written a novella and you’re okay with that.

Either way, it probably shouldn’t see the light of day, or even the eyes of a supportive alpha (pre-beta-reader) before you’ve done a read through and edit.

While gunning for word count and trying to skip editing, writers often end up with confusing word choices, sentences that are out of place, and plot holes you could drive a tank through.

If nothing else, do a line edit to make sure your story is readable. If possible, do a light revision, checking the pacing, verifying that the story order makes sense, and minimizing plot holes.

Start something new

Maybe you’re sick and tired of that novel from November.

The deadlines and panic, (or simply the concept itself), sucked the enthusiasm and joy from the story for you, leaving a lifeless husk of a story on your hard drive.

Maybe you pushed the Nano inhibition limits and are left with something you never want to see again.

Maybe you didn’t even do NaNoWriMo.

Maybe you just need a break.

In any case? Were there any other story ideas that started flirting with you? Trying to distract you from your NaNo project? And ideas that have been rolling around in the back of your head for days, or weeks, or years?

Go ahead and give it life!

Finish something old

Did you abandon or neglect an older project in favor of the new and shiny project for NaNoWriMo? Or choose to take a break for NaNo so you could come back to it fresh?

Maybe NaNo had nothing to do with it, but you still have that old story, sitting in a drawer somewhere.

Now could be the time to pull it out, reread it to see where it’s at and decide. Is it worth saving? What does it need? Massive revisions? Line edits? The ending written? A new first chapter and a coat of fresh paint?

Third – Set Achievable Goals (either now, or after a break)

So, now you’ve decided what you’re working on next. How do you find that momentum you had during NaNoWriMo? You set yourself some achievable goals.

For finishing your novel or starting something new

Word count goals, as you may have discovered, are helpful.

Outside of NaNoWriMo, I’ve usually set a smaller goal than 50,000 words. Obviously, your goal should be based on your life, your writing speed, and your availability.

  • I’ve aimed for 10,000 words before and found that actually a bit short–as soon as I started getting into the writing flow, my words for the week would be done.
  • 20,000/25,000 was a manageable goal with downtime, but steady progress. In which I could take a few days off.

For editing or finishing something old

I spend a lot more time editing than writing. But editing per word is hard to track, you’re adding and deleting… so what sort of measurement can you do? Editing pages!

Even if you delete some, or add some. You can still see how far through the original draft you’ve come.

  • I’ve aimed for editing 10 pages per editing session.
    • Some evenings I’ve managed 3 editing sessions before bed.
    • There have been times I’ve managed 1 editing session in a week.
  • Don’t forget to take the time to plot.
    • Go through your novel, summarize each chapter, and look at the big picture.
    • How is the pacing?
    • Are there plot holes?
  • Feel free to take time off from story editing and just do search-replace style editing.
    • Look for crutch words(very/just) or passive voice (am/is /was/were /be/being /been) and see if you can replace with stronger verbs.
      • Note: I usually try to halve my count for every overused word, so I keep track. I like metrics, I may have mentioned before.

What Is Morgan Up To?

Now, shortly before NaNoWriMo, I got the most treasured type of rejection letters on my novel, “Flesh and Ink”. The one with feedback. That I had a good idea how to implement!

So, my plan for this month is to write a new first chapter and update the old first chapter to work with it. Beginnings are hard. Pacing is tricky, and since my story is fantasy, it’s hard to set the scene, describe the stakes and consequences, and introduce you to the characters and world without feeling like I’m cramming everything in, and sprinkling info-dumps on top…


Wish me luck! And best of luck with your next project.

What 1 Writer’s NaNoWriMo Looked Like

What My NaNoWriMo Looked Like This Year

On this, the last day of November, the last day of NaNoWriMo, I will start my day with a mere 1,500 words left to write.

I’ve tried to fit my words without having them take over my life and the NaNoWriMo word sprints are really helping with that. I’ve done 21 shared word sprints this month, averaging about 500 words per 15-minute sprint. So long as I have a good 15-minute break before I try to start writing after a sprint, I’m pretty okay.

But then? I look at my notes and see that last November? I wrote a sequel to my original novel. And…I not only wrote it, but I wrote a Nano-and-a-half worth of words. 75,000 words.

This year? My story did not flow that easily.

Was it the characters? Was it the world building?

The tense, the adherence to the basic Robin Hood timeline that stymied me? I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just calling it quits too soon?

 

They say that every story is different and I’ve come to truly appreciate the truth in that.

So, let’s look back at my NaNo writing this month.

  • October 28th, I went to the Northern Virginia NaNoWriMo kick-off meeting, seeing many familiar faces from last year and several new ones.
  • November 1st, I started writing [Finding Robin], a gender-bent Robin Hood story that’s been percolating in my head for a few years.
  • November 5th, I made it to the local library where a 1-5pm write-in was occurring. It was full of people typing, many with headphones, making progress. The silence was overwhelming and intimidating. I spent 80% of it researching. A nano friend showed up halfway through to share my table. The last 20 minutes of the write-in were spent chatting with those who were left, mostly us moderate extroverts.
  • November 9th, I got a personal laptop so I could participate in write-ins without abusing my work laptop. And because I’d put in my 2 weeks notice already…
  • November 16th, one of my sisters and her husband visited me from the West Coast. I still squeezed my words in!
  • November 17th was my last day of work, at the company I’ve been with for over 2 years.
  • November 20th, I made it to a Panera write-in. I was on the early side, only 1 person was already there. I ate, and the crowd started filtering in. It was full of people who knew each other. Reunions between peeps who were only in town for the holiday break. I sprinted a few times, got my words in, then bailed. They were friendly, but I had a Justice League plans!
  • According to my calendar, Thanksgiving week was going to be light, leaving plenty of time to write. In reality? It was pretty durn full!
  • Culminating Saturday, November 25th, I ended up overbooking and while visiting friends from out of town, midnight hit with me having gotten NO words done. It’s the only day I’d missed all month.
  • November 26th, I spent 8 hours trying to get 2 days worth of NaNo in… (Have I mentioned I’m not a sprinter?)
  • November 27th, I started my new job. Closer to friends and family, and cheaper housing. With a MUCH earlier wake-up time.

Tonight, I will finish NaNoWriMo2017. This month, despite my missed day and having written far past bedtime more than once to finish my words, I’m still on schedule.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this month?

If so, how well did your words flow?
Do you write better in your own world or established worlds?
Let me know!

Gratitude

Gratitude

Here in the states, today is Thanksgiving.

Despite its problematic and revisionist history, in our current day and age, it’s one of our least commercialized holidays. (Excluding Black Friday)

It is the day where most of us gather with friends and family, to feast, and celebrate togetherness. No gifts, no gimmicks, no themed stuffed animals, unless you count the turkey (and most people I know fix the stuffing separately, but really, no one wants to call it ‘dressing’, because that’s what goes on salads, not a bread filled casserole-thing).

Just food and togetherness. And a moment to stop and think and appreciate all the things we have.


For those who can’t be with their loved ones for the holidays, and those who have complicated family and friend relationships, my heart goes out to you and yours.

For those who would rather just stay home and away from everything, who am I to stop you from celebrating -or not- in your own way.

But for me, in honor of the holiday, I’d like to share a few of the things I’m thankful for.


I’m thankful for my family – they’re supportive, encouraging, and understanding of my hobby/unpaid night-job. (Plus, they’re all readers)

I’m thankful for my real-life friends – they’re excited to see me pursue my dreams, hopeful for me. Plus, I know that they’ve got my back and will show up if I just ask.

I’m thankful for my online writer-friends – they’re right there in the trenches with me. Together, we’re making progress and pushing forward. Helping each other when we can, cheering each other’s wins, sympathising with each other’s rejections, in a way only someone who’s been there can do.

I’m thankful for my local Nova Nanites community – the one that has tons of write-ins, so no matter where I am, there’s usually one nearby. Even during the ‘off-season’. With friendly people, all united by a goal: get those words in!

I’m thankful for YOU, my blog followers – the ones who read, the ones who like my posts, the ones who comment. You’re out there, sharing this adventure with me.

I’m thankful for my day-job – that allows me to eat and pay the bills and still leaves me with the time and energy to do this unpaid job that I love.

Speaking of, I’m thankful for my NEW day-job – I’ll be starting right after the holiday weekend, with its welcoming people, and its proximity that is much closer to many of my local friends and family.

I’m thankful for the utilities that go into my life – electricity to power my things, for my internet, and my laptop, and my phone.

So that even when I’m alone and writing, there’s a network of people out there, listening whenever I reach out and share.

 

Thank you.

How To Write: You Do You!

How To Write: You Do You!

The Many Writing Proverbs

There’s a caveat that goes with pretty much all writing advice about what you SHOULD do, and it goes like this: “unless that doesn’t work for you.”

It seems to go hand-in-hand with the advice about what you SHOULDN’T do’s caveat, which is “if you do it well enough, you can break all the rules.”

‘Cause, remember, all the people giving this advice swear by the adage, “if you know how to write a book, you know how to write that one book.”

I can spout off writing proverbs and rules all day:

  • Write every day – unless that doesn’t work for you.
  • Avoid adverbs, use stronger verbs instead – unless you can make it work
  • Passive voice must be avoided at ALL COSTS- unless you can make it work

So, I’ve been spouting all this advice. How about I tell you how I’m actually doing?

crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76

My Nano Status

So far, this NaNoWriMo, I’m keeping up with my words. Getting over the daily target, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, never really getting ahead. The steady, forward progress works for me. I’ve got that 1-2 hours a day to devote (or carve out) for it, and I make it work.

What If You Can’t Find The Time?

“Write Every Day” – writing proverb

Many of you can’t find that sort of time reguclocklarly. Instead, you carve out larger chunks once or twice a week and slug your way through thousands of words in a go.

I’ve written over 3,000 words in a day maybe 3 times ever? That’s not how I work. But if you can make it work–more power to you!

Some of you can only find 10-15 minute blocks, on your lunch break, on your commute, whenever you can squeeze in some words. I’ve done that here and there, but I know how hard it is to keep it coherent and track your line of thinking. I’m impressed by you!

What If You Can’t Write Enough Words?

“Write until you hit your word count target” – writing ‘proverb’

(Okay, that one might just be an adage of NaNoWriMo, not actually a writing proverb.)

Many of you can’t write fast enough or find the right words, and the monthly word target is slowly slipping further and further from your stalled out word count. Research is distracting you. Or the next plot point is eluding you.

Don’t be discouraged! Is your word count higher than it was last week? Then you’re still moving forward!

Some people revise the target and make it work in their lives, not outside of it. And that’s okay.

Maybe 30 in 30 is right for you

Some people are aiming for 30,000 words in 30 days, not the full 50k. And that’s still pretty durn impressive.

Is 5 in 5 a thing?

Maybe it should be.

Is 5,000 words in 5 weeks something you could be proud of?

It’s still 5,000 more words than you started the month with. (Plus, it’s a nice round number with a cutesy rhyme, how can you go wrong with that?!)

Should You Participate In Writing Sprints?

Writing sprints are kinda a new thing for me. I’d ‘participated’ in them once or twice before. Some rando on twitter would say ‘go’, and then ‘stop’. Or I’d time myself, but there was no accountability.

This time, I checked out the NaNoWriMo Word Sprints and set up a couple with friends. Usually, starting them at the nearest quarter-hour without much prep time.

I’ve done about 7 now and I’m REALLY liking them. Tonight, I got my words in before this post with 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off, with a little bit of clean-up and internet browsing in my downtime.

I create the sprint, share it, and then go. I’ve got a set stop time– that seems just a little too long, a touch of competitiveness — both with any other sprinters who clicked my link to join the sprint and with my past records of how many words I got in that time frame before, and usually, in the 3-5 minutes after creating the sprint, before it starts, I think ahead about half-a-scene’s worth, to decide exactly where the scene is going.

When my computer cheers for me to start, I’m ready.

I’ve decided 15 minutes is the sweet spot. Any longer and I’d be taking breaks, I know. I’m already starting to flounder and contemplate where to go next. At 10 minutes though, I’m still in the middle of my initial thought.

But for some, sprints are stressful. Or discouraging when you see other people’s word counts. Maybe when you’re online doesn’t synch up with your friends? No matter your reason, it’s perfectly fine to write without sprints.

(Note: Friend me here and I’ll post my sprints on my fb page here so you can join me!)

What About Write-ins?

Some people love them. The focus on writing, everyone there working on the adult version of toddler parallel-play. Being surrounded by people who understand the writing bug and are focused on their writing can be very invigorating for some people’s writing.

Some Write-ins are chatty and social and next-to-no-words get written.

Some write-ins are silent, and you hear everyone typing away while you’re sitting there wordless, feeling like a loser.

Some people enjoy the time out of the house, the change of scenery, and make it work for them.

Personally? I like the slightly chatty, but mostly focused ones, where I can get cookies to snack on.

Hating write-ins doesn’t make you a bad NaNite. Loving them doesn’t mean you’re suddenly an extrovert.* (P.S. Extroverts can be writers, too! Ask me how I know.)

musical-notes-music-notes-symbols-clip-art-free-clipart-images-2Writing Soundtracks!

Some people love soundtracks. They almost spend more prep time making their playlist than writing any sort of outline.

Some people enjoy playlists. I like to hit Pandora, find a seed-song that sets the mood for me, and roll from there.

Some people can’t write to certain kinds of music. Maybe they find music with words they can sing with too distracting. Maybe musicals? Maybe classical? Find what you can and can’t work with.

Some people like rocking out. Some people prefer to jam privately, with headphones.

And some? Some can’t do BLEEP with background noise. They need silence to focus. And that’s okay! [I totally get this! I can’t edit to music, I need the silence to think.]


In Conclusion

There are as many ways to write as there are writers. You do you.


P.S. Check out my NaNoWriMo Posts from the Past!

Maintaining Your Writing Momentum
Tips For Finding The Time and The Words
So You Want To Be A Writer
Twas The Week Before NaNo
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
An Outline To Write By (for Plantsers and Plotters)
How to win NaNoWriMo
3 Things That Helped Me Win NaNoWriMo early
Craft Vs Professionalism

NaNoWriMo: Maintaining Your Writing Momentum

Maintaining Your Writing Momentum

Well Begun Is Half Done

We’re just over a week into NaNoWriMo at this point and whatever excitement and glory and energy you brought into this project are likely starting to burn out. This is turning into, maybe not quite a chore, but your words are starting to feel like a promise that must be kept, an obligation.

With 3 weeks left, even those who’ve gotten off course know that there’s still hope to get their words in, but now is the time to buckle down.

If you started off with a sprint and you’re ahead of the game? Don’t get too cocky! Remember the tortoise and the hare. See if you can keep your lead (or grow it), leaving wiggle-room for any impediments life decides to throw your way.

If you’ve been making your daily or weekly word count goal, sometimes that can be the inspiration and momentum you need to keep going. Once I have a streak of check-marks, I have added motivation to not miss a day.

This is the point where writers who only write when inspired often drop out. Inspiration can get you in the game, but for most of us, it’s not going to get us over the finish line.

The only way to get those words out is butt-in-chair. Without sitting down to write, you’re not gonna make it.

Best of luck!

Vlog: Maintaining Your Writing Momentum

Maintaining Your Writing Momentum

Well Begun Is Half Done

We’re just over a week into NaNoWriMo at this point and whatever excitement and glory and energy you brought into this project are likely starting to burn out.