Random Writing Tip

Random Writing Tip

Finding the time to write is easy. Just follow this advice:

  • Don’t get sick.
  • Never get injured.
  • Inform your family they cannot get sick or injured either.
  • Let the baby change his own diaper.
  • The three-year old will eventually stop screaming.
  • Family chauffeur service for soccer/dance/football/science club? Forget about it.
  • Dinner? Pfft, who needs it?
  • Supporting your family until you’re rich and famous? Come on, who really wants a roof over their head?
  • Visiting your parents, siblings, and extended family? It’s not like they will get mad at you if you disappear for 3 years!
  • Writer’s block? Fake it til you make it.
  • Showering? Step out in the rain occasionally and invest heavily in deodorant.
  • The sun? Do you really need vitamin D?
  • Don’t mow the lawn. Your neighbors are only pretending to be angry.
  • Not able to afford writing tools since you listened to the advice on not working? Chalk is cheap and sidewalks are everywhere. Bonus vitamin D included.
  • Give up your social life completely.
  • Stop reading.
  • Nothing to write about because you’ve lived in a void? Keep thinking, eventually something will happen.

Obviously life it going to intrude into your precious writing time. Unless you actually want to follow the ridiculous steps above you’re going to have to deal with it. The trick is to find the times in between to write. If your life is really busy all you can do is squeeze in minutes.

If you have young children you know the moments when the house is quiet because of naps, during daily kid shows, the tiny snippet of time while you’re cooking – waiting for water to boil or while something is baking, after they fall asleep at night, right before they wake. If you’re lucky enough to get to go grocery shopping alone. These are the moments you want to sneak in some writing. Even taking a couple of minutes to jot down ideas will make a world of difference. Dictating while driving could mean the difference between writing the most brilliant book of your life or simply forgetting the idea. If you walk or run for exercise, dictate instead of listening to music.

If you work you know how hard it is to find moments to write. Take ten minutes on your lunch break to write. Again, dictating while driving to and from work can help. Get up 30 minutes early to write, or stay up 30 minutes longer. Always take some time on at least one of your days off. A couple of hours a week of writing will add up over time.

I strongly recommend using a timer to train yourself to write efficiently and effectively in short bursts. I’m going to follow that advice myself. The list says to never get sick or injured. Well I broke that rule rather strongly. I haven’t really be able to write much for months, especially in August. I could get depressed and stop completely. I could feel sorry for myself and piss and moan about not being able to write, or stare at my story boards despondently. Instead I’m going to suck it up and write when I can. I know I can sit at my desk for at least 10 minutes straight so I’ll set my timer for that long and write in as many bursts as my aching back lets me. I might still feel a bit sorry for myself though.

I’m not saying you should force yourself to write when it’s going to hurt you. When my appendix decided it liked New Jersey enough to want to stay there instead of coming home to Texas, writing was impossible. Pain like that wouldn’t allow me to think about writing, let alone do the actual act. After surgery to get rid of the ungrateful, useless body part I was so sick that sitting up for longer than 2 or 3 minutes was not happening. I couldn’t even read for days. Then I had to ride in a car for 30 hours (across 3 days). So you can imagine the amount of writing I got accomplished. It sucks but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m healed up from it now and I can work on getting back to my normal writing schedule, or at least as normal as I can due to my back problems.

That’s all you can really do. Write when you can. Make the time, if possible and take advantage of the moments you do have. Do get outside sometimes. Take a spiral to a park once a week, your muse will love it. Take care of your kids and as they grow teach them to respect your writing time. Spend time with extended family, it will improve your writing being around people and you won’t have to feel guilty (besides these are the first people who inspired your characters). Hang out with friends so you remember how to adult. Mow the lawn and while you’re doing it be thinking about your story. Jot down your thoughts before you jump in the shower afterwards. Keep a notebook on you at all times. You can’t plan for when a great idea hits so it’s better to be prepared. The writing while waiting for water to boil thing may sound silly but why not try? There is dictation software out there that will let you use your smartphone to record. Never stop reading. The more you read the better writer you will be.

Mostly remember that life can and will get crazy but eventually there will be calm times. Most of these things are hurdles to get over not permanent road blocks. Don’t give up on writing if you love it.

Oh and please do shower!

Sidenote: This is what I wrote for my Saturday Six Minute Challenge. It took longer than 6 minutes which makes me happy since it’s always my goal to write for longer. I feel like a writer again! Now I’m going to go work on my ghost story. Happy writing everyone!

Random Writing Tip – Remove Unnecessary Words

I once read a tip online that said to replace the word damn for the word very in your writing and see what happens. For me what happened was a lot of deleting. When writing a rough draft I think most of us throw in words we don’t need.

Sometimes it’s because we mean to add emphasis, to make our writing more powerful. I’m guilty of throwing in the words very, extremely, overly, etc. Occasional use of adverbs isn’t bad, but constant use drags out sentences and readers will get bored.

I have some other go-to words when writing that I have to go back and delete: that, had, just

An example:

I had gone to the store yesterday.

A better way to say it:

I went to the store yesterday.

If you say each of those sentences out loud, you can hear how much smoother the second one flows.

Sometimes I’ve used them all together, then I want to slap myself. For example:

It was the man who had just robbed the bank.

Horrible right? If I wrote that in a rough draft, during revisions I would change it to:

It was the man who robbed the bank.

Or some other variation. When I start revising, I do a search for these words. Most of the time, deleting the words don’t make your sentences lose anything. It simplifies and makes the whole story easier to read.

On the subject of just, I have a specific suggestion. Don’t use it. If it’s in dialogue you can get away with it if you don’t use it too often. I try not to use it at all.

A good way to practice kicking these words out of your stories is to write very short flash fiction. If you have a 100-300 word limit, every word will count. You’ll learn to be more concise and you’ll see the extra words aren’t needed to make the story complete.

Happy writing!

Random Writing Tip – Reading Aloud

I got a little behind and skipped a few weeks. Sorry! For once I have the best excuse ever. I’ve been writing! I’ve also been doing critiques. During the last two critique group meetings a very important tip came up. Reading aloud. Have you ever read through a scene and known something was off, but couldn’t quite put your finger on it? Try reading it aloud to yourself and/or having someone else read it to you.

You could revise your work many times and still have something that comes across awkwardly. Speaking the words could help you catch this. Even worse, a lot of writers rely on spell check, which could let a word you didn’t intend get through.

For me it works best when I print the piece out. Not only does that make me see it differently but then I can hand it to my husband/kid/whoever to follow-up. Also, I have an easier time seeing mistakes on paper. I call it red pen syndrome. If I have the red pen out, I will find mistakes that I missed looking at a screen.

Another use for using this method is to make sure you’re writing to the correct audience. The story I’ve been bringing to be critiqued is middle grade, which is not my normal genre. I keep unintentionally slipping into word and phrase usage that kids either will not understand or don’t use. Someone mentioned I should try reading aloud. I haven’t been with this story, shame on me! If I had, I would have had an easier time noticing that. That will teach me to forget my own advice.

Try it out and see if it helps you. Have you already been doing this? If so, does it work for you?

Happy writing!

Random Writing Tip – Music

Some people have to have absolute quiet when they are writing. I am not one of those people. I need some kind of background noise. A lot of times I get out of the house and let people be that noise. That’s not always possible though. When I’m at home, I like to listen to music while I write. For me, different music is needed for different moods. If I’m writing a fight scene, I’m not going to listen to R & B. If it’s a love scene, Metallic doesn’t normally fit. Everyone has different tastes in music so you have to find what works for you. Be careful here. If you are playing all your favorites, you might spend more time singing along than actually writing. I’m a hard rock kind of girl. There are many different types of hard rock. I have several Pandora stations set up for each type. What I like about hard rock is that it’s powerful music. I’m a lyrics person too but it’s really the music that moves me. My go-to station for general writing includes artists like: Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Tool, Chevelle and Shinedown. If I know I’m going to be working on action scenes then I turn to the station with System of a Down, Disturbed, Metallica, and Slipknot. If I need something with more ‘feeling’ I go to Hurt, 10 Years, Staind and Fuel. If there is an angry breakup involved I listen strictly to Theory of a Deadman.

I do listen to other types of music of course but rock has my heart. So that’s what works for me most of the time. For those rare times that I’m in the mood for something different I have an 80’s station and the one that plays the modern stuff by guys with whiny voices. Don’t judge. I don’t listen to songs sung by women when I’m writing. I don’t know why, but I find them distracting. Maybe those are the songs that I should listen to if I ever write an actual romantic scene. That doesn’t happen when most of my work is about magic, end of the world, dragons, minotaurs or demigods.

What about the other writers out there? Does music help you? What types work for you? Or does it distract? If you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to. Be sure to play with volume as well as genre.

Random Writing Tip – Free-writing to Prime Your Muse

Sometimes when I want to work on my WIP I sit down at the computer and…nothing. No ideas, no creativity, no words come out. My muse is: sleeping, hiding, sulking, missing, etc. I used to get irritated and try to force myself to work. Still nothing. Finally I turned to free-writing. It’s kind of like stretching before exercising. It’s priming the pump. If I do this for either 10, 15, or 20 minutes (depending on mood) then I generally manage to get my creativity going. If you want to try this all you need to do is grab a timer and either pen and paper or get on your computer. Set the timer for 10 minutes the first time, to see if that works for you, and write. It doesn’t matter what you write. It can be awful, it can be a whole lot of nothing. The point is to do the process and get yourself in the mood to create. I personally like to use a pen and paper to do this. Since I normally do my writing on a computer, this works as a nice little change-up for my brain. The first time I did it, I felt ridiculous. What I wrote in the beginning was silly. It started a lot like this:

I have no idea what on earth to write. All I know is I can’t seem to get started today. My muse hates me or it’s busy. I wish I could just write whenever I want to. It’s really frustrating to finally have the time to do it and then have nothing to say.

More of this went on for several minutes but about halfway into it I started writing the pros and cons of writing when you have a timer sitting next to you. When said timer went off I ignored it and kept going for another 10 minutes. After that I upped the time I did this exercise for. I certainly didn’t write a thing of beauty, but I did write. Afterwards I turned to the computer and ended up writing several scenes, some back story meant only for me, and an amazing fight scene. It won’t be that great every single time, but if it helps even a little then it’s worth it. Some people work better when under pressure and if you’re one of those then I encourage you to use a timer often. http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730. This link will take you to one of the many ways to use a timer effectively.

I’ll be honest with you. The first few times I did this I wrote more like the quote above. Eventually I got to the point where I would write about my day, or my dogs, kids, husband. Sometimes I would look around my office and pick something random and write anything I could think of about it. Again, think of this like stretching. If your pen is moving, or your fingers are hitting keys, then you are doing it right. Experiment to find the amount of time that works for you.

Happy writing!