Saturday, April 8, 2017

Write Through The Bad Parts

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Sometimes we have bad spells when writing. We experience procrastination, self esteem issues, even laziness. When those times come, it's important to know to write through the bad parts.


    • You know how when you were in school (or you may still be in school), you had to write even when you didn't want to: to finish projects, to do homework, even to do classwork. If you have a job, you may have to do work you don't neccisarily want to do at the time.
    • Writing should be viewed the same way. If you are serious about writing, you should see it as your job. It may not be your main job (right now anyway), but it's important to view it that way if you want to get anywhere. Take it seriously, and do it just like any other job. Sometimes you don't want to write. Too bad honey, because it's time to write!
    • And being completely honest, sometimes I even feel that way about this blog! I push myself to write even when I don't feel like it.
    •  This means write when you think you're the crappiest of writers. This doesn't mean write when you absolutely hate the subject you're writing about. I would say to find something else to write about (unless it's an assignment! Then follow these guidelines!).
    • This is something all writers go through. Even the best. We all dread our work and reading over it, we all want others to read it in order to validate that we are good writers. If you feel like everything you write is crap, then you need to push through it. Don't stop, because there's always edits!
    • Most of us usually don't have time to write. That's what we say anyway. We have the time, we just choose not to write. In my opinion, even writing in your notebook when you have an idea to write about counts as writing, because it's part of the creative process. You actually probably do write every day, or at least engage in creative processes that contribute to your writing.
    • But Maggie, you say, what about ACTUAL writing? I've gone through this before. Make a schedule and keep to your writing routine. It will be hard to keep it at first, but if you make it a habit, then you will start doing it daily. As said last week, it takes 66 days to make something a habit. That's about 2 months and a week. You can do this. I believe in you!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Writing Wednesday

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Motivate Yourself to Write & Dealing with Procrastination

What is the solution when you don't want to do something? Put it off tomorrow and watch reruns of Orange is the New Black? No! You need to find ways to get yourself out of that lazy, procrastination state of mind! Here are a few ways you can motivate yourself to write, or do anything that you have been putting off.

  • Create a Schedule 
    • I went over this in my post, Developing a Daily Schedule. Creating a schedule helps you know what tasks you are doing and when. That way you aren't overwhelmed with things. If you know you will be writing at say, 7pm every night, then you are more likely to be ready. Remember it takes 66 days to create a habit, which is about 10 weeks. Do stick to your schedule daily and soon you will find it's become a habit.
  • Wake up Earlier 
    • This sort of goes hand-in-hand with creating a schedule. My day starts at about 5-6 am every morning, although I do tend to sleep until 8 on weekends. That's still early! If you train yourself to wake up early during the day, you will find you have more things to do and are able to complete them during the day.
  • Keep a To-Do List 
    • This might seem a little obvious, but it actually helps. You don't need to keep a planner for this, but I do. I write my to-do list down every morning, or sometimes the night before, and I include what I need to do for writing in my Technical Writing Bullet Journal. Make sure to be specific with your to-do list. That leads me to keeping SMART goals.
  • Make SMART Goals
    • I learned about SMART goals while I was in school, and we use them all the time in social work. SMART stands for S-Specific, M-Measurable,A-Agreed Upon, R-Realistic, and T-Time-Based.
    • For example, a SMART goal for Camp NaNoWriMo:
    • In the month of April will write 500 words each day as noted to my cabin and reach around 13,000 words by the end of the month.
  • Accountability
    • This is something that has really helped me. If you have been watching my YouTube channel, you will have noticed that I did a cleaning challenge for my bedroom. I was able to clean it and rearrange my furniture. Having this on YouTube provided some accountability for me and motivated me to get it done. Now I'm not suggesting you start a YouTube, but joining groups and discussing your progress each day provides that same type of accountability.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Writing Wednesday

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Creative Writing Affirmations

What Affirmations Are and Why You Should Do Them

Affirmations are positive thoughts, either written or repeated to yourself, that reflect self-empowerment. While they may seem cheesy, and I think of Stuart Smalley when I imagine doing affirmations, they actually do work. Positive thinking has a great effect on our minds, and if we believe something positive has happened, we can trick our minds into believing it is true.

Creating Affirmations

For affirmations to work, they must be extremely personal. While you can find websites that have affirmations listed, these are not personal, and should only be used as inspiration for writing your own affirmations.

In order to write your own affirmations, choose an area of your life you would like to improve. In this case, I am encouraging you to write creative writing affirmations. Make sure when you write your statement to keep it succinct and to the point. That way you can remember it throughout the day instead of always having to read it. Also, make your affirmation achievable and present tense. Finally, make it actionable--write something akin to "I am (verb)," "I feel (verb)," or "I will (verb)."

An example of a personal affirmation for me is, "I am excited about my creative mind, and I will write two pages each day in April." (This is for Camp NaNoWriMo.)

I added a goal to the end, but this isn't necessarily needed.  

Another example:

"I feel proud of my strengths in creative writing."

The Power of Positive Thinking

I understand that this may not seem like it relates to writing, but positive thinking can help us achieve our goals. Studies have shown that when people believe they can do something, they are more likely to achieve that goal. Positive affirmations help with this. I encourage you to get your journal out and create some affirmations in order to read them daily before your allotted writing time. You will see gains, I promise.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Word Nerds Guest Blog

Watch me on Word Nerds as I talk about The Beat Sheet Method!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Writing Wednesday

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Outlining Your Novel

Ever since I've outlined for my current WIP, I've become a convert. I believe that outlining is the best way possible to plan your novel during the prewriting stage. Previously I either did not outline, or I did it in a half-assed sort of way. I decided to start outlining because I felt like I needed some sort of structure to my novels. If you feel the same way, but don't know where to start, read below to get some insight.

Why Outline?

Again, outlining helps you get a structure for your novel. Now, it isn't for everyone, but for those of us that need "directions" or a map of how to write our novel, it's perfect. Now, by directions, I am talking those you write yourself. An outline serves as a guideline of what to write and when.

Outlining Methods
    • The Skeleton Method
      • Typically taught in schools and includes Exposition, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
    • The Hero's Journey
      • Created by Joseph Campbell, this method can be seen mostly in adventure and drama, although it can be applied to other genres. 
    • The Heroine's Journey 
      • An adaptation by Maureen Murdock of the Hero's Journey, adjusted for women.
    • The Beat Sheet 
      • A scriptwriting method that can be adapted to novels, created by Blake Snyder. Contains a lot of action due to the screenplay nature.
    • The Snowflake Method 
      • An in-depth method created by Dr. Randy Ingermason which includes a good amount of prewriting.

How to Outline if You've Never Outlined

If you've never outlined, this can be hard. You have an idea of a novel in your head and you want to just write it. But be patient, my friend. Outlining is important. Take your time. I outlined for about three weeks, redrafting my outline several times until I was happy with what I had. Well, kind of. I am not completely satisfied with my current outline and need to tweak it a bit. You will find that may be true for you. You will thank yourself later in the writing stage.

Choose an Outlining Method and Stick to It

Changing your outlining method midway through can be complicated. Choose one of the outlining methods above, or another one you've found that appeals to you, and stick to it. These have been time-tested by other writers, which gives credit to their popularity. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Character Sketches for My WIP

Forty-year-old Roxy Banks is a career-driven author who is popular for her books on the topic of being childfree. She is content with her life as a single woman without children. That's when it hits the fan: her sister has been convicted of drug smuggling and needs someone to look after her 1-year-old child while she is serving time. Ever the faithful older sister, Roxy agrees, even though she wouldn't know how to change a diaper to save her life. Things start to get sticky when she realizes she *ahem* knows the cute social worker assigned to her niece's case. Roxy finds her life disrupted in ways she had never imagined would happen at this time in her life.

If you would like to read the character sketch for my heroine, Roxy Banks, click here. I will also be posting a character sketch of the hero, Elliot Mayer, in a couple of days. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Writing Wednesday

Today I discuss my writing goals and to-dos.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Not Writing Related: Cleaning Challenge Day 1

First in my Not Writing Related series, I'm challenging myself to get my bedroom clean in 30 days! Watch my first day right here!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Developing a Daily Schedule: Finding Time to Write in a Busy Day

I've been reading a lot about how to schedule my time, because I have been a mess at getting things done. I know that others would love to learn how to schedule theirs too. One method is Miracle Morning. It's not really for me, but I have picked up some tips in designing my daily schedule so I have time to write during the day I thought I would share with everyone. Whether you work or you go to school, finding time is the most important part of making a daily schedule for writing.

1. Know When You Are Your Most Productive

For example, I determined that my most productive part of the day is the morning. I like to get a lot of stuff done in the morning, before noon, and after that I start to peter out. Because of that, I have put my most important parts of my schedule in the morning. I also make sure to schedule any important appointments in the morning. My writing comes in the afternoon, when I am more relaxed.

2. Don't Forget the Little Things

It may seem you only need to schedule the important things, but there are a few things I need to schedule or I completely forget. Like, yes, cleaning the litter box. This is a daily chore for me, and I need to schedule it for a certain time in the morning.

3. If You Don't Write It Down, It Won't Happen

Clearly if you are reading this post, you need help with creating a schedule. Maybe you've found that your tasks just don't get done. For tasks that aren't set in stone, create a future log, and create a writing future log so you know what writing tasks you need to do.

The term future log comes from the bullet journal community, and creating a bullet journal can very beneficial for scheduling your time. Basically a future log is a to do list where the items don't have a specific set date.

An example of a few things on my Writing Future Log:
  • Develop the Hero and his backstory
  • Write my Heroine's backstory
  • Develop the minor characters
  • Research laws in Austin, Texas

4. You Need to Make Time for Writing

Basically you can't just say, "I'm going to do that sometime today." Set a time and stick to it. Also, this time has to be non-negotiable. This is time where everything else is put on hold and you write. That means you do not schedule appointments during this time, you don't schedule this during a favorite show, etc.

5. Set a Realistic Daily Word Count

If you have a goal, you are more likely to set up a time to write every day. To set your daily word count, think of how many pages you want to write a day. Say, five. Book pages are approximately 250 words. So take 5 x 250, that means you will write 1250 words daily. It doesn't sound like as much when you view it as pages.

My goal is a modest 500 pages right now. I plan to increase that goal when I actually start getting into the bulk of the novel since I am currently in the planning stages.

6. Write Before Deadlines, Not at the Last Minute

I have deadlines for this blog. I try to put up my posts on Sunday night at the latest. I have found that when I write posts ahead of time, they come out a lot better than the ones I wrote, say, and hour before posting. Basically I have better advice and have time to edit my work.

It's the same for everyone. If you are a student trying to write a paper, your paper is going to be better when you take time. Schedule your writing way before your deadline. When I was in college and grad school, I liked to write a paragraph a day. Usually that was 5 paragraphs in 5 days. Then I would take the rest of the time to edit my work and put in any additional research I found.

For your reference, here is a daily schedule I've created for myself. You don't have to follow my timeline, but this gives you an idea of how to organize your time. And yes, I really do get up at 5 every morning. Don't worry about that, though. If you are more productive at night (I used to be a night owl before I attended grad school), then schedule more of your writing time for then.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writing Wednesday

Hey I’ve decided to start a new feature vlog, Writing Wednesday. Here I will update you on my writing life each Wednesday!

You can follow on Youtube as well!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo

I will totally admit that I lost NaNoWriMo. It wasn't so much as a failure to me as an, "Eh...." I have written novels before, but NaNoWriMo has never appealed to me for some reason. So when I read about Camp NaNoWriMo, I was actually relieved that it had loosened guidelines. A set-your-own-goal type of thing. I plan to do that with NaNoWriMo this year as well.

When I entered NaNoWriMo, it was the early 2000's (shit, did I just show my age?). So that tells you that it's been a while for me. Since then NaNoWriMo has really become a thing. That's why I've decide to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo. I want to have some fellow writers to discuss my work with.

Anyway, you might want to know how I am preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo. I am doing a LOT of stuff connected to prewriting. I have written my outline twice now, and I am reading a lot. Today, I'm going to share with you 6 ways to prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo.

1. Read Blake Snyder's Save The Cat (if you haven't already)

This book has done wonders for me. Seriously, I knew nothing about outlining and prewriting until I read this novel. Now, I know this is a book about writing screenplays, not novels, but your novel plays like a movie in your head anyway, so why not use it. Anyway, many prose writers swear by it.

Which brings me to....

2. Outline Your Novel

Okay, so previously I was a pants-er. (I hate these terms, plotter and pants-er, but I'll rant about that some other time.) Oh, I tried to outline. I tried a lot of things, but they just didn't work. Outlining was a mystery to me and seemed pretty perfunctory. But the Beat Sheet changed my way of thinking.

I found a modified version of the Beat Sheet for novels linked on this page.

3. Get to Know Your Characters

Start to develop your characters. Physically, Emotionally...... Do this way before you start writing, like this month! I have spent the last two weeks developing my hero and herione and they are quite fleshed out.

There are some tips from author Kristin Martin on Youtube.

4. Set Aside Some "Catch Up" Days

So you know you won't be writing every day. You should schedule some days to write where you will be completely interrupted. Maybe that is a weekday,  a day when you don't have work or if you're a student, classes. My word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo is 12,000 words, or approximately a little more than 45 pages. For that to work, I must write 400 words a day. Does anyone think that's going to happen every day? No. So I plan on scheduling some days for catch up.

5. Do All the Other Dirty Work

Get all your research done, like FINITIO, before you start in April. Need to talk to some policemen or lawyers, or other professionals? Do it now. Also get all your pages with stuff you need to refer to in Scrivener so you aren't worried about it in April.

6. Get Scrivener

YES. I used to think I could do it all in Word, until I downloaded Scrivener! Best program ever. There are plenty of places where people sing the praises of Scrivener, so I will just leave it at: get it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Handle Criticism

Today I was going to talk about how to write a kissing scene, but to be honest, I've had something else on my mind. I'm currently in the prewriting stages of a novel I hope to eventually publish, and I asked for critiques on my outline, done in the beat sheet method created by Blake Snyder. I received some harsh criticism, but instead of being saddened by it, I was a little annoyed by it. I felt this person was coming from a place where he didn't understand my audience.... And it's not like you can convey things like that in an outline.

So I thought that I would discuss something really important for a writer at any level: how to handle criticism.

There are various types of criticism out there, but I'm just going to go through three types:

1. Helpful Harry

This guy wants to help. (Thus the name.) He gives you great criticism and confirms what you thought about that one passage. He even encourages you to write, which is a great thing. Helpful Harry is the critique we all want to get: evenhanded and inspiring.

2. The Try-Hard

This guy really wants to be a Helpful Harry, but he fails. Why? Because either he doesn't really like your story, or he's just bad at giving constructive criticism. He may say mean things, but he isn't trying to be mean. He just doesn't know how to frame it in a constructive way.

3. The Asshole

Okay this guy hates himself and you, and he's going to tell you that your story is all wrong no matter how good it is.

How do you handle the last two?
You handle it the same way you would with helpful criticism: take what you can and move on. You were probably expecting me to write a long post about how to handle criticism, but this is the only way to do it. You have to realize it's just one person's opinion. I've had my share of bad critiques, people who just didn't like my work, but I was still able to find something that they said where I could improve my writing.

The truth is, as artists we have to learn to take criticism, and a lot of it. Otherwise we won't grow.

With my outline, this person was clearly a Try-Hard. They wanted to help me--they even gave some encouraging words at the end, but unfortunately their delivery was not the best. They told me to work harder on the conflict between my heroine and hero, and make it more determined by her rather than fate. That was definitely helpful. Now, I also looked at what they said and tried to make sense of it, another good thing for you to do. It was fair, but I wasn't going to take most of their criticism seriously.

Although don't think just because you receive a compliment on your story that it's perfect. You must be willing to take off those rose-colored glasses and see your story for what it is. Not even J. K. Rowling got it right first off.

Finally, remember, even an asshole can be helpful. I mean, it may not be obvious but you can look into what they say to put a positive spin on it.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Welcome to the new page!

So I've been working pretty hard on my new location. I'm leaving Tumblr so I have a little more control over layout. But if you subscribe via Tumblr, don't fret, I will still post there for everyone.

Stay tuned for an update tomorrow night on how to write a kissing scene for your novel.
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