Today as I was climbing the steps up to my apartment, I happened to notice two yellow jackets fighting on one of the steps. I mean they were going full force. I stood there and watched them for a minute. Eventually, they parted about a centimeter, but their legs were still going at it. No, I didn’t stomp on them. They weren’t bothering me; just each other.
Isn’t it like that when we write sometimes? We fight like mad trying to find the right words to use in our writing projects. Just when we think we’ve found the right words, we back up, re-read it with our mind still fighting with the idea, ‘Did I get it right this time? Did I not? How do I know?’ Yes, we all have writing days like that. The answer is to tough it out. Leave your work and go back to it a day or two later. If you still don’t like it, continue fighting to get it the way you want it. Or, you can ask advice from someone else.
Stick with it. Don’t let that fight get you down. You can do it.
In December 2019 I wrote an article entitled Writing Stability. In that article I mentioned keeping a writing binder for the writing project you’re working on. It really doesn’t matter if you write by the seat of your pants or plan your novel out in advance, a binder to keep all of your information straight can only serve to help you.
Possible Sections to Include in Your Binder
Characters— This section will include everything about each of your characters. Possible types of information include: physical features, likes/dislikes, occupation, their role in the story, fears, character arcs, just to name a few. You could even create subsections for each character if you like.
Settings— Included here can be maps, setting descriptions, list of places and their significance, etc.
Story— I have a section in my binder with this label. What I use it for are ideas for my novel. Sometimes I’ll do a free write or I’ll write a quick plot summary for an idea.
Style Sheet— Here I keep a style sheet to keep the technical details consistent. For example, are you going to write your numbers out or not, make a list of words that MUST be capitalized consistently throughout, names and dates of events (It’s easy to lose track of this information when you’re writing). This is just a small list. What you decide you need to go in this section is up to you. When you’re editing later, this section will be your friend.
Doodling— This would be where you jot down any revision ideas or play around with language (If you’re writing fantasy, making up words can be fun).
You can always add to the above list. It depends on what kind of story you’re writing. I write urban fantasy, so I have additional sections such as, realms, fantasy creatures, photos, and questions. I love my binder because it frees up room in my head (kind of like a memory extension for my brain, LOL). If you don’t want to use a binder, a journal works well too. I’ve used both.
You wake up on a Monday morning. The day is gray outdoors, much like the weekend had been, and the temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Already you have a dull ache in your head that starts traveling down your neck to your extremities. Coffee isn’t helping either. You sit in your favorite easy chair, drink a second cup of coffee, and watch the morning news. Thinking the day has to get better than this, you get up and go to the bay window and look out. Then you see it. It’s a silver lining in your current humdrum Monday.
In the distance this silver lining is coming in the form of a streak of blue sky across the horizon. Hope. Is it a foreshadowing of the rest of the day? Will the blue sky reach through the gray clouds, pull them back, and shine in all its glory?
Sometimes our writing goes like this as well. We can sit at our computer for days at a time punching out 400 to 500 words. Your goal was 1000 per day or more. Then the inspiration hits. Is this the inspiration you needed for your writing to take off again?
Whether that blue streak of sky gets bigger or not, and whether that writing inspiration grows or not. Use it anyway. Make it grow intrinsically and use it. Focus. You can do this. Relish those humdrum days because it gives you more opportunities to experience the great ones when they come.
Do you warm up your writing engine before you start working on your writing project? I guess I would have to say, for me, it’s split 50/50. Sometimes I will warm up and sometimes I won’t. It all depends on whether or not the creative juices are flowing when I sit down to write. If I know what I’m going to write next in my work in progress (WIP), I don’t do a warm up. If I’m stuck, I do a warm up. That will get the ideas flowing again.
Types of Warmup Exercises
Writing a blog article
Write a poem
Look at a painting/picture:
Describe the setting
Describe what’s is going on (Remember, a picture is worth 1000 words)
Write a poem using your descriptions (Who knows, you might be able to use it in your WIP)
Take a walk in a cemetery. Speculate about the people who once lived. What do you think they looked like? What do you think they did for a living? How do you think they died and/or what’s the story behind it? Come up with scenarios/stories regarding random people. Did they know each other? If so, what was their relationship? You could go on and on with this.
Go to the beach. What do you see? What connections can you make with what’s in front of you? Maybe the people you see walking along the beach are sea people. If so, why are they there on the beach? What’s their story? (FEEL FREE TO STEAL THIS IDEA IF YOU LIKE)
Don’t be daunted by the blank page ever again. The only reason the blank page is a stopper is because nothing is there. So put something in your head first before you look at that blank page, then you’ll be able to readily transfer it to the blank page when you look at it.
We all have days when we feel less than adequate. It’s a battle we all face at one time or another. When we feel this way, it’s all to easy to slip into that ‘I don’t want to do…’ mode. Yet, there are deadlines we have to keep, whether they are self-imposed deadlines or otherwise. What is one supposed to do when we feel this way? I’m not going be unrealistic; it’s difficult to climb the ladder out of this mode.
I felt like this yesterday (3/17/2021). My creativity was sapped and I couldn’t think up anything that would contribute to my current WIP. Have you felt this way at times? I was full of self-doubt. Have you had these thoughts too at one time or another? On Twitter I read a tweet by another author who wrote about feeling just this way, and she felt like giving up her writing. She went on to say that one of her fans (not knowing she was feeling that way) sent her a tweet telling her how much she enjoyed her books and even included a photo of the newly purchased book this author just released. What a joy that must have been for that author. That simple act from a fan renewed the author’s faith/confidence in herself.
Since we are all different with different interests, jobs, and hobbies; we will get lifted up in other ways. Sometimes we have to lift ourselves back up. That isn’t always easy to do. I think we need to find the source of our doldrums ourselves at times.
What can we try?
Talk to someone
Workout and get the blood/endorphins flowing
Get off your phone. Yes, this means stop playing the games/scrolling social media, etc…
Pray (yes, this really does work). You have to be receptive to this. Spend time with the Lord. He enjoys your company. Sometimes we are the impatient ones and expect results NOW. It doesn’t always work that way.
Even though negating moments such as this don’t feel very good, I firmly believe it keeps us humble and in check. Stay strong. Ask yourself what can be done to turn the negative feelings into positive feelings. You CAN do it. I have faith in you.
Sometimes we put up barriers when we write. This is different for everyone. Some of us analyze too much, while others plan too much. Yet some may strive for perfection before moving on. My barrier is the analyze thing. I question everything. Not that questioning things is bad to do. We should do that, but when you continue questioning whether what you wrote or in which place a scene/scenes was put, it takes up precious writing time.
Another author I follow and get advice from, told of a first time writer working on his first novel. This young writer asked his advice on his first chapter. So the author read the young writer’s first chapter and ended up being very impressed with it. He asked for more. The young writer didn’t have anymore to show, as he had been working on the first chapter for months trying to get it just right/perfect. The author shook his head and told the young writer to stop striving for perfection. Why? If you do that, you will never get your book written. As long a time it took him to get chapter one finished, he could have had multiple chapters finished had he focused more on getting the story out.
The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to get the story written. When that first draft is finished, THEN go back to square one and change what you don’t like. This may be difficult at first, but with practice of letting go and letting the story unfold as it comes, perfection will take a back seat eventually.
You wake up in the morning, shuffle your way into the kitchen, turn on your coffee pot, put in a pod (or scoop of coffee depending on the type of coffee maker you have), and pour yourself a cup of coffee. As you sit and drink, you catch up on anything you may have missed on your phone while you were sleeping. The thought of writing starts scratching at your brain, as you begin to think about what you have to get done that day. Many other activities come to mind, but writing is still scratching at your brain. You know the only way to itch it is to sit down and write. But, you’re too tired, even with one cup of coffee in you. The creative juices aren’t being felt. So, you start to do other items on your list of chores to get done. Writing is now banging and clanging against your brain. The story wants to be written, but you don’t want to write because you’re still too tired. You continue doing other things. It’s now 3:00 in the afternoon and you don’t have anything written. You feel guilty because you promised yourself the day before that you would write at least 1000 words today. Uh oh, what do you do? Can you pop out 1000 words from 3:00 pm on?
YES, YOU CAN. Force yourself to do it. You CAN do it. Yes, even if you’re tired. Something will come. I’ve been caught in the “I’m too tired” trap too (too many times). Don’t let procrastination be your mantra.
Those pesky filler words don’t need to be there. Get them out of your writing. You just don’t need them. They only serve to take away from and weaken your story. If you think you even need them, think again. We always think we know best. Trust me, we don’t.
The above paragraph has filler words in them. They’re the ones in bold face print. I put them in there on purpose to prove a point. To prove my point, I’m going to retype it and take them out. You’ll see how much better it sounds.
Those pesky filler words don’t need to be there. Get them out of your writing. You don’t need them. They serve to take away from and weaken your story. If you think you need them, think again. We think we know best. Trust me, we don’t.
Sometimes you will need to use them. After all, they are part of the English language and they are there for a reason. The problem is we tend to use them to much. When they’re used too much, that’s when they weaken your writing. When I was editing my novel The Triunix of Time, I had a list of these words to look for in my story. I went through my book and looked for each one of them one at a time and checked them off as I finished with one, then I went on to the next. Don’t worry, I used the Find option in Microsoft Word. It found them all in an instant. As it turned out, I initially used the word just 350 times. Talk about over use. Please see the grid below for a list of the most used filler words.
So, how do you know you need to use them? Say the sentence without the filler word in it. If it still makes sense, you don’t need it.
If you have any questions please feel free to message or email me. I enjoy helping others with their writing.
No matter where we are on our writing journey, there is something we all struggle with. Whether it’s one thing or a compilation of a few things, it’s there sticking up out of nowhere. Recently, one of my followers on Twitter posed this question. What do you struggle with in your writing? I couldn’t honestly answer this question because I don’t usually struggle with any one thing in particular, and what I struggle with varies at different points in my writing. What do you do with it? How do you work with it?
Sometimes the problem has to do with not knowing when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t. I don’t think there is any one right answer for this. I use dialogue when the story calls for it. When I am writing I get this ‘itch’. This ‘itch’ is a strong feeling dialogue is needed or description or exposition is called for. For me it’s a feeling of just knowing. This doesn’t mean I am right every time. I do go back and realize later that I need to cut back on something. That’s okay. It really is up to you as the author when you use a device and when you don’t. It’s your story.
Character arc is another big one. How are we going to show our protagonists growth from beginning to end? Yes. Yes. This is huge. To make the story and your character believable there needs to be growth in this character from beginning to end. What in the story itself causes your protagonist’s grow? The story movement depends on how your character acts, reacts, makes choices, etc… Are your characters afraid and unsure of themselves from beginning to end? I hope not. They may be apprehensive at the beginning, but by the end of the story they should be braver or brave enough to bring down the antagonist. Larry Brooks, in his book Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing devotes a whole part to character. In fact it’s number 2 out of the 6 core competencies. I highly recommend this book.