Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Finding the Time to Write

How do you find the time to write?
Can you be a writer when you have a full-time job?
Or a family?
I have a brilliant story idea but I’m just so busy…

The above are all questions are just a few ways people have essentially asked me “how can I be a writer if I don’t have time?” Every time I hear it I have a mixed reaction. I like it because it shows that these people understand that writing is a craft that takes time and work and dedication. It shows they respect that it doesn’t just magically happen. As a writer, I appreciate that because many, many people think writers just throw some words on a page, easy as pie.

On the other hand, I absolutely abhor the question. The reason I dislike it is because writing is like anything else someone wants to do, if they really want to do it they find the time. There’s no magical secret to how writers find time to write, they just make it happen.

That being said, I know some people will still want ideas for finding time to write, so here are some ways I find time to write when I am slammed with other life responsibilities:

Sleep Less
If you really want to write, then you’re going to have to find the time elsewhere. If you don’t want to cut back on work, hobbies, free time, etc., then your other option is to cut back on sleep. Either get up an hour earlier, or go to bed an hour later, and use that time to write. You don’t have to do it every day, even an hour a week will add up in the long-term. The point is, the time has to come from somewhere and sleep is something everyone can cut back on now and then without too much consequence. So pick a day a week to try it and go from there.

Can you eat lunch and type at the same time? How about when you’re watching a movie or listening to music? Can you talk while you do household chores? What about when you’re driving or hiking or whatever your hobby is? When I’m on long road trips I use a tape recorder to plot and outline, develop characters, and sometimes even write a few pages. You can do this while out and about doing things like hiking and such as well. I know several authors who do this, and some even send the audio out to be transcribed for them to make things easier. It takes some adjustment to get used to writing in this fashion, and it’s not always your best writing, but getting something down on the page so that the next time you have a break you can revise it makes for better progress than not writing at all.

Every Spare Minute
Basically, this is the main option. Every spare minute you have you try to write. Even if it’s just you wake up in the morning and jot a line down, take a shower, jot another line, eat breakfast, jot a line, go to work, jot a line a lunch, work some more and jot a line again a dinner and before bed. If you do that all day you should at least have a paragraph if not a whole page. Writing is done one word at a time, and while it’s not the most efficient method for writing, the little lines add up throughout the days/weeks/months and before you know it you’ll have a finished piece of work. So anytime you can add another word, sentence, paragraph, and so on, you should.

Final Notes
I know the above advice is nothing brilliant or even particularly new, but sometimes as writers we all need reminders that if we want to write, we have to find time for ourselves. There’s no magic secret or perfect writing opportunity that’s going to appear in your schedule. You use the time you have, any way you can, using any medium available, to get words on the page. Yes, it may not be efficient or look anything like the “dream writer’s life” but you’ll be writing, and you can’t be a writer if you don’t write.

This blog was originally published on Writing to be Read in 2017.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Writing Prompt: The Scarlett Letter

This weekend’s writing prompt is designed to put your character in an unexpected situation and to explore how they deal with it. Depending on how you use the prompt, it could also help you discover a key plot moment for your story. How your character reacts, and what they’re reacting to, could be the core plot and conflict of your story. Enjoy –

The Scarlet Letter
Your character is walking to their car. They can be any gender, any age, any place, that’s all for you to decide. The only thing that matters is that they are walking to a vehicle that they are going to drive. It can be theirs, it can be borrowed, it could be stolen… Again, up to you.

Where is your character coming from? Why? What kind of mood are they in? What environment are they in? Are there lots of people around, or is it deserted? Are they alone, or is someone walking with them?

When your character gets to the car they discover there is some form of graffiti written on it in bright red paint. It’s obvious and large and impossible to miss, and it’s something that has personal meaning for the character.

Is it good or bad, funny or heartbreaking? What does it say? Is it something that everyone will understand, or is it cryptic and meant only to have meaning to your character? How does the character react?

Are they embarrassed? Horrified? Amused? Angry? Saddened? Hurt? Do they immediately try to cover it up or wipe it away? Or do they ignore it and act like it’s no big deal? If someone was with your character, how does this secondary character react? Does your character try to explain?

How about bystanders, what do they do? And what about the person who did it? Are they still around watching, or long gone? Does the character know who it is that committed the crime?

Explore this act and the meaning behind it. If you go with the graffiti being something negative it could lead to endless story possibilities, and positive ones could lead to a ton of character relationship development between the message leaver and the recipient.

Until next time, happy writing!

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Monthly Memo on Writing to be Read

This week's Wednesday Wisdom is being replaced by my Monthly Memo over on Kaye Booth's blog "Writing to be Read." Last month I wrote about 3 ways to use flashbacks and it started a discussion about flash forwards and how to use them, so this month I decided to focus on comparing flashbacks to flash forwards and how to tell the difference.

There are a ton of examples with video clips of each type from some popular movies and TV shows, as well as a few examples of things that could be confused with being a flashback or flash forward but aren't. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Next week I'll be discussing 5 ways to cut down your word count here on Author the World, but first we'll have our weekly Friday Fun post with a writing prompt to get you through the weekend.

Until next time, happy writing!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Motivation: Restoring Your Enthusiasm

Have you ever been partway into a writing project and found yourself losing enthusiasm or motivation for it? Or maybe you start to doubt your idea, or get bored, or a new idea comes to mind that makes you wonder if it’s a better one. The reasons for losing motivation when writing can be endless, but what matters is how you can get your motivation and enthusiasm for what you’re writing back.

Whenever I find myself losing motivation to write I always take a short break from writing and ask myself WHAT I initially loved about the story idea. What made me enthusiastic when the idea first came to mind? Was it the characters? The plot? The genre? What part of the story was the “fun” part that had me eager to write and create?

If I can’t remember right away I often look back at my notes from when I was first brainstorming, or even back at my outline. Even if that item doesn’t spark the same enthusiasm this time when you think of it, it’s still important to figure out what it was that had you initially excited. So spend some time thinking about your story until you figure it out. If you can’t find what it was that initially excited you, then think about what you know is in your story that you could be excited by if you wrote it differently.

Once you know what it was that excites you about your story, it’s time to focus completely on that. Do some free-writing with ONLY the fun part in mind. Write the horror moment you envisioned when the story first came to mind. Write several pages of your characters’ internal ramblings so you can embrace their personality. Write the plot moment or setting you were so eager to get to when you started. The point is to just embrace it for a short time without worrying about the story at large and to let yourself have fun.

Once you’ve spent a short amount of time letting yourself embrace the “fun” part of the story, see how you feel. Are you enthusiastic again? Do you remember why you wanted to write the story? If the answers are yes, it’s time to look at your story once more. If the answers are no, then keep exploring your initial reasons for writing to see if maybe you’ve chosen the wrong ones. 

Once you have that yes, though, analyze what you’ve wrote before and see where you went wrong. How has your story strayed from the “fun” stuff that you imagined? Have you forgotten the character’s personality? Did you drop your plot line? Have you done too much setup that’s kept you from the main event?

If you’re not having fun writing your story, then your audience may not have fun reading it. Of course this isn’t always a hard and fast rule as some writers can write great stories they don’t necessarily enjoy writing, but in general I find if I’m bored writing a story, then my story may be boring. So let yourself put the fun back in.

Once you get your story back on track by adding that fun element, then hopefully your writing will go easier again. Sure, writing can be a pain, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process.

Until next time, happy writing!

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Monday Motivation: An Audience for Everyone

You know what terrifies me as a writer? The worrying thought that no one will ever want to read my work.

I mean, think about it. How narcissistic and egotistical do you have to be to think that you have something in your head that you can write onto paper and people will want to buy? How narcissistic do you have to be to think that what you write is so genius and wonderful and creative that someone will pay money out of their pocket to buy your made up ideas?

They’re buying words you’ve pulled out of your head and aligned on a page into some sort of story, something you’ve created from nothing. They’re buying it because they find these words you’ve strung together entertaining and engaging and they’re willing to give you hours of their time to read it. Sometimes more than once!

This is a hard thought for me to process, and I know many writers feel the same. It’s the thought of – why would anyone want to hear what I have to say? Why would they want to pay money for it? Why would they want to give me their time?

Every time I have this thought before I go to write a new screenplay or piece of fiction, or hell, even a new blog post, I stop myself and think about one easy fact—there’s always someone who will want to read it, no matter how silly or poorly written or uninteresting it may turn out in the end (though hopefully it’s none of those things). Realistically, there’s always someone out there who will agree with me, and the beauty of the internet is that it is more likely than ever that I will find that someone if I put my writing out there, and the same is true for you.

Now more than ever, no matter what you write or what you think or your skill level, there is someone out there who is your perfect audience. Maybe it won’t be the biggest audience alive, and maybe it won’t make you rich or famous, but it’ll be an audience who will read your writing and feel it speak to them. It’ll be an audience who will completely appreciate and understand what you’re going for and they will constantly want more. It will be an audience who gets you.

So get writing! Stop worrying about whether someone will appreciate your work when you finish and get to work. If you don’t write, you’ll never have anything to show anyway, and if you do write I guarantee there’s someone out there who will appreciate it, you just have to put your work out there and hope it finds them. If you spend too long obsessing about whether your writing will be successful, you’ll never get through the actual task of writing.

Until next time, happy writing!

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Fun: Writing Prompt - The Chalkboard Dilemma

This week’s Friday Fun is a writing prompt to get you through the weekend. I normally like to keep these vague to leave room for you to get creative, but this time I’m going to start with a little more detail. This week’s prompt is called “Chalkboard Dilemma” and I hope it gets you writing.

Chalkboard Dilemma
A girl, somewhere between the ages of 18-24 is standing at a chalkboard. She’s your protagonist and all you know to start is she’s at a chalkboard with chalk in her hand about to write something.

Where is she? Is it a school? Some kind of office? In a house? Maybe she’s in a restaurant writing a menu. What kind of places possibly have chalkboards and what are they used for?

How big is the chalkboard? How dirty? Is there already writing on it or is it clean? Is it actually clean, like washed down, or just has no writing so it’s still a little dusty? Is it green or black or some other more unusual color?

Now who is she? A student? A professor? Does she work there or is she a vandal maybe? Does she belong at the chalkboard or is she out of place? Is she at the board alone or is someone else there about to write as well?

Who’s around her? Was she told to write there or is she doing it on her own? Is someone watching her write or is she unobserved?

Now what is she going to write? Is it what people would expect from looking at her? Or is it something surprising? Is she going to write something that will upset people, or inform them? Will it make sense to anyone else but her? Will it be profound? Or silly? Will she stop before she writes anything and quit, leaving the board blank?

You can either discover these details through free-writing, or plan them all out ahead of time. Either way, write the girl at the chalkboard and have her execute whatever writing she’s going to do and show what happens from there. Show how her writing, if any, affects people. Show what happens next and the conflict that comes from it.

I like these kinds of writing prompts because any time a character is about to take action there is room for a conflict to be created, which means there’s room to create a plot for a story from it. So find the conflict in the girl at the chalkboard and see where it leads.

Until next time, happy writing!

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