Let’s Get Finishing

Last week, Kyra wrote about time management as she pursues her doctorate.

This week I’m finishing my last editing projects of 2016 to focus on my own writing (not to mention my family and full-time day job as a copywriter). So Kyra’s blog post was especially timely for me, as was today’s post by Chuck Wendig on finishing your writing.

How will you turn off the internal editor to write that first draft quickly?

I’ve got 5 Tips for Speed-Writing Your First Draft, which I used in 2014 to write 20,000 words in 24 hours.

If you need a bit more distraction or advice before you get started, take a look at Chuck Wendig’s post: Here’s How to Finish that #^@&*%$ Book, You Monster. As per usual with Chuck Wendig, his posts have NSFW language, so read at your own risk.

What is the one project you’ve been putting off? Can you come up with a SMART goal to achieve by the end of 2016? Comment below!

Share your progress with Snapchat stories so others can be inspired, too! (Add me @larawillard)

Time Management

A few weeks ago I started a PhD program. I’ve heard all the horror stories about what a time suck grad school is. To be honest, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t have time to write. I was able to be really productive over summer, and I was worried I’d have to put everything on hold until next summer. To my surprise, though, I’ve actually been able to keep writing.

pocket-watch-1637393_1280.jpg

Everyone is busy. For me it’s school. For you it may be your family or your day job or any number of other important and worthwhile things that take up our time.

Today I want to talk about finding, or rather making, time to write despite the busyness. Here are a few things that I’ve found have worked for me.

  • Prioritize your day and prioritize your writing. I’m a big to-do list person (and a fan of the Todoist app). I start every morning by going over what needs to be done. I decide what things are most important, and I make sure to do those things first. I make sure that writing is on the list. I usually put it somewhere between the assignment that is due tomorrow and the laundry (which should probably be done today but can be put off one more day). I usually surprise myself with how much I can actually get done in a day when I organize my tasks like this.
  • Make small goals. I’ve realized that I’m not very good at long term goals. But I can crush short-term goals. Right now I’m only working with weekly goals and I don’t have a particular date I want to have my draft finished by. I’ve started posting my weekly goals on Twitter every Monday. It helps keep me on track.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. This is true about everything in publishing, but particularly useful to remember here. I have friends who are a lot more prolific than I am. I get jealous sometimes when I see their output. Don’t do this. Remember that while publication is an important goal, it is not the only goal in your life. Your family or day job or school or whatever is valid and important too. Don’t feel bad about how you have to divide your time. Just keep writing, even if it is slowly.
  • Make writing a joy. Writing is hard. But hopefully you enjoy doing it even when it is hard. I became a much more productive writer when I stopped thinking of it as work and started actually enjoying it.
  • Understand that somedays you might not be able to write. I recently finished Beth Revis’s writing book Paper Hearts. In the book she talks about how one of the worst pieces of writing advice she ever received was to write everyday. Some people may be able to write everyday. Beth can’t, though, and neither can I. That’s okay. Writing, like any job, needs days off. I’m not saying you should be one of those writers who only writes when inspiration strikes. I do think you should write regularly. But when you need a day off, take it.
  • Think about writing, even when you can’t write. Another tidbit from Beth’s book. She said that even on days she couldn’t write, she still thought about her books. I do this too. When I’m sitting at a red light or waiting for a class to start, I let my mind work through plot problems. Or I flesh out my characters’ personalities. For me this is part of the writing process. You can be working on your book even when you aren’t at your computer.

In short, it’s important to have a life. Most of the time your writing can coexist with whatever else you have going on in your life.

So take a deep breath, buckle up, and get to work.

Social Media Ethics for Writers

Like it or not, your reputation online is based on others’ perspective (subjective opinion) more than truth (who you know yourself to be). These tips will help you to maintain or protect your reputation online, and avoid being added to an agent or publisher’s blacklist.

social-media-ethics-for-writers-ms-editors

Be respectful.

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

The golden rule applies to life in general, so it applies to online interactions as well.

Understand the nature of social media.

You have control over what you do, but not over what others do.

Potential employers, associates, friends, and lovers will search your online behavior. Even private interactions can become public, if your friends decide to make them so.

Screenshots are forever, can be spread publicly, and may be taken out of context.

Delete public posts that might get you in trouble later.

Include a “1/?” or some other signifier to show that there’s more to the story than one tweet:

This is one tweet 1/3

+ here’s another way to say you’re not finished +

… and here’s another way to show that the conversation isn’t contained to one tweet.

Know your tribe.

The writing and publishing community is very small, and they talk to each other. Everyone has a blacklist.

You can have feelings and be upset about things! Just don’t harass others.

If you can’t say something nice or positive, at least leave out identifying information.

When I have an unfavorable review of a book, I stay away from using authors’ names and titles. If an author were to search her name or title online, I don’t want my less-than-positive tweets showing up. If an editor at a publisher were to look up one of their books and find my tweet about it, they might not want to publish one of my books.

You can respond to inappropriate behavior or trolls, but do so with as much logic and grace as possible, and know when to quit.

Hey, that’s not OK.

It’s better to stand by the person being harassed:

@MyFriend FWIW, I’m on your side. That dude has no idea what he’s talking about.

…rather than directly attack the harasser:

Back off, @JerkGuy! @MyFriend is right, and you’re a fat turd. Go away.

Be empathetic.

Creative people are, by nature, vulnerable any time we open ourselves up. Assume that whatever your level of sensitivity, some other people will be more sensitive.

It’s hard enough empathizing with people who are like you, but it’s more difficult to empathize with people unlike you if you aren’t aware of marginalization and privilege.

Don’t tell others how to feel, even if you’re trying to encourage. You don’t know why they might feel that way.

Also be considerate of how your own words might be misconstrued. Be wary of snark or sarcasm, which are often lost in the translation of social media. (That’s one reason we have emoji!)

Block or report if necessary.

On Twitter, you can report individual harmful tweets as well as block people. Twitter doesn’t usually do much with those reports, but it’s a relatively easy step, and blocking will keep that person from interacting with you further.

If you notice someone behaving in a problematic manner publicly, let them know in a tweet, comment, or DM (private direct message) if you feel comfortable doing so, noting that your report won’t be anonymous that way.

If you want your report to be anonymous, you can consider sending a message on their contact form (if they have a website), or by telling one of their friends—but know that their friend might tell them your identity.

Have an ethical standard.

Think of someone whom you respect and seems to conduct themselves honorably online.

I’m a Christian, so the example I follow is Jesus (even though he was never on social media). Jesus did get mad at arrogance, intimidation, and injustice—and so do I—but he also had grace, compassion, and empathy for others—which I try my best to have.

When in doubt, don’t engage.

It’s better to have an empty or silent social media account than one that could get you in trouble.

Do you have any more social media tips for writers? Have you ever blogged about it? Comment below!

Becoming a Better Pantser

A couple weeks ago, Christopher posted about how he’s incorporated plotting into his writing process. The post got me thinking about my own writing process. I’m a pretty die hard pantser, but I haven’t always been good at pantsing. Like Christopher, I often pantsed myself into tricky situations that I then spent months trying to get my way out of. Today I’d like to talk about pantsing strategies to help you get through those times when you really don’t know what’s going next.

I’ve tried to be a plotter. I really have. Below is a picture of my last attempt to plot a book.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 5.54.18 PM

As you can see, it did not go well. (In case it’s unclear, I gave up plotting beyond the underworld scenes)

This is a project I did for Camp NaNoWriMo, and while the outlining did not go well, the writing did. I think it was my most successful NaNo experience yet.

For whatever reason, my brain just won’t outline. I need to write things out to get a sense of where the characters are going. What this means is that I need a lot of Butt In Chair time to just write out my plot. I’ve found that because of this contests like NaNoWriMo really work for me because they give me a goal and force me to sit down and write, like it or not.

One tool that I’ve found EXTREMELY helpful is Write or Die. The Write or Die software has a number of different settings that you can tailor to your needs. But the gist of it is that you sit down and you write and if you stop writing, there are consequences (unpleasant noises, pictures of spiders).

Write_or_Die_2

I love this tool, and I’ve grown so used to it that I no longer even need the consequences. Just seeing the browser puts my brain into writing mode. This tool has pushed me through a number of sticky plot points. Occasionally I really am so stuck that all I do is ramble about the character’s shoes, but more often than not I’m surprised by the actual plot problem solutions that I’ve gotten just by forcing myself to write.

I suggest everyone try it. I mean really try it (probably several times) because it takes some getting used to. I hated it when I first tried it. Now I love it. The software is available at writeordie.com. You can also find a free trial version on the website.

Sometimes if I’m feeling really stuck, I’ll take a day off. But only one. During Camp NaNoWriMo this year, I accidentally got my characters stuck on a deserted island. I let myself sleep on it, and the next day I forced myself to think of a way to get them out.

The point of this post is to say that being a pantser doesn’t mean you can just sit around and wait for inspiration to take you somewhere. (Well, you can. It’ll take you a very long time to get a novel completed, though.) Sometimes being a pantser means pushing forward even when you have no clue where you are going.

Just. Keep. Going.

Which is probably good advice whether you’re pantser or a plotter.