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)

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.


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!

How Improv Can Improve Your Writing

I’ve mentioned before (in 7 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue) that trying improv (the art of performed improvisation) can improve your writing.

Well, currently I’m reading Bossypants by Tina Fey, and in it she gives the rules of improv and describes how these rules have changed her life. The rules are as follows:

  1. Say “YES”
  2. Say “YES, AND…”
  3. Make statements
  4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities

Applying these rules to your writing will help you soldier through a crummy first draft by shutting up your internal editor. The trick is to improv against yourself.

Say “YES”

Stop arguing with yourself and start writing. Stop saying you can’t do it, or it’s too hard, or you need to learn more before you can start. Just start. Your improv partner (you) might be crazy, but go with it. In fact, craziness usually translates into energy, so embrace the crazy and hammer out that draft.

Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

You can't be that kid standing at the top of the water slide overthinking it. You have to go down the chute_Tina Fey
Jason Merritt / Gettyimages

Say “Yes, AND…”

Rather than tearing at or criticizing what you’ve already created, build on that and create in a different direction.

If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth”–now we’re getting somewhere.

Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner. Maybe you’ve hit a writer’s block. Don’t stop, don’t backtrack, don’t correct. Just blast through that obstacle in the weirdest way imaginable. Keep moving forward, as Walt Disney would say. Don’t stop moving forward until you’ve typed “The End;” then go back and start revising.

See Speed-Writing Your First Draft: 5 Tips as well as 10 Steps to Finishing a Novel for more ways to silence your inner critic while writing.

Make statements

This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” … In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.

Have enough confidence in yourself that if you come to an obstacle, you’ll be able to get through it. If you need to, take inspiration from fictional characters. It’s their job to overcome obstacles.

There are no mistakes, only opportunities

If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much of a loose cannon” in the field.

If your improv partner (you) screws up a scene for you, just go with it. If your characters don’t cooperate with your plot, change your story. In fiction, you might be a writer who outlines or meticulously plots beforehand, but between Chapter One and The End, your characters are the monarchy. You might be an omnipotent god-with-a-keyboard, but your characters still need free will. Forcing your characters to abide by your plan turns them into objects, not characters.

In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents.

Look, as an editor, I’m not going to tell you that everything you write is going to be good enough for publication. But it is good enough for you to spend time writing it. Every thing you write is one step towards becoming a better author, even if those pages live in a drawer or only twelve people read your book and ten leave horrible reviews. You are enough, whether you are published or not. Even if you count a scene or an entire manuscript as a failure, you are not a failure. You accomplished something. You wrote something no one else could.

Everyone falls and everyone fails. The difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is grit—perseverance and resilience despite mistakes.

When you think you’ve messed up, work with it. When you’re knocked down, get back up again. I’m rooting for you.

This video is a great illustration of perseverance:

Psst: be sure to read Elizabeth’s post from last week, too!

Self-Editing Checklist of Overused Words

Are you writing a novel? See if you’ve got these plot elements in your First Act, and follow along on my blog for Acts Two and Three.


Are you revising your novel? Here’s the first half of my checklist of overused words.

  1. A lot
  2. Again
  3. Almost
  4. And
  5. As
  6. At least
  7. Back
  8. Be
  9. Began/Begin
  10. Breath(e)
  11. Brow/eyebrow
  12. But
  13. Even
  14. Eye
  15. Feel/Felt
  16. Gasp
  17. Glance
  18. Going
  19. Had
  20. Hair
  21. Has
  22. Head
  23. Hear
  24. Instead
  25. Is
  26. It
  27. It is (was/would/had)
  28. Just
  29. Know
  30. Laugh
  31. Like
  32. Look
  33. Of Course

For the rest of the list, divided into the following categories…

  • Adverbs / Prepositions—use in moderation
  • Signs of Weak Verbs—can you make the verb stronger?
  • Signs of Wordiness—cut all excess words
  • Repeated Descriptions / Actions—use in moderation
  • Repeated Pronouns—make sure the antecedent, the word they refer to, is clear
  • Filtering Language—deliver rather than present information
  • Overused by Characters / Narrator—watch sentence beginnings, especially

…click the image below.


Source: Overused Words You Should and Shouldn’t Delete