On Improving The Speed of Your Writing (Part 1)

speed of writing part 1Sometimes you see posts about people writing 10k a day, and you probably think to yourself, “What?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!” Well, to be honest, for most people it isn’t. I know I probably could write 10k a day, but I don’t.

I write around 2k if I’m writing stories, and that takes me around an hour or possibly two. Even that might seem a lot to some of you, and I know that because I’ve been told that I write exceedingly fast (somehow, considering how often I procrastinate… actually, that’s probably why I manage to write so fast…). So, I have resolved to put some of my tips into this here post to try and help you all out! J Also, if you can write very fast, then why not let me know your tips in the comment section below? Other people might find them helpful too! 😀 Continue reading

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10 Reasons You Should Totally Try a Writing Challenge

writing challenge why 10Ah, writing challenges. They’re about a lot nowadays, and some people (like me!) even invent their own. You might have heard of them before, but not thought much about them.

Some writing challenges involve you writing a short story or poem everyday. Some, like NaNoWriMo, encourage you to write a novel. Some are just word prompts for every day and some are perhaps weekly or monthly.

Remember not to get writing challenges confused with goals: goals are personal things you set (like finishing your novel at the end of the month). A challenge often involves telling other people about it and sometimes joining in a group project. Anyway. Let’s get on with the list, shall we?

  1. It gets you writing! Obviously, this is a great reason.
  2. You can sometimes be a part of a great community, like the NaNoWriMo community! This generally means making great online friends. Whoop!
  3. It’s good if you’re just coming back into writing or have suffered a knock of confidence. It’ll get you going again and hopefully you can get some encouraging feedback.
  4. You can try out different genres! Perhaps set yourself a writing challenge of writing a short story with a different genre every week?
  5. You have something to show for it at the end of it. Whoop, whoop! Oh, and bragging rights. Obviously.
  6. You might improve on your writing skills by the end of the whole thing. Wouldn’t that be super? Look at your first and last piece of work once you’re done, and see how far you’ve come!
  7. It’s fairly easy to get your friends involved, especially if you guys can sit in a café together and talk about your writing woes. (However, if they don’t have the same mind-set as you to keep going through the challenge, don’t be put off and carry on! The likelihood is they’ll still listen to you, even if they don’t quite understand what you’re going through.)
  8. If you’re struggling with getting some writing done, you can set yourself a little challenge and get to it, hopefully getting you into a routine which means you can write every day after the challenge is over. So, writing challenges can often help you in the future.
  9. If you’re applying for a job or need a portfolio, you have loads of material, and if you do a short story writing challenge, you often have loads of different and diverse material to show off what you can do, which is exactly what they’re looking for!
  10. Finally? It’s fun. Just plain fun. If you choose a short story challenge too, it’s often not that much out of you’re day that you’re taking and hey, if one sucks, hopefully the next will be better!

Keep trying with writing guys! One word in front of the other.

PS If you want to have a go at a writing challenge, you can try my 23 Day Writing Challenge right here!

5 Ways To Get Writing Again

Between now and the 18th of December, I’m doing a prompt-a-day short story challenge (which I made up myself and you can read about here). It really has gotten me writing again, and I enjoy doing the challenges (even thought I’ve only done two so far!). I started it because I was struggling with writing, so I thought some other people might find it helpful, too.

  1. Do a writing challenge. You can find one on the internet fairly easy via Googling, or you can make up your own, like me!
  2. Write down a list of reasons why you can’t write right now. Beat them. The list could include things such as “I have to wash the dishes” – in which case, do them – or “I have to pass my A levels!” In which case either wait until they’re over, or overcome this.
  3. Write something outside of what you either normally write, or outside your current project. So, write a piece of non-fiction, like an essay, or write a poem, or a short story from a genre you’ve never tried before. This should get your writing juices flowing fairly well!
  4. Talk to a friendly writer friend. They might help you to be able to work through your writing block, they might offer ideas, or they could just offer their support and sympathy and hopefully their vast collection of chocolate.
  5. Just push on through it. Sometimes if you can’t write, all seems lost, but you might just be over a tricky bit in your plot. You’ll be able to do it eventually.

I hope these have helped! If you have any more ideas, want me to be your aforementioned friendly writer friend, have any comments in general or just want to chat, feel free to comment below! 🙂

I hope your weekend is writerly and your words come well!

Using Real Life In Your Writing – Places

real life - placesLast week, I spoke about using real life people in your writing. THIS WEEK: PLACES!

Obviously, we all live somewhere. Be that in the middle of a city, the outskirts of a town or in the middle of the countryside, either isolated or perhaps in a little hamlet. So, why not use that setting in your writing? Just go out, soak up the atmosphere. Listen, really listen. Do birds make sounds? Are there lots of shouting kids, or is it quieter in a more elderly area? Look around: what colour is the sky? At night? Are there lots of bus stops? Even the littlest thing can make it seem the most realistic to your readers. Even if most of the place you live in is grass or gravel! – note it. It’s ideal if you’re writing somewhere where you live, because you can just go out if you need inspiration.

Okay, perhaps you hate it, and don’t want to write about. Fair enough. There are other places you can use in your settings.

If you’re on holiday, and you find somewhere you love, why not write about? It’d be perfect, no? Just remember that no where is idyllic, and people who live there probably hate it too! But note the same things as you did for your own hometown. Have a look down some narrow alleys where your MC might walk down to get home, for example. See what the weather is like. If you’re not there all year round, can you talk to some locals? Eat in a local cuisine shop, visit museums, shops, see where your MC might work or go to school. Yes, it sounds very long-winded and difficult, but it’ll be key in convincing your readers about the realism of a place.

If you’re writing a setting of somewhere you can’t get to, why not look it up online? Use Google Earth’s awesome Street View feature. It’s actually pretty cool, and quite interesting. Look for weather news, go on the country’s main news website, you could even find some books based in that area, even if they’re non-fiction (probably especially, actually). Check out the wildlife online. Ask people who’ve been there, if you can find anyone.

And obviously, if you’re writing about a fantastical world or an alternate universe, things are going to be a little different, but you could always try and find somewhere as close to our world as possible, like New Zealand for Lord of the Rings. If you can’t, though, at least try and think of the same things as you’d notice if you were in the place for real – wildlife, the smell of the air, the language or many languages spoken, if people interact in the street or if people only leave their homes if they have somewhere to go.

The setting is so incredibly important in writing, and yet it is often overlooked. You could even try drawing a map and plotting out everything. Perhaps just writing notes, or finding pictures (try Pinterest).

Good luck with your settings! Don’t overlook them, and make sure you’ve done all you can. If you can get to your ideal setting and stay for as long as you can, do it! It’ll benefit you greatly.

Using Real Life In Your Writing – People

real life - peopleReal life and writing correlates quite a bit, even if you’re writing fantasy, for example. Obviously, you’re writing in a language you know, so there’s a point – you’ll probably use your own language tics in your work (such as the main character dropping articles, for example). Your characters are probably also influenced by people from your real life and conversations. Have you ever read a character and thought, “Hey, my friend does that…”?

Obviously you can’t completely copy people in your real life – there’s probably a law against it, or something, and you wouldn’t be creating your own characters. But, there’s nothing against you using aspects of people around you in your writing. If your friend has a really funny sneeze, or they have a catchphrase that they say all the time, then why not magpie it and use it in your own work? Even if they noticed, they’d probably be happy that you thought that that part of them was good enough to be used in your novel!

Bit how do you know what type of stuff to take and what type of stuff to leave? Well, you can keep a writing journal, obviously, and write down everything (a really great exercise for this is sitting in a coffee shop or on a train for example, and writing about the people around you). Then, you can flick through and find out the things that best fit your characters. Alternatively, you can just notice around you, and write it down later. Or, not write it down at all, and hope you’ll remember! If you use something in a close friend, you’ll probably know it anyway.

Even if you don’t write anything down, you probably will realise that some aspects of people around you in everyday life will come through in your own work subconsciously. This isn’t a bad thing! Even published writers are still influenced by people around them – take JK Rowling, for example! Besides, it gives you some great ammunition for writing and it means your characters are likely to seem realistic to the reader, because they have characteristics from real people!

Therefore, using real life people in your writing is a pretty good idea – just, don’t copy them completely. Otherwise, I guess you’re writing fanfiction about your own life… now there’s something for you to think about!

Why It’s Ok If NaNo Isn’t Working Right Now

I haven’t started writing my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel. Scary, right?! Bad? Evil? …daft? Uh, probably definitely the last one. But, hey, that’s why I’m writing this blog post!

Basically, don’t worry if you haven’t started. Firstly, it’s only Day 3 and that means you have about 26 (ok for me it’s too late to write so it’ll be day 4 soon) left to get all of your writing done. Secondly, the weekend is coming up (ok so it’s only Tuesday but it’s still coming up!). And thirdly, if you need some time to recharge your batteries (or, uh, initially charge your batteries) so be it.

If you haven’t started writing, as I obviously haven’t, here’re some top tips…

  1. Don’t try to catch up if it’ll burn yourself out. It’ll be a bit of a disaster, I think.
  2. Make sure you’re all planned and collected. If you have to get more writing done than you usually would, you might as well know what you’re doing.
  3. Have some time. Tell your friends, family and SO that you’re doing all sorts to catch up. Hopefully they’ll understand and bring you suitable caffeine products.

Good luck with NaNoWriMo, whether you’re already 10k in, are only a little done or haven’t started yet. I’m sure you’ll do great whatever.

How To (Successfully) Procrastinate NaNoWriMo

Sometimes, the words just aren’t coming and you don’t know why. Well, don’t despair! Simply procrastinate (or, look for inspiration). On my other blog, you can see how I managed to expertly procrastinate, but I thought I’d do another post if you do need some help to get through the month. 

1) Chat to your writing dragon/kitsune/imaginary writers friend. Don’t lie, we all have one. Get in touch with yours, rant a bit and perhaps ask for advice, or talk over your plot line. Alright, so this’ll look like you’re talking to yourself, but all the best are a little crazy. 

2) Make your NaNo survival kit! Check out the forum here. I’ll probably be posting about my NaNo survival kit on my other blog if you’re curious. 

3) Go out. Going out for the day/evening is ok, too, and you’re kinda procrastinating NaNo, but you’re also having fun, a break, and getting inspiration to get back into it again! 

4) Write your characters’ back stories. For fun. Maybe. 

5) Browse the NaNoWriMo forums and get chatting to some other Wrimos. They might be able to help with your predicament! 

Obviously, procrastinating the entire month of NaNoWriMo probably isn’t a good idea, but, hey, we all have bad days, and don’t let it bring you down! And sometimes, successful procrastinating is just as good and helpful to you as writing for 5 hours straight. 

Good luck for NaNo, folks! 

Is NaNoWriMo “Write” For You?

is nano right for youIt’s coming up, people. You can’t put it off any longer… Yes, it’s the big o’ National Novel Writing Month. First offs, what is it? Well, it’s where a bunch of crazy people (or, some few hundred thousand writers from across the globe) get together to try to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. Okay, I’m just gonna keep it as a bunch of crazy people.

NaNoWriMo isn’t right for everyone. I’m a student with a lot of work, and just about convinced my mum to let me do the Young Writers’ Program (YWP). Some people might just have become parents, or got a new job (like my mum! Congrats, mum). So… how do you know NaNoWriMo is or isn’t right for you?

  • Do you cope well – or, at least, well-ish (aka you don’t cry/get overly stressed/stop doing something else like eating) – with stress?
  • Are you able to write at the moment? Aka – no other, more important commitments like exams or family commitments?
  • Can you write? Like, you’re able to somehow get words on some sort of page, either by typing, hand writing or spoken word for example?
  • Do you think you can do this?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, I’d probably have a bit of a think before you try and conquer NaNoWriMo. I had my first 50,000 “win” last year, and, let me tell you, it was hard. I was mega proud when I’d done it, but it wasn’t easy. This year, I’m not aiming for the big 5-0, but a more realistic goal of 30,000 on the YWP. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, what with my other commitments, but I’m giving it a try because I know it’s also unlikely to stress me out if I don’t get it done.

If you answered “yes” to any/all of those questions, I’d still give NaNoWriMo a thought before you sign up. It’s difficult. Like, really difficult.

Now I’m sure that negativity has got you all nice and happy, so let’s throw in some more rainbows to lighten the mood (no, seriously, this bit is positive): NaNoWriMo is a great experience. It really is. You can do things you never thought you could, and you’ll have so much more confidence if you won or not, because, you know what? You tried.

Why am I writing this article then, you ask, if I’m just saying go for it anyway? Because, for some people, right now isn’t the time. And, if it isn’t, that is ok. There are always the camps, or next year, or, you know what, you don’t need NaNoWriMo to write! Say you can write 20,000 words in a month – over the course of six, that’s at least one novel!

NaNoWriMo is daunting and scary, but if you’re able and want to do it, I say give it a shot. It might mean you are a little more tired, or spend a little more of your spare time not reading but frantically writing, but hey-ho. It’s all fun and games.

Feel free to comment on anything or email me if you ever need any advice and/or encouraging writerly words for NaNoWriMo and/or any other endeavours.

And good luck if/when you sign up.

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I use this picture every year…

To Chapter or Not To Chapter?

to chapter or not to chapterWhen I read Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett for my reading group a few months ago, I noticed something that none of my friends did: Pratchett doesn’t use chapters. Rather, big sections are differed between by a mark on the page, but the next section doesn’t start at the top of the next. You might have seen this in books with chapters: a little asterisk in the middle of the page, indicating moving on… Kind of like this:

***

Look familiar?

When writing, you basically have the complete (well, almost, unless your agent/editor decides to change it, but it is your book…) on how to present it on the inside. So, you can have chapters, or you can choose not to. You might have loads of chapters with only a few lines in between, or choose to not have chapters but have section breakers instead. All of these have their own strengths and weaknesses and a lot of it does depend on the book you’re writing.

Most people assume: books = chapters. But that isn’t always the case. So, when writing your next book, why not think of doing something else, something different? If, for example, you’re writing a fantasy or dystopia, you might find it easier to use section headings instead. In 1984, George Orwell did something similar having a “Part I” and “Part II”, with no chapters in those parts, and used asterisks like Pratchett. Tolkien, however, has long chapters, which are clearly defined as such.

The greats broke the rules, and so can you, so, if it works for you and for your book, why not think about something different in your writing?