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! 

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Take Criticism Well and Learn From It

taking & learning from criticismMost writers seek out critiques, reviews, beta-readers, even their mum or dad, sibling or spouse to help them improve on their work. Some people can take even the harshest criticisms (note: a criticism isn’t, “Hey, your writing sucks!” That’s just hate and pretty dang nasty), and some can’t even take, “Well, your grammar needs work…” And so, here’s my step-by-step guide of how to take criticism well and learn from it. (Can you tell I’ve had a lot of criticism in my time?)

  1. Take a deep breath. Whatever you’re about to hear will criticise your writing, your work and what you’ve spent so much time on – and probably negatively at that. So make sure you’re calm before opening it. Even if much of it is positive, take a deep breath anyway ’cause if you squeal in delight too quickly you’ll probably get hiccups.
  2. Read the criticism. Just the once. Work out your initial reaction. If you’re super upset, angry or frustrated, don’t do anything. Just have a cup of tea or coffee or whatever works for you and take yourself away from your work for a little while. Come back with a fresh, calm head. It’s ok to be upset if the criticism is very negative. Hell, have a cry if you want. But basically what I’m trying to say here is: don’t do anything rash which might damage you, your work and/or your reputation AND/OR, a friendship with someone (eg angrily emailing the person who gave you the critique and saying they’re a blithering idiot who shouldn’t even be allowed to read other people’s work). 
  3. Once you’re calm, read the criticism again, and then once more but slowly. It’ll help you to take it all in, and by the third time you’ve read it (make sure to read it slowly: by this time, you’ll know the text and can tend to skip over the words. Don’t. Read it properly) you’ll be calm and knowing what to do next as well as knowing the text well enough to be able to mull it over when you don’t have it in front of you.
  4. Thank the person who gave you the critique. Just a simple email, text or if you can see them face to face say “thanks” to them. A good critique takes a long time, so thank them for their time, even if it’s quite negative. And they might even help you out again! – And, they’ll probably be more likely to if you’re nice to them.
  5. Make a plan of what to do next. Did they continually pick up on your grammar/spelling/punctuation? Do they think the romance is too fake? Is the main character too perfect or too flawed to be believable? A step-by-step plan helps you in your organisation and it also means you won’t forget anything if you just tick it off.
  6. Work through your plan and implement it in your work and hopefully you’ll get a better piece of work from it! 
  7. Give yourself a pat on the back and do something enjoyable. You’ve done pretty well.

Remember that critiques are designed to help you, not hinder you. Just make sure that the person knows what they’re doing as much as possible. If you can, get more than one critique of your work and compare them before acting on them. If the critiquers are saying the same thing, then that’s probably something to work on. If only one is saying something (or, worse, if one says they hate something and the other loves it) it’s probably safe to use your own judgement here, or even seek a third opinion if you can find one.

Don’t take negative criticism as a, “Hey, you suck!” It might just mean a, “Hey, you know if you worked on this it would help you a lot…” And remember, as I say a lot, writing is meant to be enjoyable. So enjoy it. (As much as possible anyway; I mean, sometimes those characters can be right old codgers.)

Music and Writing

Music is fantastic. It can give you chills and inspire you; not to mention be a great thing to bring people together. Listening to music can be a great way to help you write as well, or even before you write as inspiration.

However, some people get distracted by listening to music whilst writing. Perhaps it’s the lyrics or maybe you just need complete silence. It doesn’t mean you have to be in the no-music club though!

If you find yourself getting distracted by the lyrics, an obvious answer would be instrumental songs. But that makes it really hard, right? They’re generally from musicals (although Coldplay does some instrumental songs) and then they’re made for the musicals, so can be difficult. But can I recommend the Doctor Who soundtrack. Sure, some of it is a bit ‘Who-y’, but some of it is really great, and there is plenty to choose from.

Another thing you can try is making a playlist of every story you write. If it’s a short story, I guess you could listen to one song on repeat (sorry to distract, but I think I’ve got deja vu. Have I written about this before?). But it’s fun to make playlists for your stories too, as well as being helpful! I don’t know about other phones/music players, but on the iPod Nano that I have, you can’t name playlists (so I have about 10 that are just ‘Playlist 1’, ‘Playlist 2’ etc. And yet I still know which each one is!) so I’d suggest trying to plugging it into the computer to name the playlist. However, make it on your music player. Then you can scroll through, see each one in a small group or even individually, and it’ll make you think about it more.

Finally, if you get distracted whilst writing, do what I mentioned before and listen before you write. If you know there’s a certain scene you’ve got to write today, try and think of a song to fit it and listen to it just before you write. Sit back and truly listen to it. That way it won’t distract you when you’re actually writing, but you’ll be in the mind set for the scene.

Music can be a great help to you when you’re writing, so use it! There’s no point in overlooking tools that are right on your doorstep.

But, if music doesn’t help you, that’s okay too. There are, of course, many other things out there that can aid your writing. You just have to find them!

Hope that helped! Comments, questions? Shoot! 😀 


Some of my favourite albums for writing are Doctor Who (Instrumental) for Doctor Who fanfiction and general tone setting, Up All Night by One Direction for upbeat and happily romantic stories, Mamma Mia! (musical) for upbeat stories and ones with a positive message and In My Dreams by the Military Wives for ‘slow’, romantic and sad stories. If those help then that’s great! I also listen to a mixture of songs by different albums and different artists and stuff too.

The Final Countdown

If you don’t include today, there are three more sets of 24 hours (or 72 hours to you brainiacs out there) until NaNoWriMo hits.

Yes, you read correctly. Three days.

Are you ready? Here’s my personal NaNo checklist:

  • Plan. I’ve got a story plan this year (if I’m writing to a deadline, it makes it so much easier for me).
  • Character profiles. I think they’ll probably be on Charahub.
  • Tea. Coffee isn’t the tastiest thing in the world, so I’m stocking up on it’s slightly-less-caffinated-but-still-high-enough cousin.
  • A ‘Go Away: I’m Writing’ doorsign…and a memo to listen to it. I actually have one of these on my door, but no one really pays attention. It’s annoying.
  • Word Count Dragons. Have a look on this forum and find one for yourself. Mine this year are Apollo, Rhiudus and Sprite. Here’s hoping they’ll keep me in check…
  • Equally insane buddies. Have you got any NaNo buddies so you can help each other on the quest to madness? For the first time I actually have people who I haven’t just persuaded into doing it. I have people who want to write a novel! 😀
  • A place to back up. Be in OneDrive, Google Docs, emailing it to yourself, printing it, a memory stick or making the paper fireproof, you need to back up and do it AT LEAST every couple of days!
  • A will and a way. You have the will; you have the way. What’s stopping you?

Seeing as this is the last post before NaNoWriMo hits, I’ll wish you good luck now (but stay tuned for Friday when there’ll be a post on great last lines! – with a link to great first lines).

What’s on your NaNoWriMo checklist? Are you ready for the craziness to begin? Comment below, I always love to hear from you! 😀

Finally:

I’m /so/ gonna post this every week.

5 Ways to Keep Writing During School

Ugh. School. A word that fills many youngsters with regret (I like education, but not the people). Especially writers. Suddenly, your entire writing day has been cut to an hour (and that’s if you’re lucky). Some give up. Some stay up to early o’clock frantically scribbling and then spend the next day in doo-lally land. Some weren’t stupid enough to start in the first place.

But don’t worry. There’s hope. Even during my GCSEs I carried on writing. I’m going to sixth-form college this September (I’m terrified) and I’m going to carry on. Because that’s what writers do, isn’t it? Just keep putting one word in front of the one before.

Here are my top 5 tips to keep writing when you’re at school. Believe me, if you don’t do it, you’ll get out of practise and may never write again (surely that’s enough to scare you to carry on!). Even if you’re not at school, these still apply to you by the way (you can’t get out of reading that fast!).

1. Make a schedule.

Boring, I know, but if you do it there’s a faintest chance you’ll stick to it (and that’s better than nothing). During my exam period, I’d have between 9pm – 10pm to write every night. An hour is better than nothing. Hell, even if you write in for 15 minutes in bed before you go to sleep, that’s better than nothing! Just make sure that every single day you have writing written in – on your phone on the bus in the morning is okay enough!

2. Separate work and writing.

Don’t write and do your homework at the same time (if anything, you’ll get confused and accidentally kill off a prominent historical figure, letting your character evade death). Also, if you do this, you’re likely to start to think of writing as homework, a chore. When you put your school books away before you start writing, get up and do something different, even for a few minutes. Make a cup of tea, bounce on the trampoline (maybe not in the snow though), go for a walk. Even have a shower. You need to differentiate, or you’ll confuse yourself.

3. Just remember that school work, unfortunately, comes first.

This is a harsh fact for young writers to accept. Unless you have a book deal (if you do, well done you!) school work does have to come first, and writing second. It doesn’t mean you can’t write, but if you have to choose between an essay for the next day or the next chapter of your book that can (albeit regretfully) wait for a while, choose the essay. Despite what you say, your teachers will prefer you to get grades rather than another character death to add to your tally.

4. Damn the bullies.

Now, I might do another proper post on bullies and haters another time, but this is another thing you may find happens when you go back to school. You get the, “So what did you do during the holidays?” If your answer is, “Writing,” you could get laughs, snide looks, perhaps comments like, “But s/he can’t spell ‘because‘.” Ignore them. If you can’t ignore them, put them in your book and kill them (then who’ll be laughing?!). The fact is, some young people aren’t reading books nowadays, and even less are writing. Keep your chin up, and your pen scribbling.

5. Make friends with other writers or join a creative writing club.

I don’t really have any real-life writing friends. Many of mine are online (but I’m a terrible communicator so it doesn’t go great a lot of the time). If you can, make some writing friends. You can support them and they, in turn, can support you. And, if you join a club and they set tasks for you to do, technically you can pass it off as homework. Technically.

Have a great schooling year guys, and, even if you’re not at school, I hope you had a great summer and have a great rest-of-the-year!

For/Against Mentally Casting People as Your Characters

Let’s face it, we all do it. You see a picture online and think, “Ohmygod, that’s [insert name of character here]!” I know I’ve done it. I once found my character, Scott, but didn’t know who the model was (for a long time, I did find it eventually, I think I’ve lost it again, though):

Scott :)

Scott 🙂

But once you have that image of a character in your mind, it’s pretty difficult to get rid of. In some cases, this works in your favour. In others? Not so much.

In the script I’m writing at the moment, I have cast my characters. I’ve even broadcast to the world who I want to play who! I find this useful; I’m using actor’s appearances to my benefit.

However, in prose, I don’t like to think about who would play them. Scott was an exception – I saw the picture, and gasped out, “That’s Scott!” It was just something that happened (it’s kinda scary how much that guy up there looks like Scott).

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How To Create a Memorable Quote

Before you read this post, pause for a moment. Think of the most memorable book quote from a book you have read (that also happens to be your favourite). Cast your mind around for a while. Look at the books on your shelves if you have to. Got it? Great.

Throughout the ages, there have been many memorable quotes. They have been said in speeches, such as by Nelson Mandela, appeared on the internet, such as users on Tumblr and Twitter, or, most commonly perhaps, they have been written in books.

JK Rowling managed to make tons of people cry with just one word: “Always.” She also managed to make one of my favourite ones:

“Mischief Managed.”

So quotes can be long or short. For example, one of my favourites is from The Great Gatsby and the entire sentence is 36 words long. When I started writing this article, the first quote that came to mind was, actually, “Always.”

You want – need – to make your readers remember you. Sure, you can do that with a lot of words. I remember plots of books, rather than certain bits. But think about the great series’ and books out there – if you google for posters for them, you’ll often find a picture of a quote. You only need one to make the desired effect (although lots are loved as well).

Making a great quote is harder than it looks (believe me, I’ve tried). Sometimes, they just come to you. That’s the most often way to do it. But if you really want to make it memorable, a fan-favourite, then there are a few things that can help you:

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Coming Up to the Finishing Line…

*sings joyously* 3 days to go! Or…maybe that isn’t so joyously, in some cases. Are you behind? (As this is a queued post, I am really hoping I’ve finished.)

Even if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo this July, this post still applies to you. Do you have a deadline – perhaps an assignment – and you’re, well, not going to make it?

Listen up, people! I’ve got news for you: you can make it. I don’t care if you have an hour and an essay. You can do it. Wanna know how?

Keep calm. Being stressed isn’t going to help. If anything, it’ll make your hands shake so much you won’t be able to type/pick up a pen. And it’ll frazzle your mind, leaving you lost for ideas.

Think logically. If you’re like me, logic avoids you at every possible moment. You prefer to go from A – Z, then back up to Q before finally returning to B. Maybe, though, this time you have to go A – B – C. Think about what you want to write. If you’re finishing NaNo, how do you want it to end? If you’re writing an essay, what do you want to write about in your introduction? How are you going to link your conclusion back to it?

Time yourself. If you have an hour to do it, set yourself a goal of 45 minutes. People do extremely well under pressure.

Just remember, though:

If you don’t make it, it’s okay. I mean, if it’s an exam, obviously it’s not okay but you will have done your best (and I know people who have got full marks without even finishing their work – me being one). And your best is all that anybody can ask for (I know people say that all the time, but honestly, it’s true). If you don’t make it in NaNoWriMo, it’s not the end of the world. There’s no obligation to stop writing. If you’ve written this month – or any month – that’s still a great achievement. Not everyone can do it, honestly!

So whatever you’ve written this month, well done. You’ve done fabulously, darling. 🙂

And if you hit your NaNoWriMo goal, have a cookie and a pat on the back. Well done, you insane person, you!

Questions, thoughts, comments? Shoot! 😀 

Keep On Writin’

It’s easy – too easy – to look at your manuscript and think, ‘No.’ Especially when you’re trying to fit a ridiculous amount of words into one month in order to defeat this thing called NaNoWriMo (or you just really don’t wanna).

Losing motivation is a terrible thing. When you open up your work, you do anything to procrastinate – even tidying your room… (that’s when you know things are really bad).

All you gotta do is keep on trying. That thing ain’t gonna write itself (however much you beg and plead).

Here’s 3 ways to keep motivated:

  1. Look for an end goal. Be it editing and then querying. Maybe you’re getting it published. Send it to friends and family (or post it online) so you have readers willing you on. Or if none of these things appeal, maybe you can say you’ll treat yourself to a new book, or a day trip. Making the end goal (for example: a word count, finishing this chapter, etc) enticing with an end treat, means you’ll find yourself wanting to write – and therefore you will write – because you want that present at the end!
  2. Make an inspiration box. Look through it when you find your motivation for a story beginning to slip. Maybe it has things that remind you of your characters, or your book, or just little notes from friends and family speeding you on – maybe it’s a box full of rejection letters! Alternatively, you can have a document on your laptop full of pictures etc.
  3. Just write. You’ll force yourself into writing, so you will write – those words will just flow out, eventually. Sure, it’ll be like pushing an elephant uphill whilst they’re digging their toes in and you have an anchor pulling you back to earth, but that’s only at the beginning (promise!). Once you get going, you’ll be fine, and you’ll feel much better for it.

For those Camp-NaNo-ers out there, you have 9 days left (not including today). You can do it, no matter what – I believe in you!

If you really want some more motivation, try listening to this song – Keep on Movin’ (those fingers on the keyboard) and you’ll be fine!

Dammit Consistencies! (And 5 Ways To Sort Them Out)

Reading back over the script I’m writing at the moment, I am shocked at the amount of inconsistencies I have acquired. For example, one of my characters, Felix, comments on how he doesn’t take art or history. Then, later, another character – James – is ‘offended’ that none of them too art, but they all took history (GAH DX).

I don’t remember Felix not taking history. When I read it, my brain when, ‘Wait, when did this happen?!’ Then there are other things, like dates which I’m not sure about; for example, how long James has been working at the school, or which day is which.

I’m sure (well, I hope) that other people also suffer these problems (so I’m not the only one!). But what’s a way (well, 5 ways) to sort them out, so you don’t stumble upon your character suddenly taking up life drawing, or being 5 years younger than they actually are?

  1. Keep a timeline (eg on Excel)/calender. If your story takes place in, say, 2006, see if you can find a 2006 calender from somewhere. You’ll be able to make sure that if, for example, you comment on January 5th being a Saturday, use the calender to make sure it actually is a Saturday and not a Thursday or something. They’re also useful for seeing how much time has passed.
  2. Make notes as you go along. These aren’t the same as timelines. Just little bullet points (eg, ‘They have a date. They kiss.’ This would prevent you commenting on their ‘first’ kiss later and then having to change it!) can really help you later on – they’re also really quick to read over.
  3. Read what you’ve written (duh). This isn’t the same thing as editing – I’d do it before then. Just read over what you’ve written, and if it sounds wrong, you can go back and check it.
  4. Just write it. If it’s wrong, change it later! I’ve messed up quite badly, so I’m going to fix all of these inconsistencies once the script is finished. Stuff that has been written can be changed. Unfortunately, stuff that hasn’t been cannot.
  5. Get someone else to read it. You know your story well. You know your characters well. Therefore, you may miss some things – for example, a character repeating something (not technically an inconsistency, but you still don’t want to be repeating yourself. Got that? Once it’s been said once, you don’t want it again, so don’t have your character repeating themselves) or the fact you mentioned they graduated 5 years ago, but then they comment on how their first year out of school has been terrible – you might not pick up on this, but a pair of fresh eyes probably could.

Hope some of these helped you guys – even if you don’t think you have any inconsistencies, you may as well go back and check anyway!

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀