Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Writing Methods: Drafting

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So far, we have talked about things you can do before you write. We have talked about planning your story, whether that’s outlining or pantsing, controlling the surrounding environment when you write, and rituals you can do to kick start your brain into writing mode. But what about the actual drafting process?

There are several ways you can approach the first draft. These range from how you write sentences, how fast you write the draft, and whether you revise before you finish writing the draft.

Mind Barf vs. Careful Construction: Writing Sentences

If you write more lyrical prose or your training is in poetry, chances are you think about every word before you write it. You craft the perfect sentence, or at least a deliberate one, before moving on to the next.

Other writers type or scribble whatever comes to mind as fast as it enters their brain. I like to call this mind barfing onto the page. The only limitation here is how fast your fingers move.

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You may be somewhere in between these two, depending on what you are writing, how fast your brain works, and how many times you edit the words in your head before you write them down. Some writers outline only the major plot points, while others only outline the characters. This is a good way to get the major events in a story without always having to rewrite a detailed outline over and over. For more information on these types of outlining, check out the first article in this series: Outlining Vs Pantsing.

Turtle Writers vs. Rabbit Writers: How Fast Do You Write?

If you fall into the careful construction of each sentence category, you are probably a turtle writer. This means you may bang out a couple of hundred words of your project daily and call it a day. You take a lot longer to finish the first draft, but it’s more polished than those who mind barf every thought. You may produce more words than a couple hundred when you write, but you take a lot more time to get the same amount of words as your mind-barfing counterparts.

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If you are in the mind-barf camp, chances are you can bang out a couple thousand, if not tens of thousand words a day in a relatively short amount of time. Your fingers fly over the keyboard or your handwriting is on the messy side because of how fast you scribble just to get everything on the page.

Old School vs. Tech: How Do You Write?

Some writers enjoy using pen and paper for their first drafts. It feels great to write this way. Plus, when you type everything up into your computer, you automatically have a more polished draft because you edit as you go. The feeling of crossing things out, drawing circles and arrows, and other such revision processes are satisfying. A lot of turtle writers and construction writers like to write by hand.

The downsides to writing by hand is that you have to count your words manually. You could lose a notebook and all of that work is just gone, without a backup. Handwriting is usually slower than typing up your work. This method also hurts your hand if you’re not used to it.

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Others like the feeling of typing because you can get your words out quickly and save it in several places so you’ll always have a backup of your work. Also, you can copy, paste, cut, delete, and move things around more easily without crossing things out. It’s much cleaner than writing by hand. It’s also easier to change the formatting to meet publisher requirements and you don’t have to take that extra step to type it all up. Mind-barfers tend to end up in this camp.

Downsides to typing include eye strain, the expense of having to print things out, and losing things if you don’t save regularly or have auto-save set up.

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Goal Setters vs. Go-With-the-Flow People: Do You Set Deadlines?

Setting deadlines, such as finishing your book by a certain date, writing a certain number of words each day, or … [Read More]

Posted in Poetry, Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Free Rein: A Poem

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I long for that place.
You know, the one where
everything fades away
and you are left with just

Your mind
and a blank page.

Anything is possible.

Dragons, Dungeons, Magic Potions
Love, Friendship, Soul Mates
Aliens, Spacecraft, Time Travel

Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction

Vast as… [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Writing Methods: Rituals

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This is the third installment of my writing methods series. You can find the previous articles on outlining vs. pantsing and writing environments by clicking on the respective links.

Sometimes it’s hard to get into the right mindset to write. That’s where rituals come in.

How Will a Ritual Help?

For anyone who has taken a Psych 101 course, you may have heard of classical conditioning. That is, associating one unrelated stimulus with something else. But what does this have to do with writing or rituals?

If you do the same thing over and over before you write, you can trick your brain into the right mindset. Doing the same ritual and teaches your brain to associate it with writing. Ritual will make it easier to snap into writing mode and allow you to get into a flow more easily.

Kinds of Rituals

There are lots of kinds of rituals you can try. They can be certain smells, certain foods, putting on a particular genre of music or a certain piece of clothing, or a variety of other rituals. The trick here is to only use these when you are about to write, and not at other times.

Tastes and Smells

These are some of the strongest senses and will be the most effective in getting you into the writing mindset quickly.

Always have the same beverage before you write. Light a certain scented candle. Eat the same food, like a candy bar or other type of snack. Put on the same perfume before you write. Use a specific scent in an essential oil diffuser, but be careful if you have pets. Certain essential oils can be toxic to our furry friends.

Sound

Play a certain genre of music when you write. Do you have a… [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Writing Methods: Environment

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This is the second article in the Writing Methods series. You can find the first article, about different outlining or pantsing methods, here.

Creativity can change. Things that worked for a long time might stop working. There are several things you can do to try and prevent this from happening, including controlling the environment you write in. It’s all about training your brain and finding out what works best for you.

Noise Level

Some writers work best with background noise, such as music or ambient noise. Others work best in complete quiet. If you are one of the former, experiment with listening to music while you write. Classical or instrumental might be a good place to start if you have never done this before. If you want to try something a little tougher, put on a playlist of familiar music with lyrics. The key here is it has to be familiar because anything new will draw your attention away from your writing.

If you don’t feel comfortable writing with music, you can go to a coffee shop, library, park, or other public place to work, depending on the level of ambient noise you prefer. Experiment with different places and times to see what level of ambient noise works best for you.

You can also experiment with ambient noise through headphones such as binaural beats (check out Brain.fm), nature sounds, or other ambient noise for creativity or studying from YouTube or websites like coffitivity.com, where they record ambient noise and play it back on an endless loop. You could also put on the radio or TV in the background, but this might be more distracting than helpful.

If you are a writer that likes silence, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs. Writing from home or in a familiar place where you aren’t likely to be interrupted is key for your writing methods.

Location

Some writers feel most comfortable at home, with fewer distractions. Others like being around people in public places so they can people-watch or eavesdrop to get story material.

If you feel most comfortable at home, you have several options. You can…[Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Writing Methods: Outlining Vs. Pantsing

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This is part one of a series about different writing methods. I will share different approaches you can try to unlock your creativity. This week I will talk about outlining versus pantsing.

Creativity is a fickle thing. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Many times, each project uses a different method. Experimenting is the best way to figure out what will work best for you and each of your projects.

Outlining

Plot

This is the best-known writing method. When most people think of outlines they remember the detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph plan we had to turn in for research papers in school. The truth is, outlining can be as comprehensive or as sparse as you want it to be.

Some writers describe every scene in detail from the beginning through the end in a scene list. Others put these scene descriptions into a table that tracks the point of view, characters, timeline, and word count for each scene. Still, others fill out all the major plot points in a beat sheet, while some know only the beginning and end before they start writing.

For an example of a beat sheet, read Save the Cat or Save the Cat Writes a Novel. You can also use any number of beat sheets available online. A beat is a plot point. There are various methods and numbers of beats you could choose to plan. Some beat sheets calculate the approximate page number where something should happen depending on the target word count of the project.

Shop around and see if you can find a beat sheet or outlining method that might work for you.

Character

So far, I have mentioned outlining methods that focus on planning out the plot. Some writers sketch out their characters in addition to, or instead of outlining plots. There are many techniques for building characters.

For example, [Read More]