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]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

How To Get Your Creativity Back On Track

Creativity: A lightbulb, two pencils and an eraser on a blank page
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A lot of people in the writing-focused Facebook groups I am in have mentioned they’re depressed and don’t feel like writing. One of the most common questions asked is, “How can I get my creativity back on track?”

What I have found is the advice one person gives doesn’t always work for someone else. You must try many different things to find what works for you.

Here is a list of different tactics you can try to get your creativity back on track:

  • Take a walk, exercise, go outdoors, or run errands. Movement can help spark your creativity.

Exercise can help your creativity

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  • Take a hiatus. Take as long as you need. A hiatus can last from a few hours to years. I took one for four years, from 2013 until 2017.  The four-year break gave me fire and passion to not give up on my writing. I was so tired of not writing that I needed to write.
  • Work on another creative task: baking, cake decorating, sewing, cross stitching, knitting, crocheting, drawing, sketching, playing an instrument, singing, redesigning a website, using Photoshop or graphic design software, or whatever you feel like doing. Often, doing another activity can kick-start your creativity somewhere else.
Other creative endeavors can help you get past a block
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  • Set an amount of time you will allow yourself to feel blocked, then force yourself to get out of the slump. Don’t let it control you, but… [Read More]
Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

NaNoWriMo Slump Survival Tips

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It’s the third week of National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the world are thousands of words behind on reaching their goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Muses everywhere have gone on vacation and left no notice of when they will return. The NaNoWriMo slump is here.

How do we survive the slump week of NaNo? Here are some tips to get writing again.

Make a Catch-Up Plan

If you are thousands of words behind, it doesn’t help to try and catch up in one day. That’s an easy way to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, pull out those calculators and figure out how many extra words you need to write per day to catch up by November 30th. Aim for that new goal every day.

Write Out of Order

Did your manuscript hit a wall? Do you not know what to write next? Did you write yourself into a corner? The easiest solution is to write out of order. Write the scene that happens later in the book. You know, the one you’ve been dying to write. Work your way backward from there. Or, rewrite the novel starting from the scene where you last felt inspired and create a new sequence of events. If you don’t know what to write next, spend some time reading through what you have, but don’t edit. This may help you figure out where to go next.

Be a Rebel

You can count anything towards the 50,000-word goal. I have counted journal entries, notes I’ve taken from articles or videos on writing craft, and this article. You can count grocery lists, homework, or social media posts if you want. It’s up to you. Make sure to type these up in a word document so you can verify your word count. You could also work on several different projects if writing out of order doesn’t help bring your muse back from his or her sudden vacation.

Participate in Word Sprints

Go on Twitter and follow [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Finding Time To Write

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All of us have busy lives. Full-time jobs, family, and school are some common ones, but there are many more. How can we find the time to write when we have so much going on in our lives?

Track How You Spend Your Time

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The first step is to track how you spend your time. Take a week to record every activity you do during the day and the approximate time of day you do them.

For example, mine would look something like this:

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Wake Up/Morning Routine/Breakfast
  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Social Media
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11 a.m. Writing Time
  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Homework for School
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Writing Time/Reading/Appointments
  • 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Social Media/Free Time
  • 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Cook/Family Dinner/Wash Dishes
  • 6:00 p.m. -7:30 p.m. Meetings for Groups
  • 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Wind Down/Bedtime Routine/Reading
  • 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Try to Fall Asleep

This works for me because I need plenty of time to fall asleep because of my insomnia. I don’t have many responsibilities, either. Yours may look different.

You may ask why I am qualified to help you find time to write if I have no responsibilities. I’ve worked, gone to school, and finished the first draft of a novel at the same time.

This exercise is about tracking how you spend your time. Don’t judge what you are doing. Just record what you do and when.

Find Potential Writing Time

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Now that you have a week’s worth of records, the next step is [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Romance Writing: Creating Characters Who Are Meant To Be Together

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As an avid reader of romance, I have read numerous novels where the hero and heroine fall in love for no reason. It simply serves the plot. This is not what we want as readers. We want characters that fall in love because they are meant for each other. They have to be perfectly matched and have complementary traits. For most writers, this is hard to achieve. However, the solution to this problem is simple.

Character Creation is Key

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If you don’t spend time getting to know your characters before you start writing, it is a lot harder to achieve the kind of relationship readers want. Writing before you know your characters requires a lot of editing to get their relationship to where it needs to be.

Trying to fit characters to a plot has the same hindering effect. The choices characters make in a given situation are because of their personalities. It is a lot harder to fit a character’s personality to actions instead of figuring out what a character would do based on who they are.

Build One Character at a Time

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By focusing on one character at a time, you are better able to [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

An Editing Process for Pantsers

Editing Process
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This is another article that I wrote for Coffee House Writers. You can find the full article with this link. I hope you find this helpful!

An Editing Process for Pantsers

The 18th of July was the one-month anniversary of finishing my first full-length novel. You may have seen my article “Starting Over: Mirroring Kristin Cashore’s Process Of Writing Bitterblue,” published earlier this month about the process I was planning on using to edit the novel.

Well, plans have changed. I admit I’ve never edited a longer piece of writing before. The editing process is a bit of a mystery to me.

I have read lots of articles about how to approach editing, but few seemed to lend themselves to the way my brain works. Being a panster, a term for someone who doesn’t plot or plan before writing, means a lot of methods for editing aren’t aimed towards your process. Plus, a lot of these methods didn’t tell me how to approach each step. They just gave a basic rundown of the process involved without going into detail.

I ended up cobbling several methods together to get what I think I need for this specific project. I have a general idea of what it needs to improve.

What methods did I choose to include in the editing process?

First off, I wanted to read through and separate the scenes. I placed a hashtag between each of the scenes. Then, I filled out an index card with a couple of questions. These questions were:

  • Who is in the scene? I wrote down the names of each character that makes an appearance. I made a note if they only appear for a portion or leave in the middle of the scene.
  • What happens? I made a short synopsis of the events in the scene.
  • When does it happen? This has three parts to it.
    • I included the day number during the timeline of the novel (Day 1, Day 2, etc.,).
    • The time of day the scene happens (early morning, morning, early afternoon, afternoon, evening, night, late night,).
    • And the day of the week (Sunday, Monday, etc.).
  • What is the POV Character’s Goal? What are they trying to accomplish? Do they [Read More]