Writing Update: NaNoWriMo 2022 – Week #1

Hello! I know it technically hasn’t been a week since NaNoWriMo began. Still, I wanted to update you on my progress and give you insights into some things I’ve also learned so far.

As of this posting, I have written 15,064 words. I’ve been doing my best to write daily for a few hours. Sometimes I can squeeze in an hour; other times, I can do three or more, depending on when I plan to write.

Week One Takeaways

• It’s amazing how much extra time you have to write when you aren’t glued to your phone or tablet, binge-watching a TV show, or doing other unproductive activities. By eliminating these distractions, I could easily find more time each day to write.

• I found writing at night a very productive way to write over multiple days. For example, if I started writing at 11pm on Tuesday and wrote until 1am on Wednesday. I now have written for two hours, but also for two days. This helped keep the daily writing consistent and kept the words flowing.

• Unlike a marathon, it’s okay to leap out of the gate with your writing at full force. If you can write more a day in the first week than the 1,667 words needed to hit 50,000 by the end, do it and keep going. Don’t pull back, and don’t stop once you hit that goal. Eventually, you might hit a creative wall, and those extra words will help you when you do.

• I’m using an outline for my third novel, and I’ve found that what I initially had for the opening once I fleshed it out wasn’t working like I thought it would. No worries. Since your goal is word count, this is a great time to play around and experiment if needed. You can write scenes for your characters that might not end up in the final project but are helping you explore your story and character and increase your word count.

• Even if you write something you don’t like, keep it in for now. Again, while you may be working on a project during NaNoWriMo, your main goal is to hit the magic 50,000-word goal. You can always cut, change, or move things later, but keep writing.

• I have been leaving myself notes in brackets [like these] at the start of each writing session to remind myself of any changes I wish to make to the previous sections I’ve written. That way, I can go back later and fix things.

The main goal is to keep writing and moving forward in your progress. Get through the story from start to finish and edit and change things later.

Keep on writing, and I’ll be back with more updates and maybe an article or two in the next week.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: A Writer’s Leap of Faith

Starting a new writing project can be challenging.  It’s a new idea.  It’s in a genre you’ve never written before.  It’s a screenplay when you mainly write novels.  But here you are, ready to go.

And you freeze.

Creative Paralysis

Why does fear paralyze creative people?  Why do we allow it to stop us from doing what we love?  We clearly enjoy writing, crafting stories, and creating characters.  So, why do we prevent ourselves from just sitting down and writing?

Allowing external forces to invade our creative space hinders our ability to be creatively free.  With the overflow of content all around us 24/7, it can be overwhelming to tune it out and be in your own writer’s world for a few hours a day.

I’ve struggled with this, and it can be difficult to overcome.  But I’ve had to overcome it and defeat it, and I know you can, too.

Taking That First Step

We may often feel like Indiana Jones staring into a vast chasm, our destination perilously out of reach with no possible way to reach it.  But like Dr. Jones, we have to take that seemingly scary first step off the creative cliff and know – by faith or instinct – that there will be solid ground to catch us.

It really is a matter of trusting yourself and trusting your creativity.  You have the idea; you know the story you want to tell and why you want to tell it.  Take that first step and get the process going.

One Word at a Time

Every novelist, poet, screenwriter, and journalist starts at the same place with each new project: the blank page.  Soon, they fill it with words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, scenes, characters, dialogue, and settings.  

You can do that, too.

Get your story down on the page.  One word at a time.  Keep the flow going.  Don’t like something?  Yep, that happens.  Fix it now, or fix it later.  But keep writing.  You are the only person who can prevent you from getting your story on the page.  Don’t allow negative self-talk to affect your productivity.  Write, write, and write some more.  

One word at a time.

Poke Perfection in the Eye

Lack of faith in our creativity can happen since we’re surrounded by so-called “finished products” daily.  But all the scripts, novels, and articles we encountered went through – hopefully – several drafts until they were worthy of publication or production.

A screenwriting professor I had once wrote on the board, “Write badly with pride.”  This is an excellent motto for all writers and one that I encourage you to remember or write down and post near where you write.

A first draft is just that: a first draft.  Once it’s out and on the page, you have multiple opportunities to improve it, fine-tune things, and make your work shine.

But you can’t do that if it’s stuck in your head.

Final Thoughts

By allowing yourself as a writer to take a leap of faith and trust yourself and your creative process, you give yourself power over your creativity.  By shutting out negative external and internal forces that cause you to lose faith in yourself and your work, you can push through and begin writing that project that has been living in your mind for far too long.

So inhale, exhale, close your eyes, and take that first step toward creative fulfillment.

You’ll be glad you did.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: What’s Your Biggest Fear?

What are you afraid of?  What makes you scared?  Why are you afraid of it?  What event shaped your fear?  With Halloween less than a week away, I felt exploring our fears and writing a short story about them would be a fun activity.

The Pre-Work

  • Pick something you’re afraid of or causes you fear.  It can be something as simple as clowns or spiders or something deeper like loneliness or fear of failing.  Whatever it is, write it down.
  • Now, think about what life was like before you had this fear.
  • Next.  Think about what led you to have this fear.  Was it a specific moment or event?  Maybe you saw a movie that affected you psychologically.  
  • How has this fear impacted your life or the lives of others?  
  • Do you want to face your fear and overcome it, or do you think it’ll be a part of you for life?

The Exercise

Write a short story (500 to 1000 words) about the fear you chose.  You can make it autobiographical or create a fictional character that has to deal with this particular fear.  Whatever you choose, try and write the story showing the character’s life before and after the fear impacts them.  Then, explore how they conquered the fear or if the fear conquered them.

Using yourself as the story’s subject, you could use this as an opportunity to work through and find ways to overcome this fear.

Final Thoughts

Utilizing your own fears and anxieties when creating stories or characters can help make them more relatable to readers since you have an intimate understanding of them.  Whether the fear is rational or irrational, anxiety can help increase a story’s stakes and create suspense for the reader.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise of the Week: How Fast Can You Write 1000 Words?

One-thousand words.  Most writers probably can pound that amount of words out rather quickly.  But if the thought of sitting down and writing 1000 words at one time is intimidating, here are some strategies to make the experience more enjoyable.

Have a Plan

Before you sit down to write, know what you’re going to write.  This exercise can be about anything, but the key is to have a basic framework for what you plan to write about.  

Let’s say you are writing 1000 words about your favorite pet.  Take some time to plan out what you will talk about in the 1000 words.  What will you open the story with?  What will be at the heart of the story?  How does it end?  Having milestones like this can keep the words flowing since you know where to go next.

All About You

Give yourself time away from distractions to work on this exercise.  Life can be busy, so try your best to make the time to just focus on the 1000 words at once.  It’s understandable if something comes up while you’re writing, but do what you can to stay focused.

Time Yourself

Set a stopwatch and see how long it takes to write 1000 words.  Sometimes you’ll be faster, sometimes slower, but with practice, you should get a general average of how long it might take you to write 1000 words.

If It’s Too Easy…

If 1000 words are too easy for you, try 1500.  Or 1750.  Or 2000.  Even if you start at 1000 words, you want to try and bump up your daily word count to maximize your output.

But don’t get too crazy and dive into writing 5000 words and overwhelm yourself.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.

Final Thoughts

As a writer, you can control how you write, when, and how much you write.  If you want to write more, write faster, or write with a purpose, having a plan in place can help you achieve your creative goals.  Remember that every word written brings you one step closer to completing your writing objectives.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2022

In my last post, I talked about the upcoming NaNoWriMo November writing challenge, where you are tasked with writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  While that may seem a bit overwhelming to some, let’s talk about ways to make the experience better and your success possible.

By the Numbers

If we do some quick math, 50,000 words in 30 days equate to around 1,667 words per day. 

It’s always good to have some writing-based goal written down that you plan to accomplish each time you sit down to write.  Some days you’ll burn through those 1,667 words in no time, and other times it will feel like your brain is struggling to come up with the next word to type.  The key is attempting to reach this magic number each day.

You can keep track using a spreadsheet, copying and pasting each day’s work on your NaNoWriMo novel page or on a piece of paper.  However you do it, seeing your progress is fun and encouraging.  After some time, you won’t want to break the productivity chain.

Plan Ahead

With this writing challenge, knowing your story and where it’s going from start to finish is a good idea.  Take the guesswork out of what you’re writing daily, and know before you go.  

Whether you create a simple outline or a detailed one, have a plan in place and a general idea of where you want the story and main character to go throughout the story.  You can always rewrite and change things later, but getting the story down and the word-count goal met is the primary focus.

Live in Reality

As humans, we have stuff to do.  Work, family, shopping, sleep, etc.  Plus, November has Thanksgiving and Black Friday toward the end of the month.  

Life happens, and you will get busy and possibly not have time to hit the minimum word count for a day or two.  Don’t worry about it.  You can make it up another day.  Remember that you have 30 days to reach 50,000 words, so give yourself some slack in the event things arise that prevent you from writing for a few days during the month.

Just remember to get back to it and keep writing.

Have Fun

The key to making this challenge a positive and fun experience is to enjoy the process.  Be motivated to hop on the computer and write each day.  It shouldn’t be a slog, feel like a punishment, or make you dread sitting down at the computer.

Don’t think of it as work.  Think of this as a creative escape where the destination is 50,000 words of a story you enjoyed writing and bringing to life.  

If you burn through 50,000 words early, keep going.  Write, write, write.

What if I Don’t Make it?

Writing 50,000 words is a marathon.  And like marathon runners, sometimes things can get in the way that prevents us from hitting our goal in the time we planned to complete it.  

Again, life happens.

No matter how much you get done by November 30, I encourage you to keep writing.  Even if you hit 50,000 words a week or two into December, you still have reached the goal.

Then, next year, try again.  See what you can do to reach the goal sooner.

You can do it!  Hit that 50,000-word goal no matter what!

Final Thoughts

All the suggestions above can be used for any writing project and help you map your pathway to success.  While any big writing project can initially feel daunting, breaking it down into manageable chunks can keep your creative momentum going and ensure you cross the finish line.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Exercise: The Greatest Gift

Like most people, I enjoy getting presents on my birthday and holidays.  Whether you receive them for traditional annual events or just because gifts are a nice gesture to give and receive.

Thanks, I Love It!

Make a list of the five best gifts you have ever received.  It can be something you got when you were a kid, something special a relative or loved one gave you recently or something you gave to someone they loved.

Describe the moments leading up to opening the gift.  Were you excited?  Anxious?  What did the wrapped gift look like?  What was your initial reaction to the present?  What did you do with it after you opened it?  Do you still have it?

Take some time to really describe this gift-receiving/giving moment.  Use the first-person POV to express your feelings in detail and be as descriptive as possible about the gift.

If you gave a gift that was loved by someone, still use the first person to describe how you felt about their response to the gift and why you knew they would love it.

Three I can think of from childhood are the original Nintendo, my new 10-speed bike, and our first family computer with a dot-matrix printer (1994).

BONUS: Thanks, I Hate It!

The same concept, but for a gift you received that you absolutely hated.  Did you mask your dislike when you opened it?  What did you do with it once the giver left?  Do you still have it out of guilt?

Again, use the first-person POV to detail your feelings about the gift and describe the gift in detail.

If you gave a gift that was hated by someone, still use the first person to describe how you felt about their response to the gift and why you thought they would love it.

One that pops to mind: I got the parody game of MYST called PYST, and I wasn’t sure if it was a gag gift or a real one.  I enjoyed MYST, so I was confused.

Final Thoughts

This is a great exercise to practice using first-person POV and describing internal and external emotions.  And it’s always good to work on detailed descriptions of objects – like the gifts in this exercise – to give the reader a clear mental picture through words.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Setting your 2022 Writing Goals – Part Two

Last time, we kicked off the final month of 2021 by exploring ways to set new writing goals in 2022.  Below are a few more ideas to get your head in the game this coming year.

Always Be Thinking

We are surrounded by people, places, and events that have the possibility of inspiring and evolving into stories.  As you go about your day, observe and later write down what you experienced that was noteworthy.  Did something happen to you at work or school that could be the basis of a storyline?  Did your kid say something funny that would work great in a script?

By being aware of the real world around us, we can create stronger and more grounded stories.   

Work To Write Every Day

To write more, write better, and write longer, you need to make it a habitual ritual in your daily routine.  Whether it’s for 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours, work to fit time into your daily schedule to write.  Even if you write about your day, an experience you had, or on your big writing project, you are still working to develop your skills as a writer.

Numerous websites offer hundreds of writing prompts that can help you focus on what to write if you need assistance.  The key is to commit to writing every day and stick to it.  With each daily writing session, you’ll be amazed at how your writing skills grow.

Here’s a link to an article featuring 100 creative writing prompts from Writer’s Digest.

Have Side Projects Just In Case

I always like to have another writing project or two on the side if I hit a brick wall with my current project.  The solution should never be closing the laptop and skimming through YouTube videos on your phone.  A more productive way to deal with this issue is to have another project you can focus on.

I prefer that the second project is in a different genre and even another medium.  For example, if I’m writing a novel that’s action-adventure, I’ll have a play that’s a comedy to work on as well.  This gives your brain a rest and can actually help you subconsciously resolve issues you’re having with the primary project as you work on the secondary one.

Stay Positive

You’re going to have tough writing days. You’re going to get writers’ block of some kind. You’re going to have personal things pop up that distract you.  But when you’re at the desk, the table, or wherever you write, you have to have a positive mindset.  You will get the writing done.  You will get something on the page.  Even if it’s not quality work, it; ’s still work you completed and can fix later.

Don’t get discouraged with the process.  If you have issues with a story, step back and figure out why.  Write down why you think the story or a character isn’t working (that still counts as writing).  

The key is to not allow negative self-talk and other internal forces to win the creative war.  Push yourself through the blocks, the doubt, and the problems, and you will come out the other side with work you can be proud of.

Stay Focused

It’s hard in 2021 – and soon 2022 – to disappear from the world and just focus on your writing.  It can be hard to shut the world out and focus with social media, the news, COVID, family, friends, work, and doom and gloom seemingly lurking around every corner.

I recommend finding a chaos-free zone where you have your phone off, your wi-fi off, and as few external distractions as possible when you sit down to write.  You can fact-check your story later if you need to.

This is your time to escape the real world and live in your fictional universe with your characters and story.  I can guarantee that you will not miss world peace being achieved or a cure for all illnesses being discovered while you’re hunkered down writing.

Give yourself the permission and the time to focus, and you will be glad you did.

Have Fun!

This is the most essential aspect of writing.  You have to have fun with it. You’re not writing 500-word essays for your high school literature class; you’re writing a novel, a screenplay, a play, short stories, poems, or non-fiction.  This is the fun stuff.  Enjoy the creative ride.

I believe that the passion, excitement, and joy you have while writing translates off the page to the reader or viewer.  Creative writing shouldn’t be a torturous affair; it should be fun, invigorating, energizing.  

While there is plenty of hard work involved, it’s work that should be approached from a positive place, not one of dread or resentment.  Go into each writing session open-minded, ready to write, and have a good time.

I hope these tips help you plan out your writing goals for 2022.  I know that I will make a concerted effort to write every day, complete multiple projects, and stay focused on creating fun, positive, creative writing experiences each time I start a new writing session.

Happy New Year, Happy Writing, and I’ll be back with more articles in 2022!

Writing Tip: Ideas in Action

Ideas.  We all have them.  Billions of people all around the planet have ideas every day.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some brilliant.  Some ridiculous.  From kids to the elderly, ideas are racing through the minds of people 24/7.  But what are they doing with them?

A coworker of mine used to pitch me several game show ideas a week.  And every time, I would tell him to write them down.  He never did.  Just kept coming up with them week after week.  But what if he had written them down?  What if one of them had actually been an idea worth exploring further?

If you think of an idea, write it down.  You can use a notebook, the Notes app on your phone, or a computer file.  Sounds simple enough.  But most people don’t take the time to do this.

And they need to.

There are tens of millions of creative people out there. Still, most don’t take the time to write down their ideas and cultivate the good ones into possible stories.

Having an idea is easy.  Building on an idea is the hard part.

Good ideas deserve action.  If you have a story idea that intrigues you, something that makes you pause and wonder what happens next, this is the time to act and get to work.  The biggest mistake is to let the idea dissolve into memory, only to be forgotten and never expanded upon.

Sit down and take the time to brainstorm and hash out the idea’s finer points and details.  Possible characters, conflicts, locations.  How the story begins.  How it ends.  Is there something compelling for you to continue the journey to make it more than an simple idea?

If so, continue.  If not, move on but don’t throw any of those notes away.  You never know when something from one idea could be merged into another.  It happens.

An idea is actionable when you decide for it to be.  No one can stop you from developing what you’ve thought of into a more dimensional creative work.

The ideas start and stop with you.  It is your choice what to do with them.  

Choose action.  

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next week!

The Myth of the “Aspiring” Artist

I like to watch interviews with writers, actors, and other people in the arts. I find them fascinating and very educational. One of the things I find interesting is when they have a Q&A with the audience after their initial interview or talk. At the end, there’s usually an audience member who says, “I’m an aspiring writer” or “I’m an aspiring actor/actress.” This has always been a curiosity to me.

The word “aspire” or “aspiring,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “desiring and working to achieve a particular goal: having aspirations to attain a specified profession, position, etc.” I would like to change the thinking about labeling oneself as an “aspiring artist” and show you that the act of creating is not, in fact, what you are aspiring to achieve.

Are You Doing It?

If you are writing, acting, painting, sculpting, writing music, or pursuing any other endeavor, you have moved out of the aspirational category and are now actively doing that particular activity.  If you’re aspiring to write, why?  What’s preventing you from taking those steps toward writing a story, a poem, a play, or a song?  

Nothing.

When we put the word “aspiring” in front of the creative activity we wish to do, there’s the perception that it lends importance to what we want to do.  I don’t believe it does.  If you can do it, don’t dream about doing it, do it.  If you are doing it, you no longer aspire to do the activity because you are actually doing it.

Working Toward an Artistic Goal

If you have mapped out plans to write a novel or a play, are working on an album, or are working on writing and shooting a short film, these are goals within the creative realm you inhabit.  But, again, you are working toward these goals, not just thinking or hoping for them to happen on their own.  

What You Really Might Want…

The truth is that we don’t aspire to be a writer, an actor/actress, a painter, or a musician.  Our aspiration lies beyond that. It lies in our aspirations for success, money, and the ability to quit our day jobs and create full time.  This is what we want.  This is what we aspire toward.

But this should be secondary in your overarching aspirational plan.  Why?

Putting in the time, work, effort, energy, sweat, tears, frustration, excitement, and other emotions that come with creating makes you better at the art you are doing.  Your drive to create should be your focus when you’re starting out.  

Art should be your motivation, not money or fame.

Success is a byproduct of all the time you’ve spent honing your craft on your own, at home, for free.  It’s these thousands of hours of hard work that can eventually get you to where you aspire to be.  

But you have to do the work.

Final Thoughts

Aspiring toward something positive involving your art is excellent, but it should be something you can’t quickly achieve in the present.  You can write right now.  You can paint right now.  You can be creative right now.  It’s the steps after the hard work of creation are done that we aspire to: the published novel, the produced play, the award-winning poem.  

Everyone dreams of some level of success.  But the first step to getting there is to stop dreaming about it and start doing it.

You can do it!

See you next week!

Definition source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aspiring

The Myth of The Overnight Success

We hear about them often in the media.  They’re the overnight success who appeared seemingly out of nowhere and are now on every magazine cover, talk show, and everywhere else you look. It can be frustrating to see someone like this.  Someone who has been allegedly picked out of obscurity to become the latest Next Big Thing. 

But before you get jealous or frustrated, take a closer look.

The idea of an Overnight Success is misleading and a myth. No one just pops up one day, is found by chance, and suddenly makes it big (and even if they do, it’s very, very rare). That person has a story.  Probably one similar to yours when it comes to being an artist.  Maybe they struggled for years to write, act, sing, and get their work out to the public. Perhaps they did have a hard time for a decade or more as they worked a day job and created at night.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

The hype over an Overnight Success is a marketing gimmick.  If you watch or read biographies about famous people, most of them struggled and worked hard to get to where they are now. Even an Overnight Success had to fight and claw their way to get that title.  

The best way to fight against having envy or jealously over someone deemed an Overnight Success is to find out the real story.  Don’t rely on social media or those making them into something that looks good on a glossy magazine at the grocery store checkout.

Who is this person?  Where did they come from?  What were their goals?  What were their struggles to reach those goals?  What path did they take?  What setbacks did they encounter that eventually led them to be named an Overnight Success?  

Finding the real story and discovering the truth can help you in your efforts to write, act, sing, or create.  You can see what tools and tactics they used.  How they found a balance between work, family, and being creative.  This is an opportunity to learn from this person, not become discouraged by their sudden Overnight Success.

Because you’ll quickly see that is never the case.

So, the next time you see a story where people are fawning over a sudden Overnight Success, take a step back and find out how long it took them to be awarded that title.  I’m sure that “overnight” was years or even decades in the making.

Next week, I’ll explore another Myth.  See you then!