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 Exercise: What’s for Dinner?

Food.  Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks.  We love to eat, and as writers, we need to know how to describe food so our readers can enjoy the meal we serve them through the written word.

The Exercise

Describe a meal in as much detail as possible using the five senses.  Whether it’s coffee and toast or a three-course meal, give the reader a true sense of being there and experiencing the meal with you.  

You can also describe the room’s location, temperature, weather outside, or whatever helps convey the meal to the reader.

Bonus

Have some fun with it and… 

  • Describe in detail all your meals during the day.
  • Describe all your lunches for a week.
  • Go out to eat at a new place and describe the meal you get there.
  • Go to a familiar restaurant, order something new, and write about it.

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

Writing Exercise: Observing Dialogue

Writing dialogue.  In fiction, it can be challenging to make characters sound human and, simultaneously, make sure what’s said moves the story or a character’s development forward.  How people speak, what they say, and how they say it gives a writer ample opportunity for creativity.  But how do you make sure your characters sound like people?

The Exercise

Part One

One way to familiarize yourself with creating natural-sounding dialogue is to listen to people in conversations.  For this exercise, I’m asking you to eavesdrop on the people around you.

Go to a public place and observe two people or a group having a conversation.  Transcribe the conversation as much as possible, making sure to keep what’s being said as pure as possible.  Jot down what you can.  You’ll notice how people speak in sentence fragments, pauses, and subtext.

Suppose you don’t feel comfortable doing this in public.  In that case, you can use a conversation at work or between your kids or other relatives.  Just remember that you are observing the conversation, not participating.

Don’t do it for too long, just enough to get something useful for part two.

**NOTEDo not record the conversation.  Many states have laws against recording others without their permission.  Just to be safe, take notes. **

Part Two

Write a short story using the dialogue as a launching pad for creating the characters and the situation.  The conversation doesn’t have to be where you heard it; you can have the couple in the coffee shop be astronauts on Mars.  But stick with the dialogue you transcribed as close as possible.

Now, using that dialogue, continue the conversation.  Where do things go next?  Can you use what you heard and keep that tone and feeling with made-up dialogue?

Part Three

Once you finish the short story, have a trusted friend or loved one read it.  Can they tell where the real conversation ends, and your made-up dialogue begins?  This is a good test to see if you are on the right track to creating realistic dialogue.

Final Thoughts

While it can be a challenge, creating natural-sounding dialogue will help keep readers engaged with the story.  Often when we write dialogue, we are in a room alone, speaking to ourselves or in our head.  By observing and listening to real people interact, we can further our communication skills between our characters on the page.

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

Writing Exercise: What Could Go Wrong?

We do a lot of things every day.  Some we want to do, others not so much.  Whatever the activity, there is potential for things to not go as we planned.

The Activity

Think about an activity you do that has the potential for things to spiral out of control.  This could be driving to work, dealing with customers, picking up your kids from school, etc.  We do plenty of things every day on auto-pilot, so these activities are a good place to start.

The Exercise

Picked an activity?  Great.  Now, write a list of every possible situation or scenario that could go wrong while doing this particular task.  It can be a minor inconvenience or one that’s exponentially catastrophic.  No matter what it is, write it down.

If you have had bad experiences in that situation that you can utilize, that’s even better.

Once you have a reasonably long list, pick out the ones that could be placed in order of escalation from minor to major.  Now you have a rough outline to work with.

Create a short story using the scenario and these escalating elements.  It can be comedic, it can be tragic, and it can be hyper-realistic.  Whatever tone you want to use, take advantage of your list of bad things that could happen and have fun with it.  If you come up with new things that can go wrong as you write, feel free to add them!

The Example

So, I drive on the 405 in L.A. every day to work.  There is potential for many things to go wrong in this location.  If I chose this as my activity – Driving to Work on the 405 – I could come up with some things that could go wrong based on my own real-life experiences: 

  • Car breaks down in traffic during heatwave
  • Car’s transmission dies in traffic
  • Hay truck on fire shuts down freeway
  • President Obama leaves LAX, freeway closes
  • Car chase
  • Multiple lanes closed during afternoon for cleaning
  • Roadwork
  • Car accident – three cars or more
  • Car fire
  • Multiple cars on fire
  • Plane does emergency landing on freeway
  • Big rig tips over
  • Rock smashes windshield

Next, I would take the list and figure out a way to incorporate as many as possible into a short story.

Final Thoughts

When we get stuck as writers, it’s important to brainstorm many ideas to help our characters get into or out of challenging situations.  This can help keep your writing interesting and keep your reader engaged and interested.

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

Writing Challenge of the Week: The Next 99 Days

There are only 99 days until 2023.  If you write 1,010 words daily for the rest of the year and, you’ll have written 100,000 words by the end of 2022!  

100,000 words entering the New Year.  Sounds like a great plan!

Are you up to the challenge?

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