Category Archives: Writing

My Writing Process

Lately more and more people have been asking me about my writing process. This interest probably stems from my comments about editing. Friends, family, and sometimes even strangers are intrigued. They want to peek inside my brain to see what writing is like for me. It’s crazy.

I’m simultaneously puzzled and flattered by the curiosity. Let’s be frank: I’m nothing close to Stephen King. No matter how small-time I feel, I’m happy to oblige. Whether I’m writing a blog post, a short story, or a novel, this is basically my writing process.

1. Inspiration. The madness starts when an idea falls into my head, seemingly from out of nowhere. Sadly there isn’t an Idea Store. Whenever an idea comes to me, I record it and work on fleshing it out. Fun fact: I don’t outline.

2. First draft. I get this sucker down as fast as I can. When it comes to first drafts, it’s okay write crap. Even if I feel like what I’m writing is abysmal, I focus on getting it down somewhere. You can fix a bad page; you can’t fix a blank one. I can write the first draft of a blog post in half an hour, a shorty story in an hour, and a novel in six weeks.

3. Cooling off. I don’t have much of a cooling off period for blog posts. For short stories, I tend to wait about a day before diving into revision. For novels, I can take anywhere from one to three months. I like to distance myself from the material. The more objectivity I can approach it with, the better.

4. Read through and notes. This part is painful. By this point I’ve forgotten how awful my first draft is and am not looking forward to reminding myself. Once I’ve printed my work out or exported it to my Kindle (so I’m not tempted to edit as I read), I go through it in one sitting and make note of what needs fixing.

5. Second draft. Armed with my notes and a plan of attack, I dive headfirst into revision. Sometimes this means minor changes. More often than not, it means a nearly complete rewrite. The YA novel I’m editing at the moment is the latter. It’s a struggle.

6. Rinse and repeat. Keep going until you can’t edit anymore. When it’s finished, you’ll know. Reward yourself for your hard work and work on publication!

The time it takes me to complete a project may vary, but on the whole, this is my general writing process. Feel free to try out my system for yourself. Remember, however, that the ideal writing process is whichever one works best for you.

What’s your writing process like? What are you currently working on?

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How to Increase Your Writing Speed

Speedometer

When it comes to drafting, some writers feel that slower is better. I’m not one of them. The key to finishing first drafts is to get everything down. Deliberation will only hurt you when it comes to drafting and should be saved for revision. Want to finish your project? You need to write faster. Want to write faster? I can give you some advice. If you follow these tips, you should increase your writing speed in no time.

Write or Die. I’ve talked about this web app before. Ava Jae introduced me to it and now I’m in love. It changed my life. You enter your word count goal, set the timer, and write. If you get distracted, you’re in trouble. Let me know if you’d like me to share my settings with you.

Beat the clock. If Write or Die is too scary for you, set your own timer and race against the clock. Stick with something small–5,10, or 15 minutes should be plenty of time. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish in such a short interval.

Writing sprints. Lately I’ve become a fan of writing sprints on Twitter. For a set amount of time (I like 15 minutes), you invite people to write with you. The goal is to write as much as you can in that time span. This technique is fun because you can get a lot done in a short amount of time. Also it’s great having other people there to hold you accountable. If writing sprints sound appealing to you, join in on the fun by following me on Twitter.

Outlines. Some people swear by outlines. I personally don’t like them. Do whatever works for you. Outlines can help you write faster by knowing what comes next. If you like planning, outlining can certainly help you increase your writing speed.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. If you’re truly dedicated, the best way to increase your writing speed is to write every day. Write as much as you can whenever you can and you’ll be sure to see results.

You can write faster, I promise. All it takes is a few small changes. Try out these techniques and see what happens. You might surprise yourself with how fast you finish.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any advice about how to increase your writing speed?

P.S. Pen vs. Paper: A Pros and Cons List and NaNoWriMo Tips

How to Get Writing Done When You Can’t Shut the Door

In an ideal world we would all have spaces dedicated to writing. We’d have rooms or closets or storage spaces where would could close the door. We could physically separate ourselves from the world. Nothing would distract us from doing the work.

I’m writing this from the living room of my grandma’s house. It’s impossible to close myself off while I’m here. If I go into another room, someone follows and strikes up a conversation. Every single time. Without fail.

Sometimes it’s not possible to go somewhere and write, with a physical door between you and your surroundings. Like right now, for instance. I’m stuck in the living room. Luckily, I have a few tips to help you focus even when you can’t shut the door for some reason.

Use music as a form of “shutting the door.” If you can’t get somewhere private, turn on Pandora and plug in some headphones. Even if you’re not playing anything, most people will leave you alone if you’re wearing headphones. Turn the music up and you won’t hear anyone. It’ll be easier to get lost in your own little world.

Write when people are sleeping. I stayed up late last night to get some writing done. If you’re a morning person, try to rise before the sun. When the house is quiet, it’s easier to concentrate. The best part? No one else will be awake enough to bother you.

Communicate. Tell your friends and loved ones how much writing means to you. If they love you, they’ll understand when you tell them you need to set aside time for your work. You can even schedule time to hang out with them later so they know they’ll get to see you. Honesty and openness can get you a long way.

While all of these methods have worked for me before, I’ve found that nothing beats getting behind a closed door. Feel free to try some of these. If you don’t like them, move on. Find what works for you. What matters is that you write, not how you get the writing done.

What do you think?

Shelby Bouck: Not Perfect, But Okay

Shelby Bouck is sincere. That’s what I like about her. We’ve been Twitter friends for a while now so I took the plunge and asked to interview her. The sweet and beautiful blogger had a lot to say. Check out how cool she is below.

If you love husky puppies, sweetness, and sincerity, read this interview with blogger Shelby Bouck.

 Tell me about your blog. What inspired you to start it?

Honestly? I was in my public speaking class and we had a little downtime, and I said, “Hey, would you guys read a blog called How Not to Suck?” And all of them said yes. That was the moment I decided to write the blog, but the philosophy behind it came from a long time before that.

Philosophy? Please explain.

Well, it’s all in the title of the blog: How Not to Suck. In high school (and really a long time before that) my friends and I got caught up in this idea that nothing less than perfect performance was acceptable–at school, in extracurricular activities, at home. We never said it out loud, but it was understood, and it didn’t really work out in the long run, at least for me. The stress from feeling like I needed to be perfect all the time affected my relationships and my health. I got mono, I had back issues (not like Vogue in a doctor’s office, like a curved spine), I was constantly freaking out. Then, after going to college, I realized “perfect in every way” was a terrible goal, and that if I wanted to do really well at a few things, I’d have to let a few other things go. I wanted to let other people know it was okay to just be okay at stuff–and I’m still learning that myself.

What do you wish you’d known before you started blogging?

Twitter. Literally everything about Twitter. I actually didn’t think it was possible to say anything of value in 140 characters or fewer, at the time. I didn’t realize it wasn’t about making grand statements–it was about making friends and contacts. Becky Blades taught me a lot about that.

Who?

Becky Blades. She’s one of my mentors.. she wrote and published a book and directs the social media marketing for it. She taught me basically everything I know about Twitter, which is all about making sure strangers care about what you have to say.

Do you have any tips for succeeding and having a good time on Twitter?

As far as Twitter goes, MAKE FRIENDS. Follow people who follow people you follow. They’ll be interested in the same stuff as you. Be witty and observant, not mean.

"Come up with solutions, don't just point out problems." - Shelby Bouck

Your blog covers a wide range of topics. How do you decide what to write about when?

Most of that happens because of what’s going on in my life at the time. All the cooking posts are in real time as I slowly stop being scared of my oven. This last post was looking back on another summer of employment at a big-box bookstore. Some topics I sit on for a while before I write them, because I think they’re extra important. I’ve been trying to write “How Not to Suck at Feminism” for six months and I still don’t think it’s ready.

With classes, assignments, blogging, work and personal obligations, how do you manage your time?

Poorly. I am the world’s biggest procrastinator. I do things like think, “You can have some M&Ms when you’re done with your blog post” or “You can watch Orange is the New Black when you’ve done some studying”, but I usually end up doing the thing and the incentive at the same time, which totally defeats the purpose of the incentive. I do pay my bills way ahead of time, though. I’m aware that some things have horrible and immediate consequences like $75 late fees and ruined credit. I buy a planner every year and use it for a few months, and then think “I’m so good at planning things! I don’t need this, clearly!” #logic

Who are some of your favorite bloggers? What do you like about them?

Hyperbole and a Half is my blogspiration. Allie Brosh is the person who made me want to start a blog, any blog, in the first place. I still laugh-cry when I read her post about the Alot. Old Single Mom, who posts through the ChicagoNow website, is another one of my favorites… she’s a friend of mine, and we share a sense of humor and a tendency to wax poetic about things that are not poetic at all. Ashley from BigTopFamily has been great as well; she’s another one who’s adopted the “competence, not excellence” philosophy, and I love the way she talks about it.

Do you have any tips or advice for new bloggers?

Find your niche. Write about what only YOU can write about–or write about something everybody’s writing about from the unique perspective only you can bring to it. (You have something like that. It just might take a little bit to find it.) And have so much fun. If you’re not having fun, there’s no point. Also, try and write positive stuff–ADD to conversations, don’t just talk about what not to do or what’s wrong with things. Talk about what should happen instead. Come up with solutions, don’t just point out problems.

What are three things on your bucket list?

1) Write and publish a novel. 2) Travel. So much travel. Traveling everywhere. 3) Get a dog. A big shaggy husky. #3 was almost “shop at Macy’s for something other than makeup without going into debt”, but the dog won.

Down-to-earth, charming, and ambitious. Shelby is the whole package. If you can’t get enough, you can check out her blog How Not to Suck and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Discussion: Do You Keep a Writer’s Notebook?

One of the first essays about creative writing I ever read was “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion. It’s one of the most influential pieces I’ve read. In the essay, Didion discusses how keeping a little notebook with her at all times has affected her writing life and overall creativity.

Discussion: Do You Keep a Writer's Notebook? Maybe you should think about it.

Your notebook, as a writer, is a private place where you can record novel ideas, snippets of conversation to recreate in dialogue, and wayward thoughts with no discernible shape that could come in handy some day. In Didion’s words: “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker” (3-4). The notebook is for your own personal benefit. You don’t have to show it to anyone else.

What do you think of keeping a writer’s notebook? Do you have one? What do you put in it? How do you think it has helped you as a writer?

The Key to Finishing First Drafts

When it comes to finishing a first draft, the best way to succeed is to just get it written. Focus on getting the words on the page. In the words of author Anne Lamott: “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.” Seems simple, doesn’t it?

The Key to Finishing First Drafts

Many writers struggle to finish their first drafts because they’re focused on perfection. They believe other authors craft pristine first drafts that are shipped off for publication right away. Lamott continues, “I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.”

Here’s the secret: your first draft is going to be terrible. You’re going to feel like garbage if you read through what you’re writing. If you try to edit as you go along, you’ll only get discouraged.

Write as fast as you can. Pour your thoughts out on the paper without thought for what it sounds like. You can go through it later and fix everything. That’s what revision is for, after all.

When it comes to finishing first drafts, don’t get it right; get it written.

How do you keep yourself from editing as you go along? What are your tips for finishing first drafts?

Lovely Links 07.30.14-08.06.14

Hello, August! This year is going by so fast–I can’t believe it. It’ll be 2015 before you know it.

Enough of my digressing. Let’s get to this month’s links!

There are the links! Enjoy!

What do you think of these links? Do you have any recommendations?