Tag Archives: writer

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: How to Balance Work and Writing

Man Walking a Tightrope in Front of the Sun

If you have a full-time job, chances are that you’re so worn out at the end of the day that you don’t feel much like working on your novel. You don’t have enough time or energy. You’ll never do it. You know what? That’s crazy. You can do it. Here’s how.

Try the Nifty 350

I just read an amazing post by author Chuck Wendig that recommends writing at least 350 words every day. That’s it. 350. How easy it that? No matter how busy or tired you are, I’m sure you can manage to write 350 words. Keep that momentum and you’ll have drafted a novel within a year. The best part? That’s with weekends off!

Utilize Pauses

Men Taking a Break from Work to Sit Outside and Smoke

If you feel pressed for time, look for pockets of rest scattered throughout the day. Waiting rooms, lines, bathrooms, and children’s dance recitals (joking) are excellent places to work on your story. Make sure you have a notebook or smartphone with you to capture thoughts on the go.

Stop Making Excuses

When it comes down to it, if you really want to write a novel, you’ll make it a priority. You’ll move heaven and earth to get those ideas down on paper. Trust me on this one.

Alter Your Routine

Sunrise Over the Ocean Waves and Beach

Can you wake up earlier or stay up later? You might have to change your schedule if you’re serious about writing. Figure out what time works best for you and set and alarm or have a cup of coffee. You can do it.

Stay Motivated

Whether it’s by tracking your progress or rewarding your work, find a way to keep your spirits up so you’ll keep writing. You’re less likely to lose interest if you’re properly motivated.

Writing a novel while holding down a job isn’t easy, but it can be done. If you have drive, passion, and flexibility, you can make it happen. Got more tips for balancing work and writing? Have an idea for a post? Leave a comment below.

Social Media

The Art of Writability (Interview with Ava Jae)

I’ve been following Ava Jae’s blog for less than a year, but it’s helped me as a writer more than I can say. What she lacks in age she makes up for in wisdom and experience. This woman is amazing. Want me to prove it? Read on for the interview.

The Art of Writability (Interview with Ava Jae)

 When and how did you start writing?

While I dabbled with some writing before this, I really got serious about writing a novel when I was 13. Finished it at 14, queried at 15 (it was terrible, but it’s what got me started). As for the how…I basically daydreamed an idea for a book and decided to write it. Then I realized just how much I love writing and didn’t stop.

Your blog Writability is one of my favorites. What are some things you wish you’d known when you first started blogging?

Awww, thank you! ^_^

So this may sound a bit like a cop-out, but I did crazy amounts of research before I started blogging, so I’m not sure I can think of anything that I wish I’d known before I started. That being said! Something that I think is important is to set out your goals before you start blogging. What do you want to achieve with your blog? What would you consider a success? That way, when you inevitably achieve that goal (and if you don’t quit, it is inevitable), you can celebrate and know that you achieved that goal.

For example, when I first set out blogging, I said if my blog helped one person, it would be worth it to continue. Now, three years later, I frequently remind myself of that goal when I start to lose sight of it—it’s easy to get caught up with oh, if I just get x many hits or x many comments… and sometimes I have to step back and remind myself of my original goal, which I’ve now achieved several times over. It definitely helps to keep it in perspective. 🙂

I know you’re pretty active on Twitter and you’ve even written posts about social media being a great tool for writers. How has Twitter helped you and your writing?

How hasn’t Twitter helped me and my writing? I’ve learned so much from the writing community there—from excellent writing tips and resources, to book recommendations that I’ve learned from, to finding several critique partners and beta readers. As a bonus, I also nabbed two internships just from Twitter.

What are your top five favorite books and why?

Ughhh you are not asking me to choose five favorites. Seriously an impossible question. I guess if I HAVE to…these are in no particular order:

The Harry Potter series (duh)—especially The Order of the Phoenix. To this day, I have never re-read a book as much as I re-read the first four books of the Harry Potter series (four times each! Which is probably not as much as some people, but still). (Also, I am aware of the irony that I re-read the first four books four times but not my favorite of the series, but I can only handle Sirius dying so many times, okay?). But I mean, what is there not to love about the Harry Potter series? Nothing will quench my love for the world of Harry Potter.

The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. A sexy, badass antagonist, incredible secondary characters, amazing worldbuilding, awesome magic system, a quick pace that has you flipping through the pages…what’s not to love? This is one of my all-time favorite YA Fantasy series and I recommend it basically to anyone considering YA ever. As long as they like fantasy, that is.

Saint by Ted Dekker. Assassins + supernatural abilities + fabulous, dark voice = Saint. I love Ted Dekker (he’s one of my favorite authors of all time) and this is the second book of his I read (he’s written close to fifty now), and it still stands out to me as one of my favorites of his. Probably because I’m obsessed with assassins. And dark characters. And internal struggle. And all of that.

The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. Tahereh Mafi has one of the most incredible, distinctive, poetic voices I’ve ever read. I love her style, and even better, the Shatter Me series is an incredible example of amazing character development. My favorite of the series is tied between Unravel Me and Ignite Me but it’s an excellent YA series.

Half Bad by Sally Green. I just finished this one and it’s an insta-favorite. The voice is absolutely incredible (seriously can’t recommend it enough to YA writers), the plot is exciting, the characters are complicated and interesting and GAH. It’s amazing. I could not adore it more (and I raved about it here).

Tell me about your agent. How did you get her to represent you?

I’m represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency and she’s amazing (hell, the whole team she works with is amazing). I’ve had an absolutely wonderful experience working with her and Team Fury and I really couldn’t ask for anything else. I’m delighted to be part of the team.

As for the how, the short version is this: I wrote a lot of books, I received more rejections than I want to think about, I wrote more books, kept querying, entered contests, didn’t win and eventually got picked as a runner-up in Miss Snark’s October 2013 Mystery Agent blog contest. Louise was one of the mystery agents. She loved my book and many months later I was screaming on Twitter about my happy news.

Long version is here.

Author Ava Jae

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

Also:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” —Gary Provost

You’ve defended YA along with several others on Twitter. What are some things you wish people understood about young adult literature?

SO MANY THINGS. That YA is a legitimate category. That YA novels aren’t any less powerful, emotional, exciting, beautiful and haunting than adult books. That YA is here to stay and while it’s not for everyone (no category or genre is), if you don’t at least give it a chance, you’re seriously missing out on some incredible stories. Also that YA isn’t written for teens, it’s written about teens—anyone can read them and there’s no shame in it.

What’s your writing routine like? Tips for being productive?

I get up around 5:30 AM, exercise (on weekdays), then write. I find that the later in the day it is, the harder it is for me to write (I guess my brain gets tired?), so I try to get it done nice and early in the day.

As for being productive, the key is to figure out what schedule works best for you. I’m most productive in the mornings, but some people work their best writing magic at 2 or 3 AM. Experiment to see what works for you, then stick with it the best you can.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and who did it come from?

I like how you saved this question for last. I saved it for last while answering, too, because this is not an easy question. Hmm.

I’d say my two favorite (that I can think of that moment) bits of writing advice are to finish the book and write what you want to read (which came from the first quote I shared above). I’m pretty sure I saw the first bit of advice in one of the many writing craft books I’ve read. The second came from the good ol’ internet.

I told you, she’s fantastic. For more Ava Jae, check out her blog Writability or follow her on (@Ava_Jae), tumblrFacebook, or Youtube (bookishpixie). 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Nan Broome: Fanfiction Fanatic

One writing subgenre that often gets overlooked is fanfiction. Since the 50 Shades of Grey trailer dropped last week, people have been whispering about what fanfiction is and isn’t. With that in mind, I set out to find a fanfiction writer who could answer some of my more pressing questions. When I asked my good friend Nan Broome, he was more than happy to oblige me.

Has 50 Shades of Grey piqued your interest in fanfiction? Check out this interview to learn the truth about the genre.

How did you get into writing fanfiction?

I actually first started writing when I was around 11 or 12, but that was my own content. Then around 13 or 14, when I first got into internet culture and fandoms, I started writing self-inserts with my favorite characters in the typical fandoms like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. I posted a couple of the PotC stories to fanfiction.net and they received pretty positive reviews, so I kept writing. I don’t remember what the actual catalyst was for getting into it as a whole, or even when I created the fanfiction.net account but it’s kind of always been a part of my life. I like creating content and telling stories in a lot of different media.

What’s your writing process like? How has it changed?

Well, right now it’s usually inspired by a post I’ve seen or headcanons I develop as a result of day dreaming about the characters. Then I start writing, re-writing, etc. Usually when I finish I want to read it out loud two or three times to make sure the flow and syntax are what I want them to be. I know I wasn’t as stringent about the whole thing in my early years. Back then I think I just chunked out what I thought was good in the moment and posted it.

Sounds like your style is pretty organic. What’s your organization like? Do you outline or are you more of a pantser?

I guess more often than not it’s the latter. Like I said, I have a general prompt or inspiration and set my stories around that but if it’s a longer one, like an Always Sunny multi-chapter story I did a while back, then I’ll usually brain storm the direction ahead of time/during the writing process.

What do you like to listen to while you’re writing?

If I’m sitting down for a formal writing session, I’ll put on something orchestral. I prefer Mozart because it all tends to run together but I also like soundtracks; the Black Swan soundtrack specifically. More often I just have the TV on in the background because I tend to write in 5-10 minute chunks, take a break, etc.

What are some common misconceptions about fanfiction that you’d like to debunk?

I think the stigma behind it needs to be dealt with. There’s this idea of the “horny fangirl” writing smut about her favorite heterosexual characters but gay and in love and for some reason there’s such a stink on it. Fanfiction comes in all forms and from all different kinds of people. It’s fan-propelled content which can actually enrich the canon of the given media, even if only for the other fans that read it. I think it’s really cool for that reason, in the same way that fan art is cool. It’s passion and creativity. I mean, it can get weird, but no more so than any other media type.

"There's a stigma behind [fanfiction] that needs to be dealt with." - Nan Broome

What’s one thing you’ve learned from writing fanfiction and participating in the community?

Whatever you write, someone’s going to read it. I wrote a Pulp Fiction/Les Misérables crossover and it got almost 400 views. Anything is possible.

What’s the best thing about fanfiction? What keeps you coming back?

Part of it is the feedback I get. I always perk up whenever I get a comment saying what I wrote was cute or (especially) in character. The other part is the ability to throw my favorite characters into whatever situation I want. If I want Hannibal Lecter to dance ballet, it’s done. If I want dead characters (like Stacker Pentecost) to come back, they’re alive. It’s an awesome level of control.

What inspires you?

I guess the biggest thing would be the different relationship dynamics of the characters I write for. Certain situations and responses work for some people and not others and I like exploring how they would react. Dialogue is always one of my favorite things to write because of that.

How do you feel about fanfiction becoming more “mainstream” with works like the Fifty Shades Trilogy?

Personally, I don’t care that it’s mainstream. It’s getting writers noticed and I think it should be kind of a compliment to the source material creator(s) that someone was so invested that they wanted to contribute to the canon. As for Fifty Shades, that specific book series is not representative of the community and really only contributes to that negative stigma I mentioned earlier (even if EL James is middle-aged). Not to mention the book series glorifies and romanticizes abusive relationships and violence towards women. I acknowledge its roots as Twilight fanfiction but given that it’s an alternative universe (AU) and the names were changed, I don’t really see it as fanfiction anymore. It’s its own thing.

What tips or advice do you have for anyone interested in writing fanfiction?

You have to start somewhere, and it doesn’t have to be posted. Feel free to practice in small doses; work your way up. Whatever you do end up putting out there, make sure it’s something you’re proud of.

You can read some of Nan’s work on Archive of Our Own (NSFW) or follow him on Tumblr.

How do you feel about fanfiction?

Time Limit versus Word Count

Typewriter Sitting in the Middle of a Field

As writers, daily writing is absolutely vital to our success as artists.

I’ve discussed the merits and strategies of daily writing before. There’s not much sense doing it again.

Instead, I’m going to share my new outlook on daily writing with you: focus on writing for a set period of time each day rather than a specific word count.

Why? Because it works.

I used to believe in making word count every day. The number varied from 500 to 2000 words, depending on my project at the time, and I made sure to reach that word count no matter what happened each day.

Or at least, I tried to.

The problem with writing to reach a certain word count is that life happens. For people like Stephen King, whose entire lives revolve around and are dedicated to the craft of writing, it’s easy to sit down and pound out 2000 words or more each day. For the common man or woman, however, this feat is far from easy.

I now write for half an hour each and every day. I don’t necessarily have to add anything new to my manuscript, but that time must be spent doing something related to my current project. For example, if I’m busy, I might spend this half an hour working on my characters or doing some research. That way, I’m still getting work done, but I’m not killing myself over it. I’m not stressing out about reaching some number.

Time limits are flexible. Time limits understand. Time limits help you focus without losing your mind; allowing you to write without taking away the fun of writing.

If you’re feeling overworked, why not drop the word count? Try setting a timer for thirty minutes instead.

What do you think about writing for a set time? What are your thoughts on reaching word count?

P.S. The Kurosawa Guide to Daily Writing, The Importance of Daily Writing, Finding Time to Write, and The Beginner’s Guide to Daily Writing.

Interview: Allison Blanchard, Author of Forget Me Not

Image

I heard about Allison Blanchard from one of her sorority sisters. “There’s this girl in my sorority who writes,” she’d told me. “She just published her first book. You need to get in touch with her.”

Just like that, I shot off an email. I began talking to Allison and discovered, in no time at all, that she is one of the sweetest and most down-to-earth young women I’ve ever met. Allison attends a liberal arts college as a double major in French and creative writing. Four years ago, she started writing a book. On April 6, 2012, Allison’s book got published. Her debut novel, Forget Me Not, is a young adult paranormal romance that is difficult to put down.

Recently, I interviewed Allison for this blog. I wanted to know all about her process, what writing means to her, and how she uses her writing to glorify God. Warning: this interview may cause you to fall in love with Allison.

B: What made you decide that you wanted to become a writer?

A: I was eleven when I had finally realized the answer to the dreaded question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I decided being a writer was what was going to make me happy and fulfilled. It was after I had read a series of books by my favorite author, Marianne Curley. She is an Australian young adult novelist whose books helped me through a dark time in my life. I am forever grateful to her because without her books, I don’t think I would have ever written one word of fiction.

B: Describe your writing process. How often do you write? Do you outline? How do you stay organized? Do you have a target word count?

A: I try to write every day, but things often come up or I get distracted, especially when I am in school. But several times a week, at least. I outline very little, but I find with a trilogy it is needed to make sure I don’t forget certain subplots that need to be resolved by the final book. However, I don’t like to be too detail oriented with my outlines. I like the writing process to be more organic. I like being shocked and surprised when a character does something completely different or not what I was expecting. That’s what I love about writing – being able to see how my characters change and grow and become their own people.

I usually try to stay organized by writing out ideas as they come to me. Basic plot points and different character motivations are written out as the ideas are born. I don’t usually have a word count, but a typical novel that a publisher will publish is 60,000 to 100,000 words. Usually, I keep my books around 75,000 – 85,000. I try to hit a certain word count each time I write, but now I tend to just say to myself, “Let’s write this scene out and see how long it goes.” Like I said before, it’s very organic.

B: How do you react when someone tells you that they’ve read your book?

A: I have a minor panic/happy attack inside – usually I’m dancing in my head, but try to remain calm. It is still really surreal to think that people are reading my book. Like right now. People I don’t know. It’s super humbling.

B: Is the relationship between Cole and Adeline based on a real romantic relationship? If so, which one? If not, where did the dynamic come from?

A: If Cole and Adeline’s romantic relationship was based on something in my own life, I’d be living it, not writing it. Haha! No, this relationship is fictional and comes from my brain. As a writer, I do put a little bit of myself into all of my characters. I honestly find myself more like Cole than Adeline, which a lot of people don’t expect. The dynamic, again, sort of wrote itself. Both characters are shy, but Adeline is way more insecure. Cole is embarrassed by his family (like most teenagers), but the two of them find a lot of common ground. I think that’s why they are drawn to each other. They’ve finally met someone who understands them.

B: What are your top five favorite books?

 A: Ah! What a tough question! But here are my top five favorite books!

“Old Magic” by Marianne Curley 

I think most people know about my unhealthy obsession for this author and her work, but she of course made it to the top of my list. I absolutely adore this novel. It is a young adult paranormal romance that deals with time travel and history. It is so good in every way. If you haven’t read it, then you are missing out. Go buy it now. No, but really. Do it.

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen 

I am a hardcore Austen fan and I am not ashamed. I love everything about this book and often reread again and again. Austen does a romance justice and I aspire to be like her. Oh, Jane. If only you were alive today for me stalk.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini 

Oh. My. Gosh. This novel literally punched me in the face. It was so good. No, but really. This book is insanely well written that I laughed, cried, laughed again, and cried even more. If you haven’t read this beautiful book, then you haven’t lived life.

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

I love both of the Bronte sisters, but this novel is one of my absolute favorites. It is so beautiful and tragic. It is one of those novels I can read again and again. LOVE!

“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers 

I think it’s clear that I love Jesus and therefore would like to fall in love with a man who does too. This romance novel showed me that it is possible. Francine Rivers’ words and truth of the Gospel changed my perception of true love and what it is all about. I cried throughout this novel, loving the characters and seeing myself in them. This book is a must read for any follower of Christ who is looking for a man to lead her closer to God. Although it is fiction this love story will ignite of flame to know Christ more intimately so that you will be able to perceive the right man from the wrong man. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.

B: What websites or resources have been the most helpful for you as a writer?

A: Writersmarket.com was absolutely HUGE in my quest to find a publisher. I paid a small fee each month to gain access to contact information to literary agents and publishers. That and reading. If you want to be a serious writer, then you need to be a serious reader. Read anything and everything. It will help you grow as a writer and learn what you like to read, which more than likely will be what you love to write. 

B: What would you like to do after graduating from college?

A: I would love to continue writing and also become an editor in a publishing company. Since being published, I have really fallen in love with the process. I would love to help an author see his or her work go from the computer to the hands of a fan.

B: How do you feel Christian writers can use their gifts to glorify God, as you have with your writing?

A: I think Christian writers need to remember why/how they write. Because God has given you the gift and talent to write. I always pray before/during the writing process. I want my work to glorify Him and I want Him to lead me in what I am supposed to write. Therefore, I would encourage other Christian writers to continue to lean on Him, trust Him, and write to glorify Him.

B: What was the most difficult part of the publication process?

A: Getting someone who would actually read the full manuscript. Many would only ask for a few chapters or only 75 pages and make a decision based on those pages alone. I was always thrilled whenever someone asked to read the full manuscript. And even more excited when someone actually sent me a contract!

B: If you go back to before writing Forget Me Not, what kind of advice would you give yourself about writing, publication, or the process as a whole?

A: To trust God and this process, no matter how long it takes. Don’t freak out or get discouraged when someone says no. Like my mom constantly told me, you don’t need a 100 yeses, you need only one. And that one yes will come. 

As you can see, Allison Blanchard is a wonderful woman with a passion for writing and also for God. If you’d like to learn more about her, check out her blog. Her first novel, Forget Me Not, is available through Amazon.

The Importance of Daily Writing

journal

If you’ve ever been an athlete or have known any athletes, you know that they practice often in order to improve their strength, skill, and stamina. When game day comes around, the football player wants to score a touchdown, so he runs drills and plays scrimmages to prepare himself for the real test. If athletes don’t practice, nothing improves.

The same is true with writing. Unless you write a little each and every day, you can’t expect to see any improvement.

Before I started writing every day, I was unhappy with my prose. I couldn’t figure out why parts of it looked so clumsy and unskilled. Once I made a conscious effort to not only read more but to also write at least 500 words each day, I saw drastic results. My writing improved, my confidence soared, and I developed a deeper appreciation for the craft of written language.

How much should you write each day? Honestly, it’s up to you. Stephen King pumps out no less than ten pages each day, but that terrifies me, so I aim for 500 words of anything before I go to bed. A lot of beginning authors start with 350 words. Some aim much higher, aspiring for King’s lofty standards. Still others write not by word count, but by time. I know writers who set a timer for fifteen or thirty minutes and pound away until the buzzer goes off.

You should choose whichever system works the best for you. The only thing that matters is that you write every day, even when you feel uninspired.

The Beginner’s Guide to Daily Writing

daily

When I first started writing on a semi-regular basis, I wondered why I didn’t seem to be improving any. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to get better, I had to put in the extra effort. Practice makes perfect and all that jazz. It’s only by writing every day that we can become more talented writers. If you don’t write every day, I want you to start. Honestly, it doesn’t take much. All you have to do is:

1. Pick a specific time to write. Try to make this the same time every day. For example, I write in the mornings before I go to class, while my brain is fresh and I’m feeling dreamy. Some people work better at night, though, so keep that in mind. Choose the time of day that works the best for you.

2. Get comfortable writing in bite-size chunks. Daily writing isn’t about getting finished–it’s about making progress. You don’t have to write for three or four hours in order to move forward in your growing draft. Start by committing fifteen minutes to your work. If you think you can handle it, increase your time limit.

3. Consider writing to meet a word count. Again, this method doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, I’d rather write on a time limit than trying to meet a word count. Try both methods and see what works for you. Set your word count low, but not too low. Make it challenging.

4. Reward yourself. Every time you complete a daily writing session, bake some cookies, buy a new shirt, or watch an episode of your favorite show. You’ll be surprised how much these simple treats can motivate you.

5. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Forgive your mistake and move on to the next day.

Basically, all daily writing requires is time, goal, and reward commitments. It’s so easy to get started with daily writing sessions, so seriously, what are you waiting for? Get out there and write!

What are your methods for writing every day?