I know what you’re thinking. Christine, what does clutter have to do with my writing? Well, whether we like it or not…many outside factors impact our writing habits. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized just how true that was. Thankfully, over the last year, I have taken time to declutter much of what prevents or hinders my writing.
Hey, I’m not perfect. I’ve had some major lulls in the past year too, but the point is always to return. The more we keep to organizing and/or cleansing our writing lives, the easier it will be to keep to a healthier routine. Sometimes the clutter isn’t physical clutter on our desks or working surfaces of choice, but in our minds. Here are four ways to declutter your writing life:
One: Clear that space. So, what I really wanted to say here was, clean that desk. However, I’m more realistic than that. In fact, I know there are people who enjoy a less organized home. However, there is something about approaching a space to create and having the room to do it. What I mean is, even if your living room is covered in unfolded laundry and/or kids toys, make a spot for you and your work.
Even if it’s just for an hour or two, clear a corner, a coffee table, etc. for your writing tools of choice. I always find that when I approach my clean coffee table, light a candle, and open my laptop…all of that clutter in my mind moves aside for some writing time.
Two: Make the time. Yesterday, I attended a small tribute to the late poet, Mary Oliver. Ten or so of us gathered, reading bits of her work. In her book, A Poetry Handbook,Oliver spoke about how important it is to show up for your writing.
She wrote, “If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself–soon it begins to arrive when you do.”
Isn’t it the truth? For me, making the time often means getting up for #5amWritersClub. I’ve only been back in the club for a week now after being out for two months, but gosh what a difference it has made.
Three: Keep a clear inbox. Recently, I found myself scrolling through a full inbox. Tons and tons of emails, piled on top of each other. It dawned on me just how out of sorts it all was. I think we sometimes forget just how overwhelming something so simple can be.
Remember, everything can be sorted into folders. What a difference it makes! Drafts, query letters to agents, rejections letters, you name it! If you’re going to keep it all, you might as well organize it.
Four: Protect Your Plan. Whatever it may be, an hour in the morning, a fifteen minute break at work, or some late night time, protect it. There will always be a text message, phone calls, new episodes of This is Us, well…you get the picture. Temptation is there, waving at us in the corner of our homes. It’s important that we take that type of clutter and press a big metaphorical pause button. Texts, calls, TV, etc. will be there after we dedicate an hour to our writing.
So, there you have it. Cleanse. Write. Repeat.
Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Thank you for joining me here today. You can look for a new post next Thursday.
Many years ago, I finished a young adult, paranormal-romance novel. It was my first completed manuscript and I was pretty new to that level of the writing world. When it came time to start editing, I felt a little lost. Unsure of how to tackle such a task, I turned to some writing books. In doing so, I found many instances where the importance of character development was brought up. I thought, “Duh. Of course there is character development in my story.” How could there not be?
Just to be safe, I decided I would map out some details about my character chapter by chapter. Boy, was I surprised. Suddenly, it dawned on me. While my character made changes and evolved, there were certain details that weren’t quite consistent. Now, before I continue I will admit that the novel I speak of wasn’t very good and I did ultimately end up shelving it after many rejections. My personal life got in the way of the book and now it’s in a drawer somewhere. Since then, I’ve worked on many other projects and I’ve taken my experience with tracking character development with me.
I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy novel and I absolutely adore my main character. Last week, I took a moment to consider my progress with her. As I contemplated a blog topic to cover for this week, I realized that my character development exercise is one that comes at a perfect time. What I’d like to share with you today is my emotion tracker for the characters in your W.I.P.!
Character emotions are an important part of character development. As you read a novel, you want a character who is progressing in one way or another. You definitely don’t want one who is happy one second and miserable the next for no good reason. Emotions can be unstable, but need to be monitored. For some writers, this may come naturally. Let’s just put it this way…it doesn’t hurt to check. I would rather double and triple check my manuscript before I find out that’s the reason an agent rejected me.
Here is my simple method for tracking character’s emotions chapter by chapter:
For each chapter, write one emotion that your character is feeling at the beginning, middle, and end. See what that progression looks like. Is your character consistently flat? Is your character too happy in dire situations?
This is a great exercise to build into your outlines too. I am currently finding it to be very helpful as I navigate my main character through a very tricky situation. I have found that I often make her overly anxious. She’s constantly in a state of panic or heartache. While it is fitting, now that I’ve tracked his pattern, I can expand her scope of emotions and play around with her inner thoughts in a different way.
Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay.
Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!
“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
I’ve been pondering how often I allow myself to contemplate as a writer. Day to day life gets so hectic that it can sometimes feel impossible to spare time for actual writing let alone brainstorming. At this point in my writing career, I’ve worn a few different hats. I started out writing poetry, moved to novels, back to poetry, worked my way into the freelance writing world of pop culture news, and came back to novels about a year and a half ago.
My current passion project is a young adult fantasy novel, and thanks to social media groups like #5amWritersClub, I have been able to get on a really nice regimen with my writing. With that said, I’ve also been considering how much more productive I am when I sit down with the blank page after allowing myself time to brainstorm.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Christine, how? Why? I don’t have time.”
I understand. When I first started dating my boyfriend, who is also a writer, about two and a half years ago, I was perplexed when he would tell me about how important brainstorming is. As a writer who always scrambled to the page, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best, I couldn’t imagine setting aside time for that.
After a while, I realized the difference between my writing methods and the way my boyfriend did things. As an expert ponderer, he always approached his writing sessions with ease and not a lot of anxiety. I figured, I had to give it a shot! I would make time for brainstorming and see if it helped.
Well, there’s a reason this post is called “the art of brainstorming.” People, it works. The more I ponder, the more prepared I am when I get to the page. Sure, it’s not always butterflies and rainbows, but the difference is clear. When I allow time for brainstorming, the writing flows.
If it sounds like a daunting task, start small:
Put on a song that inspires you and brainstorm what your next scene will be about for the length of that song.
Write down three plot points that you know you want to conquer in your next chapter.
Take a walk and think about what your characters are feeling at the present moment in your W.I.P.
If you already fancy yourself a brainstorming expert, cheers! Pour yourself a hot cup of coffee and stare at the ceiling while the scenes come to life in your imagination. Don’t let anyone tell you that brainstorming isn’t productive. It absolutely is a necessary part of creation and it should be practiced.
Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!
Next week will be about breaking bad writing habits.
Yep, we are already five days into March! I hope your month is off to a fantastic start!
I’m happy to report that I’m filled with a lovely amount of inspiration these days. Shhh…we don’t want to scare it away.
I did end up slashing and cutting some of my story, but at the end of February I felt positive about what I changed. Thanks to #5amwritersclub my writing routine finally has structure. What is that, you ask? Basically, you work on your current project at 5am every morning before you head to work, your daily responsibilities, etc.
Now, let me tell you what happens when you work on your passion before you walk out the front door…
You know that place in your chest that fills up with fresh air whenever you write? That super satisfying feeling that resonates down to the very core of your creative spirit? It’s full when you write first thing in the morning. I never thought it would be possible to wake up at 5 a.m. and write before I headed to my day job, but it is!
It’s safe to say that March is off to a wonderful start for me AND my writing. With that said, I’m embarking on a quest! I decided to spread some more positive energy to the writing world by creating a giveaway. Introducing my Magical March Giveaway!
Want a cute tote bag, a colorful journal, pretty pencils, and a copy of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (which has changed my life.) ?? All you have to do is head on over to my Twitter and do one of the two things above. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #MagicalMarchGiveaway.
[If Twitter isn’t your thing, don’t fret. This won’t be my last giveaway! If you’d be interested in a blog giveaway, send me a message.]
All in all, I hope that you unlock new doors in your imagination this month and that you embrace whatever your creative spirit has to offer. Shoot for the stars, the moon, or perhaps…Neverland.
I’ll be back with a post about breaking bad writing habits later this week.
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” –Flannery O’Connor
I guess it’s time to talk novels. Why? Because I’ve begun writing one again.
It hit me like a sledgehammer to the face on January 2nd. I know it may seem pretty harsh to describe it that way, but it was incredibly unsettling and powerful. It filled me with anxiety and anger within five minutes of its birth. So much so, that there are parts of the day that I simply don’t remember.
I’ve talked about the development of character names in the past. It normally hinders my creative flow, but within minutes I had the names of the three main characters written down. Some secondary character names followed soon after.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go back to it…a life with characters living in my head, scenarios appearing, a new setting to explore. Writing poetry is a completely different experience. It’s often a series of short bursts. You get an idea, you write it down, you revise, and it’s complete. Of course, I know myself a little better than all that. There really is no escape for me. I can try to ignore it, pretend the ideas aren’t there, but living like that usually results in misery of some sort.
Now you’re probably wondering why I’m being so negative, but I promise you I’m just trying to paint a realistic picture. That’s why I started this post with the quote by Flannery O’Connor. If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s my confidence in knowing that I am a writer. Sometimes I’m a poet, sometimes I’m a novelist, and sometimes (because of my job) I’m a pop culture journalist. Still, always a writer. Most of my days consist of wearing different hats, so I know it’s possible to mix all different types of writing into my schedule.
What helps is the faith I have in this new project. The way the idea came to me was more powerful than anything I’ve ever written. While the whole day was filled with an uncomfortable feeling, my gut told me that I would remember the day ten years down the road, and for a good reason. The strange feelings have since calmed down and formed into something easier to live with. Over the past week, I’ve started to see certain parts of the setting and plot more clearly. I’ve dabbled in writing realistic fiction before, but it is definitely new territory for me. None the less, I’m embracing the “plunge into reality,” and have accepted that there will be moments quite “shocking to the system.”