Writing Burnout? Try A Rinky-Dink Writing Approach

 

I can see the light flicker in NaNoWriMo writers. Burnout on writing no longer allows you to face your keyboard with a glimmer of grace, but you’re bogged down with dread instead. The only twinkle in your eye comes from crying. You want to give up. All writers at one point or another have reached burnout at one point or another.

It’s evidence you are a true writer.

It’s true because you are pouring all that you’ve got into writing. Your passion is frazzled. You need a break, I suggest you take it (if only for a day). Look at my Rinky-Dink activities to take your mind off writing. I have something you can put in your back pocket when November is over: The Rinky-Dink Writing Approach.

(For all other burnout issues keep reading. If you are a slacker like me and aren’t doing NaNoWriMo but still have burnout issues I think you will love the Rinky-Dink Writing Approach.)

WARNING: NanoWriMo Spoiler Alert (Only read if you dare- it didn’t end good. Otherwise just skip to the next heading)

Ok, so honestly, I only did NaNoWriMo once in my life. I decided that I wasn’t going to do it again because of how it turned me off to writing for the following year. Yep, an entire year. I went into writer hibernation. It somehow evaporated all the words from my head and left my fingers completely dead.

As an unexperienced writer I think it was slight overkill. I needed more skills in balanced writing. Much more. And I should have followed the suggestion of planning ahead instead of just throwing up words (it doesn’t look pretty).

I left my kids unattended, dinner self-pended, the need for cleaning was screaming and I needed redeeming. Would any of these downfalls ever be mended?

Instead of spurring me on, all of my writing passions- just simply ended.

It’s true, I was ecstatic hitting that 50,000 word count (actually I think I overachieved by 11 words). It was a great challenge and I’m glad I did it, despite the fact I couldn’t write for a year afterwards. But I’ve been back at it hard for a few years now and learned to be balanced with life and writing.

Learn from it. This year I’ve taken a different approach. I’ll get to that in a minute, so thank you NaNoWriMo for the kick start of a month to better writing.

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Rinky-Dink Writing Approach:

I won’t take back what I learned from NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo but then it hit me. Yes, I needed to do a writing push of some kind. Thank you NaNoWriMo for providing the grounds for a writing push. Yay! I just didn’t need to do it by spewing it.

I wanted a much more thoughtful approach.

That virus and worm inflicted first book is why this month instead of NanoWriMo I did a dumbed down version (it’s true, I didn’t want to get anywhere near that book when I was done with it). I took upon myself a much smaller, rinky-dink approach. My overall goal is just a measly 20,000 thoughtful words, instead of the 50,000 key hit and spit out route. I call it my Rinky-Dink Writing Approach. And quite frankly with Rinky-Dink writing I’m a much happier writer.

Here’s how it works. Today is a great day to start it (provided you’re not doing NaNoWriMo). Or if you’re failing miserably at NaNoWriMo just ditch it and switch it over to my method of Rinky-Dink writing. (Come on, come to the sparkly side of writing.) You’re going to love it because it focuses on feeding your depleted side of life! And it makes your writing pop…instead of drop.

I think I’m going to adopt it as my new norm for writing.

  • Choose a month goal of 10,000 or 20,000 words. (I chose 20,000)
  • Just write 500 (10,000 goal) or 1,000 (20,000 goal) thoughtful words a day. The key word is “thoughtful.” No spewing out filler junk words. Make your words count.
  • Take weekends and holidays off (yep, and my birthday counts as a holiday- you can take that day too. Cha-ching). You need these writing breaks.
  • Interject daily Rinky-Dink activities (see below) to feed your writing and rest your brain. This is the most important thing you can do to make your writing flourish. Your words need some key elements to make you a more successful writer.

RINKY-DINK Activities That Keep Your Writing Thriving

NanoWriMo didn’t give me any breaks (because I wasn’t experienced in a balanced life). Rinky-dink writing does. Here’s how to refill your head with additional words, instead of evaporating them all out. Your writing will thrive if you give it something to feast on. Try these things daily while you write. Just remember RINKY-DINK and you’ve got it.

Read. Don’t drop your passion of reading for writing. Refire your synapses with someone else’s words. Fill all that empty space that you are trying to write with, with great words of wisdom from someone else. Can’t believe how this gives my brain the much needed break and extra thinking power.

Interact. People are necessary element for a writers cooped up stints. Drag yourself out and be with family, friends, or neighbors. Call someone. Socialize and get some inspiration for your next writing piece. Be human instead of an awesome writing machine for a change. Show other human life forms that they are interesting to you. Play games, go to lunch, whatever. It will pay off in the long run and the sacrifice somehow magically helps the words fit nicely on your page.

Nutrition. Actually get good healthy food in your body. No snack-and-grab-and-add-to-flab stints (I’m talking from experience here). Try a new recipe. Fill your brain with sights and smells, not words for a change. Enjoy. Recharge. And get your body buzzing with nutrients and full brain power instead of swaggering on a sugar-debt lag.

Kinetic Activity. Blinking and dancing fingers doesn’t count. Go for a walk, exercise, or karate chop blocks. Whatever will work up a sweat will help eliminate word debts. Your brain will enjoy a little more pain in other parts of your body besides the brain. Give your brain a break and overwork your body for a change. Inspiration comes in mysterious ways.

Yak. Yep. Flap those lips and carry on conversations with someone. Anyone. Seek out new insights from other brain transporters. Get insights from kids, grandparents, the neighbors, or a stranger. Come up with a list of questions. They don’t have to be related to your writing, necessarily. Learn new ways of thinking by sucking the experiences from others.

Disaster zone clean-up. Attack a problem area. Problem solve. If your house or work space is spic and span then find an empty lot and pull weeds… whatever. I’m sure you can solve someone else’s problems. I love playing the 30 min. game of writing and switch to 30 minutes of working. Work works wonders.

Indulge in you. Stop neglecting yourself. Make a list of at least 15 things you enjoy doing.  Do that thing you’ve been depriving yourself of. Maybe you like organizing, painting, shopping, or clay pigeon shooting. Or maybe you love hiking, or taking pictures, or dolling up fixtures. Whatever. Stop neglecting your other passions because it’s begging for your attention. Feed it so it will feed your writing. Choose at least once a week to indulge in yourself and you will start to feel that balance you’ve been searching for.

Nerd Out. Ok, so you can paint your own picture of how this goes. Turn on music and boogie (even though skills are seriously lacking). Be a dork. Make yourself laugh and smile. Feel awkward by breaking the norm. Attempt to do the worm, make yourself squirm. Personally I like to close the kitchen blinds, turn up the music, and bust a move.

Keep Up. Write and add something from the Rinky-dink list every day (except weekends and holidays). Yep take forced vacations from writing. Rough stuff, I know. But, when you take your break make sure you are filling it with all kinds of redirected thoughts.

You will find that your 500- 1,000 thoughtful words a day will come much more easily and you will love rinky-dink writing. I hope you can adopt this crazy fun way to keep your writing fresh and at its best.

So. Here’s to a Rinky-Dink Writing push. It allows me to interact with the kids, and dinner dishes. The need for cleaning gets squished in and I am meeting my wishes. My life as a writer is finally all googly-eyed giddy.

Instead, all of my writing passions falling- to me its begging and calling.  The key? You’ve got to starve your writing a little and feed your human side. Next time you are burned out on writing. Take a break and remember the RINKY-DINK Writing Approach and get your writing back on track. Feed your passion to write by giving it something to write about.

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christie-perkinsChristie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing, blogging, and is a nonfiction junkie. Her stage 4 cancer doesn’t knock down her passion for life and writing. Not a chance. A couple of magazines have published her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her on her blog at howperkyworks.com.

 

How to SCARE Away the NaNoWriMo Heebie Jeebies

Happy Halloween! Each year as I come off my candy-induced energy high, I’m always faced with the simultaneously sobering and exciting fact that National Novel Writing Month starts TOMORROW. For those of you participating, are you excited and raring to go? Is this your first time? Are you a little bit scared? Are you suspicious of the 1,667 per day word count that you need to win NaNoWriMo because if you take off the 1 and subtract it from the 7, you get 666?

But seriously, it’s perfectly natural to be a little afraid whether it’s your first time doing NaNoWriMo or your fifth. Totally and completely natural *nods*. So for this special Halloween-day post, I thought I’d offer some pre-NaNoWriMo advice to SCARE away those writing heebie jeebies. (BOO!)

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  1. AVOID SURPRISE ATTACKS. Being mindful and present in your WIP as much as possible will allow you to write more. For most writers, we have other things going on in November besides writing. For many writers, the 1,667 words per day is daunting. I definitely fall into both of these categories. However, if I’m stuck in a work meeting and simply can’t write, it helps during the lulls of that meeting to think about the next scene of my WIP — so, when I do have a moment, I can more easily hammer out those words (I might even jot down notes in a memo app if I think I can get away with it, but shhhhh….). The same applies to when I’m cooking dinner or when I’m grocery shopping or driving. Or, or, or.
  2. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE (and write while you are at it)! Write on the go — when you can, as much as you can. This year I’m walking into NaNoWriMo with the new(ish) Scrivener app on my iPad and iPhone, which readily syncs files between platforms (Not gonna lie — that feature is AWESOME). If I’m waiting for the copier machine to spit out my print job, I write a little. If I’m riding in the elevator, same. Walking across campus, same (these days, people just assume I’m playing Pokemon GO). Need more ideas for writing-on-the-go? Here’s a fun little post of how far writers are willing to go with their writing-on-the-go. 🙂
  3. BEWARE OF THE REVISING MONSTER. RAWR! NaNoWriMo is for drafting words, even if those words are super stinky. I have the hardest time with this because my stubborn brain balks at this idea and insists on revising as I draft. In the long run, this means I have less revisions to do when I’m done drafting. However, winning NaNoWriMo is all about getting your words in, not making sure that they are the best words. Those revisions should come later.
  4. SCREAM FOR HELP. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. I’m not sure what sort of support units you have, but do not be shy about asking for a little more help than usual this month. Get your support units together for a mini-writing retreat one evening. If one of your support units is a significant other that’s a non-writer, explain to this support unit that you need to steal away some nights to write (but remember to hang out with said support unit at least some of the time 🙂 ). If you have kids as support units, they can help too (Yes, kids can be support units too, though sometimes they can be a little more challenging than adults, especially if they are 5 and 9, or really any age either younger or older than this). Sometimes I set a timer for 30 min or an hour and we all have to quietly work on our homework/ writing/ drawing/ whatever for that time and not interrupt mommy (who might have her earbuds in anyway) unless absolutely necessary.
  5. AHHHHHHHHHH! Don’t let the NaNoWriMo progress graph scare you. From past years’ experience, I tend to be above the curve for the first week or so (YAY!), then I fall below it for a while (BOO!), and every time the latter happens, I feel the creeping fingers of panic start tugging on me. If you fall below the curve, know that it’s totally FINE. Step it up the next day (write while you’re eating breakfast or lunch). Stay up a little later the next night (but don’t do this too many nights in a row, or it will quickly catch up to you). Catch up, but don’t make a big deal in your head out of falling behind. Also, I personally find the NaNoWriMo buddy feature to be not very helpful. I know it’s supposed to be a motivating tool, but I never find it super useful to compare my progress to others. We already have to compare our progress to the graph/curve, and that can be scary enough.

Above all, remember this about NaNoWriMo: ANY writing you accomplish this month is a WIN. So you see, there’s nothing to be afraid of after all. You got this. 🙂

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helenHelen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both paranormal and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the Mythology trilogy (MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL), and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her writing life at www.helenboswell.com.

A Writer’s Promise To Myself

“I’ll be better tomorrow. I promise.”

Do you ever catch yourself saying this to yourself? Most often when we promise to be better, it’s because we feel like we let someone down in terms of behavior or other expectations.

Last month, I let myself down by not meeting my writing goals. Oh, I could justify this with excuses. I could pin my decline in productivity on an extra busy work schedule, on my kids’ extra busy after-school schedules, on the fact that hours seem to slip by with all of the other daily obligations that are a necessary part of life. I could blame it on emergencies, illnesses, and other interruptions that filled up what could have been good writing moments. I could blame it on my own choices in taking on new projects. But excuses won’t help me meet my writing goals. Only by owning up to my failure to put words on the page, and only by being willing to change that will I actually get those words onto the page. Excuses are diversions and distractions. I wanted to have a draft out to my CP’s by the end of September, and it didn’t happen.

I’ll be better tomorrow. I promise.

My “tomorrow” arrived in the middle of this month, when I told myself in a very firm voice that I needed to get out of my no-writing funk. NaNoWriMo is rapidly approaching, and I am determined to banish all of the excuses and again get down to business. I was meeting my word count goals before September, and I can get back into it again. It’s what I do. Excuses, begone! I am a writer! Yet when I opened my file each day, I stared at it and felt something heavy hold me back. The automatic connection that I used to have with my characters felt faraway and tenuous. I am a different person than I was six weeks ago and maybe I couldn’t tell their story exactly in the way that I’d originally planned. I was afraid that I could no longer do their story justice. Instead of writing, I focused on doubts and fears. But after taking today and the day before and many days before that to contemplate this, I know what I need to do. I’m committed to finishing this story, and so these are the writer’s promises to myself that will help me stay on track and be better:

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I promise to myself

  1. …that I’m experienced enough to acknowledge that life happens. Yes, life is busy, chaotic, and sometimes pulls me under, but I glean inspiration from my life. Experiencing emotions that range from frustration, stress, and anger to relief, joy, and love are the lessons I use to craft the emotional journey of my characters. Being mindful about my surroundings, textures, colors, and smells as the seasons change are the lessons that I use to build my story’s world. My crazy and beautiful life does not currently afford me the opportunity to write in solitude for hours at a time, but I need to experience all life has to offer in order for me to be a good writer.
  2. …that I’m strong enough to recognize and exert control over the things that are in my power. I do not need to respond to messages or emails right away just because my notifications are on (or better yet, I can turn them off). I do not need to get up and eat just because I happen to be writing at the kitchen table (even if there are lemon Oreos in the cupboard. They are merely delicious distractions). I can set rules in my home about when I require uninterrupted time to write (and I accept that this won’t be for hours and hours at a stretch). I promise to be mindful of the steps that I need for self-care, whether I am in full writing mode or not (and I shall be better about saying “no” if I need to). My top priorities lie with my family, my job, and my friends and support units, but as my writing is also a top priority, I can control certain things to help me get that writing done.
  3. …that I’m dedicated enough to finish this story. Writing is no cakewalk, and the process of drafting is particularly tough for me (but so is everything else about writing and publishing). I cannot fast-draft to save my life (Well, maybe I could if I was placed in an actual do-or-die scenario like in the Saw movies, but let’s not go there). I’m working on my sixth book now, and it feels no easier than when I wrote my first. However, I also know myself a lot better as a writer than when I first started out in this business (and I’m still learning, always learning), and no matter how hard it is to get to “the end,” I believe in myself and my characters enough to get it done. 

Lastly, I promise to myself that I’m realistic enough to know that there is always (99.99% of the time?) another tomorrow. You know, in case today doesn’t completely work out.

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helen

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both paranormal and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the Mythology trilogy (MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL), and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her writing life at www.helenboswell.com.

Speak Your Mind: A Real-Time Dictation Experiment

This . . . is going to be an interesting post to write. I need you, Reader, to bear witness to a little experiment.

Here’s the background: I’ve been playing around with Dragon Dictation for my iPhone lately, mostly to record quick ideas that I come up with while I’m in the car and can’t safely type. I’ve found that it picks up on my speech very well. So today, with this year’s upcoming NaNoWriMo in mind, I decided to go ahead and purchase the Home version for my PC Laptop. It’s a bit of a splurge, but I feel like it will be worth it to keep my writing flow going. I could just go ahead and keep using the mobile version, but the problem, I’ve found, is that the mobile version will randomly stop recording (maybe because I’ve paused for too long? I’m not sure), and I won’t realize it until I pull my phone out of my pocket to see where I’m at. The PC version isn’t supposed to do that. So far, I’m finding this is true. The mic hasn’t turned off unless I’ve told it to.

Anyway, I mentioned an experiment. This is it. This post that you’re reading right now . . . is the experiment. I’m using Dragon on my laptop for the first time while “writing” this, and I will now tell you, in real time, what’s working for me and what’s not. I know. Meta.

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So here’s the first thing I’m noticing: remembering to add in punctuation as I speak is really slowing me down. It’s tripping up the flow of my thoughts. In fact, remembering to say “comma,” “period,” and “new line” means my dictation is actually much slower than my typing. This may change as I get used to it, but . . . hmm . . . how about I try something else? How about I just ignore all punctuation, and speak, not as if I’m dictating, but as if I’m casually talking to another person in the room? I can go back and edit in the punctuation and paragraph breaks afterward. (Obviously, most of the punctuation that you’re seeing right now has been added post stream-of-consciousness word vomit.)

The main purpose of writing via dictation for me is to get my thoughts out of my head and onto the screen. Sometimes (not all the time) I have trouble doing that while typing, as if somewhere along the journey between my neural pathways and the muscles in my fingers, my thoughts run out of gas and have to pull over—a bit ironic seeing that I’m writing this post for a blog called Thinking Through Our Fingers.

This occasional brain-to-page disconnect is why editing and revising is so much more pleasant for me than drafting. Once I have my thoughts down, I have something tangible to work with. It’s easier to replace and move around words that are already there.

A way that I’ve sometimes been able to get past this is to switch back and forth between typing and handwriting. And now I have dictation as a third option. And that makes me think of another way in which I will surely be using dictation to assist me with my writing—dictating handwritten pages into my word processor will be so much faster (and easier on my joints) than typing it in.

And here’s something else I’m enjoying about dictating this post. I can get up and move around. I’m not tied to my keyboard. Sometimes pacing and other forms of movement can help get my thoughts flowing, and I know this is true for a lot of other people as well. I may, (dare I even think it?) even find myself dictating my novel while exercising, or doing the dishes, or knitting, or even soaking in the tub. Yes! While taking a bath! With my laptop out of harm’s way, if I speak loudly enough for the mic to pick up my voice, I’m sure it could work. This also means I have no more excuses not to write. Hmm . . . maybe that isn’t such a bonus after all (says the chronic procrastinator.)

Now let’s pause for an update. Remember how in the beginning of this post, I observed that having to dictate punctuation was slowing me down, so I decided to stop? It has now been about five minutes, and I’ve written about 600 words. That would normally take me a half an hour on a REALLY good day—and hour or more on a bad one. Granted, here’s a screenshot of those words:

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Ugh. It’s one huge run-on-sentence, stream-of-consciousness paragraph. The editing may take me at least three times as long as the initial dictation took. Not only will I need to add in punctuation and paragraph breaks, but it looks like I’ll also need to remove or rewrite garbled sentences that I swear sounded much better out loud than they look on the page. But as I said earlier, I’m fine with that. I’m just thrilled to have so many words down so quickly; so many words to work with that would never have made it onto the page before.

Overall, I’d say that for me, this experiment has been a success. I am going to dictate the heck out of my NaNoWriMo novel. It’s going to be so great. I’m am so very, very excited. I may change my tune in December when I’m faced with gargantuan revisions, but for now, I think this is going to work.

Do you use dictation for writing? If so, please tell us in the comments what you think of it, and if you have any good tips!

(Note: I forgot to keep track of how long it actually took me to edit this, but I’d say it was probably around fifteen minutes, for those of you who are interested.)

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When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Delete Button

Okay, so we’re nearing the end of NaNo. You know, the month where you madly write 50,000 words in 30 days. I hope if you’ve been participating that you’ve succeeded already, or you’re mere words away from reaching the goal. Only a few more days!

But today, I wanted to talk about that somewhat dreaded delete key. I teach typing, and my kids LOVE the delete key. I can’t get them to stop touching it! They don’t want any mistakes! If only writing were as easy, right?

Anyway, I started NaNo with half a novel I’d written two years ago. Technically, that’s cheating for NaNo, but who’s going to turn me in? Is there a NaNo police?

In this novel, I’d written about 40,000 words. I spent a couple days at the beginning at the month before I started writing. And let’s be honest here: It was a mess. But it’s a time travel novel, so I’m okay with a bit of mess in the first draft.

But I struggled. And I mean, strug-gled to write more words. I think I wrote several thousand words in this broken draft. The problem? I didn’t know it was a broken draft.

But after a conversation with my critique group, I decided I was brave enough to abandon that draft and start over. With a blank page.

Scary, right?!

It was scary.

But I left that draft behind and I opened a new document. I started the book over, and I wrote 55,000 words in it. The book’s not done, but it’s a heckuva lot closer. And the most important part?

It works.

So today’s tip is to embrace that delete key. Don’t be afraid to leave what isn’t working behind. Delete it. Cut it. Erase it. Abandon it. They’re just words, and you can write more.

My motto: When in doubt, delete.

Have you ever deleted scenes, chapters, entire novels and started over? How did it go?

Liz Isaacson writes inspirational romance, usually set in Texas, or Wyoming, or anywhere else horses and cowboys exist. Her Western inspirational romance, SECOND CHANCE RANCH, is available now. The second book THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM comes out on Tuesday, December 1!

She lives in Utah, where she teaches elementary school, taxis her daughter to dance several times a week, and serves on her community’s library board. Liz is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Agency. Find her on Facebook, twitter, and her blog.

The Halfway Point of NaNoWriMo: 5 Things To Be Thankful For

Like many of you, I’m currently at the halfway point of my journey through the perilous quagmire also known as National Novel Writing Month. In past years, November has transformed me into an unkempt, unshowered, irritable monster. This year, I’ve tried to take a different approach, for the health and safety of myself and those around me. I’ve tried to keep it fun. I’ve tried not to stress so much about where I am in comparison to the “on par” line. I’ve tried not to feel guilty for having those days when work/life/kids or a combination of all three takes over or alternatively, when my brain decides that enough is enough for the day and goes on break. Above all, I’ve tried to be thankful for what I’ve managed to accomplish so far instead of thinking about how much I still have ahead of me.

Author Leon Uris was quoted as saying the following, which I think is pretty dead on:

“I enjoy writing, sometimes; I think that most writers will tell you about the agony of writing more than the joy of writing, but writing is what I was meant to do.”

If you write, you know that it’s not easy. Taking short breaks or more extended hiatuses is perfectly normal and even necessary when you’re a writer, but somehow we manage to beat ourselves up for it when we don’t live up to our own expectations. I sometimes think we focus so much on thoughts and discussions of how hard things are, or of all of the things we need to do to achieve the end goals that we forget to enjoy the journey. So today I’d like to take a brief moment to ask you to reflect on all of the lovely things that you’ve already accomplished.

(This month, I am thankful for the following:)

1.  Progress
Whether you’ve written 25,000 words or 5,000, celebrate your progress. Don’t stress if your word counts are falling beneath the curve. While it’s fun to compete and root for your NaNoWriMo buddies or just for accountability purposes in general, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how your progress compares to others. It’s YOUR PROGRESS. Plus, some of us don’t work as well in fast-draft mode, but we make up for it in lots of other ways (see my post on writing stress and why daily word counts might not be the best strategy for everyone.)

2. The writing community
One thing I love about writing is the writing community. My IRL critique partners are my people. I’ve traveled to various places to meet my online writing buddies for conferences and book events and writing retreats, and these are also my people. I connect most with these people on many levels, and I’m forever grateful for how much they inspire and teach me. Being part of a writing community comes with a rich and rewarding return of friendship, support, and yes, even this:

3. Your own daily (or weekly or monthly) goals

Some claim that the only way to accomplish the big things is to set lofty goals, and while that may be true, it’s also beneficial to set small goals along the way. Set your own goals. AND CELEBRATE THEM. I mentioned the writing community in #2, and one of my most treasured writing friends is fellow TTOF contributor Megan Paasch. While we live in different states and maybe only get to see each other once a year if we’re lucky *cries*, we text on an almost daily basis to chat about writing and life, and to root for each other. Recently she tipped me off to a cool program called Habitica.com that allows you to set and track goals. Habitica is a fun role-play type app that uses avatars and rewards/incentives to motivate yourself to achieve your writing goals, or to exercise more, or to floss daily. Or whatever you want. And based on your progress, you can earn gear and hatch out dragons from eggs and other cool stuff like that. #win

This is my avatar. I earned a pink wolf! 
Examples of Habitica habits and daily goals*:
*These are obviously my writing-related goals. I have personal goals on Habitica but will spare you from seeing those 🙂

4. Those utterly brilliant a-ha moments
We all have them — those moments where two clunky pieces finally fit together (or at the very least are a little less clunky). Or those moments when a light in your brain snaps on and you figure out the crucial missing element from the backstory of your main character. Or you finally figure out that elusive plot point that is essential for linking point A to point B. These a-ha moments should not be diminished.  They don’t even need to be final. But make sure that you celebrate them!

5. Your creative mind (reward it!)
Speaking of celebrations, you should celebrate yourself most of all. You are creating PEOPLE**. You are creating EVENTS and HISTORY. You are creating WORLDS. You deserve to reward yourself for creating any and all of these things. Give yourself a treat of your favorite beverage or snack. Allow yourself time for a guilt-free break and watch your favorite TV show or Netflix episode. Or sit back and give yourself a moment to take pride in your own creations — perhaps create a Pinterest board for your characters (and to serve for inspiration), or make your characters (and you) a fun playlist, and give yourself a pat on the back for caring enough about your characters to do this for them (and for yourself). I think sometimes we concentrate so much on what we haven’t done yet that we forget to celebrate all of the things we have already achieved. While NaNoWriMo is great for a lot of things, it is just one month out of the year. Don’t forget that there are still 11 other months in the year to celebrate your achievements too. You deserve it. ❤

** Technically, characters. However, my characters object when I don’t think of them as real people.

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Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both YA urban fantasy and NA contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. Her NaNoWriMo username is HelenBozz, and she loves to root for her NaNo buddies! 
Find out more about Helen at www.helenboswell.com.

Untangled: 7 Revision Tips

Happy National Novel Writing Month!

Me, I finished my first draft on November 2. (I started it about six months before that. 🙂 This first draft of mine is, of course, messy. And when I think of messy, I think of my daughter’s room. And specifically, her Rapunzel doll’s hair.

Yikes.

This is the actual state of poor Rapunzel’s hair, and unfortunately, it’s also representative of the current state of my first draft. So for those of you who are just beginning a revision, and those who will be in that spot December 1, here are seven things this poor Rapunzel doll can teach us about revising a first draft:

  1. Don’t pull out your fine-toothed comb first. Survey the whole thing, and start with the broadest teeth and the biggest problems.
  2. Once you’ve picked a section or a particular problem, recognize that fixing it will likely require many, many small strokes. Don’t be overwhelmed. Just start somewhere and work your way up.
  3. Don’t give up and throw it away! Don’t think, “I could start over with a new doll with shiny new hair!” Because let me tell you, friend, it won’t be long before that one has just as many tangles.
  4. If you’re too discouraged to take on the big stuff, that’s okay. Pick a section that you’re ready to work on and know that whatever knots you get out today won’t be there tomorrow. Sure, you may make new ones, sometimes involving those same blasted strands, but they will be new knots, and they too will come out.
  5. If you try to take on too big a tangle all at once, you’ll likely end up with a big bald spot. Don’t try to rip through a big problem too forcefully, especially when you’re frustrated with it. Except that…
  6. Sometimes this is exactly what your story needs, and hair plugs are the answer. Okay, the doll analogy falls apart a little there, but don’t be afraid to take out a chunk that just absolutely shouldn’t be there or can’t be fixed. You wrote this from scratch, and you can rewrite big chunks or even the whole thing if you need to.
  7. Product can make the whole process go more smoothly. For doll hair, it’s a mixture of fabric softener and water. (You’re welcome.) For writing, coffee and chocolate are perennial favorites, but for you, it might be Diet Coke or fingerless gloves or an exercise ball or an app like Write or Die. If there’s something small you can use to smooth out your process–or incentivize yourself to get the work done–go for it.

Revision is hard work. But keep at it, one tangle at a time, and soon you’ll be feeling like this:

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Because right now, I’m off to brush and brush and brush and brush my hair. (Figuratively speaking. There’s way too much revision ahead to actually fix my hair today.)

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Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption. 🙂