Monthly Archives: August 2011

Counting Words Longhand-My Mini Writing Break

A quick hit today.

I write longhand–the words don’t seem to flow when I write on the computer. I also need to take a lot of breaks when I write. I’m not one of those authors who starts and then looks up to see hours have passed. I’m usually pretty aware of every passing minute. I used to break every page or two to read something in a book, check the Internet, or simply get up and get a drink of water–not because I’m thirsty, but because I need the mini break. I’ve since found a solution to my problem–I count the words I’ve written.

Since I write longhand, I don’t have an handy-dandy word count button. This can be frustrating since that’s how I like to track my daily writing goals. I’ve now found a solution to both of my problems–I count the words when I finish a page. Not only do I track my progress, but it gives me that mini-break I need. While I count, my subconscious is working on what comes next. How do I know? Quite often, before I start counting, I’m not sure what I’m going to put down on the page next. But after I’ve written down my number and added it to the day’s running total, I often find the words flow a bit easier.

What’s the lesson here? Should you do this, too? Probably not, but if you’re situation is like mine, give it a shot. I think the real lesson I’m trying to pass on is to simply find a routine that works for you, even if it seems silly. No one has to know (unless you post it on your blog for all to see!), and if it helps, that’s all that matters. So try something quirky. You may just find it helps both your word count and word quality!

Ideas–The Writer’s Frame of Mind

I’m sure, if you’re a writer, you’ve been asked where you get your ideas. And no matter how you answer, I’m also sure the true answer is both “Who knows? ” and “Everywhere!” That’s because you have to be going out of your way to not find ideas wherever you go, wherever you look. With the right frame of mind–the writer’s frame of mind–ideas are the easiest part of the entire process.

What is the writer’s frame of mind? Simple. That’s where you see potential stories everywhere you look. You see two kids enraptured by something in the grass. Did they find a tiny alien? A camouflaged doorway that leads to the bowels of the earth? An injured fairy? You see a vanity licence plate that you can’t quite decipher. Is it code for a secret society? Dew dances off a spider web in the morning light. Is that web really made of crystal? It could mean a terrifying tale of a new breed of killer spiders, or a humorous take on bumblers trying to make a buck off simple web they think is diamond. Someone drops a letter into a mailbox. Maybe it’s a ransom note. Maybe it’s a “Dear John” letter. Or it could be a strange correspondence with the mail box creature. You get the picture. When you’re in the writer’s frame of mind, you’ll see potential in everything, from the truly strange to the absolutely mundane.

What should you do with these ideas once you get them? I used to be a proponent of an idea notebook, where I’d jot down these gems as soon as I got them, be it a sentence, a paragraph, or a full page. I quickly filled notebooks with more ideas than I’d ever have the chance to use. I’ve since decided, however, that this type of notebook is mostly pointless. I put ideas in, but more often than not, all they’d do is become stale. Why use that old idea when I have a half-dozen fresh ones at my fingertips? Now, if I can’t get to it immediately,  I find it best to put the “can’t miss” idea on a scrap of paper and leave it at my writing desk. If I haven’t done anything with it in a week or two, I toss it. My thinking is, if I wasn’t compelled into working the idea into something wonderful yet, it couldn’t have been that great of an idea. And if I’m wrong, I don’t need that piece of paper to remind me of it; it’ll continue to worm its way into my subconscious until I’m absolutely ready to mold it into a story.

Next time you’re in the market for a new idea, open your eyes and put yourself into the writer’s frame of mind. You’ll soon see it’s impossible not to find plenty of super ideas to write about, no matter what genre you dabble in. Now go spin a great tale!

What I Learned in July

At the beginning of July, I decided to undertake two big projects–revising a novel while writing another. To some of you, that’s no big deal, and you’re wondering why I stopped at two. Others are thinking I bit off more than I could chew–one big project is all a writer should focus on. While there is no right answer when it comes to how many projects to work on at one time (every writer is different), I discovered I belong in the latter group: One project at a time is enough.

My revision is for a YA modern fantasy, while my draft is a supernatural tale aimed at adults. I figured there is enough difference in the tone of the two pieces that I wouldn’t have any problems keeping one out of the other. And I was correct on that account. The problem became more of a mental challenge. In splitting my focus between the two projects, I didn’t feel I was giving enough time to each. When I was writing, I thought I should be revising, and when I was revising, I realized I should be getting words down on the page. Other authors may be able to get over that, but I’m not one of them. (Keep in mind that neither of these is on a deadline. Deadlines have a way of focusing the mind, which would have made this easier. So why not impose an artificial deadline? To me, artificial deadlines are just that: artificial.)

In addition to learning that I work best with one project, I also learned another important  tidbit: don’t over-outline. I know it works for some authors, but, again, I’m not one of them. I can’t simply sit down and write and expect to create a book (what some call “pantsing”). I’d like to, and I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. I can do it for flash fiction and short stories, but for longer works, I need an outline. On the current first draft for the adult supernatural story, I put far too much in the outline, so as I’m writing, it feels as if I’ve already told the story. That, to me, is not a satisfying way to write, and it ultimately leads to weaker prose.

I’ve decided to focus on the revision for the time being. I’m currently at the stage where I’m letting beta readers look it over, so in the meantime, I’m going to focus more on flash fiction (for those of you in the #fridayflash community, yes, that means I will be rejoining each weekend, at least for the time being) and other smaller tasks. I thought about working more on my adult supernatural story while I was waiting to return to the revisions, but ultimately decided to hold off until the revisions and beginning marketing were done on the YA novel. I’ve learned my lesson: One big project at a time.