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Have you ever sat down with your computer or your notebook, fingers or pen poised at the ready as you set forth on your storytelling adventure, yet the words refused to flow?
What methods did you try to unleash your ideas and take those first steps?
- Writing prompts?
- Pacing around the house?
- Aggressively petting your dog?
Whatever your chosen method, did it work? And if it didn’t work, do you know what to try next?
Don’t let your novel get away from you and become that thing you wished you’d have done when you find yourself reflecting on your life as an octogenarian. We don’t need that kind of life regret when we’re supposed to be front-porch sitting, sipping tea, and chasing away rascals with our straw brooms. (Just me? Anyhoo … )
When I’m on video chats with authors who lament writer’s block, the stopped flow usually comes down to one of two key problems: lack of time or lack of planning. For writers who fall into the first camp, Jessica Strawser for Career Authors has some great ideas to help. In her article, How To Get (& Stay) Ready For NaNoWriMo, Jessica offers practical advice for any writer seeking tools or information on novel planning, whether or not you’re committed to NaNoWriMo. Time management is key, especially if you’re a writer with little time to spare. Finding ways to maximize your output during those short windows of time you do find may benefit from apps, tried-and-true advice from years past, employing visual aids to unstick creativity, and leveraging that all-important plan B, in case your plan A doesn’t exactly go … well, according to plan.
And if you’re a writer who falls into the second camp, planning beforehand can be the difference between achieving that sweet 50,000-word goal or watching it slip faster and further away. I often coach authors through periods of writer’s block using a variety of unsticking techniques, but the one that works the best is defining the “why” behind why they write. If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of writers committed to NaNoWriMo this year (which starts in two days, in case you forgot), and you’re staring at the daily goal of nearly 1,700 words with consternation and a touch (or a pile) of anxiety, well finding your why may be the tool you need to stay focused and stay productive. Janna Lopez of BookBaby Blog offers practical tips to help you find your why, build momentum, and channel your energy for crushing your goals in her article, If Not Now, When? 6 Reasons To Finish Your Book Now.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “But Fal, I’ve planned for the time, and I have a basic understanding of my story. What more can I do except write?”
Whether you’re a planner or a discoverer, having even a rough outline of your story, not just in your mind but on paper (or the screen) in front of you, can keep you moving at a healthy clip as you get those words down. And Morgan Hazelwood agrees. Her video, My Favorite Tools For Starting A Novel, covers a swath of outlining methods, including project management tools, beat sheets, mood boards, and more. There’s something for every type of writer in this video no matter where you are in the outlining process.
However, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (or if you just really want to write a book in a month), 50,000 words in 30 days is a lot just the same, healthy clip or no. During this phase of the process, don’t berate yourself for making an absolute mess of things. In fact, the process of discovery can be just as rewarding as planning. Amy Rivers for Women Writers, Women’s Books writes in her article, Writing Organically Can Be Messy, “The first draft and the final draft are more like third cousins twice removed than siblings.” And this critical line highlights the importance of making iterative changes to your story through revisions. And I’ve said before that it is in revision that the craft of writing happens. If you’re worried about being too messy out of the gate, rest assured that nobody will be reading your first draft.
And because no piece of advice comes without its share of complications or contradictions, getting words down can be a problem if you’re caught up in the myth of perfection. As we like to say in our home, pobody is nerfect. Joan Hall, in her article for Story Empire, The Fine Line: Free Writing Versus Editing As You Go shares a fantastically easy method to remind yourself not to worry about being perfect … at least, not yet … by adding reassuring statements to your manuscript header. Because sometimes we need that constant reminder to get out of our own way so we can make progress.
And if you’ve made it this far and are wondering where in the heck the business advice may be lurking, well, I’ve something for you too, especially if your novel is already written and you’re looking ahead to publication. You’re likely familiar with the concept of marketing and finding your ideal readers, but writers often get bogged down with social media. If you’re spinning your wheels on socials and want to try something new, Damyanti Biswas for Insecure Writer’s Support Group urges writers to use book giveaways in her article, Top Book Giveaway Platforms And Tips To Leverage Them For Book Promotion Success. And Damyanti gives a shoutout to the Storygraph, a platform near and dear to my heart as a competitor to Big Biz.
And don’t forget to check your expectations about The Allure And Reality Of Being A Full-Time Author in this article by JD Caron for Written Word Media, which emphasizes the importance of strategic planning for the hopeful career author. And career authors know there’s more to the full-time writing life than creativity. Having an eye on your writing business, including the realities of what is and is not working for you, is critical.
Did I overlook a golden nugget from Maria’s list of the top writing advice from around the web for Oct. 29, 2023? Have something else to add? Just want to say, “hello?”
Comment below and start a conversation.