03
Oct 17

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

I firmly believe that everyone should try NaNoWriMo at least once in their life. Sure, the writing elitists hate it and like to make fun of those who attempt it. But there are some legit good reasons to do it!

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

Original photo by MJ S

If you looked at the title of this post and thought that maybe I was speaking another language, then allow me to educate you. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month — which is November. Participants spend the entire month trying to bash out 50,000 words. And you should try NaNoWriMo if you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, or if you want to make some headway on a big writing project.

In the past, I have forgone participating. November typically falls smackdab in the middle of grading season, and it’s way too hard to grade a hundred research papers as well as write a novel.

But this semester, I finagled my schedule so that I can finally participate, hopefully with a minimal amount of grading interference. (I’ll still have tests and presentations to grade. But those tend to be a lot easier.)

And because misery loves company, I think you should try NaNoWriMo too. It’s the perfect opportunity to set a goal and meet it. And by the end of the month, YOU’LL HAVE A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT. (MAYBE!)

Why should someone try NaNoWriMo? Click To Tweet

Still not convinced? Well, okay. Here are 10 reasons why you should try NaNoWriMo.

001: You owe yourself the escape.
I won’t lie when I say that it’s been hard to write lately. Politically speaking, everything is shit, and I feel such an immense amount of despair and inefficacy that it’s hard to do anything, much less build an entire world from scratch and then bleed it out on the page. But I’ve realized that not writing has contributed to that despair.

And while I can’t write a story that fixes the world, I can write a story that makes me feel good about the world again so I can be a more effective fighter when I see injustice. And I can escape into that world via writing. And hopefully, readers who need to escape can use my story for that as well.

002: So you can say you did it.
Admittedly, not everyone knows what NaNoWriMo is. So telling strangers that you completed NaNoWriMo might bring more questions than awe. But that’s okay. You ain’t here for the validation of others. Accomplishment is it’s own reward. And just think how rewarding it will feel to finish a project of this magnitude. Pretty damn good, right?

003: It’s nice to stretch your writing muscles.
One of my favorite things non-writers say is that they could write if they just had the time. WELCOME TO THE CLUB, ASSHOLES. No one really has the time to write The Next Great American Novel. And yet, writers make time every single day. What some jerks don’t realize is that they can’t bash out that word count if they haven’t built up their writing muscles by practicing every single day. It’s hard to sit still and make words happen if you aren’t in the habit of it. And NaNoWriMo is the best time to work those writing muscles! Build up the calluses on your fingertips from  hitting the keyboard! Put characters in mortal peril!

Sure, you don’t have to write fiction. You can actually use NaNoWriMo for whatever you want. And if you’re looking to get back into the writing game, November is a great time to do it. Not only do you have the support of the NaNoWriMo community, but you have the laser focus and accountability that community provides.

004: Lighting the deadline fire is good.
Are you one of those terrible people who’s always waiting for Monday so you can get started? (I sympathize with you, but like, just do what you want to do. You’re wasting so much time with a lame excuse about needing to start on Monday.) If you’re the type that needs the conditions to be set so you can get to work, you should definitely try NaNoWriMo. Not only is there a deadline looming like a sword of Damocles, but you also know exactly how many words you need to get each day to hit your goal. (It’s 1,667 a day. Totally doable!)

So if you’re the type that’s always looking for the ideal conditions, look no further. Try NaNoWriMo today!

005: Learn what you can cut out to achieve something.
So, still think you don’t have time to write? Well guess what? I don’t have time for idle TV watching. In fact, since I’ve lived in my current house, I’ve turned on the TV twice. Sure, I still watch Netflix and such on my iPad, but I don’t turn on the TV just to have the news on in the background, which also means I don’t spend Saturday mornings idly watching cooking shows on PBS.

There are plenty of ways we make time for stuff in our lives without realizing it. A commitment like NaNoWriMo makes you look at your time, and intentionally schedule it. So take a look at your day. What nonsense can you cut out? And don’t be ashamed to cut something that might be frowned upon. I fully admit that I’ll be living on Lean Cuisines for the entire month of November to cut out unnecessary food cooking time.

006: Meet other writerly types.
Writing can be a solitary thing if you let it be. I’m currently in the process of constructing a writerly mastermind group with some local ladies, if and when our schedules align. (Probably the week after never.) But if you don’t know any other local writers, NaNoWriMo is a great time to meet them.

If you sign up on NaNoWriMo.org, you can see the meet ups that are happening in your region. In some cases, there are gatherings aimed to get everyone acquainted, there are workshops to help you prepare, and there are even write-ins during the month of November to help you meet that word count!

007: You get to play around in your imagination like you haven’t done in years.
Look. I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, but I didn’t know how to say it. So, I’m just going to spit it out. You’re a boring adult. So boring. You watch the news and pay bills and go to work and drink coffee and talk about your 401k. YOU’RE SO FREAKIN’ BORING. It’s about damn time you remembered the fun of being a kid.

For me, the best reason to try NaNoWriMo is to remember the fun of imagination. Sure, I use mine every day, normally to terrify myself in the bathroom. But with NaNoWriMo, you get to put your imagination to better use. Dragons! Spaceships! Pizza delivery guys! A malevolent computer system! Can you make a story with all those elements? If you use that imagination, you can.

008: Your ideas are rattling around in your brain and need to be set free.
I fully believe that if you don’t use your ideas, you lose them. So you really need to make sure that your head isn’t just full of ideas that are never going to be put to good use. The longer they sit dormant in your brain, the more likely they are to adhere to the gray matter and just really gum up the works. (I think that’s the basic premise of neuroscience. Or something. Honestly, you’re not here for science. And if you are, well, that’s the type of science you deserve.)

You should try NaNoWriMo just to get those ideas out in the open. They may not be worthwhile, but they might be. They may not create a cohesive story, but maybe they will. You really never know. You just have to get them out so you can finally see what you’re working with.

009: You can tell your inner editor to burn in hell.
My inner editor is hypercritical. She’s a popular blonde middle school girl, and she’s a real jerk. I hate her, and I hope she gets gum in her hair at a slumber party. She regularly stops me mid-creative burst to remind me that everything I do is stupid garbage and that I’ll die cold and alone. And worst of all — she prevents me from making any sort of progress in my writing because she’s always there telling me what sucks.

Well, if you try NaNoWriMo, you’ll quickly see that you don’t have time for that inner editor. You may have only blocked off 30 minutes that day, AND YOU ARE GOING TO GET THOSE 1,667 WORDS COME HELL OR HIGH WATER. So that inner editor? She’s got to go. And I’ve found that the fastest way to shut down that internal critic is to brutally bash a keyboard with your manic words.

010: It will build your writing routine.
At the end of November, you may not be left with a brilliant work. In fact, it may be total garbage. This is the proverbial roll of the dice of writing, though. You work and you work and you work, and you may not wind up with much to show for it. It’s a lot like pretty much every other aspect of life, come to think of it.

So why would anyone try NaNoWriMo if it meant that they wouldn’t wind up with solid gold? Because, my dear one, you will have built a writing routine. That’s right! After one whole month of brutally taxing your brain and creative energies, you will be in the habit of writing daily. You’ll know how to find blocks of time to get work done, and you’ll be in the mindset of putting words on paper.

And that, my little writer, is the solid gold of it.

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Are you going to try NaNoWriMo this year? Gimme some of your NaNoWriMo hacks in the comments!


26
Sep 17

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper

As a writer, I always have a ton of worldbuilding questions.

Note: I received a free copy of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding in exchange for an honest review.

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper

How do I lay out the map of the city so that it makes sense? How do I explain the currency the characters are using? How should the society I’m creating store knowledge? What does this society do in the event of a birth or death? How does science work in this world?

What are your biggest worldbuilding questions? Click To Tweet

Sure, for the most part, the fiction I’ve written in the past has been fairly mainstream. And that tends to be what I read and write most often. But I’ve got some science fiction ideas, y’all. And these ideas come with a whole mess of worldbuilding questions.

Luckily for me, Rebekah Loper is here with some help.

I met Rebekah at Mini-Con, and got to really know her this past spring when I went to my first writer’s retreat. She’s a dedicated fiction writer and blogger, and homegirl even owns chickens.

At the retreat, I not only got to hear her read some of her fiction out loud, but I got to talk to Rebekah about her nonfiction book she was working on at the time. So, when she finally finished The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, I jumped at the chance to review it.

What is The A-Zs of Worldbuilding?

This book is your one-stop shop for answering all the worldbuilding questions a writer has while trying to create a fictional world. Sure, it’s easy to say that you’re going to write some science fiction or fantasy work of staggering genius, but the truth is, you’ve got to do the legwork.

This book allows writers to do that legwork easily. With a topic for every letter of the alphabet, the workbook pages within the book allow the writer to answer specific questions about the story world. Everything from architecture to clothing to language to time to religion is covered.

Hell, this book enables writers to answer worldbuilding questions they aren’t even thinking of asking.

Why should writers care about these worldbuilding questions?

For me, as a reader, I have to feel grounded in the story, or I stop reading. And when the writer hasn’t taken the time or effort to answer those questions, it’s HELLA OBVIOUS to the reader. And it pulls the reader out of the story.

Honestly, fantasy and science fiction stories take a lot more effort than many other types of fiction, just because you have to create everything from scratch. And The A-Zs of Worldbuilding allows writers to carefully and thoughtfully build those worlds for the betterment of their stories. Not only does answering these questions create a richer story world, but it also creates more realistic characters with more intricate plot complications. Basically, it turns your story up to 11.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say that J.R.R. Tolkien had never written The Hobbit, or given us the “Concerning Hobbits” passage in the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring. Would any reader logically be able to follow the story?

Or, for a more recent example, let’s look at Game of Thrones. Georg R.R. Martin sets it up so that we understand that winter 1.) is  hella long and dangerous and only comes around every so often, and 2.) is coming. But if we didn’t get that tiny tidbit of information, would we even care about the army heading south to ruin Westeros? No. We’d just be confused because we know that winter is roughly three months, and how bad can it be?

That’s why you have to answer these worldbuilding questions. That’s why writers need to take the time and think about the world they’re creating. That’s why this book is so damn useful!

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, you can take a look here at what formats Rebekah has made available to you. And bonus! If you sign up for her email list before September 30 (this Saturday for those of you sans calendar), you can get a 25% discount on the paperback.

Worldbuilding Questions Answered with The A-Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper Click To Tweet

How do you go about worldbuilding? What are your biggest worldbuilding questions?

Psssst! Hey. I like your hair. You have a cute butt. Wanna sign up for my email list?


18
Sep 17

How to Create Your Writer’s Vision Statement

Creating your writer’s vision statement is the best way to keep your life on track.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I’ll receive a small commission if you happen to purchase one of the books I mention — at no extra cost to you. 

If you don’t know what a writer’s vision statement is, GET READY TO BE EDUCATED, SON.

Firstly, it’s the over-arching view of your career and life trajectory. Secondly, it will keep you on track when life gets in the way or when you don’t know what step to take next.

How to Create a Writer's Vision Statement

Original photo by Yeshi Kangrang

Admittedly, I haven’t always held onto my writer’s vision statement. Hell, I didn’t have one until fairly recently. But now it’s my guiding principle. It keeps me grounded, and helps me make decisions that will ultimately allow me to create the sort of life I want. And it doesn’t allow me to prioritize non-writing things over writing.

This free writing activity will help you create a plan for your life and career. Click To Tweet

The writer’s vision statement was born out of a free writing activity I made my students do. I adapted it from an activity in this Writing for Human Relations textbook created by Dr. Susan Nash who I had the pleasure of teaching with a few semesters ago.

I teach Business Communications, and one of the big assignments this semester is a cover letter. In order to get my students in the right headspace for writing a cover letter, I made them envision the career and life they wanted, list principles they valued most, and define their overall career goal.

Some of them loved it. A lot of them hated it. Mostly, I struggle with getting my students to actually do anything that doesn’t directly show up in the grade book. To say that standardized tests have destroyed the critical thinking skills and the ability of our youth to engage is an understatement. So naturally, I MAKE MY STUDENTS DO THINGS THAT CAN’T BE TAUGHT WITH MULTIPLE CHOICE TESTS OR GRADES SO HELP ME GOD.

But hey, that’s what happens when you get a touchy-feely liberal arts degree-havin’ professor up in the business school.

And before I get into exactly what goes into a writer’s vision statement, I want to stress how much this can help anyone struggling to define what it is they want from life. Any profession can have a vision statement. Hell, any hobby can have a vision statement. Any personality or worldview or activity can have a vision statement.

This exercise exists to help you see where the outcome you want intersects with the values and goals you have. And so, if you feel like you don’t know where you want to be, but you know what principals are important to you, I think this activity is a good starting place.

And while this isn’t a comprehensive way to achieve every goal you set for yourself and get you where you need to be to live your dream life, the first step is ALWAYS defining what you want and what’s important to you.

Once you have that, I think it gets easier to put together the rest of the pieces.

Why do you need a writer’s vision statement?

Choosing an artistic career path means a lot of things that many people outside that career path don’t understand. For instance, you may stay in school longer to study with relevant people in your field. You might choose a day job that doesn’t pay much, but gives you the time off you need to create what you want to create. You may not achieve traditional life milestones at the same rate as the rest of your friends.

All this can make it seem like you’re failing. And, if your friends with traditional careers are assholes, they’ll put pressure on you to jump into the rat race just as hard as they did. But if you have your vision statement, you can see that you’re not really behind at all. In fact, I would argue that you can see how on track you are to achieve what it is you want for you life.

How to create your writer’s vision statement

This is a very simple process. I recommend grabbing a pen and paper. Make sure it’s a pen you like to write with — one that’s smooth and allows you to work quickly. And get some paper that allows you to write quickly and comfortably. If you don’t want the spiral of a notebook in your way, get something else. This is mostly a free writing exercise, and you’ll refine it all over time. That means you gotta get your thoughts out on paper fast, and do the editing later. So pick tools that allow you to do that.

Then, all you need to do is sit down in a quiet place. Take a moment to get your headspace right. There’s really no point in doing this with a bad attitude. (There’s really no point in doing anything with a bad attitude, honestly.)

All you need to do is free write on each of these elements until you think you’ve gotten out everything you have to say on each topic. I don’t recommend setting a timer, because you want to make sure you’ve gotten all your brain and all your heart out on paper. Simply start with the first one, and write until you’re done. Then, move on to the next one.

  • Vision: The vision is the overall view you have for your life. This includes your career, family, location, money, and lifestyle. To write about this, think about everything you want out of life. Do you want to publish bestsellers, or do you just want to publish? Do you want to write quietly in the woods, or do you want to be one of those NYC writers? Are you looking to start a family too? How does the family fit in with everything? How much money do you want to have? What sort of house will you live in? Do you want to travel? Will you have a day job in addition to your writing? Explore all of these topics until you’ve created a vision for the person you will be.
  • Core Values: What principles are important to you? These could be as codified as moral or religious standards. Or, they could be something a bit more nebulous. For example, my core values include creativity, flexibility, freedom, and choice, amongst others. For some, family and community may play large roles in their lives, and those may be some of your core values. Whatever you choose, make sure you also write out a definition for each core value so it’s clear what that particular principle means in the context of your life.
  • Mission/Purpose: This is the goal statement for your existence. It should encapsulate everything you want to achieve, and the principles you will uphold to get there.

And that’s the first step to creating your writer’s vision statement. Once you’ve completed the free write, then all that you have left to do is refine it. So, let it sit for a bit, and then come back and do some editing.

Once you’ve refined it, you’ll see that you have clear statements about who you are as a writer, and a defined path for your life. And most importantly, you’ll have something tangible to undergird your argument when you remind yourself why you do what you do.

Then, while you’ll still doubt yourself, at least you will see a path. And when others question your life and career choices, it won’t matter, because you’ll understand them.

How to Create Your Writer's Vision Statement Click To Tweet

Have you ever created a writer’s vision statement? What else would you include?

P.S. Have you signed up for my email list yet? When you do, you’ll get my free everyday writing outline!

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31
Aug 17

Reading People by Anne Bogel: A Personality Handbook for Fiction Writers

I was selected as a member of the launch team for Reading People by Anne Bogel, and I was really excited to dive in. I received a free advanced copy of the book in exchange for some social media buzz and bloggy love.

Reading People by Anne Bogel is a great book for writers who want to learn about different personalities they can give their characters.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been into personality typing, and the book is basically a survey course in the subject. I’d read little things about personality types, but I never cared. In fact, in high school we had to take a personality test to determine what sort of major we should pick in college. (I think it was a cheap knock-off of the Myers-Briggs test.) The result I got was writer or teacher, which was no surprise to me then. Basically, I’m so introverted and spend so much time digging around inside my head that I always know what I want.

(I do get fairly irritated when people say they don’t know what they want, though. LIKE HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?! YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF. SIT DOWN AND FIGURE IT OUT.)

Anyway. Here I am now, working as a writer and a teacher. Thanks, cut-rate MBTI test from high school!

Did you have to take the poor man's MBTI test in high school? Click To Tweet

So all of this probably sounds like I’m the worst possible person to review Reading People.

FALSE.

Here’s the deal. As a writer, I’m enamored with different personalities. I create characters that get to play off one another, and I have to understand how different personalities can clash. (I’ve even thought about what kind of character I’d like to be in fiction!)

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Sure, you could create a story with some tired archetypes — “I wonder how this uptight librarian might converse with a swashbuckling pirate?” While I’ve never read that particular story before, I’d really want those characters to be more than just two stereotypes. Instead, you could look to the different personality types and the tests used for quantifying them to get the most out of your characters and conflict.

And that is why I’m wholeheartedly endorsing Reading People by Anne Bogel as a writer’s field guide for creating new and different characters.

What makes Reading People different?

I took a personality psychology class in grad school, and to say it was arduous was an understatement. But I really enjoyed making my way through Reading People. Why? Well here’s the thing about Anne Bogel’s writing: It’s like watching your favorite PBS show. (If PBS were to create a show about drinking warm beverages and talking about books, I’d recommend Anne to host. PBS hasn’t contacted me to discuss this, but I thought I’d throw this out there.)

Anne is always informative AND friendly. She doesn’t talk down to you in her book or on her blog, ModernMrsDarcy.com. In fact, her style is basically like meeting with a friend for coffee and just chatting.

And the kicker here for all you bookish fiends — my homegirl doesn’t just explain the personality types using basic descriptions. She tells you which of your favorite characters fit into what types! It’s the best because not only do you start to really see what the different personality frameworks mean, but since you’ve already been in that character’s head (if you’ve read the book), you get that insight into the personality type she’s describing!

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Why do fiction writers need Reading People?

For me, one of the biggest things I struggle with is making my characters fully-formed humans. Sure, my protagonist is fleshed out to the max, so much so that sometimes I see them on the street when I’m walking to work. But my others characters?

Not so much.

Reading People by @AnneBogel is a good resource for creating characters! #ReadingPeopleBook Click To Tweet

Stories need characters, and those characters have to experience conflicts. And what better way to figure out how to get two characters to butt heads than by figuring out which personality types butt heads?

So in order to figure out how my protagonist would interact with others, it’s great to have access to all those personality frameworks in an enjoyable-to-read book. Also, you’d be hard-pressed to find another book that covers introversion vs. extroversion, highly sensitive people, the Five Love Languages, Keirsey’s Temperaments, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Clifton StrengthsFinder, and the Enneagram. This book is functionally a complete survey of the topic.

For example, I’ve been working on a scene in a novel where there is a lot of tension between a two characters who obviously like each other, but struggle expressing that to the other person in a way that they other person responds to. I made one of the characters a words of affirmation love language, and the other one is a physical touch love language.

(Clearly my characters need to read this book too so we can get over the tension and just get on with the story!)

And while this isn’t something I state in the actual text, it’s there in the planning and plotting phases to help me craft the story.

How can you get your hands on Reading People by Anne Bogel?

Reading People doesn’t come out until September 19 so you should pre-order now. If you pre-order, you get the audiobook free — read by Anne — and the online “What’s Your Reading Personality?” class.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Have you pre-ordered your copy of #ReadingPeopleBook by @AnneBogel yet? Click To Tweet

So, tell me. What’s your favorite personality typing framework? What two personality types would you like to see in conflict in fiction? Did you also have to take the poor man’s MBTI test in high school? 


11
Aug 17

How to Start a Big Writing Project

One of the questions I get all the time is how to start a big writing project. Admittedly, big is a relative term, and means something different to everyone. But whether you’re a middle school student working on a five-paragraph essay or a doctoral candidate trying to crank out that thesis, getting started can be a stumbling block.

Tackling a big writing project can be tough! But I've got 5 tips to help you get through your next big writing project right here.

Original photo by Kari Shea

I feel right here is a good time for me to make a disclaimer.

If you’ve seen me on Twitter, then you know how prone I am to procrastination. There isn’t a week that goes by that I’m not putting something off by looking at all the tweets. So, if you feel that I may need to heed my own advice that I’m about to give, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Do you struggle when it comes to starting a big writing project? Click To Tweet

And while I admit that there is a fair amount of procrastination to my process, there is even more getting down to business. After all, I’ve completed more than one big writing project in my day. Whether it was my master’s thesis or books for ghost writing clients or the syllabus I’m working on now (HOW IS IT AUGUST ALREADY?!), I have a tried-and-true process to get you started on that big writing project that you need to crank out.

001: Minimize distractions.
This is when we close that Twitter tab on our browser. In fact, we shut down the whole browser. We close out everything that isn’t the word processing software we happen to be using. And we put our phone in the other room. And make sure the notifications are off.

I’m not trying to be jerk here, but you can’t write if you’re distracted. There is literally no such thing as multitasking, and if you think you’re succeeding at doing two things at once, you’re really just half-assing those things. (If you’ve got three things going, you’re third-assing. I could go on forever with the fractions.) Multitasking is a great way to make minimal progress on multiple things at the same time. So do yourself a favor and focus in on writing. That will make you get through your task a lot faster, and it won’t seem as daunting.

002: Get in the right headspace.
I know exactly what I need to create the perfect environment for writing. It’s taken me so much time to figure this out, but I’m glad that I finally have. I know I need quiet. I know I need to minimize external stimuli. I know that I need to be as far away from people as possible.

For that reason, I NEVER post up in a coffee shop. In fact, I can barely read in those places. Maybe there is an ideal, quiet coffee shop in an alternate universe that would be perfect for me, but for now, I live in a college town, and every cafe is chock-full of loud-ass students.

When I picked a new place to live, I made sure I found a place that had a space I could use as an office. I know I need the dedicated space to catch all my paper clutter associated with teaching as well as a place where I could sit and do any big writing project that came my way.

I know not everyone can have a dedicated space to work on a big writing project, so you gotta work with what you got. I highly recommend Ambient Mixer to help you tune out the world and get shit done. Invest in some headphones that cancel out other noises. And let everyone around you know that you are not to be disturbed. Because every time you stop to acknowledge a distraction, it takes you that much longer to get back into that headspace, and even longer to get your writing done.

003: Create a road map.
You aren’t going to remember all those brilliant points that you thought about when you originally conceived this project. In fact, if you haven’t written any points down before you begin, congratulations on creating the hardest project of all time. I’m not saying you have to create a full-fledged outline (though, depending on the project, you probably should because it can only help), but you need to know where you’re going.

I used to work with a kitchen manager at this professional wrestling-themed barbecue restaurant in the parking lot of a Walmart (real long story for another time), and every day he’d grab an index card and write out what he needed to do. And with that card that he kept in his front shirt pocket, he never missed a food order or delivery. He kept his crew tight, and the kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine. We’d open the restaurant together, and he’d say, “You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t have a map.” Then he’d flick the corner of that to do list, and go about his day.

I still follow that advice. It’s not uncommon for the screen of my laptop to be surrounded by Post-Its with the nonsensical ramblings of a mad woman. But I need those because they have my ideas, and those ideas are the map.

004: Don’t overestimate your potential output.
If you wouldn’t go to the gym after a long period of inactivity and try to max out your squat, then don’t do it with writing. Sure, you’re probably not going to tear a muscle writing, but your brain and body aren’t used to it, and you’re going to do more damage than good.

Writing is like a muscle. You have to exercise it or lose it. And while I’m not one of those militant writers that believes in working on projects every single day, I do believe that you have to work most days. So, if you’re a student who has spent all summer doing nothing besides eating processed food and watching YouTube videos, you aren’t going to go back to school in the fall and suddenly be able to bash out a 10-page paper in one night.

Writing is like a muscle. You have to exercise it or lose it. Click To Tweet

(You might be able to. But, it’s going to hurt like hell. And you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even if you pass this one paper, know that some professors won’t put up with shitty writing, and at some point, it will come back to bite you in the ass.)

So if you haven’t written in a while, maybe set yourself a small goal. Maybe on the first day, all you do is create that road map for the paper. Then, on the second day, you organize your research and pull the quotes you want to use and create your reference list. Then, you’re already familiar with the topic, and you’re ready to go. Sure, it will require hours of work and revision, but you aren’t overextending yourself in the beginning.

005: Stop tongue kissing boys.
One of the biggest mistakes my students run into is not managing time. No one writes all day long. (I mean, maybe on occasion, but not all day every day.) There’s a lot to life that’s way more fun than drumming your fingers on a keyboard while your eyes stare blankly at a screen. And that stuff will always come before writing if you let it.

When I was an undergrad, a particularly folksy professor of mine asked the class of junior-level creative writers what we were reading for fun. As creative writing majors, we had to take so many writing classes in addition to literature classes, and our nights and weekends were spent catching up on Tolstoy and Milton and Brontë. Surely none of us had time to read for fun too!

Wrong.

As my professor so eloquently put it, “If you got time to be tongue kissin’ boys, you got time to be readin’.”

(I feel I should state for the record that at that time in my life, I couldn’t figure out how to get a boy to tongue kiss me. Also, I had never heard the phrase “tongue kissing” in my life.)

Here's the thing about writing: It's a lot more fun to do other stuff like tongue kissing boys. Click To Tweet

Here’s the thing about a big writing project: It’s a lot more fun to do other stuff like tongue kissing boys. But the writing will still need to be done. So, if you’ve got time to gallivant around town with any ol’ fella who will kiss you, you’ve got time to write. Be honest about how you’re time is spent, and plan out how you will be using your time when you’re in the midst of the big writing project. It will save you so much hurt at the end.

Now let’s say you’ve followed these five tips.

And then what? Well. Okay. Here’s the thing.

You still have to write.

That’s the thing about a big writing project. It’s still a lot of work. But, if you follow these five tips, I promise you that it will become easier for you to complete. That’s not to say that it will be easy. But you’ll learn how to approach a big writing project, and honestly, knowing how to do that is half the writing battle.

 

What about you, fellow writers? How do you attack a big writing project? What are your keys to success? On average, how many hours a week do you spend tongue kissin’ boys?