Writing Tips, part 1

Have you ever seen these memes with Captain America with the caption “So, you want to be a…” and then it’s a funny saying or profession? Well, I almost included a meme like that only it would say “So, you want to be a writer” because of this series I’m embarking on today. 

If you have no idea what I’m referring to, then just disregard this whole intro and skip on down to the next sentence. 

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. It’s that time of year when authors come up with an excuse to hunker down in their offices and/or bedrooms and avoid their friends and family. If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, basically, the goal is to write a total of 50,000 words by the end of November.by the end of November. 

For writers that have a very busy social calendar, or their career is their life, this challenge is very… well… challenging.  

As I’m writing this column, it’s Day 5 and my work in progress is sitting at home with about 7.5k words. Theoretically, if you wrote 1,666 words each day then you’d complete the challenge. You might be asking, “what’s the prize if you win” to which I would reply that you’ve won a book. 

In order to help myself, and hopefully you as well, I’m going to go through some writing tips that I’ve found from various authors. This week’s author is Joseph Bates. Bates is the author of The Nighttime Novelist and Tomorrowland. I’m pulling these tips from Nighttime Novelist which is a lovely book about finishing your novel in your spare time. 

Tip #1: Have mindless activities elsewhere.  

There have been times when I’ve been sitting in front of a computer screen and my mind is absolutely blank. This typically happens when I’ve been writing for an extended period of time. Sometimes I’ll be trying to figure out what the characters are doing next or what their motivations are, and my mind just quits. Sometimes I imagine my brain like a desktop computer. You right click on shortcut on the desktop, and it says, “Application not responding.” 

At times like that, sometimes you have to force the application to quit and do something else until it restarts. For me, that’s where solitaire comes into play. I keep a deck of cards in my desk at home and pull them out whenever I need a distraction. I don’t have an app on my phone for the game because then it would be a temptation to peruse my social media apps and then I’d never get back to writing. After a few hands of Solitaire, I get back to work.  

Tip #2: Keep music you can write to. 

A lot of authors I know like to create playlists for their works-in-progress. I don’t really find that enjoyable since you have to spend all that time to find the music and then plop it into the playlist. To me, it seems like a lot of work. Normally, I’ll find an artist to listen to that fits the mood of the book I’m working on. Sometimes it varies each day too. One day, I’ll be listening to Epic Rap Battles of History and then the next I’m blaring Red Hot Chili Peppers. While writing one very depressing book, I listening to Johnny Cash singing “Hurt” on repeat.  

I find it extremely helpful to listen to music while I write because it drowns out all the noise of life existing around me. There’s a dog that lives in the apartment above mine. Thanks to Tessa Violet’s song “Crush” I didn’t hear the dog’s incessant barking. I like to go to my local café, The French Press, but when they get busy, I shove my earbuds in deep and blare some tunes. I know what you’re going to say. I’ll admit that it is weird that I’ll go to a café to write and then try to drown out the crowd with the Cranberry’s “Zombie.” It’s weird, I’ll admit that, but I listen to everything people say and some of it is so interesting that I focus on eavesdropping than creating my own drama. 

Tip #3: Don’t beat yourself up over failures. 

I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo since 2013. I’ve managed to write 50,000 words in November twice. Do I count those other seven times as failures? Not at all! I count them as a blessing because, at the end of the day, those are words I wrote. That’s progress that most likely wouldn’t have been done if not for NaNoWriMo. If you try your best at something, but still fall short, it isn’t a failure. The true failure is never even trying. 

Bonus Tip: Enjoy your work. 

I classify this tip as a bonus because it doesn’t necessarily apply to just writing. It applies to everything you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dishwasher at some fast-food chain or an attorney. If you don’t enjoy your work, then you’ll have a bad attitude. That attitude will carry over to your interactions with your coworkers, friends, and family. Eventually, that attitude will cause people to abandon you. Unless you’re a hermit, no one wants to be alone.  

And if you don’t enjoy your work, then change it! That’s the great thing about your job. If you don’t enjoy what you do, then find something else. If you don’t enjoy that, then just rinse and repeat! Sure, there might be some jobs that you can’t get because of education restrictions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t obtain the necessary education. Do the work needed to do the work you’d like to do.  

Next week, I’ll have more writing tips. Until then, keep calm and write on! 



Categories: Mastering the Craft

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