• For Writers

    You’re Not Losing NaNoWriMo

    When it comes to NaNoWriMo this year, that month-long contest to write like your fingers are on fire and reach fifty thousand words in a single calendar page, I know two things to be true:

    1. I will probably not make it to 50k this month.

    2. And that is absolutely okay.

    This has been a pretty intense month for me. My Comparative Literature class deluges us with more work in a week than my other classes combined, meaning I am spending four to five hours a day reading articles, watching videos, plowing through novels, creating presentations, writing essays — all on the trauma of slavery or the neurological ramifications of sexual assault or the Israel-Palestine conflict, all extremely heavy coursework that usually leaves me, to put it politely, utterly mentally and emotionally deflated.

    Plus, it was the midterms this month, and Florida’s results ended up so razor-thin, we seem to be headed towards three separate recounts. I’ve signed up to volunteer with overseeing the recount — though I’m still waiting to hear back, that could take up several days & nights of my life this week.

    Then, there’s the matter of my grandfather. He was hospitalized almost two months ago for congestive heart failure, and received a stent that cleared out the congestion in his arteries. Well, it looks like the stent is collapsing, and he might need surgery to fix it. We live about three hours away, and every week or two my mom and I are in the car, driving up to visit him and help out my grandma. This alone has been sucking up a lot of emotional energy. When it comes to sitting down to write, I keep finding myself too mentally exhausted to focus.

    Not that I’m making excuses!!

    Because, honestly, it’s okayIt’s okay if you don’t hit 50k in the month of November. NaNoWriMo is about putting down words, yes, but it’s also about establishing a daily writing habit. It’s about getting yourself in the headspace where you believe it is possible you can write a novel. It is possible you can establish a routine where you put down words every day. 

    So, if you don’t hit 50,000 words in a single month, if you’ve fallen behind (or never caught up to begin with!) don’t fret! Here are other ways you can win NaNoWriMo figuratively, even if it’s just in your heart:

  • For Writers

    How to Add Layers to Your Dialogue

    How do you flesh out dialogue??

    When I’m freewriting, I tend to write way more dialogue than action. My first drafts often read like screenplays. Sometimes, I won’t even put tags that explain who is talking, and I’ll have to scroll back through the scene weeks later desperately trying to remember who was who. 

    Take this chunk of dialogue:

    “I said no one was supposed to go in there.”

    “I thought you meant, you know, other people. I didn’t think you meant me.”

    “I always mean you. I don’t care what other people do. I care—”

    “About me?”

    “Just — don’t do it again, okay? It’s dangerous.”

    “Duly noted.”

    It’s not bad, is it? But we have no idea who is speaking, where they are, or what’s going on. So let’s see if we can beef it up a little bit…

  • For Writers

    Trouble Writing a Scene? Bring it Back to Character

    A quick post for you this Monday, Happy Writers! NaNoWriMo is imminent, and I’m about to launch into an all-day flurry of schoolwork to try to get everything done so I have some nice, lengthy, juicy writing days later in the week. (If you would like to follow my noveling progress, follow me on NaNoWriMo.org!)

    Today, I want to talk about scenework. Novels are broken up into distinct chunks — among these, acts, chapters, scenes, paragraphs, and sentences.  Scenes are some of the most important elements of a novel — if your individual scenes aren’t engaging, a reader is never going to appreciate the bigger picture. You want scenes that reveal your characters and move the story forward — scenes that build like bricks to construct the big, beautiful mansion (or townhouse, or skyscraper, or complicated subway system) your book will eventually be. 

    So, what do you do when you can tell a scene isn’t working? 

  • typewriter
    For Writers

    How To Turn a Writing Prompt Into a Story

    A confession: I really like scrolling through writing prompts. I find it fascinating and entertaining to read these little one or two-sentence snippets of story starters, and I’m always hoping I’ll find one that sparks some brilliant, intoxicating surge of creativity, some whirlwind of production from which I’ll emerge with a fully written first draft of something all story-shaped and impressive.

    A second confession: This never actually happens.

    Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been intrigued by a writing prompt but had no idea what to do next with it.

    I like looking at writing prompts. But I’ll be the first to admit that, until recently, I had no real idea how to turn a writing prompt into an actual story

    How do you go from a prompt like Someone at a grocery store runs into a problem and actually make a story out of it? How do you take A ghost haunts a classroom or a dog that can talk joins local politics or  a man wakes up to a tattoo he’s never had before — a set of numbers counting down and actually turn it into a full-blown story? 

    It’s actually really difficult to take someone else’s idea and make it your own! Most of my stories crop up entirely in my own head, so taking inspiration from an outside source can be befuddling and unfamiliar! 

    Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been intrigued by a writing prompt but had no idea what to do next with it. Or maybe you have an assignment for a creative writing class and have no idea how to start. Never fear! I’ve compiled some tips and tricks that should help you turn those prompts into full-blown projects.

  • For Writers

    Lay It Flat, Then Iron It

    You don’t throw a shirt down on the ironing board all wadded up and just press your hot iron overtop it.

    I mean, maybe you do, if your intention is to make some kind of shirt sandwich and pressing the wrinkles deeper into the fabric locks in the flavor or whatever.

    But usually, you lay the shirt flat. You make sure the collar isn’t folded up, and you smooth down the sleeves. Then you get to ironing. Giving yourself that minute to prepare the canvas, so to speak, makes the work easier and promises you a better outcome.

    It’s the same with writing.

    No, really.

  • For Writers

    The Zero Draft: How to Take Your Jumbled Scraps of Bookish Ideas and Make Them Story-Shaped

    Hello, hello, Happy Writers! Today, we’re talking about Zero Drafts. Now, we’ve all heard of First Drafts: the very first incarnations of the stories we tell. They’re messy, they’re earnest, and they very, very often go unfinished, as they’re very often abandoned. Now, why is that? Sometimes, admittedly, stories just don’t work, and the writer loses their motivation to keep clacking away at the keyboard. But, oftentimes, the writer is simply overwhelmed — lost and frustrated and not sure what the story is that they’re telling.

    Often, this is because the writer needed a Zero Draft. A Zero Draft is the percolation stage. It’s the answer to the question: how do I get all of the ideas in my head into something story-shaped? A Zero Draft is and should be the first step to writing a novel. 

    So, this post basically answers two questions: What is a Zero Draft? which, in turn, answers the question:

    I have a story for a novel in my head and I’m not sure how to write it down. What do I do??

  • For Writers

    Break Your Writing Into Bite-Sized Chunks | How I Got In the Habit of Writing Everyday

    Since I started keeping tabs of my daily #amwriting in Scrivener, I’m pleased to say I’ve written 20,000 words in the last two weeks! Making yourself sit down for a few minutes every day and write SOMETHING has its benefits! ✨— Christina ✍🏻 (@chuffwrites) September 26, 2018

    So, I’ve been having a time writing this year. Or, these past two years. There’s something about waking up in the morning, rolling over, opening Twitter, and seeing with every subsequent scroll of your thumb the Raging Dumpster Fire your country has become that kills your creative drive. Also, I’m in a weird position where I’m drowning in edits for Book 1 of my fantasy series, but I also have all of these fun, attractive, distracting ideas for stand-alone novels bouncing about my brain that I often get hit with a kind of creative paralysis

    What is Creative Paralysis?

    creative paralysis: a sister to writer’s block, when you just have so much you want to write, you somehow manage to end up … not writing anything at all. 

    Basically, I was pin-balling between so many projects, I just could never seem to sit down to work that substantially on any. And I never felt like I was making any kind of substantial progress in anything.

    So. A new system has been implemented!

  • scene versus summary
    For Writers

    Scene vs. Summary

    One of the oldest writing adages (and the most frustrating) is show don’t tell. This advice is applied universally, spread widely, repeated so often the words tend to lose their nuance and meaning. Aren’t there times when a scene doesn’t need to be shown? Can’t you share information with your reader without having it play out stroke-by-stroke? You are telling a story, after all! 

    The thing about “show don’t tell” is that it’s actually talking about writing scenes versus summaries. One is showing, the other is telling. They’re both vital building blocks for any kind of writing.

  • Write What You Know
    For Writers

    Write What You Know: Creating Authenticity in Your Fiction

    mimesis – (noun), imitation of the real world in literature, art, etc. Art imitates life.

    We want our writing to be mimetic, to draw readers in as though they’re looking through a window — or into a mirror — that shows them a world that feels as real as their own. This is what a reader is looking for when they say they want to relate to a character; they want to feel like that character, and their story, is real to them. The most immersive creative works play out almost like a documentary — not in style, but in experience. You leave the film or the book feeling as though you watched the real life of a real person. When that suspension of disbelief breaks, the immersion shatters; when you’re aware that what you’re watching or reading is fake, it’s harder and harder to keep yourself in the right headspace to enjoy the story. That’s why good writers want to achieve a level of mimesis — you want your art to feel real.

    But how to create that level of authenticity? How do we bring our fictional worlds to life?

  • Reading Nourishes Writing

    Books I’m Looking Forward To Devouring: My Spring TBR

    Does anyone else feel like 2018 is lasting both a thousand years and yet passing by in the blink of an eye? March has been slipping through my fingers and the consistency of my blogging has been a little lax. I have been working diligently on my GoodReads goal, though! So far this month, my favorite book that I’ve read has easily been Obsidiothe final book of the Illuminae trilogy. UGH. Those books are heart-pounding, I highly recommend them, especially now that the trilogy is done and you can binge them all in one sitting!

    For my Spring TBR (and for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday), I’m trying to think of some of the books I’m looking forward most to read — both those coming out in the second half of this year, and books I’ve had on my shelves for ages that I’m eager to finally crack open.