5 Tips to Renew the Joy of Writing

Sometimes, writing can feel more like a job or a burden, especially when the creativity won’t flow. Here are some tips to get in the zone to meet those writing goals.

Dabble in Something New

Write from the Point of View of a different character. Stretch your limits and try a new genre. Swap a romantic relationship to a spiteful one and see where it takes you. Do your ‘good guys’ always win? Let the ‘bad guys’ have this one. Create a “what if” alternate ending to a current project. More often than not, these will alleviate any writers’ block you may be experiencing as new ideas bloom.

Change of Scenery

Stir the pot and change your surroundings. If you normally write at home, try relocating to a coffee shop, library, or somewhere with people milling around in the background. You’ll get in some “people watching,” which provides natural inspiration for characters. 

Writing Mashup

What if robots went on a rampage in Victorian England? What if a human wants to be where the mermaids are? Let the creativity flow by using an online generator to give random combinations to write about. Making this a daily habit seems to successfully help many authors stay in the writing flow.

Free Write

Sometimes you just need to get words on paper to feel productive. Set a timer and write whatever thoughts flit into your mind until the end. It can be about what you did today, how you feel about your current work in progress, what you hope to achieve, random bits of dialogue between characters, etc. There doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason to it nor does the grammar need to be perfect.

Reward System

Is everything going well with your writing, but you’re feeling a bit underappreciated? Set up a reward system for yourself. Say your writing goal for the day is 2,000 words and you’ll get to eat a cookie if you meet it. If you finish your goal for the week, you go to the movies. Be as creative and personalized as you want with choosing rewards.

Preptober as a Pantser

We’re halfway through October, which means we’re also halfway through Preptober! October is the humble month preceding the crème de la crème month in the writing world: November. Or, as most of us know it, NaNoWriMo. October, or Preptober, as we love it call it, is the month in which we get our stories straight (yes, pun intended). 

October is when we build our plots, flesh out our characters, and invest in brand new stationary even though most of us have a whole desk at home of abandoned notebooks and index cards just waiting to be used. In other words, it is the plotters’ busiest time of year. But while the plotters are entrenched in their meticulous outlining, there is another group of writers – the pantsers – just chilling on the sidelines waiting for November to begin. 

You see, the pantsers get their name from the fact that they don’t outline their story, they just begin writing by the seam of their pants. There are no color-coded index cards in their neck of the woods, no meticulously mapped-out storyboards, no character profiles, nada! There is just pure determination and loads of coffee.

 I was once a pantser. I used to laugh in derision at the plotters who spent their whole October hidden away, prepping. But then one fateful NaNoWriMo, when I was in the middle of a writer’s block disappeared down a plot hole, it dawned on me that perhaps the plotters had the right idea all along. Perhaps there was some benefit to having a clear outline of where the story should go. With two weeks to go, and 13K behind in my word count goals, I made the desperate attempt to plot out my story. It wasn’t all that in-depth, but just writing out the idea of what I thought should happen actually worked! I solved my plot hole while also helping to cure my writer’s block. I managed to squeak by with only 2K less than the 50K goal. I might not have won that year, but it was still a NaNoWriMo miracle.

Ever since then, I vowed to always be a plotter during the month of October. And while I think plotting is the proper way of the WriMo, I’m not here to try to convert any of you die-hard pantsers. I’m simply here to offer some alternative plotting aids to help you in your November quest:

1. Music

Whether or not you like lyrics or instrumental, there is no denying that music is useful to many, many writers – plotters and pantsers alike. It is great motivation for setting the writing mood or acting out/imagining certain critical scenes. If you’re a determined pantser you can still get in on the Preptober fun by creating yourself a NaNoWriMo writing playlist. It can be either all the music you enjoy listening to while writing, or it can be specifically picked to compliment the story you’re thinking about writing. Trust me, it can come in handy on those days you’re finding it difficult to scrape together 1,500 words for your target. 

2. Candles

I have found that scented candles are quite popular amongst many fellow writers. Something about lighting up a candle with a particular smell can help to get the creativity flowing. If you’re a scented candle person, stock up now! Make sure you have enough of your favorite candles to get you through all your November writing sessions. Same applies if you’re move of an incense writer. 

3. Sustenance

Whether you drink coffee or tea while writing, make sure you’ve bought plenty of your favorite brand. Nothing is quite as disastrous as a late-night writing session without your favorite beverage to help you feel more connected to your craft. 

4. Goals

Have a little reward system for yourself. This is particularly important for pantsers because, let’s be honest, we’re more likely to encounter the writing roadblocks if we don’t have a mapped-out plot. But, if you can incentivize yourself with a bag of M&Ms or a glass of wine for finishing 1,500 words when you’ve only got 200 and a case of writer’s block, then you are one step closer to that NaNoWriMo win. 

5. Mood Boards

A visually appealing mood board can do wonders for any potential bouts of writer’s block. Even if you don’t know what the plot will be exactly, making a mood board during Preptober can still be fun. All you need is an idea of what kind of story you want to write. For example, if you already know it’s going to be a YA fantasy that takes place in a royal kingdom inspired by the Scottish Highlands then making a mood board with that kind of forlorn and fantastical aesthetic can help you further flesh out the plot once you’re in the thick of writing. Trust me, just having something aesthetically pleasing to look at can help you avert writer’s block. 

6. Index Cards

Hear me out. You don’t need a whole detailed plot, just an idea. All you really need is one index card to write down something as simple as “a princess, a castle, an evil witch” or “The Great Gatsby meets Don Quixote in a Mad Max world.” There, done! You would be surprised what one simple little index card idea stuck to the screen of your laptop can do to make you keep writing when you have no idea where you’re going with it. It might not be a Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia level string board, but it’s a rough idea and it can be your north star during those dark NaNoWriMo nights. 

So, my fellow pantsers, have I convinced you of the benefits of Preptober? Happy writing!

5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Preptober

If you reach out to the NaNoWriMo community, you will receive plenty of support to get you through the writing craze. Let the creativity flow and have fun!

1. Schedule

To make sure you meet the 50,000 word count requirement at the end of the thirty days, there are different approaches. You may plan to write 1,667 words daily, but the most important thing to remember is that life happens. Try to plan your schedule as neatly and accurately as possible while designating some additional time for the unexpected.

2. Outline

Having an outline (no matter how rough) will help prevent the need for brainstorming timeline events and alleviates rewrites. For our pantsers, a handful of sentences ordered chronologically is a great start.

3. Organize

If you have scribbled notes or multiple documents everywhere, condense and organize them. This way looking up information you need to refer back to (character/location descriptions, etc.) is quick and easy. This refers to your workspace as well. Clear the area of anything you will not need during the process.

4. Tasks

To avoid overworking or guilting yourself about other projects, aim to complete any immediate unrelated tasks that will interfere with NaNoWriMo.

5. Mindset

You can prepare your schedule and workspace, but your mindset will be the most important tool to achieve your goal. Remember to turn off your inner editor. It’s easy to edit a full page versus a blank one. Most importantly, remember to breathe. There will be plenty of time after to edit and mold the story into perfection. NaNoWriMo is solely to meet the 50,000 word count mark within thirty days.

Planning a Whole Month of Social Media Posts

Being a professional writer in any capacity comes with a side of marketing, whether we like it or not. Whether we are traditionally published or self-published, all authors will be expected to do their own marketing. Social media has become almost essential for writers. If you don’t have a following, how will you reach potential readers? While it seems like a scary concept – putting yourself out there on social media, especially if you’re more introverted – it can really have a great pay off for your writing career. But being on social media means you have to come up with interesting and varied content to share with your followers. And I have some tips for how to plan out a whole month of social media content. 

Use a Content Calendar

The best way to start planning content is to get organized. And you can get organized by using a spreadsheet or Google Calendar to list out your entire publishing schedule. That way you can see when you have a book launch or promo event coming up, and from there you can begin planning out your content for the month. 

Pick Your Social Networks

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be on every single social media network that there is. However, whichever ones you do chose to promote yourself on, you should be frequently active and engaging with your readers. And if you are using more than one social network, it is advised that you make a space on your calendar for each social media profile that you’re planning to post on, that way you can keep track of your content. 

Posting Frequency

It is entirely up to you if you’re going to be posting once a day, twice a week, or several times a month. Either way, try to be consistent in your posting schedule. Also, don’t be afraid to repurpose your content across different platforms in order to save yourself time and energy. Granted, you will want to use an organizational tool to help you plan out your strategy.

Content Pillars

Content pillars are basically the subcategories for your social media posts. These can be such things as behind the scenes, book promotions, writer memes, etc. Once you’ve come up with what these content pillars, you can go about planning out your calendar for the month. Usually it’s a good idea to have at least 3 to 5 different ones that you share across different social media platforms according to your publishing schedule. 

Tips for Outlining

When it comes to writing a manuscript, there is one practice that is essential: outlining. The process of outlining helps us to stay focused and on track with our WIP. If we outline our story, it can also help keep us going whenever we experience the inevitable writer’s block in the middle of our work. 

Outlining All at Once versus Outlining as You Go

There are pros and cons to both outlining all at once or outlining as you go. When it’s all at once, you have a very clear idea of how the entire story will pan out. Granted, this doesn’t leave your plot a whole lot of flexibility. When you outline as you go, you gain a bit more plot flexibility. But planning out the next chapter or scene as you write it means that you might end up with more plot holes appearing in your work that you will then have to fix later on. 

Separate Docs

When it comes to outlining, some of us might be tempted to make our outlines in the same document as our WIP. But it can sometimes be helpful to have an entirely different document for your outline, particularly if it’s going to be very detailed. This helps to keep your actual work from getting jumbled up. 

Apps and Programs

There are various different apps and other programs that you can use to organize your work into an outline. Of course, you should do your research on the different apps and programs available, so you can pick the right one with the features that you work for you.