Writing Tip of the Week: Don’t Forget to Read

Whether it’s a way to gain inspiration or ideas or a reward for meeting a goal, do not forsake reading. Many writers get caught in the lie that they don’t have time to read, they must write and write alone. If you don’t have time to read, make time.

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Reading is more than just an escape, it’s a way to learn, to research. Read your favorite authors in your genre. Learn from them. What do they do that’s successful? What would you change if you wrote this book?

A writer not reading is like a football player not studying his opponents or a math teacher not practicing the problems he’ll be teaching his students. It’s silly is what it is. You wouldn’t expect an architect to never study other structures and buildings besides their own, so why would you think that as a writer you can forsake reading?

This is a short post today because it’s a simple one. Get off your computer. Off Facebook and the internet and whatever other distractions you’ve succumbed to, and pick up a book. Read aloud with your family. Read before you go to bed. Read once you wake up. Find a time and a place, alone or with people, to read.

[Follow me on Twitter @tclem91. But not right now, you’re supposed to be reading.]

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Weekend Inspiration: The Mind of a Child

As children, our imaginations were infinite. No, we couldn’t create complex plots and our biggest fears were typically “getting lost” or “a tornado is coming” (the common problems that arise in the stories the kids I babysit tell). But we didn’t allow the world to tell us what could and couldn’t happen. As far as we were concerned, anything we said, went.

Dinosaurs and deer were best friends. Barbies tried to take over the world. And kitties got lost on the daily.

But as we grew older, we lost that sense of wonder. Even as we honed our writing skills and perfected our craft, we forgot to go on adventures, to build mansions with Legos, and to play hide and seek, giggling as we peeked from behind the curtains.

The mind of a child is a curious thing. A special thing. A thing we often put aside in favor of our academic mind, which we take out at parties to try to impress each other. It rarely works.

When you’re reading and writing, it’s a major detriment to yourself and others to operate only from your academic mind. To embrace words like a child is to allow them to hit you fresh, even if you’ve read something “similar” before.

This weekend, as you read and write, open up to new experiences. Allow yourself to relive old ones with a fresh perceptive. Tap into your childhood self, where you made houses for fairies out of sticks and pine needles, and you rode your toy Jeep through the yard, chased by dinosaurs. Let yourself live in a whole new (old) world, and see what effect it has. I daresay, you may like it.

Industry News: Getting Geared Up For NaNoWriMo

September is drawing to a close and already, people are getting prepped for NaNoWriMo. Whether or not this is something you plan on doing, I think we can all take a few notes from the prep work. NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart, and while it’s something I doubt I’ll participate in this year (I’ll be working on my Master’s and have a full-time job), getting caught up in the spirit of writing with thousands of other participants is a little jump start we could all use.

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So here’s the skinny in 3 basic points:

  1. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and usually takes place in November. The goal is to complete a book within a month. Or, if you’re anything like me, set a decent goal and actually stick to it. This is something I still have yet to accomplish.
  2. Agents get BOMBARDED with submissions at the end of the month through winter. I strongly advice you not to submit during this time. Polish your work. Make sure it’s as perfect as possible, and sit tight til spring. Yes, agents always have a full inbox, but you’re likely to get a little more attention after the holidays and NaNoWriMo craziness is over.
  3. You can find TONS of support online at various blogs/websites/Twitter accounts. If you’re serious about NaNoWriMo this year, I suggest you check out the following:

http://nanowrimo.org
Sign up here to track your progress. You can also get pep talks and other types of support. If you’re going ham on this, signing up is your first step.

Follow @nanowrimo on Twitter
This kind of goes without saying. As a writer you should already have a Twitter account and try to tweet daily. Follow this account for inspiration and tips. Also check out the hashtag #nanowrimo as other writers and bloggers share their stories and advice.

http://www.onlinecollege.org/50-best-blogs-for-nanowrimo-support/
An oldie but a goodie. This site hasn’t been updated in a while, but it offers you a plethora of other writers and bloggers who give excellent advice for creating a plan that works for you and how you can stick to it.

In a few weeks I’ll come back to this topic and share some ideas for goals and plans, but before I do, take some time to decide what YOU want to get out of NaNoWriMo. Remember, you don’t have to write an entire novel to be successful. If getting halfway through, or even just writing consistently every day is your goal, then push yourself to accomplish it.

And remember, you are not alone!

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Weekend Inspiration: Sometimes You Just Need a Good Excel Sheet and Sometimes You Just Need to Delete It

I’m way too organized for my own good. I have my plans written down months in advance (if possible) in at least two different places, and if something falls through, I cringe as I have to scribble it out. I only write in pen. It’s a habit.

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I have excel spreadsheets, word documents, planners, notes on my phone, and stickies on my desktop. These things help me stay organized in life and in writing, and sometimes, I just need to delete them.

There’s nothing wrong with being organized. I would hazard a guess that most artists aren’t, and that’s okay too. But what I think I miss out on sometimes with all of my rigid planning are the little surprises that come along in my day. I don’t plan for them, so either A) they don’t surface or B) I have a minor meltdown when they do.

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So this weekend, here’s my little bit of advice: are you a planner with a rigid schedule you would simply die without? Delete it. (Unless it’s work stuff that you have to do. I mean like the little nitty gritty of your day.) Are you the one who just flies by the seat of your pants? Try out having a schedule. See what it’s like to set timelines for your writing.

I think we could all do with meeting somewhere in the middle. Don’t be so structured that you can’t handle a curve ball, and don’t be so fluid that nothing sticks. Find your happy medium. I’m starting to find mine. It involves a planner with a to-do list, but less set times things need to be done. This means that A) I am okay with pushing things off ’til tomorrow and B) my life still goes on, the world still goes round. I find myself repeating this to my students every day that I sub. Oh, this isn’t how your teacher does it? I think we’ll live.

So remember these wise words: sometimes you just need a good excel sheet and sometimes you just need to delete it.

[Follow me on Twitter @tclem91]

Writing Tip of the Week: Find a Way to Love Your Job

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with writing. It’s fairly simple: the more you hate your job, the more mentally exhausted you are when you get home. Mentally exhausted people don’t write often, and often they don’t write well.

This is currently a major struggle of mine as a substitute teacher.

I’m in one of those transitional periods in this stage of life. I have to wait until I complete my MA Program before I can do what I really want to do, so until then, I just need to make money so I don’t starve each month. Right now, the only option available to me is subbing, and it is anything but glamorous. Most days I come home ready to cry or go to bed or both. None of which leaves me in a writing state of mind.

The only way I am able to write at all is if I find something to love and I cling to it with everything in me. It can be as small as a kindergartener telling me he loves my hair and winking at me as he swaggers off to the monkey bars, or as big as a student who is considered highly “troubled” having an intelligent conversation with me about the Holocaust.

The good days are few and far between, but there are little miracles every day if I only stop to look for them. Some days those miracles may be harder to find than others, but if I quit my search and allow myself to be swallowed by the bad, I lose a piece of myself. I lose my desire to write and my hope for the future.

So I urge you, those of you who aren’t lucky enough to write full-time, find the good in your day. Look for one way to love what you do and hold on to it like a lifeline. When you get home ready to write, you’ll find yourself in a much better frame of mind.

[Follow me on Twitter at @tclem91 for more words of advice and funny pictures of my fur baby.]

Writing Tip of the Week: Get to Know Your Characters

There are many things that can irk a reader out of your story, and having your characters act out of character is one of them. Probably one of the biggest in my opinion.

We writers sometimes fall into the trap of forcing something to happen to push our story along. Rather than work on the plot and maybe rewrite a few chapters, we decide to push our character into a situation where they don’t belong. This, friends, is a big no-no.

For instance, if your character is very against alcohol, and the first time they meet a cute guy/girl who wants to go to the bar, they should NOT go. Nobody gives up heavy convictions that quickly for strangers, no matter the attraction.

I realize that’s kind of a random example, but it illustrates my point clearly. Be careful what you have your characters say and do, because readers can spot the lies a mile away.

So how do you avoid this mess? Get to know your characters. It’s that simple. What would they compromise for? Why? Make sure your reader is aware of this, even if it’s only through subtle hints.

If you’re simply forcing your character into a situation because you have no choice, change the situation or change the character. It’s not easy and definitely requires a lot of work, but that’s writing for you, and not to be too sassy, but you (and I) chose this life.

There are so many ways to get to know your characters, but I would suggest a good ol’-fashioned character sheet. This site has tons of great questions you can work on to really dig into your characters emotions/intellectual abilities/physical traits: http://birdsofawriter.blogspot.com/2011/07/writing-tips-character-sheets.html

I suggest you answer most, if not all, of the questions they pose for your main characters. Maybe even write a little backstory for them of a big moment in their life. It’s tedious work, but your manuscript will benefit from it, which is something you and the reader both want.

[Follow me on Twitter at @tclem91 for more blog posts and industry news!]

Writing Tip of the Week: Stop Comparing

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If there’s anything I fail hard at, it’s allowing myself to become consumed with someone else’s work instead of my own. I look at their life, their writing, their passion and think, why can’t I have that? Why can’t I be more like them?

The answer is simple. I’m not them. I’m me.

I’ve been reading a book called Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman, which is another Christian book about worshiping God in your Tuesday moments (basically in the everyday of life). She goes to discuss how we try too hard to focus on the big picture, when that’s not our job. Like lifeguards, we have an assigned space to look after. This is our passion, our goals, our calling. But we get caught up in looking at our neighbors space. Making sure they are doing their job. Envious of how their work is turning out. But in reality, all we’re doing is neglecting our own work. Emily writes, “My limits – those things I wish were different about myself – are perhaps not holding me back but are pointing me forward to pay attention to my small, eight-foot assignment.” It is in that space where we truly thrive.

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Are you allowing yourself to get caught up in what others are doing and accomplishing? It is so easy in today’s mindset to believe we “deserve” as much as the next person. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. But the point is not to sit and pout over what we don’t have that they do, it’s to use what we do have to create something unique, something that only we can make. You are the only you in this world. Only you can make what you do.

[For me inspiration and tips, follow me at @tclem91 on Twitter!]