Sunday, September 25, 2016

Keeping Your New Ideas from Sabatoging Your Current Project

Once you start to work and make progress on your project, it may look like all sunny blue skies ahead. But it is important to make plans for not only in case of writer's block, but also for what to do when that flowing creativity results in too many ideas. The newest idea threatens the one you are slogging through and looks like more fun/easier to execute/more interesting/what have you... If you have been at this for a while, you know following this path means you can land up with a bunch of good ideas and no completed projects.

The siren song of a new idea can spell death for the current project if it is abandoned before it comes to full bloom. That doesn't mean you have to hold off until this project is wrapped and launched before getting into the new idea. You just have to be smart about it. Here is the strategy to both stay the project's course and not lose the new ideas:

1. write it down

Taking the time to sketch it out means you won't lose the inspiration. You can add more ideas as they come up. Just keep the notebook or digital file nearby as more details are sure to come to you as you continue to work on the current project. If you don't get rattled by it, you can just enjoy it as a side benefit of creative juices flowing. And celebrate! You are generating twice the ideas you anticipated.

2. see if you can tie it into a series

Sometimes new ideas arise because you have hit upon a theme that especially resonates with you or the market is timely and references to it keep arising in daily life. Don't worry that you will lose out this opportunity. If it doesn't tie into your current work as a supporting book or series addition, just keep working on your notes. It might be a stand alone series by itself. And given the success model that sees authors of multiple books hit the best seller lists, this is a direction you'll want to develop in.

3. use it as a reward

Working on a new idea when it's hot has the side benefit of feeling like a reward. Working on your current project for a timed set (even 10 minutes) and then switching to develop your new idea for another five or ten is a model that when repeated can have you producing what you need to on your current project while not losing the momentum of the newly hatched ideas.

4. test it out

As you develop it, give your new idea some test runs by writing a short scene, posting an article or blog post on the topic, or discussing it with your fellow writers and beta readers. Taking it for a trial run lets you see if it is an idea worth pursuing and how much interest there is for it.

5. prioritize it

Not every new idea will make the cut and go long term project. That's ok. Keeping a running list with time frames and markets for them (agent submissions, short story contests, guest blog posts, linked in articles... etc) means you will spend the appropriate amount of time on each project according to its purpose. If you use vision boards, mapping out each project on one bulletin board (virtual or not) is a good way to keep an eye on each of them.

Let me know if this touches on your experience with new ideas. Do they help you or harm you when it comes to your production?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Finding Space to Write Even if You Can't Go Away

Before I started going away and investing in time at conferences, writing weekends, and on location writing; I imagined that not having had previous access to them was the barrier that was keeping me from more production.

But I was wrong.

As great as those opportunities are and they are great for networking, connecting with new information that can help propel your writing career forward, learning new skills, being creatively inspired and cementing your identity as a writer; they are not the answer to writing output.

Writing output is the work of snatching time throughout your day, as many times as you can per week, whether it is early morning, during breaks at work, or instead of your favorite TV show at night. It is rewarding yourself with a day off in which to write and guarding it on your calendar. It is setting the timer and making it happen, even if it is in 10 minute blocks.

Here are 5 strategies to try:

1. The Early Morning Silent House 

Set your alarm 1/2 hr earlier than normal. Wear clothes to bed that you will be able to write in and set up your writing instruments on your dining room table or office so that they are ready to go. Take the time to pour a glass of water or run the keurig but no more. Spend the time writing.

2. Breaks at Work

Have your scene ready to go and set a timer. Stand up and write if you want a change of position. You can also get up and stretch your legs by putting away items in your office after your break is over to avoid sitting all day even though you've used up your break.

3. Trading the equivalent of a TV show 

This is another set the timer option. If you want to add the novelty of "getting up during commercials" set the timer for 2 minute breaks every 10 minutes to give yourself a moment to stretch and let the dog out.

4. Alternating chores and writing 

This one has the benefit of having both chores and writing feeling the least like work and is my current personal favorite. Do a fast version of a usual chore. (whatever you are noticing most needs attention) and then write a specific word count (ie 100-500 words) and then go to the next chore alternating until you are out of time, chores, or have hit daily word count.

5. Rewards for a Job Well Done

Productivity research is now indicating that rewarding ourselves for something doesn't help us in the long run because it cements in our mind that the habit needs a reward and is a punishment in itself. The way around that (because who wants to give up rewards?) is to connect the reward to the habit you are trying to reinforce (for the writer: new notebook, jump drive, writing session, mug, pen, resource handbook, class or workshop, etc)

So, know you will get things done, even if this is not the season of wide open writing time for you. Your strategy is out there waiting for you to unearth it. Start experimenting!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

10 things to do with 15 minutes of writing time

Having a short amount of time in which to write is often a fact of life. Fortunately there are ways to make the most of your short sessions. Here are 10 things you can do with 15 minutes of writing time. Set that timer and go!

1. Write a character sketch

Everything from physical description to back story to personality traits. Don't worry if some narrative gets mixed up in it. You can take it from the sketch to a scene later.

2. Work from a writing prompt

Writing prompts have often taken me right to a new story and sometimes a book. You can find a long list of writing prompts at the everyday writing coach

3. Pick a scene from your outline.

If you do not have an outline already and are unsure how to get one going, sign up with your email address for the Quick Guide to Take Your Book from Concept to Finished Product on the sidebar. You can also email your questions or a request for the guide to

4. Write up a piece of flash fiction.

As one writer friend says, It is an easy way to feel accomplishment. And it's real. This story can be submitted at its current length to a writing contest or worked into something longer later.

5. Capture setting

Whether it is the scene you find yourself sitting in, or one in your memory or imagination; capture every nuance (run through the senses - taste, touch, smell, feel, and sight -- a time or two) You will be glad you did when your character needs somewhere new to go.

6. Introduce a secondary character

Thinking exclusively about a secondary character gives him time to develop. Why is he interacting with your main character? What is his back story? What is the conflict that will be introduced between the two?

7. Play with words

Making random lists of nouns and verbs (10 each) and then pairing them up into sentences rearranges your writing in a new and fresh way. See if you can work any into a novel scene or short story.

8. Plan a list of articles or blog posts

This gets your creativity flowing at max in a short amount of time. Even if you don't use all of them, it's a worthy exercise. Do not be surprised if a story scene or something else helpful comes to you while your brain is storming. Write it down.

9. Write a short poem. 

You can also make it one of your characters' and work it into your story. If you are not sure to write about, capture what's on your desk or out your window or focus on the last strong feeling you entertained.

10. Write your author bio.

Post it somewhere you see it frequently. You will be glad you have it when the time comes for you to submit it along with your article, book proposal, contest entry, or guest blog post. It also serves you like a vision board -- motivating you before you feel like the author you are.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

5 Things to Consider When Deciding Which Course of Action to Take

Likely, you have many ideas. Concepts for plans and products you could execute, books you could write, and contacts you could make. But how do you decide which ones would be most worth your time and take you the furthest?
By taking fear and paralysis out of the picture (fearing making the wrong move so not making one at all -- which is also a decision of sorts) and replacing them with expectation and purpose, you can make wise choices that will move you forward. Here are 5 things to consider when deciding which course of action to take.

1. Do your homework, and set an action date.

An inexpensive wall calendar is good for this. Take it apart and arrange it so you can see several months at a time on the side of your fridge or office wall. Once you figured out your realistic timeline on paper, plot it on your calendar and start working towards it. 

2. Know that action brings momentum and moves you forward and let go of your worries about failure.

For most decisions, the stakes are not as high as you may think. Keep your research or first drafts safe. Even if you decide to change direction, they can serve you well in a future project. Authors have backlists of books they've previously written they often pull out when the time is right after a few successes. Think of this preliminary work as investment into later into your writing career as well.

3. Don't get married to the plan. That spot is reserved for the outcome.

Each writer is different. Each life circumstance is different. Each season of life is different. Pull together the advice that works for you and make it go to work. If you are losing momentum, energy, inspiration, or time; tweak your strategy accordingly. It's fine to shift to shorter sessions earlier or later in the day or to cram production into a block of time you've been able to set aside. Whatever works for you. 

4. Plot your course by working backwards.

What would you need to achieve your final result? What steps would bring you to that point? What could you do today that would bring you to closer to those steps? Identify content and process you need to research, and contacts you need to make. And keep writing.

5. Enjoy the ride.

Celebrate the steps you take and the tasks you accomplish that get you closer to where you are aiming to go. It is not failure if it doesn't come together immediately. You are setting the stage for future success and enjoying the process along the way. Connecting with why this goal is important to you helps keep this in perspective.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Writing Come Alive for Your Reader

My favorite compliment from readers is when I hear, "It felt like I was there." Setting out to write something that generates this feeling from readers would have intimidated me when I was starting out to write my novel, but it really is an accessible skill. Think of all the times you've described a vacation, recalled a funny event, or have given a play by play of a dramatic conversation. You've triggered those same feelings. Thankfully, there is an easy approach to translate that ability into your writing.

Here are the 5 easy ways to make your writing come alive for your reader:

1. Cut out some of the words.

As soon as you tighten up your reading, you are positioning yourself in the category of writers of those brilliant sentences that you want to read over and over again because they are so full. Description and a great turn of phrase work together to bring the reader right into your scene. This can be a second draft approach. Instead of forcing this kind of sentence out the first go round, just get the general story on the page and then refine it once it's there.

2. Use a recording device to capture your storytelling.

Whether it is your phone, voice capture software, or an old school hand held recorder; dictating the story takes the inner editor out of the equation because of the speed of delivery and lack of back space button. The important thing is to get your story down. Your natural story telling voice is likely oral first. Use that to your advantage and watch your project fast track to finish.

3. Tell the story to someone first

Telling the story to an interested audience will rev you up about the project and will help flesh out what the reader wants to know. Note the questions he or she asks you and make sure to answer those in your next (or first) draft. The further engaged you can make the reader, the more impactful your work (and the more likely your next story will have a built in audience)

4. Use interesting noun and verb combinations

One of my favorite writing exercises is to look around the room and compile a list of ten nouns (clock, rug, chair...etc) and then generate a random list of 10 verbs (strolled, chatted, gripped, etc...) and then draw matching lines between them and make interesting sentences (ie. The clock strolled...) It is a fun way to play with language and move your story forward in a fresh new way.

5. Travel in your mind's eye

Daydreaming a bit about your setting and characters means you can write what you see instead of focusing so hard on sentence creation. The more you tap into your natural, unforced, creative ability; the better the experience for both you and your reader.

Let me know if any of these approaches are ones you already use. If you'd like to join an online writing community, meet up here

Stories Your Mother Never Told You is on the Chilliwack Progress' summer reading list  You can read the first 15% for free at smashwords .

If you'd like to join my book reviewer team and get a review copy, leave a comment below.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

10 Ways Personal Reflection can Break Through Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block can strike at any time, but it does not have to be the duration you may have experienced in the past. When something isn’t working in your writing session, you may not know immediately why that is, but you can take it as a sign to take a moment and reflect. 

That reflection can break you through in these 10 ways:

1.       It can reveal favorable and unfavorable situations.

In times of busy-ness and stress, it becomes harder to write on demand. This is because exhaustion is crowding in and when you sit down to think, everything on your plate rises at once and becomes overwhelming. No wonder it’s easier to do a mindless chore or a writing assignment you have less stock in. In contrast, you can think of times when writing has been a delight and thoughts arrived so fast you barely had time to write them down. What was that setting and those circumstances? Introducing those elements to the schedule you’ve taken the time to strip down to the essentials will reconnect you with your muse.

2.       It can identify sources of inspiration for you.

Reflection makes connections between what serves as inspirational process for you  -- things like taking in arts and culture, reading, being in nature, and spending time in great discussions & points out what takes it away – stress, tiredness, and spending time without inspirational input. You can adjust your intake accordingly.

3.       It can break down self defeating thoughts you are giving room to.

When you speak out loud the things you are thinking you will quickly see which are unkind. The unkind thoughts to others we are more quickly repentant of, but the ones to ourselves we can be guilty of letting slide for far too long. Unless you are channeling that angst into a character study in which you are okay with your readers privy to all that, it will serve you much better to identify and shut down the negative self talk, and come up with a fictional account of why your character is feeling the way he or she is. It will be a much faster process without the inner naysayer around.

4.       It can make room for creative thought.

Creative thought comes through play, and spending time spinning “what if” into a proper yarn. It takes time and it is worth it. Through creative thought your story line will take a new direction and excite you. That will buy you more writing time. It’s not hard to make yourself write when inspired.

5.       It can rejuvenate you and connect you with your why.

Reflection is a deep breath of intellectual fresh air. The things you know to be true bump up against that which you’ve been taking in from the world and reflection brings them out in new ways like discussions, allegories, and artwork. If artists didn’t take time to reflect, they couldn’t give to the world like they do. Write and share what you have to share.

It can give voice to what you want to say.

Reflection brings to the surface things that you have been dwelling on. One of the best pieces of interviewing advice an editor ever gave me was to ask the questions I myself wanted to know. Usually everyone else is wondering too. Research the things you have been spending time on. The same approach can be taken with fiction themes to explore, settings and cultures you enjoy, etc.

7.       It can counteract your excuses.

When you are reflecting on the falsehoods you are telling yourself, also be on the lookout for excuses. Excuses fight against your underlying intent. Finding out what your excuses are means instead of being confused as to why you are out of time, tired, at day’s end, and still don’t have any writing done; you will have an action plan to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen tomorrow.

8.       It can remind you of past successes.

You know you can make your writing happen because you’ve done it before. When a story poured out of you, a reader connected with you, an audience member laughed, or someone left a comment on your blog – that experience can be repeated again, and again, and again. It is a possibility every time you introduce your writing to the world.

9.       It can birth your vision.

Writing brings your observations, dreams, insights, and stories to the world. It also can serve to impact your day to day living as you build a readership and develop your platform. Earning from your interest in writing buys you more time to explore it. It can go as far as you care to take it.

10.   It can clear away the distractions.

Distractions are part of our everyday experience, but reflection removes them consciously from thought process and makes room for focus. Focus can be used for story developing, scheduling, planning, and content producing.

The next time you are experiencing writer’s block, think of reflection as the tool that can beat it. You already know what you know. Take the time to remind yourself of it and your writing time will benefit from the investment.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Night In

The Weekend is here. And you’ve planned a writing night in. When an exciting night in involves a notebook and a pen, you cannot deny being a writer. It may be the reward for a week’s worth of day job or if you are already working as a freelance writer, working on your pet fiction project may be the reward for writing the business copy that pays the bills all week. 

This is an opportunity to really make some progress on what you’ve been dreaming about, but it also can go by really quickly and make you wonder if you set out what you meant to accomplish. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to make the most of your writing night in.

Here are five:

1.       Know what you’re going to work on.

If you approach your writing session with the project in hand and perhaps a few notes on it, you will fare far better than if you have a few options to work on and none decided ahead of time. Splitting your time between planning and writing is fine if that’s what you’re intending, but don’t let your writing time dwindle because you’ve failed to plan.

2.       Set the stage.

Give yourself an experience with some favorite food and drink and a great spot in which to write free of distractions. Clear out the paperwork you could be dealing with, library books that have yet to be returned, and close the drawers that need to be organized. These are things that can be done tomorrow and your writing is here now. Enjoy it.

3.       Decide what success looks like.

You know whether your goal is to outline your novel’s chapters, develop a plotline, write a pre-determined number of words, or sit and write until the timer goes off. Decide what success looks like to you and stick to it. Once you’ve achieved what you’ve set out to, you can continue to work in the stream of momentum you’ve created or stop and celebrate a successful writing session with something else.

4.      Plan to debut your work.

Having someone to show your completed work to by email or over coffee the next day means you will have the verbal affirmation of your show and tell and their feedback. This will cement your practice as a positive activity and make it all the more likely there will be more of them. Meeting up with a fellow writer means you can give back as well by providing feedback and inspiration. A give and take brings a new source of momentum into your process.

5.       Make plans to do it again.

Examine if the writing session worked as you’d planned. Did the time work? Setting? Did you have the right sized writing tasks picked out for the time allotted? Being realistic and adapting your future plans on the experience of this one allows for improved process each time and a more enjoyable experience.

The writing life can take many forms. Even before you are bringing in income for your writing, you are a writer. You write, therefore you are a writer. Planning your writing sessions and executing them are what will allow you to improve your craft, have work to show editors and agents, and publish independently or under contract. If you have writing questions you want answered, leave a comment below or email