Sunday, January 19, 2020

5 Ways to Make Writing Sprints Work For You

Writing sprints are a go-to of writing retreats and intensives and there is good reason for that. Writing sprints force you to get on paper what is otherwise just running around your head. When engaging in writing sprints, one of several things is bound to happen. You will break open a creative spring. You will get more words on the page than you would have if you simply waited for inspiration to strike. Or you will flesh out your project more fully. 

Now that you're convinced; here are 5 ways to make writing sprints work for you. 

1. Decide on a word count or timed session. 

The benefit to a word count is that you know when you end and it is easy to work towards. Take 1000 words, for example. Start with one sentence, note the word count, then add 100 words to that, note the new word count, add 100 words and so on. Even for the very easily distracted among us (myself included) the constantly moving target and the achievement of hitting each 100 word mini goal will take you to the end of the sprint. If you simply must walk away mid sprint, it is also relatively easy to pick up where you left off. If you are truly forcing yourself to hit each 100 word target on a particularly distracted day, it may help to have a concurrent household project such as folding laundry and let yourself fold 10 items between 100 word outputs to recharge your bored or restless brain 

2. Decide on the subject matter. 

Getting your material to page directly fights and engages with the tendency to just daydream and think pleasant thoughts about your storyline, premise, projects, and scenes. It is the way you are forcing yourself to take the next step. Whether you are working on a scene, a chapter, or a blog post, deciding on content will allow you to get there in your head. It will allow your stream of consciousness to take over. It will theme up your output. It will allow you to more fully develop what has been mere concepts to this point. If you have distracting sub-plotlines or competing topics pop up, simply note them on a sheet of paper to the side of your laptop or notebook. Then you can use them as a starting point for your next scheduled sprint or file them away for future projects.

3. Decide on the starting point. 

Even once you know what you'll be writing about, you need to know where you are starting so you are not spending your time typing, deleting, and retyping or simply staring at a blinking cursor. You may find it is helpful to start with a dramatic sentence, a random word or a character name and then start riffing. Speak out loud if it is helpful. If you want to have a simple way to rush into each next paragraph when you run stuck, you can have a list of prompts pre-typed on the screen before you start and use them as you need them as you go along. If you find yourself wanting to write more on another scene or find a plot hole as you go along, write your questions or developments in brackets so you can find them and sort them out when you come back to the scene later.

4. Decide on the tracking mechanism. 

You can write your words as logged on an envelope and then the session’s list in your social media stories as I do. I find it helps my accountability and also scratches the affirmation itch I get by keeping public tally of my writing sessions (for my own benefit even if no one else notices). If it helps someone else pick up the habit, even better, but primarily I do it for my own motivation. At the end, I can put them into a story highlight and affirm the frequency to myself.  This same tracking habit can be completed on paper in a daytimer, calendar, or bullet journal for personal satisfaction and motivation. Do what resonates with you and doesn't cause extra in the way of steps. If you work it into your existing daily routines, it will be a lot easier to keep up with.

5. Decide on the frequency. 

Whether writing sprints are something you want to practice daily or weekly or in spurts on set-aside days; build in the time and opportunity so that you are setting yourself up for success. Add them to your to-do lists, your lunch hours, your after work decompression time, or your early morning day routine. Not only will you be impressed with what you can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, but you will also be affirming, in process, your writer identity. This is something you do and enjoy doing because you are a writer and because doing so helps you process your world and gives your creative spirit breathing room.

Best wishes  as you experience the joy of watching your word counts climb and your writing practice flourish all because of a simple process you can start on today.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Relaunching Your Writing Habit Without Waiting for the New Year

It is a natural thing at the end of the year to be thinking about the things we accomplished in the months past and the new heights we want to reach for in the New Year.
If you want to take this opportunity to fine tune your writing habits, good news is ahead. You don't have to wait for the confetti to fly to make your biggest impact. In fact, if you start now, you will hit your ninety day habit stride right as most people are abandoning their New Year's Resolutions.

Here are a handful of components that are each helpful in their own way. Combining them into one effective strategy magnifies the effect.

1. Deciding on the main focus area(s).

Keeping it to a minimum of one focus area and a maximum of two allows for a little flexibility without diluting your efforts. Think of what you want to make progress on. Is it article querying or blog posting? Novel drafting or poem crafting? Regardless of writing project type, what you want is momentum. Working in the same direction for a sustained period allows you to experience habit success rapidly and repeatedly. Doing the writing work day after day in a regular way means that before long, it will be a go-to habit and by the end of the project window, will be an entrenched lifestyle. That's when you will know you have secured your writing habits in a way that will position you for breakthrough over previous results in the coming year.

2. Establishing an overall project scope.

You know best what resonates with you. Is it word count? Timed sessions? Numbers of submissions or posts? Decide at the outset and execute accordingly by determining how that breaks down over the individual sessions. Having a tracking log on your fridge calendar, notes in your day timer, or notes (and corresponding reminders) on your phone means that you always know where you stand in terms of project completion and habit momentum.

3. Attach your to do's to your schedule.

The idea of getting these new tasks completed is just concept without action. The way to move from decision to execution is to create space and expectation for yourself. Making a check off box to complete 500 words of new material, come up with a blog post of any length, or a daily timed writing makes that much more sure that you have a way to make yourself before writing is an automatic response. Use the strategy that best fits your lifestyle and way you currently live and schedule those sessions in to specific days and times.

4. Expect your minimum. Surprise yourself with more.

Having a low bar you expect yourself to hit means you are more likely to experience success from the outset. A line of check marks marching across the page is likely the motivation you didn't know you needed. As the initial honeymoon phase of writing re-launch fades, hitting these minimum targets will feel like a smaller target to hit and much easier to get out of the way. Let yourself enjoy that without undue pressure to keep accelerating at an unsustainable pace. It is better to experience that low bar success repeatedly and occasionally burst out with more than to keep moving the bar higher and burnout before the writing habit lifestyle is entrenched.

5. Work steadily to the overall number of days you are aiming for. 

Whether you decide to make it 90 days (which is akin to a three month habit) or 100 sessions (conveniently also the number of stories that fit into one Instagram highlight -- my personal habit creator favourite); consistency is the key. Don't expect perfection, just presence. Allowing yourself to show up and deliver a variety of results is the best way to re-learn, re-launch, and re-new. May the New Year find you riding the wave of habit formation and writing to tell us about it.

For more on grace and growth on the writing journey visit

Let the process do its thing and turn you back into a regularly producing writer.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

5 Ways to Ensure You Finally Write Your Book This Summer

When you hear your favourite author has released a new book or someone you didn't even know was writing one releases theirs, do you think I really need to finally write my book! ?
That dream of yours can come true this summer. It's not too late for you. You have everything that you need. Here are 5 ways to ensure you finally write your book this summer. Do one or do all. They will propel you forward.

1. Prioritize It.

Even if you are not willing to tell people you are writing your book, you are still going to have to unapologetic about finding a place for it in your life. That doesn't mean you have to carve hours at a time away from your real life. Just make it your go-to activity anytime you have a moment to yourself and have done the bare minimum on the rest of your to-do's. Much of the time others won't even notice. (If you want to do a time audit to see where you can sneak in writing, you can take a notebook or a laptop with you and duck out of the room and type furiously for as long as you can get away with. Do that for a day. Track when, where, and how long you were successful. See if you can do it without anyone noticing.) Getting up earlier than anyone else is a good bet. Or you can stay up later than them. How about going off-site for lunch? If you are a freelancer or are on days off work, try heading out for a meeting (with yourself where you write for the whole time). You can trade some of your internet, TV, and reading time for writing. You are already using that time. Just repurpose it.

2. Make it Real.

Making your book outline complete with story-line or table of contents, chapter and word counts and book cover mock-up gets you thinking about the writer you are. The authors that have completed their manuscripts were once where you are now. Talk about your project with others as long as you are doing the work you said you would do on it and are not simply satisfying yourself with the idea of it. Pick people to surround yourself with that will hold you accountable, be encouraging, and bring out your best productive habits. If you know of people actively writing, get into accountability pair-ups. If you don't, there are plenty of writers sharing tips on youTube. Just remember to use them as a timed reward after a writing session. You want to be producing content, not just consuming it.

3. Hire a coach.

If you want to ensure you are definitely going to stick to your project and get your manuscript complete, you might consider hiring a coach. Just like you would sign up with a trainer to optimize results at the gym; a coach can check that you are on track, help you shape up your idea, content, and sessions into a plan. With a coach, you will get a focused approach and follow-up you will be held accountable to. If you want to make sure you take yourself seriously in pursuit of your write your book goal this summer, set yourself up with someone who cares about your success.

4. Join a community

Joining a community can be as simple as creating a facebook group or joining an existing one. It might mean bringing together writers you know for writing sprints (either online or face to face). A writing community will understand your need to prioritize your writing to get it done and they will have ideas they have used successfully before and ones that are working for them now that you can benefit from as well. (As an added bonus, they will often make fabulous beta readers when the time comes for second and third drafts as well).

5. Experiment with your personal formula

You won't know what works unless you try a few different approaches. Let's say your first one gets you writing faster and better than you even anticipated. Great! Keep at it! You can wait until a writer's block sets in until you change it up. But don't worry if you have a stumbling start. The reason you've probably not written your book until now is because life gets in the way or you've been discouraged by your previous attempts. You are doing some new things now. You will connect with new people, try new methods, change up the setting or time of day, or vary the length of your sessions until you find what works for you. And then you will hit the manuscript stride you meant to all along.

If you are looking for an online setting in which to write your book, be sure to check out:

Write your book this summer.
How to, coaching, and online community through 
the University of the Fraser Valley's Continuing Education department.
July 5 - Aug 16
$380 including taxes
to register call 1-888-823-8734 and quote course reference number 40305

If you have questions about writing process email .

Monday, June 17, 2019

Social Media StoryTelling Mindset - 5 Ways to Develop Yours

Whether it is platform building, audience communicating, or readership engaging; storytelling plays a big role outside of fiction writing. Developing your story telling mindset will make your practice feel more authentic and automatic. Gone are the days of trying to manufacture content and generating sales. Here are 5 simple ways to develop yours:

1. Consider what is on your mind and heart. Those conversations you roll around in your head or those characters you are putting through their paces. Sharing what is going on with you is like having a virtual coffee with a friend. Your readership will respond.

2. Be prepared for "How are you?" We respond so automatically to this conversational niceity that we land up missing its connection power most of the time. What if we used it to start an actual conversation instead of a fleeting greeting? Connecting on either side of what we post online in real life and tying them all together makes them all have authentic value and keeps the conversation going.

3. Giving kudos to people who have impacted you. It could take the shape of a book review or a thoughtful text, time in your family group chat, or a celebration of achievement or committed service. Studies show that people who participate in social media by contributing celebrating and positive comments (instead of passive viewing which is shown to decrease well-being and feed comparisons and insecurity) The same goes for in-person engagement. Give that compliment. Tell that charming story that paints someone else in a good light. You and everyone else around you will leave feeling even better. That's the point of story-telling.

4. Engaging your audience with questions whether in in-person discussions or a question of the day on social media means you will be meeting a need instead of talking to the air. Whether it is about genre or a life transforming concept, readers are looking for what they need. Connecting with what that is connects you to your audience and helps you to hone focus. Note: you will not meet everyone's reading needs all the time. If your readership fluctuates or changes; it is likely because you are getting closer to your core audience. Your writing could be evolving into a different direction and it will eventually find its way to people who are looking for it. Keep at it. Also keep in mind that you yourself likely have several authors and speakers you keep going back to and that who they are may change from month to month and season to season.

5. Seeing the purpose of everyday interactions with the world around you as you intentionally make your mark with storytelling that makes a difference is powerful. You hold the ability to connect people, build them up, point them in a positive direction, and make their lives easier and better. Don't discount that story you tell. It has been given to you for a reason.

Questions? Content requests? Send them to

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Putting the Time into Your Overnight Success

I just finished Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins in one sitting and have posted it as a giveaway on my Instagram account. Head on over to enter.

I loved his well paced prose, practical advice, and motivating storytelling. Among the advice was debunking the myth of the overnight success. Most of the time, the big stars we see today put master level hours of practice into place before they saw breakthrough. That can happen in 10 years or it can happen in less depending on how frequently you are practicing your craft and releasing it into the world. This is good news. You have control over how much time you are devoting to building master level craft into yourself as an artist.

Here are 5 ways to put the time into your overnight success.

1. Revamp your vision of success.

What about if success looked like a series of professional accomplishments instead of one breakout project that either flops or propels you into overnight fame. Approaching your creative career one milestone at a time means you will grow in aptitude as well as reputation and will find the journey more enjoyable and less angst ridden.

2. Make a what if timeline.

This is a basically making yourself a list of things to try your hand at. What if you sold something; worked on your craft for x amount of hours; showed your work to a gallery, agent, or online world; gave an interview; donated your time to a high profile cause; joined an association; promoted your peers' work; applied for opportunities; and kept going at until breakthrough. Not everyone will do this. You can be one of the ones you does and gets the breakthrough.

3. Set a goal.

A goal can be any of the above or an amount of words or pieces, hours spent at craft. Make it specific so you know when you've hit it. Then, make another one.

4. Gather community.

Your community does not have to be made of just the creators in your market, niche, or craft. Any creative energy exchange will be inspiring and provide momentum. It is also likely that by gathering creatives around, you will come across opportunities and inspiration you can use and others you can share to grow your community and benefit others.

5. Vary your project size and type.

Both for practical purposes in money and time, varying your project size and type means all of your eggs will not be stuck in the same proverbial basket. If you are a writer, you could write pieces of different length & of different genre for different markets with different purpose. They can have Some creative work could be to establish a quicker source of income. Other projects could be to promote your name and yet others could be to collaborate with the greater creative community.

Let me know what you've tried. If you have any questions about your projects, feel free to email . I'd love to flesh out ideas with you.

Monday, August 13, 2018

5 Ways to Find Time for Your Writing

The difference between having an idea for a book or an article or having written a book or an article is the hours in which you have spent at your keyboard making it happen. Life does not have to move completely aside for your writing to fit in. Here are 5 easy ways to find time for your writing:

1. Leave a current writing document open and ready.

Whether it is a google doc or a document saved to a USB or laptop, if you have somewhere to direct your writing energy, you are already one step ahead. Set the timer and type out the 10 or 40 minutes you have available at any given time.

2. Think of yourself as a writer.

By writing regularly, you are affirming who you are and what you do. By thinking of yourself as a writer and identifying that way, you increase the likelihood writing will be your default activity. Connect with other writers at coffee shops or at conferences and see the power of community work to your advantage.

3. Map out your projects on the calendar.

When you give space to specific pieces of your writing projects on the calendar, you have both a plan and the time to execute it. Adding a 500 word short story, blog post, novel outline, article query letter, &/or another 2000 words to your manuscript to the calendar as to do's or deadlines means you will have something to check off and a new goal to set far before you are being held accountable by your readership or editor.

4. Welcome a variety of writing capabilities.

Some days you will feel like an inspired literary genius. Other days you will feel ridiculous typing cliched and repetitive prose. Both types of writing sessions get your manuscript complete. Resist the urge to delete an unsatisfying writing session until you get to the editorial stage. Leave that first draft alone. Mastering this approach will identify any self-doubt and self-sabatoge and get you past them that much quicker.

5. Reward yourself for writing.

Some days writing itself is the reward: a quiet time alone to dive into the story can be a treat. Other days it needs a reward to get done. A book to read, a second cup of coffee or tea, a walk with a friend can all follow a writing session. Hit the word count, get the prize. It is a cheap incentive program and it works.

Remember to leave the emotional drama to your characters. It won't get you any farther to subject yourself to it. Any past neglected writing opportunities are just that. It is up to you to find the time in your upcoming schedule and you can do it.

Post image found on my instagram account.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Embrace Distraction: Writing Productivity Hack

We are used to thinking about distraction as something to banish, but what if we didn't panic when it came calling? The truth is, properly indulged in, distraction can be one of our strongest tools when it comes to producing consistently and busting through writer's block. Here is how to use it to your advantage:

1. Daydream like it is your job.

Besides being a big stress buster, staring off into space and letting your mind float around is good for your writing. If when daydreaming you notice you are suddenly remembering things you don't want to forget, take a moment and write them down. Otherwise, dream up a trip, a place, a feeling, or a conversation. Ask yourself questions. Keep it dreamy and positive. It is often when you are relaxed that great story ideas and problem solving concepts arise. You don't want to miss them by not indulging.

2. Keep a list of ideas that pop up beside your to do list.

When we are on task, new ideas are sure to pop up and offer up distraction. Don't immediately push them away as then you will need to use up creative brain space to recall them later. Make note of them and when you want a change of pace or something to think about later, you can revisit them. If it is something you really want to get to, tell yourself that as soon as you have 500 words of your current project on the page, you can get to it.

3. Celebrate ideas that pop up.

Often ideas present themselves as something big, but they don't all have to be books we put off until some future date. Use those ideas now. If they are book worthy, you can expand on them later. Do something with them -- a blog post, an article query, an encouraging note to a friend. It doesn't have to be big to be its intended use. When you receive ideas, treat them like the gifts they are and you will notice how many more you are given.

4. Procrastinate by doing your future to do's.

When you bribe yourself to temporarily get out of what you have to do today by attending to something you'll need to have done farther down the road, you will feel like you're letting yourself off the hook while you are being proactive in another area. The key is to still make progress on what you need to get done today. Set your minimums in terms of word count and timers and then let yourself jump around your to do list. It can feel like playing when you really feel resistant to what's on your plate.

5. Collect words or scenes to employ as writer's block breakers.

Mindmapping or letting yourself free associate by filling a page with words by hand is a great way to collect fun tools to use for future scenes. One fun activity is to list the nouns you see in the room around you on the left hand side of the page (door, floor, ceiling, table, chair, dog, vaccum cleaner etc) and then on the right hand side of the page make a list of verbs (jumped, ran, paused, screamed, stirred, etc) and then play a matching game and write sentences from the results. They can make the best scene starters and striking sentences.

Let me know how you enjoy your spells of daydreaming. What tip worked the best for you? Have any to add? Leave them in the comments.