A Writer’s Net for Catching Ideas: Keeping a Writer’s Journal (What, How, and Why)

Today I’m here to talk about keeping a writer’s journal: what it is, why I do, and why — if you’re a writer — you should too. 😉

Nearly nine years ago, on November 17, 2008, I pulled out one of my many hoarded empty journals, and started my first volume of what I called “A Forest of Thought: An Author’s Journal”.

I call it my writer’s notebook/journal these days, but each year since finishing that first journal on December 31, 2010, I’ve started a new Writer’s Journal on January 1st of each year, which means I’m currently on my 8th volume. (I may actually stick with this current one for another year since it has room, but we’ll see.)

So, your question: what is a writer’s journal, and why have one?

Firstly, it is not what I call my writing log (which is where I keep a list of all the writing I do each week, throughout the year) and it’s not a place for journaling in diary-form about what it’s like to be a writer (though occasionally such thoughts will creep in).

For me, at least, it’s my catch-all go-to place for keeping writerly notes.

  • New story idea? Goes in the journal.
  • Cool name I want to save for later? In the journal.
  • Pages of frustration about how I’m stuck in my writing? Journal.
  • Snatches of dialog at 2 a.m. because my characters were talking in my head when I wanted to be asleep? Ditto.(Though these I often type in on my phone and transfer them to my journal in the morning.)
  • Random fact or cool thing I saw that day, or description I jotted down about a building I went by, or an overheard conversation? That goes in the journal too.
  • Writerly to-do lists? Yep, that too.
  • Lists and lists and lists of WIPs? Lots of those.
  • Snatches of poetry? In it goes.
  • Hit an exciting place in my writing (like finishing a story)? That goes in there too.
  • Interesting dreams? Jot ’em down. (Never underestimate the power of dreams for ideas.)
  • And, probably the most common one (besides random ideas), are new plot point flashes of inspiration for any of my dozen or so WIPs. So many breakthroughs.

Basically, this is where I write down all those things that I think “Oh! That’s cool! So cool that I’ll remember it.” Because… I don’t. How many awesome ideas have I had, only to lose them to the mists of mysterious brain fog of forgetfulness, and kicked myself over losing… I’ll tell you, it’s been a LOT.

Which is why I decided to start keeping one journal, specifically for all my writerly thoughts. I’ve had lots of other journals, for writerly or non-writerly purposes, and I still sometimes use other ones for writing-related stuff, but mostly, I stick with these, which makes it handy and easy for me to know where to find my ideas.

The first page of my first Forest of Thought journal. (Please excuse the dubious punctuation. *cough* Also, disclaimer: my handwriting is rarely this neat because I’m usually in a hurry. XD)

Because let me tell you, these journals are a gold mine of ideas. You may not know what to do with an idea when you first have it, but believe me, when you’re about to start a random novel the next day for NaNoWriMo and you’ve never done it before, these notes scribbled down over time are going to be a lifesaver.

I give this example because it’s what I did my first NaNo — I spur-of-the-moment decided to write a book the next month, and I had a vague idea, but flipping through my very first Forest of Thought notebook was when I gathered all the ideas I needed to turn it into more of a book.

The final lines of The Owl of Kedran’s Wood were originally more or less a random snippet I wrote in there one day and had no idea who said it — imagine my surprise when it found its way into the lives of Tare and the Chess Club and formed the perfect ending to book one.

The snatch of song that became so central to my novella The Rose and the Raven was originally jotted down much earlier at random.

The idea for countless of my WIPs began with a few hastily scribbled lines in my Forest of Thought journals.

So many characters have gotten names at the right moment when I needed them because I flipped back through and found the right one I had saved.

If I’m stuck or discouraged, I go to the pages of my notebook and scribble down my thoughts and usually find my way out of the woods, or at least I know what my problem is and feel better.

And there’s no greater way to get re-inspired to go back to working on a project than to be perusing my old notes and find how excited I was about a plot-twist I had scribbled down and semi-forgotten.

But even aside from all the usefulness, it’s just a wonderfully secure feeling to know that even if you don’t actually USE your idea, or won’t for years, that at least you didn’t lose it forever, like if you said you’d remember it and then the next morning — gone. Having that security and peace of mind is fantastic.

It’s also a handy way to keep an eye on the chronicles of your writing career, as for-fun or serious as you want it to be. Each volume of my Forest of Thought journals (I call them FT: Volume 1, Vol 2, etc. and am currently on FT8) has a different flavor, both because they’re all different shapes/sizes/”feels”/looks, and because I go through different books I’m working on or focusing on, and I remember that and associate the different years with those books.

Sometimes if I’m trying to remember when I started a story, I can say “Oh, well I wrote about it in my green journal, which was in 2013, so that must be when I started”. It’s chronicling my journey as a writer, and all while saving great ideas that I periodically go back and glean from the many pages I’ve filled.

The hardest thing? Getting into the habit of writing in your writer’s journal.

It took me years to find the balance and get so that when I had an idea I would be sure to write it down.

2008 and 2009, I hardly did any writing in my journal — just every few months, if I had a really interesting idea and remembered to write it down, I would sometimes remember. Later in 2010 was when I got more active with it, and by the end of the year I was chronicling my NaNo adventures most days, and managed to fill the last page on December 31st. The opportunity to start a new journal on January 1 was too much to resist, and I’ve done it every year since. I often fill the whole journal and write on the last page on the last day of the year, but sometimes I don’t fill it and end up leaving the final pages blank so I can start a new one, but it’s a tradition of mine that I look forward to the most about the new year: starting my new writing journal the first day of the year. 🙂

It’s hard to turn it into a habit to remember to write in your journal all the time, especially without thinking you need to write something even when you have nothing to scribble, but I think I finally have it down. So far this year and last year, I’ve written something (even if it’s just a single note/jot/name) in my writing notebooks every week except one. (Yes, I keep track of my writing each week in a writing log on my computer, and I noticed this trend and have kept it up.) It hasn’t really been on purpose, but even if it’s just a note to say that I’m stuck on something, it really has become a habit to dip into my journal at least once a week with whatever writerly ideas are on my mind.

But remember, I started this process nearly a decade ago, and it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve gotten better about remembering most of the time — and I still sometimes think of something and don’t jot it down, so the process isn’t perfect. 😉 So if you’d like to do something like this, don’t feel discouraged if it doesn’t work out for awhile. Just keep at it and save those ideas!

If you’re not an oldschool journal hoarder like me, try keeping your notes on your phone or in a file on your computer — sometimes I wish I did that because they’d be searchable. XD And at times I do opt for typing my ideas when I have a LOT of them, and so they don’t go into the journal because it’s more efficient. But I do enjoy having a physical place to keep notes with a physical pen — it’s soothing for me, and also handy if I don’t have my laptop with me. But if it’s likely to make you procrastinate keeping notes, then don’t let the idea that it has to be a physical notebook keep you from doing something like this–just do it on your computer, like I said! Just try to make it a habit to keep those ideas, somewhere you can go to save your thoughts.

Later this week, on Friday, I’ll be celebrating 9 years of A Forest of Thought: An Author/Writer’s Journal, and starting (hopefully) on my tenth year keeping a writing journal. My FT volumes have been some of my best friends through my writing years, something in which I can confide my story ideas and struggles. (They of course can’t outdo real, actual writer friends, who are the absolute BEST. ;))

I’m very glad I started back in 2008, and I look forward to much more scribbling. 🙂 I know I wouldn’t be the same writer without them.

I will leave you with the last words from my first volume, penned December 31, 2010:

Onward to new horizons! Horizons never seen, horizons merely dreamt of, horizons that have but been glimpsed — onward!

How about you? How do you save all those little ideas/tidbits/plotbunnies? Thanks for reading! ^_^

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My (Not-So-)Secret Weapons For Surviving NaNoWriMo

So, confession time. It’s Monday, which means I post here (usually). I had an idea for a grand POST TO END ALL POSTS about NaNo and surviving and EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW, IN ONE HANDY POST. Unfortunately, I’ve neither written it, nor have I taken my own advice and gotten prepared for NaNo yet, PLUS I realized that most of my tips are… well… in previous posts?

Therefore! I will mention a handful of new things I’ve discovered that help, and then leave you to peruse my previous NaNo posts (linked at end) for further tips, if you’re so interested.

Because we’re a half a month away from NaNo (WHAAT???) and I’ll be honest: I’m not ready.

I’m so, so not ready.

I need to go spend my time prepping for NaNo, plotting my novel, and trying to conquer my several-miles-long to-do-list. IN TWO WEEKS, MIGHT I ADD. *tries not to collapse and curl up and hide behind a tapestry* Rehashing all the stuff I’ve said about NaNo in previous posts is, sadly, not going to help with that. XD

ANYWAY! Behold, a few of my recently discovered (since my previous posts) not-so-secret weapons for conquering NaNo!

Tools in My NaNo Toolkit

Time

(pinterest)

Time is your enemy during NaNo (TICKING DOWN TO THE END NOOOO) but it can also be your friend.

How?

Well, I’m a long-time advocate of wordwarring (with friends, and with oneself on a timer), but also: during this last Camp NaNo, I discovered the magic of setting a timer for an hour and focusing on writing just for that time. Can take a break afterward, but focusing NOW. Just for an hour.

I can usually write 1K in an hour, which means (theoretically; hear my story laughing at me. XD) it should be a couple of hours per day, yes? *cough*Leavemetomydelusions.*cough*

Make time your ally: use it with timers and word-sprints and chunks of writing time for focusing.

Make it work FOR you.

Scrivener

Screenshots for this year (below, top) and last year’s NaNo (below, bottom)

SCRIVENER IS MAGIC, OKAY. I used it last year and it. was. amazing. I hate buying software and stuff because I’m cheap and like free things, but I tried it free for a month during NaNo last year and loved it so much I got it (half-off with a NaNo coupon).

The plotting and organizing features give me life, and having a word-count goal set on each individual chapter/section/day was SO helpful — and the fluidity of being able to merge or separate them at will was amazing. I also utilized the full-screen writing mode to lessen distractions, and loved to make it a slightly-smaller window to write in, with a small window of my browser open in another part of the screen, showing the counting-down wordsprint tool on the NaNo site. 😀 SO motivational!

All the planning

This one is both old and new. I’m keeping notes in a dedicated-journal just for this project, which is helpful/inspiring. The journal and the scrivener are the new things, but planning is SUPER IMPORTANT. Unless you’re a pantser, in which case I salute your bravery. I reeeally need to do a braindump scribbling-down of all my ideas (so many scenes and things in my head!) and then organize those and make an outline… But anyhow. Plot plot plot!

Bullet Journal to stay organized

Please note, I keep an “ugly” bullet-journal, which is to say, I don’t make mine a work of art and I don’t actually “journal” much (like talk about what I did; I just mark stuff off).

It’s like a daily/weekly/monthly/planner thing which I use with bullet-points of to-do-lists and things going on, and I usually plan it out a week or a month in advance.

I’ve done stuff like this before, but this is the first time I’ve had an actual bjournal (my abbreviation) to do it with.

I have a page or two of to-do lists for October, and will have one for November. I have a page for a to-do list for each week. And I have a page for every day, with info at the top about stuff going on, and a to-do list. Also daily trackers in a list on one page for keeping track of stuff I should do every day and don’t want to rewrite over and over, and a calendar list so I can keep track of what’s going on.

It doesn’t have to be fancy (in fact, please don’t try!) but both for pre-NaNo-prep, and for NaNo itself, it’s very handy to keep track of stuff!

NaNo runs at an insane pace, and I’m seriously going to need this in order to keep life/writing/ML-ing straight. Not to mention daily wordcount goals listed each day… 😉

Draft Zero

Last but not least: Draft Zero.

I SERIOUSLY need to do a post about this, but it’s basically getting the story down in its most basic form. It’s a mix of extreme plotting (but super vague too? It’s hard to explain) and very rough first-draft. It kind of bridges drafting and outlining so that I can Howl* myself into writing without actually writing, and then it’s easy to expand into a real first-draft.

I have so far only done this in segments — like a scene or chapter at a time (often out of order) and then expand it. I used it especially for the ending of my short story Darkling Reflections (actually the last third of it) and my novella The Rose and the Raven. Super helpful.

I WILL post about it someday, but basically don’t worry about spelling/punctuation/sentences; just write down what happens in brief bullet-point order (dialog included!) and throw in descriptions/whatever, whenever you feel like it. Basically give yourself permission to make a mess on the page.

I may try to do this for NaNo, or I may just do it each day as my outline-plotting before turning each chapter into a first-draft chapter day by day. Not sure yet. Either way, it’s my biggest secret weapon, and with it in my toolkit, NaNo-doubt doesn’t have a chance. 😉

*Apologies for those who don’t understand this Howl’s Moving Castle reference. It derives from a quote Howl said about being a coward — and the only way he can trick himself into doing things is pretending he’s NOT doing them. I’m very Howl-ish and am a slitherer-outer. XD

***

And there you have my 5 new tips. Thank goodness I only did five because otherwise this post would be enormous. XD

I hope these tips (and the ones below) help you. But you know what? Even if you don’t have tools or secret weapons, even if you’re not prepared for NaNo… you can still do this. If you have a story you want to tell, then that is all you need.

All you REALLY need is to show up each day in November at the screen (or pen/paper) and look in your heart and write.

You’ve got this, writer! I believe in you! Now get out there and conquer this NaNo. 🙂

Check out more tips below. ^_^ THANKS FOR READING, AND GOOD LUCK! ❤

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Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome

Friends, I have a problem.

It’s called Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome.

Okay, so this is a name I made up. But whatever it is, I HAVE IT.

Let me explain.

When I’m writing a story, I have to set things up in the story before I can get to the major plot points.

Then the beginning gets longer than I planned, because I’m a disaster longwinded.

And I also have this strange thing where I ALWAYS HOARD SECRETS.

  • If there’s a big reveal about a certain character? = Hoard it.
  • If there’s a plot twist? = Hoard it.
  • If there’s a villain doing things THAT WE SHOULD KNOW STRAIGHT OFF but it’s “too early” to reveal? = Hoard it.

This results in the unfortunate tendency for nothing interesting to happen in the novel for huuuge stretches of time, as I throw in tiny hints toward said hoarded plot-reveal secrets but don’t actually put any of them in until way later in the book.

BECAUSE… SECRETS.

Because I’m saving them for later. *cough*

But this means that I DON’T INTRODUCE VITAL PLOT PIECES EARLY ON BECAUSE THEY’RE TOO “SPECIAL” TO PUT IN YET.

I don’t even know, guys. I’m a mess.

(It doesn’t help that sometimes, if I’m discovering a story as I go, and don’t have it all plotted when I start, I don’t even know the big plot points until I discover them when the heroes do…)

It’s not just one book, or anything. I’ve noticed this multiple times in my writing. It adds up to a repeated problem.

Enter Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome.

(Thank you, Doctor. No, really. You’re a huge help. -_-)

It would be like if in The Lord of the Rings, they don’t find out what the One Ring is actually for until, like, Lothlorien.

It kills me that I can’t offer specifics about my own stories to help explain this, because… spoilers. But let me be vague for you and pick one story as an example…

I’m currently writing KW2, The Secret of Kedran’s Wood. (Oh, great, there’s a secret in the TITLE. And guess what, it doesn’t get revealed until HALFWAY INTO PART THREE. I’m not even there yet. I’m even hoarding plot points from myself. Joy.)

I’m currently writing Part 2 (I always split my novels into three parts — no idea why, it just works that way so I can have bite-sized pieces).

Unfortunately, the “setup” on this novel has taken so long, that Part 1 is currently 63,522 words.

THAT’S RIGHT, THE FIRST “THIRD” OF THIS BOOK IS CURRENTLY THE SIZE OF SOME NOVELS.

I need help.

There’s a character I’m going to introduce who’s going to be hugely important to the plot, and may even steal the show from Tare (*universe stands still while audience squints and asks “IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?”*) and I keep putting off introducing said character. And I keep having the villains beat about the bush instead of doing THINGS. And the heroes are always trying to figure out the mysteries but they keep juuuust eluding them.

One of the problems with this… er… problem is that if the PLOT doesn’t start until halfway through the book or later, then… what is going on to start with? It’s kind of like the description on the back of a book, making you interested without “giving things away”.

While we’re on the subject, what is my summary for this book going to look like? O_O

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood by Yours Truly

In which Tare and the Chess Club do things and discover SHOCKING, EXCITING THINGS (No, really. They’re awesome.) but those are in the final third sooo we’re not going to talk about them here on the back of the book because #secrets and BECAUSE YOU NEED TO READ 100K WORDS OF RAMBLING FIRST THANKS.

Not to mention, it’s awkward when you can’t tell anybody the reason why your story is cool. Because it’s spoilers.

Or is it?

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR STORY WITHOUT RUINING THE SURPRISE.

Ahem.

Y’know, I should just accept that the Kedran’s Wood series is getting longwinded and episodic and should just become a serialized book-equivalent of a TV show. Yeah. Let’s do that…

But that doesn’t solve the plot-reveal-hoarding issue for my other works.

Basically, IT’S STARTING TO BE A PROBLEM. And I have NaNo coming up and don’t want to do this to… whatever it is that I’m going to write for NaNo. (Which, incidentally, I haven’t decided yet. I’m doing it, but picking a novel? SO HARD. *cough*)

So, does anyone else have this hoarding-plot-reveal-secrets problem?

And, more importantly, WHAT IS THE CURE? O_O

I don’t want the stories to be drawn out and lack plot-reveals until the final few chapters, but howww do I sprinkle them in?

How do I stop feeling like I’m “spoiling” the story by actually, you know, revealing what’s going on every now and then?

How do I stop hoarding the juiciest bits and cackling about how I’ll get to reveal them …someday?

How do I know what I can and can’t reveal about the plot or the sequels or whatever?

HALP.

Do you suffer from Hoarding Plot-Reveal-Secrets Syndrome? Any condolences or tips for me? XD

If You Want To Write

if-you-want-to-write

I Used To Think I Cordially Disliked Reading Books About Writing

I’ve discovered that this is not true.

I dislike reading books about writing which tell me how to write.

I am, however, apparently highly agreeable to books about writing which tell me that I don’t have to listen to those other books which tell me how to write.

In fact, not only that I don’t have to listen, but that I emphatically should not, and should write from myself — what is true, and free, and me-like (in my own words; look at me being all delightfully rebel like this and saying things how I want).

Let me back up a moment and explain.

I’ve gotten rather disillusioned with how-to writing advice in general, over time, because it feels too much like I’m being told what to do with my stories and how to bend them into a “proper shape” which they may not naturally want to bend into. It stifles me, fills me with doubt, and crushes my spirit and creative light — that delicate fluttering-wing flame of the artist inside a person, too easily snuffed by winds of doubt.

I recently read a book called “If You Want To Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland, and it did the opposite, telling me something quite different: that it’s important to tell your story in a way that is you, and speaking of the dangers of critics/criticism/a critical way of thinking, instead focusing on love and truth.

It is rather a good feeling to read a book which says something different than the norm of the modern-day craft of writing. Effectively saying that my instinct all along has been correct — to write how I want and let the rules go hang (at least for the present).

I’m the writer, these are my stories, my blogs, my words, and if I can’t tell them like they want to be told . . . then who will? A lot of “rules” — the ten (more like ten thousand) commandments of Proper Writing? (Which all contradict each other anyway and constantly change.) No. I don’t think so. Following a lot of made up “rules” does not a Great Novel make.

I think I’ll pause here before I go further, and have a footnote. But I’ll have it right here instead of making you scroll all the way to the bottom of the post, which is a bother, and I want this one to actually be read. (Besides, who says feet can’t occasionally put themselves up to get comfortable?)

Footnote: If This Post Is Not For You

footnote

If you are one of those writers who likes to write according to the rules, if that is your calling, by all means: go for it! This is not to pull you down, to tell you you are doing it “wrong.” Because whatever is right for you is right for—you guessed it—you.

This post is only to say that for anyone who, like myself, has felt stifled and condemned by rules and critical thinking, that there is another way—that we can be free!

But, as Brenda Ueland often stresses in her own book which I am speaking of (and in her own footnotes) — whenever she’s telling us how to do something, she adds that if you want to do it the other way, then do it that way!

Neither Brenda nor myself are trying to tell you that our way is the best and only way. So if you disagree with this post, if you feel the rules should be followed, if you enjoy being a critic because you like to analyze, etc., then be that way! That way is you, and you are free to be it. 🙂

I just thought I would say that. I’m not trying to be critical and say that if you’re trying to follow rules, you’re doing it wrong—no, I’m only trying to say that this book allowed me to see a new and freeing way for ME to live, and if this post is not for you, I will not hold it against you, and I hope you will do the same. 🙂

(End of footnote.)

“If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland

ifyouwanttowriteIt was originally published in 1938, and I found a reprinted copy from the 1980s at a library book sale, because I had once seen the book highly spoken of, which made me curious. As I said, I’m wary of books on writing, and writing advice in general, since it tends to leave me jaded, depressed, and rather defiantly angry (none of which are feelings I enjoy).

But I tried this one out . . .

And I’m so incredibly glad that I did.

THIS BOOK, THOUGH.

Brenda Ueland talks of writing creatively with joy and truth and freedom, the way that is YOU, instead of “intellectualizing,” i.e., in her wonderful words: “primly frowning through your pince-nez and trying to do things according to prescribed rule as laid down by others — and bearing in mind a thousand things not to do.”

Bless this woman and her counter-cultural thoughts from 1938.

It was so freeing to read a book that was focused on love and creativity and discovering your true writing self (instead of focusing on what to do, what NOT to do, and various “rules”). It was the positive, not the negative. It was freedom, not limiting options. And it filled my soul with a joy and a freedom in thought and writing that I’ve not felt in a very long time.

I just felt so inspired reading this, and gladdened that somewhere, sometime (in this case nearly 80 years ago… ahem) agreed with me and thought similar things to ones I’ve felt deeply but almost unconsciously for a long time, particularly about being critical and about so-called writing rules—and thought them deeply enough herself to write a book about it, which was simply a pleasure to read. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I devoured this one.

But I will let this book speak for itself, in its own words, before wrapping up my thoughts on all of this.

QUOTES BY BRENDA UELAND FROM “IF YOU WANT TO WRITE”

writingspirit

“Since our wish to create something is the life of the Spirit, I think that when people condemn what we do, they are symbolically destroying us. Hence the excruciatingly painful feeling, though to our common sense it seems foolish and self-centered to feel so badly.”

inspirationrules

“But inspiration only dies down because the theoreticians, the horses of instruction, begin to dissect, analyze and then codify into rules what yesterday’s great artists did freely from their true selves.”

criticsdiscourage

“This is why I don’t like critics, whether they are English professors, or friends, or members of one’s own family, or men of letters on literary reviews. It is so easy for them to annihilate us, first by discouragement [footnote: Remember that discouragement is the only illness, George Bernard Shaw says.] and then by shackling our imagination in rules so that we cannot work freely and well on the next thing.”

hesitancymars

“It is because of the critics, the doubters (in the outer world and within ourselves) that we have such hesitancy when we write. And I know the hesitancy just mars it. It does not make it better at all.”

creativelove

“For I know that the energy of the creative impulse comes from love and all its manifestations–admiration, compassion, glowing respect, gratitude, praise, compassion, tenderness, adoration, enthusiasm. Compare the tenderness of great artists with the attitude of critics toward other men.”

imaginationdivine

“I wish I could show you why I object to critics and why I think they do harm and stifle and obstruct all creative power. It was William Blake who revealed this to me. ‘What we so often call Reason,’ Blake said, ‘is not the Understanding at all but is merely derived from the experience of our five senses, derived from Earth and from our bodies.’ “You cannot do this,’ Reason says (and all those erudite critics) ‘because it did not work the last time. Besides, it was logically and scientifically established by so-and-so after plenty of experiments,’ says the rationalist, the materialistic scientist, the critic, basing all this on merely physical experiences and so shutting out the glories of their Vision, their Imagination, which is Divine and comes from God and cannot be weighed and measured by scientists, established and explained.”

artistlover

“Of course I am sorry for them too. Because by encouraging the critic in themselves (the hater) they have killed the artist (the lover).”

Conclusion

I want to love. I don’t want to hate. I want to enjoy a book, not tear it down and put its flaws in a spotlight. “Look! Look! This is a bad thing!” No; if there is a bad thing, I may quietly point it out and move on to the good. I may heartily dislike—even hate—something in a book, because it is not the true good thing which I want it to be, but I take no pleasure in hating. Hating, criticizing, being critical… they do not bring me joy. They pull me down and darken my spirit and make me sad. Loving things and books and people and stories and characters—that does bring me joy.

Why do people so enjoy the creative surge of writing a new story, and instinctively do not like to turn their critic back on to edit it? We have so enjoyed being free to love and create and make art, that to be once more yoked with hate and critical thinking and rules, and the perceived need to bend our work of art to the will of others, is all the worse after such freedom. Loving and creating outweigh hating and criticism any day, at least in my book.

Light is greater than Darkness. Love is greater than Hate.

The bright original creative soul that is YOU is greater than any rulebook on “writing well.”

I want to love. And I want to be an artist, a writer, who loves—and creates out of that love, stories that come from my true self and from the desire to tell the truth and a story. I want to be a better writer, one who writes a story as well as I can, who does not fall prey to criticism from within or the kinds of rules that critics have made to shackle the creative writer into writing within a box according to a set of rules and what not to do.

More than anything (in the terms and imagery of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories”) I want to write and be a subcreator who takes leaves from the Tree of Tales and writes them into a story as best I can.

And so I say, if you want to write: Write.

Replace your inner critic, who hates, with your inner artist, who loves.

Go out and, in the words of Neil Gaiman, “Make Good Art.”

Do not be afraid.

Write what is you

and do so with all the truth and love you have in you.

10 NaNoWriMo Survival Tips

10nanosurvivaltips

So I was throwing some random NaNoWriMo advice at a friend on Goodreads, and decided to actually post that advice and a couple other things as a blog post. Because hey, why not? Maybe someone will benefit. 🙂 (Plus, how better to procrastinate plotting that book I need to start writing tomorrow than by blogging, amIright? 😉 )

In no particular order, here is some random advice for how to survive NaNoWriMo. Because writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days definitely calls for survival tips.

(You may know all of these and/or I may have said all of this before, in which case OH WELL you may as well hear it again. XD We could probably use a refresher course…)

1) Know your plot! …If you don’t yet, you’re in a little bit of trouble, but don’t despair, you still have a day-ish left. 😉 And you haven’t, you can try to do some outlining during the month. Just be aware that you may need to do this… (If you’re a pantser, I salute you, brave soul.)

2) Lots of wordwars/wordsprints! If there’s nobody to wordwar with, I like to just set a timer and wordwar against that. If there’s a timer going for 10-15 minutes, I feel like I need to be writing the whole time and so I actually WRITE; and it’s a very rewarding feeling, writing down the amount of words I get each time, to know that after that amount of time I actually got words written. 🙂

(EDIT: New on the NaNo site this year is a wordsprint timer with optional prompts! Check it out!)

3) If you can, write to music. Turn on some fast music with a steady fast beat if you can write to music, because I’ve found I type faster with that. (May just be me.)

4) Try to stay on top of the 1667 per day goal if you possibly can — it’s no fun being behind later in the month. Falling behind really adds up. That being said, also try to write more at the beginning if you can! Chances are you’ll be more excited about your story at the beginning and not tired out yet, so the more you write early on, the better it will be. 🙂

5) Be willing to just write anything, and do not even think about going back to edit! That will derail you pretty fast if you go back and tweak. Leave a note to yourself about what to change if you need to and move on.

6) Get some encouragement if you’re feeling behind. Reading a pep-talk or ranting to a writing friend about being stuck/behind and getting reassured, or having some chocolate, or rewarding yourself when you hit that particular goal by getting to read a chapter of that book you really want to read or something, can totally help. (Of course, I’m the first to admit that the reading-a-chapter thing can backfire if you accidentally read the whole book… >.> So, beware!)

7) Remember to get up and move around. …Wait, what? For real, you should try not to spend the ENTIRE month of November sitting hunched over a laptop/notebook. (As someone who spent a few months this year with serious back pain from using too much computer and not moving enough, take it from me: you don’t want that.) Stretch! Take a walk! (It’s amazing the benefits of a good brisk walk to brainstorm scenes. Almost as good as the notorious in-the-shower-inspiration. I still maintain both of these are because you can’t actually write down your ideas at the time…)

8) Drink water. You thought I was going to say coffee, didn’t you? 😉 Which is good in the caffeine/warming-up categories, but seriously, it’s important to stay hydrated, and  you’d be surprised how much better I feel when I drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. Give it a shot. 🙂 Coffee and tea, while also good November drinks, especially when it’s cold, just don’t hydrate like good ol’ water. I fill a gallon water jug up to the line I marked after measuring 10 cups into it, and just pour the water into a glass throughout the day, which is an easy way to keep track. It helps SO much, especially since I tend to get headaches when I don’t drink enough water; and it’s super hard to write with a headache.

9) Don’t give up! Even if it looks like you won’t hit the goal for the day, or for the month, just keep writing anyway. You’ll be surprised with where you end up if you just keep going. 🙂

10) Have fun! Enjoy the ride and try not to get too stressed out — just enjoy the crazy fun that is writing and knowing others are too. 🙂 (I’m trying to remind MYSELF with this one… I tend to get stressed instead of enjoying myself. :P)

Aaand while I’m in a NaNo-y mood . . .

If you haven’t seen it, you can pop over to my post from last year, NaNoWriMo, My Dear Watson, which is NaNo-in-a-Nutshell-with-Sherlock-gifs.

(And even if you have seen it, go see it again, because NaNo + Sherlock Holmes = why wouldn’t you? 😉 )

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be over in the corner wrapped in my shock blanket, because NaNo’s TOMORROW???

Share your best advice for NaNo in the comments! We can all always use more tips! 🙂 Best of luck, everyone! YOU’VE GOT THIS.