Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip #12: Use Your Feelings

Not in the Jedi way, but as ideas or prompts for your story.  For example, earlier today I was frustrated at the slow progress while writing my story.  I was also unsure how to record and file my notes; it had been so long since I finished a story that I needed a quick system and wasn’t sure which of my options was faster.  Then I thought, “I can use this.”  So I jotted a note that my main character drives himself at various points because he thinks he’s not making progress/doing enough.  He deliberates too long at other points because he’s afraid of making a wrong decision.

So next time you’re angry, frustrated, sad, about something specific–think whether your characters experience that problem and emotion (or something like it) and describe the feelings in notes.  Imagine at what points in the story those discouragements might occur, how your character might react, what the consequences of that reaction is.

And that note-writing might just get your mind off your own feelings for a little while.  🙂

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip # 11: Skip Ahead

Who says you have to write your story chronologically? It can be helpful–but then again, it can also get you stuck. If you know generally where your story is going, you can jump ahead to a less difficult spot, to a segment where you know which events happen and what the consequences are. Jumping ahead and working on a different part of the story could spark ideas for that trouble spot as well.  Anyway, the story is a draft, right? It doesn’t have to be a smooth read from start to finish that first time. 🙂

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tips for Perfectionists–That Elusive Perfect Standard

The problem with perfectionism is that it is both an extreme standard and a constantly changing one.  In the first place, no human being will create perfect artwork or writing.  We are imperfect creatures with imperfect ability, and perfection simply cannot come from imperfection.

In the second, place, your standard for perfect will always change, and the market standard for perfect (or simply for good artwork) will always change.  Say that you’ve gotten your piece of writing as nearly perfect as you can make it.  Finally, it’s ready for the world!  Then you take a quick look at it again.  You are going to see something you want to change.  And if you make that change and then look at the work again later, you’ll see something else that could be improved.  (Cue an indefinitely delayed publishing date!)

Even if this specific scenario isn’t a problem, you will grow and change and mature as a writer or artist.  And your standards for your work will constantly improve—meaning that your old stuff just won’t match that mark.  Remember, it’s not a matter of throwing away your standards.  Just of accepting that “perfect” is unrealistic because those standards will change as you grow and learn.  In fact, that change is a good thing—it means you’re  improving your craft and learning more about it.

So, recognize what is good about your current artwork.   Also recognize what is still good about that old art or writing that you wish you’d never shown to anyone.  Acknowledge that it was good for your skill level back then.  Now keep improving your artwork.

Not only will your personal standards for your artwork change, the market changes.  Constantly.  Grab a Dickens novel off the shelf and read a page.  (And if you don’t have a Dickens volume, get one.  A Christmas Carol is a good place to start.  :-))  Then read a page of Tolkien’s work, a page of Stephen Lawhead’s, and finally, a page of whatever YA book you happen to have on the shelf.  There will be marked differences between all four volumes.  Once upon a time, writers used run-on sentences, lots of narration, and multiple qualifier words.  Nowadays, writers can’t get away with that—at least, not if they want to be traditionally published (generally speaking).  Point being, pursuing perfection in hopes of being published is futile.  By the time you finish 10 years of revising and polishing, the market standard for good writing will have changed, and chances are, your novel will be dated.

Again, it’s not a matter of throwing away high standards for work.  Just of accepting that some of those high standards are unrealistic because the market changes, and because you will grow and improve in your craft.  Embracing growth is better than wrestling a piece of artwork into “perfection” anyway.  And guess what?  The more you learn and improve–the closer your work will be to your high standards!

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tips for Perfectionists – Of Artistic Vision

I think it’s obvious by now that I am a meticulous planner/outliner and a perfectionist. I’m forever trying to get the artwork on the page to match that perfect vision in my head. Just imagine the nights of anguish when time after time, that didn’t happen.

But I’ve learned to fight (and occasionally conquer) my perfectionism. It’s not a matter of lowering standards–merely of approaching them from a different direction. Because here’s the thing: we perfectionists have incredible artists’ visions. We have drive and discipline (when we’re not procrastinating out of fear, that is). We have the willpower to make those visions a reality. And that’s a good thing.

What’s not a good thing is poring over the work so long that it never sees the light of day.  Or driving yourself into the ground. Refusing to finish in pursuit of that elusive perfect standard. The whole idea of making good art is to enjoy it, right? Creating something for you and others to admire. But that cannot happen if you refuse to let it go.

So here’s the deal: recognize that your vision for your work is good. That your high standards for your art is wonderful–because, let’s face it, a lot of mediocre work gets put out there. (Fantastic Four remake. That is all.)  So congratulate yourself for having high standards and the willingness to pursue them.

But then assess what is most important about your artistic vision.  In the case of a writer–is the goal to write beautiful prose, or inspire, encourage, make readers think?  A watercolor artist–is the goal to have every detail perfect, or to capture the emotions of the viewer?

That’s not to say details should fall by the wayside, but you should assess what your ultimate goal is for the artwork, and what you can realistically do.  And then pursue that rather than focus on making every aspect perfect.  The good news is, the more you work, the better you’ll get!

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip #10: Take a Short Break

Say you’ve spent hours planning, plotting, writing, and rewriting a portion of your story.  When you’re not at the keyboard or hunched over the notebook, you’re thinking about the problem during other activities.  Desperate to get this snarl worked out.  I know the feeling.

But it often helps to walk away from that portion or even that whole story for a little while.  Work on another story, or pick up a hobby you haven’t touched in a while.  Getting stuck is natural to writers.  Getting unstuck comes with time and a little brain break.  🙂

For instance, I was recently stuck over a portion of my outline–I couldn’t specify or articulate the conflict well enough to keep plotting.  I spent maybe a week playing with ideas, pushing forward, and pondering the problem in my off-time.  Then my family and I were busy over the weekend, and I had no time to think about the story.

But when I came back to my notes, the problem wasn’t that bad.  Sure, the conflict could be more specific, but my notes were actually clearer than I’d remembered, and they gave me enough information to continue plotting.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a planner.  🙂

Point being, when you get stuck (and you will), it may work to just walk away from the project temporarily.  This gives your mind a break, and you can return to the project and assess with a clearer head.

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip #9: Learn How You Work

Every writer has a different writing process.  Some writers need more time to make notes and outline than to draft.  Others need to create well-developed characters before starting chapter one.  Still others may need only the general concept, and they’ll dig deeper into it while writing.  Other writers just write and see what happens.  You get the idea.

Learn your own writing process–what works best for you.  Whether you need to spend more time outlining (if at all), developing characters, organizing themes.  Whether you find it easier to focus on the details or to start with concepts.  Whether you need lots of notes or only general ideas.  Discovering the writing process that suits you best will take time and experience—and failure, but all this pays off.  Because once you know your own approach, you can be flexible in non-essential areas and prepare adequately for a project.

For instance, I’m the planner sort.  (Can you tell?  🙂 )  I need to know the general concept of the story, the conflict, and the conclusion of what I’m trying to say (see this post for further explanation of those points).  I also need characters developed pretty deeply before drafting.  And I’m definitely an outliner.  It took 10 years, a lot of trial-and-error, and about 7 abandoned or paused stories to figure that out—but now that I know, developing and planning any story is much easier!

 

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip #8 – Race the Clock!

Try setting the a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and writing as much as you can before time runs out.  This forces you to just throw down words, any words, not worrying about how good they sound.  Meeting word counts are all well and good, but word counts do hold potential for pausing to craft a nicely worded sentence, or, alternately, writing filler sentences or scenes to meet the quota.  Racing the clock gives no leisure for either; you have to write down as much as you can before time runs out!

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip #7: Listen to Music

You know that waiting for inspiration to write is silly–but there is a way to get inspiration without procrastinating.  Make a playlist of music that fits the tone of your story, and listen to it while writing (or while doing a project or chore before your writing session).  It can feel like a soundtrack to a movie of your story, and can jump start your imagination for scenes and settings.  At the very least, it can get you in the mood to sit down and work on your book!

Post Banner copy2

Highly Recommended Writing Post!

I have not yet figured out how to put blog buttons in my sidebar–buttons for the blogs I follow.  So you probably didn’t know that I follow and love Hannah Heath’s blog.  And today’s post is about writing meaningful stakes for your story as opposed to the cheap fall-backs that a lot of storytellers use.  Go check it out!  Link below:

http://hannahheath-writer.blogspot.com/2017/04/tips-for-raising-stakes-in-your-story-malcolm-tolman.html

 

Post Banner copy2

Writing Tip #6 – Pause to Think

You’ve dithered and hesitated long enough.  Time to hit the ground running!  Or writing.

But it might be worth your while—before you write—to take a minute to think about the scene you’re about to write.

Think what the characters will do and feel, what the setting is, any details that make the atmosphere vivid.  I like to multi-task here, to think about my next scene while weaving or crocheting, and then pull my laptop over when I’m ready to write.

Often, this exercise not only gives a clearer picture of the scene, it also pumps me up and gets me excited for writing that next chapter!