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Writing Sprees

I apologize for my lack of posting this past week, and also that I can only provide this brief post today!

One of the most crucial things I’ve learned from writing is the value of writing in sprees.  If you set your mind on writing and don’t give into distractions, you can add thousands of words to your work in progress over the course of a single day.  If you don’t have time to hole up in your room hunched over your laptop, sprees can still be a great way to add to your word count.

Just in case you don’t know what a writing spree is, I’ll give you the steps.  It’s super easy, trust me.

  1. Find a couple of hours (twenty minutes at least) in your day or over a weekend that you can devote to a writing spree.  
  2. Set a timer for twenty minutes and allow yourself to do nothing but write for that entire time.
  3. Once you’ve finished your twenty minutes, spend ten minutes doing something you’d like to do.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 twice more, and then give yourself at least an hour-long break.
  5. You can come back and repeat the whole process again after your break to add even more words to your work in progress.
  6. Once again, if you don’t have a lot of time to spare for writing, just dedicate yourself to writing for as long as you can.  Once again, do not give in to distractions!  That is the key to succeeding.

Over one weekend I’ve used writing sprees to add around 10,000 words to my novel.  You might find that you can write a lot more than that, or maybe you don’t even come close.  What matters is that you’re dedicated and adding words to your work in progress.

Writing in sprees,
Katarina Madden

http://mytomatoes.com/ <– I find that using this website can help you keep track of your writing.  It also helps keep you on track.  Instead of twenty minutes, which I find that I prefer, it gives you 25 and 5 minutes for a break.  You can adjust the break time, but I think the work time isn’t so flexible.

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Characters: When They Won’t Leave You Alone…

Picture this: You’re driving to work in your car, sitting on your sofa flipping through the channels on your television, or surfing the internet.  Suddenly, a character trait pops into your mind.  All it might be is a good sense of humor, but it grows into a character.  And then you’re swerving out of the way to avoid a car, you’ve left the television on a soap opera to grab your laptop, or you’ve hastily opened a Word document to type up a description.

You close the Word document.  You leave it be, but it’s not that simple.  The character that you thought up yesterday is keeping you up at night now.  It pops up whenever you have a second to ponder.  The more you try to put it out of your head the more it refuses to budge.  Even though it’s driving you crazy, this is a wonderful thing that doesn’t happen every day.

It might seem obvious, but the only way to get the character out of your head is to write his/her story.  Oh, you don’t have a plot?  Write the story anyways.  If the character won’t leave you alone, there’s got to be a story that needs telling.  Just because you don’t know what it is yet doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.  You’re just the silly author.  You think the story is yours?  Think again.  Your story belongs to your character.  You simply write it down.

If you start to write your character’s story, a plot will develop.  When you’ve gotten several thousand words into the story and you still don’t see a plot, try rereading what you’ve written– it might have been staring you in the face.  If you still can’t find the plot that goes with your character, have someone else, someone you trust, read it.  Maybe they’ll be able to see what you couldn’t.  If this still fails to uproot a possible plot, write a little more to try to fish it out of the muck in your brain.  It could be that you just started at the wrong point in your characters life.

Just to let you know, if anyone has a topic they would like me to elaborate on or write a post about, I’d be very willing to do so.

Writing for my characters,
Katarina Madden

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Characters

 

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Writing What You Want

You should always be writing what you want to write.  I’m a big believer that you should never write for something or someone other than yourself.  Your should be writing because you want to, not someone else.  That being said, I think that sometimes while we’re writing for ourselves, we forget what it really means to just write.

For me, this works like a miracle when I’m dealing with writer’s block.  I take a story idea that I don’t have plotted out, and I just write.  I don’t think ahead at all.  I don’t worry about plot holes or explaining things.  I write what I want to write because I know that no one else will ever look at this piece of writing.  Now, that might not be true.  I could decide that I love what I’m writing, but I still probably wouldn’t share it until I’ve fixed the plot holes and explained the character’s background.

When you’re just writing what you want to, it’s okay to stop at any time.  This is a piece of writing that you shouldn’t feel obligated to continue after the first couple of paragraphs.  You can, but you don’t have to.  It’s like vomiting words onto the computer screen: no one expects anything to come of vomit.  But, unlike vomit, writing for yourself is fun!

You can make a character completely crazy.  You can add magical ninjas into a previously realistic piece.  Want to throw in a wedding?  Go ahead.  Try it!  It’s so much fun, and it also doubles as an idea generator.  When you can do anything, you’re bound to come up with something for your current work in progress, or maybe an idea for something completely new.

Writing freely,
Katarina Madden

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Organize Your Writing Life

Whether finding time to write is easy for you or difficult, sometimes having a guide or reference to where you want to be at in your writing is nice.  It’s up to you to decide whether you want a loose set of goals or a strict schedule.  I’m going to share how I’ve decided to organize my writing life.

The first thing I did was decide everything I want to get done this year.  By the end of 2013 I want to have an agent to represent my book, have the rest of the books in that series rewritten, have the first draft of a YA novel completed, and to continue posting at least weekly on this blog.  I realized that I needed a pretty strict schedule if I wanted to get this all done, so I started breaking down my goals into months.

Just like for the year, the first thing I did was write down what I want to accomplish for the month.  For March I’ve decided that I want to completely plot out the second book in my series and start rewriting it.  Those are pretty simple goals for this month, so I didn’t have to break it down into weekly or daily goals.  But for May my goals are a bit more overwhelming.  I want to finish my revisions of the first book in my series, start revisions of the third book, draft a few queries, draft a synopsis or two and gather a list of agents.

Whoa.

By the time May first comes I would likely take one look at that list of goals, laugh and then eat some nachos.  This is where you’d have to organize your goals into weeks.  In my case, I would give myself daily goals because the smaller the chunks of work I have to do, the more likely I’d be to knuckle under and do it.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is a reminder to give yourself reasonable goals and time off.  If you give yourself ridiculous goals, you’ll look at them and decide that you’d rather eat nachos. Don’t overwork yourself, either.  I’ve practically given myself the whole month of June off.  I have a lot of things going on that month to begin with, and I don’t want to burden myself with strict writing goals.  Also, if you receive unexpected time off, use it for what you think is best.  If you’re too busy to write, then don’t.  If you have plenty of time, don’t just sit on your bottom and surf the internet!  Get some of tomorrow’s goals done.

Writing with structure,
Katarina Madden

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Deal With People When You’re Writing

I don’t know about you, but I’m an introvert.  And the time when my introverted self tends to show up the most is when I’m writing.  During my writing time, I don’t want people to come in and ask me for favors, tell me that I forgot to do something, demand help, or, really, speak to me at all.  You heard me: Shoo.  Go away, people.  I am writing, so leave me alone.

Then, I hit the metaphorical wall in my novel.  You know the one; the point where every word you write is a struggle?  Yeah.  By now I’m kind of wishing I didn’t get everyone hating me and my novel because now I want them back.  I want them back to whine to.  I want them to hear my plea for help, and then I want them to encourage me.  But, I don’t have them anymore.  If I so much as say the word “novel,” they run for the hills.

There is a lesson to be learned from my mistake.  When you’re writing, do not completely push everyone away. Gently let them know that when you’re writing, you don’t want to be disturbed.  Hold your friends and family at an arm’s length, but don’t toss them over a cliff.  If they do disturb you during your precious writing time, take a deep breath and ask them in a voice that cannot in anyway be mistaken for condescending what they need.  Then, unless it’s an emergency, tell them you’ll get right to it.

This trick works like magic.  They’ll probably nod and go away, leaving you to get back to writing.  But, you did say you would do it, so you probably should.  Get to a natural stopping point, e.g., the end of a scene or chapter, and do what you promised to do.  Then, use the interruption as an excuse to add onto your writing time if you can.

You’ll be glad that you did this when you hit the aforementioned wall.  Then, you can mention your literary troubles to them and they might offer some helpful advice or, at the very least, some encouragement.  You’ll also be glad you kept these people around when you face rejection, but I’ll get to that in my next post.  Stay tuned!

Writing People Away,
Katarina Madden

My Experience:

I sort of alluded to it above, but I totally push people away when I’m writing.  I can’t help it.  When it comes to hitting the wall, my family, who are terrified of the Monster-Novel by now, isn’t my first stop on the pity gathering train.  Instead, I go to my friends that aren’t around to be pushed away much when I’m writing for my encouragement.  This works, but I’ve found that your family is more accessible to gather encouragement from, while friends could be a car ride away.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Motivation to Stick With a Project

This kind of motivation is hard to find.  The motivation to stick with a project–specifically a writing project and specifically a novel–isn’t just conjured out of thin air.  Sometimes is sheer force of will that sees that novel to the end.  Sometimes it’s because people are waiting for the next installment/chapter, or you have an editor waiting for the first draft.  Sometimes it’s a set deadline, and sometimes it’s something more.

First of all, if you have no willpower, you will not finish your novel.  Period.  There are going to be times when it’s tough.  You won’t want to write another word, and you won’t see the point in completing this chapter or event the sentence you’re on.  If you can’t grit your teeth and stick with it, you’re not going to get anywhere.  It is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding when you have a completed manuscript in your hands.

In the past when I would post chapters of my writing on the forums of a game, the guilt would become overwhelming if I waited to long to write the next chapter.  That, with the combination of nagging readers–or worse, the ones who say they’ll love whatever you write no matter how long you wait to post it (guilt-fest!)–is a surefire way to get my fingers typing like mad.  This method works especially well if you’re not self-motivated and need an external force (a due date, for example) to get you working.  Programs like NaNoWriMo and Write or Die (links can be found in Writing Links and Writing Websites under Writing References) are also helpful when you need a kick in the pants to get writing.

If you are self-motivated, there are lots of tips and tricks to get you writing.  Here are just a few:

  • Break out the M & M’s!  Reward yourself with one piece for every 100 words. 
  • Provide yourself with bigger rewards for bigger landmarks.  If you finish a chapter, take a bath or go for a walk.  If you reach an increment of 10,000 words, see a movie.  Done with the whole manuscript?  Buy a few books (and support your favorite authors!) that you’ve been dying to read.
  • Set a deadline and work toward it every day.  Make sure that it’s reasonable and reachable.  Also, if your daily word quota is more than you can handle if you miss a day, it’s not going to work.  Things happen, so plan ahead.

Lastly, there is something more that urges you to stick with your novel.  Some might call it love of the project, but it can’t just be that.  It has to be stronger than love.  It has to be the inability to survive without your novel.  You have to want to write it so much that you can’t stop.  You might hate every word that comes your brain provides, but you write those words anyways because without them your story wouldn’t go on.  Your characters would be stuck, frozen forever in an uncompleted scene.  Not finishing that manuscript would be like losing part of yourself and leaving a character mid-scene would leave him or her teetering off the edge of obliv–

Finish what you started.

Sticking with it until the end,
Katarina Madden

My Experience:

I am very self-motivated when it comes to long-term goals, such as finishing a novel, but I struggle with the shorter ones.  “Why do I need to write 100 words to eat an M & M?  It’s right there?  I can just pick it up and eat it now and be done with it.” Then, I do just that.  I do reward myself for bigger accomplishments, like chapters and finishing the first draft, but that’s not what propels me to finish.  For me, it’s definitely the inability to live without my story.  I need it written so that it’s not inside just me anymore.  I can’t risk forgetting details, so I have to write it down.  That’s why I tend to write in spurts: 20,000 words in August, break, another large quantity over a long weekend, break, etc.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Why You Need to Start Writing NOW

I have this great idea, but…

a. I don’t know where to start.
b. every time I write, it sounds bad.
c. my writing sucks.
d. I’m too scared.

Here is why these excuses don’t work:

a. You won’t know where to start unless you do.
b. You won’t get any better unless you actually write.
c. See above statement.
d. The only way to conquer your fear is by facing it.

I’ve heard these excuses a lot from “writers.”  I tell them about what I’m working on, and then I ask, “So, what’s your latest work in progress?” It makes me so sad that people often respond with, “but” statements.

But I don’t think it will sell.”

But I haven’t plotted enough.”

But I’m scared, scared, scared.”

My responses:

“But that’s not why you should be writing.” (Seriously, write for yourself, not for others.)

“But I’ve never plotted.  You don’t need to.” (This is true–plotting isn’t my forte.)

“But if you don’t jump in now, you might never!”

I promise that if you get that story written now, you’ll realize how silly all your fears were.  It might be really bad; my first drafts always are.  But you’ll also be pleasantly surprised.  A lot of what you write will be salvageable.  Some of it might be genius or become genius.

But you’ll never know if you never write.  Maybe you’ll be famous someday, maybe you won’t.  Maybe people will love your book, maybe they’ll hate it.  But you will never know unless you write it.

I have a super secret to share with you: there is NOTHING preventing you from writing.  Once you realize this, you’ll be unstoppable!

Writing NOW,
Katarina Madden

My Experience: 

I used to always dream of writing.  When I was very young, I would write whatever came to mind.  Then I must have discovered that writing is something authors do, so I stopped.  I was fortunate enough to realize that nothing was preventing me from writing only a few years later.  I joined an online game, and on the game there was a forum where people would post their stories.

Then it hit me: I can do this, too!  So I did.  My first story was Battle Camp: the Rebellion.  It totaled 13,000 words of vomit-worthy literature.  Now, though, I’ve done a complete rewrite, and I love it.  This story has become my life, and I shudder to think how I would be different without this story.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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