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The Power of Positive Thinking in Your Writing

Power of Positive Thinking In Writing

As much as we all love to write, there can be times when it feels like a chore. I think we’ve all had days when nothing in your writing seems to be working well together or times when everything else in life is a little nuts and it’s difficult to fit writing into your day.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that on off-days like these–when writing is hard, or when all I can find is fifteen minutes–writing starts to feel like a task I “have” to do, instead of a task I “want” to do. The biggest thing that has helped me in situations like these is a conscious effort to change my perspective.

Today, I’m going to tell you all about the perspective shift I use, how it helps, and handful of other perspectives that might help you see your writing in a more positive light. You can save these for days when writing is tough or use them every day as needed.

“I get to” vs. “I have to”

This was the big game changer for me. We talk a lot on this blog about creating a writing schedule, committing to your writing, and building a writing habit. And all of this is true and important in the long run, but some days are harder than others. There are days where your head is simply not in the game and honoring your commitment is a real struggle. On days like those, I often find myself thinking that I “have” to write. And what I realized is that thinking about writing this way makes it an obligation. I then realized that when I think of writing like this, it’s even harder to actually get the work in.

So instead, I change my perspective. It isn’t that I “have” to write. It’s that I GET to write. Time spent writing–even writing badly, and even writing for a limited time–is a gift. It’s something I GET to do. And I’ve found, when I take just three minutes to think about this perspective and make it my reality, it’s a lot easier to psych myself up, get something done, and actually enjoy doing it. It doesn’t matter if what I wrote is trash, or if I didn’t meet my goals. I got to write. And I will get to write tomorrow (or the next scheduled writing day). That’s the win!

This phrase alone is usually enough to get me in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t make my writing any better or fix any other issues in my life, but it makes me feel better about writing. And when I feel better I write better–even if I’m not writing “good” yet.

But if this phrase doesn’t do it for you, here are a few others to consider:

“I’ll fix it later”

When writing is rough, it can be really easy to get caught up in what isn’t working and to feel like you can’t move on until the scene/chapter/problem you’re working on is significantly improved. If you find yourself obsessing over what isn’t working, take a time out and remind yourself that (unless this is the very last problem in your book) this can be a problem for *future* you. Current you can decide that you’ve given this problem your all, and it’s time to move on.

My favorite part about his phrase is how freeing it is. I always find it very easy to get caught up in what isn’t working and then it hits me; I can fix it later! This immediately lifts my mood because it lets me give myself permission to move on to something that’s (hopefully) less of a problem. I’ve often found that time away helps refresh me and when I come back to the problem, it’s a lot easier to solve.

“X is working really well.”

Another good way to shift your perspective is to take a moment to celebrate what is working. There is a gem to be found in even the muddiest of scenes and I challenge you to find it. Maybe it’s a character who is really coming through. Maybe it’s a newly discovered plot point. Or maybe it’s the realization that the book would be working really well (or at least better) if you just cut the whole problematic scene altogether. This might not seem like a good thing, but trust me when I say, a serious weight is lifted when you realize you’ve eliminated an unnecessary problem from your to-do list.

But overall, if you’re keeping the scene, there’s likely a good reason for it. Find and celebrate that reason, and let that success carry you forward.

“I moved my story forward.”

Like we covered, some days are rough. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, focus on what you did. Even if you only wrote a sentence, you moved your story forward. That means you’re one step closer to finishing. This may not seem like much, but books get written one sentence at a time. One sentence written is one less you have to write. You may not want every day to look like this, but it’s still progress. That’s success! Let that perspective carry you into the next writing day.

“I love this.”

If you show up to write on a regular basis there can only one reason: you have to love it. I really can’t imagine showing up everyday if I didn’t. And yes, it’s not always fun and easy, but I think the feeling of a good writing day is worth all the bad ones combined. So if you catch yourself in the middle of a bad stretch, take a time out and remember what a good writing day feels like. Know that will come back to you–it always does. You just have to keep writing. I’ve found it’s easier to push through the bad days if I remember what’s waiting for me at the other end. I remind myself that I love this and I love that feeling and if I keep going, I’ll find my way back.

I hope this helps you stay postitive as you write!

Now it’s your turn: What helps you stay positive as you write? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Satisfy Your Reader: 6 Writing Tips

How to Satisfy Your readers

If you want readers to truly love your story, it’s important to ensure they are satisfied. This isn’t the same as making them happy, and it’s doesn’t necessarily mean giving them what they want. To satisfy your reader, you need to tell a complete story that makes logical sense, and gives your readers what you’ve promised them.

Let’s take a look at what it means to satisfy your readers and how to go about it!

Happy vs satisfied

Readers are often happy when they get what the want in a story. This can be an event, a character development, a relationship, or an outcome. Equally, they are unhappy if one of their favorite characters dies, a couple they wanted together gets torn apart, or if there is an outcome they didn’t like.

However, it’s possible for a reader to be unhappy with events that unfold but still love a story because it leaves them satisfied. It’s possible to give readers what they want and have them not like a story because it’s too neat and tidy, which made it unrealistic and unsatisfying.

Satisfaction happens when events occur in a way that makes sense and could believably occur in real life. If your reader is satisfied, they are far more likely to enjoy what they are reading, regardless of how happy they are about what’s taking place.

For example, let’s look at Harry Potter for a moment. (I use Harry Potter a lot for examples on this blog because it’s such a widely read book. But if you haven’t read it and are planning to, skip the rest of this paragraph because I’m about to give a serious spoiler.) When the last book came out, most people seemed to love the book itself, but they took issue with the epilogue. This was largely because it seemed unrealistic that all of the characters would end up happily coupled with their first real significant other, which made it a touch unsatisfying. Many people were rooting for those characters throughout the story and wanted them to end up happy. But seeing everyone end up happy didn’t ring true to many.

How to satisfy your reader

Build storylines that pays off

If you’re going to spend time building a storyline, it’s important that readers get to see it pay off. There is nothing more frustrating as a reader than investing in a storyline only to have it take an unrealistic turn. For example, if you’re building a romantic relationship between two of your characters, it’s okay to draw it out and have a handful on minor setbacks. That much can easily happen in real life. However, it’s incredibly unsatisfying if you never let your characters get together, or if they get together and separate quickly.

If you’re asking your readers to invest in a storyline, give them the payoff. If you don’t, you’re breaking a promise to your readers. A well-executed story is one that satisfies readers and creates new realistic problems. Going back to the example in the last paragraph, if you’re building a romantic relationship between characters, let them get together instead of breaking them up immediately to “keep things interesting.” Couples still have conflicts, issues, and sweet moments after they’re in a relationship. Write the relationship you’ve asked people to invest in. It will satisfy your readers and may prove to be a fun writing challenge.

Focus on the characters not the reader

This may be a post about satisfying readers, but ironically, one of the best ways to satisfy them is not to focus on them while you’re writing. Consider them, sure, and you can absolutely prioritize them while you’re editing and revising. But they shouldn’t be your focus when you’re writing.

It can be easy to get caught up in the idea of surprising the reader or keeping them invested by denying them what they want. But if you play that game for too long, the reader may start to feel like they’ve been played or lead on and walk away. Additionally, if you’re focusing on the reader, it means your not focusing on the story and on what would make the most believable, logical, sense.

Paying attention to the reader can serve as a distraction when you’re writing. Instead, pay attention to your characters. If you hone in on what makes the most sense for them, it will likely result in reader satisfaction because it will read realistically. Don’t go for the shock factor. Go for the believability factor.

Focus on the characters, not yourself

Similarly, it can be easy to get caught up in your own fantasy of what you want for your characters just because you want it–even if it doesn’t make sense based on the rest of the story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cut scenes I’d written just because I wanted the events in them to happen.

But if the scene is rushing a storyline or doesn’t fit in the story at all, it’ll lead to an unsatisfying and frustrating reader experience.

However, it’s okay to draft scenes like this! If you’re anything like me, part of the reason I write is that I can make anything I want to happen on the page. That’s part of the joy of writing. But in the end, you have to step up and put your characters first, which may mean cutting scenes that you really enjoyed writing.

Focus on realistic, consistant character behaviors

The last two points talked about focusing on your characters. This one talks about what exactly you should be paying attention to when you do. It really comes down to believability and character consistency. If you have your character acting in a way that readers would find unbelievable or in a way that they have never acted before, you’re setting yourself up for a string of unsatisfying events.

For example, if your characters are preparing for a major battle, it would not be believable for the typically thorough chief planner to overlook an obvious possible error just so the story can have a complication. This wouldn’t be consistent with the character’s established thoroughness, which would lead to an unsatisfied reader.

Don’t rely on cliches

Lastly, don’t rely on cliches. Sure, in some cases, you might be able to make the argument that it’s a cliche for a reason, but for the most part, cliches are so overdone that they’ve become predictable. That predictability can read as inauthentic, which can leave your reader unsatisfied.

Additionally, if you rely too much on a cliche, you may end up stuffing your characters into boxes and roles they don’t belong in, in order to get your character to fill a cliched role. This would again mean that you end up having your characters behave in an unrealistic, inconsistent way in order to do so.

However, if you think you have a great idea on how to twist a cliche and make it something new, you should absolutely go for it! This can be a great way to refresh an overused concept. If you execute it well, readers will likely be satisfied by your ability to give them a new take on a familiar idea. And because you’re taking a new approach, it’s unlikely that you’ll box your characters into unsatisfying roles.

I hope this helps you create stories that satisfy your readers!

Now it’s your turn: What stories have left you the most satisfied? What do you think about when you try to satisfy your readers? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Build a Writing Life: 12 Writing Tips

How to Build a Writing Life

This post is for anyone looking to prioritize living a writing life above all else. Maybe you want to be published, or maybe you’ve just realized that you’re a happier, better person when you’re writing. Whatever your reasons, if you want to build a life that prioritizes writing, I’m here to help!

First, a quick personal note. I knew I was serious about being a published author in high school. But after grad school, I decided that writing made me so happy and fulfilled, that I wanted it to be a priority for me even of the only people who ever read my books were my family and friends. With that in mind, I set out to build a life around writing. There were a lot of factors in my journey to publication that I couldn’t control, but building a life that made me happy–one centered around writing–that was something I could control.

This post includes things that helped me create a life I loved. Ultimately, they did lead me to a book deal, but I would have been okay even if they didn’t. Because approaching writing and life this way made me happier than I ever anticipated.

With that said, not everything in this post will work for every writer. There are some trade-offs, and I can’t tell you what will work for you and your life. But if you’re serious about making writing a priority, here are some tips that helped me–and they just might help you too!

1) Make “enough” money

This is the first and biggest sacrifice. Figure out the bare minimum you need to make to get by and take a job that pays you that amount (or a little more to be safe). This might mean taking fewer hours at a job you’re currently working or finding a new job entirely. Making less money, generally means you’re working less, which means you have more time to write. (If you found that you’re already at your minimum, then consider some of the other tips instead.)

2) Get a low-stress job that saves your brain

If you have a high stress or mentally draining job, it will likely take most, if not all, of your mental energy. This means you won’t have the energy or time to write. Instead, consider jobs that don’t take too much brain power, stress, or off-the-clock attention. Like data entry, reception, or tutoring (like me).

I decided that I would rather have a “real world” job than a “real world” career in favor of prioritizing writing. To me, this meant being happy with a job that was not too demanding and that I didn’t have to take home with me, but had no real growth opportunity.

I have had a job as a college writing tutor for five years. So for four hours a day, I help students with their papers. I don’t make a lot of money at this job, but I make “enough.” I also don’t have to make lesson plans, grade anything, or do any work when I’m off the clock. I get to control my schedule. But the job itself will always be the same and I’ll never be in a position for any kind of promotion or real pay raise. This is perfectly fine for me because I have plenty of time to write, which is what fulfills me.

3) Schedule writing time daily

The first two items may require big life changes, so here’s one that doesn’t. Work writing into your schedule daily–or at least as much as you can. No one is going to prioritize writing for you. If you want to have a life that puts writing first, you have to make sure you actually write! This is something you can start ASAP. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day. There has to be something you can ditch in your day and drop writing in instead.

Do you have a half-hour lunch break? Start bringing a lunch you can eat quickly, that doesn’t need to be heated (like a sandwich). Give yourself fifteen minutes to eat, then write for fifteen minutes. Or get up just fifteen minutes earlier. If you need some tips on how to commit to your writing, check out this post.

4) Take courses

If you want to be a better and more serious writer, consider taking classes. Colleges, libraries, and community centers may have some info on inexpensive classes that could be more accessible than you think. This may be a particularly good idea if you’re struggling to write regularly. Putting money out to take a class may help put you in a writing mindset. It will give you deadlines, and force you to find time to write, which is a habit you can carry long after the class ends.

5) Read craft books

If courses aren’t your thing, consider some craft books or guides. Writers and writing teachers put out craft books on a regular basis. The resources page has some of my favorites. You can also check out your local library and see what they have on the shelves. And of course, you can read blogs like this one!

6) Read books like the ones you hope to write

If you know you want to write a supernatural thriller, read supernatural thrillers and study how the author executes the story. Then see how much of their techniques you can use in your own work.

7) Treat writing like a job

If you’re serious about making time for your writing, prioritize it as you would any other job. This approach was a game changer for me. So much so, that I gave it it’s own post, which you can find here.

8) Find a like-minded or supportive people

Finding and talking with other writers can go a long way in prioritizing writing. This can give you people to check in with, or people who will hold you accountable to your writing goals. If you don’t know any writers, supportive people who appreciate stories and the creative process can be just as helpful. I talk a little bit about how to find these people in this post on find early readers for your writing. The same methods apply in this situation.

9) Create or join a writer’s group

Alternatively, you can join a writer’s group or form one of your own. In this case, I’m not just talking about finding support for your writing, I’m talking about finding people who will critique and help you improve. There’s likely to be an active group in your community–your local library may have some info! If you can’t find one that works for you, consider forming your own. That’s what I did! My writer’s group formed from like-minded friends from high school. We meet once a month. It helps to make writing a priority when you know people will be expecting to read something or see some progress on a regular basis.

If you can’t find a group in real life, check out the internet! Facebook or other social media may prove to be a good resource.

10) Get an MFA (if you’re considering a degree)

I am by no means suggesting that you shell out a ton of money for a degree if you can’t afford it, but if you’re thinking about going back to school or getting a master’s degree, you might want to consider an MFA. I believe I would have gotten published without my degree, but I think it would have taken me so much longer. So if getting a master’s degree is something you’re planning, choosing an MFA would go a long way in prioritizing your writing. For more on the Pros and Cons of MFAs, check out this post!

11) Ask for help

This applies to things around the house, in life, and with your writing. If you want your writing to be a priority, it may mean downgrading some current priorities to make room. This can mean someone else in your house takes on the vacuuming or dinner prep a few nights a week. It may also mean asking a friend you trust to read and discuss a draft. If you have supportive people in your life, don’t feel like you have to navigate this change alone. And if you don’t have supportive people in your life, jump back to points 8 and 9 and get yourself some!

12) Accept and embrace uncertainty

One trade-off I made to prioritize my writing was a stable career with a clear future. Instead, I prioritize writing and the foreseeable future. I do what I can to ensure that I’m secure enough for now. At times, not knowing what’s going to happen next can be a little nerve-wracking, but on most days, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that anything can happen next!

If you can learn to keep your head down and focus on what you can control, the uncertainty of a creative life is not only manageable but exciting. After all, no one else really knows what’s going to happen next either. The downside of a stable career is that you owe a lot of your time and energy to someone else. And in the end, a company can still go bankrupt or fire people and leave them just as uncertain. Expecting uncertainty means giving up that obligation, which can be incredibly exciting and freeing.

I hope this helps you find you build an awesome writing life!

Now it’s your turn: What’s helped you created a happy, sustainable writing life? What’s been a struggle? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Commit to Writing Your Novel

How to Commit to your novelTruly committing to your writing can be an exciting yet intimidating thing to do. But if you ever hope to reach your writing goals, commitment is important! So with that in mind, today we’re going to talk about why you need to commit to your writing and how to make it happen!

Why you need to commit to your writing

An inconsistent schedule will hurt you down the line

I try to avoid generalizing, so I’m not going to say it’s impossible to write a book if you only work on it a few days a year, or whenever inspiration strike, or whenever you have time. After all, there may be someone out there who can spit out 10k-15k words a day in a few ridiculously productive bursts. But what I will say is that, even in that best-case scenario, you’re only really setting yourself up to write one book. Because this type of inconsistent work cycle only works if you’re not on a deadline and one is expecting material from you. If you only want to write one book in your life, then this may work for you. But if you want a writing career, consistency is important. And to create consistency, you need to commit to it.

You won’t prioritize your writing dreams and goals if you don’t commit to them

If you aren’t committed to your writing, then you’re not committed to the future you want for yourself. Without a commitment and a semi-serious schedule/plan, you’re saying your goals and dreams aren’t that important. Or at the very least, you’re saying that other things are more important. And sure, sometimes they are. Family is important. A job/money to live on is important. But sometimes, the other commitments sucking up your time aren’t really more important. For example, maybe you don’t really need to watch two hours of TV every night. Or, maybe you don’t really need to spend all of your half-hour lunch break with your co-workers. I can’t tell you what is or what should be important in your life, but I will say it’s really hard to make any goal come true if you don’t decide it’s important enough to be a priority. Writing is no exception.

Your book likely won’t get finished if you don’t commit to it

Like I said, I try not to generalize, so I don’t want to say there’s no chance of finishing a book without fully committing to it, but it’s highly unlikely that you will. Books take a lot of time and a lot of work. What starts out as a really exciting idea can become can start to fizzle out when you find yourself in the middle of your first draft with no clue what comes next. At a time like that, it can be easy to walk away. It gets exceptionally easier when a friend calls and wants to get dinner during your writing time. But if you give up on your book or pass on writing time for friend time, it will be almost impossible to finish your novel. And this is really why it’s so important to commit to your writing.

How to commit to your writing

Don’t let “commitment” scare you

I think commitment has become an intimidating word to some of us. It can make us feel locked in and trapped. It can make writing feel like a chore, or like it’s one more thing on an already too long to do list. Instead, think of your writing commitment as something exciting. You GET to write on a regular basis. You GET to escape for just a little while and work towards the goals. And you GET to spend time with your book, your characters, and yourself. It’s a good thing and an exciting thing! If you can remind yourself of that, it will likely make your commitment a lot more manageable.

Start small

Just because it’s a commitment, doesn’t mean it has to be a big one–especially if you’re just getting in the swing of things. It’s okay if your commitment is 15-30 minutes, 3-5 days a week. Or if it’s any leftover time on your lunch break or an hour every Saturday. The key is to be consistent. Ideally, you’ll write more regularly than once a week, but if that’s where you need to start, then that’s where you start. Get used to honoring a small commitment and when you’re ready, make it a more regular one.

If it helps, think small

Another potentially intimidating part of committing to writing a book is the idea of actually Writing a Book. A book is a big undertaking! They’re hundreds of pages long and there are a lot of moving parts. It needs to be drafted and revised and polished. It’s important to keep sight of the big picture, but it’s even more important to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed with what it really means to Write a Book. So instead, get used to your commitment by thinking small. Every day that you sit down to write, only think about the task you have to complete that day. If you make some kind of progress, no matter how small, you’ve honored your commitment. Let that fuel you to come back again.

Reward yourself for showing up

Plan some kind of reward for yourself for simply showing up to your writing. Down the line, you can reward yourself more for reaching your goals, but in the beginning, celebrate the fact that you’re building a consistent schedule. The size of your reward and the frequency are completely up to you, but don’t let yourself off the hook! Only treat yourself if you actually meet the guidelines you set out for yourself. So, if you decide you’ll reward yourself for showing up as planned for a full five day work week, you can’t decide only showing up four days is “close enough.” Don’t cheat yourself.

Focus on building a writing habit, not finishing a book

Similarly, make sure your goals are clear when you get started. Personally, I think it’s more healthy and sustainable to consider committing to building a writing habit, not just finishing your book. If you take the time to commit and build a sustainable habit, your book WILL get done. It may take a while, but it’ll happen. If you measure your success by how close you are to being done, it can be easy to get frustrated by the time investment and setbacks. It might make you less inclined to continue your commitment. But if success is showing up and moving forward, you’ll feel the success and benefits of your commitment daily. And before long, you’ll have your completed book (and maybe, you’ll even be on your way to more).

I hope this helps you commit to your writing!

Now it’s your turn: Have you struggled to commit to your writing? If you have, what are some roadblocks? If you haven’t, what helped you commit? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Evaluate Writing Advice: 7 Writing Tips

How to Evaluate Writing AdviceThere is a ton of writing advice out there! From books to one sentence nuggets to blogs just like this one, it seems like everyone has thoughts and opinions on how to write. And while there is plenty of great advice, there’s also a fair amount that’s not that great. So how do you tell the good from the bad? That’s what we’re going to take a look at today! (Shout out to commenter Johanna for inspiring this post!)

Understand why there’s SO MUCH advice

It’s important to know that the biggest reason why there is so much advice out there is because there are so many different ways to approach writing. There’s also a lot about writing that’s subjective. I’m sure you’ve found yourself in a situation where everyone is raving about a new book or TV show and you just don’t like it. Or maybe you’ve been the person really excited about a book or TV show only to come across someone who can’t stand it.

Everyone had different tastes and different minds. Which means when it comes to writing, we’re all going to have different things we want to see in books and different things we never want to see again. So before you do anything, recognize that you’re likely going to find conflicting advice and you shouldn’t follow every piece of advice you read. Everyone has different priorities, and sometimes those priorities won’t align with your own.

Only look for the advice you need

Now, because there’s so much advice out there, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by what you’re taking in. This is especially true if you’re just browsing Pinterest for general writing advice. Evaluating writing advice is important, but it’s hard to do if you’re overwhelmed that sheer amount you’re faced with.

So instead of just searching for “writing tips” search for advice on the specific problem you’re having. If you want tips on writing your first book or drafting, look for that. If you want tips on character creation, or plot development look for that. Whatever your problem is, only look for info on that one specific problem. This will narrow your search results, which should help you avoid overwhelm. If you come across an unrelated article that looks like it might be helpful for later, by all mean, save it. But don’t give it too much of your brain power until you’re ready to process and apply the information.

Try as much as possible (but ditch or modify as needed)

Once you’ve done your search for your specific problem, you are probably still faced with plenty of different techniques and approaches. Try as many as possible. You may be surprised by what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to ditch a method that isn’t proving useful, or to modify one that got you started, but isn’t quite right. Because there are so many approaches to writing, the only way you’re going to figure out the best approach for you is to get in there and try a bunch out. If a piece of advice works for you, add it to your toolbox. If it doesn’t, make note of that and move on. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer if something doesn’t work for you. It means you need a different approach.

For example, one piece of common advice I tried but I don’t follow is to write every day. I tried it. It didn’t help me, it drained me. Committing to writing 5-6 days a week helps me write regularly (which I believe is the point of the advice) without feeling fried all the time, so that’s an approach I added to my toolbox.

Consider if the advice will help your process or writing life

This applies mostly for drafting and process advice. Not every piece of advice you read will fit your life and your process. When you’re evaluating a piece of writing advice, consider if it will fit with you and your work style first and foremost. Just because a piece of advice worked well for a very successful writer doesn’t mean it will serve you well.

For example, if a person is struggling with ironing out their story, my first advice will always be to try brainstorming and outlining. Pre-writing like this really helps me, and it’s what I would do in that writer’s situation. If you’re someone who either likes outlining or has been curious about outlining, you might want to give my approach a shot. If your someone who has tried outlines, but never found them helpful, then you shouldn’t take this advice because it doesn’t fit your writing life. Instead, look for someone whose approach jives with your personal style at this stage of the process.

Consider if the advice will help you tell your story

This applies mostly for craft and structure advice. Every story is unique. And sure, there are some conventional approaches and structures that will help you tell an effective story, but every piece of craft and structure advice will not be true for every book. If you read a piece of advice that you think will strengthen your story, take it. If you come across advice that you honestly believe will hold your story back, don’t feel like you have to listen to it.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a fantasy and you come across advice that says the Hero’s Journey plot structure is the best structure for fantasy novels. You might look into the structure, realize all of your favorite fantasy books follow this structure and decide that it would really help your story. Or you might look at it and decide that so much of what you envision happens in the “ordinary world” so the plot structure doesn’t completely make sense for your story.

However, with that said, try to be open enough to consider honestly if the advice will help you–even if it means a lot of work or completely changing the direction of the book.

Understand where the giver is coming from

I truly believe in most cases writers give advice that has worked for them in the hopes that it might help another writer who is struggling with something similar. That’s largely why I blog. I learned so much from hearing other writers’ thoughts and techniques that I wanted to share mine too in case someone else might benefit. That doesn’t mean the thoughts or approaches shared by myself or anyone else is the “right” way to write. There’s plenty of advice I read that I don’t agree with or doesn’t serve me. That doesn’t mean those tips won’t serve someone else.

Most advice comes from writers, editors, or others with a strong understanding of what works for readers and what has worked for writers in the past. Every piece of advice cannot work for every writer or every story. Know that most advice is out there because it will work for some writers and some stories, and it’s up to you to decide if it will work for you.

Know that there’s now “right” or “sure fire” way to write

There are no guarantees in writing. Even if you find a process that works for you, it’s unlikely that it will work all the time. That’s just how writing is. No one has the secret to writing the perfect book time and time again. If you want to be traditionally published or tell a coherent story readers can follow, then there are absolutely some conventions you should consider adhering to, but at the end of the day, it’s all your call. If you don’t feel a piece of advice works for your process, your life, or your story, you are under no obligation to take it. No matter how wildly successful the person offering the advice is. It has to work for you and your story first and foremost.

Personally, I do my best to be open and to consider everything, but it all comes back to what will make me a more effective writer and storyteller. I follow the advice I believe will help me meet those goals.

As always, I hope this helps!

Now it’s your turn: How do you evaluate writing advice? Did I miss anything? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Create an Effective Writing Schedule: 8 Writing Tips

How to create an effective writing schedule

If you’ve read other posts on this site, you may have noticed that balance is a big theme. I think it’s important for us as writers to be dedicated to our writing, but I don’t believe we should run ourselves into the ground trying to make our dreams come true. Instead, I think that we should strive to push ourselves without killing ourselves. And if you ask me, that starts with creating a writing schedule that accommodates both our writing and lives.

With that in mind, here are eight steps to making an effective and practical writing schedule:

1) Find an amount of time you can write consistently

Consistency really is the key to completing your book and reaching your goals. If you truly value your writing, you need to make time for it. How much time depends on your life, commitments, and work style, but I would say you’re better off doing a little bit every day than a lot once in a while. If you’re just starting out, see if you can carve out fifteen to thirty minutes a day. The goal, in the beginning, is to simply make writing a habit. You may not end up writing every day once you settle in (I don’t!) but the point here is to get yourself in the used to writing on a regular basis. Once it’s a habit for you, you can have more flexibility. For now, just get yourself used to showing up regularly.

2) Figure out a realistic word count goal

Now that you’ve got a sense of how much time you can commit to, consider how much you’d like to get done during that time. I find having some kind of plan or goal for each day helps me to stay focused on my work. If I know what I need to get done in the time frame, I’m less likely to end up online or wasting time in some way. The key here is to be realistic about what you can reasonably accomplish in that time period. You may have to time yourself in the beginning. See how long it takes you to write 100 words at a normal pace. Once you know that, you should be able to figure out what you can get done in your given time frame.

3) Consider making your actual goal 15%-20% less

That word count goal you just figured out? That’s how much you can accomplish if your story is cooperating, you’re not interrupted, and everything is going your way. That’s the dream! But it’s also not something you can always depend on. Instead, consider making your goal 15%-20% less than you can reasonably accomplish. If you accomplish this new goal early, spend the rest of your time going for that dream goal.

Setting an achievable goal is crucial to maintaining a regularly effective writing schedule. It’s important to feel like you’ve accomplished something each writing session, so you’re motivated to show up again the next day. For more on setting reasonable writing goals, check out these posts: How to Set Manageable Writing Goals, Why Setting Reasonable Goals is Important.

4) Commit to keeping your schedule for 21 days

Once you come up with your daily writing schedule and goal, commit to keeping it for 21 days. That’s allegedly how long it takes to build a habit. Don’t worry about what comes after those 21 days. Don’t worry about maintaining this time for the length of your book. Just worry about the 21 days! Set reminders. Turn down last minute offers to socialize. Fully commit as much as possible to these 21 days and protect your writing time at all costs.

But keep in mind, your writing time doesn’t even have to come at the same time every day unless that works for you. Just strive for the same amount of time at some point each day. Though, I’d suggest starting each day by planning when you will write. The more intentional you are, the more likely you’ll find the time. If you plan to squeeze it in when you can, there’s no guarantee that time will ever come. For more on how to commit to your writing, check out this post!

5) Assess and adjust

Once you make it to the end of your 21 days, you’ll likely learn a lot about how you work best. Now it’s time to adjust your writing schedule based on what you’ve learned. Did you feel like time was up as you were just getting into things? See if you can find more time for yourself. Did writing every day burn you out? Try cutting back to five or six days a week. Did you find it too hard to stick to the same amount of time each day? Could you be productive with a little less time on some days? Adjust accordingly, then try your new schedule for another 21 days (if you’re not writing every day, try for 21 writing days).

6) Do your very best to show up every day, but if you miss a day, let it go

This is where the “push yourself, don’t kill yourself” comes in. Somedays, life might get in the way. Maybe you chipped your tooth and spend the day at the dentist, or you need to pick your kid up early from school and you lose your writing time. If life happens, don’t beat yourself up or stay up extra late when you’re exhausted and run down. Don’t kill yourself! Let it go and add another day to your 21 day writing commitment.

On the other hand, if you have the writing time but “just don’t feel like it,” push yourself. Suck it up, get in front of your computer or notebook and WRITE. Even if you don’t meet your goals, move your project forward. Once you build a regular writing habit, you can play hooky sometimes. But until then, force yourself to show up when you plan to.

7) If you do need to catch up, don’t do it all at once

I wouldn’t recommend putting too much deadline pressure on yourself when you’re just starting out. Once you have a writing habit you can add deadlines. You’ll likely be able to handle that deadline better if you’re used to writing on a consistent basis.

But if you have a deadline, whether it be self-imposed or for a contest or editor, and you can’t write a missed day off, try not to catch up all at once. Doubling up might burn you out and you may run the risk of falling even farther behind. If you planned on writing 500 words on the day you missed, try adding 100 words to your goal for five days. That should put you back where you need to be without pushing yourself beyond your limits.

8) If you miss more than a day here and there, re-evaluate your commitment

Life may get in the way sometimes, but if that happens more often than not, you may want to think about re-evaluating your commitment. If you planned a half hour, consider scaling back to fifteen minutes and really digging into it.

However, if it seems that even that’s asking too much, you might want to re-evaluate your priorities. If you’re not getting your time in because you keep saying yes to outings with friends, or non-essential favors for friends and family, I’d encourage you to be more protective of your writing time if you really want to finish your book. (I have a whole post on how to protect your writing time and say no to others.) If you’re losing time because of a family emergency or some other serious, time-consuming situation, consider putting your writing aside for now. Handle your situation or adjust to your new normal, then come back and try this process again.

I hope this helps you create an awesome writing schedule that works for you!

Now it’s your turn: What does your writing schedule look like? What helps you stick to it? What do you struggle will? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Tackle Impostor Syndrome as a Writer

Impostor Syndrome can be found in pretty much every field, but I’ve noticed it seems particularly common in writers.

In case you’ve never heard of impostor syndrome before, it’s essentially when you feel like a fraud in any particular aspect of your life. According to the article linked above, it typically surfaces after a major accomplishment. However, with writing, it seems like it can occur at almost any point in a writer’s journey. For example, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard “I’m not a real writer” from someone unpublished. I’m not a psychologist or an expert in imposter syndrome, but that certainly sounds like a form of it to me!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit my direct experience with impostor syndrome is minimal, but that’s largely because I developed a handful of tips and tricks to keep imposter syndrome at bay.

Today, I’m going to share those tips with you! I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Remember all the time you spent learning to get to where you are

It’s likely that you didn’t just wake up one day having never read a book and decide to write one. In fact, you’ve probably read a lot. You also may have read craft books or blog posts like this one. Perhaps you’ve taken classes or even went as far as getting an MFA. Maybe you’ve only done a few of these things. Maybe you have plans to do more. Regardless, you can’t possibly be an imposter if you are working to improve yourself and your writing. Fake people don’t do that. You are legit and you are working and learning and it all counts. Everything you’ve done has helped you get to where you are and everything you will do will help you get farther.

Everyone who writes is a real writer

A writer is someone who writes. End of story. That is the very definition of a writer. If you write, you are a real writer. You might not be a professional writer, or you might be an unpaid writer, but you are very much real. So if you’re doubting how “real” of a writer you are, come back to what it truly means to be a writer in the first place. If you write, you fit the definition.

You are working really hard!

One symptom of impostor syndrome is feeling like you “got lucky” when something good happens to you. I can assure you, any success you have is not luck. You might be lucky to find the right people to work with or lucky to find helpful critique partners, but success is not luck. Success is hard work. And I have not met a writer who isn’t working really hard. Even if you’re working slowly, you are still working hard! You earn any and all success you get. And if you haven’t met your goals yet, know that when you do, you will have earned that too. If it helps, sit down now and make a list of everything you’ve overcome so far in your writing life. Count everything from a particularly challenging scene you ironed out, to every draft you completed, to every book that felt finished enough to submit, to people or time constraints that have threatened to hold you back. Keep adding to it. And if you ever catch yourself feeling like an imposter, pull your list out and look at what you’ve done. Imposters don’t overcome like that.

No one’s writing process looks a certain way

I think another way writers can feel “fake” is by looking at another writer’s process or progress and realizing their process looks nothing like that. Some might then believe this means their doing this wrong. But no two writers’ processes are going to look the same. There is no right way to write. Even on this site, I share ideas and tips that have helped me, because I learned what works for me by reading a wide range of techniques other writers employ, but you are not wrong if you write differently than me or any other writer. You are not an impostor if your writing process looks like nothing you’ve ever come across. In fact, I would argue this makes you the most authentic writer you can be, which is far from being a fraud.

I hope this helps you battle impostor syndrome!

Now it’s your turn: How do you battle impostor syndrome? Is there any particular aspect you struggle with? Tell me about it in the comments and maybe we can all help each other out!

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How to Write in Any Environment: 5 Writing Tips

How to Write in Any EnvironmentWe all have our ideal writing environments. Maybe it’s a space in the house or in a busy cafe. But what happens when we can’t get to an ideal environment and we need (or want) to write? Often times, one of two things happens. Either we can use our poor environment as an excuse not to write, or we can adapt.

I learned to adapt accidentally and out of necessity fairly early in my writing life. I’d always been able to write in a quiet room, but when I decided I wanted to have an independent study in high school to write my first book, I found myself writing in the back of a busy classroom, which was obviously the opposite of what I was used to. What I learned in that experience helped me to figure out not only how I work best, but also how to adapt to any environment.

Here are five steps to help you write in any environment:

1) Figure out your “ideal” writing environment

Don’t be afraid to try a few different types. Just because one environment is working fine doesn’t mean another won’t work better. Try writing in a cafe, a library, a quiet room at home, an office, and outside in nature. Try writing when you have plenty of time, and try writing when you only have five or ten minutes. Figure out what environment and circumstances make you the most productive. I learned that one place I work best is in a busier environment with a limited time frame, but I only found that out after I got my independent study and had no choice but to work in those conditions. I was working fine in a quiet room, so if it weren’t for that independent study, I never would have tried anything different.

2) Identify the specifics of your environment that help you be productive (and what distracts you)

Now that you have your ideal environment, break down the specifics of exactly what makes you productive. For example, I’ve found that a busier cafe environment is good for me in almost any situation. The ambient noises help keep me focused. However, if I’m in a quieter environment and I can pick up on one or two conversations, then I’m easily distracted. I also know I’m better with a limited time frame; if I give myself all day, I’ll take all day and probably won’t meet my goals. But if I only have a couple hours, I’ll be more focused and probably meet my goals even more quickly than the time I’ve given myself. Your ideal environment will most likely be different. Be as practical and analytical as possible in breaking down what works for you.

3) Figure out ways to mimic the specifics in less-than-ideal environments

Once you have a concrete understanding of what works for you and what distracts you, come up with ways to mimic your ideal situations and minimize distractions in your less-than-ideal environments. For example, since I know I can work well with ambient noise or silence, I need to be prepared to write in quiet-but-not-silent environments. I write on my computer, so I downloaded an ambient noise track and keep headphones in my bag at all times. This way, if I find myself in a quieter set up, I can plug in my headphones and simulate a busy environment so I can still write. If you’re someone who needs quiet to work, consider carrying earplugs around. 🙂

Is this the same as writing in your ideal environment? Rarely. But it makes it so you can write, even if you’re not quite as locked in as you usually are.

I can’t remember where I downloaded my ambient noise track from, but if you’re able to connect to the internet, here’s a fun site with TONS of ambient tracks to chose from.

4) Test and fine-tune

You’re probably going to have to go through some trial and error to figure out how to best mimic your ideal environment. Do some research. The more specific you can be with what you’re trying to mimic, the more options you’ll have to help yourself.

5) Consider your mood and story status as you troubleshoot.

If it seems like nothing is working, consider your mood and your story’s status. If your head’s not in the game or if you’ve been struggling with your story in your ideal environment, it might not be the technique you’re testing that’s the problem. So, don’t write something off completely unless you know for sure it’s the technique that’s the problem.

I hope this helps you write in any environment!

Now it’s your turn: What’s your ideal writing environment? What tips do you have to be productive in a less-than-ideal writing environment? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Build a Successful Writing Life

Building a successful writing life one step at a timeWhen I explain my writing process and writing life to others, it sounds like a finely honed process. So much so that I’ve had seasoned writers tell me how impressed they are.

I don’t say this to brag. My process and writing life don’t feel all that impressive to me, but they really are as finely honed as they sound. Does that mean it works for me 100% of the time? Of course not. But I do feel productive and successful more often than not. (If you want to read more about my process, check out my Writing Process series! You can find the first post here!)

I firmly believe the main reason my approach is so effective is that I took the time to figure out the best process for me. But this didn’t happen overnight. So today, I’m going to share how I created my process and writing life in the hopes that these steps will help you build a life that works best for you.

1) Identify what’s slowing you down or giving you a problem

Make a list and be honest with yourself. Is time management a problem? Or is it that you don’t have enough time in your day? Is it that you feel “stuck” a lot? Do you find yourself losing steam with your plot? Consider both practical writing problems (getting stuck) and life/environment problems (not having the time and space).

If a list isn’t your thing, you can just go to the next step. I  stumbled into this method accidentally, so I didn’t actually have a list when I started. I just had a good understanding of what standing my way.

2) Pick the biggest problem and work that ONE problem only

This is really the key for me. I built my process by solving one problem at a time. It’s taken YEARS to get it to the place where people are apparently impressed by how I work, but it never felt overwhelming to me. By focusing on a single issue, I was able to continually improve and work better without getting bogged down in trying to fix everything at once.

So, pick your biggest issue (or, if you’re not working from a list, take one issue you want to solve). If your biggest problem is that you don’t have enough time, sit down, take a hard look at your schedule and see where you can find some more. Then show up. Even if you don’t get much done because you have other problems to solve, give yourself credit for solving (or improving) that ONE problem you’re working.

3) Fine-tune your approach on that ONE problem until you find something that works for you

Work that ONE problem until you find a solution. Maybe you need to get up a little earlier and write before anyone needs anything from you. Maybe you need to make use of the ten or fifteen minute windows throughout your day. Do some online research and see how other people have solved a similar problem, and try a bunch of things until you feel you’ve overcome that obstacle. Progress may be slow as you work through this. It always seems to be with trial and error. Take yourself off the clock and focus on finding some progress. And know that taking the time to figure out how you work best now will set you up for a lifetime of progress. Trust me, it’s worth it!

4) Repeat with the next element on your list

Once you’ve successfully worked out your obstacle, go back to your list and pick something else! Work it through the process!

5) Don’t be afraid to modify as you and your work evolve

Every project has different needs. Plus, as you grow, you’ll learn new tricks you can try out. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m a big outliner. My outlines are multicolored and span several sheets of paper, but it took me several years (and books) to work up to that point. And it’s still evolving. I’ve found my process and writing life to be living things that I continuously adapt.

6) Don’t limit this approach to your writing

I have found this process to be addictive and I apply it often in my everyday life. For example, I once found I was spending too much time checking and answering email, so I sat down and figured out a way to be just as effective in less time. You can use this process for nearly every aspect of your life that you’d like to improve.

Final note:

After writing this out felt, I feel like this make look a little daunting but I really hope it doesn’t feel overwhelming to read. I swear I didn’t find it to be too much when I was going through the bulk of the work early on. It felt like I was learning more about myself, and becoming more complete with each new trick I learned. I hope this approach helps you as much as it’s helped me. And if you need help solving a particular problem, leave a comment below! If I have tips to share, I’ll try to do a post on what you’re struggling with.

I hope this helps you build a successful writing life!

Now it’s your turn: How do you fine-tune your writing life? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Have a Happy Writing Life

How to Be a Happy WriterBooks are often labors of love. We work on them never knowing if they’ll see the light of day. Ultimately, it’s up to us to make those books happen. We have to make time for them and we have to take on the responsibility of completing them. And in the end, no matter how hard we work and how much time we put in, there’s no way to know if what you’ve written is good enough to be shared, published, or otherwise appreciated by readers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy writing life.

Writing a book can be a lot of pressure, and it can suck you dry just as much as it can invigorate you.

But here’s the thing to remember: this writing life is YOURS. You decide how much pressure you put on yourself and you can decide to shift yourself and your perspective in such a way that you’re happy with the writing life you’re living, no matter where you are in your writing journey. You can decide to build a happy writing life no matter where you are on the journey.

Here are ten decisions you can make to make a happy writing life for yourself:

1) You can decide your writing matters

The rest of the world may tell you your writing doesn’t matter unless it’s published or unless you win some contest. You can decide you don’t need someone else’s validation. You can decide your work matters simply because you’ve written it.

2) You can decide what success is

Again, it’s easy to think of “success” as being published or winning awards. And sure, that’s one version of success. But the problem with those definitions is that they are out of your hands. You are, effectively, letting other people decide when you’ve succeeded. That’s setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, you can decide to define success as not giving up, which is really the only thing you can control. You can decide that every day you show up, and every day you work on what’s within your control, you’re succeeding. Maybe it’s not the dream (yet) but it can sustain you.

3) You can set your timeline (and maybe consider not setting a timeline)

You are the one who sets your writing life timeline. You decide at what age or how far off you’d like to be published by. Which means you don’t actually have to set a timeline! Similar to the point above, if you build a timeline you’re putting an awful lot of weight on other people’s actions. Those are actions you can’t control. Setting a timeline around them can be demoralizing if things don’t go the way you plan. Instead, make a manageable timeline for the work you’re going to do on your own stories, not the things you want to happen as a result. Focus on that instead. And if things get off track, don’t sweat it! The benefit of creating your own timeline is that you can adjust it as you need to. It’s only a source of stress and pressure if you decide it is.

4) You can decide that your progress matters

It’s easy to get caught up in not being “finished” and it’s easy to get caught up in the work you have in front of you. But you can decide the work you’ve done so far is worth celebrating, and you can decide the progress you’ve made matters more than the work you still have to do. The Mayo Clinic actually has an article on the importance so focusing on progress over perfection.

5) You can decide the journey is more important

In real life, I’m really not one for “traveling.” I hate the journey and I’m all about the destination. But when it comes to writing I’m the opposite. You can decide the journey and the experience you have writing your book matters more than the end result. You can decide that the act of creating means more than the act of sharing, and decide that sharing (and publishing) is a lovely perk.

6) You can decide the intangible benefits of writing matter more than the tangible ones

I don’t know about you, but I write because of how I feel when I do it. I was prepared to write for the rest of my life whether I ever got published or not. I realized fairly early on that writing made me a happier and more fulfilled person, whether anyone else liked what I was writing or not. Because how I feel and what writing does for me is so much more important than a tangible benefit I can point to.

7) You can decide to commit to your writing

You can decide to make writing a priority at any point. No one else will do it for you. You can decide to get up a half hour earlier or spend your lunch break on your computer instead of with your co-workers. You can make as much or as little time for writing as you want. For more on this, check out this post!

8) You can decide to make time for non-writing activities (guilt free!)

You don’t have to chain yourself to your desk to call yourself a writer. You can (and should) spend time with family, friends, or even your tv screen without feeling like you should be writing. Granted, you can’t blow off writing for this kind of stuff all the time, but balance is important. You need it to have experiences and emotions to write about.

9) You can decide to write for you

You can decide that telling yourself a story your love is more important than telling a story every reader may love. And you can decide to trust that if you love what you’re writing, readers like you will love it too.

10) You can decide your best is enough

You can decide that the work you’ve done is good enough, regardless of what anyone else says. And you can decide that the work you’re doing now is good enough to help you grow, whether it gets you where you want to be right now or not. For more on this, check out the post linked above!

I hope this helps you have a happy writing life!

Now it’s your turn: What helps you make a happy writing life? Tell me about it in the comments!

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