Category: by nano guest

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Unfortunately, life consists of more than just writing time. It can be challenging to use your time well, but fear not! Today, participant Daniela McVicker shares some great practical tools to help with effective time management: 

We all face the issue of spending too much time on straightforward tasks, which is why time management is such a vital skill for any professional, especially if you’re a writer. 

There are many reasons one’s time management might be off. Many of us will procrastinate by going down their preferred social media rabbit hole. Others will simply plan their work time improperly. There are things that each of us can improve in our workdays. The great news is that there’s a time management tool that will take of it. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at a variety of services that help you work more efficiently and stay on task for longer. Let’s dive right in, shall we? 

A central rule of time management

Before we look into each individual tool that writers will find useful, it’s important to stress that efficient work starts with proper time distribution. 

Back in 1955, Cyril Parkinson published an article in The Economist, which would change the way many governments perceive deadlines. It was coined as ”Parkinson’s Law” and here’s the gist of it: 

“The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.”

In a nutshell, you’ll work on a task for at least the time as you dedicate to it. Efficient work starts with setting reasonable deadlines. 

Many of the tools we’re going to look at today will take advantage of this law.

1. Focusmate

Focusmate is a tool that many writers adore. This tool taps into the peculiarities of human psychology, which allows it to improve your output during a limited amount of time considerably. 

After you make an account with the platform, you’ll be able to schedule 50-minute sessions with other people. The protocol of these meetings implies that you provide each other with a detailed list of tasks you’ll be working on during the session, after which you’ll proceed to work in silence. Once the session is over, you’ll both report on the amount of work you’ve managed to get in, which is a potent form of digital accountability. 

More importantly, this tool allows you to take advantage of the Parkinson’s Law, by assigning a limited amount of time on detailed and granular tasks, thus maximizing your productivity and managing your time with maximum efficiency.

2. Cuckoo

Cuckoo is a very straightforward but highly efficient timer designed for teams and individuals. It allows you to divide your work in increments of various length, allowing to preestablish the amount of time you allocate to a certain task. 

Besides merely using it as a personal timer, you can sync your work sessions with your colleagues and teammates for collective accountability. 

It has an amazingly intuitive interface and design and can be used both in a browser and as an app on your machine.

3. RescueTime

A large part of optimizing your time distribution is eliminating wastefulness. RescueTime is a great tool to identify the activities that detract from your productivity. It works as a background tracker and provides its users with detailed reports on the amount of time they spend or waste on specific activities during a day of work. 

Once you’ve collected enough data on the main culprits of your decreased productivity, you can then start blocking apps that tend to distract you. Considering how intellectually demanding writing is, many reliable writing services have incorporated Rescue Time and similar apps in their daily workflow. 

4. Freedom

Freedom is somewhat similar to RescueTime in that it allows you to block certain websites and apps during your work time. However, it takes this feature to the next level. You can create different lists of distractors and block entire lists of apps and site on the device that you’re using or across all of your devices, including your smartphone, tablet, and so forth. 

The unfortunate truth about social media is that we often intend to open them during working hours. More importantly, we’re rarely aware of the fact that we’re distracted, because… well, because we’re distracted, we simply forgot about the task that we were working on a few moments ago. This is why Freedom is such an indispensable tool in a writer’s arsenal. 

Just experimenting with Freedom will provide you with a lot of insight into how mindless everyday distractions can be. So in case you’re looking to minimize the amount of time you’re wasting on sites that are robbing you of your concentration — this is your app. On a similar note, check out an article we published recently on writing with ADHD.

Conclusion

Writing is very demanding, which is why distraction and poor time management have to be eliminated from a writer’s workflow as soon as possible. These tools will have an impressive impact on how you allocate time for your writing tasks and how much time you waste on sites that capitalize on it. 

Better time management leads to higher productivity and more consistent professional growth. 

Now, back to you. What are the tools you use? Why do you use them? How do you use them?


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Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer. She has a master degree in English Literature, and she is truly passionate about learning foreign languages and teaching. Daniela works with the students helping them to reveal the writing talent and find one true calling.

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Diversity makes stories better, plain and simple. This year, we’ve partnered with the good folks at Writing With Color to get some advice on how to write stories populated with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. In the second part of her sub-series “Properly Coded,” Alexa White discusses how to create backstories for characters of color:

Now that we’ve covered how to research to create your characters, it’s time to work on creating the appropriate character backstory. If you don’t spend the time figuring out how a person’s upbringing shaped their worldview, you’ll end up writing yourself in a different wig every time.

You can’t just assume that people will have come out of the same experiences the way you did. You have to account for how their demographics shaped the perception of those around them, which in turn shaped their perception of the world. 

You should have some idea of how this cycle from your research (covered in part 1). If you don’t feel like you have a general sense of it, work through these exercises and do more specialized searching. 

1: Fill out their frame of reference

“Frame of reference” is a fancy way of saying what they expect to happen in any given situation. It’s basically what your lived experience tells you will happen, what to expect, and how people will generally treat you.

Spoiler: it’s going to include expecting microaggressions.

However, you want to do things other than include microaggressions. You’ll want to create things like what’s comforting, their most familiar communication style, their idea of good and evil, and a whole bunch of things. You basically want to create a unique-to-them lens that they see the world through, while also acknowledging that their lens will be made of what was around them.

Were they a Black family in an almost-all-white neighborhood after a generational climb to the middle class (a la Fresh Prince)? Indigenous in a cultural center with freedom to practice traditions? Seventh generation in the country they call home, but still seen as outsiders because of a white default? All of these will shape how they see the world, and you should research accordingly.

2: Come up with a few formative experiences

Positive or negative, everyone has a few points in their life that change them. 

Leslie Odom Junior talks about the teacher at his school who brought him into the world of orating, that led him to realize the power of words. This, in turn, lead him to believe in Hamilton with such dedication, because it was his culture and he could speak from his own experience on stage.

Take some time and try to piece together what made the character who they are today. Reading the first book that featured themselves as a protagonist? Their parents refusing to let them compromise themselves and their cultural identity because of ignorance? The way they celebrated a cultural holiday every year with their community, all the flavours that come to mean happiness on their tongue?

You don’t have to come up with a lot. Just one or two things that sparked something is all you need.

3: Do this for the characters’ parents/guardians, as well

If only to figure out the full scope of how your characters would have been raised. Whether you’re writing fantasy, modern times, or even far in the future sci-fi, knowing how parents experienced the world will go a long way to figure out how they shaped their children.

You’ll want to do the above two steps for at least one generation back in order to avoid stereotyping the parents. So many toxic tropes for characters of color exist in the parental sphere, from desexualisation, to overly-strict, to abandoning, to assuming all things white are the best. The reality is much richer, much more dynamic, and full of possibilities to give your characters a sense of lineage.

You’ll notice I was very positive with the examples above. That’s because these steps are designed to force you away from tragic/negative stereotypes and towards people. People of co lour have their own lived experiences, and stories about them need to respect everything they experienced in their upbringing.

Happy research!

~ Alexa


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Alexa White, also known as Mod Lesya on Writing with Color, is a Mohawk two spirit person from Southern Ontario, who joined Writing with Color to help educate others. A lifelong lover of storytelling, she dedicates her focus to making characters feel like they come from whatever setting they’re supposed to exist in. If she is not found writing, she is playing with her cat, cooking, or drawing.

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Diversity makes stories better, plain and simple. This year, we’ve partnered with the good folks at Writing With Color to get some advice on how to write stories populated with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. In the second part of her “Do’s of Writing People of Color” sub-series, founder Colette Aburime discusses how reading diversity will help us write diversity:

Writers write. They should also read. And if you plan on writing Characters of Color, you should read works by People of Color. More specifically, stuff from authors in that ethnic group. Consider this an important part of your research.

How do People of Color tell their tales, express culture, and represent themselves in story? You may find that—ope! We humans are quite alike in many regards.

It’s those key differences you should learn to add a touch of authenticity.

Whether it’s:

  • Haircare needs & styles
  • How we describe ourselves
  • Microaggressions: the ones we face & how we cope
  • How we incorporate, celebrate and balance culture
  • Fitting in at work and school

When the mods and I give advice on WritingwithColor, we speak mainly from our experiences. Don’t stop at just one book or blog. There are many more voices to hear. Seek plenty of stories by those you hope to represent.

Primary Resources:

  • Fiction – particularly in your story’s genre
  • Non-fiction
  • Blogs and vlogs
  • Articles
  • POC Profiles on WritingwithColor blog (reader submission-based experiences)
  • Autobiographies, diaries and memoirs – particularly in your story’s time period
  • Social media / message boards (Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit can be an open diary!)
  • Comment sections, reviews, and discussions from any number of these.

Remember your goal is to learn and to listen.

Tips:

  • Practice proper etiquette. When entering public or semi-private spaces, provide support without offering unasked-for sympathies or questions. “Thank you for sharing” is a good general way to show support. Or sometimes lurking is best. Regardless, make sure all commentary is welcome and appropriate.

For example: A Black girl venting about getting her hair pet by a coworker isn’t the time to ask “Well, why is it so wrong to do that?” Google is a good, dear friend!  

  • Keep an open mind. Some of these sources may share raw, intimate information. Truths that make you uncomfortable, told in ways that don’t sugarcoat or act nice about it. Time to forget yourself! A person’s personal experiences are seldom written to make others comfortable. Again, you’re here to listen and learn. And you will learn if you listen!
  • Support Authors of Color. When it comes to stories, support the author with a review. And if you liked it, recommend the book to others. You could also buy a copy or ask your library to carry it. 

It’s not all about oppression.

Something you’ll discover from reading our stories, particularly fiction; we want adventures! To fall in love, crack the cold case, and soar from the backs of dragons. Most of our lives are not 24/7 about The Struggle.

In any case, stories that let us play is part of escapism. Allow us these moments. When we’re ready for really tough stuff, we’ll seek the stories that deal specifically with those topics.

And don’t forget all the positive to neutral things. Food, holidays, traditions, music, get-togethers…

Overwhelmed?

Don’t get lost in the details. Not everything you learn will prove relevant to the story, but it could provide some background. In the same way giving your MC the favorite color yellow may never appear on the pages, it gives insight on who they are.

Organize to Success!

Chart your findings in a neat and easy to reference manner.

I’ve created this Character of Color Research Table (Google Doc) to give you a start. Make a copy and fill the chart with whatever information you see fit.

Now, pick up a great book by an Author of Color and get in some research!


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Colette Aburime is the founder of WritingWithColor, a writing advice blog focused on diversity. She studied creative and professional writing in college, and writes (or rather, dreams of writing) in her free time. Colette is a big fan of romance and fantasy and lives out her fairytale in a humble cottage in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. She spends happily ever after with her prince, plants, and a feisty cat. Check out WritingWithColor on Tumblr and Twitter.

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November is coming. To get ready, we’re taking a road trip to visit Wrimos from around the world, and hear about how their regions can inspire your writing. Today, Wales Municipal Liaison Katie Price talks about Celtic mythology, and how myths can help you give texture to stories:

Bordered by England to the east and by sea in all other directions, this small, yet breathtaking country boasts home to a population of 3 million. Famous for its rugged coastlines, rolling hills, valleys, and majestic mountains, artists of all forms are never short of inspiration for their crafts when they gaze upon the vibrant country of Wales.

Apart from its beautiful landscapes, Wales is also famous for its many myths and legends. Each handed down over the centuries from their Celtic ancestors.

From pilgrims and knights in King Arthur’s court to giants, lake maidens, fairy folk, and dragons, Wales is steeped in fantastical lore. 

Shared throughout the ages as proverbs and songs, in addition to thrilling spoken and written stories, these myths have shaped the way Wales has grown and many towns gained their names through onomastic lore (lore which explains place names). Along with this, Wales is one of only two countries in the world to have the mythical dragon on its national flag.

In a country surrounded by mythology, and awe-inspiring scenery, it is no wonder that creative writers and novelists (especially those who participate in NaNoWriMo) tend to choose ‘Fantasy’ as their genre of choice.

I am one such novelist.

Growing up around all this mythology, it didn’t take long for my malleable young mind to become fascinated by fantasy and conjure up magical stories of my own, drawing on those familiar myths and legends as inspiration for my own writing. In fact, the novel I began writing five years ago and will be continuing for NaNoWriMo 2019 is a retelling of the Welsh changeling child myth.

Welsh mythology and lore certainly played a significant role in my journey as a writer and, no doubt, in the journeys of many other writers throughout the ages. 

Even if your writing style or genre of choice is the furthest thing from ‘fantasy’, myths can still play an important role in the development of your characters and the worlds they reside in.

Myths exist in every culture and country across the world. No matter where you are, there is always some story that a local might relate to you as warning or clarification as to certain events, locations, or names. 

They are traditional, usually ancient, stories involving supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes used to explain aspects of the natural world, show the psychology, customs, or ideals of a society, and sometimes, to explain the unexplainable.

If you are truly committed to your craft and to delving deeper into the worlds and minds of your characters, try using myths to do this. Let them add historical meaning and cultural background to your characters and the locations in your novel.

Whether you choose to write fantasy, historical fiction, romance, or any other genre of book, the fact remains that myths shape communities and countries as well as individual’s beliefs, attitudes, fears, and superstitions.

Explore what myths may have shaped the past and attitudes of your characters. Delving into their minds in this way will help you get a better insight into why they act or feel a particular way.

If you’re up for a challenge, try writing a myth to explain:

  • Why the sun rises
  • Why it snows
  • Why leaves change color
  • Why the moon changes shape
  • Why people are different colors; or
  • To explain the changing tides

If all else fails, a recollection and recounting of a myth from their past is a good way to keep the momentum flowing during NaNo and add a neat little chunk of words to your word count.


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Katie Price is a first-year CO-ML for the Wales region and active participant of NaNoWriMo since 2012. After a 5 year career in Business Admin and Finance, she left the business world behind to raise a family and is now a devoted mother to her 2-year-old daughter and 3-year-old autistic son. When she can find the time she enjoys writing Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and YA Romance.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from felizfeliz on Flickr.

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Writing a novel in a month can be hard—even harder when dealing with mental health. In this post, NaNoWriMo Participant Hannah Blackwell talks about how NaNoWriMo is not only possible with mental health problems, but potentially beneficial:

It’s almost an understatement to say that life is overwhelming. This holds especially true during NaNo season. Juggling life, employment, family, friends, and a fifty thousand word novel requires at least two hands, and that becomes especially hard when a writer deals with mental illness too. 

Last year, my first ever year with NaNo, I had just been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. On top of that, I’d just started a new job that wasn’t going particularly well. I almost didn’t do it – I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t broken my foot and needed something to do while recovering. I’d nearly given up on writing altogether, and accepted that I might never finish a novel. I was just going to put all of my passion away. But I knew that writing was something that I loved, and I hoped that if nothing else, writing would give me a positive headspace to recover in.

A few days into the writing process, I decided to explore the NaNo forums, a wonderful place full of interesting people. I’d perused a few teacher threads, a few video game ones, a few for my genre. Then I stumbled on a thread for other people my age with mental health issues. Curious, I checked it out. 

At first, I thought it would be a place to come and rant when I was upset, or complain when all of my energy was spent, or just release steam after work. I never really expected any of these people to be more than users on a forum. But every day I would find encouraging messages, leave support, and gain valuable advice that helped me not only reach my word count, but complete my entire novel, which I’m still currently editing. We even made a separate group chat to talk in, and to this day I still talk with the people that lifted me up doing NaNo. 

It is a relief to know that there are people who feel the same way that you do when you’re alone. It’s even better to know that there are kind and supportive people out there who not only understand, but encourage you to do your best. No one should have to feel alone, which is why reaching out and communicating is such a valuable thing that sometimes we take for granted. This year, I have already taken a head start in making a thread for those who might need some encouragement during the stresses of NaNo. 

Encouragement is a necessity for EVERYONE, not just people with mental health issues. Writing a book is HARD. It’s intimidating as hell. There are so many times when I wanted to give up on my writing, and all it took was someone to say, hey, maybe it doesn’t mean anything, but I believe in you. Drink some water, and have a really wonderful day. Kind words can absolutely go an extra mile. 

If you’d like to be a part of the Support Squad, I encourage you to look on the boards for a place to talk to others. It can be a wonderful thing to pass on some encouragement to others. And if you need some support, there are plenty of us here for you.


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Hannah Blackwell has been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2018. She likes to write YA Fantasy and SciFi books when not working at her job as a music teacher. Currently, she is working on turning her first NaNo project into a fully published novel. She lives in central Illinois with her cat, Gigi, and her soon to be husband. If you’d like to connect with her, she is on Twitter, Pinterest and her NaNoWriMo username is FrenchToastOk

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Diversity makes stories better, plain and simple. This year, we’ve partnered with the good folks at Writing With Color to get some advice on how to write stories populated with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. In this post, Alexa White gives advice on finding the right voice for characters of color:

The #1 thing I tell people on Writing With Color when they provide a character for review is “this sounds like a white person.”

I don’t say it as a condemnation, but to provide a baseline for what people are working with. They are working from an environment where white narratives, white people, and white-majority countries are the only places deemed “worthy” of their history, culture, and physical location being explored.

As a result, most characters come across as white. Their thought patterns, mental framework, and values don’t feel like they reflect the realities of growing up as someone othered. There aren’t enough details, the priorities feel wrong, and the cultural touchstones are just not there.

Thankfully, the internet is very vast, and has provided people multiple ways to respectfully research everything you could need. Here are three basic steps (in no order) you can take to begin creating characters of color:

1: Listen in on social media

Key word: listen. The goal of this step is to familiarize yourself with communities that are speaking as if white people aren’t around. You can do this on any social media platform. 

How to find these communities can be tricky. A great place to start is going through Writing With Color’s tags meant to gain community commentary (NDN only), following activist accounts (black lives matter), and just generally searching “x activist” (googling Asian activism got me a Wikipedia article on Asian-American activism, with the name of multiple movements, activist organizations, and notable activists. Note: it’s very East Asian heavy, but you can tailor searches for specific groups by name).

The more you listen, the more you’ll start to see what conversations are a priority for these groups. And don’t stop at the big names! Smaller accounts are important to follow, to get the big picture.

2: Read #OwnVoices

The wonders of the internet have provided us with a whole hashtag that centralizes diverse authors as the authorities on their own stories. It’s a built-in reading list for so many groups, and it’s basically guaranteed that you’ll find a large collection of stories that match your demographic.

Reading stories by people of color will help combat the overflow of white-centered stories in mass media, which will in turn provide you with a different framework to work from. Details you hadn’t even thought of (like satin pillowcases for type 4 curly hair) will start to emerge, and you’ll get a window into how someone chose to present themselves (which is a big deal when closed religions start to come into effect, such as many Native religions).

Plus, you get to support authors of color along the way, and have a bunch of new stories to recommend!

3: Google every basic you can think of (and make sure the sources are reputable)

The literal only reason writing Europeans and white Americans is easier is because you’ve had their history spoon fed to you since kindergarten. You’re going to need to start from kindergarten level questions for your characters of color.

As alluded to multiple times in this post, the internet is full of content by people of color. You can find Japanese recipe blogs, Black makeup and hair YouTubers, Native fashion stores—the list is endless. So long as the source is someone from the group, chances are you’ll be getting something accurate.

By googling your questions, you can start to fill up the education cup without demanding any extra labor from people of color. We have already provided the labor for you. All you need to do is find it, and withhold the impulse to insert yourself into the narrative.

This isn’t about you. Learn to let it be about us, before you start writing. 

Good luck on your research quest!

~ Alexa White


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Alexa White, also known as Mod Lesya on Writing with Color, is a Mohawk two spirit person from Southern Ontario, who joined Writing with Color to help educate others. A lifelong lover of storytelling, she dedicates her focus to making characters feel like they come from whatever setting they’re supposed to exist in. If she is not found writing, she is playing with her cat, cooking, or drawing.

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Diversity makes stories better, plain and simple. This year, we’ve partnered with the good folks at Writing With Color to get some advice on how to write stories populated with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. In this post, founder Colette Aburime gives advice on how to begin incorporating diversity into your writing:

When you write with racial and ethnic diversity, you hear a lot about what to avoid. Now, it’s not without good reason. The road to good representation is paved with harmful stereotypes and worn-out depictions of People of Color. Advice-givers, like me and the rest of the folks at WritingwithColor, put up caution signs and leave the rest of the journey up to you.

Still, there are some do’s that make for both good writing and good representation.

Writers tend to think big. Our craft demands that we keep our brains fired up with ideas. 

I’m asking you to think small.

You wouldn’t set out to climb Mount Everest your first day as a climber. No way – you’d train first! It’d take loads of exercise, you might scale some indoor climbing walls, and perhaps stock up on wisdom to apply to your own form.

When approaching topics you have little experience with, no need to go the biggest you can go from the start. Train before tackling the full-length novel or dealing heavily in tough topics like racism. Start with a hill, not the mountain.

Benefits of starting small:

  • Smoother writing process. The writing process can be a bit stop-and-go if you’re, say, constantly checking that your Black character descriptions are on the right track. You’ll feel more focused if you’ve described Black characters countless times before. Get the stumbling out on the training grounds.
  • More confidence as a writer. The stakes of writing a group outside of your own can feel like mountains looming overhead. The more practice you have, even from writing snippets and scenes, the more confident you’ll become.
  • Better representation. With all that practice prose in, combined with research and feedback, your diverse writing will only get better. You’ll learn what works, doesn’t work, and tackle stereotypes and blunders early on.

Ways to start small:

  • Character profiles 
  • Character descriptions (physical and personality)
  • Dialogue
  • Third person POV
  • First person POV
  • Write a secondary Character of Color
  • Write a Protagonist of Color
  • Scene with CoC during an ordinary moment 
  • Scene of CoC during an emotional moment 
  • Scene of CoC facing a micro-aggression
  • Scene of CoC facing blatant racism or discrimination 
  • Scene that casually shows culture (e.g. dinner, clothing, family interaction)
  • Scene that prominently shows culture (e.g. holiday, cultural event)
  • Fan Fiction (Good source of feedback if published!)
  • Flash fiction
  • Short story

This list progresses from easier stuff to more complex means of practice. Try a variety of methods and practice as much as it takes to feel comfortable on a certain task. Exercise those diverse-writing muscles!

I’ve practiced a lot. Now what?

  1. Research what you’re writing. If you didn’t do it before or during writing, now’s the time to research. Check out those writing guides on describing skin tone and physical features, dialect and speech, handling stereotypes, and so on. Writingwithcolor is a good starting place! Check out the WWC FAQ and explore from there.
  2. Get feedback. Preferably from the groups you’re writing on. Again, Writingwithcolor is a resource for feedback but so are beta-readers, writing groups online and in-person, etc.
  3. Improve your practice pieces. Don’t lament too much on perfecting it but do apply research and feedback to polish them up. Remember the relevant advice for future reference.

It’s great that you’re writing with diversity! Now that you’ve got the small stuff out of the way, pull out those big plans you kept tucked in your back pocket. You’ll stumble a lot less with all the practice you’ve already clocked in.


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Colette Aburime is the founder of WritingWithColor, a writing advice blog focused on diversity. She studied creative and professional writing in college, and writes (or rather, dreams of writing) in her free time. Colette is a big fan of romance and fantasy and lives out her fairytale in a humble cottage in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. She spends happily ever after with her prince, plants, and a feisty cat. Check out WritingWithColor on Tumblr and Twitter.

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November is coming. To get ready, we’re taking a road trip to visit Wrimos from around the world, and hear about how their regions can inspire your writing. Today, Tel Aviv Municipal Liaison Naomi Greenberg talks about how diversity can fuel both writing and friendship:

People call Tel Aviv a bubble, and it’s true. A city of skyscrapers on the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv seems to exist as a world of itself.  when you’re in Tel Aviv, the troubles on the outside seem to matter less. 

When I started as an ML in Tel Aviv nearly three years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I had lived in the area for several years, but there hadn’t been an ML for a while. At our first write-in I told myself that if even one person came, it would be a success. When twelve people showed up and came consistently all month, I was ecstatic. Our small yet vibrant group has included WriMo-ers from the USA, UK, Russia, France, Switzerland, South Africa, Ethiopia and of course Israel over the past two years.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Our region is a reflection of our city in the best possible way. We are small and mighty. We are bilingual- almost everything is done both in Hebrew and in English, so that everyone can understand. We have people who have lived in Tel Aviv their whole lives, newcomers, and those just passing through, for a few weeks or few months. I think our diversity and fluidity gives us power, and we reflect the general population of the city. Walking down the street you will see women in burkas, teens on electric scooters, tourist groups of nuns, refugees from Somalia, new immigrants from France, business people on motorcycles, Hasidic Jewish men with long beards, and a never ending amount of young parents pushing babies in strollers. 

Tel Aviv is vibrant and never stops moving. Sometimes I wonder if there is a mode of transportation that hasn’t been tried in Tel Aviv. There is an endless passing of scooters, bicycles, skateboards, hoverboards, cars, trains, busses and motorcycles. There is never enough parking and never an electric scooter available to rent when you need when. Everyone smokes, drinks coffee, and sits at the beach on their phone. It’s over 30 Celsius six months out of the year, and when it rains for five minutes it is treated like a natural disaster. The constant movement makes it so it’s never boring here. 

Being the ML in Tel Aviv has made me some of my best friends and introduced me to more coffee shops than I care to admit. It has taught me how to connect with the people around me and how despite what it may seem, we are more alike than we are different. The sense of community has led to a year round WhatsApp group, joint photography projects, birthday parties, and lots of writing every month of the year. Just like the city of Tel Aviv, our region is never quiet. 

As a person who draws inspiration from the people and places around me, MLing in Tel Aviv has taught me that everyone has a story to tell. It’s also taught me to see the humor in everyday things, like a heated political argument with your taxi driver or how the entire office closes early because of the FIFA World Cup. Adding everyday details into my writing that I pull from my everyday experiences helps me create more developed characters in a more believable world.

In the spirit of cities and people and noise, try to take a few minutes to sit outside and people watch. Try to incorporate some of the people and things that you see into your writing. I recommend coming armed with a notebook, a cappuccino, and a place that’s new to you, for the best results.

NaNoWriMo in Tel Aviv

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When she isn’t ML-ing in Tel Aviv, you can find Naomi at her office, where she daylights as an intellectual property lawyer. Naomi is 24 years old and spends her free time spending too much money on books and coffee, and forcing her friends to see musicals with her. Naomi has participated in Nanowrimo since high school, and she has written everything from sci-fi to epic fantasy, from chick lit to historical fiction.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from xiquinhosilva on Flickr.

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NaNo Prep season has arrived! You may have already seen some of the cool new steampunk-inspired, time travel-themed merch available in our store. Today, we’ve interviewed graphic designer Georgia Nicole Lange about her design process for this project:

Q: When a client comes to you with a concept, what are the steps that you go through to turn that concept into a visual reality?

A: When a client comes to me with a general idea, theme, and/or style, I always have a lot of fun developing the visuals. For NaNoWriMo, when I was told that the team was going for a time travel theme in a steampunk style, I was so excited that I immediately started coming up with concepts and ideas before I even knew I had the job! 

Half of my concepts are done in my head before I start to sketch. Once I have a good idea of what the illustrations will eventually be, I start researching imagery for inspiration and specific details I want to include in the designs. Then I start with loose thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook to give the client an idea of what the concepts are and how I plan to lay out the design. Once a direction is chosen, I start working on the polished sketches on graph vellum. The client will look over the final sketch and request revisions until we have everything exactly where we want it. 

The next step is to choose a specific illustration style (for NaNoWriMo, we settled on a combination of a hand-painted watercolor background with vector ink brushes for the line art). When the style is chosen, I scan the finished sketch and start tracing it out in Illustrator. Many painstaking hours later, the final illustration comes to life.

Q: Do you have any daily drawing/creative habits that help you with your work?

A: Honestly, my most helpful habits when it comes to work are rarely more work. I love to paint; painting time is incredibly important to my personal creative time, but it is rarely a daily habit (I work in oils, so I have to carve out a significant chunk of time during the week to feel like I’m getting anywhere and not just wasting paint). I have also learned over the years how important it is for me not to overwork my hands or my brain. I end up feeling more burned out and far less creative if I try to draw every day. 

I also recently had my first experience of work-related tendonitis, so that also has had an effect on my daily creativity and my awareness of how heavily I’m working. I have found that the best daily habits are hand & wrist exercises, cooking a decent meal, a little gym time, reading, and hot baths. Working as hard as I do when I have a project going, it is just as creatively important to de-stress, rest and take care of myself as it is to practice my skills.

Q: Has there ever been a point (either with this project or another) when you’ve felt like you’ve run out of ideas for a design concept? If so, how did you get past that point?

A: This definitely does happen from time to time! “Artist’s Block” can be so incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re under a deadline. In my experience, the best way to get past it is to walk away for a little bit. Take yourself out to lunch, call a friend, take a walk; just get out of your own head for an hour and let the pressure go. I am also 100% pro-siesta; if you can manage it in your work day it works beautifully! 

For me, if I’ve already tried these things and still feel stuck, the best thing to do is just start researching other people’s work. Sometimes my best ideas come from looking at other people’s ideas. All it takes is just one tiny detail in someone else’s drawing that suddenly shakes the cobwebs out of my brain, and then the ideas flow easily again. Sometimes the work is a struggle and you have to really fight for ideas, but other times it just comes completely naturally. When that happens, you feel like a kid; your imagination is limitless.


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Georgia Nicole Lange is a freelance illustrator and designer based in Los Angeles. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006. After graduating, she continued taking classes in graphic design and started her career working for one of her instructors. Years of experience later, Georgia’s clients have included HBO, Dole, Anolon, and many others. She currently works out of a small studio in Santa Monica where she is always working on something new.

We all face different challenges as writers, so of course there are many different strategies you can try to bring your story to completion. If you’re a writer with ADHD, NaNoWriMo participant Lila Krishna has a few tips and tricks you can try to stay focused:

As a teenager, I’d begin a new novel once every few months. By 20, I had under my belt 17 different first chapters, around 8 second chapters—and little else. A decade later, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Shocker, I know. 

While ADHD is one of the most well-documented mental health issues, a task like writing brings with it some unique challenges. Its unstructured nature is both a blessing and a curse for those of us who are neuro-atypical. 

Here are some common problems I came across in my journey as a writer with ADHD. These issues are some that are common across the writing community, but those of us with ADHD often need to go above and beyond commonly-offered answers to find long-lasting and sustainable solutions that make writing an easier, less-frustrating, and more productive hobby. 

Problem: Help! I go down internet rabbit holes a lot while writing! 

This is a problem all of us doing any kind of desk job face. However, when interrupted, the ADHD mind requires more time and energy to context-switch. Recovering from interruptions takes us much longer, and we are less effective for several minutes after an interruption. We also find it harder to resist temptations, or switch back to working after a bout of TVTropes.com. 

Solution 1: Turn off the internet while writing. It’s difficult at first, but after a few times, it’s not as bad. There’s several browser extensions, like StayFocusd, and apps like AppBlock which can automate periods of internet-free writing. Using these, you don’t need to make those decisions in the moment, which frees up significant cognitive energy. 

Power through moments where you need to research something with filler words and descriptions. I like marking these with < and > symbols, like <insert phrase a shocked Russian grandma would say>. Then, you can go through each of these when you get back your internet access to research and fill in each of these. 

Solution 2: Use an app like StayOnTask, which checks up on you at random times to see if you’re staying on task. Often, in our web surfing reverie, we need such an interruption o tell us to ‘Get back to work right away!’. 

Solution 3: Whenever you stop writing, quickly jot down the time and the reason you stopped. Also include a brain dump of what you were trying to complete, and the ideas you had. This way, when you finally get your child’s diaper changed, or get off the phone with that telemarketer, you can jump right back in without as big an effort. 

Solution 4: Sometimes, these steps aren’t sufficient. For a radical solution, have a ‘body double’ with you, whose presence or words serve as a reminder to stay the course. My husband isn’t a writer, but I began shouting out to him each time I stopped writing with the reason for my interruption, and that by itself helped me stay accountable and return to my writing. 

Problem: Help! I get bored with my ideas, and never see them through to completion! 

Apparently I’m not the only one with First Chapter Syndrome. There’s something about the zillion interesting possibilities that a first chapter brings with it that gets my pulse racing. That same something also makes me want to abandon those zillion possibilities the moment I hit a roadblock, like a week of deadlines at work, or getting stuck on a plot point, or when I come across another idea with its own zillion interesting possibilities. 

With ADHD, new ideas are always tempting and distracting me, which means I’ll rarely come back to an old, stale idea. Each idea only can sustain me for a limited time horizon, which often isn’t long enough to see the idea through. 

Solution: Set clear goals, and shorten your time horizon. 

Let’s say you want to write a short story. Set your word limit to be, say, 3,000 words, and then set a short time horizon, say, a week, to complete it. Put that week on your calendar. 

Or if it’s a novel you have in mind, set your word limit to be, say, 50,000 words, and then set a short time horizon, like a month, to complete it in. Then schedule that month on your calendar, in, say, November. 

For the duration of this short time horizon, make this goal IMPORTANT!!! Buy yourself a new notebook, or a new pen, or a Scrivener subscription, or heck, a cake, to make this goal seem special, and stand out in your mind for you. 

This keeps the exciting distraction of a new idea away, because your goal is very much within reach, and what’s more, IT’S SPECIAL!!! 

Sometimes, 50,000 words might be too much or too far away a goal, so shorten it to 30,000 or even 20,000 words. The focus is on regular, easy wins, which can keep the momentum going.

For July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I set a goal of 20,000 words on my new novel idea. I not only achieved my goal, but also exceeded it by 5,000 words. I now have 17 chapters of a novel written, and now I’m invested and confident enough that I can easily do 25,000 more and see this project through to completion! 

For the creative person with ADHD, writing can be a great way to see through at least a few of the gazillion ideas that run through our mind. All we need is a little bit of creative problem solving to make it a more fulfilling and productive practice. 


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Lila Krishna is a San Francisco-based writer and programmer, with an abiding interest in tailoring productivity strategies for those with mental health issues. She writes fiction at the intersection of tech, women, and society, with a focus on the experience of Indians in America. She tweets at @lilastories and blogs at www.medium.com/@lilastories

Top photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash.