Sometimes, you just need a little reminder that you are a writer, what you’re creating is worthy, and that you should keep going! Today, Young Writers Program participant Dawnia Nosrek is here to give you that reminder:
If you asked a normal human being what they’re afraid of, chances are their response would be something other than “a blank page”. But it’s different for us writers. We are not normal human beings. We are extraordinary people, capable of snapping realities and plots and characters into existence by merely placing pen to paper.
Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’re terrified of the piece of paper in front of you. Of the wordless, empty blank page staring you down, scoffing at the very thought that you could produce anything worthwhile, credible, or even entertaining for any common reader.
But here’s the thing: just because you have a blank page doesn’t mean you’re fresh out of novel-worthy ideas. An idea is an idea even if it sounds dumb to you at first.
Don’t be encumbered by those destructive thoughts that plague the battlefield of your mind. That blank page is imposing. I know. But you have a world brimming with new ideas just waiting to come alive. Who cares if it sounds stupid? Who cares if it doesn’t exactly fit in the story line?
Right now, it’s yours. It’s your very own beautiful creation. Take pride in it. Own it. The point of writing is to write. Revising and making sure your sentences actually make sense will come later.
For now, close your eyes. Envision where you want your creation to go. Don’t worry about coherent sentences or shallow characters or plot holes or perfect punctuation or grammar or any of the fear that’s holding you back. Take charge and take off! Just go and write!
I believe in you.
You are a writer.
Dawnia Nosrek is a homeschooled senior whose entire life consists of writing, whether it be books, flash fiction, plays, poems, songs, soundtracks, or short stories. She loves to geek out about books and movies, and can be frequently found composing music on the piano, ukulele, or dulcimer. Her go-to snack food is Sour Patch Kids, and she consumes way too much Mountain Dew during NaNoWriMo. Her favorite series of all time is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
So, you’ve said a tearful so long to your cabin mates. It’s time to go “home” now. Camp NaNoWriMo has been an amazing experience. All your hard work has paid off. But, it isn’t over, yet. Now, comes the truly fun part—Revision and Editing! Today, YWP Participant Joy Wambeke offers some helpful hints on making the revision process less painful and more fruitful:
I know how tough it is to write your entire first draft.
You go over it, fix grammar mistakes, go over it again, fix more mistakes, go over it again, replace, delete, add fresh sentences, paragraphs, then fix more mistakes, and still go over it again. Then, when you think it’s in good shape, you have someone else read it only to find there are more mistakes, and some things don’t make sense. Then you have to repeat all of the above, until you finally end up with a polished draft.
That’s what I did for my book, and I still have lots of grammar mistakes and some things still don’t make much sense. But the point I’m trying to make is that I DID IT! Even though you have to go through a whole lot of trouble to make your book what it is, it’s worth it! Winner or not (this time), when all is said and done, YOU DID IT!
So, here is some advice for getting through all the messy revision process:
You can have a break. You don’t need to be on it all the time (although if you take too long, you’ll never finish it).
Think about how well you want your book fixed up.
3. Meditate and/or Sleep
This is pretty close to number one, but targeted on two different kinds of rest. You will need your sleep as much as possible. Go to bed on time and if you can, sleep in or take an afternoon nap. Meditating helped me a lot when I got frustrated with my work. I would search for a video, some poses of yoga or I would just stretch and listen to calming music.
I found that if you tape up posters of inspirational quote on how to keep going or how good it feels at the end around where your working so then when you look around, you’ll get motivated to keep going and not give up.
I hope you come out with a great book!
Joy is 12 years old and started writing at 5. Joy has written one book so far (other than little short stories) called “Living in Boredom”.
We’ve all been there, chasing down some magical plot bunny, that seems to be leading us to our narrative destiny. Then, somewhere along the way, that plot bunny seems to disappear into thin air and leave us stranded on the trail to who knows where. Today, NaNoWriMo Participant K.S. Trenten reminds us that when the going gets tough, the tough… start talking to themselves:
Uh oh. You started out with a good story, it was moving forward, only now you’re not sure what to write. You’re stuck.
How do you get moving again?
Sometimes a simple solution is to move around. Get up. Cross the room and pour yourself a cup of coffee. Go for a walk. See if stirring from the spot you’re sitting in doesn’t shake up your imagination a bit, jarring something loose you hadn’t thought of. An idea may tumble free in the process, giving you the impetus to get your story going again. Perhaps you should pick up your writing tools and relocate somewhere else. Physical movement often gets my mind moving as well.
Nor is that the only way to get going.
Take up your writing implements. Start venting. Not just writing, venting. Let all of your frustration about being stuck on the page out in your words. Confide all your hopes and dreams you had for this particular story to the page. Let the character know they’re not satisfying you, exactly how and why they’re being difficult. If some other story has distracted you, taunt them about all the reasons why you’re enjoying the other story more than them. Allow the characters to talk back. Let them get as uppity as they want, letting you know exactly why they’re not behaving the way you wish them to.
Seriously, I write weekly blogs which are my characters just mouthing off. A writer can learn some surprising things if you let them talk back.
Something else which may have gotten you stuck is that all your insecurities about your writing are coming back to haunt you. You cannot shut them up. Getting stuck has only made them louder.
Fine. Dedicate a page to a major snark-off with your insecurities. Write down every nasty thing you fear. Talk back to them. Come up with a retort for everything they say. Is there any truth in these insults, really? What can you do to change your writing if something about it really is bothering you?
Don’t get upset if you’re truly afraid, deep down, that you are stuck. Writing is no different than most anything else. With time and practice, you can become quite skilled. Do it often enough and you will improve. Look your fear right in the eye and ask why? What would you like to change to get better? How can you go about it? Are you shaky at descriptions? Use too many telling words or too much passive description? (I was guilty of both and still am.)
Don’t shrink from your faults. Face them. Contemplate ways to fix them.
Look at others writers you admire. What would you like to do, that they do? Anne Rice wrote exquisite descriptions I’d drool over in envy. I made the mistake, at first, of trying to write like her, to imitate her. I studied her work closely, tried to detect exactly why I found her descriptions exquisite. She used very simple words to create complex, compelling settings and characters. I started pruning some of the big, fancy words from my prose and tried to express things in more common words. Certain descriptive passages in my own stories improved. I even started getting compliments on them!
Life isn’t always smooth. Neither is writing. In both, you’ll hit rough patches. You can’t always avoid these patches, even though you may get better at dodging them with practice. The trick is to pick yourself up out of the patch. Keep going, even if you’re sore, shaky, and your pride feels a little banged up.
You’re not alone. We’ve all fallen into potholes, been hit over the head with obstacles, or smashed our stories against a block.
Get up. Give yourself a hug. Find a way to keep going, to find your way back to your plot or for your plot to find its way back to you. Abandon it entirely if you need to go in a different direction, but don’t give up.
You’re not over yet. Not if you decide you’re not.
K.S. Trenten lives in the South Bay Area of California in the United States with her husband, two cats, and a host of characters in her imagination, all shouting out for attention. Her published works include Seven Tricks;A Symposium in Space;Fairest (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow LGBTQIA+ fairytale anthology) and At Her Service (part of the Once Upon a Rainbow 2 anthology); and The Closet (part of Queer Sci Fi’s Impact, a collection of flash fictions). She also offers weekly samples of her work on Mondays and Saturdays at the Cauldron of Eternal Inspiration, Wednesdays at the Formerly Forbidden Cauldron, monthly blogs at cauldronkeeper.livejournal.com, rhodrymavelyne.dreamwidth.org, and is the author of Queer Sci Fi’s Sources of Inspiration column. She can be found on Twitter, tumblr, LinkedIn, and has a Facebook Author Page, which reflects the contents of both Cauldrons.
What do you do after that first spark of inspiration fades away? Today, Camp NaNoWriMo Participant Shalom Goodrich offers some helpful hints on how to keep writing when you feel stuck:
Are you positively out of creative popsicles? No more new goggles to try? Well, here are ten tips on how to snap out of that catnap and start fighting for writing!
1. Take a walk. No matter how boring it may sound, it really will help. Just breathe deeply and take in the nature (or city sights) around you.
2. Read a chapter of a book. Some good ones to inspire creativity are The Hunger Games, Under the Lilacs, Insignificant Events In the Life of a Cactus (one of my personal favorites), or Bruchco.
3. Write about your day, good or bad, for at least ten minutes. Or, you can make up a word, then write a story that includes the word. Then go back to working on your project.
4. Play a board game with a friend. Boggle, Stratego, and any memory game are all good brain teasers.
5. Watch a video on how to make an origami bookmark. Then do it three times. Set yourself a creative task with clear instructions where you can let your mind wander a little.
6. Paint a picture of a scene in your book. If you find that this is feeling good and inspiring, choose another scene!
7. Do something else and let your brain rest. Pick an activity as different from writing as you can possibly get.
8. Take a nap. If you are tired, that can really affect your writing (sometimes it can be good; more often than not it’s bad).
9. Listen to the Pirates of Penzance soundtrack on either spotify or youtube. It’s really funny and interesting, something to take your mind off writing and leave it refreshed. If you can, watch the movie.
10. Take a bike ride, go swimming, or run around the neighborhood. Similar to taking a walk, use up some energy and refresh your brain.
I often encounter writer’s block after finishing a large event in my writing, when I try to start a different novel or a new chapter. For me, it’s so hard to start, but the best way to cope with this is to start writing and don’t stop. You can always go back and edit it again.
Shalom Goodrich lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the oldest child out of six and currently enjoys writing, baking all kinds of stuff, and going on pointe at ballet well as biking two and a half miles there and back. She self-published one novel, Jewelvaria, which is available at lulu.com
We’re in the last week of Camp NaNoWriMo! The clock is ticking. How will you make the most of the final countdown? Today, NaNoWriMo Participant Rosario Martinez reminds us to leave our excuses at the door and put that pen to paper/fingers on the keyboard:
Many will say there is no trick to writing other than to sit and write.
It’s hard to do that sometimes. Life will happen. We all have valid reasons not to write. It’s true. There are things, people, and situations that will make us think twice about writing. They deserve our attention because they are too important to us. But you know what? The real trick to writing is this. If you didn’t already know, let me be the one to tell you. Your story is important. Your story is important because only you can tell it.
No one can tell your story the way you know it — no one but you.
The heart of your story is you.
At this moment in time, only you know your story, and it is important for that very reason. The way you see it when you close your eyes, feel it as your fingertips press the keyboard, or the tip of your pen glides across the paper, your story exists only because you made it so.
That excitement that made you want to write in the first place, that spark? It’s still there hiding—waiting for you.
The words you write matter because only you can write them. The act of writing can sound daunting sometimes, even more so when there’s a word count involved. Sometimes those are the things that keep us away from writing rather than inviting us in. But your commitment isn’t to a word count. It’s to the story you want to tell. The words that are tugging inside your head, begging you to write them.
Be flexible, write when you can, write what you can, but keep writing.
Even when you don’t know what comes next: write. Even when it doesn’t make sense: write. It can be anything. You never know where creating a character’s backstory might lead you to their inner conflict in your story. One thing can lead to another. It takes one word to set everything in motion. Setting time aside, it can be just minutes at a time. Bite-size. You’ll surprise yourself. You can make your word count because you can always change it. Don’t think about what hasn’t been done or how much time you have left. When you remove those restrictions from your writing time, you’ll think clearer, and the story will pop up again. What matters is that you tell this story.
Think of the way your story comes alive when you think about it. Think of the words and watch them jump off the page as you’re writing them. Think of how much you want to know your characters. Who are they? What are they hiding? And why do they want you to write them? Your story is important to you, and someday it will be important to someone else, too. What is this story, your story? Remember that you are the only one that can write it. Only you.
Let your words lead you down the unexpected, the bright and dark corners that you wish to explore.
This story, your story, can only be told by you.
Martinez is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She lives in Dallas,
Texas with her husband and their four sweet but demanding cats. She’s
currently working on her debut YA fantasy novel. She has too many
flannel things and believes a good bowl of nachos is life. To follow her
journey to publication, visit her literary lifestyle blog (https://lemmonavenue.net) or find her on Twitter @rosariomwrites and Instagram @rosariomwrites
“Keep writing because someone out there is going to love your book. Someone out there needs your book. Someone out there is going to call you their “favorite writer”. That feeling you get when you hear that readers have connected with your work, that they “got it,” is so special that it’s totally worth all the creative agony.”
—Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, immigrated to Australia in 2006, and now lives in Melbourne. She earned a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Melbourne. She is a mentor with 1st5Pages Writing Workshop, where she provides free critique to help foster new writing talent. Released in 2018, her debut novel What The Woods Keep is a genre-bender combining mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Her second novel Oasis is forthcoming in 2020. Follow @KatyaDeBecerra on Twitter.
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Okay, Campers! As we let the dust settle from Week 3 and enter the last week of Camp NaNoWriMo, it may be time to remind ourselves of all the resources we have at our fingertips. Take advantage of your greater writing community and don’t underestimate the power of your imagination! Here are a few tips to keep you typing, penned by YWP participant: Peiying Tsai:
Hello Fellow Writers!
It’s that time again where we sharpen our wits, fortify our minds, and immerse ourselves in writing. As fun as this month of writing is, we all know it hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way. Inevitably, you may have come across one of the most dreaded obstacles: writer’s block. It may seem futile. You may wish to put your writing away to never see the light of day. You may flounder around the house for hours without making any progress. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, when faced with writer’s block, you can try out the tips listed below.
1. My number one suggestion is always to talk to someone about it, even if they’re not a writer.
It may seem daunting to show your writing to someone else, but the end goal for many of us is to eventually publish and show the world our work. Other people will be able to give you a fresh take on your writing and help you come up with ideas you did not previously think about. Sometimes, even the mere act of talking will get the cogs in your brain moving. Often when I have writer’s block, it is solved with talking to someone about it. Many times, the problem at hand is much smaller than you would have thought!
2. My second tip is to read other people’s writing.
Most of us, before we were writers, were readers. Reading can remind us why we fell in love with writing, reigniting the desire to return to our writing.
Sometimes, you might even find the answers you’re looking for in the book. For instance, if you’re having difficulties writing dialogue, read someone else’s dialogue. If you’re having problems with an action scene, read someone else’s fight scene. Pick up your favorite book and ask yourself why you love it. What made that book work in your opinion? Try to infuse that same joy you feel reading it in your writing. In your hand is the product of an author who was once in the same position as you, and that book is proof that writer’s block is beatable.
3. My third tip would be to use a prompt.
The NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program has an excellent selection of prompts to help you out in a pinch in its “Dare Machine.” If that doesn’t satisfy you, the Internet has an even wider selection of writing prompts to choose from. You can even specifically look up prompts that suit your needs, like romance prompts, dialogue prompts, fantasy prompts, even image prompts! Most prompts I have seen are fun and creative, and I’m always itching to write something after reading them.
4. Lastly, don’t worry about being perfect!
As you forge into Camp NaNoWriMo this summer, remember: quantity over quality. You can always edit a bad page, but not a blank one.
If you’re really stuck on a scene, simply write a summary of what happens and continue on to write a scene you’d much rather write, and then come back to the scene giving you trouble with a newly awakened vigor. Don’t procrastinate, don’t get caught up in minutiae, but instead focus on getting your story on the page, especially if it’s your first draft.
All of us have a story worth telling. All of the hard work you’re putting into your writing will pay off in the end. Now go write!
Peiying Tsai is a high schooler with a great life long passion for creative writing and loves talking about it with fellow writers. When not writing, Peiying can be found drawing despite a lack of talent, reading voraciously, or watching the latest blockbuster movies.
“The act of writing is to create, and sometimes it’s easier to let that urge manifest itself in other ways, if you feel stuck. […] It is often through doing something else that I feel rejuvenated about writing. Don’t force it. The flow will come back to you.”
—Yangsze Choo is a NYTimes bestselling author of The Ghost Bride (soon to be a Netflix Original series) and The Night Tiger, Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick, Amazon’s Spotlight Pick, and one of USA Today’s best books of the year. Yangsze loves to eat and read, and often does both at the same time. She lives in California with her family and several chickens. Dark chocolate is her writing inspiration. Visit her blog at www.yschoo.com or follow @yangszechoo on Twitter.
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