Tuesday Tip: Some Days, We Just Need A Little Slack

There are days when we need a good swift kick in the pants. We need someone to tell us  to get our butt into the chair and WRITE. Usually, that “someone” has to be ourselves.

Then there are days when we need to be–should be–kinder to ourselves. Days of illness, our own or the ones we love. Days of tragedy or unexpected, unfathomable hardship such as the recent flooding devastation in Baton Rouge. Days when, despite our intentions, we simply cannot write.

Kind HandsSometimes the distinction between days when we need a kick and those when we need kindness are glaring and blaring. Oftentimes, the difference is far more subtle. Self-doubt and fear wrap disguise themselves as external crisis.

At times when you aren’t writing, are you able to step back and objectively make the distinction about which kind of day you are having? whether you need a kick or kindness from yourself? Have you noticed how differently these two needs feel inside?

Tuesday Tip: Set One Day’s Work in Front of the Last

Learn how to go directly to your work. When your work bell tolls at the appointed hour, answer it. Stop waiting! Start writing!


Years of frustration from trying to “fit” writing into my day have taught me that the writing must be first—not simply in priority, but in actual butt-in-the-chair work. My writing must be the very first thing I do in my day, or sadly, it does not get done. My writing bell tolls with my morning alarm. I rise and pour the morning’s beverage of choice—either my favorite Lucky Goat coffee or a hot cup of yerba mate tea. Then I walk straight to my desk and grab my notebook and pencil (yes, I prefer pencils to pens . . . or a keyboard).

I do not stop to pick up my cell phone from where I left it on the side table by my chair the night before. I do not turn on my computer to check email. I do not read. I allow myself three “morning pages” (if you aren’t familiar with morning pages, check out Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way) and fifteen minutes of meditation. Then I begin on my novel. I usually can spend only an hour on it. Not much time, I know. Still, I resolve to do this at least five days a week.

In the past, I might have said—did say—if I can only work one hour, what’s the point? It’s terribly slow going. I get discouraged and, honestly, there are mornings when I would rather do anything else . . . because . . . well, because . . .

  • “Who would want to read this drivel?”
  • “I’m no writer!”
  • “Who am I to think I can write something readers will want?”
  • “My words are shallow and meaningless.”
  • “Who am I fooling? I am no writer!”

Sound familiar? Rather like torture?

With self-doubt so strong and only one hour to write five days a week, what is the point?

Because that is the only way the book gets done.

John Steinbeck said it best in the journal he kept while writing The Grapes of Wrath:

Steinbeck Quote2It’s that simple. Set one day in front of the last—no matter how long your writing day is—and the book gets done.


To read more about Steinbeck’s journal Working Days, read “How Steinbeck Used the Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work” on brainpickings. It is long but well worth your time.

Thanks to author Melody A. Scout for sharing the Steinbeck article with us. Thanks and acknowledgments also to Dr. Eric Maisel for his inspiration and his permission to adopt and adapt The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! (2011) for use on this blog.

I Want My Book to be an Audiobook. Now What?

Authors have many options for putting print and ebook versions of their books into readers’ hands. But have you considered creating an audiobook of your manuscript? According to the American Association of Publishers, audiobook downloads increased 38.1 percent in 2015 over 2014, and the trend appears to be continuing. Audiobooks give authors a way to reach non-readers and they are no longer cost-prohibitive to create. In today’s post, author Rhett DeVane shares some of the initial lessons she learned while creating audio versions of two of her novels.

Keep writing,
~ Gina Edwards


I Want My Book to be an Audiobook. Now What?

by Rhett DeVane

audiobookTalk to any expert in the business of publishing and you will hear how fiercely competitive the market has become. Audiobooks are still gaining in popularity, though, and are well worth the author’s effort and time. With an audio version of your book, you might reach an audience you wouldn’t reach with a print or ebook.

Here’s a fact I learned early in home ownership: some projects I should not do myself. This brilliant insight came after multiple trips to Lowe’s, a lot of cursing, and ultimately, hiring a professional plumber. The same truth applies to producing a quality audiobook. That’s why I chose Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX, the company behind Audible.com, to produce the audio versions of my books.

Here are a few basic things I learned about the process.

First, before you proceed, the book must be written, edited, and ready to go. Foremost, you must own the audio rights to the work. If your book is under contract with a publisher, check the fine print. If you granted the audio rights to the publisher, you cannot initiate the production of an audio book. If you self-published, the rights should not be an issue.

Okay, so you have the rights. What now?

As stated earlier, I decided to do business with ACX, the production arm of Audible.com, which is the online storefront for buying audio titles. The ACX website outlines several options for authors seeking audiobook production, with clear, step-by-step instructions to lead you through the process.

If I had chosen to go it alone without a company like ACX providing a professional narrator, I would have had to find a recording studio and pay for time. If you insist on doing it all yourself, you could form your own home studio, if you have the time, space, and money. A completely sound-proofed room is imperative, as is quality recording equipment. Huddling in the bathroom with a cheap microphone won’t pass muster.

MicrophoneI have a decent reading voice, but I asked myself some hard questions when deciding whether to narrate my own books. You will also need to consider:

  • Can your voice make your characters come to life?
  • Do you have the money, hours, days, and months it might take to record the audio version?

Narration is not only “reading aloud”; outstanding audiobook narration is likened to “acting out” the words, making them spring to life.

Unless you possess a sensational voice with superior inflection, a professional narrator is probably your better choice.

Given all the required elements, my answer to self-narration was a sound NO. I contracted a professional through ACX. In this, they also offered options.

One alternative is to negotiate and pay the narrator up front, a costly undertaking. Narrators receive an hourly rate, depending on their expertise, with an average novel taking upwards to eleven hours of recorded, billable time. Unless you have substantial funds, this may not be feasible. Ask yourself: do I think I can market well enough to sell sufficient audiobooks to repay myself?

Instead of footing that expense, I searched the ACX database and found a narrator willing to work for a royalty split.

This meant I had no cash outlay for narration up front, but I get less at the end, as the proceeds from sales are split among the author, the narrator, and the producer of the audiobook.

Even when you don’t narrate yourself, there is still a time investment. You must listen to the narrated chapter-by-chapter files and “proof” the book before it goes into final production, much as you would proof a print version.

approvedOnce the narration is complete and approved by the author, the producer (ACX, in my case) takes the narrator’s files and develops them into the finished product.

ACX also launches the audiobook on its website and handles sales. Depending on the contract, the author grants the producer exclusive rights for a period of time, meaning the book can only be marketed through them. My particular contract allows ACX exclusive permission to sell the audio version for seven years.

For me, creating audiobooks has been a most enjoyable experience. Through ACX, I worked alongside my narrator to bring two of my novels to life. This company makes the process so user-friendly, it’s a pleasure, even for a novice. Hearing the spoken words bring my stories to the world was thrilling!


For an in-depth discussion about this process, join southern fiction author Rhett DeVane and host Gina Edwards on CONVERSATIONS Around the Writer’s Table, a free author education series.

Audiobook Cover: Secondhand Sister

Audiobook Cover: Secondhand Sister

In the live discussion (followed by open Q&A), Rhett will cover:

  • how to audition a potential narrator
  • how a style sheet for your narrator can save you time and money
  • how corrections to the narration are handled
  • what to do about a cover for your audiobook
  • and much more

Listen from the comfort of your home by phone, at 7pm, on August 17, 2016. Click here to register so you can listen live or to receive the replay. Get your questions ready!

Register now: www.AroundTheWritersTable.com/CONVERSATIONS


Rhett DeVane author photo-600Rhett DeVane is an award-winning author of six mainstream novels, two middle-grade novels, and she has co-authored two novels. Rhett is a Florida native, originally from Chattahoochee. Her hometown, a small North Florida burg with a state mental institution on the main drag, serves as the colorful setting for her Southern fiction series. For the past thirty-plus years, Rhett has made her home in Tallahassee, Florida, where she splits her time between her dental hygiene practice and writing fiction.

Currently, Rhett is busy on the seventh novel in the “Hooch” series, as well as a line-up of middle-grade fiction and picture books, and the occasional short story and flash fiction.

Connect with Rhett at:
www.rhettdevane.com
trugrits3@gmail.com
On Facebook or on Twitter

Tuesday Tip: Put Solid Strategies in Place to Develop Rejection Resilience

Do you have a plan to survive the countless rejections that will come your way? Create that plan!


Ah, this tip from Dr. Maisel pinpoints a truth difficult for most of us to accept. When we create and share our writing with the world, rejection is inevitable. It can take many forms and come from various sources: other writers in critique groups or workshops that you attend, readers, agents, publishers, even family and friends.

The safest and easiest plan for surviving rejection is simply to avoid getting any…by not sharing your work. No, no. Don’t take me seriously, please. That’s no strategy—not if you are a writer wanting to have readers.

thumbs up and downNot every reader will love, or even like, our work.

Appealing to all readers is an impossible and impractical wish. So identify the types of readers you want to attract. Get to know your current audience if you are already published. Learn about and become acquainted with the people you most want to read your work.

Then forget about the rest. If an avid self-help reader denounces your Southern gothic novel, why waste precious writing time worrying over it? That person is not your reader. Period.

This type of rejection is an easy one to overcome. The mismatch is obvious. But what if the rejection is closer to the mark? Either in relationship to your genre or to you?

Sometimes, when we finish a work, we are tempted to share it proudly with those closest to us. Unless we have a history otherwise, we expect our friends and family to be our cheerleaders. Even when friends and family have historically been supporters, I still advise writers to consider carefully who they share their work with at first. We must be steadfast guardians of our dreams as writers, so it serves us well to know who could be a dreamkiller and who can assist us in building our rejection armor.

At first, seek feedback from friends you can trust to deliver their opinions to you with love and kindness, but honesty.

You likely know who they are already, from your past interactions with them. Even with them, it will feel safer not to share, but you may be surprised by the support you get. All writers need feedback, so perhaps start with a writer friend. A reciprocal exchange can help you both build your courage to share and develop your abilities to handle feedback even when it isn’t all positive.

After you have grown more comfortable with this level of sharing, step up to critique groups or workshops where writing is passed around or read aloud. Even though all writers are not necessarily helpful and polite to one another, most are. If you want useful feedback, give useful feedback. Delivered with respect and honesty, both parties benefit.

Next StepsWhat if you submit your manuscript to an agent who has a successful history marketing the genre you write, but you get a response you feared? Or worse, no response at all—which is, after all, rejection implied, right? How does a writer weather that?

An advance tactic for gracefully handling potential rejection from an agent or publisher is to dive deeply into your next project while you wait for their response to your submission. Being entrenched in a new manuscript can take the edge off a rejection. Stay focused on that new project through completion and then, after some time away from the first one, come back around to it with a fresh eye. Did you get valuable feedback you can act on or do you need to move on to the next agent or publisher on your list?

Rejection from agents and publishers goes into two categories: 1) completely out of my control, and 2) must learn from.

If you get a form letter rejection from an agent or publisher, it’s time to move on. You cannot know what that agent was facing the day they opened your manuscript. A myriad of ridiculous, or truly serious things may have happened. Remind yourself that once your manuscript reached its destination, you have no idea about the circumstances surrounding that agent or publisher’s look at it.

What is your lesson in that kind of rejection? No matter how good the writing is, things that have absolutely nothing to do with us or the quality of our work can sometimes derail us.

If you are lucky enough to get more than a form letter rejection, the agent or publisher may have shared something that could improve your manuscript. If so, take it to heart. Rejection is an opportunity to improve your writing. So take a deep, cleansing breath and get back to work. Then resubmit if you have been invited to, or go to the next agent or publisher on your list.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, the best plan for surviving rejection is to get plenty of it. I know that sounds painful, but start by gradually allowing yourself to step into the sharing arena. You do not have to jump in with both feet.

Additionally, acknowledge that rejection of your writing is not a rejection of you.

Separating the two is difficult, particularly when we first begin writing in earnest, and especially when we first start to share. But we—complex, magnificent, multifaceted creatures—are not being denounced as human beings when someone doesn’t care for our latest manuscript. It will feel like it, but we are not.

resilient flowerThis may sound trite or even contradictory, but the more you share, i.e., the more you put yourself out for possible rejection, the easier it becomes to take. You will learn and improve your work. You will develop a fortitude that will allow you to withstand the rejection, whatever its source. And this resilience will permit you to stand absolute behind your work and in support of yourself. Remember this and grow resilient.

 

 


This creativity tip is inspired by and loosely based on The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.

Tuesday Tip: Embrace Inevitable Messiness

Grow more creative by not fearing blunders. Notice and feel the feelings that inevitably come with writing messy early drafts. Then say, “I can survive these feelings!” Remind yourself that you must grow easy with messiness.


All ideas, whether they begin as budding flickers of creativity or full-blown bursts of inspiration, start out untidy. This is a truth that we, as writers—and creatives, in general—must fully embrace. As my recovering perfectionist-self strives so very hard to become a practicing “imperfectionist,” I must persistently remind myself that muddles and messes are opportunities to improve my writing. First drafts are ugly babies. Always.

No piece of art is every birthed in its final, lovely form.

We must take the flicker or the burst and give it the nourishment and encouragement to grow and develop. But first, we have to accept and acknowledge its imperfections in its infancy.

An aspect of messiness in the drafting stage of a writing piece involves decision moments, those times when we ask ourselves questions about the many possible directions the manuscript could take, the different ways to tell the story, reveal the characters, or organize the work.

Sometimes, among those multiple options, we must simply pick one and go!

When I was first considering the plot for my novel-in-progress, I was paralyzed for months while trying to decide which way to take the story. I was so afraid that I would diverge down a path that would be no story at all and that I would end up with a huge mistake of an unpublishable manuscript. Instead, once I finally decided on a direction, I found an entirely different and better story than I ever imagined.

No choice in the interest of “cleaning up” a draft is ever a mistake. Even when we feel we have hit a dead end and must backtrack in the story, we have been, during the writing toward that end, honing our craft, improving our skills. Or perhaps that seeming dead-end is simply a speed bump because something else in the manuscript isn’t quite right.

MessinessPerhaps the protagonist has done something out of character with no justification. Perhaps the organization of the manuscript isn’t quite what it should be. And quite possibly, when we pick a path, even one we are rather unsure about, we might just discover something about our characters or the story that had never occurred to us before, something that adds magic to the manuscript. Indeed, magic can emerge from our messes.

As we work into and through the many drafts of our writing, we also must remember that an ugly or messy manuscript does not mean that you or I, the writers, are ugly or messy. We must separate our feelings about ourselves from our observations about the work. We must see our writing jumbles and fumbles, not as personal characteristics, but as natural elements within the method of the work that we do.

Ugly drafts are an essential part of the writing process and once we accept that, we can survive the feelings that come up during this stage. We can become more comfortable knowing that an ugly first draft can hold hidden magic that makes for beautiful and satisfying final work.


This creativity tip is inspired by and loosely based on The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.

Tuesday Tip: Reframe “discipline” as “devotion”

Luciano Pavarotti said, “People think I’m disciplined. It’s not discipline. It’s devotion, and there’s a great difference.” Think about that difference!


Many of us have schedules or rituals that we adhere to in our writing practice. All the writing advice points to routinely showing up at the page regardless of what else is going on around us.

This is good advice since discipline is a necessary ingredient in a productive writing life. Discipline brings structure, routine, and regularity. It is the difference between a book that languishes inside the author’s brain and one that shows up on the bestseller lists.

Discipline begets action. Discipline increases word count.

But long stretches of discipline alone can begin to feel confining, constricting, daunting. It can bring a rigor to the work that makes it feel heavy or, in turn, empty and hollow. Word count alone does not mean good writing.

Pavarotti viewed his meticulous adherence to his work not as discipline at all, but as devotion. I feel certain he had both and I believe that both, in fact, are required.

Discipline creates an agenda for the work to get done. But without devotion, discipline is action without heart. Devotion engages the heart, brings soul and spirit, and infuses emotion into the work. Paired with discipline, devotion can even reignite the passion and recommit us to the purpose in our writing.

Are you practicing discipline alone in your writing? Or are you bringing devotion into it as well? Can you reframe your writing discipline as a writing devotion?

Discipline+Devotion


This creativity tip is inspired by and based on The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.


 

Tuesday Tip: Know and Understand Your Own Creative Character

You must reckon with your own character. Writing requires curiosity. Are you curious enough? Writing requires risk-taking. Are you willing to risk? Writing requires energy. Can you marshal and unleash your energy? Writing requires patience. Have you cultivated that quality? Turn yourself into the author you need to be!


Each of us embodies distinctive moral and mental qualities—that is, “character.” We must reckon with these qualities within ourselves when we write, and this sort of reckoning requires profound and candid inner reflection—no matter what we write about.

Four characteristics are essential for being creative: curiosity, risk-taking, energy, and patience.

Curiosity can drive us toward and carry us through an idea, a topic, or a theme. We might take a risk in the way that we develop or represent that idea. And finally, we must have the energy to bring it forth and the patience to see it through.

Be curious!Piqued curiosity gives us material. A snippet of conversation we overhear might inspire dialogue for a novel. We may learn a new scientific fact that can be woven into a short story. When we sit to write, curiosity keeps us interested and causes us to dig deep to do our best work. Not only do we work to inspire curiosity in readers, but we also explore the depths of our minds.

Curiosity can be stimulated by asking “what-if” questions. These questions can be about topics or unique and unconventional scenarios we want to explore: What if polar bears held secret society meetings about how to stop global warming? Or they might be structural: I wonder what would happen if I created a book that defied the laws of sentence formation and never used a period?

Creative curiosity such as this leads to taking risks that could change the future of literature. So what is your level of curiosity? And how far you are willing to travel down a rabbit hole to investigate topics, storylines, or writing techniques that no one before you may ever have explored in quite the way that you can?

Take risksWhat type of energy do you invest in your creative work? Are you the sort of writer who has a persistent, even energy that allows you to put out a steady stream of work even when life gets in the way? Or do you produce in fits and starts when you receive explosive, unanticipated inspiration? The publishing process also requires great energy, whether you self-publish or pursue traditional publishing. Consider what habits, routines, or practices you might employ to increase both your physical and your mental energies and use them to your best advantage.

Build your energy.And finally, what is your patience level? Writing and publishing take a huge amount of patience. Don’t commit yourself to a series of writings if you know you are easily bored writing on the same topic for long. Remember, too, that the draft is just that; both self-editing and edits by others are required to make your work stand out, and those phases take time and patience. If you intend to publish traditionally, finding an agent and publisher will require endurance (that is, both energy and patience), and then you will have to wait out the internal processes of the publishing house. If you do not have the patience for that, consider self-publishing or else find ways to manage your impatience.

Be PatientWhen you take an honest inventory of your character in these four areas, you can make the best decisions and most appropriate choices, and perform in a way that supports your writing dreams.


This writing tip is inspired by and based on The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.


Co-authors:

Bonnie SnowBonnie Snow served as our intern at Around the Writer’s Table during her senior year at Florida State University, as a Literature major. She is working toward a graduate certificate in publishing and editing and is applying for the FSU graduate program in communications.

Gina Edwards Head shotGina Hogan Edwards is an Editor and Creativity Coach, and the founder of Around the Writer’s Table. She supports aspiring and experienced authors who want a writing life on their own terms, whether their words are put on the page for self-fulfillment or to share with readers.

Tuesday Tip: Show Up . . . Regularly

Be consistent in showing up. Getting to your writing only once in a while won’t keep it alive. Make “routine” and “regularity” sacred words!


Creative people are often spontaneous and many of us prefer to work when we are “inspired.” What a mysterious and magical idea that is, right?

Sure, it is. But I am here to tell you that if you subscribe to that thinking, you will rarely get anything written. Did you hear me? I’ll say it more clearly now:

If you wait to write only when inspiration strikes, you will get very little done.

Some creative people believe that when we are not ready, receptive, and open for ideas when inspiration strikes, that the idea becomes lost forever. That thought is too dark and fatalistic for me to embrace. I prefer to believe that once an idea is born, it lingers forever, searching until it finds a welcoming home. And wouldn’t it be lovely if that home was you rather than some other author?

Robbins Quote-ABy showing up at the page, we invite the muse, allowing inspiration a portal or channel. Sitting to write says, “I’m ready, I am here. Bring it on.” It gives the ideas a safe landing spot where they know they will be appreciated and tended to.

How, you might ask, am I supposed to create routine and regularity with my writing when the children must be taken to school and ball practice and dentist appointments, the boss asks me to work another ten hours this week on that special project that is overdue, I feel like I’m coming down with a cold, and the yard is overgrown with weeds?

As brutal or simplistic as this might sound: that’s life; find a way.

This idea of routine and regularly has taken me years to accept as truth. And it is truth. But still, I continuously must strive to act on that belief, to embrace it fully and with ease. While journaling in the form of my morning pages—a concept put forth by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way—seems fairly simple for me to do on a regular basis, working on my book has been, for many years, sporadic. A bumpy ride of irregularity.

Toward the goal of giving it the attention it deserves, I have rearranged schedules, shifted priorities, and deliberately planned writing events into my life. I even quit my job, in part, to give my writing more love. When I am away from it too long, quite simply, my heart aches. I physically feel within my body the distress of that dereliction.

By the time you read this, I will be returning from a four-day homecoming, not only with my novel and its characters but perhaps, more importantly, with my vision as a writer and for my writing work. This Vision Quest and other events such as retreats, conferences, and monthly critique groups are part of my deliberate efforts to stay connected to my writing, in general, and to my work-in-progress, specifically. To participate, I had to clear the calendar, purposefully let some things go, manage my time efficiently in the week leading up to this . . . and afterwards, I am sure. But those are the sorts of things we must do in the midst of life in order to keep writing.

There will always be obligations to others, housework, yard work, sickness, demanding family, arduous employers, life’s little and big emergencies. What is your plan for continuing to write through them, to stay connected to your writing and its purpose?


GinaGina Hogan Edwards is the founder of Around the Writer’s Table. She is also an author perpetually seeking the most elegant means to navigate a writer’s struggles so she can share her successes and failures in ways that support the writer you want to be.

Tuesday Tip: Embrace Imperfection

Writers who do not write are often perfectionists. Since perfection does not exist and it is wholly unattainable, perfectionism leads us to procrastinate. In turn, procrastination turns into paralysis, i.e., not writing.

PerfectionismPerfectionism is the primary reason I see for an author’s inability to start or to complete a project. I confess. . . . I know this firsthand. I am an admitted serial perfectionist in many areas of my life. But, thankfully, I can say that I am a recovering perfectionist.

How have I gotten beyond it? Quite simply, I have allowed myself to create imperfection. That idea will make some authors so uncomfortable they won’t even finish reading this post. Is that you? I realize this sort of behavior, for some of you, simply will not be an option; you will consider what I am suggesting here an outright sacrilege. I assure you, however, that it is an utterly liberating endeavor.

Allow yourself to create imperfection. In fact, deliberately practice it! Set aside time to do writing exercises in which you give yourself complete permission to write imperfectly.

This is called “practice.”

We do not expect someone to be a successful cellist, pianist, painter, ballerina, marathon runner, actor, sculptor, photographer—you name it—without a great deal of practice, often years of it. So how is it that we expect that we can simply sit down and write an astounding tome without doing the practice first?

Writers must practice just as other artists and athletes and professionals do, and practice inherently involves imperfection. But it also leads to recognition and identification of your weaknesses and your strengths; it gives you an awareness about your writing that can take you on the proper path to refining your skills in a deliberate and purposeful fashion.

Quite simply, permitting imperfection will allow you to improve as a writer.

So let go of perfectionism from this very moment. Dig out those writing exercises you learned at that last conference. Or just sit and free-write. And, yes, give yourself permission to write awful stuff! Burn it or bury it later if you are so driven, but do it. In whatever way you decide to practice imperfection, start now.


Gina Edwards Head shotGina Hogan Edwards is an Editor and Creativity Coach, and the founder of Around the Writer’s Table. She supports aspiring and experienced authors who want a writing life on their own terms, whether their words are put on the page for self-fulfillment or to share with readers.

Tuesday Tip: Develop Strategies to Keep Your Project Moving

Pull out three sheets of paper. Label the first page “Starting,” the second page “Working,” and the third page “Completing.” List as many strategies as you can to help you start, work, and complete your creative project.


What strategies do you use to begin and carry you through a writing project? Preparing a list of strategies for each phase—starting, working, and completing—will provide you with a resource to turn to whenever you feel you might be getting stuck.

Create short-term or immediate strategies, as well as mid- and long-term ones.

For example, your “Starting” column might include a short-term strategy such as purchasing and labeling a special notebook for your new project. It may also include an immediate strategy you employ every single day when you sit to begin your work, such as making a cup of green tea. A long-term “Starting” strategy might involve several weeks of research about the planets to be sure the world you are creating in your sci-fi novel is believable.

Certain strategies will be unique to the project itself.

Others are universal or general, and may have more to do with the writer than the project. If you know that music stimulates your creativity or evokes a mood that you need in order to write, then your general strategy is to always have music in the background while you write. The project-specific strategy involves picking out the specific type of music, artist, or song that puts you in the right mindset for the genre you are writing.

Here are a few strategies that may give you some ideas for your own lists.

STARTINGstart

  •  Make a cup of green tea every morning to take with me when I sit to write. (I might also include this strategy under “Working.”)
  • Make a list of what has to be researched before I start writing. (Beware of any propensity to use this as an excuse for not starting the actual writing.)
  • Identify the people I need to interview before I start writing. (Ditto, the above warning to myself.)
  • Create character sketches for each main character, including their backstory.
  • Create a timeline of events for the story.
  • Consider chapter titles.
  • Play with character or place names.
  • Mind-map the structure of the book; outline.
  • Gather quotes to include in the book. (Depending on the type of book, this might also appear under “Working.”)

WORKINGrunning

  • Leave a sentence unfinished at the end of my writing session so when I come back to it the next time, I have a starting place (reportedly, Hemingway’s technique).
  • Conduct interviews, compile notes, and pull out the points I can use in the manuscript.
  • As I research XXXX, gather notes and organize the material that will be usable in the book.
  • Reward myself with XXXX after completing each chapter.
  • Revise the character sketches as the book/plot develops.
  • Modify the timeline as the book progresses.
  • Prepare myself for every writing session by meditating for fifteen minutes beforehand.

COMPLETINGFinish

  • Finalize the timeline of the story.
  • Pick an ending, whatever it is, and write toward that ending.
  • Return again to “Starting” and begin the next book; repeat as often as necessary.

What strategies, both general and project-specific, are on your lists for starting, working, and completing your next writing project?


This creativity tip is inspired by and based on The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.