Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Tides of Writing Life

I find myself in the middle of January, after a long period of drifting, without writing much at all.

November was a wonderful adventure, as it always is when I join the throngs of NaNoWriMos around the world. It was great fun to be a Municipal Liaison, and I made new writer friends in my community. I had the pleasure of organizing a Young Writer's Program for a multi-age classroom in a local elementary school. Even the non-writers in the group enjoyed it when I handed out small chocolate bars in their early morning class, encouraging them to hold, open and eat the candy in order to write a description of the experience engaging all five senses. One enthusiastic senior student led the charge, writing over 100,000 words in her NaNoWriMo project. It was an amazing example of what can be done if you turn your mind to it and make time in your day for something you love.

Then came December, and not a word was written. The tide was out. It stayed out over the holidays. Like a beach comber, I traced the edges of the great heights my word counts had reached in November and managed to pull together some Twitter posts. By the early days of January, the tide had ebbed further and even my capacity for 140 character bursts had nearly dried up.

The tide is turning now. I can feel it. My writing group met yesterday and I turned my attention to the first messy draft of a memoir project that's been sitting since last spring, patiently waiting for the flow of creativity to rise again. Today, a blog post here and one more on another blog I'd neglected since late fall.

It feels good, this swirl of creative energy washing over me once more. It always feels good when it returns, lifting images and thoughts together to spill out as words, filling once blank spaces in my journal and on my computer screen.

I'll try to catch this wave and ride it a little way. Perhaps I can forge a second draft of that memoir now, to achieve my goal of sharing the lessons taught by painful experiences and the subsequent comfort of connection with others.

I know the tide will ebb, falling away from me again, as other tasks push into the swiftly emptied shallow reserves of my spare time. Just as I know it will flow back, and the words will surf on a wave of inspiration once more. The rhythms of my creative energy are reliable, like the steady progression of waves dancing along a familiar shore.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

NaNoWriMo: Across the Finish Line

You did it! You made it through November and finished your NaNoWriMo project! Way to go!

So…now what?

First things first: find a way to celebrate your success. 50,000 words or more in 30 days is a tremendous accomplishment! Even if you didn’t manage 50,000 words honour your effort, and plan to adapt your approach next year.

Next, hustle to catch up on those neglected tasks that you set aside to make time for writing. Satisfy yourself with a little cooking, cleaning, socializing, and tending to any work projects that need your attention.

Once you’re all caught up, see if you can find a way to carry forward just a little of that NaNoWriMo magic into your daily life. Can you set a daily or weekly word goal? Maybe less than you were spilling out in those wild word sprints, but a steady practice of building your word count, whatever your project.

When you’ve had a little time away from your project – maybe in the New Year – you can turn your mind to review and revision. Let your inner editor loose to make all those changes you skimmed past in the rush to achieve your word count. Spend time choosing words, checking facts and fixing plot gaps to polish your work for other eyes.

November was a great ride. Savour your successes as you move through the tasks that will help you be ready for April... when Camp NaNoWriMo rolls around! 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

NaNoWriMo: Getting Unstuck

Behind in your word count? Like, waaay behind? 

Maybe you had a personal or family crisis. Or it just hasn’t been possible to set aside the demands of your daily life at work and home. Perhaps you’re a procrastinator and time slipped away from you.

Never fear, it’s not too late! You can still meet your goal!

Look at your schedule over the next several days. Are there any times when you can block a solid hour or more of writing? Make it a date with yourself, add it to your calendar and honour that commitment like you would a work or personal appointment.

Now, think about your writing. Is it portable? Can you capture a few words here and there while you wait for an appointment, or stand in line at the grocery store? Do you have a device with a voice recording feature you can use hands-free while you complete other tasks? There are so many ways to write these days, and every word counts – including a sentence you wrote in the check out line.

Can you go to bed just a little later, or wake up just a little earlier? A daily habit of even a half an hour will add those words to your count in a nice steady way.

If you haven’t yet tried these tools, try following @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter for optional writing prompts and timed writing challenges. Join a local write-in group or find a virtual write-in session for more support and encouragement.

Whatever method you choose to boost your word count, don’t give up! Be a success story against all odds! You’ve got this.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

NaNoWriMo: Maintaining Momentum

Every time I take this challenge, I run into a snag in my novel development. 

I start to run out of steam. I lose faith in my writing, in my ability to tell a story that matters. Sometimes I have written my character into a corner where there are no good choices. Other times I’ve lost my way and I’m out of ideas.

If this happens to you, take heart. Every time I take this challenge I also find my second wind in plenty of time to finish NaNoWriMo strong, albeit sometimes with a wild and ridiculous draft. Just like any other first draft!

Try taking a break. It seems counter intuitive, but if you take a hot shower, have a nap or go for a walk, you just might clear your mind enough to come back to your story with fresh ideas.

Consider people watching in a busy public location. As you watch, think about which stranger crossing your path might inspire just the right character to move your story forward.

Read. It might not feel like you have time to read in November if you’re trying to get 50,000 words onto the page. Reading offers a window to another perspective on the world, and whether you choose to escape through fiction or research some aspect of your story, reading can provide the nudge your story needs.

Believe in yourself! You can do this!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

NaNoWriMo: Getting Started

It’s time! NaNoWriMo 2016 is officially here! 

In fact, as it’s been here for several hours, some of you may already have the opening of your NaNoNovel well under way.

If you’re a planner, now is the time when you harvest the fruits of your hard labour. The time you’ve spent thinking about your project, plotting your story and developing your characters in your mind and in your notes offers you a rich sense of direction as you jump in and build that word count. You may even find that some of your work lends itself to an easy adaptation as part of your work in progress.

If you’re a pantser…Wheeee!!! Here we go! Get those fingers moving across the keyboard, or that pen flying across the paper as you spill out whatever story lines come to mind for the main character you find yourself writing. Add characters and conflict and see what happens as you follow the twists and turns that unfold as you work.

Either way, make sure you sit down and get started! The world needs your story!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo: Simple Tips for Beginners

The countdown has begun around here. Just 8 ½ sleeps until NaNoWriMo 2016 begins!

Are you ready?

This is a good week to fill your freezer with easy to reheat meals, to finish monthly tasks or delegate regular chores so that your November calendar has lots of time for writing.

It’s also a great time to give your family and friends a warning that, although you still love them, your priority in November is getting those 50,000 words out of your head and onto the page in this great November novel writing challenge.

If you’re planning your plot and developing your characters in preparation, it’s time to get organized. Use a system that lets you easily cross check details to keep the words coming as your fingers fly over your keyboard.

Stock up on your comforts: chocolate, tea or coffee, cozy blankets, amazing bath salts. You’ll need them to celebrate successes and to nurture yourself through the inevitable stumbling blocks in your mad dash to Win.

Make a little note about why you’re taking the NaNoWriMo challenge on this year. Use colour, make it personal. Post the note in a prominent spot, so you can remind yourself throughout November that yes, this wild ride really is worth it to you!

You can do it! 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Writing Groups - Who Needs Them?

You write furiously, or type laboriously, and otherwise passionately put your thoughts and ideas into words, day after day, month after month and year after year.  You're a writer.  Maybe published, or maybe not yet.  But you are indeed a writer.

So if you're already a writer, why would you bother to gather around with a bunch of other writers at regular intervals to write, maybe share and then talk about writing?

I have two groups of writers I currently aim to spend quality time with on a monthly basis. I find great benefits to the process of writing in a group:

Motivation to write can be found when you gather around a table of like-minded folks. I have a work in progress, and in the past two months I have only spent time on it during one of my writing group meetings. This group makes me feel like finishing the project is possible, one word at a time if I just keep going.

Commitment to meeting once a month (or whatever interval works for your group) is a commitment to writing even when life is busy and you are struggling to make time for regular practice. That group meeting marked in my calendar means that yes, I am still a writer, even if I didn't meet any word goals in between our sessions.

Camaraderie such as I have found in my writing groups helps me feel connected through writing, which can sometimes be lonely work.  When I gather with these women, we share tips and tricks, we empathize with challenges, we offer encouragement and we cheer each other on. That sort of support is easy to love.

So, how do you find a writer's group? Well, I'm told you can look up local groups on the internet, or sometimes by checking in with your local librarian. When I started looking for folks to write with, I was a bit hesitant to search groups out - worried I might not be good enough and concerned I might not be able to bear the critique process. So I didn't look for a group that was already established. I wasn't confident enough of the benefits to take the risk.

Instead, I formed my own writing group.  I invited other women I know who had expressed a desire to write during our friendly conversations over coffee, or while we watched our children play, or when we sat together at a gathering about writing.  I've invited 6 women, and there are usually at least 3 of us around the table one Saturday morning each month.  We chat a little (sometimes a lot - so much that we now plan a lunch the Friday before writing group. It helps us get some of the chatting out of the way to help us focus more on writing in the morning!) We write, some of us with pen and paper while others type. Sometimes one of us will share our actual writing, asking for help with a word, or for feedback about the flow.  But usually in this group we just chat, write, chat a little more then get back to our writing.

The second group formed when I joined the Winterfire writing retreat offered by Firefly Creative Writing. 10 women living in the greater Toronto area, gathered for a glorious weekend of cozy winter writing with nurturing coaches guiding us through exercises. A beautiful group of writers who made some magical connections, sparking a plan to hold monthly mini-retreats where we could gather, reconnect and support one another in our writing endeavors.  We chat, a little about life and a lot about our writing projects. And then we write. In this group, we share our work freely and offer feedback in the gentle, strength-based style that is the Firefly way.

Each group offers me motivation, reinforces my commitment to a writer's life and gives me a wonderful feeling of camaraderie with some amazing women. I am so grateful for the presence of these women in my life.

So, who needs a writer's group?  Every writer can benefit from joining a group of like-minded people to focus on writing, sharing and supporting one another in honing the craft. Find a group or form your own, but start writing together!