Desire + Support + Deadline = Success
Practical writing tips are a gift that keeps on giving and at a recent workshop called, “This Year, I’ll Win,” Kryce Swenson had plenty to share. Sponsored by my library and the Write Group, it was geared to NaNoWriMo-ers taking part in National Novel Writing Month. As a NaNoWriMo winner (she’s written 50,000-word novels in 30 daysevery November since 2010), Kyrce knows about staying motivated and shared some advice that we can all apply:
Develop good habits: To get your butt in the chair, it helps to rely on a regular routine: writing rituals, scheduling a set time for sessions, making writing your “normal” and as easy as possible, using a special “writing sweater,” and little treats and rewards for finishing a writing session are all simple yet powerful ways to fuel productivity.
Keep yourself accountable: One way to keep writing is to “make it too embarrassing to quit,” says Kryce. “Leverage your friends and family,” by announcing your writing goal, go to events with kindred spirits, buy a “winner shirt,” create a writing workshop on how you met your goal.
Plan your work and work your plan: “Pantsers” and “Plotters” face different writing challenges. For pantsers, “outlining is not a dirty word,” notes Kryce. By focusing on relevant information for your story, and identifying key “signposts” and events, you can come up with a loosely structured plan that will help keep you from getting derailed as you write. For plotters, the key is letting go: remembering that your outline is a flexible tool, not a straitjacket. “The plan should support you, not restrict you.”
Prying loose: When you get stuck and stalled, instead of giving up, get ingenious! Use one of several simple tools to get going again:
Ask what if? — What if this happened — what would my character do?
Ask “why” 5 times: Ask a simple “why” question: “Why did my character have to leave home?” for example, and come up with an answer. Then keep probing by asking “why?” again. Do this five times and you may unearth a nugget of gold you can use.
Ask “What’s the worst that can happen to my character?” Do it and see what unfolds.
Empathize with your characters: Interview your characters individually as their “author” — their creator — and see what they have to tell you about what you’re doing and the decisions you’ve made about their lives. Their answers may surprise you!
Fruitful advice from the frontlines. Bravo, Kryce — write on!