Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Shift your goal away from word counts

Events such as CampNaNo and NaNoWriMo focus so heavily on word counts, but to some that word count target is daunting and out of reach. These events, while rewarding high word counts, are actually about developing a habit for writing — a little more everyday. As such, shift your goal away from word counts or pages. Aim to finish that chapter today, or that scene. In the end, the word counts don’t matter; the fact that you’re writing does.
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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Can’t see the scene? Make notes and move on.

When writing a first draft, don’t feel obligated to write every single scene out in full. Sometimes our imaginations just don’t see the little details — fight scenes, in particular, can be the most complicated to write because you might not be sure whose POV you should be using. Make notes about what you can see. Write down the details that are vital that you do know. Then move on. The nitty-gritty is something that you can always come back to when you have a few more details.Read More

Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Small steps are needed to make the giant leap.

You hear it often, but how many actually listen: take that big goal and divide it into smaller, more manageable chunks. This a philosophy can be applied to every aspect of our lives. For a writer, this means looking at that draft in sections. If you’re writing a first draft, but aiming for a specific word count (like one would during NaNoWriMo), you don’t try to get your full word count in one night (unless you’re a masochist). Instead, you write one chapter, one paragraph, one sentence at a time. It’s the same with editing. Even a long jumper needs to take those smaller, running steps before they can make the giant leap.Read More

Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: CampNaNoWriMo is about building a community

For those participating in CampNaNoWriMo, keep in mind that these sorts of events are actually about building your writing community. Yes, you are working toward a word-count goal, one you’ve specified, but there is a reason that they encourage participation in cabins. Get to know the others in your cabin and start networking. You’ll need that support as you continue along your writing journey.
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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Get the contact details for your NaNo buddies.

If you forged any good working relationships with anyone during NaNoWriMo, bonding over NaNoWriMo, ensure that you have devised a way in which you can stay in touch after NaNo. Don’t rely on the NaNo mail system. Some people only check their NaNo mail during NaNo, or in the weeks leading up to NaNo. Come December, some don’t bother to log in again until the next year. This is particularly important for events like CampNaNo, where the cabins are shut down shortly after the event is over.
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Time to Add Zombies to Your Manuscript

We are midway through the month and many writers are pushing themselves toward their NaNoWriMo or CampNaNoWriMo goals. It might be just to write the 50,000 words to become a winner. Or maybe they're pushing themselves that much further to complete a full first draft within the span of one month. Regardless, it is roughly about this time of the month when many writers start to lose steam and they feel that their stories are running flat.

Time to add zombies.

It's an old saying, one that relates to how some writers deal with that age old problem called writer's block. Some writers will take the phrase literally and add flesh-eating monsters into their manuscript. Why not? This is NaNo. Anything can happen in our manuscripts. However, those monsters only suit certain genres and only a fraction of the stories in those genres at that.

No... The phrase "just add zombies" means much more than that.

If you are struggling to push your story forward, moving the characters into the next scene — if your feeling that your story is starting to drag — that's a sign that you have lost the tension of the story. It's time to change it up.

Adding plot zombies is about putting your characters into the worst scenario that you could possibly think of and letting things fall where they may. For a romance, that situation might be the kiss that shouldn't have happened and the girlfriend that walked in on it. For a thriller, it might be the bad guy has just escaped those bounds that you were so sure were tight as anything and now has a gun pressed to your temple. For a crime story, perhaps they found another dead body. And for that space opera, the ship has sprung a leak and if they don't find a way to seal it, all the air will be vented out into space — oh, and the gravity plating has just gone off-line.

But if you're suffering from writer's block, perhaps the issue really isn't your story. Maybe you're just trying to hard. Some writers will have plotted out every single inch of their novel. (If you've done this, you plotters know exactly who you are.) You may have found that you are trudging along quite happily, then the path is suddenly blocked and your characters are refusing to take the left fork in the road like you had planned. You keep forcing them that way, but they keep rebelling. The words are just not flowing like they once did. Did you ever stop to think that the path down the right fork is actually the more interesting one?

This is where the pantser has the advantage over the plotter. The characters want to take the right fork, so the pantser lets them and is just along for the ride. Meanwhile, the plotter is still trying to force their characters down the left fork.

gull-talk_annotated_rightvsleftPlotters, give yourself permission to deviate from your original plot. You never know what might happen.

However, pantsers suffer from writer's block too. The true blood pantser will just wait for inspiration to strike. They have no idea what they're going to write until they sit down and start writing. But sometimes inspiration completely eludes them. They don't even know where to start. (At least the plotters have a start point and an end point.)

The biggest advice I can give to anyone in this situation is to find a new place to write. Grab your notebook, or your laptop, and head out to the park, the beach, the local library, the nearest coffee shop... Maybe even the art gallery or the museum. It doesn't matter where you head, just as long as it's somewhere new. Watch the people going by. Watch the snail attempt to get across the sidewalk before it gets squished. These new environments just might be the inspiration you need.

(True story: One year, I was watching a sparrow as it soared through the air, only to be joined by another sparrow. Spring time. Mating season. My fingers suddenly started typing this whole scene where my main character shape-shifted into a bird and soared through the skies. Inspiration can come from anywhere.)

There are some other tricks that you can play to get yourself out of this writing slump. Maybe you need to turn your attention to another project. You may have had your heart set on writing a particular project, but if your mind is just not into it at that moment, then the writing will be forced and you will hate every inch of it. Writing is meant to be enjoyable. If one project is not doing it for you, open another. Writers often have multiple projects on the go. I, myself, have near on 20 different manuscripts that I'm working on, all in various stages of development.

Chip Challenge: Get some poker chips and write numbers on them. Place them in a bag by your favourite writing device. Every time you sit down to write, pull out a chip. That’s your session target.

Chip Challenge: Get some poker chips and write numbers on them. Place them in a bag by your favorite writing device. Every time you sit down to write, pull out a chip. That’s your session target.

Then again, maybe you are too focused on the big picture that you need to give yourself smaller goals. Even though with CampNaNoWriMo you can choose your own goals (word counts or hours), NaNoWriMo imposes a minimum 50,000-word-count limit. That can be a scary number, especially when you're in a writing slump. What you need to do is break that number up. Last year, I wrote about how you can use the chip challenge, where you have a small bag of poker chips, each with a different number on it. When you sit down to write, pull one out of the bag and that's your target.

Or maybe you're one of those that needs to sprint. Set yourself a timer and just go for it. Take a break, then do it again and see if you can get further than you did last time.

There are many different tactics to concur this common problem. Just remember that you're not alone. Remember that there is a big community out there of writers, all of us at different stages within our careers, but all of us there to support one another.

Perhaps you can share one of your favorite methods for getting the creative juices flowing in the comments below.

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P.S. I'd love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Backlit keyboard

Scrivener: Software for the Writer

Many writers spend endless hours writing their precious manuscripts using MSWord or some other equivalent word-processing program. In the initial writing phase, they encounter very little problems. Then editing begins. So too does the grumbling.

The filesize increases dramatically and previous versions of certain chapters are lost. To move a chapter, the cut-and-paste hell takes over. Versions are sent out for review, resulting in hundreds of copies of the manuscript. (Exactly which one was the one I was working on?)

Here’s the situation: I have NEVER liked MSWord. It stems back to my Master’s thesis where MSWord frequently moved my images off the screen so I would spend forever hunting for them. Then it would goggle up whole chapters and all my editing would be lost. And when it came to printing… The Master Document feature failed completely and I had to change all the cross-references and auto-numbering manually, including page numbers. I was not a happy chappy.

Granted, I was working in MSWord95. Things have significantly improved since then, but MSWord still doesn’t like my documents.

When I did my PhD, I used LaTex: a freeware software package that was designed for scientists and academics. The system had very little memory overhead and I never lost my images again. Moving chapters around was a simple matter of moving a single line of code.

When I finally started writing my high fantasy series, LaTex was my choice. Then I started looking seriously at agents and publishers. The horrible truth was that all manuscripts needed to be submitted in DOC format. DOH! LaTex outputs to PDF no sweat, ePub/MOBI with gentle persuasion (and a wooden mallet), RTF is covered, but DOC? Aaahh! Nope. It ain’t happening.

Write here, write now. Scrivener. After extensive research, and trialing various programs, I discovered Scrivener. It promised to provide the flexibility needed for editing, low memory overheads, and varied outputs, including DOC, PDF, RTF, ePub and MOBI. OMG, the transition from LaTex was beyond easy and Scrivener upheld its promises.

Today, ALL of my personal writing is done in Scrivener. I export my files to DOC for submission and to share with critique partners, but that’s all MSWord is allowed to see of my manuscripts. From the conception through to the final revision, everything is in Scrivener.

The full license of Scrivener is $40USD, which entitles you to updates and full technical support. And this is a lifetime license. (When was the last time MSWord was that cheap?)

Scrivener is available for Mac, Windows, iOS (this version is $19 USD), and a beta-version is available for Linux. Sorry, but no Android version… yet.

Every year, Literature and Latte, the developers of Scrivener, sponsor NaNoWriMo. If you are registered for the NaNoWriMo, CampNaNo or the young writers program, then you will get a discount, normally 20%. Winners are normally given a 50%-discount code.

The trial version of the software is the full package, with all features enabled. You get 30 non-consecutive days to trial the software. And in October, Literature and Latte release a special NaNoWriMo trial version.

Okay… This really is coming across as an ad for Scrivener, but after the experiences I’ve had with other programs…

Later this month, on the Black Wolf Editorial YouTube channel, I will be releasing a series of videos on how to use Scrivener, beyond the demonstration videos that come with Scrivener or found on the Literature and Latte website. I will show you how to customize and use Scrivener to its full potential, including how to set up prologues, customize chapter numbering designs, and use annotations. Yes, Scrivener does have it’s limitations; I will be going over those too.

Keep an eye on the Black Wolf Editorial YouTube channel and here on this blog for more details.

P.S. I’d love to meet you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ below. You can read other posts like it here.

© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016

Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: A story’s completion is not determined by word counts

NaNoWriMo and CampNaNo reward high word counts, but a story’s completion is not determined by word counts. A story will follow a progression of events from the start and to a natural conclusion. Just because you have achieved your word count goals for the month, have you actually finished that story. If not, keep writing. It’s not finished until you see those words The End. 
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Helpful Tips

Tip of the Day: Attend write-ins, even virtual ones

There is something to be said for peer-pressure. If you are surrounded by a group that has their heads down and the fingers pounding the keys of their laptops, guilt will often take over — you should be writing too. Me… I can’t write in the presence of others, I’m too much of a social bunny and want to bounce ideas off of everyone. The solution: virtual write-ins. The organizers of NaNoWriMo and CampNaNo often run virtual write-ins via Twitter and other social media platforms. Check them out. They might provide you with the peer-pressure you need to write, but remove the temptation to socialize.
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