I’ve been going for a while now on my new adventure as an author, and I’m writing up a storm. I have a whole collection of notes on future story ideas, and two works in progress at the moment. The writing part is coming quite easily to me, as I love to share ideas and emotions through text. Stories are the best way to give advice or relax and escape, or to learn the big lessons of life, whether it’s how to do something or how not to do something.
In just under a month, my two stories are at around 55 000 words for the young adult book, and about 45 000 words for the romance/erotica book. How did I get so much done so quickly?
I had to learn what worked best for me. For one thing, having two stories on the go instead of one means I always have something I’m excited to write, even when one project gets stalled a little and needs a day or two of thought.
Another thing is I don’t write in order. I can’t. I don’t always know what will happen, but I know where I want to end up. Sometimes working backwards is the best way for me to know what happens earlier in the book.
Before I began, I looked for resources for writers. I found gold. I’m still learning and looking for more help, but the Writing Mastery series of video courses by Jessica Brody got me going, showed me how to get set up, and keep me moving along. The plotting course is how I went from short stories to being brave enough for my first full length novel. The writing hacks course got me into a routine that’s fun, achievable, and sustainable. My family is already used to the new routine (at least the dogs are), and can’t wait to help me start my early day with a walk.
I found other useful courses, books, and ideas, too. I’m serious about learning the craft of writing, and being the best author I can be. Learning to tell a riveting story takes time and experience. I can speed up gaining experience by learning from other authors who have already made the mistakes.
If you had told me a month ago that I would willingly get up early and write before doing anything else, I would have laughed my backside off at you. Now I love it, and often get up before my alarm. Now I’m half done both stories, know roughly where to go in both, and am motivated to keep going.
My progress on getting sheer numbers of words down is less for both stories right now, but I’m at the read through and link scenes appropriately stage. I may realize I forgot a scene I needed, and go back and add it. Still essential parts of the writing process, and enjoyable in a different way. Knowing I have these two scenes and something needs to happen between them, having a rough idea what, then letting my imagination play is pretty fun.
So, the best advice I can give is learn about writing routines and ways to improve your own productivity. The tips and tricks really work! Customize them for you and go for it. Happy writing!
I’ve found what I eat makes a big difference to my productivity and creativity. The brain takes a lot of energy, and the best energy for me to be at my best to fuel that brain is something protein heavy. My energy death? Sugar...sadly.
It’s important to start the writing session with enough fuel, and fuel is food or drinks such as smoothies. Since the primary energy source is protein, there are a variety of different ways to do that. I’m vegetarian, so I don’t use meat, but I do appreciate the nutritional boost eggs give me. I have other possibilities, too, but I find a hot meal gets me going better than a cold meal. Find what works for you and go for it. Whatever I eat with my eggs, I make sure it’s nutritious and easy to make.
Part way through my writing I find I need a snack. Usually I go for some fruit and a tea at this point. Fruit sugars don’t bother me the way refined sugars do. Any quick energy booster would work, as long as it’s actual food and not processed. Sometimes a handful of raw nuts is a great addition to my snack. If I want a sweet kick, I might include some dark chocolate chips with my snack.
After writing I’m also craving something more filling. Often this could be some yogurt (I like goat milk yogurts) with fresh berries and nuts. It might be something else like a smoothie with fruit and yogurt. If I went late enough with my writing and post-writing workout/yoga, I might just go right to lunch.
Even through the rest of the day, I make every meal count. Controlling my weight and fuelling my body keep me feeling good and writing well. I tend to cook most of my meals, if not all. There is no one diet that works for everyone. I love being able to make foods from around the world. Then I can enjoy a variety of flavours. Many foods either take little time to cook or can be made in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.
Now, you don’t need to go crazy with the protein, just make smart choices. A handful of nuts and some fruit is typically less sugary than a store bought granola bar. I’ve made home-made energy bars from pure nut butters and other simple ingredients that were tasty and low sugar.
Explore, experiment, and have fun. Food can be flavourful and exciting as well as nutritious. Some people have busy lives and need to find something easy to make that fits into their life. That’s fine, too.
I will share some recipes that I love as we go. The first is one of my favourite snacks. This is
Oven Baked Potatoes:
Take a potato or two, enough potato to equal about the size of a fist. I peel them, but that’s optional. Cut the potato into small cubes so they cook evenly, exactly how large is up to you. Add extra-virgin olive oil and a spice blend of your choosing. I like the Greek Spice mix. Place it on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for between 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven, plate it, and enjoy!
You can do something similar with sweet potatos or carrots, too. Many veggies roast well this way, for about the same cooking time. Try a bunch and see what’s tastiest!
I spend a few hours writing every day. However, it’s the time outside of that writing where I get random book ideas and often solve plotting point issues.
I’ve been out for my run when a random story idea will hit me, based on something I thought about or felt at the time. Sometimes if something is going on in my life, I write or journal about it to process it. Sometimes that leads me to story ideas. I write them all down as soon as I have the chance. If my phone is with me, I have note and recording features.
If I need a brain break throughout the day, or even during my writing time, I will lay under a light blanket and cover my eyes. I let my mind rest. Sometimes it drifts to story ideas or plot points. Sometimes this quiet time is where my mind gives me my next scene idea, so I know what happens next in the story. My favourite blanket for this is a blanket I edged myself, and it’s a comfortable light fleece with the Gryffindor crest all over it. Nothing like a magical themed blanket to magically trigger ideas in me!
During meditation I’ll let my mind wander if it goes to one of my active stories. I let the scenes and ideas come, just like my time laying quietly, and see what my mind comes up with. I don’t think actively, I let my deeper mind tell me what the story is. I only allow it to go to active stories, otherwise I direct my attention back to my breath, unless I get an amazing story idea. It’s better to pause the meditation and write it down than forget it after.
I’m also a gamer, and I love epic games with a strong story. I don’t care for things like racing games and first person shooters, but give me a good fantasy adventure or something and I’m all in. Same with movies and other books. Seeing what other creators have done sometimes inspires me with my own ideas. I also sometimes will be inspired by a character, then loosely base my own characters off them, or take features I like from multiple characters that I love and make someone new. Sometimes it’s the relationship between characters that’s inspiring.
Knitting is also a great time to let the mind wander, as is any task that you don’t have to concentrate hard on to complete. During these moments I let my mind stay passively engaged by the activity, but it can wander to my story. Often these are the moments that I discover what happens in that moment that I’m stuck.
Ultimately, writing doesn’t happen just in writing time. That may be when the idea hits the page, but the ideas are allowed to come at any time. Story ideas are recorded as soon as possible, and plot points are remembered and put down during my next writing session. I always remain open to inspiration, and because of that, I have a file with over 15 different story ideas to work from when my first novels are done. Being open means the creativity can always flow. Apps can help gather ideas and notes, and writing time is when those turn into a reality.
Stay open, stay creative, and go write!
I wrote a sad scene in my erotica/romance novel. It was the big moment where they need to decide what they really want, and will they risk it all for love? What does love even mean?
I journey with my characters as I write. I feel the happy scenes sitting with them in the park. I almost can feel it as they do a workout together, as I know what it feels like to sweat and move and love every moment of it. I can taste the ice cream they share, knowing they each have a favourite flavour.
I admit it, I’m primarily a character driven author. I find something compelling about my characters, and then allow life to happen to them. I know what life can be like in all it’s messy, suddenly changing, and harsh reality. They won’t be shielded from that. It’s who they are that makes a book happen. If nothing interesting happens, how can they react to it?
It also means I feel what they feel, if not exactly, then enough to know what’s going on for them. If something happens, or someone gets lost, or things go badly, I may cry my way through the scene with them. It’s okay. It makes it real. What would the scene be like if I felt nothing? Would it be the same? I don’t think so.
After all, the point is to let the reader journey along as well. If I can’t get swept up in the story, how can they? If I can’t taste, smell, feel, and see what I’m writing, then share that, how can they know what the character is feeling? An imaginative reader will be there, but everyone else? Yeah, didn’t think so.
That’s why I know it’s okay to cry. It’s great to be happy for them and celebrate their wins. Those little moments of relaxation are important, too, and give everyone a break. Life is an emotional roller coaster. If we’re not riding it with the characters, are the characters really living?
I was struggling with my romance/erotica book. I was having difficulty figuring out how to fill in the story with important scenes, as I don’t write a Book in order of events, I write it as I feel enthusiastic about a plot point. Sometimes I need to know how it ends to fill in the events between that and the mid-point, for example.
Well, I pulled out my handy dandy cork bulletin board and made cards out of construction paper. Shopping isn’t always easy, so I sometimes make do with what’s on hand. I used my rotary cutter for sewing and the coloured paper for the cards, and now I had an additional tool.
By assigning each colour to a different type of scene, I was able to better see what kind of scene I was dealing with. By adding an arrow in the corner of each card that pointed up for positive (happy) scenes or down for negative (detrimental to Main character) scenes. Now at a glance I can see the general progression of the story and how often I have love scenes verses activity scenes, verses conflict scenes, and so on.
I can glance at my board and know where to add story elements and what kind of element to add, including whether it’s a positive or negative element. This will enhance my story immensely, as I was beginning to get writer’s doubt, and part of me wanted to chuck it all and begin a different story that I was holding for after this one was done. No, I just needed to take a different approach and visualize the book better.
This is the story that I recently completely re-ordered, so I had lost track of what goes where. By using cards and push pins I can easily move story elements as I copy and paste them in the word processor, so the two match. Now that I’m back on track with it, I’m excited again, and ready to write. Well, maybe it’ll be mostly brainstorming the missing scenes for now, but that’s still writing. I can pick one idea and flesh it out later, maybe using another idea somewhere else as well, and so on.
When I reorganize my writing space, this board is going over my desk. I’ll share more about where I write in another post, as I have some exciting plans for my writing space!
Now, go find an idea you like and get writing, even if it’s just a drabble or a scene. It’s all practice, and makes us better writers.
I know...what’s a writer doing talking about sore muscles? Well, as we set up our writing space, we may not get the ergonomics right the first time. Is the chair the right height? Is the desk comfortable to work at? Are we even at a desk, or in a coffee shop on a laptop? Where we write is less important than making sure we don’t get a strain from a bad writing position.
I’m starting to build my new writing desk today. I’ve gathered the wood and made the list of cuts, so now I just need to cut the parts and assemble them. For now, I’m writing on a crowded desk in the bedroom. My plotting board is behind me on the floor, resting against the bed. In other words, not ideal.
After every writing session, I go to my home gym and do something active. Often it’s yoga, and I have programs I can follow for everything from relaxation and stretching to strength building. Yesterday I restarted a strength training program that uses my own bodyweight, so my shoulders and arms were a little sore. Today I went with a Qi Gong program for shoulder and neck health by Lee Holden. It felt so good to stretch my muscles out gently and ease the aches.
I also can rub witch hazel on the muscles if I’m a little sore, and I know right now much of my soreness is from the workout, so witch hazel is ideal to help. I’m not crazy sore, I just know I exercised well, and writing doesn’t always help if I’m already stiff. Most of us don’t move a lot when we write, which can also cause soreness.
If I pay attention to my comfort while I write, and my fitness when I’m not writing, I can look forward to a long and comfortable productive life as a writer. So, set your space up well, keep yourself flexible and in good shape, and go for it!
When I wrote my earliest stories, I never plotted out ahead of time. I just wrote by the seat of my pants, seeing where that took me. It worked for the stories I wrote, but didn’t help me long term. Nope, I didn’t get really writing until I started taking the time to learn to plot better.
See, as a short story writer, plot was a thing, but it wasn’t a “now I have to write over 65 000 words” thing. I said what I had to say and then was done. Sure, I can write novellas and be happy, especially when I write the erotica that I love, but I want to write actual novels, like my writing idols. Yes, I have authors that I adore their work, and I want to write like that. I have stories in me. Were they good enough to be full novels? I needed to learn more about plotting to be sure.
Enter the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody. It’s based on a book for screenwriters. I learned so much valuable information on how to plot out a novel.
Well, I’ve made great progress on the YA (young adult) novel I’ve been writing and I’m over halfway done my first draft. However, I stalled out on my erotica/romance novel. I was having trouble figuring out where to go, and it was about 1/3 done. I liked what I had, but had nowhere to go.
Then I realized...I was writing it backwards. Much of what I had in the early bit belonged in the second half. My second half conflict belonged in the middle (or just before it), and the nearly complete middle section should be sprinkled about and stretched out over the entire middle portion from my setup to my ending.
My biggest challenge in this early stage of writing has been taking a short story and making it a full novel. How does that idea get to be an epic adventure? Later today I’ll be using my cork board and cards to lay out my story in a physical way, so I don’t have to scan through the over 60 pages I’ve already written to find things. Then I can use more cards to brainstorm and filll in the missing pieces, but I already have some good ideas of how it all fits again.
My secret? I lay quietly under a light blanket for warmth and close my eyes, covering them if the room is bright. I breathe in a quiet and relaxed way and I let my mind wander or go still. The story usually starts unfolding for me when I do this, and it’s how I transition between stories in the morning. I let one story close and the other open. Now, I’m a practiced meditator, so letting my mind go still is easy.
You’ll need to sort out for yourself how to open yourself to ideas. I learned a few different tricks. Some I use daily, like the laying quietly, others I do less often or only when I need. Even in my morning meditation, before I write, if my mind brings up my story I let it passively unfold. I don’t direct it, I let it happen. My ending for the YA book came that way this morning. It works wonders. The book almost writes itself, and I get to watch it unfold.
Other days, it feels more like a struggle. Yesterday brought a lot of stresses that were not writing related, and I spent my evening trying to play catch-up. This meant I ended up getting to sleep right at the latest bedtime I can that lets me still function the next day. I’ll discuss sleep more in a future blog post.
So, some days I feel the writing and it flows easily. I may write over 6 000 words on those days. Other days, like today, I struggled more with both stories and only got about 1 500 words per story. For me, that’s on my very low end of writing.
These are the days we need to be kind to ourselves. There are many reasons our writing rate may change. In the earlier stages we are getting down great blocks of ideas and it’s likely to flow more. As we continue on and have more to work with, I find my writing slows down as well. Sometimes I have to go back and read earlier parts, and sometimes I’m writing shorter scenes within the longer narrative.
On days when we sleep less or wake up with less enthusiasm, it’ll impact our writing. I know I write a lot better when I’m well rested and the sun helps get me up naturally. Our diet will impact our brain as well, and I’ll address that more in a future post, too. Exercise is another piece of the puzzle.
This all means that being a writer is every bit as demanding as my days as an athlete. I have to pay just as much attention to my lifestyle to write my best as I ever did when I was active for a living.
My biggest indicator that my brain was just not as focused? My daily meditation was very scattered and all over the place. Normally I can focus on my breath easily or my mind only wanders to my story. Today I was constantly refocusing and nearly getting sidetracked on random thoughts.
Hey, writing is hard. It makes the brain tired and we get resistances as we get closer to finished. Knowing that we sometimes will have less productive writing days is all part of dealing with them. There are many techniques that I’ve learned that can help me make sure I write a little every day.
My favourite “I’m stuck” technique is the ten minute prompt. If I have trouble getting started on a project of my own, then I pick a writing prompt randomly from some resources I have and I set the timer for 10 minutes. I spent a whole writing course doing that as I learned skills, so it’s almost automatic that the words start to flow. After that, I’m ready to go on my projects again.
We’ll all find our own most effective tools for unproductive days, and there are many. Sometimes switching it up a bit helps. Go explore, try things, and get writing!
Well, life has changed for everyone around the world, really, even if only in small ways. My life has changed a lot. We’ll just say the pandemic gave me the push I needed to get off my backside and do something real with my life, instead of coasting along.
I had a lot of dreams when I was younger. I lost most of them with the death of someone important to me and, let’s just say, life has not turned out how I had hoped it would. However, life also gave me a lot to work with, a blessing in disguise so to speak. Still, always looking for the positive, I’ve decided to turn this into a new opportunity for myself. I’m following a new dream.
I’m going to be an author. Not just a writer, as I’ve been writing stories for years now, but an actual author with books for sale.
Now, it’s going to be an adventure, as I’ve been at it for just over a week now, and I have so much to learn. I found some amazing resources that have helped a lot and given me the courage to try. I already have some stories online on a page for writers, but my style has changed so much that I leave them up for nostalgia. I wouldn’t say the writing itself is all that good, but that was work I did years ago.
I’ll share my triumphs and failures, my good days and bad, who helped and where I learned useful information, and what I discover that I didn’t even know I needed to know. For instance, I’m interested in self-publishing. I will have to wear many hats, including editor and proofreader, cover designer, publisher, and so on. Some jobs I may get help with, others I’ll learn more in depth. Either way, I’ll share it all here.
So, welcome to my journey, and I hope you enjoy yourself while you’re with me. Ready to dream big dreams again?
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.