It’s OK To Fail

We are in the home stretch of NaNoWriMo. This year it is looking like I will “win” with at least 50,000 words.

But the last year I attempted it I “failed”, and I started knowing that I probably would.

If you are looking at your word count and wondering if it was worth it to even try, let me assure you that it is. Well, me and Ray Bradbury.

Be Willing To Fail

One of the keys to success is being willing to fail.

Ray Bradbury said, “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

But that means that you will write some bad short stories. What is implied in this quote is that you will fail, and you need to do it anyway.

Practice Does Not Make Perfect

What stops you from doing something that you want to do? You know you have time, you know you have the ability. Why do you still sit and do nothing?

Fear that what you’re doing will not be perfect.

Fear of failure.

You may write a bad short story. Or maybe a bunch of them. Whatever you’re doing, you’re going to mess up. And that’s OK.

You have permission to fail! And that is what frees you to get work done.

What Ray Bradbury understood was that failure isn’t permanent unless you stop trying. One bad story doesn’t make you a bad writer. Keep writing.

Practice Makes Better

If you let yourself learn from each failure, then failing isn’t really failing at all.  It’s just growing.

The more you let yourself fail the better you are setting yourself up for success. It’s when you learn from each failure and let that shape what you do that you succeed.

Successful writers are not perfect writers. Those writers failed over and over again. But they didn’t give up. They kept working. They kept writing. They continued to hone their craft. And they succeeded.

Fail as many times as it takes to succeed. That’s what this quote means.

Bradbury had a lot of solid advice for writers that is applicable to life in general. For an article with more of his writing advice go here.

Do you have a favorite quote about writing? Let me know in the comments!

NaNoWriMo – 6+ Tips for the Second Half (+Writing Prompts)

Hello, dear WriMo.

You’ve made it half-way through this year’s NaNoWriMo. You deserve a big round of applause, because what you’ve done is impressive.

Congratulations!

You’ve written approximately 25,000 words by now. That’s awesome!

I hope you’re still feeling as excited about the second half as you were for the first half. If not, that’s OK. I’ve got some tips to keep you going for the second half:

If You Feel Bogged Down…

Can’t. Write. Any. More. DSFKJ;LFAS;

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, keyboard smashing isn’t productive writing. But if real words are starting to look like nonsense to you, maybe you should take a walk.

I’m going to suggest some things that might make you cringe. Remember, you’re writing right now. Not editing. It can all be edited properly later. We’re going to break some rules.

Change Verb Tense

If you’re having trouble writing a particular scene try changing the verb tense.

I write most of my fiction in past tense, but I found that it’s easier to write action scenes in present tense. It helps me get in the right mindset for those kinds of scenes.

If you usually write in present tense, try past tense. Or get really crazy and try writing in future tense and see how it affects how you think about the action.

Get Competitive

If you haven’t already, check out Twitter for some word sprints here.

And don’t get discouraged if you didn’t write as much as others. Every single word gets you closer to your word count.

Or sprint on your own: set a timer and type as much as you can.

If You Just Need Encouragement

We all need encouragement from time to time. Even writers. Especially writers.

 

Sound familiar? Get with other writers that know what you’re going through.

Go to a write-in if there is one close enough. Or try a virtual write in. Connect with others on the NaNoWriMo message boards, or through social media such as Facebook groups and Twitter. There are plenty of people to give to the virtual hug that you need.

If You Don’t Know What To Write Next…

Do you feel as if you have extracted every single ounce of creative juice left in your brain? Your muse has packed her bags and left on vacation? We’ve all been there. (So much of the writing experience is universal.)

Check your outline

If you have an outline, check it. You might see something you’ve forgotten about. Or you can pick a scene that you haven’t come to that excites and gets those creative juices flowing.

Pinterest

Again, you might find something there you forgot about. I’m very visual, so I love finding a pin that inspired me and being able to run with the ideas it gives me.

If you don’t have Pinterest boards of your own you can totally hit up other people’s boards . Personally, I keep my boards for specific stories private, but I keep a public board with writing prompts that I really like.

NaNoSprints

In addition to encouraging you to write with some healthy competition, @NaNoWordSprints usually includes a prompt of some kind with each sprint. Two very good reasons to check it out if you’re having trouble getting your word count in.

More Writing Prompts

And if you absolutely must have some kind of inspiration right here right now, you don’t even have to leave the page. Below are some dialogue prompts of my own that I’m sharing for the first time.

Be inspired! Be creative! Pick the tip that stood out the most or start at the top and try them all.

You can do this! Whatever issue you’re facing at the half-way point you can overcome it. I’m cheering for you!

What To Do If You’ve Had a Bad Day

Did everything go wrong today?

Nothing worked and everything went wrong and you just felt like you couldn’t win for losing?

It sucks. I’ve been there way too many times.

It’s Normal

Take a deep breath. It’s OK.

Let me say it again, because I want you to really take it in. It’s OK.

Some days life just gets in the way of what you want to do. It’s frustrating. It doesn’t matter what happened. It feels like no matter how hard you tried nothing went right. Has it made you want to give up?

Don’t give in to that thought. Let me give you an electronic hug. Go make yourself a cup of tea to help you feel better.

Failure isn’t really failure unless you let it keep you from trying again.

Plan For a Better Tomorrow

Part of trying again is learning from our mistakes. What went wrong? Could anything have been done to prevent it?

This isn’t permission to beat yourself up about your mistakes. Admit them. Learn from them. And move on.

Make new mistakes tomorrow.

Brainstorm some ideas to help you deal with your next bad day and you’ll meet it with more confidence. Some ideas from me:

  • Take some deep breaths (I personally love this one.)
  • Text a friend
  • Leave yourself encouraging notes
  • Do one thing that needs to be done

Sometimes the simplest things can help you feel better about having a bad day.

Bad days happen to all of us at sometimes alarming regularity. Prepare for them. You can minimize the damage they do to your mood and your productivity.

One bad day doesn’t have to set the tone for your life. Get back up. You can do it. I’m cheering for you!

Finding Time for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. Right now the biggest question for anyone, Planner or Pantser is: How will you find the time to write? It’s a lot of writing, and you have responsibilities that don’t just go away because you say “please.”

I wish I could tell you that I have a machine that will stretch your time so you have 25 hours in a day instead of 24. Alas! Such a thing still doesn’t exist.

What I do have is personal experience as a mom and a writer with not enough time in the day.

Here are my favorite ways to get a little more time out of my day:

Morning

Set your alarm for an hour earlier than your usual. It’s that easy. And that hard.

But mornings are a great time to get an extra hour or so of writing done. If you can manage to get yourself out of bed, that is. Once you manage it, and are armed with your caffeinated drink, you’ll discover that mornings are quiet in a way that late nights never are.

It’s easier to focus when the world feels calm in the early morning.

Your mind is fresh in the morning. The cares of the day haven’t piled on you like they have in the evenings.

Even if you consider yourself a night-owl, you should give it a try. It might surprise you how much you can get done.

Evening

Every mother knows that moment where you finally have everyone in bed and you have the house to yourself. Whether you’re planning to finish up housework or just sit and relax with a book, this time is yours.

If the idea of waking up even earlier than you already do makes you want to pull your hair out and scream I completely understand.

The biggest problem with trying to squeeze in an extra hour at the end of the day is that you’re running down from everything that you’ve already done. There are two ways to counter this:

Power Through

The usual way is to just power through the tiredness. You’ll hit a second wind and won’t be so tired. Caffeine can assist with this, but may interfere with your sleep later.

Take a Nap

My preferred method is to take a nap. This is currently how I’m getting work done at night. I put my 3-year-old to bed then lay down with my 10-month-old to nurse him to sleep and take a little nap myself. By the time both of them have drifted off I feel re-energized and ready to go for another hour or two. Without caffeine.

Watch Your Habits

Sometimes the best way to make the most of your time is to figure out where you’re wasting it. I know we all hate hearing productivity experts rag on the time suck that is Social Media, but they have a point. Ten minutes spend checking Facebook could be ten minutes writing.

Smart with all their nifty apps are a blessing and a curse. I still spend entirely too much time in the bathroom.

Where else is time being wasted just taking too long to do something?

Plan And Batch

Taking five minutes to plan what you’re going to do will save you ten minutes later of “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.” Provided you don’t constantly re-plan what you’re going to do.

Planning helps you consolidate tasks. It takes less time to vacuum the whole house if you do it all at once than if you do it over several days.

Different tasks take different mindsets. It’s faster for me to outline a bunch of blog posts at once, then write them, then edit them. Each task takes different skills. Batching them together streamlines the process.

Conclusion

I’m a big fan of having a plan and following through as a way to save time.

Ultimately, saving time is about knowing what is most important to you and making time for it.

Did I miss any major time-savers? Let me know in the comments below.

How To Prep For NaNoWriMo As a Pantser

There are all kinds of resources for planning your novel for NaNoWriMo. Plot outlines. Character sheets. You name it, it’s there. Usually in multiple formats.

I’m not going to get into the Planner vs Pantser debate. You do you.

But did you know there is planning that even a Pantser can do?

Maybe even some planning that a Pantser should do.

I actually have a plot outline this year, so I’m more of a Planner this year, but I have been a Pantser in the past. These are the things I’ve found helpful when I’m pantsing NaNoWriMo:

NaNoWriMo prep for pantsers

Inform the Important People

Let your friends and family know what you will be doing. If you live in a country where Thanksgiving is an issue, this can be a big one. When you disapear directly after dinner, they’ll be slightly less likely to disturb you if they’ve already been warned that you’ll be writing.

But throughout the month you’ll be bothered less if you’ve let the people most likely to invite you out to hold their invitations until next month.

Get Help

No. I don’t mean get someone to ghostwrite your novel for you. I mean help with things around the house that usually take up your time.

Recruit your spouse to help out a little more with the chores or with meals.

Ask your mom if she can keep your kids for a few days this month.

Or you can scope out places where you could take the kids to play with minimal supervision so you can squeeze in some writing. Locally, my best options have been  McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A.

Think About Food

Man may not live on bread alone, but you do need to eat. It takes less time to plan what you will eat ahead of time than it takes trying to make up your mind when you’re already hungry.

If you’re ambitious you can try making out a whole month of meal plans. To make this easy, just do 15 days and repeat. Make grocery lists. Minimize your shopping trips in November. Shopping trips take up so much time. Especially if you have kids.

If this sounds too much like being a Planner for your Pantser soul, just writing down some of your family’s favorite meals and making sure you have the ingredients on hand will go a long way to carving out extra time for writing.

You can always put your favorite pizza place on speed-dial.

Gather Inspiration

What? Why should you plan inspiration? Because you’re going to hit writer’s block at some point.

Use Pinterest to keep a collection of inspiring things. You can have a board for writing prompts, inspirational quotes, character inspiration, settings. Anything that strikes you needs to be pinned to a board for later reference.

Conclusion

Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas to help your NaNoWriMo go a little more smoothly this year. And if you make a last minute decision on October 31 to join NaNoWriMo with absolutely nothing done ahead of time at all? Well that’s OK, too.

Are you a Pantser with experience planning anything other than your novel? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below.

 

Why You Should Join NaNoWriMo

Would you like to do something crazy?

Maybe something that you’ve thought about doing for a long time, but just never have convinced yourself to do it?

Would you like to write a novel?

November is National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo for short. It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words of your brand new novel. It’s a lot of fun.

Once again I’ve decided to join the crazy with a new novel. Why should you join me, though?

Everyone Needs a Challenge

If you don’t challenge yourself, you stagnate. Yes, you may make some progress, but without a goal, most of the time you just meander along without making much headway. Is that really how you want to be?

A challenge is a test of skill. A challenge pushes you. A challenge is exactly what you need if you’ve had problems getting yourself to do something that you want to do.

How long has that novel idea been stewing in your head? How much longer are you going to let it sit?

NaNoWriMo challenges your ability, not so much to write, but to write when you don’t feel like it. Because there will be days you don’t feel like it, and your word count is going to sit there and mock you until you actually write the words.

Sometimes the best thing to get you started (and finished) is a nice little deadline looming over your head.

NaNoWriMo Gives You a Focus

NaNoWriMo provides the framework to challenge yourself with your writing. There’s a specific goal in a definitive timeframe. And there’s a helpful mindset that helps keep you focused on your goal.

Write now. Edit later. Find yourself a poster with those words and hang it above your writing station during November. You’ll need it.

The goal is 50,000 words written, not edited. A first draft is never pretty, and if you get caught up editing, you certainly won’t be writing.

You’ll also be tempted to delete swaths of writing that might could have been salvaged. Yes, you will wrtie utter trash that will need to be deleted or re-worked later when you’re editing. But for now, just write.

Focus on the current goal. Other stuff is just a distraction.

NaNoWriMo Gives You Community

Joining thousands of other people doing the same crazy challenge gives you extra motivation. There are all kinds of other writers on the NaNoWriMo message boards and social media to help cheer you on.

There’s encouragement there when you feel discouraged. There’s writing prompts and all kinds of other ideas for when you get stuck.

Social media is a great way to get to know other writers and keep in touch even after NaNoWriMo is over. Writer friends are awesome at all times.

Re-Boot Your Writing Habit

The secret to finishing NaNoWriMo is consistency. You write every single day. If you don’t have time to write, you make time.

In 30 days of making time to write every day, you’ll develop a new habit.

It’s like exersizing. Consistency builds over time and you become strong. Strength makes it easier. When you’re in the habit of writing, writing is easier.

You Have a Manuscript

Take a deep breath.

At the end of the month, you’ll have a manuscript.

And even if you don’t complete the 50,000 word challenge, you’ll still have more written on your novel than you had at the beginning of the month.

This is worth celebrating! How many people just talk about the novel they will write someday. NaNoWriMo takes away the “someday” and turns it into “now.”

Conclusion

So if you have been wanting to write a novel, but can’t quite make yourself do it, NaNoWriMo is for you. Go sign up today.

Writer’s Write (Are You Sure You’re a Writer?)

Are you ever scared of telling people what you do? You’re a writer. You’ve always been a writer. But you’re afraid to say it out loud. When I decided to pursue freelance writing, I was scared to say it. I was afraid of claiming the title.

I was a writer. I had always been. But I was afraid to say it.

This fear held me back from pursuing my dreams. I don’t want that for you.

If you’re facing the same problem, let me help.

What Doesn’t Make a Writer

For the record these things don’t make you a writer:

  • Talking about writing
  • Tweeting about writing (#writerproblems, anyone?)
  • A coffee mug with spiffy sayings

Writing makes you a writer.

What Makes a Writer

Writers write. You either write because that’s what you’re paid to do or you write because you simply can’t help it. It’s a necessary as eating or breathing. Stopping is just not going to happen.

Or maybe it’s both for you. Both is awesome. Who doesn’t want to be paid for what they already do anyways?

Are You Sure?

Yes, you are. Even if you’re not a professional writer, you can still claim the title of writer.

Do you scribble poems, stories, or personal essays in your spare time? You’re a writer.

Do you write letters and journals? Do you write your own personal blog? You’re a writer.

You are a writer. Go ahead and claim the title.

Why Claim the Title?

Because I want you to have courage. It’s your title. You are a writer.

Let the title give you added confidence to go further with your writing. Maybe you have an article idea that you’d like to pitch to an editor. Maybe you have a novel stewing in your head.

Maybe you want to try your hand at freelance writing.

Get out there and pursue your dreams. It can make you happier and more fulfilled.

Shake off that fear and say it with me: “I’m a writer.”

Remember: writers write. And it’s ok to claim your title.