August 2, 2021

By Kris Maze

Writing a novel can be daunting and writers can get stuck on that first draft. Why not liven up your writing by taking your characters on a Road Trip this summer? By now you may have enjoyed summer plans yourself. Don’t forget to take along your characters, too. If you are having trouble making your characters come alive, giving them a vacation just may do the trick. In this post, you will find 30 writing prompts to help you imagine the characters of your current Work in Progress (WIP) and how they would react.

You may wonder whether spending time on writing prompts is worth your limited Write Time and energy. Wouldn’t writing more on the novel be more productive? Perhaps. But digging deep into what your characters would do in situations outside your book setting can illuminate their actions in your novel.

How these prompts can add life to your current writing project:

  1. Add depth to existing characters by learning how they react in a variety of unexpected situations.
  2. Form interesting details or side stories the enhance your novel.
  3. Flesh out the motivation and psychological profile of your characters as they react and share feelings in a variety of scenarios.
  4. Create smaller pieces of writing that can be used in your Author Business. Think about how you can use what you create while road tripping with your characters.

Some suggestions:

  • Have a character take over your newsletter and share what they did this summer.
  • Add pictures and vignettes to social media posts.
  • Create teasers for book promotion
  • Make these into short stories to use as author giveaways.
  • Add interesting talking points for doing author talks and promotion events.
  • Use the side stories in blog posts or your author website.

Try a few of these writing prompts and see whether it makes a difference in your Work in Progress!

WIP Writing Prompts–Summer Edition

The Gas Station

  1. Fuel Dilemma. Your characters are about to go through the deserts of Nevada and are nearly out of gas. Alas, they are in Oregon where they cannot pump their own fuel and the nearest gas station for 300 miles is closed. Write how each of your characters feels at that moment. what conversation do they have and what do they do next?
  2. Endless Flavor. At a gas station, your characters find a fountain drink machine with ENDLESS FLAVORS and a sign encouraging them to experiment with mixing them together. What would your characters each make?
  3. Maintenance Required. Their car breaks down in a remote town and the only mechanic around is a reliable, elderly woman. Write a conversation between your characters and the mechanic describing what happened to the car and how they will fix it.
  4. Tire Jack. A tire explodes while driving down Route 66. How a person reacts to this unexpected event can reveal a ton about your WIP’s characters. Describe changing a tire in this scene and demonstrate what each character feels with actions only.
  5. Pick your Shotgun Buddy. Your Main Character gets to choose a handful of people to take on this road trip. Who do they pick and describe why they make the cut?
  6. Radio Roulette. Spin the analogue or digital dial and describe what music becomes stuck while your characters are driving in the car. Imagine they have to listen to this type of music (or perhaps just one annoying song?) for the entire trip. How do your characters act and what actions to they take as a result?
  7. Potty Breaks! How does your driver in this scenario feel about stopping for the bathroom? Describe a scene about inconveniences and play on their conflict of interests.
  8. Souvenirs. Are these mementos treasured nostalgic reminders of places they’ve been, or clutter-producing junk? Which unlikely place do your characters buy souvenirs? Who do they buy them for and what is their motivation? Is it a joke or sentimental gift? Serious or sarcastic?
  9. Geo Cache. One of your characters likes treasure hunts and stumbles across a Geo Cache. They each leave a note and a gift that represents them.
  10. Expired? Your characters browse the gas station for snacks and find an item of historical significance randomly on the shelf. What is the item and what do your characters do with it? What happens to them as a result?

The Great Outdoors

  1. Camping Chores. Your characters are camping. Some are excited about being in nature, but some loathe the experience. Assign each of your characters a camping duty and describe the scene, using some dialogue and actions to show how they feel about each job. Use some of these common camping tasks or create your own.
    • Setting up a tent
    • Starting a campfire
    • Planning a hike
    • Packing the car,
  2. Mosquitos! Your camp is overrun by tiny insects! Ants nibble away your characters’ food supplies, tics burrow into their flesh, and various winged insects constantly bite at them. How do your clever characters handle the bug situation without using insecticides or renting a hotel room?
  3. Burn Ban. Your characters want to hold a bonfire, but cannot. They are allowed to float candles in a metal tub of water instead. How do each of your characters react to the candlelight version of this camping classic?
  4. Camp Food. What does each character bring to eat? Does it fit the camping motif? How do they eat it (or not depending on whether they prepared appropriately)? How does each character like their experience?
  5. Nature. Pick a natural structure for your group to visit. A waterfall, geyser, mountain peak or cave structure. Perhaps a flower-filled meadow is their cup of tea. Take us on a sensory walk as you describe what they see and hear. What scents and temperatures do they experience? How does their visit make them feel?
  6. Backpack. What does each character take along for a day trip? Are they adequately prepared? Or do they bring items that don’t make sense? Pick things each character would logically have and include it in a scene that reveals their items.
  7. Unexpected Visitor. It’s late in the night and something goes BUMP in the dark. Who, or what, is it and how do your characters react?
  8. Camp Songs. Each character is asked to share a song. What song does each character pick? Why does it fit their personality and background? Show this in a scene.
  9. Snoring. Someone in the camp is sawing logs at midnight and keeping everyone else awake. Which of your characters is it? How do the others handle the disturbance?
  10. Trying Something New. Each character has to go outside their comfort zone during this trip. What activity does each character try? Are they successful? What do they learn or feel as a result?

The Beach

  1. Sandy Toes. Do your characters love the feel of sand on their feet or despise the dirty stickiness of the entire experience? Describe how each feels, giving them a reason they have to spend the day at the beach, regardless of whether they love or hate it.
  2. Wedding Bells. Two of your characters are suddenly getting hitched, and the beach is the best venue. Who’s tying the knot and what made the beach their go-to venue? Who attends and who officiates? Write a scene and include these details.
  3. Sun or Shade. Which do your characters prefer and why? Make a scene and include the cabanas or beach towels on the wide-open sands.
  4. Suits. Does your character like a 2-piece or prefer to stick to the literal suit and tie? Describe each character’s outfits on their sandy retreat.
  5. Snacks and Refreshments. Part of any good beach day is not having to go far for a bit to eat. What do your characters pack in their cooler? What do they nosh on and what are their preferred beverages?
  6. Water Bodies. Where do your characters prefer to go? A bubbling brook or deep mountain lake? A weedy, secluded pond or the wild, wavy ocean? Which body of water do each of your characters prefer and how does it reflect their personality?
  7. Sunset or Sunrise? What does your character prefer? When faced with a choice, when does your group meet for an event, and why? Write a scene where they are all together at one.
  8. Vendors. A random vendor passes your characters and offers them their goods. This vendor does not sell typical popsicles and bottles of pop. What do they sell and what are your characters willing to purchase?
  9. First Aid. One of your characters gets hurt. What happened and to which character? Is the cause a 3rd degree sunburn caused by an ill planned nap? A jellyfish sting or worse shark attack? Does someone twist an ankle during beach volleyball? Who is the first to respond and how do your characters react? Write a scene around this event.
  10. Picnic. A benevolent stranger leaves a basket of goodies. It is filled with activities for each character to play. What is in the basket for each character and how do they respond?

That is enough fun and games for this edition of Character Vacations, dear writer friends. I hope you are relaxing and reveling in wordsmith adventures this summer. 

If you want to challenge yourself this September to dig deep into your writing process, check out my time management and writing productivity classes. This three-class series is half-off on my website (listed under Productivity Coaching) and we're going to have an amazing time.

Do you use writing prompts? When do you turn to them and which do you find the most helpful? What helps you get more vitality into your Works in Progress? We'd love to hear all about it down in the comments!

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About Kris

Kris Maze has worked in education for 25 years and writes for various publications including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her brief horror stories and keep up with her author events at her website.

A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors with her family. She also ponders the wisdom of Bob Ross.


Interested in organizing your writing life?

Do you want help examining your priorities and scheduling your writing projects? The online-live 3-class series, Productivity Coaching with Kris, begins September 2021.

During this series, we will refine your writing priorities and create a strategy for achieving a more satisfying flow in your author life. Sign up any time in August to get 50% off this course! Find more information here or contact Kris Maze through her website.

Interested in quick reads?

The first 3 episodes for two of Kris' dystopian YA books are available now on Kindle Vella!

Aurora and Watertown: Aurora, a fishermen's daughter, struggles after causing an accident that harmed her brother. When her father leaves, Aurora's ostentatious rich aunt stays with her. But who is watching over whom? While running their fish shop, Aurora discovers clues to a hidden mythical substance that could change her fate, heal her dying brother, and restore the future of their wharf town. She must find it before the Shipping Merchant's heir, Oden, who follows her for unknown reasons.

Athena and the Apocolypse: Achieving Broadcasting Greatness is a difficult feat, especially when your metropolis is about to be destroyed by an asteroid called The Horsemen. Follow Athena, AKA Downtown Girl, as she navigates the story of a lifetime, discovers a Secret Food Revolution, and evades entrapment by the mad scientist leading it. As she investigates, using all the cunning talents she can muster, she discovers the keys to her mysterious past, and perhaps open portals a better future.

July 29, 2021

by Margie Lawson

This combo-list of not absurd writing tips includes four points from me, and three each from Francine Prose and Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll share the list of ten, then chat about each writing tip.

Writing Tips from Francine Prose

1. Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep.

2. Give your reader a reason to turn every page.

3. Keep a very large trash can beside your desk.

Writing Tips from Barbara Kingsolver

4. Show, don't tell. Everybody knows this rule, and most of us still break it in every first draft. Be ruthless. Throw out the interior monologue.

5. Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you own.

6. Don't wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.

Writing Tips from Margie Lawson

7. Make multiple Deep Editing passes.

8. Write fresh!

9. Honor your Controlling Premise.

10. Cadence. Cadence. Cadence.

More About These 10 Tips

Tips from Francine Prose

1. Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep.

Margie’s Ideas: 

I recommend sharing at least a hint about your Story Promise in your opening. Ideally, in your first few paragraphs. That’s the first point in my 20 Point Checklist for Openings in my online course: A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop!

If you follow this rule, your readers will know where your compelling story is going, and they’ll be hooked. They’ll have to keep reading.

Check out a few first lines and paragraphs from Dana Marton.

Deathwatch, Dana Marton, Virtual Immersion Grad, RITA Winner, NYT Bestseller

Kate Bridges thought attending her own funeral would be the hardest part.

Broslin Bride, Dana Marton, Virtual Immersion Grad, RITA Winner, NYT Bestseller

Luanne Mayfair might have killed her boss a little. Fine, a lot. Pretty much all the way. God, that sounded bad. But he was a sleazebag. Honest. The maids at the Mushroom Mile Motel that Earl Cosgrove managed often prayed for lightning to strike the lecherous bastard. Alas, God had seen fit to send Luanne instead.          

Deathblow, Dana Marton, Virtual Immersion Grad, RITA Winner, NYT Bestseller

The worst time for a police cruiser to fly off a bridge was when you were handcuffed in the back. Joe Kessler braced as the Hummer crashed into the cruiser from behind for the final time and sent the brand-new Crown Victoria over the railing.

Two Openings from Harlan Coben

Gone for Good, Harlan Coben

Three days before her death, my mother told me—these weren’t her last words, but they were pretty close—that my brother was still alive.

Shelter, Young Adult, Harlan Coben

I was walking to school, lost in feeling sorry for myselfmy dad was dead, my mom in rehab, my girlfriend missing—when I saw the Bat Lady for the first time.

An Opening from Jaye Wells

Red-Headed Stepchild, Jaye Wells, USA Today Bestseller, 2-time Immersion Grad, Cruise Grad

Digging graves is hell on a manicure, but I was taught good vampires clean up after every meal. So I ignored the chipped onyx polish. I ignored the dirt caked under my nails. I ignored my palms, rubbed raw and blistering. And when a snapping twig announced David’s arrival, I ignored him too.

An Opening from C.J. Box

Savage Run, C.J. Box, NYT Bestseller

On the third day of their honeymoon, infamous environmental activist Stewie Woods and his new bride, Annabel Bellotti, were spiking trees in the forest when a cow exploded and blew them up. Until then, their marriage had been happy.

The backstory on that opening sentence of Savage Run: Chuck had an idea about starting a book with an exploding cow. He didn’t want to lose it, so he named two characters and wrote that first sentence. He wrote the rest of the story three years later.

Review those openings.

Read them OUT LOUD. Hear the cadence-driven power?

See how the authors were strategic with style and structure?

          Power words. Backloading. Rhetorical devices. Run-on-ish sentences.

Humor hits. Details that deepen characterization for a character you’re just meeting.

Make a list of what the reader learns.

Okay. Finish reading the blog, then come back and analyze those openings.

Deal?

You’ll really do it. Right?

2. Give your reader a reason to turn every page.

Margie’s Ideas: 

I want to believe that every writer strives to write by this rule. But I’ve read plenty of first pages of books that did not give me a reason to turn more pages.

I’ll share one of the ways I developed to help writers check for pacing and power:

Create a bullet-point list of what the reader learns on every page. If it’s printed, write what they learned at the bottom of the page. If the reader doesn’t learn an important point or two or three on a page, it would be smart to tighten that page.

Making that list at the bottom of a page works. Try it!

3. Keep a very large trash can beside your desk.

Margie’s Ideas: 

Be willing to kill, mutilate, morph, and tweak your darlings. It may take you two or three passes before you realize you can sacrifice a favorite line or paragraph or passage. Trust me. You’ll make your scene stronger.

Tips from Barbara Kingsolver

4. Show, don't tell. Everybody knows this rule, and most of us still break it in every first draft. Be ruthless. Throw out the interior monologue.

Margie’s Ideas: 

We all know the show-don’t-tell rule. But it’s not really accurate. Sometimes you just tell. Sometimes you just show. Sometimes you show and tell.

Look what Barbara Kingsolver slipped in at the end. Throw out the interior monologue. I’ve read some of BK’s books, and I know she isn’t suggesting that all thoughts and all internalizations should be nixed. She’s saying, MAKE THEM COUNT!

In my scene analysis EDITS System, thoughts (internalizations) are highlighted YELLOW. I differentiate between YAMMERING YELLOW and POWER YELLOW. YAMMERING YELLOW is nixed or turned into POWER YELLOW. Then you know those thoughts are keepers.

5. Be relentlessly descriptive. Use details from every sense you own.

Margie’s Ideas: 

Another not absurd tip we all know. It’s a good reminder to share details, as long as they add something meaningful.

6. Don't wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.

Margie’s Ideas: 

So true. Make a schedule that works for you—and write.

Having trouble with procrastination or other self-defeating behaviors that plague writers? Consider my online course, Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors. I’m teaching it in January.

Don’t want to wait that long? Grab the lecture packet for DSDB. It’s always available.

Tips from Margie Lawson

7. Make multiple Deep Edit passes.

It takes multiple passes to turn your writing from throw-your-story-on-the-screen to hook-every-reader stellar.

If you’ve taken some of my editing-focused on-line courses or reviewed the Lecture Packets, you know I’m the Queen of Deep Editing.

What is DEEP EDITING?

It’s what’s in those hundreds of pages of lectures in my Big Three courses. It’s what’s in my advanced writing craft courses too. I teach writers how to add psychologically-based power to create a page-turning read.

8. Write fresh!

Avoid clichés. Avoid overused word pairings. Give the reader fresh writing, but not so fresh that the reader trips. Write like I’m sitting next to you. And give the reader a boost with phrases and sentences they’ve never read before.

9. Honor your Controlling Premise.

A CONTROLLING PREMISE is a three to five sentence who’s-doing-what-to-whom and-why-the-reader-cares story summary.

I recommend writing your Controlling Premise and pasting it at the beginning of each chapter. It will keep you focused on your big black story thread.

10. Cadence. Cadence. Cadence.

It’s smart, smart, smart to make your writing cadence driven. Read your work out loud, and keep tweaking each sentence and paragraph until the cadence drives you from the first word to the last.

Wrapping Up

I have a couple dozen more writing rules. I bet you do too.

What not absurd writing tips do you live by? Please click in and say Hi! Or comment on this list. Or share your favorite not absurd writing tip. Post a comment and you could WIN a lecture packet from me! (Including the packet for A Deep Edit Guide to Make Your Openings Pop!)

Note: This new lecture packet is loaded with ideas for how you can make the opening of every scene and every chapter stronger.

We’ll have TWO WINNERS! I’ll draw the TWO WINNERS at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday, August 1st. I’ll post their names on the blog about 8:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

Thanks for dropping by the blog.  Please chime in, so I’ll know you’re here!

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About Margie

Margie Lawson left a career in psychology to focus on another passion: helping writers make their stories, characters, and words strong. Using a psychologically-based, deep-editing approach, Margie teaches writers how to bring emotion to the page. Emotion equals power. Power grabs readers and holds onto them until the end. Hundreds of Margie grads have gone on to win awards, find agents, sign with publishers, and hit bestseller lists.

An international presenter, Margie has taught over 150 full-day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as multi-day intensives on cruise ships in the Caribbean. Pre-COVID, she taught 5-day Immersion Master Classes across the U.S. and Canada and in seven cities in Australia too.

COVID Update: Immersion Master Classes are now virtual, taught through Zoom. Virtual Immersion classes are limited to six writers. They're two days long—and as always, writers get one-on-one deep editing with Margie.

She also founded Lawson Writer's Academy, where you’ll find more than 30 instructors teaching online courses through her website. To learn more, and sign up for Margie’s newsletter, visit www.margielawson.com.

Ready for an in-person Immersion Master Class?

They’ll kick back in early in 2022. Want me to come to your town?

Want to build your own Immersion Master Class?

Invite six writing friends. Coordinate dates. We’ll make it happen!

Interested in Immersion Master Classes across the world?

Scotland? London? Melbourne? The Gold Coast? Perth?

Depending on international COVID quarantines, I’ll be there. I have hosts waiting to set dates.

Check out my Dig Deep Webinars!

August Webinar: Game-Changing Power:  Sharing Impact on the POV Character

Lawson Writer’s Academy courses for August

You’ll find courses on action scenes, conspiracy theories, sizzling synopses, social media, essentials of writing, advanced craft, YA characters, and foundational fantasy.

So many ways to strengthen your writing and your writing career. (Link)

My next ‘Get Happy with Margie’ Open House is August 17th. It’s 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. The link is on my website - just click on the Happy Hour graphic.

Top Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

July 28, 2021

by Lisa Hall Wilson

I’m constantly looking for a way to break things down, create an actionable process, so I can understand things. Deep point of view makes sense to me by writing in emotional layers. Every action (or in the case of fiction, every thought) has an equal and opposite reaction.

Deep point of view lets your readers experience story through a virtual reality headset. Readers want to take an emotional journey alongside the main character in every scene. This style puts readers IN the story as much as possible.

To achieve this, writers have to avoid summarizing or telling how a character feels. Instead, they must present evidence to the reader about how the character feels. Not enough evidence and the reader is lost, too much and the reader is bored.

To effectively write in deep point of view, the author must know the WHY in every scene. Why did your point of view character (POVC) say that, do that, hide that, run away or stand and fight?

What are the layers of deep POV?

Layer 1: Primary or Basic Emotions

These are the unthinking instinctive emotions. Some examples would be: attraction, lust, disgust, joy, fear, excitement, sadness, surprise, etc. Most often, we show readers primary emotions through body language and physiology—what’s going on inside: heart rate, skin prickles, sweating, etc.

Layer 2: Emotional Triggers

Sometimes, a situation or scenario can catapult a character straight to layer 4. These emotional triggers make them unable to articulate the primary emotions involved because this particular mix is their unique brand of poison. This is most often shown to readers through internal dialogue.

Layer 3: Secondary Emotions

Secondary emotions (such as anger, shame, anxiety, and love) are reactions to primary emotions. For example, a person may feel ashamed as a result of becoming anxious or sad. In this case, anxiety would be the primary emotion while shame would be the secondary emotion. Secondary emotions demand the character DO SOMETHING because these emotions are intense and uncomfortable and feel out of control.

Layer 4: Behavior

This is the observable part of primary and secondary emotions. This is where the fight, flight or freeze instinct would come in. Fear and surprise force a character to run away or fight back. Love forces them to hug or kiss.

How characters experience these layers

In any given scene, your POVC could experience one or all of these emotional layers. Each layer may only be a couple of words – a sentence fragment. Just a word. (Example: "Run!") But readers will be pulled deeper into the story this way and take their own emotional journey—it may not be the same emotional journey as your POVC, but that’s OK. Your goal is to make the reader feel.

That’s a whirlwind summary of the emotional layers theory. A common misunderstanding for newer writers is that these layers overlap and interconnect in deep point of view. These emotions and actions are not felt in isolation from one another. It’s like a spider’s web. Every intersection of the web is influenced by every other intersection. A tremor in a far corner of the web is felt throughout, right?

You Must Know The Why

So, getting back to the original question—the WHY. Why your character does things is what pulls the reader in. Readers don’t have to agree with your POVCs feelings or decisions, but they do have to understand them. In deep point of view, your POVC can’t keep secrets from the reader.

“Let go of me,” I say. I hear ringing in my ears. My voice sounds clear and stern—not what I expected to hear. I feel like it doesn’t belong to me.

I am ready. I know what to do. I picture myself bringing my elbow back and hitting him. I see the bag of apples flying away from me. I hear my running footsteps. I am prepared to act.”

- Veronica Roth, Divergent

In this example, you can follow Tris’ thoughts to understand why her voice is clear when she should be scared. The reader understands why she feels the way she does, and in the next sentence we learn why she doesn’t give in to this impulse. She’s been raised to completely deny self, but in this moment of fear and surprise her ability to remain calm and have an action plan, instead of just submitting to the abuse, is a self-revelation and helps her make a decision.

There are plenty of readers who likely would never have this reaction to a homeless man grabbing them, but they cheer for Tris because they know this small tug is going to cause major reverb across the story web.

Do you have questions about these four layers? Are there other layers you would add? What other questions do you have about deep point of view? Please share them with us down in the comments section!

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About Lisa

Lisa Hall-Wilson is a writing teacher and award-winning writer and author. She’s the author of Method Acting For Writers: Learn Deep Point Of View Using Emotional Layers. Her blog Beyond Basics For Writers explores all facets of the popular writing style deep point of view and offers practical tips for writers. 

She runs the free Facebook group Going Deeper With Emotions where she shares tips and videos on writing in deep point of view. 

Top Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash

July 26, 2021

By Kris Maze

It’s summertime in the U.S., but it wouldn’t be the same without 2 great traditions: Barbeque and Baseball. When I think of summer, I have a longing for picnics: the smells of the grill sizzling meats and veggies while a watermelon slice drips down my wrist, laughing together while the radio plays our favorite team in the background. The last thing I want at that moment is to have a nagging feeling that I haven’t finished my writing goals.

In today’s post, we will examine how I used time management to create a schedule for my productivity goals and lifestyle. If you want to read about how I used a refocusing strategy to declutter my tasks and to prioritize my writing projects, you can find that WITS post here.

Many writers say that if they could have one change in their writing life, it would be to have more time.  These 3 Steps may not only help you find more time to write, but also make your time more productive.  Sound interesting?  Let’s get you back to your summer fun by carefully crafting your Writing to-do list.

Not convinced? 

Other reasons to dive into your Time Management Process:

  1. Accountability – When you commit to a schedule, you become accountable to your dreams. And you are more likely to accomplish them.
  2. Get Unstuck – Keeping a routine will help a writer skip through the natural bumps and bruises one gets on their fingers and motivation.  Plan your time and stay involved in your own writing life.
  3. You’re a busy person!  Save your mental stress for the creative process and get your writing schedule under control.
  4. Tiny Vampires – Tiny Time Vampires. If you don’t take stock in your most precious resource, other priorities and distractions will.
  5. Be Mindful – Get more satisfaction from your writing, by being purposeful in your author journey.

In my last post, we set preposterous author goals, categorized them, and evaluated each project on our list.  We used a Gut Check to identify how we felt about finishing them and a Reality Check by figuring out which projects would be the easiest to complete.

Now that we have figured out our goals and prioritized which ones were the easiest to finish, it is time to reflect on what worked.  After a couple weeks, here are a few reflections about what I accomplished:

  • My work has become more streamlined. I waste less time and batch similar tasks together.
  • My stress level has decreased, and I am more satisfied with my completed work.
  • My energy level is increased, and it is easier to produce better writing with a smoother editing process.
  • I am checking off items and accomplishing my goals.

In success, showing up is sometimes the hardest battle or in baseball terms – you have to step up to bat to get a hit. 

Time in baseball is relative as it is in writing. A game should last nine innings, but some have a longer duration.  The longest game in professional baseball history lasted 33 innings, with 8 hours and 25 minutes of playing time! A half-inning is determined by 3 outs which can occur in mere minutes, or after the entire team rotation bats.  The slow build of the game also makes it unpredictable.

Like baseball, writing sessions and tasks can vary based on many factors, but we can manage our writing time and enjoy it.

3 Steps to Better Time Management

Step 1: Review Calendar

The first step is to look at what worked and to examine the priorities set in the last planning session.

For my scheduling, I use a horizontal planner with weekly entries.  On each week, I draw a line vertically down the center of each page.  This gives me a space on each day for what I planned to do on the left side and to write what I actually did on the right.  On the reflection side, I write the tasks I completed along with the time it took and the word count.

This took about 10 minutes.  Some of the planned tasks were too ambitious for my lifestyle and didn’t happen at all.  I took this into account in the next planning session as I used this information to better iterate my schedule.

Don’t forget to celebrate the success you had!  Any goal accomplished deserves a little self-love.

Step 2: Reassess each Task.

As I reflected on the progress of each task, I found the pieces that worked for me and added those into the next planning session. I adjusted the times and the order of tasks to better suit my goals. 

Another result of this reflection was that repeating an task makes it faster to complete. For example, many writers start a session with editing the page from the previous day.  One of my goals was to keep my writing fresh, so I began with the final editing run through before starting a new session each day.

I made notes on my calendar to help in the next step of the planning process.

Step 3: Reschedule Tasks.

With the new information, I decided which tasks would get me to my writing goals. 

This step started with figuring out which potential times I had available. I tried to be more realistic about when my productive writing happened. I also took into consideration other daily commitments along with necessary downtime.

  • Early Mornings 1 hour max
  • Lunch 30 minutes
  • After Work 1-2 hours
  • Evenings 2-3 hours

I blocked off the times I would devote to writing on my planner with colorful pens and highlighters.

When I was intentional about scheduling, I had to be honest with myself in order to make this process work.  After seeing that only one morning session resulted in a decent word count, I realized those times were not really an option.  Even though early mornings are better times for me creatively, I only attempt them on days I won’t need extra sleep.

Another example is that I can write non-fiction, like blog posts and educational materials, at night. I can also edit efficiently at night with others around me. So I would match up the tasks to the times that would set me up for success.

Now it’s time to play ball!  Relax knowing that your to-do list’s covered, and you planned times to accomplish the goals you set. Enjoy your summer, recharge your creative batteries, and finish your writing!

It’s your turn – How do you plan your writing work?  What techniques do you suggest to other writers?  What tips work for you? Please share them with us down in the comments!

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About Kris

Kris Maze is an author, freelance writer, and teacher. She enjoys writing twisty, speculative fiction with character-driven plots. After years of reading classic literature, mysteries, and thrillers, she wrote and publish her own books. She also writes for various publications including a regular post at the award-winning Writers in the Storm Blog. 

When she isn’t spending time with her favorite people and pets, Kris Maze is taking pictures, hiking, or pondering the wisdom of Bob Ross. You can follow her author journey at her website at KrisMazeAuthor.com.

Look for her episodic YA dystopian fiction, Aurora and Watertown scheduled to release on Vella this summer!

Top Photo by Aron Visuals at Unsplash

July 23, 2021

By Ellen Buikema

The road to writing is rocky. What motivates people to write their stories and endure the long journey required to send those book-babies out into the world?

Many people have a book in them to write. Thoughts traverse the mind, nudging to get written. Sometimes those words find their way to paper or screen. Other times the desire to write is a fleeting whim that goes nowhere.

I recently discussed my love of bicycles and realized how my desire to ride fueled an important character trait of mine. It was the very trait that fires my need to tell a story.

My Own Writing Journey (aka the Value of Stubbornness)

When I was about eight years old, I asked for a bicycle—a plain old or new two-wheeler. I didn’t care what it looked like or whether or not it had a bell or basket. I just wanted the freedom to get out and about.

My request received a weird answer. “Sorry, Elle. If I buy you a bike and God forbid you get hurt, I’d never forgive myself.” (Apparently, if someone else bought the bike then any injuries didn’t matter.)

A few months later a much older cousin donated his two-wheeler to me.

I beheld the behemoth with a mixture of joy and fear. The heavy, twenty-eight-inch rust-brown and tan Schwinn was way too big for my tiny self. I had to learn to ride standing up because when I sat on the seat, even when it was at the lowest possible setting, my feet dangled far above the pedals.

After many scraped knees and elbows, I finally learned to balance on my super-sized bike and rode happily up and down our street.

Then came the horrible news. If I wanted to ride, I had to keep my bike in the basement and push it up the steps to use it. I begged to keep it outside. “No. We’re too close to Harlem Avenue. Someone will steal it and you’ll have nothing to ride.”

The Nightmare Basement

Our basement was the setting for many of my childhood nightmares. Dark, dreary, and DARK, it was a creature unto itself.

But I really, really wanted to ride this bicycle. My previously untested stubbornness kicked in.

Since the adults weren’t being helpful, I would help myself. I never weighed the bike but I’m fairly certain that I only outweighed the Schwinn by fifteen or so pounds. In order to lift the bike up the first few stairs, I had to use momentum. Then, through a combination of pushing, slipping backward, and pushing some more, I finally extricated my beloved bike from the basement of horrors and wheeled it out into the light.

Those hours of freedom riding that bike justified every scrape and sniffle.

What does this have to do with writing?

That stubborn want is how I feel about writing. Getting that story out of my mind and into the hearts of others is worth every emotional scrape - and sometimes very real tears. My heavy glaze of pure stubbornness has been a tremendous help in my writing.

Why do you write?

This answer is different for everyone, but here are the most common Top Three motivations:

Creativity

Some writers love the writing process, enjoying the work involved in perfecting their poetry or prose. For them, it may be the writing journey that matters more than the end.

Winning

Beating the competition, gathering prizes, standing out from the crowd, and high sales ratings can be highly motivating.

Impact On Others

Great satisfaction may be gained from inspiring others through writing. It’s a way to leave your mark on the world.

What can hold us back from writing?

This is the dark side of the writing life - those internal fears and voices in our head that hold us back. Here are the three most common demons:

Perfectionism

If it isn’t perfect, I can’t let it go.

Write. Revise. Write. Revise. This can become a cycle that won’t end because the writing "isn’t good enough." This has happened to me with writing and painting. I wrecked a lovely head of hair (done in oils) because I kept playing with it. Thankfully, oils are very forgiving. So is the writing page.

Being Overly critical

If my world-building isn’t as good as J.R.R. Tolkien, why bother?

Setting sky-high goals is self-defeating. Great world-building doesn’t happen in a few days, or a few years. Mr. Tolkien worked on The Hobbit for at least six years, and thought about it a good deal before setting pen to paper.

Impatience

I have to get this book out there as soon as possible.

A fantastic book cover will get you part of the way there but it’s what’s inside the covers that counts. Editing your own work is important, and so is getting other eyes on your work. Multiple revisions are normal and to be expected. Fine editing makes the difference between good and great.

Here is a link to 52 quotes to help you stay motivated and keep writing. I'll leave you with my favorite ones.

"You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
―Maya Angelou

"You write because you need to write, or because you hope someone will listen, or because writing will mend something broken inside you or bring something back to life."
―Joanne Harris

Why do YOU write? What motivates you? Is there something that occurred in your life that you see as a turning point in your writing journey? We hope you can share it with us down in the comments!

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About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents, Parenting: A Work in Progress, and The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon, a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are: The Hobo Code (YA historical fiction) and Crystal Memories (YA fantasy).

Find her at http://ellenbuikema.com or on Amazon.

Top Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay


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