Tag Archives: tips

The Real-Life Guide to Writing

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Introduction

The main problem that a lot of people have told me in regards to writing is that they don’t have time to write. My response has always been the same; it’s not a matter of having the time but finding the time.

Even if you gave yourself a two-hour window to write, you’ll find every excuse not to write during that time. Suddenly the laundry needs folding, the dishes need to be washed, the dog needs walking, and so on. By the time you’ve finished with all of that you have maybe fifteen minutes left to write and you spend that time staring at a blank screen. Then the next day you’ll complain, once again, that you don’t have time to write.

Since we’ve been talking about NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I figured we’ll utilize that for this article. This advice can be used anytime of the year.

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The Family

Getting the family on board with the idea of your writing for an entire month is a task in itself alone. Most of the family won’t understand why you want to do this sighting it as a waste of time. There is no clear way you can explain this to non-writers; at least I haven’t found one.

One suggestion would be to encourage members of your family to join you in the frenzy-filled madness of writing for thirty days straight. If they decline, the next step is to help them understand why you need to do this. Let them know how important this is to you and that you want them to respect your space and privacy.

Ask them for moral support, perhaps you can get them to read some of your manuscript and offer some suggestion for where the story is headed. Perhaps they can help you name a character, create a fictitious town, or share a personal anecdote that can happen in your story.

Above all, do not avoid your family altogether. Whether it just be you and your spouse or a household of children, make sure they remember what you look like. Purposefully set aside time to do something with the family; a dinner out, a movie, or a simple walk around the neighborhood. Getting away from the story will help you clear your mind and allow the ideas to keep flowing in your head.

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Meetings and Appointments

We don’t always have control of our time when it comes to doctor visits whether it’s a checkup or a weekly counselor’s session. However, you can try to schedule these appointments as close together as possible and get them out of the way ASAP.

When an appointment is coming up, make sure you write a little extra to pad your word count for that day. Not every appointment eats up a lot time but, if little Johnny is rushed to the hospital from the school with a broken arm, you may find that a few days of writing will disappear while you tend to this emergency.

Naturally I’m not telling to ignore your family or obligations when it comes to these sudden changes, but stay ahead of your word count goal for any eventuality. And if you are a church-goer do not ignore your responsibilities for the purpose of writing. Your congregation might understand but God will not.

 

 

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Meals and “That” Holiday

If you are the cook in the household, you may find it difficult to do the evening meals for the family. Don’t just shove the yellow pages at your family and tell them to, “Figure it out for yourselves.” Pizza, on occasion, is nice but no one wants takeout every night of the week for an entire month!

One of the ideas that someone came up with was cooking several meals in advance and then freezing them so they can be thawed and reheated during the month. This is a great way to make sure your family not only gets enough to eat but is eating healthier than what they’d get through a drive-thru window.

Another idea is to get your spouse to do some of the cooking during this time and an even better idea would be to get the kids to help. Regardless of their age, they can help out Mom or Dad to get things ready for the evening meal. Plus, it’s a way to teach them how to cook without letting them know they are learning. Recipes are readily available all over the internet as are cooking videos that give you tips and hints on how to prepare certain dishes.

Of course the biggest event of November is that holiday called Thanksgiving. It falls on the fourth Thursday every year which is one of the few holidays that you can always keep up with.

One way to prepare for this is to have your story completely written before then. It’s not impossible but for some it may be more challenging; depending on how early or late that Thanksgiving falls. Some years it’s as early as the 22nd and others as late as the 28th. Either way, remind yourself it’s the fourth Thursday of the month.

If you’re hosting the big dinner at your house, prepare as much of the food in advance before the day arrives. There are some grocery stores that sell an entire turkey dinner with all of the trimmings so that all you’d have to do is heat everything up in the microwave or oven. Check your area and see if this option is available. There are also websites that give you a day-by-day preparation list for things to get ready leading up to the dinner.

Another idea is either have it earlier or postpone it until later depending on everyone’s availability that will be a part of your dinner. Nowhere is it written in stone that says you have to celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day.

If you’ll be visiting someone else’s home for the meal, perhaps you can do some writing on the way over to the location. Whether you are travelling by car, train or airplane; you should be able to snag some extra words prior to the meal. Provided that your hosts understand your writing challenge, you might be able to get in some writing while waiting for the meal to be served. Don’t ignore them especially if you only see them once or twice a year. If you’re spending the weekend there, there’s always time to get some writing in on Friday and Saturday after the meal.

Of course, by the time Thanksgiving arrives, your spouse might say, “You’re still writing?” or “At least take the day off from this”. In the long run you might just give yourself the entire day off. Pad your word count the day before and then resume on that Friday while everyone is out shopping. If you’re finished, help yourself to an extra piece of pie to celebrate.

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Some Time-Saving Tips

As I stated at the beginning of this article; it’s not having the time, but finding the time to write. Here are some ideas to help you get some writing done:

1)  Rise 30 minutes earlier or go to bed 30 minutes later, and utilize that time to write. Even if you’re just putting ideas down on paper (or on the screen), write. It doesn’t have to make sense just write it.

2)  Pre-record all of your favorite shows and then watch them at the end of each week or after you’ve finished the entire project. With technology today, you don’t have to watch an episode the night it is broadcast.

3)  Reduce your e-mail viewing. Either utilize the vacation mode on your account or limit the number of times you read them. Twice a day should be the maximum if you usually do it more often.

4)  Limit your presence on Social Media. For some this is like depriving a person of water or air. If you are a social butterfly, let your peeps know that you won’t be on as often but make sure you check in so they know you’re still alive.

5)  Write during your lunch hour at work. If you can’t take a laptop, using the ol’ pen and paper to scribble your story. You can get a good amount of words finished this way and it will count towards your final total.

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Conclusion

Whatever you do, do not totally neglect your spouse or family during your writing session; be it a week or an entire month. Spend some time with them, eat meals with them, and celebrate each milestone that you cross. Remember my mantra: 5K, every 3 days; if you write 5000 words every three days that will get you to the goal of 50K of the NaNo challenge. Or whatever goal you set yourself for your story.

 

What about you? What are your secrets to dealing with everyday life and writing? Share any hints or tips of what worked and what didn’t. I’m looking forward to hearing your comments.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

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Taking Things for Granted~ WB1

 

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(World-building, part 1)

Introduction

            Have you ever played SIMs computer game? It’s an opportunity to further the lives of pre-made characters and create places for them to live and hangout. It’s like being a god of your own world; you help them get a job, make friends, and basically live their lives. But sometimes things happen because you’re not paying enough attention and accidents occur. I had one character wet the floor because she needed to use the bathroom and I didn’t see it right away. I took it for granted that she would do this on her own.

A while back I wrote an article called “The Writer and the God Complex” in which I discuss how our characters seem to take on a life of their own and for as much as you want them to go here and do this, they want to go there and do that. This article is on building the world itself and how we take certain things for granted.

 

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Yeah, but what’s the source?

A couple months ago I began a new writing project I’ve dubbed DWC. I don’t want to give away the title as I fear someone will steal the idea and get stories out before me. As I began to create the characters, the concepts, and the little village where they all lived; I got to thinking that I haven’t researched World-building (WB) very much.

Yes, I already have books published and, if you read them closely, you can tell that my WB skills are lacking. So I went in search of articles and sites to help me with this information. I’ll share what I found at the end of the article.

The name of the village where my characters live is called Caldera Falls. Naturally it’s named after a waterfall that’s at the north end of the village and there is a mill at the bottom that uses the water to turn its wheel. I decided that the water ends in a pool and then creates a nice stream that runs through the village and dumps into a body of water called Farewell Bay.

So then I ask myself, where does the water come from at the top to spill over into the falls? The answer is nowhere to be found. In fact, I really didn’t want to answer that question. I thought it has a falls; the village is named after it, so leave it alone! But I couldn’t leave it because I just know someone who reads my story will ask that very same question. That forced me to find an answer. One of the articles I found talked about water runoff and the drainage situation and I’m thinking, “That’s too real!” But I then realized that this is what I’m after.

 

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Ditch the Plateau

Another idea I had was to make the capital city, Ciudad, reside on the top of a plateau of a mountain. It looks out over the rest of the area called, Alderman Valley which features Caldera Falls and two other towns. However, the question arises: Who is going to climb up the side of a mountain to get to the city after pulling into the docks of Farewell Bay? Again I wanted to refuse to answer this question because the plateau idea was neat. I even had an idea of an elevator on the side of the mountain facing Alderman Valley where people could go down and get to the towns there. Of course they can completely bypass the city and travel around the mountain, across the sand, and over to Caldera Falls. So I decided to ditch the mountain but I’m keeping the name Alderman Valley and having it to be a misnomer when it was discovered and no one bothered to correct the error.

 

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Town Boundaries

Another item I tend to overlook is boundaries or city lines where one town ends and the next begins. Out here in The Valley of Arizona you can go through three different cities in just a few minutes and not even know where one ends and the other begins. Primarily, it’s because you don’t have a Welcome to Mesa sign at every area when you cross one to another. I thought about just making the grass a slightly different shade of green for this town compared to that town but that was fairly lame. Given that Alderman isn’t that big, putting up signs to announce the arrival in one and the departure of another was a little too much.

Then I hit upon a unique idea. Since I was thinking about the source of my waterfall, what if the river to the falls broke off and travelled down the side of the hill and created a line that separated Ciudad from Alderman Valley. That’s an interesting way to create a border without stating the obvious. Since the village of Greencrest is dominated by orchards, how do they get water for the trees? So I had the river branch off and created all of the borders for Alderman Valley. This way when you crossed the river you knew you were entering the next town. Problem solved!

 

Suggestions for World-building

  1. When doing research for building your world, don’t assume you have to include everything you read about. It’s one thing for you to know it’s there in your world but you don’t have to mention it in your story.
  2. Design a type of map to know where businesses and homes are located. You don’t want to say your characters when north to the tavern in one chapter and then south in a later chapter; even though they left the same place each time.
  3. Study maps of cities and countries to get an idea of borders and the “lay of the land.”
  4. Make a checklist of things you want to include in your world so you don’t forget them. However if they don’t fit, don’t force them. You’ll upset yourself and your reader.

 

Conclusion

Make an effort to build your world so you know where things go and how people get there. In future articles, we’ll discuss other ideas. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or ideas from you own world-building share with me in the comments below.

Happy Adventuring!

Chris

World-building Sites and Articles

Here are just a few places to research to give you an idea of how to build your own world:

World Building Academy— This site has been very helpful! You can sign up for weekly tips.

Inkwell Ideas–A collection of articles to help you flesh out your world.

Fantastic Medieval Ships— Does you world have a large body of water? You’ll need ships!

Medieval Demographics made Easy–What’s the difference in size between a village, town, and city? Here’s some help!