Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

I was very touched to look up my blog statistics today and see that, gosh, pretty much as many people are reading my blog this month – when I’ve posted literally nothing – as any other month. In my head, this could be caused by many possibilities, all of them fairly positive – you actually find what I wrote in the past interesting, so you came back to reread it, or you told other people about it; or new people found the blog on Google and read something; or you all missed me and kept checking the blog daily to see if I’d written anything new yet.

Well, I haven’t written anything new. But I don’t feel bad about it – and here’s why you don’t need to feel bad about it either.

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The benefits of writing at different times of day

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Earlier this week we talked about devotions to help you start and finish the day well, so that you can be more creative. Today is all about what time of day you spend creating, whether that means writing or painting or sketching or crocheting.

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Writing the next chapter: What story will you tell in 2015?

Image source: ‘English girl riding bike’ from Riding Pretty blog

Image source: ‘English girl riding bike’ from Riding Pretty blog

My first post for 2015 is bike-themed, because Tim and I went for a bike ride this morning to kick off the new year. No need to peddle old ideas when you can pedal into the future!

There are always endless possibilities for New Year’s Resolutions. Finish your novel. Lose weight. Find The One. Change jobs. Get to Mordor and drop the ring in Mount Doom. The usual.

As Dave Beck, NaNoWriMo Technical Director, puts it: “In the end, isn’t everything—from relationships to careers to geopolitics—about the narratives we choose? The narratives we write?”

So here’s what my resolutions are all about:

Write a good story with your life. A true hero need only be a person who sets goals and overcomes conflict to achieve them.
(paraphrasing Donald Miller in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

Image source: Our wedding photos by Kyle and Elissa Johnson, Slade Portraits

Image source: Our wedding photos by Kyle and Elissa Johnson, Slade Portraits

Last year I wrote my story as well as I could. I had goals, and I overcame obstacles to achieve them. After the usual stresses of preparation, I married the right man for me and enjoyed decorated our new home with the artworks I made with my own hands. I left a job I didn’t enjoy and worked hard at building my editing business so I could continue to do the editing work that I love. I made time to do some of the adventures I enjoy like bushwalking and beach trips, both with friends and by myself for much-needed and much-appreciated “God dates”. Halfway through the year life got really difficult for a time as I found I had some severe struggles to work through, so I asked for help when I needed it and I trusted God to get me through. I began submitting one novel to publishers, entered as many short story competitions as I could, and completed NaNoWriMo again. And I showered as much love as I could on the people I care about.

So here are the few things that I felt went into writing a good story with my life in 2014, and what I’ll be trying to seek out again in 2015.

Image source: Sarah Killey Photography

Me and Tim holding hands at the altar.
Image source: Sarah Killey Photography

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Music to write by

Music to write by - typewriter treble clef. Image source: Scores for Writers

Image source: Scores for Writers

 

Ever wondered what type of music will help you to focus when writing in different genres? Here’s what’s worked for me in the genres in which I’ve written or edited.

 

Okay, NaNoWriMo is nearly over, with only five days until the end is declared. So if you’re nearly there, here’s some final inspiration, to give you the last push you need to get that baby out (what a gross analogy, seriously). And if you’re boycotting NNWM and you’re kind of sick of hearing about it, soon we’ll be back to awesome posts that are not all about how to write a novel in the shortest possible timeframe.

Why does music help you write?

Studies have consistently shown that classical, Baroque era music can help students study things they’ve already learnt once, and can help workers to concentrate better during long or repetitive tasks. For those in a busy study or work environment, music has also been proven effective for blocking out distracting background noise. If you’re writing, editing, or creating art, music can help you stay focused and be more creative and open to new ideas.

By contrast, if you’re trying to learn new information that requires your full attention, music can distract you from what you’re reading. So if you’re doing research about historical methods of leather tanning for a new book, you might want to turn the stereo off and focus on the history.

Listening to lyrics can be distracting from writing, so most of the music I’ve featured in this post is purely instrumental. This is because lyrics are words and you’re already trying to think about other words when you’re writing. (People in other disciplines like maths, science or IT have no trouble with listening to lyrics while they work – in fact it helps, since their domain is largely numbers and code (Lesuik, 2005).)

So what can you use to inspire you when writing in different genres? Read on to find out!

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Phew! Made it.

2014 NaNoWriMo Winner!

2014 NaNoWriMo
Winner!

You can do it, fellow NaNoWriMo writers! You can; you can; you can!

If you are now in the slogs of writer’s block, take a look at my past blog posts about how to beat it!

(Don’t worry, this is just a little “giddy with relief” post. You’ll get a real one later in the week with some actual thoughts written down for you to read.)

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Commiserations over the struggle of writing, and how to keep going!

‘Mimi Does NaNoWriMo’ Image source: InkyGirl at http://inkygirl.com/wwfc/2011/11/9/mimi-does-nanowrimo.html

‘Mimi Does NaNoWriMo’
Image source: InkyGirl at http://inkygirl.com/wwfc/2011/11/9/mimi-does-nanowrimo.html

Today I’ll be talking about my two favourite web comics that provide inspiration or commiseration for writers – yay! And how to keep going when you feel like giving up (“halfway through NaNoWriMo” blues, anyone?).

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Reblog: Tamora Pierce and how to trip your character – in a good way

So this week has been full-on!, and NaNoWriMo is taking all my writing energy (!!!! 😀 ), so this post will be super short – cheers! But today’s “tip link” is something I know you’ll enjoy and find useful:

TIPS FOR BREAKING THROUGH the writer’s block wall.

Tamora Pierce from NNMW

Tamora Pierce
Image source: NNMW

In this great post in ‘NaNoWriMo pep talks’, Tamora Pierce talks about trying two super simple things to get your character moving again.

As for Tamora’s credentials, she is one of my favourite authors, and her writing is legitimately incredible! Her characters are believable and her plots are fantastic examples of medieval fantasy written for a younger audience that doesn’t dumb it down. I discovered her when I was ten and I’ve read almost every book she’s ever penned – which is a LOOOOOT of books.

Her idea #1 is my favourite:

Trip them up.

On the sidewalk. In a forest. Getting out of a swimming pool.

Tripping, no matter when or where it happens, is by nature an unexpected event. Depending on how tired they are, how many resources they have left, it’s something that can make your character overreact completely, do something crazy and uncharacteristic, or make them realise their newfound strength and rise to the challenge.

e.g. Whoops, my character broke their leg. Now they can either react by punching in the face the person who tripped them over, or my character can react by using the time off to do something they’ve always wanted to, accomplish a dream. Like painting a beautiful sunset. Or watching a Firefly marathon interrupted.

'The slip horse falling off a cliff' by Sidney Nolan

‘The slip horse falling off a cliff’ by Sidney Nolan

This horse (painted by the odd-but-amazing Sidney Nolan) fell off a cliff, poor fellow. Now that’s a bad day!

 

What’s a memorable time you tripped? Can you work it into your story somehow?

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Why editors can – and should – keep writing

Graphophobia - fear of writing. Image source: WeirdPhobia.com

Did you know this is a real thing? Woah!
Image source: WeirdPhobia.com

I recently interviewed for a position at a great publishing house (the dream job – ah!).

As the head editors were interviewing me, at one point, they said:

“So, it says here that you are also a writer?”

“Yes, absolutely; I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. My first words were literally, ‘Book’ and ‘Read’. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was four years old. ‘The Adventures of Freddy Fish’.”

“Wow!” said one.

“How do you do that?” asked the other.

I was surprised. “Um, I just love writing. It’s why I became an editor at all; I love reading and writing and I just want to make stories better wherever I can.”

“Wow,” said the first again. “I don’t think I could write anything anymore. Probably ever.”

“I haven’t read a book for fun in years, let alone written one.”

“Yeah, I mean, you’re reading other peoples’ writing all day, it just gets… It would be completely intimidating now to try and write something of my own. Because I know what it’s like, who’s going to be reading what I write. I’m used to sitting on this side of the desk now.”

“I don’t think I could take the rejection. Writers are very brave, I think.”

“Well, thank you,” I said.

And we moved on. Phew!

My point…

Editors are afraid to write because of their inner editors – just like normal writers. But we shouldn’t be, whether we’re a writer or an editor!

'Fear'. Image source: Kathy Coatney and Lisa Sorensen via Jean Oram via fellow blogger Jodie Llewellyn’s blog:

Image source: Kathy Coatney and Lisa Sorensen
via Jean Oram
via fellow blogger Jodie Llewellyn’s blog post

Whether you’re a writer or an editor, you should also be an editor and a writer. (Ooh, see what I did there?)

Writer, I really hope you’re self-editing your stuff before you show it around to people. Otherwise, I’m sorry, but you’re probably a really really poor writer. Sad face. 😦

And Editor, I really hope that you read and write as well. Otherwise, you just don’t know what it’s like for us writers. You don’t know what it took to get our babies – I mean, books – out of our heads and into the world, so you don’t treat our babies – books! (Wow, that keeps happening!) – as kindly as you could.

(Hey, if you could use the extra push, why not use NaNoWriMo to get you writing again this month? It’s fun!)

Editors in big firms and magazines don’t usually have time to write, I know, if you want to have any kind of home life and actually speak to your family once a day. You work long hours at the office and you don’t always get home for dinner. But J.K. Rowling was a waitress supporting her kids as a single mum when she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so not having enough time is not really a good excuse.

If you want to write, you don’t have time to write; you make time to write.

For more info, the Department of English at Florida Atlantic University pointed me to this great post, ‘Who edits the editors?’ by Mark Medley, which talks about famous editors who have become published authors. Cordite Poetry Review even published a poetry collection, Editorial Intervention, entirely made up of the poems written by poetry editors.

So, in summary, writers, take a deep breath and get to that self-editing; editors, be bold and get writing again. As the great Mark Twain once said:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

'Just Write'. Image source: Trent M Kays on Rhetorical Rumination

Image source: Trent M Kays on Rhetorical Rumination

 

 

Writers, how do you get past your fear and start editing your own work? Editors, how do you get past your fear and start writing?

 

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

Children’s books with bite

Quote from The Velveteen Rabbit. Image source: DisneyBaby.com on Pinterest

Quote from The Velveteen Rabbit.
Image source: DisneyBaby.com on Pinterest

 

A few years ago, I wrote a Terzanelle poem that I’m thinking I might turn into a hilarious children’s book – a children’s book to be reckoned with!

It was for uni, and I had to write a ‘fixed structure’ poem with a set rhyming scheme. I saw in the list of examples of fixed structures this ‘Terzanelle’ and I was like, WOAH! Because I have a beautifully weird real name (yes, TJ is my working nickname) and people will always try to mispronounce it as ‘terzah’ (ugh, that is not beautiful).

So what is a Terzanelle? I didn’t really care, since I picked it for its awesome name, but I soon learned that it is made up of five triplets and a Sicilian quatrain in a terza rima rhyme scheme: ABA BCB CDC DED EFE FGFG. (I cheated on the last line and made my rhyme scheme end AEAE, but I still passed the assessment item.) The key is that in a Terzanelle, the second line of each stanza becomes the last line of the next.

So here’s my poem:

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NaNoWriMo storyboarding for plotters and pantsers

Walt Disney running through a storyboard with colleagues Image source: Kashinterest

Walt Disney running through a storyboard with Deems Taylor and Leopold Stokowski, music directors, in 1940, Burbank, California
Image source: Bettman/CORBIS

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” – Sidney Sheldon

If you’re eagerly gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) [nanowrimo.org], like me, you’re probably counting down the days! Deciding who your main character will be. Picking a location. And getting ready for this weekend, when you and thousands of others worldwide will start writing furiously.

So, is writer’s block easier to get past for plotters or pantsers? And how can we get past writer’s block during NaNoWriMo, whether we’re a plotter or a pantser? Will storyboarding really help me or is it a waste of precious time?

If you’re saying, “Woah, woah, woah. What are ‘plotters’ and ‘pantsers’?”, let me tell you. (You can skip ahead if you know this bit.)

Someone who plans the plot and even the dialogue for every scene before they begin writing any words of their novel is called a plotter.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.” —Joyce Carol Oates, WD

Someone who just starts writing and “goes with the flow” is a pantser, someone who flies by the seat of their pants. They don’t plan. They just put pen to paper and see what comes out.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but that’s okay; you can make the whole trip that way.” – E. L. Doctorow

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