Tag Archives: motivation

Learning How to Plan for Your Dreams (Guest Post)

The next guest poster I’d like to welcome to the blog is poet and short story writer Lissa Clouser, whom I met through the 12 x 12 challenge. When I first read her post, I found it really struck a chord with me. She offers some great advice on striving for that writing dream.

Learning How to Plan for your Dreams

As writers we want to be trendsetters, not goal-setters. We want the right-now success while only doing maybe-later work. But there’s been a breakthrough! We have it all backwards.

The truth of it is that we’ve trained ourselves to spend all of our time dreaming. We dream up our characters, their stories, and the worlds in which they live them out. Chances are it’s the dream of the adventurous life of writing that’s led us to be more than journal keepers in the first place.

Somewhere in the middle of all that wistful dreaming however, most of us have forgotten to take the time and effort to make a plan. Plans don’t have to be complicated, but I’ve come to believe they are a necessary foundation for future success.

1)      Start by taking just one step back. Not too far from the dream, but just enough to see the big picture. I did this with my own writing life about 8 months ago. Where am I going? What do I want to accomplish? Why do I want to accomplish it? If you don’t feel like answering all of these questions yet that’s okay. But now that you’ve stepped back, how far are you from your dream?

2)      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. I know you just stepped back and took a good long look at how far away your dream might be, but whatever you do, discouragement is not allowed! No matter how far away you think you are, it’s still accessible. Believe and plan.

3)      We’ve dreamt. We’ve hyperventilated. Now what do we do? Evaluate. Where are you right now? Right this very minute? This is very important knowledge because if you don’t take the time to evaluate this, how do you know where to go? Don’t be ashamed if you’re just starting. We all start somewhere. Just know where to put the push pin on your mental map of the big-picture journey. You can look back and gawk at how far you’ve come later.

4)      Plot your next step. Do you have a first draft of a novel you love completed? Excellent. Revise. Maybe you’ve polished a picture book manuscript 40 times and you’re confident it shines. Fantastic. Learn how to write a query letter. Learn how to research agents who might be interested in you. Are you at the very beginning, still just grasping at the fluffy clouds of what-if? That’s awesome! The whole world stretches before you. Don’t let a story overwhelm you. Start small with poetry, short stories, or even learning how to free write ideas. Practice will not only teach you what you love about writing, it will teach you what you need to work on, help you find and shape your voice, and lead you to your next step.

5)      If you haven’t already, find your niche. This isn’t prison; you aren’t confined to it by any means, but like it or not we all have one or maybe a few areas in which we shine. I thought I wanted to be a novelist. (And deep down I still do.) But I’m finding that the more I write, the more I realize poetry is probably my strongest point. When I do write short stories I like dark themes. I love to use psychological twists and turns to mess with the reader. But what do you like? Answering this question will help to give you direction and a brand with which to market yourself. Me? I want to be a novelist, but for now I’m a poet.

6)      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. I feel like repeating this again. Writing is a hard road, filled with lots of rejection for most of us, rejection that comes from ourselves and the big bad world of publishing. Just remember, if you get rejected from an agent, publisher, or contest that means you tried in the first place. I’m already proud of you for that alone. So don’t get discouraged. Seriously.

7)      Create a marketing plan, but don’t be shocked if it changes. It probably will. But having a marketing plan in the first place will steer you in a positive direction. Decide what it is you want to market. Decide where you want to market it. What are the steps to reach that market? Is it something you can already be researching in your down time from writing? My current project is a poetry anthology, and it’s still at least a year from being print-worthy. But when I’m not working on the poetry itself and I’m not blogging, I’m trying to learn my market. What small publishers fit my work? Do I want to try self-publishing? Where and how am I going to market my book? These are all questions going through my mind. As the time for publication gets closer, my marketing plan will get better, tighter. But just like your writing, having a rough draft for marketing can only improve the final concept.

8)      Write! You have it in you. I believe in you. We’re on this journey together!

Your plan for this wild ride is not going to look like mine. It’s not going to look like anyone else’s. But hopefully I’ve given you the confidence to know that planning does not have to be the ball and chain holding down your dreams. Let your plans and your dreams work together and they can take you far.

Lissa Clouser is a poet and occasional short story writer. She is currently working on two poetry anthologies. You can learn more about her and join in on the writing conversation on her blog http://quidforquill.wordpress.com.

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Encouraging Children to Write (Guest Post)

Today’s guest post is a timely post for the school holidays. If you’re looking for a way to encourage your children to get into writing or you are looking for an activity for them to do while you write, Melissa Khalinsky (a fellow 12×12 participant) has some great advice.

Encouraging Children to Write

I have been a writer almost as long as I’ve been a reader, at least, it feels that way. Recently I discovered some stories I wrote when I was in primary school, and my love of writing has never left me.

Now I am the mother of two boys, both of whom are avid readers, however, writing is another thing altogether. Neither of them have been bitten by the writing bug, at least not yet. I’ve tried to get them interested in writing stories and diaries and anything else I can think of, but it just hasn’t happened, until recently.

Last year, I read a book of letters and it raised the question about whether or not modern kids would write letters and, if they wrote them, if people would reply, and started writing a fictional story. I couldn’t come up with an answer to whether or not people would reply, so the fictional story stalled.

My 8 year old, Mr Z is left handed and struggles with handwriting, and finds those handwriting books boring, writing letter after letter. So, at the start of this year, I set my children a challenge – to write a letter to someone every week during term time.

The challenge has been hit and miss, however, it has got my boys interested in writing. It’s got their creative juices flowing. While they are having fun writing letters, they haven’t quite got to stories…. yet!

Things I’ve learned about getting children interested in writing:

  • Make it fun – writing shouldn’t be a chore
  • Turn it in to a competition – my children are incredibly competitive, especially with each other, so having a challenge to achieve is helping keep them interested
  • Make it regular – my children are now writing every week as their challenge is to write weekly. This means they practice regularly and I can already see an improvement in their writing, even after such a short time
  • Reward them for efforts – rewards can be saying “well done” or a gift of some sort. After every few letters written, my boys get a small reward, such as stickers
  • Keep copies – quite apart from the fact that it’s fun to look back on the work that I did as a child, I’m enjoying reading back the first letters the boys have written, and am looking forward to comparing them at the end of the year
  • Have fun – I can’t say this enough. Writing is fun, so find a way to make writing fun for your children. For us, it’s writing letters, your kids may enjoy writing reviews or stories about their soft toys, or keeping a diary

Writing isn’t just about writing stories, it’s much more than that. With children, find something they are interested in writing, something that inspires them. Currently, letters are what are inspiring my children to write. What inspires your children?

Melissa Khalinsky is a pre-published author and the mother of two boys, aged 8 and 10. She challenged the boys to write a letter a week during term time – you can read all about the challenge at www.letterwritingchallenge.com.au

A note from Jo:

Don’t forget April is Aussie Author Month. Australian author John Marsden’s book Letters from the Inside is a great read and may just inspire you to try a letter writing challenge for yourself or your teenager. If you’re looking for a holiday read for a younger child, try Greetings from Sandy Beach by Australian Children’s author Bob Graham.

Hump Day

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 15

Total number of words written: 25076

Words Written Today: 2898

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 3 squares Smarties chocolate

Yes, I know it’s not Wednesday yet, but I’m not talking about midweek hump day, I’m talking about mid-NaNoWriMo hump day. It’s day 15, the halfway point. Looking at my word count this morning I was sitting just over 22,000 words, which meant I needed 3000 today to catch up to where I needed to be at 25,000 words–halfway to 50,000. The only day so far where I’ve written that many words in one day was on day 1 when motivation was extremely high.

The last few days have been tough for me in terms of word count. Over the weekend I was suffering from bad dizzy spells which was making it hard for me to do anything that required concentration, including writing. I have not made the daily word count goal (of 1667 words) since day 10. Yesterday and Sunday I only just scraped half of that.

I knew yesterday was going to be a bad day for writing, and despite knowing I had fallen short of where I needed to be for that day already because of a dismal weekend, there was nothing I could do about it. I was just too busy. Shopping that took most of the morning, a quick lunch, then pick up son from kinder, then only a short break before we had to go to my son’s play rehearsal. Back home just in time to cook dinner. I had basically resigned myself to the fact it would be my first 0 word count day. But then my competitive nature kicked in. I was tired, but I propped my laptop on my knee as I watched TV and thought, even if I only get a sentence or two, it’s still something. I just couldn’t go to bed knowing I had written 0 words for the day. As it happened, once I started writing the words kept flowing and I ended up with over 800 before I gave in to my tiredness and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning I knew I had a tough job in front of me. I wanted desperately to be at 25k at the halfway point, but it meant 3000 words today to get there. By 10am I had written 1000 and I thought to myself, “maybe I can do this after all.” I took a break, did some jobs for the farm, then set up my laptop at the dining room table over lunch. I wrote another 1000 words. Somehow I had found renewed motivation and my story had found new energy. I took another break, did some housework, then sat down and wrote another 800. I hit 25,000. I felt like channeling my inner Dora the Explorer and singing, “I did it! I did it!”

Now I’m over hump day, I’m just hoping I can keep up momentum all the way to day 30. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as I’m going in for my glucose test. No, not looking forward to getting my blood taken, but I’ll have one whole hour of waiting to myself in the waiting room. Instead of taking a book like I usually would, I’m taking a notebook and pen. 1 hour of peace and quiet with nothing to do but write.

P.S. Note the minimal amount of chocolate I consumed today 😀 Banana lollies and caramel popcorn totally don’t count.

P.P.S. The temperature just hit 30 degrees celsius. Even the heat didn’t deter me today! (Though right now it’s starting to hit me hard, so I’m glad I got all those words out of the way before it did hit me.)

3 Symptoms of the Week 2 Blues (and How to Cure It)

NaNoWriMo Diary – Day 10

Total number of words written: 16283

Words Written Today: 250 (so far)

Coke consumed: 1 can

Chocolate consumed: 1 fun size Crunchie, half a cup of Milo–by which I mean just dry Milo, no milk or hot water involved (so far, but it’s only 2pm) (have sadly run out of milky ways) I should probably also mention the caramel popcorn and starbursts, but technically they’re not chocolate 🙂

In NaNo land there is something known as the ‘Week 2 blues’ and unfortunately it seems to have hit me the past few days.On top of that, it’s been a super busy week in Mummy land. I’ve had antenatal appointments, immunisations for Miss 2 (which turned out to be much more of a drama than it was supposed to be), an afternoon at the cinema with a group of playgroup mums and the usual weekly shopping trip. I’ve just signed my son up for the local Christmas play, so we’ll be attending rehearsals for that every week, the first one was on Monday. I also decided this week the fridge was in desperate need of a cleanout, not to mention the cupboard under the sink. And November’s calendar is filling up fast!

Sunday and Monday were both low word count days. On Sunday I consumed at 3 cans of Coke, ate a great deal of chocolate and ended up getting KFC for dinner, but still didn’t get near the daily word goal. I did go to the movies in the afternoon, though, and even though I lost a few hours writing time, I think I needed that break and to get out of the house to reenergise.

Since there’s nothing I can do about life’s happenings, I’m going to focus on getting over these week two blues.

The Symptoms:

1. Motivational high of week one has pretty much all fizzled out. All the excitement of going into a new story, all the buzz of new ideas, that spurred an initial surge of words spewing onto the page has died down.

2. It’s getting harder to push words out onto the page. You find yourself staring at the page, letting distractions take over. Whereas in the first week the words seemed to flow onto the page easily, this week you feel like you have to pry them from your brain.

3. You know where you want your characters to go, but don’t know how to get them there. You have your plan, you know what your next plot point is, but trying to get them there has you stumped.

So how am I supposed to get past this week two slump? I know other NaNoers who have simply quit, deciding NaNo just isn’t working for them this year. Some have changed stories and gone into a new idea with renewed motivation (I did this last year). Some have decided to take the pressure off by not worrying about the word count and just writing what they can, when they can.

I still love my story idea, and I want to keep on, so here are some ways I’m going to try to tackle the week two blues that have worked for me in the past.

The Cure:

1. Stay focused on where I want my story to go, but also let it surprise me with plot twists and extra details. My characters have just found the first clue to a conspiracy that I had not planned at all. It was an interesting surprise and a nice addition to build upon my plot.

2. Push past the ‘writer’s block’ by just writing. Write or Die has been a big help with this in the past in getting from one point to another.Wordwars/wordsprints are helpful too, and there are always NaNoers around on Twitter who are up for some word wars.

3. Decrease distractions by writing on my laptop (which has only Word programs and is not connected to the internet).

I am so grateful for that week one padding I built up when my motivation was still high, it has helped a lot this week. At the moment I’m trying to keep just ahead each day. I find if I think, “I only have to write 900 words tomorrow to reach the goal”, it gives me motivation going into the next day, because the goal isn’t as overwhelming as staring at the prospect of writing 1667. And then when I’ve hit the goal, I think, “Well now it’s only 700 more and I’ll have written 1667”. It breaks it into chunks, which makes the goal seem easier to reach.

Author Jody Hedlund has a great post on writing after the initial passion has fizzled: How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over

How is everyone else going? Have you been hit with the week 2 blues? How are you coping with them? What strategies are you using to keep on going?

NaNoWriMo – The journey so far

LAST YEAR

Last year I attempted NaNo for the first time. I only got 25k. I managed to finish the novel a few months later and have recently just finished editing.

THIS YEAR

The plan…

This year I had four story ideas I was throwing around, I finally decided on the one I had the most ideas for since I figured it would make it easier to write. I planned it all out, I had an outline, I had character bios, I even knew what I wanted to happen chapter by chapter (I’m a real planner when I write, I like to know what’s going to happen before I start.)

November starts…

I started out slow. Really slow. In the first week I got a total of 3000 words. I had the ideas, I knew what I wanted to happen, I even had the time (since I’m not working at the moment). I just wasn’t feeling motivated. By the end of the week I knew it just wasn’t working and it was a choice between giving up completely or starting something new.

Second attempt…

I thought I might switch to the sequel for my last year’s NaNo, since I already had a few ideas for it and I was already in my characters’ heads from all the editing. I wrote 100 words and realised I needed the month break from that universe I’d promised myself (after all I’d been working on that story non stop for a year already).

Finding the right story…

I thought about the remaining two stories I had on my back up list and decided I didn’t feel the pull for either of them. There was only one thing left I could pursue. What had been my major distraction during that first week? A new book series I’d discovered a few months ago and which I’d just recently finished reading. Every time I didn’t feel motivated on my story I would read fanfic pertaining to this series. I’d written fanfic in the past (as I mentioned in my guest post on Harry Potter for Writers last week), why not try my hand at a new fandom?

Motivation finally…

The first day I started writing my fanfic novel I wrote 7851 words in one day! That’s more than double my word count from the entire week before. I’d found my motivation. The following days I wrote 5k a day. By day 9 I’d surpassed the daily word count goal and kept ahead. I couldn’t believe I was writing so much by the seat of my pants with no real plan and only the vaguest of ideas of where I wanted the story to go. It’s scary in a way, I’ve never written anything this long without a plan before.

Motivation dwindling…

Last week my motivation started dwindling. It was a combination of a couple of reasons. Firstly I hit a spot in my story where I’d written a really climatic scene and found I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to happen next (the downfall of writing with no plan). Secondly morning sickness kicked in. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea planning to get pregnant when NaNo was about to start and I knew morning sickness would kick in sometime in November. I planned to power through. Not so easy when my stomach is churning and I’m feeling tired on top of that and I just want to go to sleep. We’ve also been hit with some really hot days here the past few days, so that’s compounded my lack of motivation. Monday I wrote nothing at all.

Where I am now…

My total word count at the moment is just over 38k, I’m sitting right where I should be for my daily word goal, but have lost the lead I built up earlier. I need to hit 40k by the end of today to keep on track. I’ll have to keep fighting through the morning sickness, fatigue and heat if I want to hit 50k by the end of the week. Wish me luck!

NaNoWriMo this year has been a real rollercoaster ride so far, full of highs and lows. I know in the end I won’t have a publishable novel, since I’m writing a fanfic, but it’s a nice break from the editing I’ve been doing on my original novel. Perhaps I’ll find a fanfic site to post it on.

I hope wherever you are on your NaNo journey you just keep writing. There’s still a week to go, anything could happen! And no matter what our word counts are by the end, whether we get 50k or not, every single word is an accomplishment. Every word makes us better writers (and so will all the editing when we’re finished). Good luck to all my fellow NaNoers as you partake in the final week!

Why You Shouldn’t Let Rejection Get You Down

I read a really encouraging blog post by literary agent Natalie Fischer today. She started off by telling this story:

“I’m going to tell you a little story about a boy named Theodore Geisel (shh, now don’t interrupt if you’ve heard this one). Theodore had written a picture book manuscript called THE HOUSE ON MULBURRY STREET. He shopped it around. He sent it to twenty-two editors and, after that twenty-second rejection, Theodore decided he would go home, shred his manuscript, and give up his dream.

On the way home, he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor. His editor friend convinced him to let him see his manuscript. The editor changed the name of the book to THE CAT IN THE HAT, and Dr. Seuss was born.”

You can read the full blog post here (it’s really inspiring and encouraging): Don’t You Dare Give Up

J.K. Rowling overcame rejection to become a hugely successful author.

The story about Dr. Seuss got me thinking about other famous authors who were rejected before making it big, like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King (who are now two of the richest and most famous authors around today). Since I’ve just started embarking on the road to publication (I just bought a new printer yesterday so I can start printing out my cover/query letters) I thought I might print out some of the rejection stats of big name authors to stick on the wall above my computer and keep me motivated through any future rejections. These are some of the ones I’ve come across:

J.K. Rowling‘s agency sent Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 publishers, all of whom turned down the book.

Richard Bach‘s book Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected by 26 publishers.

Stephen King received more than 30 rejections for his first novel Carrie.

Beatrix Potter ended up self-publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit because it was turned down so many times.

George Orwell received a rejection letter for Animal Farm stating ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.’

I hope these stories of rejection, followed by success, will help keep my spirits up during the querying process.

References:

http://adventuresinagentland.blogspot.com/2010/08/dont-you-dare-give-up.html

http://news.scotsman.com/jkrowlingharrypotter/The-JK-Rowling-story.2436228.jp

http://worddaze.blogspot.com/2008/08/september-1-author-rejection-day.html

http://www.writersservices.com/mag/m_rejection.htm

http://www.bethanyroberts.com/rejection_letters.htm#Famous

My 'Don't Give Up' Wall