I have a friend who is both a writer and a visual artist. One day she entered a painting contest and won third place! All of the award-winning entries were put on display. And then, during the exhibition, she overheard some people talking about her piece, unaware that she was the artist.
They said she hadn’t followed all the rules.
And I’d argue that’s actually a good thing, because sometimes, rules are made to be broken.
Ten years ago, I never would have believed I would be able to finish writing a book.
I always wanted to be a writer, but writing was so difficult for me. In middle school, I struggled with every writing assignment. In high school, my friends always got better grades on their essays than I did. I had such a hard time writing that I majored in it in college. I felt that if four more years of school couldn’t help me, nothing could.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, either. Many of us struggle to write. Today, I’m unpacking what made writing so hard for me as well as the strategies I’ve developed over the years.
It can feel impossible to know where to start writing. We can become paralyzed by fear, worrying our words will offend or bore readers, or worse, that we’ll never have any readers at all. In order to move past these feelings, we have to overcome perfectionism.
That’s easier said than done, but these three strategies make all the difference.
Have you participated in a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo or our 7 Day Creative Writing Challenge? Congratulations! Whether you met your goal or didn’t quite make it, you’ve written words that weren’t there before.
Now, don’t let all your hard work go to waste. It’s critical that you capitalize on your momentum before it slips away.
Le Guin was a “genre” writer who constantly pushed the boundaries of what we think of as genre. Besides sci-fi and fantasy, she wrote poetry, creative nonfiction, and literary fiction.
I honestly believe she will go down in history as one of the greatest writers, literary or otherwise, of the 20th century.
On the wall of my office, I have a collage of quotes and pictures that have inspired me. Each quote represents a story from my past. I read over them whenever I need a boost of encouragement (which is at least once a day).
These encouraging words for writers are a wonderful source of strength for me. Many of the quotes on the wall are from friends and family who had the right words for me at the exact right time.
Here are three I lean on regularly to get me through rough patches.
Authors often get asked where they get their story ideas. It’s one of the most common questions my student writers wish they could ask their writing heroes. They think, “If I could just find a way to come up with the next best-selling story idea like [insert famous author], then I’ll make it as a writer!”
But they misunderstand one critical truth: the magic isn’t in the ideas. It’s in the execution. We need the ideas to get started, but many writers don’t have a system for capturing the ideas around them daily, and they don’t develop ideas consistently in practice.
We all have files full of unfinished projects and story ideas spread across notebooks and online platforms. Why do ideas lose their luster the moment we start writing them?
Every time we sit down to write, our mood and state of mind affect our words. We infuse, to some extent, everything we write with our unique “voice.” Our emotions come through on the page.
When we’re struggling to eke out even a few words and make sense of our writing, it shows in our work. Our characters are flat. Our scenes are dull and passive. Our plot is thin and weak. Nothing we try fixes the problems. Or, maybe words don’t come at all.
We may declare that we have a case of writer’s block, particularly if we’ve wrestled with the vexation for weeks or months. But, there may be a stronger and more insidious obstacle: shame.
Our job as writers is to transport our readers into our stories. A high-octane plot and three-dimensional characters are obviously necessary to accomplish this goal, but so is an immersive setting.
Setting is often overlooked when describing a scene. We all want to move on to the next plot twist and wasting important space on what trees look like will just bore the readers, right?
To draw readers fully into a scene, we need setting. We want them to forget they’re reading and make them experience everything our characters are experiencing.
Sometimes, you can get away with building your setting straight from your imagination. Sometimes, you can’t.
We’ve covered when to use quotation marks. But when you throw question marks and exclamation points into the mix, things can get a little tricky. Let’s demystify this quotation mark conundrum, shall we?
Buckle up. We may experience some turbulence.
Where do you find story ideas? Here are seven inspirational ideas to fuel your creativity. What kinds of stories will these writing prompts lead you to tell?
Conflict is necessary for all stories. It doesn’t matter what kind of story it is — novel, short story, mystery, romance, thriller, children’s, adult — it will always need conflict. In order to keep the plot interesting and exciting, conflict must be there. It gives your characters obstacles they have to overcome before they can reach their goals.
But how do you create conflict for your characters? There are three key ways.
If you are planning on writing a story, there is something you need to consider besides basic plot structure. You need to determine your Inciting Incident.
What incident will compel your protagonist to act, prompting them to move through a meaningful story?
Let’s take a look at what an inciting incident is and how to write one.
Great characters feel real. They talk, act, and respond to stress in ways we recognize, with their own personal character voice. We can relate to them because they seem human.
To write a character that leaps off the page, we need to know her deeply. We need to understand her thoughts and feelings. If our audience is going to empathize with her, we have to first.
How organized are you? I realized last year that I had spread my writing over various notebooks and virtual programs and platforms to the point that it took me an hour to find a snippet I wanted to use. The best book writing software will help you get your words on the page, but it won’t organize them on your computer so you can find them again — as I experienced firsthand while hunting down that snippet.
By the time I finally found it, I was frustrated and worried that maybe I was losing more writing than I was saving. Not losing it in the sense that the writing was gone, but losing track of where and how I manage my writing process.
Where do you keep your writing?
We’re almost two weeks into 2018 and I’ve already dropped at least half the resolutions I made, and if you’re like most people, you probably have as well.
Resolutions to better yourself are stressful, and even a momentary lapse can make a person want to scream and kick and cry. Perhaps eat an entire pint of ice cream. Perhaps lay on the couch and wallow in self-pity, lamenting over the magnificent writing career that could’ve been if only you hadn’t skipped writing that one day.
Today I’m going to ask you to think about the coming year a little differently, and hopefully renew some of the enthusiasm you may have already lost.
Did you set any New Year’s resolutions for 2018? Have you broken any of them yet? New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad rap, but research backs them up. In fact, you are ten times more likely to achieve your goals if you make resolutions than those who don’t. Even so, only eight percent of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
Perhaps there’s a better way, a way to reach your goals without feeling like you’re letting yourself down when the scale on your bathroom floor tells you the wrong number or your savings account balance just isn’t as high as you hoped it would be.
A few years ago, I rented a car. Normally this wouldn’t be a memorable event. But an appalling misuse of grammar burned it into my mind, and years later, I haven’t forgotten.
You see, when I went to the airport to return the rental, I saw this wonderfully instructive sign:
Please… LEAVE “KEYS” IN CAR!
And this brings me to today’s grammar lesson: how and when to use quotation marks.
Recently I visited a free exhibition in Miami called “The Everywhere Studio,” which is on display at the brand new Institute of Contemporary Art. During my visit, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own writer’s journey, The Write Practice, and all of you. Here’s why.
You want to become a writer, but you’re not sure how to stay disciplined. But now that it’s 2018, you’re ready to commit and focus on your writing (or refocus). Where do you start?
Well, that’s where our 7 Day Creative Writing Challenge comes in!