When Writing Takes a Backseat – Author Toolbox

If your September has been anything like my September, then you have been a busy bee. School started, so my days are filled with teaching, lesson planning, and after-school activities. (Thank you #51Writers for today’s topic of Oxford commas. As you can see, I am definitely on #teamoxfordcomma!)

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Image from here.

The problem…

Okay, so we’re busy. What is the problem exactly?

My novel is suffering! That’s the problem. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had any quality writing time since July’s Camp NaNo event. I was working on the second round of revisions for my paranormal mystery novel, and I’m still not finished.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still writing in order to use mentor pieces in my classroom, but that’s not helping my novel. Which leads me to the big problem… What do we do when our writing takes a back seat?

1. Figure out why you’re not writing.

When faced with several non-writing days in a row, take a few minutes to analyze the reason or reasons. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I have writer’s block(No, I know what I want to write next.)
  • Do I know which step of the writing process I’m on, or what I need to do with this step? (Yes, I’m working on revisions at the moment.)
  • Am I struggling to complete my first draft(No, my first draft is finished… This particular one is, anyway.)
  • Am I unsure where my brainstorming is leading? (No, I’m not working on brainstorming.)
  • Do I have all my writing tools available? (Yes, I have everything I need. I could probably use a bit more time, though.)
  • Am I simply busy with everyday life? (Yes! That’s it!)

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2. Stop feeling guilty for not writing.

That’s it. I give you permission to not feel guilty when you don’t get to write. Many people will tell you to write every day. Well, yes… That is ideal, but it’s not always achievable.

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Think about the goals you’ve set for yourself. Writing every day is beneficial. We all know that. However, if your past few months have been as busy as mine, then writing each day hasn’t happened.

It’s okay. Don’t feel guilty. Instead, feel excited when you do get the chance to write. Build up that momentum to hopefully continue to write the next day or even a few times that week.

If you keep attaching negative feelings to your writing (guilt), then writing will lose the thrill when you do get the chance to sit down again. Attach the positive feelings that made you fall in love with writing to begin with!

3. Write when you can.

My best writing time is in the evening when my kiddos are in bed for the night. As I determined above, my life is simply filled with all sorts of other tasks right now, so writing isn’t a top priority. (I can already see some of your faces…)

What do you mean writing isn’t a top priority?

It’s true. I don’t know about you, but I have a family. I have a day job. I have other tasks taking over my writing time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t write, though. Sometimes, in order to curb the feelings of guilt completely, you simply have to write when you can:

  • Wake up a little early.
  • Write during your break at work.
  • Write during your lunch break at work. (Don’t forget to eat, too.)
  • Write in the evening.
  • Write when the house is silent.
  • Write while you’re sitting in your car before you go into work (leave a little early).
  • Set a timer, and write for only that amount of time.
  • Set aside specific days, and write a few times a week.

The most important thing here is figuring out what works best for you. We all know that in order to become better writers, we have to write. Try a couple different things until something works for you. My big one lately has been the timer. Every ten minutes helps me get a little closer to the end of my novel.

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What is your point, exactly?

It’s okay to have some off days… Even when they all stick together and form off months. The trick is making sure that you are still writing when you can and feeling positive about the progress you do make.

Just be you.

Share with me in the comments: how do you handle writing when it takes a backseat to life? What do you do? How often do you still write?

Author Toolbox

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

Resources

Online Timer

Camp NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

Micropoetry When Life Is Busy…

School started here this week, so I’ve been quite busy learning new names and faces, teaching classroom procedures, setting up notebooks, and encouraging a variety of writing from the very beginning.

Since I’ve been busy with school, I haven’t been writing a whole lot… Okay, I haven’t been writing at all. I don’t have writer’s block; I’ve simply been busy. I have been thinking about writing, though. Does that count?

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These past couple days have gone rather well. Students are respectful and are quickly learning the classroom rules and procedures. They are eager to write, too. A few of them asked if they could take their writer’s notebook with them and write at home!

Of course you can!

Since we are focused on the beginning stages of writer’s notebooks this week and poetry next week, I’ve decided to share some of my poetry, micropoetry to be specific. I learned about this mini form of poetry via Twitter, where forming anything is done in 140 characters or less.

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Photo from here

 

I’ll share the poem and the corresponding  hashtag so you can see some of the different places to look for micropoetry prompts. I hope you enjoy reading these.

#MadVerse (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

What do you see?
It feels like both halves
have been ripped away –
and exposed
to the world…

Lost in though
Train whistling
in the distance –
Star shining
in the sky –
Peace humming
in my mind –

Lashing out at
repressed memories,
unrestrained torture in
a bottle.

#BlackDahliaProse (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

All of us making wishes
are simply blowing kisses
to the wind. Time to face
the winding wheel of Time,
and be free.

Heartache,
like a cold wind,
still shivers.
broken and alone –
waiting for the warmth
Time promises.

peeking out behind
the darkness –
is just the smallest sliver of
the sun –
suddenly gone again.

#DimpleVerse (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

temper trapped in
a cycle of war –
eyes entranced by
the victims left behind –
time wasted as
another fuse is lit-

growls escaping
and time grows short –
anger is slowly
tempered by fear –

#TLPoetry (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

You healing all my
broken thoughts and
shattered dreams
is worth more than
all the words
ever said to me

Jumped into
a book –
searching for
a new
Adventure.

#PoetryPortrait (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

Somewhere
in the city lights –
Someone
sits alone and cries –

nothing matters but
the music of life –
time may pass and
people may die –
yet the words will
always live on –

#SenseWrds (and the photos that accompanied the prompt)

wrapping me
in a blanket of smiles –
never want to miss
those moments – all ours –

Missing home –
snow inching up
to my knees,
while I create three
orbs of laughter.

Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to read a few of my micropoems. Were there any you especially enjoyed? Share with me in the comments! If you want to read more of my tiny poems, follow me on Twitter.

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Resources

Here is a list of all the creators of the prompts I use (when I use a prompt):

5 Steps on the Journey to the First Draft — Author Tool Box

What can I share for this month’s Toolbox? What can I write about that could be even slightly helpful to other writers?

I’ve been trying to answer this question for a few weeks in preparation for this post, but I still didn’t have an answer until recently. Someone suggested I write a brainstorm about zombies… Well, zombies aren’t on the agenda this time; however, brainstorming was a great idea!

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This month’s toolbox will be dedicated to brainstorming, plotting, outlining, and all the little details that go into planning for a first draft — that is… if you’re not a pantser (someone who dives into the first draft without prior planning).

I’ll walk you through the planning process I took with my (yet to be published) first novel. Planning, like the writing process, is recursive — the appearance of linear steps doesn’t necessarily equal a fluid process, but a few steps do help…

1. Start with an idea.

No matter what your next step is, the first step is to have an idea. This idea can come from anywhere. You may have seen a cow while driving down the road or heard lyrics that spoke directly to your imagination. Maybe you were talking to your best friend during lunch and something at that moment stuck out to you.

Grab it! Take hold of that idea. See where it leads. My idea came from a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a poem asking a question.

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2. Take that idea and see what shape it takes…

That would make a great novel! I have an amazing story idea!

How many times have those words come out of your mouth? How many times have you remembered your idea over the next few days before it faded into the everyday world that is life, into the abyss?

Don’t waste any time! Write it down! Take that wonderful idea to your writer’s notebook, and see what you’ve got. Free-write as much as you can about all the possibilities swirling around in your mind at that moment. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous they sound — write them down.

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That is just what I did. On October 12, 2014, I wrote down the story idea that was zig-zagging its way around my brain.

Would I use everything I wrote on this page? No. I have no idea who “Darren” is anymore since he’s not part of the current round of revisions I’m on, but he was important at one time, which is all that matters. The idea is written.

3. Choose a direction… a path…

Now what?

Do you get stuck on this step? I did. I had never written a novel-length draft before, which meant that I had definitely not planned for one, either. How in the world was I supposed to do that? What was I supposed to do next?

Research.

There. I said it. This isn’t the kind of research you’d expect, though. It’s research into different planning processes for building up to your first draft. If you don’t know how to get there, the best thing to do is see how someone else did it. Right?

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So I did. There are so many different ways to plan a novel. Did you know that? Out of the numerous ways I found, I decided to choose Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method because it seemed the most straight-forward for a novice (and it was free…).

It took me quite a few tries with his first step, a one-sentence summary, because I couldn’t decide how old my MC (main character) was going to be.

More research.

Have I mentioned before how much I actually enjoy research? I really do! (Is that weird?)

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Around the time I was starting to plan, I’d read a new YA (young adult) dystopian novel, Rite of Rejection by Sarah Negovetich.  Because of this novel, I thought about my MC… Maybe she should be a young adult… Maybe she should live in a dystopian world… Maybe…

After my research, I decided Macy should be a teenager, but she wouldn’t live in a dystopian world. Instead, she would be the star of an epistolary novel, an idea that came to me during another free-write for ideas (see that recursive writing thing?).

I finally had “step one” of the Snowflake Method.

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4. Start outlining… possibly scene-by-scene…

The snowflake method will eventually lead you through meeting your characters, discovering their motives and end goals, and figuring out why each of them is important to your story.

I didn’t know most of this before I started plotting scenes, however.

Don’t tell, but that means that I didn’t follow this method to the letter. You should know, if you don’t already, that you are not obligated to follow anyone’s method verbatim. You are a writer, different from other writers, which makes your process unique to you. Keep that in mind as you continue.

I did keep a small chart of characters handy, though…

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Anyway, back on track… I did like the scene-by-scene outline. Randy suggested using a spreadsheet, which I love because it allows you to move things around in the future, but I didn’t. This particular time, I used my notebook.

And I started over several times when the story changed somewhere in the middle… See why the spreadsheet would’ve been helpful?

See how many times it changed in such a short amount of time? I even started color-coding after awhile for POV (point-of-view).

I have encountered writers who don’t like the scene-by-scene outline (or chapter-by-chapter as I’ve seen some others do) because they feel it inhibits creativity. I am of the opposite mindset. The scene detail only states what will happen. It doesn’t state the why or how of the situation.

The only downfall to this outline is when characters start changing your story (trust me, they will) — then you’ll find out just how important an editable outline truly is. But don’t worry about that now… This is only the planning stage.

5. Leave a little room for whatever comes along.

Even if you plan, the whole basis of the story could change if one ornery character decides he doesn’t like the backstory you gave him. Or, in my case, he doesn’t want to reveal his backstory to you until you are well into the first draft.

As stated above, characters will change your story for you. They will let you know when something is working or not as you’re drafting, so keep an open mind while you’re planning. Try not to get too specific.

Write down your thoughts as you come to them to see if they get answered during your first draft….

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A great help may even be to write down a list of all the questions you have about your idea: the characters, the main and sub-plots, the action, etc. Keep a running list of things that are important and things that could change.

Sometimes you can even take a break from planning and learn some new words that relate to your idea: MC’s job lingo, vocabulary related to setting, etc. Since my idea revolves around nightmares, I dove into a couple terms related to that, which may end up having nothing to do with my novel in the end, but they’re good to have anyway.

What if I get stuck?

Don’t worry! Is it writer’s block that has you worried? Or do you simply need some ideas to push you toward the next step? I don’t have all the answers, but I can offer you a few methods that could help:

  • make lots of lists: characters, plot bunnies, settings, conflicts, etc.
  • draw a plot diagram: where do you imagine the story going, where is one particular character’s story going, etc.
  • free-write: whatever comes to mind, a scene you’re eager to see on paper, a letter from your character to you, etc.

What about you? What do you do when you get stuck? How do you plan for a first draft? I’d love to see what your strategies are in the comments below!

Author Toolbox

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, which is dedicated to helping writers become stronger and more confident in their craft. Click here for more information, to continue hopping through other posts, or to join in!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

Resources:

Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson

“The 8 Habits of Highly Successful YA Fiction Authors” by Noal Feeny

Parental archetypes in YA fiction

Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award!

I’ve been nominated! Woohoo!! I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award! I’ve been nominated for the — wait a second…

What exactly is the Liebster Award?

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The Liebster Award

Questions. I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Dianna Gunn, but I was left with questions. What is this award? Who’s it for? Why pick me? These were some of the questions in my head.

Dianna answered a few of them on her blog post, which also listed the rules. Yes, rules. Rules the nominee has to abide by should he/she choose to accept this award.

I wanted to know more.

From what I can gather, this award originated sometime around 2010. It’s an online award intended to encourage new bloggers as they settle into the life of blogging and build their readership.

We definitely need encouragement. That’s for sure!

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Rule 1: Thanks!

Thank you Dianna Gunn for thinking of me and for nominating me with this award!

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Rule 2: Display the award.

I did this up there! ^^^

Rule 3: Answer the questions.

Dianna asked 11 questions, so I will answer them here!

  1. What is your favorite color?
    • Tie-Dye! I’m not kidding. Josh and I even had a tie-dye wedding cake!img_5954
  2. If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
    • I would like to say pay off debt or set aside enough for a college fund for our kiddos, but who am I kidding? I’m more likely to upgrade my phone and buy a laptop.
  3. Cats or dogs?
    • So… I used to be a cat person, but I am slowly becoming a dog person.
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      Athena: our almost 4-year-old terrier mix (Staffordshire Bull Terrier mixed with Fox Terrier)
  4. Cake or pie?
    • Cake… Sometimes pie, but mostly cake.
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      Josh’s groom’s cake at our wedding!
  5. What’s your favorite genre?
    • Historical fiction. This is my favorite book in that genre:Image result for the guernsey literary and potato peel society
  6. What’s your favorite series?
    • A tough question to answer…Image result for a modern witch series
  7. Favorite book to screen adaptation?
    • Books are almost always better than their movie counterparts. However, the movie was better this time. (Given, it could be because this one was based on a short story and not a full-length novel, but still…)Image result for shawshank redemption
  8. If you could be any character from a book or movie, who would it be?
    • I think I’d be Hermione Granger. Not only does she get to use magic, but she gets to ride a dragon, too!
  9. Do you read one book at a time or many?
    • Many
  10. What are you reading RIGHT NOW?
    • I’m about to start a Middle Grade fantasy. I checked out four from the library.
  11. What’s the one big thing you really want to accomplish before 2017 ends?
    • I want to have the third draft (yes… I said third) of my novel written by the end of this year.

Rule 4: Random Facts…

Random facts? What in the world do you want to know about me? I’ll try to think of 11…

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  1. I’m semi-ambidextrous. I write with my right hand, but I do most everything else left-handed: bowling, tennis, playing pool, etc.
  2. I’m the oldest of four children.
  3. Only my little brother and I were born in the same state — my parents, sister, and baby brother were all born in different states.
  4. Oddly, only my youngest son and I were born in the same state — hubby and oldest son were born in different states.
  5. I love Judy Blume books, but I haven’t read any in quite some time.
  6. I am one of those weird teachers who can’t wait for school to start again!
  7. I hate having my hair up, but I hate having it in my face, too…
  8. I played French horn in band, and before that I played the trumpet.
  9. I can solve a Rubik’s Cube (I still have to look up the patterns online for the yellow part, though).
  10. I don’t believe in ghosts… sort of…
  11. I can’t play video games with the music on.

Rule 5: Nominations!

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  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Dunlap — Lizzie launched a new book last month (second in the series), and she’s working on reaching her readers.
  2. G.R. McNeese — George not only shares his stories with his readers, but he also shares his struggles.
  3. Cori Miller — Cori writes about family, parenting, and the trials and blessings of motherhood.
  4. Remus — Remus writes about writing and how to get a little better at it.
  5. Leigh M. Lorien — Leigh encourages writers with helpful tips on writing and self-care.

Rule 6: Your questions… And some non-question type questions…

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  1. If you could meet any author (alive or from the past), who would you meet and why?
  2. Describe your first happy memory.
  3. What is your favorite scent, and has it ever appeared in your writing?
  4. Describe your favorite place in the whole world.
  5. If you could only listen to music from one decade in history for the rest of your life, which decade would you choose and why?
  6. Describe how it looks outside right now.
  7. What do you remember about your favorite teacher?
  8. Describe your ideal vacation.
  9. If you could live in one fictional world (that you didn’t create), which one would you live in and why?
  10. Describe a time when you wish you had a camera, but didn’t.
  11. What would you do with a million dollars?

Rule 7: List the rules.

Already done, too! ^^^

Rule 8: Inform your nominees!

I linked them in, but I’ll let them know, too!

What now?

That was fun! I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about me, and I can’t wait to hear more about you!

What now? I’d like to hear a few random facts about you. So, feel free to share a couple or answer a few of my questions above about yourself in the comments section below!

Dianna, thank you again for this nomination!

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3 Steps for Writing a Poem

Poetry: a mellifluous word all by itself. Does it sound so beautiful the first time it’s written down, though? Or is there a process for writing poetry? That’s a hard question to answer. Some poets will say no. Others will say yes. The answer, however, depends on you and the purpose of your poem.

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For me, poetry is a process. I have to have somewhere to start and somewhere to end. I can write a micropoem on Twitter, but it’s not always a quick process. It takes a few drafts before I can make it sound right or fit into the 140-character limit.

How does that transfer to longer poems or poems that follow a specific format? Is the writing process necessary for poetry? For me, the answer is yes. Let’s take a peek into what that process looks like for me with three different poems…

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1. I need to research.

The type of research varies depending on the poem I want to write.

Example 1: A poem that doesn’t follow a format

My friend Veronica asked me if I could write her a poem because her current life circumstances were making her feel helpless. I asked her one question: What is your favorite animal?

A hippopotamus. I didn’t know much about hippos, so I searched for information about them through National Geographic. I now had details I could use in my poem.

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Example 2: A poem that does follow a format

I like the challenge of learning new poetic formats, so I’ll often learn about different ones. I don’t know how many poetic formats are out there, but there’s such a variety that poets will never lack for challenges.

Two such formats I’ve tried were the Pleiades format and Huitain format. I started by researching how each of these formats worked.

2. I write a rough draft (or two); then, I revised and edit it.

I know this step actually combines several steps of the writing process, but I didn’t think you’d want to see each individual step. I also don’t have pictures for each step, either, so it’s okay. Poetry is shorter, which means you can fix a bit more of it in one step anyway.

The most important thing, though, is getting your idea on paper before adding imagery, figurative language, and other poetic techniques. If you keep a writer’s notebook, then you’ll have a plethora of ideas at your disposal.

Example 1: The hippo poem was a bit easier to start since I already had a topic. However, it took the most drafts. I had to decide which parts of the research to include, what the theme would be, and if I wanted it to rhyme or have a rhythm.

Example 2: Topics for the formatted poems weren’t as easy to discover. The trick with poetry, if you’re interested, is similar to the Robert Frost quote above: use your emotions.

The Pleiades poem was inspired by the emotion I felt for a close family member, one who suffers from mental illness. I chose the letter ‘A’ to use with the format because it worked with the title, which I had first.

Family seems to always play on my emotions because the Huitain poem was inspired by a different member of my family, one who had recently went back to an abusive relationship.

With both of these poems, you can see that the idea, or rough draft, is written before I start changing the rhythm to match the pattern of the format. It’s incredibly hard to count out syllables while you’re writing, so my suggestion is to always write out your idea first — then fix it up how you like.

3. I write the final copy.

This last step can include publishing, too.

Example 1: Since Veronica, who goes by Roni, was going through a hard time, I decided to illustrate her poem. I am not the greatest at drawing, but I can do a decent job if I take my time. After I finished up her poem and drawing, I sent her a copy: published.

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Example 2: I chose not to illustrate my other poems. (It truly takes a long time for me, and I almost always have to have a point of reference.) I think it’s important to have a legible final copy for whatever you choose to do with it next (blog post anyone?).

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That’s it.

That’s my process when writing a poem, but it’s not everybody’s process. How do you write a poem? Do you plan it out? Do you research? Do you go through a process? Feel free to share with me in the comments.

Resources:

What is micropoetry?

List of poetic formats I use for my students

List of more advanced poetic formats