Tag Archives: writing habits

A little Halloween Reading

With Halloween sneaking up on us in just a few days, my household has been entrenched in anything resembling spooky. My yard has been transformed into a haunted graveyard, with skeletons and spiders hanging from tree branches. Thankfully, this year the dog caught on quickly that these bones were not his chew toys. Unthankfully, I hate spiders and we have one huge brown one that just freaks me out anytime it catches my peripheral. Ghosts and jack o’lanterns are set about my living room, wreaking havoc on my cats. We made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we brought home pumpkins that outweigh my youngest – oh how I am dreading the de-gutting of those. Costumes are ready and waiting to be worn and soiled.

Yes, we are ready for Halloween at the Prince residence.

Another part of our ritual is during the entire month of October, we collect books and stories from the library that revolve around goblins, ghosts, witches, and anything else that jumps in the night. Even the school has gotten on board with tying the fun of dressing up with reading. We have story book character day in our district where each child has can dress up, but must bring a book about that character. (I will be honest, I find this to be a good concept of an idea, but extremely annoyed at how they go about it.)

During this month, I tend to read more in the horror genre than I do at any other time of year. There are so many great books tagged as horror, that it was hard to really narrow one down. Last year I read a few horror books, but the classic Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein was the one that stuck out for me the most. So this year I decided to read Bram Stoker’s, Dracula.

And I chose well.

Books written around this time period generally are written in journal/diary format. This seems to be how the writers were able to jump point of views easily and tell a story in a way that felt natural to them. It is not my favorite form of literature, but it works well for this book. It’s like piecing a puzzle together, and I enjoy that aspect.

The story itself is creepy in a very simplistic way almost. It doesn’t slap you in the face with the horror of what is happening, which so many books do. Instead it’s a slow and subtle build up that gives you chills when you picture what is unfolding in front of you. Take the character Lucy for example. At first I thought Lucy was just a side character with very little importance, but as the story grows, so does her part in it, until she is no longer of any importance.

Stories now days tend to be more graphically descriptive than they used to be. This tends to be a good and a bad thing, in my opinion. But there are some great descriptors that are so simple but paint a vivid picture right in front of you. There is this scene where Dracula scales the side of the castle like a lizard, and you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be able to do that!

So do your reading/writing habits change during the Holidays? What are you reading right now? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say.

Till next time,

~AJP

Getting back into the swing of things

There are times in everyone’s life when everything has to come to a screeching halt. It doesn’t matter what the cause. The result is always the same. You have to focus on something important for a period of time to the exclusion of almost everything else. That’s been my life for the last month or more. Finally, it looks as if things are getting back to normal. Now the challenge is getting back into the swing of things and getting back on course.

So how do you do it? Me, it’s a struggle. I am having to train myself not to jump at every sound that isn’t quite ordinary. I’m more attuned to what is going on around me — having a loved one seriously ill will do that to you — and that means the distraction level is off the chart. All the usual techniques to getting into my writing and editing aren’t working. So I’ve had to find workarounds and, in at least one instance, they have me shaking my head, wondering how long before things get back to normal.

Of course, that assumes the life of any writer could be classified as normal.

The first thing I’ve had to do is get my work laptop back up and running. I’m one of those folks who love tech and who have multiple laptops and tablets. My work laptop is an Acer that I’ve had for about four years now. It’s a great machine. Or it has been. But in the middle of everything going on with my mom, the hard drive decided to start failing. Before I could pull everything off, it went kaput. Fortunately, most of my work was backed up. Unfortunately, a couple of things weren’t completely backed up and I now have to redo them. It’s my own fault. I’m usually obsessive about doing multiple backups but real life interfered.

The new hard drive arrives today. So, by Sunday, everything should be back up and running. That’s step one. Until then, I’ve been working on a different laptop, a MacBook Air. It’s a good machine but the screen is smaller and for someone who doesn’t use a Mac all the time, I have to stop and think about what the hotkeys are. That interrupts the flow and frustrates me.

That means I have to get back into the habit or work. Oh, I’ve scribbled notes here and there. I’ve tried to sit and write or edit. But, as I said, the distraction level is high, especially at the house. I’ve tried changing the time and location in the house I work. Nope, that hasn’t helped. I’ve tried changing the music, TV on/off, etc. Nothing has seemed to work. That’s left me with one choice, find someplace nearby I can go and try to work for at least an hour or two a day.

Again, I’ve found the distraction level high when I’ve gone to my usual haunts. The other day, I wound up at the last place I would normally go, no matter what the reason. I stopped at the local McDonalds for a Coke. You have to understand just how rare that is. I doubt I’ve been to a McDs more than half a dozen times in the last 10 years. So you can imagine my surprise to walk in and find it comfortable, quiet and not overrun by screaming kids.

Instead of taking my Coke and retreating to my car, I sat down and pulled out my tablet and an hour later had written more than I had in the last three weeks. I’ve been back a couple of times since then with the same result. I have also discovered that it isn’t the little kids who are the problem now. It is the middle school and high school kids who come in after school and who seem completely unaware of others being there. That just means I don’t go when they will be there, at least not if I want to work.

I guess the whole point of this rambling post is to remind each of us that we have to be flexible. Flexible in our writing — and in accepting that the more we write, the more our craft will improve and that, in itself, is sometimes scary. Flexible in how and where we write. Flexible in understanding that sometimes we have to change our habits in order to help the words flow.

I’ve talked with too many writers who have suddenly hit the wall and can’t seem to find a way to get the words to flow. Instead of altering what they are doing — whether it is when or where they write or simply working on something else for awhile — they continue to try doing the same thing, day in, day out. When nothing happens, they claim they have writer’s block and use that to excuse the fact they aren’t producing anything.

That’s the easy thing to do. But it is also an excuse. Yes, writer’s block does happen from time to time. However, when we usually claim we’re experiencing it, we aren’t. We’ve simply hit a point in our work where it is difficult but not impossible to push the story forward. It could be because we are uncomfortable with what we know is about to happen. It could be our subconscious telling us that we’ve taken a wrong turn and need to go back and look to see how to fix it. It could be that our craft has taken a step forward and the change scares the crap out of us because our writing no longer feels familiar. That is when you just have to push through, listen to your gut and not give in to the call to give up.

It is the same thing with the no time to write argument. Yes, we all have those points in our life when there simply isn’t a spare moment to do anything other than what is necessary to put food on the table and make money for rent. But usually when we say there isn’t time to write, it’s an excuse. We might not recognize it as one and we won’t until we start turning a critical eye to what we are actually doing each day.

I can hear some of you — heck, myself included — saying that there is no wasted time in your day. Really? How much time do you spend playing video games? How about Candy Crush on your phone? That is time you could spend writing. Do you take walks each day? If so, and if you have a digital voice recorder or a smartphone, you can record notes or even dictate your story as you walk. There are programs that will then convert your dictation into text. You can do the same.

So here’s the challenge: how many of you are willing to get back into the swing of things with me? Set a goal of how many words or how much time each day/week you want to write. There is no right or wrong number. It is something you feel is doable. Keep track of your progress. Use it as preparation for NaNoWriMo which starts next month. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your goal, just renew your determination to do what you can when you can and then carve out the time. However, if you see that you are writing more than you thought, increase your goal.

Now get back to work. That’s what I’m going to do.

Habits of “Successful” Writers, or the Secrets That Sell a MasterClass

Firstly, I have NOT taken James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing. Please take note of that.

Secondly, I know people who have paid Mr. Patterson for his time and videos.

Thirdly, I am about to tell you what Mr. Patterson (and other successful authors) knows about being a “successful” writer.

Are you ready?

It’s all about developing good writing habits.

There. That’s it. That’s what you are paying Mr. Patterson to learn. Yeah, $75-$100 just to learn that. I’m not saying he isn’t worth listening to, or that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In fact, the consensus of what I’ve heard and read about his MasterClass is that most people think they got their money’s worth. He talks about storytelling, not specifically writing. He discusses characters and dialogue and outlining and action/suspense. He believes in hard work and discipline. But not necessarly style. You aren’t setting out to write a classic novel, just one that sells. Obviously, Mr. Patterson, whose name is everywhere on the bookshelves, knows how to sell a book.

But you have to remember, James Patterson started out like any other writer. He had to develop certain traits. So, what are these traits? Google “habits of successful writers” and you get a long list of sites telling you what makes a successful writer. Guess what the first one (almost always) is?

  1. Write! Write daily.

As if you didn’t already know this one. But it’s the most highly effective trait to cultivate. Write write write. Even if it’s just for a few minutes every day. This is the one you MUST be strict with yourself about. Writing every day makes you a better writer. It is the difference between being a good writer or a great one. Even if you aren’t James Patterson Successful, writing every day is essential to your own personal success.

2. Read.

Read often. Read in the genre you are going to be writing in. This, too, is essential. You learn the tropes of your chosen genre. Examine the sentences, the dialogue, the character development. Pay attention to the opening sentences and how well the story holds your interest. You can learn more from reading than you can by paying someone to tell you the same information you are already absorbing from a story. Read good writers. Read great writers. Read bad writers. You will learn what to use and what to avoid.

3. Keep some kind of writing material handy.

You never know when an idea is going to strike. The most handy tool today is your mobile phone. If you own a smart phone, you have in your hand the most readily available notetaker/organizer/idea keeper. There are apps for everything. Download a voice recorder app and speak your ideas into an easily downloadable file and transfer them to your computer via Dragon software which automatically translates your voice into the written word. If you are old school, carry a pen and paper around. But keep it with you. Those ideas can happen out of the blue.

4. Join a community writing group.

I can’t tell you how great a circle of other writers is at keeping you inspired, encouraged, supported. Writing may be a solitary experience but you aren’t alone. There are so many other aspiring successful writers out there and being a part of this group is a huge boost for your esteem and well-being. They are a wealth of information as well. Got a problem with one of your scenes? Someone can help. Having trouble writing dialogue? Someone in your group probably writes great dialogue. Find them and make friends. Plus, other writers “get” it. They understand, and will often enable your crazy.

5. Nurture your inner schizophrenic.

I LOVED this one when I read it on one site. The person who wrote it was talking about how as a writer you have to be two people with your writing: a dancer and an ax murderer. The dancer agonizes over how interesting the story is while worrying about grammatical errors, etc. The ax murderer brings a cold eye to the finished work.But I translated it into being more than that. You have to embrace your crazy, neurotic side. So what if you have conversations with imaginary people in your head? You’re a writer, you’re allowed to be eccentric. Just make sure you write everything down. And that person who just cut in front of you or is too perky in the mornings? Let your inner Dexter take care of them in your story. You could use a psychotic character in your story, right? Just, you know, don’t actually REALLY act like a homocidal maniac.

6. Develop a thick skin.

You are going to receive criticism. You are going to fail at something. Not everyone is going to like your writing. Let it go and move on, gracefully. Don’t let the trolls get to you because a troll’s job is to discourage you and keep you from succeeding. And just remember what happens to trolls…

“The big billy goat  flew at the troll, and poked his eyes out with his horns, and crushed him to bits, body and bones, and tossed him out into the cascade, and after that he went up to the hillside. There the billy goats got so fat they were scarcely able to walk home again. And if the fat hasn’t fallen off them, why, they’re still fat; and so,

Snip, snap, snout.
This tale’s told out.”

Will these habits make you successful? Obviously, not as successful as James Patterson who also had help along the way from knowing how to sell himself and having a good agent and taking advantage of his advertising knowledge.

They WILL make you a better writer and that’s half the battle.

And guess what? I just told you all that for free.

Jesi

P.S. Add any other tips and habits in the comments. 🙂

 

Habitual Bliss

This morning I got into my SUV, to go to work, and proceeded to take the wrong route. I was about three streets into the drive when it dawned on me that I was headed in the direction that I take to go to my grandmother’s or the library (both are on the same road). Now I can still get to my new job this way, but it is not the preferred way due to go due to I have to turn onto a main road and the visual for on coming traffic is limited.

I laughed at my mistake and continued on but it had me thinking about my habits. I travel to the library and my grandmother’s at least 3-4 times a week. Sometimes more. Okay, mostly more.

However, I have only driven to my new office once. That being yesterday morning. So it has not become much of a habit just yet. It is not even a route that I have driven more than a handful of times in the past two years.

This brings me around to my train of thought and to today’s post.

Habits.

Here lately, we are all struggling with finding time to do what we need to do. Amanda wrote about accountability on Monday, and she is right. We have to be accountable for making the time to write. We have to stop treating this as a hobby and take it serious as we would any other job. Albeit, some of us have jobs that require 40+ hours at the office, families, school and so on.

BUT. If we can carve out an hour a day, or two hours a day during the weekend, and make this part of our daily routine, in no time writing will become a habit. It will no longer feel like a chore trying to find the time to do what we love doing anyway.

It goes along with the goals we should be setting for ourselves, pick a goal, pick a day, pick a time slot, then just stick to it. Eventually it will be our normal routine, the road more driven that we are most comfortable taking.

Some of us are already doing a bang up job at writing daily, or whatever their routines are, and if so – bravo! Good for you. But how much time do you spend wasted before you buckle down and jump to it? Do you browse the net before you start? Or scan your Twitter/Facebook feed before buckling down?

Honestly, how much time do we waste when we could actually be putting words on paper/the screen?

So let’s make writing a habit and not a chore and see where we end up.

Is writing already part of your daily habit? Or has it become a struggle? Let me know in the comments.

Till next time,

~AJP

habits