Tag Archives: writing

Rituals – Get ready for writing

What makes you feel ready to start writing? Do you just need to sit down and write? Do you need to do something first? Do you need a special place? Do you need to be in a certain way?

Rituals have been part of human history since we know. They consist of a series of actions practiced in a certain way and following a strict order. You perform them before a determinate situation. They are essential to get you in the ideal mindset to do a specific task, and many writers use them.

What’s the purpose?

As I said before, rituals put you in the right mindset to perform a particular task. Concerning writing, it is important to find some inspiration and focus when it is time to start writing.

Having a good writing ritual will help you tremendously. With time, the simple act of performing that ritual will put you on “writing-mode” right away. You’ll be ready to focus on your stories.

The most common writing rituals

There are dozens, even hundreds of possibilities concerning rituals. You can already have one, or you might want to look for the one that has more meaning to you. I don’t think that rituals from other people are ideal. You should find your own way, but here you have some suggestions of the most common rituals to inspire you.

In my case, I don’t follow anything that strange. I need silence, so I sit in a quiet place, preferably at my desk. I first read the emails and see everything I want to see on socials and other places. Then, I start writing. Why? Because when I start writing, I don’t want to be concerned about what I am missing or what I should be doing instead.

Other examples are to take a walk first, to look at a window, to sit towards a specific place, or drink a specific beverage. Anything that you always do immediately before writing can be considered a ritual.

Sometimes you don’t even notice, and you have one. It is so automatic in you that you may not realize it is a ritual. Like drinking tea before you sit down to write. If you do it every day, it is a ritual even if you don’t have in mind that you do it to write. It helps because you teach your body that it needs to be ready to work after that beverage.

Do you have a ritual?

Rituals are not strictly necessary. Yet, they are very helpful in putting you in the right mindset to do your writing. They work as a coffee that makes you focus. For example, reading a particular passage of a book, listening to a piece of certain music, or looking out of a window for a couple of minutes can be all you need to enter the full “writing mode”.

Do you have any rituals? If so, I’d like to hear everything about it.

Why can’t I finish my novel?

You just had a good idea for a plot, and you start writing your story. Yet, at some point… it seems to reach a dead end. Perhaps, you’re not as passionate about it as you were before.

Why does that happen? Wasn’t your idea good enough? What are you missing?

I’m stuck

It often has nothing to do with the story. You still are passionate about it, but procrastination wins you. You’ll continue tomorrow. You find a lot of things to do, a lot of excuses. When you go back, if you ever do, those lines don’t make much sense anymore.

Despite its importance and how it impacts your writing, it is not about procrastination that we’ll talk about in this post. Instead, it is about to get stuck. Sometimes a tiny mistake prevents us from continuing. A page, a line, or even a word that doesn’t feel right…

This may happen because you didn’t plan the novel or, instead, you planned too much and killed that flame inside you. As a result, you miss the passion and intensity of discovering your own story as you’re writing. So, maybe, your issue is to know which one works better for you. It is time to find out.

Two main issues

There are usually two situations responsible for this feeling of getting stuck. They are the usual suspects when you can’t finish your story.

Revision

Revising your text is hell sometimes. It will never be exciting, but you don’t need to make it harder than it should be. It is not supposed to destroy your story. If you’re feeling that, then stop what you’re doing! Something is wrong.

It can be the story, of course, it may have flaws, but probably you’re just being too much! Stop, take a deep breath, and start over. Then, perhaps, ask someone to read it and give an opinion. A fellow writer would be a good choice.

Now, to make sure that you’re doing it right, ask yourself: is the story getting better? Yes? Great! Then, the whole revision process, as tiring as it is, will, in the end, fulfill you with a sense of accomplishment.

One last piece of advice on this: don’t try to revise before finishing the story. That’s usually a bad idea. However, if you really feel the need to do it, then follow this simple rule: if it is to improve a point in the story, then do it. On the other hand, if it is only in your way, keeping you from writing the rest of the story, stop yourself and keep writing.

Planning

Some authors plan their stories as they go, while others are careful planners. The last ones take a long time to decide on every detail before they start writing. Both methods are correct, but you can’t use both. At least, not at the same time.

You need to know what kind of writer you are. If you’re a planner, you’ll get stuck with no plan. If you’re not, planning will be boring, and you’ll feel like losing time. Eventually, you’ll lose all interest in your story.

There is no right and wrong; it is a matter of preference. Find out how you work better. Try both if you don’t know yet, maybe with a short story first, so you don’t lose so much time.

Old Writing

Many of us have a lot of old writing lying around. Journal entries, ideas with no context, scenes without a story, story beginnings, and so many other pieces of writing. Something that made sense to us at the time but was left aside.

Does this mean you were stuck? What to do with it? It depends! You can do nothing. If they stopped making sense, why do you have to do anything about it?

If there is an idea that still makes sense and you want to, then pick it up, read it and start writing again. You can start where you stopped. You can rewrite everything, change some things… It is up to you. Your creativity is endless! Besides, even if you end up with nothing, it is worth it. Experience and practice is the only way to improve your writing.

How to overcome?

What drives you is motivation. It is what makes you start a story, and the lack of it makes you stop writing. Take a moment to remember your motivation. What led you to write that story in the first place? Why did you want to write it?

The best way to overcome your procrastination or lack of motivation is to move on. There is something at that point that you don’t like, it is okay; keep writing. Later you can go back and find a better solution. If there isn’t a significant hole in the plot, it won’t be a problem.

Keep in mind: writing should be fun. If it’s not, then stop and find out why.

Less Pressure, Better Writing – my personal experience

“Less Pressure, Better Writing.” Sounds obvious, right? But who among us can say that you practice what you preach? Not many, I’m sure.

When you’re trying to be a writer (or any other profession for what matters), you put additional pressure on your shoulders. Besides the obvious one that you have to provide for yourself and your family. The bills can’t wait for you to be a renamed author, and you start to feel ‘the pressure of real life’. The anxiety grows inside you while the blank page in front of you… remains blank.

Today, I’m not giving you any advice, nor trying to tell you what you should do or how to deal with any problems. Instead, I just want to share a bit of my own recent story.

Keep trying

I am one of the few fortunate people who have someone by my side, always motivating me. Motivates me to believe in myself and fight as much as possible to get what I want. So, one day I quit my job and came home to write. All-day.

The first months were amazingly productive. So many things in my head to put down on paper! But that feeling of accomplishment slowly vanished. Other problems became more relevant – and an obstacle to writing. Writing is not a very well-paid job (if it is paid at all), and small children (I have one of those) don’t give us much time either. So, a decision had to be made.

I wasn’t sure of what I should do. I definitively needed to find a job, but when would I write? With a full-time job and my baby girl and all other responsibilities in life I couldn’t ignore, I would be forced to give up. Or so I believed.

Made it a pleasure, not a job

Then I was confronted with a sweet reality. Do not have the obligation of writing made me more relaxed regarding it. That allowed me to write more than I thought. Those 5 minutes between finishing my job and picking my baby at school are somehow more productive than an entire hour sitting in front of the PC with the single purpose of writing.

I don’t force myself to write and still write every day. This might not be the path to be a successful writer, but it brought back to me the true joy of writing. In my case, that’s what I needed.

Just be… a writer

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not trying to give you any advice or tell you how to behave. I wanted to share this to let you know that there is hope.

I now have a job as a writer (content marketing writing) that I love, aside from having my own projects. I’m a writer not because of my job but because I write, regardless the results of my writing. Things are not always perfect, but feeling good… is priceless.

Revising: is it not done yet?

After the most intensive – and exciting – creative work, other steps follow. Unfortunately, for most writers, they aren’t that fun.

Revising is a significant one, and many times it becomes harder than it has to be. Why? Due to the lack of organization.

Planning from day 1

After months (sometimes years) of hard writing work, many writers end up with a messy first draft. This happens because of the lack of planning. For many authors, the creative flow is too important, so they write freely without much care. This is one way of doing it, but it will make it much harder to revise your work later.

If you plan the story, it will be a lot much easier to work on it. Then, you go through all the plans you made again. Check for inconsistencies or whatever you don’t like and want to change.

There is still time

If you are in the middle of the writing process and don’t have a plan, you must take a step back and create one now. Sounds strange? Well, I can guarantee you that it will really help you out.

Start by writing down the structure of your novel in a simple global way to access it quickly. Then, step by step, add more details until you have a general vision of your book. Once you have it, you’ll catch the first ‘mistakes’ or things you don’t like that much.

After you have an idea of what needs to be changed, make a copy of your draft (so you can go back if you want) and start working on this second copy.

Repeat the whole process until you’re totally satisfied with your novel. No matter if that means doing this 2 times or 20! Try to enjoy the process, and it will be easier than you think.

Making your life easier

Writing, revising, editing – it is hard work. But, as a writer, you can’t always afford to lose time, so good planning is vital to improve your process.

You can easily get lost among the 300 or 500 pages of your novel. An obvious structure with the most significant happenings of the story organized is of great help to ease your work.

Without good revising, you have a draft, not a novel.

Three-Act Story: is it too rigid for me?

Many authors work with a 3-act story structure when writing a novel. It’s a formula, like any other. Yet, some authors find it a bit too rigid. They believe it can eventually break the creative wave.

Each author should find what works best for them, and for that, you need to know the formula and its implications.

What’s the 3-act story?

The 3-act story is a somewhat rigid structure, which you may find a bit restrictive. From the moment you decide to work with it, you can’t deviate much. It has some predictability and, as many authors work with it, your readers expect a few “rules”. If you avoid them, they’ll feel like something is wrong with your story.

Therefore, you have 3 acts to work with, and each of them must have a disaster. The first act is around 25% of the book, and it ends with a first disaster. The second one is the biggest, approximately 50% of your novel. At the end of the first half of this act, you have a new disaster. It must cause your character the need to evaluate its choices. The final act is about the final confrontation – 3rd disaster. It will end with the victory or defeat of your character (or a bit of both sometimes).

The disasters

After reading the previous paragraphs, you might be thinking, “Wait, a novel can have more than three disasters.” Well, that’s true, but the ones we’re referring to here are special and have precise rules.

Each one of the disasters must be thought of and executed very carefully. They must mark a psychological turning point for your character. They must have the kind of impact that might change everything.

Create some empathy, and make them stay

Each one of these disasters has a goal, and you can’t forget it. The goal is to make the reader care about the character. That’s why it is so important, especially initially, to create some empathy with the readers.

Take time to build a character that they will care about. This way, they will be concerned about each disaster and… will keep reading!

Writing is a (good) mess

There are many myths about writing – mostly formulated by non-writers – that make beginners feeling there is something wrong with them. Many people think that writing a novel is all about having a moment of inspiration, and then it’s just sit down and write it from the beginning to the end.

This leads most of young writers and aspirants to think that if they are writing and facing problems, they (or their story) aren’t good enough.

No problems, no story

Let me tell you this: that idea is very far from the truth. Facing problems and solve them is a natural part of the process. If you write a full novel without facing any problem… Well, you’ll probably want to look at it again, because that’s very odd.

It can be something in the plot, a character that doesn’t seem that real, or some technical imprecisions with any detail. There is always something that can’t work as we thought.

Our imagination works faster than our logical thinking. Said so, the most normal is for you to have to deal with a few loose ends.

And why not?

As frustrating as it can be, the truth is that there is no point in doing it on the first try. Your readers will have no idea how many drafts you made or how hard it was the whole process. All that matters is the final version. The one that gets to the bookshelves. And between the first draft and that version, there is a lot of messy work.

You’ll find a tremendous amount of problems to solve (with characters, style, rhythm, the conflict itself). So many different things can be a problem in your novel. And of course, your personal life will not stop because you’re trying to write a book, right? For example, in my case, my daughter doesn’t stop being four years old and behaving as such, because it would help me.

You must imagine good, vivid, exciting scenes and then put them into words – beautiful and interesting ones. This can’t be done in one try! You’ll write and rewrite most of your scenes several times. You go back and forward in your story dozens of times. Many projects will be abandoned, and even more, will arise.

You’ll read hundreds of stories from other writers to analyze them and learn from them. And let me tell you, most of the time, you’ll get desperate, thinking that you’ll never be able to write like them.

Just do it again!

You face so many problems, so many issues in the process of writing, that no one could ever imagine! The only thing to do is to keep going. Keep trying. Write it again. Change everything and start over if you need to.

Writing is a long, somewhat complicated process that can drive you crazy sometimes. Yet, there are good news! You can do it and undo it as many times as you need, and no one needs to know about it.

Novels or Short stories?

Should I write short stories or novels? Many beginning writers have this question on their minds. Mostly, this is because many people believe that short stories are for beginners and novels for professionals as if the novels are the “real thing”.

Wrong.

There isn’t a strict rule about how or what you should write. The most important thing for you to know is what each one of those things means, in practice.

Short stories

Short stories are, without a doubt, the easiest way to experiment with your writing. You can easily try different things, grow your personal voice and develop your own writing techniques, without losing too much time on each of those.

This is good for any author! You can be a best-seller, acclaimed writer and even so, find yourself wanting to experiment and try out new things. So what? It’s important for development, finding your way through a new genre, creating good characters, and so many other things that will improve your writing prowess.

Novels

Writing a novel is a completely different experience. It demands lots of time, focus, and commitment from you.

Differently from the short story, you don’t know everything from the beginning, it’s more-so an open work where things will be changing on occasion, even whilst you’re writing. It’s also very good for practice, it just takes a lot more time than a short-story, which can sometimes mean a whole lot of frustration if things end up not exactly as you had envisioned or don’t have the expected outcome.

 

 

It happens to any writer, having an idea yet not knowing if we should write and develop it as a novel or a short story. Let me tell you: it doesn’t matter. Start writing, organizing your ideas and you’ll sooner than you realize, know which way you want to take it.

The most important rule is to read. If you want to be a good writer, you must read, a lot. A whole lot. And if you already know the genre you’d like to write in, choose stories or novels in that genre. Learn as must as you can and let your creativity flow through your words.

What am I supposed to write?

Have you ever asked yourself if you should write about something or if it is a bad idea? That’s probably one of the major unanswered questions of every writer.

It’s complicated to decide on what you should write and how to go about it. If sometimes you have some sort of inspiration, at other times, you might sit down in front of your computer (or any kind of blank page) and have no clue as to how to fill it up.

There is no simple answer to this question though. I guess it doesn’t really matter, since you need to keep in mind your particular audience and its characteristics or traits.

Genres

Each genre has a specific type of audience, that’s a fact. But, even more importantly, each genre tends to elicit some specific reaction out of its readers. Someone will choose your book by the feelings they believe they’ll achieve with it and that’s, for the most part, determined by the genre. So, you must know, really understand, the genre you choose and what people seek within books in that genre. Then proceed to write accordingly.

The story means what the reader wants it to mean

No matter what the story means to you, the reader will give it a significance of his own and you should take this into consideration. He or she will feel the story according to his or her life experiences and their own particular vision of the world.

Don’t worry. This is often a good thing! Your readers and their emotions will turn your words into something lively, filled with deeper meaning.

What should my major concerns be?

As was said before, the genre you write in makes all the difference, yet, there are some points you can take into consideration.

Characters should be deep and raise or elicit some feelings in your readers. Most of the readers want to feel as though the character could be a friend of theirs. So, it must be somehow realistic, making them feel like that particular character is indeed alive.

You should promote curiosity. The best book is the one you can’t seem to put down. Try to provoke that kind of situation within your story. Make your readers curious enough to the point they want, or even feel a need, to know what happens in the next page.

They often want to feel. Be attentive in your descriptions with the characters feelings and write it down filled with little details, so your readers can feel along with them. When reading a book, people like to be immersed in a new reality. You must make that worth it.

 

A book has within it something magical. The imagination is unique and when shared with other people it can give you something wonderful. Use it in your favor and attract your audience through something wild or unexpected.

Characters also need a soul – 5 tips to write interesting characters

When you’re imagining a story, creating the characters for it is just another part of the job. It’s almost automatic, the way they get into your mind, showing you what they look like, how they think, yet, putting those things down on paper isn’t always as obvious or easy to do.

I’m not talking about poor writing skills here, no. They can be well written and yet, not appear interesting at all or straight up unappealing. So, what can you do?

1. No stereotypes

Stereotyped characters aren’t surprising or intriguing. If you want to write one, you should have a specific goal to accomplish with it, and, even so, you can make your character much more interesting by adding some characteristics that run against that stereotype. It grants something new to the story and your readers will like it.

2. Everyone has a secret

A big nasty secret is a hand full of great scenes for a novel or short story. Give your character a secret, something that he or she tries to hide and do not fully open it up to your readers. Let them strain and test themselves while trying to guess at what it is. They’ll become that much more invested in it…

3. You know those kinds of things you can’t do? He can!

In the world of fiction, everything is possible. In real world we constantly deal with desires and impulses we must control, but in fiction, your character can in fact do it all. Being impulsive and doing unexpected things will actually make him even more interesting. If your character acts on what your readers must try to keep under control, they will keep focus on your story.

4. Action!

A passive character is boring. Let’s face it, we all like to read about that person who does things, changes their life, or the people they love. The person who take the reins of their lives. Let your character be one such person. That will get people invested in them.

5. They need to make sense

Doesn’t matter how crazy your character is, there must be reasons for his or her actions, other than pure craze or randomness. Your character should have values and beliefs that guide their actions. It will make the character itself deeper, more profound and human, and it will help lead the readers towards empathizing with him (or her).

How long should my story be?

After finishing your stories, how many times do you find yourself wondering if it’s too long? Perhaps you instead wonder if it might be too short? This is something that bothers a lot of writers and keeps on raising many a doubt. Technically speaking, and in order to be practical, a story should not have more than 30 000 words (or it would most likely be a novel), and in fact, a really long story might make it harder for you to get it published. Actually, ultra-short stories are currently very popular and you’ll find many a magazine where you might be able to publish them.

But the truth remains as such: there is no ideal size for a story. You’re not selling fabric! However, there are some tips you should indeed keep in mind:

1. There is no story without conflict
A story isn’t finished without solving the conflict, so, forget how many pages you’ve already written and focus yourself on these points: contextualize your story, develop your characters, present a conflict and solve/resolve it.
Don’t be afraid to write a short story, that turns out, in the end, to be a very long one. You’ll find the time to improve it, most likely afterwards and cut out all of the stuff that doesn’t really matter, but first, you’ll need to develop it as much as you can in order to make it good.

2. If it is boring as is, it’s too long
Again, forget the number of pages. If the story seems boring, it’s already too much. A good story will make you lose track of time, not have you looking at your watch every two minutes. IF it’s not interesting, put it aside.

3. Too much ‘blablabla’
Never write something just so you can fill a page. Write freely while you’re building the story, but in the end read through it again and evaluate each sentence and idea. Were they necessary? Do they bring something new, important or really beautiful to your narrative? If you think something does, keep it, otherwise cut it out or rid the work of it.

4. Emotional experience
Each reader looks for something different from a story he or she chooses to read, although, if a person chooses to read fiction, it’s likely that they seek some kind of emotional experience. Your story needs to make the readers feel something.

5. Why choose this story among thousands?
Let’s face it: people do not have time to spare these days. Most of us are always running about, so if you want someone to stop and read your story, it must be worth it. Confused? Just read it critically and find out if your ideas, sentences, every single detail of it is good enough for a reader. Think of your story as a sort of reward for your reader, who is tired from another long day at work, and just wants to relax and feel all sorts of emotions.