The bells are chiming, or soon they will be, telling us 2017 is here.I've been spending the last week, planning the new year as much as time allowed. 2016 wasn't my best, so out with the old, and in with the new is this years mantra. This year my biggest goal will be to go over, and re-plan as I go, every first of the month. That's always made more sense to me than doing it all on New Years Eve.
I hope 2017 will be everything you're hoping for. While this post is on ways to keep writer's writing, it could be helpful for readers in whatever plans you might have for the new year as well. Just translate them into something that works for your own goals.
For me, the planning is always easy. Keeping to the schedule is the difficult part. This year I was sideswiped by a myriad of physical issues. My plans were to finish the current story, and work on others, nanowrimo style. I prefer to get the first draft done, but when you find yourself fighting nausea and migraines, fevers, or whatever the illness may be, a chapter or more is difficult to get through, and once your off the wagon, it isn't always easy to get back on the seat. It was about that time that a friend who had been struggling with keeping focus created a new habit
Write two-hundred words everyday, no matter what.
Two hundred words doesn't seem like much. My goal is a chapter of a first draft I'm working on, and one or more chapters of a rewrite. But on a down day, almost anyone can manage two-hundred words. It's only a few paragraphs, and it will keep you focused and moving if you press forward. It also helps establish your muse, since the more we write, the more ideas flow. So, be honest with yourself, and if you can't push through the two-thousand or more words you planned, settle for two-hundred. There is always tomorrow to make up for lost time. It can also help you press through a troubled area, where if you push forward you can get back the cadence of the story, and go back later when things come back together. One of my teachers always said "If you're stuck, press forward. You can always go back later." And while it doesn't always feel like it at the time, this is good advice.
Freewrite on a daily basis.
The same friend, gets most of his ideas by writing when he first wakes up. I'm not a morning person though, so it's the afternoon for me. Ironically, I find that I get a lot of poems this way. When you freewrite, it can be about anything. Journaling, poetry, thoughts, or even a short prompt. I love listening to instrumental music and freewriting. You never know what will come to mind. But that's actually my next point.
Make use of writer's prompts
There are prompts for the writer everywhere. Websites, magazines, newspapers, images, music; all of these things can tickles the writer's mind. I have a board for Fantasy Writer's Prompts on Pinterest. I have a blog devoted to prompts on Tumblr. It's a little behind, but should be back on track in the near future. I also have playlists on Youtube. This one is predominantly instrumental. You can look up your own inspiration at any of the places I mentioned. Just google what your looking for and put that pen to paper.
Poetry is as individual and unique as we are, and by nature it stretches our muse, making us think more deeply. It will increase your descriptive skills as well. In class we were required to write poems about inanimate objects. It was really quite interesting to describe something without ever calling out what it was, and by doing so, adding personality to it. It's also the best for developing cadence in my opinion.
Make a prompt jar for your characters
While this is a prompt, it's different than the prompts mentioned earlier, although you could use images and music to help with this. I love prompts, and when I'm not working on my manuscript, I like to be looking for ways to hone in on characterization. So I found a jar and made a list of prompts for my characters, and when I didn't feel like writing, I'd pull one. You might have your antagonist begin to fall in love with the woman he's trying to pull down, or have a character who is generally sweet, murder someone. The trick is that no matter how backwards it seems, you must make it believable. Whether you use this in your actual story is personal choice, but you will be writing, and getting deeper into your characters,
While these exercises won't always keep you working the manuscript that needs your attention, they will help keep you writing and the ideas flowing. The one thing that's certain is that the novel will not get finished if you give up. Use these as strategies to keep you moving, so you can clear the hurdles before you, and end the race with a finished shiny manuscript.
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Happy new year everyone.