On Writing Memorable (Minor) Characters

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Everyone is the center of their own universe. Really, think about that for a moment. Each of us have our own lives, families, friends, memories, dreams and fears. We all have regrets and joys, disappointments and celebrations.

And your characters are no different, or at least, they shouldn't be.

It seems like a no-brainer, especially when we're writing our main characters— most of are aware that we need to know their fears and dreams and all the little intricacies that bring them to life.

But what about our less important characters? I don't mean the second lead here, I mean the bell boys and bus drivers and bartenders that populate your world. Writing them tends to be a secondary thing— characters that arise out of necessity and convenience rather than careful planning and development.

But even our least important characters have their own personality, experiences and lives and if you aren't utilizing it, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.

Writing less important characters doesn't have to be boring— in fact if it is boring, you probably have a flat character on your hands that needs some revising. Let's take a quick look at a hypothetical example. Say you're writing a scene in which your male MC (Mike) and female secondary (Sara) are going to have a conversation at a bar downtown, so naturally you need a bartender. In your first round of writing you slap down Bartender A.

Bartender A is named Greg. He's butch and bald and over-muscled and smells like beer. He grunts when Mike orders his drink and hands his order over silently. Your characters have their conversation and are able to ignore Bartender A easily.

It could work. But it's boring. Let's try Bartender B.

Bartender B is named Rachel. She's young and pretty and smiles at Mike when he orders his drink and even flirts back a little when he says something flirtatious, which makes Sara jealous. A little better, but still stereotypical.

Bartender C is named Holland. She's in her late twenties and relatively attractive, but hides behind her rectangle glasses, stutters a little and ignores Mike when he says something flirtatious. She interrupts their conversation to ask Sara if she'd like a refill frequently but never asks Mike.

Then she leaves Sara her number.

We could go on and on with various bartenders, but I think out of the three we know which one is going to leave the biggest impression.

Every character you write has their own motivations, fears and desires and provides an opportunity be memorable. Are you using your minor characters to their fullest potential?

Who are your favorite minor characters? What made them your favorite?

How to Be Awesome on Twitter

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I was originally going to write a post about why writers need to be on Twitter, but I basically covered that in my Social Media for Writers post, and the vast majority of you reading this are already on Twitter. So.

Instead, since I know we all secretly want to be awesome on Twitter (it can't be just me, right?), this post was birthed.

Being awesome on Twitter is actually much easier than it sounds. It basically revolves around the idea that we're all here to support each other and share interesting things with our epically amazing followers (like mine). It also revolves around the idea that spam is spawn of the devil and must be destroyed with the spam gun of doom.

Some awesome things to do on Twitter:

1. Re-tweet things. You'd think this goes without saying, but if you see something interesting or you simply want to help your fellow writers (or other talented Twitter buddies), you need to re-tweet things. Not only does re-tweeting bring awesome content to your followers, but it's a way of saying hey I like what you said there, keep being awesome.

2. Be friendly. I've heard it said that Twitter is like an enormous cocktail party where everyone walks around schmoozing with each other and butting into random conversations and speaking in a fancy accent with their pinky fingers sticking up as they hold their crystal wine glasses (ok, so maybe only that first part). 

Point is, if Twitter is like a giant party, the only way people will notice (and remember) you is if you speak up and say hi. Make a point to welcome your new followers. Show them they're appreciated. Chat with your tweeples and make connections. That's what social media is all about.

3. Be yourself. I know I say this all the time, but believe it or not, this also applies to Twitter. If you want to tweet about random sugary deliciousness or throw virtual confetti everywhere for no apparent reason or pass out random virtual hugs or squee just for the sake of squeeing, by all means, go for it. Don't be afraid to be ridiculous— I once posted "Do you know the muffin man?" and got something like five responses in five minutes. True story. Randomness is totally acceptable (and awesome) on Twitter.

4. Be positive. People like positivity, period. Even if you're feeling crummy, I suggest trying to tweet positively— you might be surprised to find just how quickly it'll change your outlook. Otherwise, remember that rule you learned in kindergarten? If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Some NOT awesome things you definitely SHOULDN'T do on Twitter:

1. Spam. Being the person that I am, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and say that many times they don't realize they're spamming, so let me give some examples:

Tweeting (or DMing) someone a link they didn't ask for = SPAM.

Tweeting (or DMing) someone a link to your blog when they didn't ask for it = SPAM.

Tweeting (or DMing) someone you just followed with HI FOLLOW ME PLEASE = SPAM.

Moral of the story, be careful what you tweet, because no one likes a spammer.

2. Whine or Rant. I understand some ranting. The occasional rant can be understandable— even amusing at times. But if you flood the timeline with a really long rant or going on and on about your terrible day, well...chances are you're going to lose some followers. Most people can empathize with an occasional rant, but don't make a habit of it.

3. SCREAM CONSTANTLY. I understand an occasional loud tweet. Even I have on more than one occasional overused the caps lock because I was rather excited and throwing confetti everywhere or prancing around Twitter and giving out hugs. There's nothing wrong with that.


I didn't think so.

So that wraps up my tips. What tips do you have for being awesome on Twitter?

Inspiration is Everywhere

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in." –Ricky Fitts, American Beauty

It occurred to me not that long ago, that I've been taking something for granted. Something huge, that I'd forgotten and been too caught up with life to notice.

We live in a truly beautiful world.

Photo credit: darkrigel on Flickr

Seriously, we do! It doesn't matter where you live, if you really pay attention to your surroundings, I think you'll also find that there's beauty all around us— not just beauty, but inspiration waiting to be noticed. And we writers could always use a little extra dose of inspiration.

As writers, we need to learn to be alert and aware of our surroundings at all times— we need to be observers so that we can pick up on the little moments that most may miss, but could be the inspiration that starts your next novel. We need to be on the lookout for beauty.

In this case, I don't mean the conventional definition for beauty— I mean anything that could turn into inspiration.

Beauty is a rainy night and when the fog sits over the road and blankets the base of the trees around you and it's just moody enough to sit on eerie.

Beauty is a piece of broken glass on the street that's catching the sun just right.

Beauty is a new parent looking at their newborn for the first time.

Beauty is the morning after the first snowfall, when everything is perfectly pristine and white and quiet.

Beauty is an abandoned warehouse consumed by the Earth around it.

Beauty— inspiration for our writing— it's everywhere. We just need to become aware of it so we can see it.
Interestingly, I stumbled (or tumbled, I should say) across this video after writing this post. It’s a wonderful example of our majestic world and if you have the time, I highly recommend you watch a few minutes of it. Enjoy!

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

On Giving Thanks

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It’s Thankgiving in the States tomorrow, so a lot of people remember to be thankful this time of year as it’s the focus of the holiday (besides too much turkey and stuffing and delicious desserts and all of those goodies), but I think it’s important that we remember to give thanks year round.

You see, Thanksgiving reminds us to have a positive attitudeto focus on the things that we do have, on the wonderful events and surprises and achievements we’ve had this year and forget about the bad. It’s a day when we’re permitted to forget about the stress and rainy-less-thank-wonderful-days and overstuff ourselves with turkey while sharing smiles and stories about what has made this year wonderful.

But really, it’s got me thinking this year—why wait until Thanksgiving to give thanks?

Maybe instead of waiting until turkey day, we should take the time to be thankful about something every day. I think we might be surprised what the change in our outlook could do for us.

So I’m aware it’s not New Years (yet) and now’s not the time to be making resolutions, but I’m going to make a point of trying to be more thankful. Even if it’s just something small in our lives—like a sunny day or a beautiful sunset, I think we could all find one thing to be thankful about daily.

And you never know—a positive start to the day might make the rest of the day feel that much better.

So what am I thankful for?

I’m thankful for the quiet—the soft morning moments when I can sit and write and everything is just so still and wonderful and the birds are calling outside and I just slip into the zone and spill virtual ink all over the page.

I’m thankful for the Creator, because regardless of what you believe, we live in a beautiful world with incredible people and no it’s not perfect but wow, some days you just step outside and the sun is rising just right and the air is crisp and cool and it feels as if every leaf was placed intentionally and it’s just incredible.

I’m thankful for my family, my friends, my real life supporters who put up with my eccentricities and get excited for me even when they have no idea what I’m so happy about.

And finally, I’m thankful for you, my readers. You guys are my support group, the ones who keep me writing even when I don’t think I’ll be able to manage, the ones who make me smile and remind me why this whole blogging thing is worth it. I never imagined this blog would get half the attention it has, and none of it would be possible without you. You guys have no idea how much you impact my day with your comments and smiles and for that I thank you.

You’re amazing and wonderful. Don’t ever stop being you.

Thank you.

I’m aware that not everyone reading this is celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, but regardless—what are YOU thankful for? 

Guest Post: The Secret Ingredient to a Successful Blog

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Very exciting news, everyone! Are you ready?

I have another guest post! And it's on the amazing ProBlogger again! If you read it and let me know what you think, not only will you make me a very happy person, but you'll also find out what the super-secret ingredient to a successful blog is, and I know you're all dying to hear what it is.

So! Check out the post and let me know what you think! Then you can come back and look at the sparkly picture of fireworks because fireworks are awesome.

Have a wonderful day!

Book Review: Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Photo credit: Moi
So as many of you know, I’m a big Ted Dekker fan. I’ve read every one (with one exception) of his 31 novels and I pre-order them often before I’ve really heard much about it, because over the course of thirty novels and few disappointments, he’s earned my trust as a reader.

Forbidden was no exception.

The summary from Goodreads is as follows:

“A terrible truth has been revealed to one man: the entire human race has been drained of every emotion except one— fear. To bring life back to the world, Rom must embark on a journey that will end either in his own demise or a reawakening of humanity. But to bring love and passion back into existence will also threaten the powers of the world with the revolution and anarchy that had nearly destroyed them previously.

After happening upon a journal through strange circumstance, Rom's world is shattered. He learns that humanity long ago ceased to ‘live,’ that it exists today in a living death of emotions. In a terrible risk, Rom exposes himself to the vial of blood folded into the old leather of the journal. His change is fearful and fraught with mind-bending emotion. A once-pious observer of the Order's passionless statues, he is filled with uncontrollable impulses. He is filled with love.

He is undone, terrified, and alone in the desolate world.”

So the whole premise of Forbidden is pretty different from anything I’ve ever read before—the idea of a world with only fear as an emotion is a pretty bleak one and it brings about some interesting complications.

I can’t speak for Lee’s other books as I haven’t read any, but compared to other Dekker novels, Forbidden starts off a little slower—it takes some time to build up Rom’s world and get you fully immersed. There are a lot of questions that need answering right away (Why doesn’t anyone have emotions other than fear? What is this world like? What is the Order?), so although Rom’s journey starts right away, many of the first chapters at first are primarily focused on world building. It’s certainly not a bad thing, but it didn’t grip me as quickly as some of Dekker’s previous novels have.

Once you get into the meat of the story, however, things start to get interesting. Between a wicked antagonist, a throne up for grabs, murder in a world where killing is unheard of, dungeons and experiments gone wrong, Forbidden certainly has plenty to keep you interested throughout the book.

Unsurprisingly, Forbidden has many fantasy-like archetypes—a prophecy and an arcane group of “keepers” in charge of certain secrets, among others—as well as a few pretty transparent spiritual themes which, although they didn’t bother me, were noticed. To me, some of the prose read a little over-the-top emotionally, but as the characters are feeling the full spectrum of emotion for the first time in their lives, it was understandable and it didn’t detract from the overall story.

In short: Forbidden was an enjoyable read that I would recommend to those who like fantasy (as although it does have a dystopian background, it read more like a fantasy novel to me). Although it’s not my favorite Ted Dekker book to date, I’m still looking forward to the sequel Mortal, which is expected to be published next June. 

So there you have it! What books are you reading right now? Any recommendations? 

Why Writers Must Read

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”—Stephen King
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Long before I knew I was a writer, I was an avid reader. I was that kid in school who sat in class with a book on her lap and had her nose between pages during lunch.

So it always amazed me when someone would tell me they didn’t like to read. Even in elementary school, I gaped at peers who said reading was boring—I didn’t understand them. How could reading be boring? There’s a book for everyone out there, surely you could find something that interested you.

Most of us that enjoy reading will say books are an escape—a chance to slip into someone else’s life, someone else’s world and go on an adventure with them. A good book will make you laugh and cry and feel as though you’re right there with the characters, like the real world is the one within the pages, not the one around you.

For writers, though, reading is even more important than that.

You see, there are only two ways for artists to improve their craft—practice and study the work of other artists. For writers, that means you improve by writing and reading.

But there has to be a balance. You can only improve so much if all you ever do is write—without studying published books out there, you can’t learn about what works or doesn’t work. You aren’t exposing yourself to other voices, other styles, other plots and characters and worlds that would in turn influence your writing. Without reading fresh material, your writing will plateau and it doesn’t matter how much practice you put in, you will stop improving.

On the flip side, if all you ever do is read without putting your pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), you will learn plenty about craft and styles and voices, but without applying them yourself and putting in on paper, you can’t start your journey as a writer.

Writers need to write and read all the time. Read good books, bad books, popular books, obscure books, classics and trashy novels and whatever catches your eye because there is something to be learned from any book that sits on the shelf—even those you despise. Then, when you’re done reading, you need to sit down and write.

In short, reading gives us the tools to write. Writing without reading is like trying to build a sculpture without clay, or create a painting without paint. Reading isn’t just a hobby for writers—it’s a necessity.

Don’t have the time to read? Make time. Like writing, even five minutes a day of reading is better than nothing, and if you’re serious about improving your craft, then it’s not really an option.

How important do YOU think reading is for a writer? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Reading isn't just a hobby for writers—it's a necessity. (Click to tweet)
Don't have the time to read? Make time. If you're serious about becoming a writer, it's not an option. (Click to tweet

Klout: Why I Stopped Caring About My Score

Three months ago, I never would have thought that I was going to write this post.

I checked my Klout score every day, then— I wasn’t obsessed with it or anything, but I liked to see how what I did or didn’t do affected my score. For the most part I watched it rise (I went from low 40s in May to 60 by August), and it was fun to give people +K and watch my Klout topics grow and change.

It was a service I enjoyed, so I checked in on it.

For those of you who don’t know, Klout is a service that measures your online influence across various social media sites and gives you a score of 1-100. The average Klout score is pretty low, so a 50 or 60 is a pretty decent score and anything above 70 is considered very good. For a better explanation of how they determine your score, you can check out their explanation page .

So when they announced they were going to update the way they measured influence about a month or so ago, I thought it might mess with my score, but I didn't worry about it much. If it dropped a few points, I'd survive. Big deal.

The Klout update was released. My score dropped from a near 61 to 54. Ouch.

I tried not to worry too much about it. I figured with some time I'd be able to recover and it wouldn't be a big deal. I continued to use my social media sites like I always did and waited for it to climb back up.

It didn't—in fact, my score continued to drop. Even when I got a lot of retweets on Twitter, my influence across social media continued it's rather ungraceful nosedive.

Or did it?

I hadn't changed much. Sure I wasn't on Twitter as often as before, but I was still sharing the same content and keeping up with my blog and tumbling just about everything I thought was interesting. My following on different social media sites continued to grow, Klout or no Klout. Did my score really affect my influence online?

Honestly? I don't think it did.

True, my Klout score was dropping, which would indicate that my influence in the social media sphere was dropping, but the responses from my readers and Twitter/tumblr followers didn't seem to match my dropping score. It occurred to me that I was putting too much weight on my Klout score.

Is Klout a useful service? I think it is, especially those involved in businesses where social media influence is a big deal. But it stopped becoming useful to me when I started worrying about my nosediving score that didn't seem to change no matter what I tried, rather than what my reception was online. What could have been a useful measurement became instead (to me) a source of stress.

So I stopped caring.

Will I check my influence online via Klout in the future? Maybe. But as long as my readers and followers like you guys keep being awesome, I'm perfectly happy with whatever influence I have.

Do you watch your Klout score? Am I the only one who stressed out about it?

Character Beauty in Imperfection

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Not too long ago, I wrote a post on what makes a character beautiful. While I talked about inner versus outer beauty then, today I want to talk about another aspect of the equation.


The most memorable characters to me (and I suspect I’m not the only one), by and large are the ones with imperfections. The ones who make mistakes, who battle inner demons as well as evil antagonists, who fight a war inside themselves that reflects the war going on around them. My favorite characters are conflicted people doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, and the choices they make are often a far cry from perfection.

And that’s the way it should be.

When you think about it, imperfect characters are something many of the most popular books have in common:

The Hunger Games—Katniss is known for being a strong female lead, but sometimes she’s too strong. In the first book she has difficulty getting sponsors (which are necessary for survival) to like her because, frankly, she’s not a particularly likable person. Imperfection. Depth.

Harry Potter—Even if you haven’t read Harry Potter, you probably know Harry is far from perfect. He makes plenty of mistakes (some with dire consequences), he’s often a jerk to his friends and it takes him the course of seven books to realize that he doesn’t need to fight his battles alone. Imperfection. Depth.

Imperfect characters resonate with readers because they’re realistic—just as no one is perfect in real life, no characters should be perfect on the page. Imperfections, to me, are beautiful—they’re the nuances that make our characters unique, the flaws that make them real, the conflicts that make us believe these are real people in real situations.

Imperfections add a powerful layer of depth to our characters—are you utilizing them?

Think about your favorite characters—were they imperfect? What about them draw you to them? What other examples of imperfect characters can you think of?

Tumblr for Writers

I while back I wrote a post about social media for writers. At the time I was pretty new to the wonders of tumblr, so I gave a brief summary of how it could be useful for writers.

Now that I'm more acquainted with the magic of tumblr, I can tell you that not only is it a fantastic resource for writers, but if you haven't tried it out, you should.

What is tumblr?

Tumblr is a social media site where people can share anything and everything from text, pictures, videos, music files, links... you name it, there's probably a way to share it on tumblr.

Why is tumblr useful for writers?

Besides being another social media time-suck (which, as addicting as it is, doesn't fall under the category of "useful"), tumblr is chock full of inspiration. You can find anything from full-length blog posts, to poems, awe-inspiring pictures, music and links, to great sites all on this one fantastic social media resource.

How does it work?

Once you've made an account (which, like most social media sites, is free), you create a blog. Your blog is basically the page where everything you share will show up, and it'll look a little like this. The style you end up with will depend on what template you choose (there are many different free options), but they all work basically the same way.

If you have a Twitter, I highly recommend linking your Twitter account to your new tumblr. I've had quite a few Twitter followers really enjoy what I tweet out from tumblr, so not only is it a great way to share your finds with your Twitter friends, but I've found I get quite a few retweets of my tumblr goodies. Win-win.

After your blog is set up, it's time for you to start following people. For writers, I recommend Quote Book , Better Book Titles , PrettyBooks , The Final Sentence and Teaching Literacy (you could also follow me , you know, if you want to).

Are you following people? Greatnow it's time for you to reblog.

For my Twitter users, reblogging is the tumblr equivalent of retweeting. Once you see something you like, you hit reblog and it'll show up on your blog and allow anyone who follows you (as well as your Twitter followers) to see it.


This last point is something I didn't take advantage of right away, because I didn't realize quite how they work. If you're familiar with Twitter hashtags, tags on tumblr work nearly the same way. Anything you post (or reblog) can be tagged with a few words of your choosing. Once you tag them, they will show up in a stream with other posts tagged with the same word. For example, a post tagged with "NaNoWriMo" will show up if someone searches "NaNoWriMo" in the tumblr search bar, just like Twitter.

Tags allow you to give your posts a little extra exposure, so you can share them not only with people that follow you, but others who check out those tag threads--definitely something you should take advantage of.

So that about covers my tumblr summary. Although it's not for everyone (no social media site is), I've really grown to love tumblr as a writer, and I think you could, too.

Have you ever tried tumblr? What are some of your favorite tumblr follows?

Why First Draft Writing Sucks

 "I'm increasingly convinced that while no great book can be written in a month, no great book can be written in a first draft no matter how long it takes you to write it." – John Green

Photo credit: Truthout.org on Flickr
With NaNoWriMo in full swing, a lot of you are writing first drafts. 

Getting the first draft down is, in many ways, the best and worst part of writing.

Most writers love getting the first draft down for many reasons— the discovery for example, of a new world, of new characters and situations and creating a universe that until that moment didn't exist is mesmerizing. Or that moment when you really get in the zone and the writing just flows— incredible.

But writers often hate writing the first draft, too— it just depends what day you ask them, because writing a first draft is hard. Sometimes you get stuck and getting even a single word out is about as painful as repeatedly watching a Teletubbies episode with your eyes taped open.

Then there's the moment when you realize everything you've written sucks. Sometimes it hits you half-way through, sometimes before that and sometimes after you've completed the whole thing— but most writers will reach a point where it occurs to them that this sparkly first draft isn't so sparkly after all. It sounded great in your head— why doesn't it feel like it on the page?

Truth is guys, writing the first draft is hard, and oftentimes it doesn't come out anything like the way you imagined. Your first draft can feel like a disappointment, like you've somehow let yourself (and your future readers) down by writing this terrible drivel and calling it a novel. Sometimes the doubt and disappointment is so intense that writers feel like giving up.

Don't do it.

Guess what? 9/10 times your first draft is going to suck. What's worse is that feeling isn't going to go away— it doesn't matter if it's your first novel or your fifth, writers are notoriously unhappy with their first drafts.

Don't believe me? That John Green quote up there comes from this amusing and informative video on NaNoWriMo— you should check it out:

In case you don't watch it though, he makes another great point about writing first drafts:

"…if you want to think about it like sculpture, writing a first draft is like digging the clay out of the ground and revision is when you actually use the clay to like, build something that you like."

And my last gem from the video:

"What NaNoWriMo does for writers young and old, is give us permission to suck. So NaNoWriMo forces you to be disciplined and it gives you permission to suck, which are two of the things you most need if you're going to be a novelist."

So yes, first draft writing often sucks, especially when we can't stand what we've written so far, but guess what? It's ok, in fact, it's even to be expected.

And John Green isn’t the only one who thinks so—Tahereh Mafi posted a while ago about not being afraid to write a bad book.

If writing is hard, then writing the first draft is excruciatingly difficult— but don't worry about writing poorly. Right now you're just digging up the clay. The masterpiece will emerge in revision.

First draft writing is pretty big right now with NaNoWriMo— tell us your first draft writing experience (past or present). What do you love and hate about getting the first draft down?

How to Write Quickly

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Since it’s November and something like 90% of my readers and Twitter followers are doing NaNoWriMo, I thought it appropriate to talk about how to write quickly. But first, a caveat.

Writing quickly doesn’t often equate to writing well—and depending on what your goal is, that’s ok. Your first draft is nearly always less than gorgeous, and when you’re writing it in a month, that “nearly always” becomes…err…something like 99.953485897347% of the time (which is a totally scientifically proven number).

But the point of the first draft, especially when written during NaNoWriMo, isn’t to write something beautiful—it’s to get the essence of the story down on paper. And when you’re trying to get 50,000 words in a month, doing so quickly is useful, to say the least.

That being said, here are some methods to get those words down on the page:

  • #wordmongeringI can’t stress enough how useful I’ve found the #wordmongering hashtag on Twitter to be. If you’d like a full explanation of what #wordmongering is and why you should be doing it, I’ve posted about it before, which is where that pretty blue link will take you. For the rest of you, #wordmongering is a thread where writers get together and start writing at the top of the hour until the :30 minute mark, then share their word counts for that thirty minute session. Something about writing in spurts keeps me from burning out faster and the people who participate in the thread are amazing, supportive people.

  • Some have asked me if #wordmongering actually works. I tell them the truth: I wrote an entire WIP in just #wordmongering sessions. So yes, I’d say it works (for me, at least).

  • Word Wars—similar to #wordmongering, but it’s basically when you get together with another writer (or two, or three, or however many), set up a time limit (15 minutes, 30, an hour, etc.) and race to write more than your peers. It works especially well for those of you who are competitive out there and it’s a fun way to boost your word count.

  • Write or Die—I’ve personally never tried this, but I know some writers who swear by Write or Die. It’s an application where you set the punishment for distractions (which can be anything from “gentle” to “kamikaze,” which I hear starts erasing words if you stop writing) and write like the wind. It’s meant to eliminate all other distractions and get you writing, then slap you on the wrist if you start daydreaming to long. Think of it as a personal writing coach.

  • The only caveat is I recently heard on Twitter about someone who encountered a glitch and hit a button and lost some words…permanently. So I’d say just be careful.

  • Don’t Look Back—this is key. If you’re trying to write quickly, you can’t afford to take the time to look back at what you’ve written so far. Writing quickly means you can’t edit yourself—what you put down you put down and you keep trekking forward without so much as glancing back. Pretend that your previous writing is the end of Sodom and Gomorrah—if you look back you’ll turn to salt (and it’s very hard to finish a novel if you’re a pillar of salt). Remember that your first draft probably isn’t going to be pretty, but it’s not supposed to be. The first time around you need a finished draft, not a polished one.

It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s November and chances are you need to get back to working on your WIP, anyway. J

What methods do you use to slap some words down quickly?

The NaNoWriMo Madness: Just Keep Writing

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So there’s this thing called NaNoWriMo and it’s kind of popular in the writing community. You might have heard of it.

Confession: technically, I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. I have written a book in a month and I’m relatively sure I’ve written at or near 50k in a month on more than one occasion, but never in the month of November. I wanted to do it this year, honestly I did, but I don’t want anything to distract me from finally finishing these WIP edits, so…next year. I hope.

But I didn’t write this post to confess my non-NaNo blasphemy, because although I’m not doing NaNo this year, I know quite a few of you are. So.

Writing a book in a month is no easy feat and I don’t mean the literal getting words down part because that, although challenging, probably won’t be the biggest obstacle you’ll face this month.

You see, we’re still at the beginning, so most of you out there are probably going pretty strong and feeling good about what you’ve put down—which is fantastic. I’ve seen some people hit 8-10k in the first two days which is just mind-blowingly awesome to me, so kudos to you amazing people out there.

But writing like this is like running at full throttle for the entire race and after a while, you’re going to start to get tired. You might miss a day, maybe two or three, then the mountain of words ahead of you will start to feel overwhelming. Or maybe it’s the idea—maybe the premise that sounded fantastic on November 1st will start to feel stale on the 15th. It happens, and for those of you who encounter it, I want to tell you not to give up.

Look, you’re not going to come out of this with a masterpiece ready for submission. It’s going to be messy and a little ugly, and some parts of it will make you want to burn the entire thing and start fresh and that’s ok.
The point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to create a work of literary genius—hell, it’s not even to get 50,000 words down in a month. The point is to write—something, anything, it doesn’t matter as long as you make the effort to get something down so that you have something you didn’t at the beginning of the month. Maybe it’ll only be the start of a novel, or an outline, or maybe it’ll be a full draft that you love or 50,000 words that you hate.

That’s not the point.

The point is that you can’t fail as long as you accomplish something. Right now, you’re digging up the clay. You’re pulling the essence of a story together and you’re doing it with a community of other writers there to help you and encourage you along the way. There is no failure here.

Some days you’re going to want to quit. Don’t do it. Keep writing, keep working, keep sweating and bleeding and getting those words down. This is what being a writer is all about, and it’s not always pretty or fun.

Some days you’re going to glance at what you have and think it’s awful. Stop looking at it and keep writing. Keep pushing forward. Don’t think about anything other than finishing the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next page.

NaNoWriMo isn’t easy because writing isn’t easy, but I believe in you. As long as you keep your head down and your fingers on the keys, you’ll come out with something to show for it.

Don’t stop writing. I’ll see you on the other side.

Raise of hands! How many of you are out there are doing NaNo this year? Let’s hear some status reports! 

What Are You Thankful For?

So Beth Revis is having a HUGENORMOUS giveaway on her blog like you would not believe. The prize is something like 19 signed YA books (including an ARC of A MILLION SUNS), plus a box of Turkish Delight, plus signed goodies and swag.

And it all goes to one very thankful person.

Besides the allure of such a huge prize, I really like her giveaway because it focuses on something we often overlook—gratitude. You see, to enter, you need to write a post about the book that you’re most thankful for.

Let me tell you, this is a lot harder than it looks. It’s like asking what your favorite book or band or anything is—so many options, how do you choose one?

Well, after much thought, I managed. Sort of.

I didn’t pick one book, per say, I picked one author. Many of you can probably guess who.

I’m thankful for Ted Dekker.

I read my first Dekker book (Showdown) shortly before I started writing. I wouldn’t say necessarily that he inspired me to write, but with over twenty novels on the shelves and growing, I always had a Dekker book to turn to throughout my writing career, and I have no doubt in my mind that his style influenced mine. I’ve learned a lot about writing from reading his novels—like how one-line paragraphs are acceptable and not every sentence has to be a grammatically correct sentence every single time.

So although he didn’t start out as my inspiration for writing, he certainly became a role model for me as I developed my craft. Not only that, but his belief system aligned with mine and I learned a lot about the power of love—real, indiscriminating love—from his novels and non-fiction works like Tea with Hezbollah. 

Then I had the amazing opportunity of meeting him in person and he completely blew me away—his passion and charisma were contagious. I walked away with a grin on my face because the author I imagined behind my favorite novels was even better in person than I expected.

So why am I thankful for Ted Dekker?

He impacted my writing, forced me to really redefine the way I look at love, and has filled my bookshelf with consistent awesomeness.  

Plenty to be thankful for, I think.

Your turn! What books or authors are you thankful for? 
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