Four Writing Fears, Debunked

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Seeing how it's Halloween today, I thought it appropriate to talk about fear. But as we've already discussed fears that our characters have, I'd like to discuss another aspect of fear — fears that writers often have.

At a first glance, writing doesn't seem like such a terrifying endeavor—I mean, it's not like skydiving from space, or free climbing the Eiffel Tower—but setting down the path of becoming a writer, especially a writer who writes novel-length works, is quite the commitment, and it's not often an easy journey.

That being said, here are four fears that writers often have, and why you shouldn't let them scare you.

  1. My writing will never be good enough. This isn't a fear exclusive to new writers—writers of all skill levels and experience often worry that their writing isn't any good, that whatever success they've had is a fluke, that secretly they're terrible writers that have been faking it. Writers without publishing credentials, meanwhile worry that their writing is so terrible they'll never be good enough to publish—traditionally or independently.

    This is a fear that works against you, especially if you allow it to discourage you into not writing. Regardless of what your skill level is, the only way to improve your writing is to write, and yes, sometimes that means writing badly. But if writers only wrote when they thought their writing was amazing, only the most arrogant of writers would write while everyone else allowed self-doubt to stop them from doing what they love. 

  2. I'm wasting my time—this WIP will never be up to par. This tends to be a first draft fear, but it's been known to creep in during revisions, as well. No one ever said writing was easy, and refining a WIP to completed novel is even more difficult, but the only way that fear will come true is if you give up on the WIP. Work hard, revise, get tons of feedback and revise again and you'll reach a level of refinement that you hadn't originally thought possible. 

  3. I'll never finish anything. In many ways, completing your first novel is the most difficult—particularly when you've started and abandoned writing projects in the past. I've written about this before, but just because you haven't finished a novel yet doesn't mean that you can't—it just means you have to sit down and be patient with yourself and the process, and persevere through the monumental task of completing a novel. 

  4. I'll never be published. This, to me, is the scariest fear because it may actually be true. But this isn't a fear that I want to debunk, per say—it's one that I think every writer should come to terms with. No, you might not get published. There's a very real possibility that the novel you're writing, and the next one after that and after that may eventually end up in the drawer. But if your sole purpose of writing is to get published, then you might want to re-evaluate your reasons for putting words to the page. Getting published should never be your sole reason for writing, but if you can continue to write knowing that you may never be published, then you're on the right track. 

What writing fears have you fought against? Any extra tips for overcoming them?

How (Not) to Be an Awesome Critique Partner

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So we all know the importance of having a critique partner and how to choose a great one to work with, but now it's time to take a look at the other side of critiquing, namely, being the most incredible critique partner in the history of critique partners.

Where to begin? Well, it's simple, really: just follow these steps and you'll make writing history with your critiquing prowess.

How to Be the Most Incredible Critique Partner Ever*

  1. Deadlines? What deadlines? Many times you and your new critique partner will work out a timeframe for how long you have to critique each other's work. Go ahead and agree to whatever they want, but don't stress about actually delivering on time—they'll want your critique so bad it won't matter if you deliver it in a timely fashion. 

  2. Be super nice. Awesome critique partners don't hurt each other's feelings, so make sure you find something that you like on every page and go on and on about how wonderful it is and what incredible writers they are. This will also force them to be nice to you during their critique of your work. 

  3. Or don't say anything at all. Sometimes the writing is so bad that you can't find anything you like—it all needs major revisions. When that happens, just leave a "no comment" note at the bottom. You know what they say, if you can't be nice... 

  4. Or destroy them. Sometimes the writing is so good that you can't find anything bad—this is when you force yourself to find something bad on every page and rip it to shreds. Make sure they're so discouraged by your critique that they'll never attempt to publish it, because if they do, you're going to have some major competition. Kill the WIP! Kill it with fire! 

  5. Be concise. Regardless of whether or not you decide to be nice, make sure your critique is as short and simple as possible. Responses like "cool" and "bad" and "nice" are ideal. Bonus points if you do your entire critique with smiley faces. :) :( ^_^ O.O >.< XD >:( 

  6. Don't be too helpful. You don't want them to make their work too good—after all, everyone is your competition. 

  7. Compare everything to your work. Your masterpiece is the gold standard—leave comments like, "Remember how I wrote x scene in my manuscript? Write it like that." 

  8. Have someone else critique it. You have better things to do than critique people's work, anyway. 

  9. Offer to write their WIP for them. Honestly, why are you even wasting your time critiquing their work? You could write it so much better. 

  10. Why do you even need a critique partner, anyway? Your work is absolutely incredible—why did you waste your time with a critique partner? Why are you wasting your time looking at someone else's work? And why are you not getting paid yet? 

*This is another sarcastic post—as in, for the love of all things literary, please do not take these points seriously! Promise? Good.

Now it's your turn: what "tips" would you add for being a fabulous critique partner?

Ten Indisputable Signs That You’re a Writer

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Think you might be a writer but aren’t 150% sure? Here are ten signs that you may very well have a budding writer inside you.
  1. You constantly edit. Whether it’s while you’re driving down the street and pass a misspelled sign, or grammatical errors in Facebook posts, you fix errors constantly in your mind—and sometimes not so silently. 

  2. You’re highly observant. And not only do you notice things all the time, but you file them away in your I could write about this later folder. 

  3. You often ask, “How could I describe this?” You don’t ignore your life experiences—everything from walking outside during a torrential downpour, to burning yourself while cooking, to taking the first bite of a piping-hot homemade chocolate chip cookie can be used in your writing, and you often pause to think about how you would describe it in words. 

  4. You have a hyperactive imagination. There’s never a dull moment in that head of yours—your imagination is always working on overtime to keep you entertained and give you fresh ideas. 

  5. You feel inspired to write after reading a good book. Enough said. 

  6. You often daydream about your WIPs. Your characters never completely leave you— they walk alongside you throughout the day and give you new ideas when you least expect it. 

  7. You feel guilty if you haven’t written anything in a while. What a “while” is depends, but after a writing hiatus, a part of you begins to demand that you get back to the keyboard and reprimands you if you don’t. 

  8. Grammar jokes are funny. Well, they are

  9. You can’t get enough books. After all, every new book is a couple hours worth of inspiration. 

  10. You keep doing this writing thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re not published, if no one else cares if you continue to write, if you don’t make a penny off of the words that you put on the page—none of that matters, because you’ll continue to write anyway. 

Now it’s your turn: what signs would you add to the list?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Think you might be a writer but aren't 150% sure? Here are ten signs that you very well might be. (Click to tweet)
Think you might be a writer? How many signs do you have? (Click to tweet

Writing Discussion: Are You Guilty of Parenticide?

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What do Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Emerson Cole, Juliette Ferrars and the Baudelaire children have in common? If you looked at the title of this post, you can probably guess: they all have at least one missing or deceased parent.

While I suppose part of me (at least subconsciously) knew this was somewhat of a trend, it was really brought to my attention a couple years ago when the ever-fabulous Nathan Bransford talked about it in his Defense of Dead Parents post.

Since then I've been more aware of the issue, and as of late (perhaps partially due to the fact that I've been watching Revolution), I started thinking about it again.

As a writer, it's easy to see why so many parents are, er, removed from the story early on, especially in YA and MG novels. Many novels that feature young protagonists carry the same theme of self-discovery and coming of age—regardless of the situations our young heroes are thrust into, the plot usually involves character growth that will eventually lead them to be strong, self-sustaining individuals that aren't dependent on adults for guidance. In order to reach that stage, however, we need to force our characters to learn to be independent—and that often involves removing a parent or two from the picture.

Of course that's not the only reason—I'm not going to pretend that it's not easier to have MIA parents in novels that feature minors as protagonists for various reasons, the least of which include characters who aren't worried about being home by dinner so that they can go off and have their adventures. Combine that with the fact that a happy family background isn't always the most interesting background, and it's understandable why so many characters are missing parental units.

But then I've seen really fantastic parents in books, from Tris's epically cool mother in Divergent, to the unforgettable Mrs. Weasley in Harry Potter, to Percy Jackson's continuously fabulous mom, and it's got me thinking—are we missing valuable opportunities by ousting the parents before giving them a chance?

I want to hear from you—are you guilty of parenticide in your novels? What do you think of the trend that's permeated books and other media? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Why I Have Yet to Write a Sequel

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When it comes to reading, I’m a big fan of the series. I love watching characters grow over the course of several novels and really getting to know them as they face increasingly difficult challenges. I love diving back into the world the author has created and discovering new rules and aspects of society that I hadn't previously learned about. And most of all, I love being able to spend extra time with characters that I've really connected with.

And yet, I have yet to write a sequel.

Well, that's not entirely true—after writing my very first novel, I wrote half of the sequel before realizing that I wasn't going to be able to sell the first book of the series and I'd be better off spending time writing something new.

And there lies the problem with writing a series while you're unpublished and seeking a traditional publishing route—if you don't get the first book published, you're going to find it very difficult to find representation for the second book.

At this point I've written eight novels—and with each book I had ideas for a series. And yet, when the time came to put those WIPs away (for those that have been shelved, that is), I didn't allow myself to even consider writing the sequel—and not because I didn't want to.

The thing is, when you're an unpublished writer and your goal is to publish traditionally, writing a sequel before you've sold the first book is an enormous risk, because it doesn't matter how fantastic that sequel is if you can't get the first book published.

It may seem like defeatist thinking to refuse to write a sequel because you might not be able to sell the first book, but rather than focusing on the this might not get published part, I like to think of writing a sequel as a reward, or a celebration of sorts. You see, I've made this unwritten pact with myself that I won't write a sequel until I've sold a book, so the ability to write a series has, in a sense, become a sort of milestone for me.

For now, I've written eight different worlds with eight different sets of characters and eight different adventures—and I don't regret not writing a sequel for a second. The experience of starting fresh with every WIP has taught me that I'm capable of writing more than one unrelated novel, and that it's perfectly possible to fall in love with a new cast of characters over and over again.

And those are two important lessons that I might not have learned otherwise.

Have you ever written a sequel? Why or why not? If you don't write, do you prefer reading series or standalone novels?

Reviving Characters: Should It Be Done?

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Now that we've discussed how to kill our characters off, I'd like to talk about a related (and less depressing) issue: bringing our characters back from the dead.

I'm sure most of you have encountered this phenomena in a book—and if you haven't, you almost certainly have seen it in a movie: the protagonist (or an otherwise beloved character) is presumed dead, then—TA DA!—by some miraculous feat/magic/loophole/bending of time and space the character turns out to be alive.

I sort of have mixed feelings on the whole just kidding, he's not dead thing. On one hand, it usually turns out to be either a character that we absolutely adore, so I'm normally pretty happy that said character survived, if only because the alternative is slightly horrible. On the other hand, the technique sometimes feels like cheating.

That's not to say that every character revival ever written is cheating, and so it should never be used—I think when handled well, character revivals can be a great way to play with the reader's emotions. However, if you aren't careful, character revivals can start to cheapen death within the story.

What I mean is this—when the character revival trick is overdone, readers start to expect it. Future character deaths become less meaningful because readers begin to anticipate that chances are, the character will be revived later on. It's not permanent—it doesn't mean anything.

And even if the revivals aren't overdone, it's very easy for a character to start to feel invincible after cheating death. After all, if he can't die, that's one less thing for the reader to worry about.

I'm not saying that I don't enjoy the occasional character revival (particularly when they save my favorite characters), nor am I saying that I've never (or never will) write a character revival—as I said earlier, I think there's a time and place for them and that they can be effective, when done carefully.

But as writers, it is something we have to be careful with if we don't want to risk cheating our readers.

So what do you think? Should character revivals be used? Do you enjoy reading or writing them, or do they make you feel cheated? Don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Kill Characters With Impact

"You are writing children's books. You need to be a ruthless killer." —J.K. Rowling (via this fabulous interview on BBC
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A somewhat morbid topic, today.

Depending on the genre, it's not uncommon for writers to begin a novel knowing that not all characters will survive to see the final pages. Writing an effective character death, however, is more than just describing how they meet their unfortunate end—you have to make the readers care. But how?

Let's take a look at some examples:

SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't read any of the below books (or seen their movies, for that matter), please skip over their examples, unless you'd like to see some major plot spoilers.

  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins): Yes, I know I use this example a lot, but it was particularly fitting for this post. Needless to say, a lot of characters die over the course of The Hunger Games trilogy, and some character deaths left more impact than others. The first few unnamed tributes who die around the cornucopia at the very beginning of the hunger games have forgettable deaths—Katniss doesn't even know their names, and as horrible as it sounds, when they die the readers don't particularly care. This is the case for many of the less important tributes that Katniss isn't emotionally connected with.

    But then Rue passes away, and everything changes. Rue's death matters to Katniss, and so it matters to us. She's more than just another tribute—Katniss had taken a protective role over her, so when Rue dies, Katniss is devastated, and it certainly does not go forgotten amongst the readers.

  • The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien): Like The Hunger Games, to say that a lot of characters die throughout the course of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a bit of an understatement. In books like these with a lot of character deaths, it is especially important to make certain deaths matter. Near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf is pulled into the abyss of the cavern (and thus, supposedly dies), he leaves the fellowship deeply impacted by his absence. Gandalf was the wisest and in many ways strongest of the fellowship, so when he is lost, the fellowship loses a great deal of hope with him. His death matters.

  • Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling): There were quite a few powerful character deaths throughout the course of the Harry Potter series, but the one that affected me the most was that of Sirius Black. Sirius was by no means a perfect godfather to Harry, but he represented hope for change and a better life for Harry. For the first time, Harry had the opportunity to live away from the Dursleys, to live with a wizard who understood him, cared for him and actually valued him. Even more so—Sirius was a link to the parents that Harry never knew.

    So when he died, readers were stunned. Harry was entirely ripped apart by Sirius' death, and even J.K. Rowling admitted that she cried after writing it. Why? Because his death left great emotional impact—it mattered. 

I think the pattern here is clear—reader cared about these various character deaths because their deaths left an impact. These weren't arbitrary characters— they were important to the protagonists of their respective novels, and thus important to the readers.

The key to making your readers care about a character death is a) to choose characters who have connected with the readers and b) make those deaths mean something—not just to the plot, but to the surviving characters.

If it matters to the protagonist, chances are it's going to matter to the readers. Allow your character deaths to leave a large impact and your readers will remember it.

What do you think goes into an effective character death? Any tips for writing the end of a character?

Discussion: Should Chapters Be Getting Shorter?

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While discussing the tendency of e-readers to influence people to buy and read more books, one of you wonderful readers asked an interesting question, namely, whether or not long chapters are becoming less desirable in a world with decreasing attention spans.

I found this question particularly interesting because I hadn't thought much about the connection between decreasing attention spans and chapter length, but I do think the two are somewhat related.

Like many things in the writing world, I think the answer to the question largely depends. You see, I don't believe that there's a magic one-size-fits-all chapter length that works in every situation. In a sense, chapters are like paragraphs in that their length depends largely on their content.

Yes, decreasing attention spans are an issue, but I think they're less correlated to the physical length of the chapter and more to the writing itself—most readers, I imagine, would have little problem reading a thirty-page chapter as long as the writing keeps them interested. On the other hand, a five-page chapter could be unbearable if the story is boring and the writing simply doesn't grab the reader.

In my experience, at least, I've found that chapter length is often influenced by the style and tone of the book—some books are filled with fifty+ short 2-10 page chapters, while others are divided into significantly larger (and fewer) sections. Furthermore, I suspect that average chapter length is also probably affected by genre, although I unfortunately wasn't about to find any statistics on that online (although if you find any, please feel free to leave me a link in the comments).

So what does this mean for writers?

While working on your story, I would worry less about chapter length and more about keeping the chapters interesting. Chapter length tends to come somewhat intuitively to writers—we often have a good idea as to when it's time to start a new chapter, and when we get it wrong, there's always editing. If your story calls for longer chapters with many sections within the chapters, then so be it. Short attention spans don't matter as long as you keep the reader interested.

Those are my thoughts, but now I want to hear from you: do you think long chapters are becoming less desirable over time? How do you decide how long to make your chapters?

On E-Readers and Reading More

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Before getting an e-reader of my own, I'd read online that surveys showed that people with e-readers had a tendency to buy and read more books than people who read only print books.

It's relatively easy to understand why—e-readers capitalize on impulse buys and the ability to download a book in seconds rather than driving to the nearest bookstore or waiting for a print book to be delivered to you certainly makes the whole book-buying process much faster and more convenient. Combine that with the (usually) lower prices of e-books, and it's not all that surprising that people with e-readers tend to buy and read more than those without.

Over the course of the last five years, the most I'd ever read in a year was eleven books (pitiful, I know). Now that I've had an e-reader for nearly a year, however, I've found that the survey results have proven true for me as well: the year isn't out yet, and I've already read nearly nineteen books—ten (and a half) e-books and eight print.

While I know for many of you, eighteen books in a year is nothing, having an e-reader has made a huge difference in the amount I read—in fact, I've already doubled the amount of books I read last year.

I'll admit I was hesitant about trying out e-readers—I even wrote a post about my reasoning behind my hesitation before I tried it out. I worried about eye fatigue and had thoughts like it won't be the same and I talked about the texture of pages and the smell of a new book.

But nearly a year later, I've come to realize it's not supposed to be the same. Yes, reading a print books feels entirely different from reading an e-reader. Yes, you lose some nuances in the print reading experience—the feel of the paper, the weight of the book, the rustle of pages and satisfaction of adding a book you've read to your bookshelf. Those things don't exist with e-readers.

But I don't believe that you have to choose between print or e-books. I don't believe that it's impossible for e-books to thrive in a world where print books are popular. I don't believe that it has to be a one or the other mentality—the two can, and should exist side by side.

For now at least, e-readers make it easier and more convenient to read—and as a bonus, they encourage people to buy more books than they might have otherwise. And as a writer, that sounds pretty great to me.

What do you think? If you have an e-reader, have you found that you're reading more than you did without it? If you don't have an e-reader, why have you held back?

Discussion: How Do You Get to Know Your Characters?

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Easily one of my favorite parts of writing is getting to know new characters—whether it's learning about my protagonist from page one, or becoming enamored with a minor character who surprises me, meeting these characters throughout the writing process never fails to excite me.

For me, the process of getting to know my characters happens over time. It starts with their conception: usually while brainstorming for main and major characters, or occasionally spontaneous existence for minor characters. Usually at this stage I know only the basics about the characters: generally personality traits or circumstances that are a significant part of who they are and sometimes a few physical characteristics. For those spontaneous minor character cases, at this stage I usually know even less about them.

From there I try to think less about general characteristics (i.e.: hair color) and more about what it is that makes them unique. I look for personality quirks, unusual physical markers and flaws. I want to know their secrets—things that I might not necessarily reveal to the readers, but will help me understand them better. Memories, fears, dreams, weaknesses—I want to know it all, regardless of whether or not I plan to actually use the information explicitly in my WIP.

This is where character profiles can become extraordinarily useful. While I admit I don't use them as often as I could (and probably should), profiles and character sheets are a great way to keep track of and organize information about your characters—from the basics to the nuances of their personalities and backgrounds. For a particularly thorough character worksheet, check out this post from Martina Boone.

With or without a character profile, after the building blocks of the character are completed, I tend to find that much of the rest is discovered while writing the story. Everything from unexpected quirks and fears, unplanned tendencies and mannerisms and favorite words often reveal themselves as the characters progress through the story. Pre-planned aspects of my characters sometimes disappear, while new ones develop. This process continues well beyond the final draft—characters often continue to surprise me during second and third drafts and even later revisions.

So while that's the gist of my character development process, I'd like to hear from you: how do you get to know your characters? Do you use worksheets or is your process more organic? I'd love to hear your experience.

Writing Tip: Explore Alternate Universes

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Very rarely is anything—writing-related or otherwise—done perfectly the first time. Sometimes, while writing or reading a WIP draft, you'll come across a scene that feels off. Your protagonist isn't reacting properly, or a decision she made doesn't seem right, or the outcome of that fight seems less effective than when you originally wrote it or dreamed it up.

Sometimes, it's not the writing itself that's off—it's the plot behind it.

When this happens, a writer is faced with many options: come back to it and try to fix the problem later, fix the reasoning or motivation surrounding the decision or outcome, or rewrite the plot point entirely.

The latter tends to sound least appealing to writers—just the word "rewrite" often makes us want to curl up with our manuscript in a corner and hide. But when the plot itself is the issue, it's often helpful to consider rethinking the plot point that needs adjusting, then rewriting it rather than reliving what you already wrote.

What I'm saying is sometimes it's helpful to explore alternate universes within your WIP.

Let's say your protagonist gets in a fist fight with a rival or another character he dislikes. In your current version your protagonist gets hit a couple times, then knocks the rival out, but the fight goes too quickly and it doesn't have much impact. Rather than rewriting the scene as is, you might want to try exploring other versions of the fight.

For example:

  • Version A: Your protagonist goes in believing this will be an easy fight, starts off strong, then gets hit hard enough to knock him off balance (or injure him) and the rival gets the upper hand. 

  • Version B: Your protagonist gets hit a couple times, then overwhelms the rival. Rather than giving up, however, the rival pulls out a knife. 

  • Version C: Your protagonist wins the fight, then the rival attacks him from behind as he walks away. 

  • Version D: Your protagonist wins the fight, but goes overboard and injures the rival more than intended. 

These are only a couple of options, but the point is this: when something in your story isn't working, you can always try out other possibilities. The best part is if you decide you don't like the way your alternate universe experiment turned out, you don't have to include it in your WIP. If you do decide you like the way your AU turned out better than the original, however, then you now have a more dynamic scene.

It's a win-win scenario, and it's one that I hope you experiment with.

Have you ever tried this type of rewriting? If so, how did it turn out? If not, what do you do to fix unremarkable scenes?

How (Not) to Be a NaNoWriMo Champ

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With the excitement for NaNoWriMo surrounding the writing world, and preparations for thirty days of mad writing beginning, many of you wonderful writers are probably now wondering what it takes to be a NaNoWriMo winner, so you can win some fantastic prizes and have 50,000 new words two months from now.

So without further ado, I present to you the infallible keys to becoming a NaNoWriMo champ.

Ten Foolproof Secrets to Winning NaNoWriMo*

  1. Don't come up with your new WIP idea until November 1st. Where's the fun in knowing what you're going to write about beforehand? 

  2. Don't think about daily word count goals. Those are for amateurs who strangle themselves with over planning and actually try to write every day (I mean really, who writes every day? Yeesh). 

  3. Write only when you feel inspired. You don't want to waste your precious time writing uninspired (and thus, uninspiring) junk, do you? I didn't think so. You writing should be beautiful and life-changing, but that kind of genius only comes when you're inspired. 

  4. Listen to inspiring music like Pavarotti and Gangnam Style all month long. Preferably on a constant loop. 

  5. If you don't like it—rewrite it. It doesn't matter if you have to rewrite it a hundred times before you move on to the next chapter, just make sure it's perfect the first time around. Otherwise you'll have to edit later, and you're too talented for editing. 

  6. Live off of Starbucks and/or Red Bull. And nothing else. This is the food of the gods. Don't corrupt your body with non-writerly foods like fruits and—*shudder*—vegetables. 

  7. Ignore the other writers. It's National Novel Writing Month not National Make Friends With Everyone Who is Writing a Novel Month. 

  8. Choose every word carefully. Remember, while everyone else is pounding out 50,000 words that they'll have to rewrite later, you're writing a masterpiece. 

  9. Polish, polish, polish. It has to be PERFECT. The essence of perfection, these words. 

  10. When you realize your writing is terrible—start over. Don't settle for anything less than writing deserving of the Nobel Prize. If that means starting from scratch, so be it. Everyone else may have 50,000 words at the end of the month, but you'll have the beginnings of the book that's going to make you a millionaire. 

*Like the rest of my How (Not) to posts, these "tips" are not meant to be taken seriously. If you do the opposite of most of these things, I'm sure you'll do just fine during NaNo. Good luck!

Now it's your turn: what so-called "tips" would you add to the list?

Why Evernote is Great for Writers

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We live in a world inundated with technology. Laptops, desktops, tablets, e-readers, iPods and smartphones have become a part of our daily lives, and as these various devices become more accessible and economical, the trend will only continue.

Chances are you probably have at least two of the devices I've mentioned above, which brings up an interesting situation for writers who like to use these devices to write on the go—how to sync your work across devices.

There are many different methods and applications—both easy and cumbersome, free and paid—to help people synchronize their work or share documents across their devices, or from a public computer to a personal one. My method of choice, as you could probably guess from the title, is Evernote.

For those of you who don't know, Evernote is a note-taking application with free storage up to 60 MB a month for computers, tablets and smartphones, and it's quickly become one of my favorite note-taking apps.

I know I don't normally talk about technological things here, but with NaNoWriMo less than a month away, I'm willing to bet many of you are preparing for the big event with brainstorming or plotting or whatever it is you like to do in anticipation of a new WIP—and Evernote is a fantastic tool for recording and organizing those preparations. And for the record, I'm not being paid to write about Evernote —I'm just sharing this tool with you guys because I enjoy using it.

So why is Evernote so great for writers? One word: synchronization.

Most writers are not just writers, and even when individuals do write for a living, there are still life things that pull them away from the computer, and thus, from their writing. People often suggest that a writer should always carry a small notebook around so that they can record ideas and inspiration that hits them while they're away from home, and it occurred to me recently that you don't necessarily need to carry around a physical notebook as long as you have a smartphone, tablet, or some other portable device that you carry with you throughout the day.

You see, Evernote can act as that notebook—it's a virtual storage bin accessible anywhere as long as you have a portable device, and even if you don't, the website version is still accessible on any computer with an internet connection, public or otherwise.

So maybe you get up early to get some brainstorming in before you leave for work or school or whatever engagement you have for the day, but you don't finish as much as you would have liked. If you write your brainstorming in Evernote, you can access it later and write more while you're away from the computer. The beauty of it is when you return home, the note will synchronize automatically, so your updates are there to continue off of at home.

It's a wonderful thing, and it's helped me tremendously with completing blog posts, organizing notes and keeping track of various ideas for WIPs and otherwise, all accessible to me away from my computer.

It's simple, it's easy, and I can't recommend it enough to writers. If you haven't already, I hope that you check it out.

What tools and applications do you use for writing tasks, on the go and otherwise? Any recommendations?

NaNoWriMo Discussion: Are You In?

Photo credit: Sashala on Flickr
Incredibly, there are now officially less than thirty days until November, which means, of course, that NaNoWriMo is less than a month away.

Confession time: I mentioned this last year, but I haven't ever done NaNoWriMo. I've written a book in a month before, and I've definitely written 50k in a month more than once, but November tends to be a notoriously busy time for me, so I never accomplished either of those feats in the month of November.

As a writer who has never participated in NaNoWriMo, I can't talk about the event from experience (obviously), but only from what I've observed. From what I've seen, NaNoWriMo seems to be a fantastic opportunity for writers to get a significant amount of writing done with the encouragement and excitement of thousands of other writers also working on a project at the same time.

Now, I may not be able to talk about NaNoWriMo from experience, but I can tell you that writing with encouragement from a supportive community of writers not only makes the sometimes grueling experience of writing a novel much more enjoyable, but it can also help motivate you to write faster, longer and more often. As a bonus, when you finish your WIP, there are writers out there happy to celebrate with some virtual confetti and balloons with you.

Getting back to NaNoWriMo, from what I understand the celebration is a lot more than just virtual confetti. Last year some of the prizes for those who completed 50k within the thirty days got 50% off of Scrivener and five free paperback copies of their book from CreateSpace as well as other goodies.

In short, NaNoWriMo is a month long event that I feel could be highly beneficial to writers of all skill levels, regardless of whether or not you actually complete the 50k. Don't underestimate the power of an encouraging community and extra motivation to write—sometimes it only takes a little push to inspire you to create something great.

So now I turn the discussion to you, fellow writers. For those of you who have done NaNoWriMo in the past, what was your experience like? For everyone else, will you be doing NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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