Posted in All Articles, Be a smart writer, For young writers, Writer's problems

How to properly refuel your creativity, when original inspiration sources don’t work anymore and you have a novel to finish?

What do you do when the flames in your fireplace die out and you are planning to stay up for the night? Obviously, you have to add wood.

Same goes with your creativity. If you feel it’s burning out, you must add some fuel.

Now… What kind of fuel you use matters more than you think.

Do you know that it is possible to light fires in all colors of the rainbow thanks to chemistry? If you use boric acid, your fire will be green. If you use a non-toxic potassium compound, your fire will be purple. And if you burn plastic, it’s not going to burn well.

Why am I talking about it?

Because your fuel choices for writing should be dictated by the type of inspiration you are trying to obtain. If you want to feel inspired for fantasy – you must use fantasy as a fuel.

One of the reasons why people can’t finish their books is, they use the wrong fuel for inspiration.

They have purple fire in the fireplace, but instead of buying fuel for purple fire, they use the fuel for green fire. Obviously – the fire becomes green. Instead of being inspired for fantasy, they inspired themselves for non-fiction. This will very likely make them abandon the fantasy topic and start writing non-fiction.

If you fuel with recipe books, you can’t write a crime! Unless your master chef chooses to stab his victim with a kebab skewer. Which I guess wasn’t your main idea.

Now let’s talk about plastic as a fuel for our inspiration.

Plastic is a topic that sounds nice and maybe even appeals to us, but when we try to write it, just doesn’t work.

Example:

A pacifist reads a gripping murder mystery, which inspires them to write one, too. They plan the story and start researching poisons and weapons. However, violence grosses them out so much, that they actually can’t turn their heroes into murderers.

This is my case. Kazutaka Kodaka, Gōshō Aoyama, Joe Alex and Agatha Christie all make me want to write a murder mystery full of plot twists. But… this inspiration is plastic, cause I can’t write crime novels, and besides, I’m more for writing that promotes peace.

I think I will write a crime novel one day – I have plot and character ideas in my head that just won’t let me go. But right now, reading or watching anything with detectives is only fueling my creativity with plastic. It’s not gonna “burn” into writing, cause there are too many things that block me – for example, lack of skills required by the genre.

Now, let’s discuss creative fire.

Yes! There is such a thing as creative fire! It’s the opposite of the creative burnout.

Creative fire happens when you have added so much fuel to your creativity furnace that you are itching to start writing, and once you start writing, you will be writing until physical tiredness. The creative fire will keep on burning, allowing you to write massive amounts of high quality text in short periods of time.

Making creative fire is easy. You just need to refuel a lot with the right type of fuel and prevent yourself from writing for some time. After a while, you will be faster than a novel writing machine – I promise!

I will tell you now, how I learned the lesson about refueling creativity properly.

When I was 11, I was a fan of Code Lyoko. It’s an old French cartoon about kids who were fighting a computer virus in  digital world. I used to read a very popular fanfiction about it. This fanfiction had over 150 episodes, or maybe even more. The author wrote very often, almost every day, or every three days at most. I wondered, how she author managed to stay inspired for such a long time, and then I noticed that newest episodes were showing up each day in the afternoon, after Code Lyoko was aired on our local TV. I developed a theory, that the author was able to keep writing her fanfiction for so long, cause she was constantly inspired with the right kind of fuel.

Later, I observed other fanfiction writers. I’ve noticed that it was very easy for people to write about a certain topic if:

  • They were genuinely interested in it;
  • They found other people genuinely interested in it;
  • Those other people also wrote fanfictions about it;

Problems started when the topic became stale to most people who were interested into it.

I will give you another example:

D.N.Angel was an anime about phantom thieves with wings that gathered quite a lot of fans. However, since there wasn’t a second series of it, many fans abandoned it and turned to other things that inspired them.

As long as you can find something that will replace your original source of inspiration, that had already run out, you don’t need to worry.

My fanfiction about D.N.Angel is still somewhere in my writing folder, unfinished. I remember I really loved this story and I let it go with a heavy heart. If I could turn back in time to talk to my older self as a more experienced writer, I would just stay: “read books about angels, girl, and the inspiration will be back in an instant.”

And this is the thing that I want you to remember from this post.

Learn to use different sources to refuel your writing inspiration;  use sources that are connected to what you want to write, and when a source stops inspiring you, find another one. And it will be fine.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in Be a smart writer, All Articles

How to succeed at NaNoWriMo?

Some time ago I have started a debate on whether we all should take part in NaNoWriMo. If you are decided to go for it, then this post is for you!

Step 1: Find your time and your place.

From November 1st to November 30th, you will be writing 1667 words daily. When are you going to write them? Is there a place in which you can isolate yourself from all the outside noise and write? Think about it even before starting. Choosing one place – like a café that gets deserted at twilight – is conducive to creating a routine, and routine will motivate you when the initial excitement fades away.

Step 2: Prepare for the worst.

You will have to write around 20 pages A4 per week, which is a lot. You will constantly check your word count to see if you are getting to the daily target. And you will be frustrated, why it’s so low, why did you write only 300 words and not 500 as you thought. You won’t know what to write, the energies will leave you quicker than you thought and you might realize it’s not as easy as you thought. Why am I being it so negative? Because I want you to know, that it’s common to struggle during NaNoWriMo. It’s not a 1 km race. It’s a marathon. Try to do your best, but remember about your limits.

Step 3: Realize you are competing against yourself.

Exactly. Don’t look at the word counts of others. I know it will be tempting, but it has nothing to do with your journey. You are competing against yourself, your own insecurities and  weaknesses. I challenge you to do better than you usually do. If you write 300 words daily, write 400 on each NaNoWriMo day!

Step 4: Understand what is the real prize

Each word, each fragment, each chapter is your success. You are winning just by participating. What you write in NaNoWriMo is the real prize. And not some badge that you can display on your profile. I promise you that after NaNoWriMo you probably won’t even visit there; until the next NaNoWriMo.

Step 5: Prepare materials for your novel.

A few months ago I have written an article entitled “10 tips to maximize chances for finishing your novel”. In this article, I explain what to prepare to facilitate the writing process. If you follow the advice in this article, your novel is basically built before you start writing – and all you have to do is write, basing on what you’ve prepared. Please do not skip this article, as it contains the most useful advice that I can give you for your personal project to succeed. Read the article here, it’s free and waiting for your attention.

Step 6: Prepare motivation for your novel.

I have already written about it in the last section of the article above, too, but here are some extra tips that might make you more enthusiastic:

  • Write a list of 100 reasons why you want to write this book and stick it in a visible place in your room.
  • Prepare a prompts jar: write or research a list of prompts, then print it and put it into a jar. Each time you run out of inspiration, put your hand in the prompt jar. It might be a novel-saver!
  • Tell everyone about your novel. Chances are, they will give you some tips or you may get new, amazing ideas while talking.
  • Do NaNoWriMo with a friend – it’s always easier in a group than alone, because your buddy might motivate you and read your writing – which will in turn inspire you to keep on writing.
  • Schedule weekend trips to places that are somehow connected to your novel. For example, if your novel is taking place in a spooky castle, maybe it’s a good idea to go see the nearby ruins and take photos that you might later describe.

Step 7: Stop worrying about NaNoWriMo… Enjoy it!

If you take a look at NaNoWriMo forums, you will see that a lot of people are more worried about it than actually enjoying it. And NaNoWriMo is an awesome way to validate your writing journey, especially if you haven’t published yet.

One final tip:

Try not to delete anything when writing and try not to edit while you write. By deleting, you are only undermining your word count, and editing will make you lose precious time that should be spent on writing. NaNoWriMo is all about writing, and not deleting, improving or editing. You can do those things in December, when you have a ready novel.

I hope that all of you can reach the planned word counts and are awarded with a beautiful and intriguing novel at the end of November! Good luck everyone and stay inspired!

Posted in Be a smart writer

A lesson from agriculture: why writing multiple things at once is a good idea.

When I was a teen, I used to write several stories at once. I didn’t know if it was a good idea. Now I know that it is, and I am going to explain you why.

We all have heard of crop rotation, haven’t we? To have an awesome harvest it’s best to sow different types of seeds each year. So that:

  • this year plant A can take nutrients A from soil;
  • next year plant B can take nutrients B from soil;
  • and in two years, plant C can take nutrients C from soil.

During these three years, our field had time to replenish its resources and we don’t need to worry about a poor plant A harvest in the next 3 years. It will grow better than it would, if we sowed it immediately after this year.

“Plants” are novels, and “nutrients” are the internal resources that allow us to write novels.

Those internal resources are: excitement about the writing process, things to say on topics that we’ve chosen, research materials prepared, vocabulary bank, motivation and energy to continue writing etc.

If we write novel A for longer periods of time, then we tend to run out of the internal resources. But – watch out! We run out of the internal resources only for novel A. Not for novel B or novel C.

Choose novel A as your main project, and then novels B and C as the runner-ups. If you  had enough of all of them, take novels D and E as “sweet escapes”. I often enjoy writing something out of my usual schedule – I usually find myself full of ideas and the worflow progresses easily.

The main advantage of the crop rotation writing technique is that you will be able to take breaks from your main project (novel A) without lowering your monthly word count.

The main disadvantage is that the word count for each of the novels will add up slower. However! Nothing disappears in this universe and you will be grateful for all the fragments that you have written earlier.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing multiple projects at once as long as you commit to them. 

Choose 3-5 novels which are “must-write” and put them in a priority queue. Even if you work on novels that are lower in the priority queue, they are “must-write”, so your writing work doesn’t go to waste – it will pay off later.

The priority queue should have a limit: you want to avoid the situation where you add three sentences every day to your 15 projects.

The technique of writing multiple things at once works because our internal resources don’t always replenish themselves at the same speed.

Example:

Let’s say you have two novels: novel A is a mystery, and novel B is travel adventure.

If you watch a mystery TV show and read detective novels, you will refuel for novel A frequenly and writing will be easy.

However, if you only feel inspired to write novel B when you travel to a certain place, you will have to go there to refuel.

Because of this, writing novel A will be quicker and easier.

But – if the mystery TV show stops airing and you’ve had enough of Hercules Poirot – you might find out that you have more resources to write the novel B. Which is also a good thing!

I will be honest with you – I seldom feel “always inspired” for the novel I’m currently working on. But, I almost always feel “always inspired” for those 4-5  “must-write” projects that are in priority queue. Cause if I don’t write novel C today, I write novel D.

And one day, that amazing moment will come, when you will finish your projects one after another.

I am not saying that focusing about one novel is bad; on the contrary – you must be focused on one novel to finish it.

But, if you feel you really can’t squeeze out another meaningful sentence, then it’s better to take a break to refuel, and in the meantime work on something else that you are planning to write anyways.

And last, but not least:

!!! Your main goal is to finishing what you already started. !!!

Try not to add more on your plate than you can actually take. Add new projects only after you’ve finished (or given up on) old ones. Change projects only if you really feel you can’t write that text anymore. Be persistent because it’s the key.

I hope it helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Be a smart writer

NaNoWriMo: should all authors participate in it?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and happens in November, cold and quiet month of late fall. Chilling weather, hot spicy tea, and blankets create an atmosphere which is conducive to writing.

The rule of NaNoWriMo is: write 1,666 words per day to finish a 50 000 words novel by the end of November. If you make it, you are the winner. If you don’t, nothing bad happens – you can continue your work with goal trackers or alternatively postpone it till Camp NaNoWriMo (similar event that happens in April).

But returning to November: each November thousands of aspiring writers start their novels, and this is awesome. So much will to write, so much motivation, writing in a group, meeting other people, sharing you chapters and scenes with the world…

But should we all participate in this 30 days long marathon? Is NaNoWriMo for everyone?

My answer is:

If you haven’t done it yet, then you should at least consider it. It’s a fun experience and it’s one of the ways to validate your journey as a writer. Especially if you’ve never written a novel and need an extra push to do your best. Then, NaNoWriMo is the perfect time for you.

However, I do believe that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. Here is what I have learned after participating in NaNoWriMo 2017 and Camp NaNoWriMo 2018:

  1. It’s difficult. Not everyone is capable of writing 1,666 words per day. Word count depends on many factors like time, inspiration, amount of things to say, life situation, duties to perform, state of mind etc. I wrote more about it in my article Review of “2k to 10k” by Rachel Aaron: is writing 10k words per day truly possible?
  2. It puts you under pressure. Because, if you write any less than 1666 words (which is very likely if you write anything less than than on a regular basis), the deficit will accumulate over time and you will have even more and more to write to make up for it. Which is stressing, frustrating and…
  3. It makes you freewrite. If you haven’t read my article Why you should stop freewriting right now, do it now. When you force yourself to write and focus on reaching a certain word count, the quality of your work plummets. You might have written 50 000 words by the end of November, but how much of that is actually worthy of being published? How much must be corrected or even removed from the text?
  4. You start comparing yourself to more efficient writers. NaNoWriMo is a competition and statistics are readily available. There are people with 70 000 words crafted by the middle of the month. When you see these people, and compare their results to your 10 000 words and huge word count deficit, it’s easy to get depressed and discouraged, and give up.
  5. If you haven’t prepared well, you are likely to fail. 1666 words per day is 11662 words per week, which equals 20 pages. To write 20 pages weekly and 80 pages monthly you must have something to talk about. To sit down on first November and write a book without any plan is incredibly hard, especially if you are still an aspiring writer who doesn’t have so much novel writing experience yet.
  6. It might distract you from your other writing goals. What if you are busy editing the novel you’ve written in the summer? What if you need to promote a book that you’ve just published? Each writer is on a different journey. I write intensively from January to September, and from October to December I just want to rest, refuel and plan my work for the next year.

There are different ways in which you can celebrate NaNoWriMo. For example, you can:

  • Support another NaNoWriMo participant. Reading someone else’s work and providing feedback is a huge motivator.
  • Adjust NaNoWriMo to your current goals. For example, if you want to write poems, write a poem per day. Or, if you need to prepare marketing materials for your book, create one marketing material (e.g. banner) per day. You might also choose to write a short story.

I hope that this article will help you decide if and how you’d like to celebrate NaNoWriMo. I will write another article soon on how to prepare for NaNoWriMo to maximize your chances for success. Stay inspired!

Posted in Be a smart writer

6 simple tools which will accelerate your writing progress

Like I stated in the article entitled on how to write when everyday life leaves you exhausted, we will always be too tired and busy to write our novels. Luckily, we can simplify and accelerate our writing progress by using different tools.

Let’s start with the basics:

  • Story planner – I know that many authors use Scrivener, but I didn’t try it yet, so I’ll recommend another story planner, which has also the advantage of being free. I am talking about Bibisco. With Bibisco, you can plan your novel chapter by chapter and scene by scene. There are extensive questionnaires for creation of characters and places for location descriptions. You can also upload photos. The greatest advantage of Bibisco is that it keeps all the notes in one place and you can export everything easily with just a click. I recommend it especially for those who plan long and complex novels – if you are working with short stories, Excel will do.
  • Editing tool – The most popular editing tools are Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid. You can try them and if you find them useful, you can subscribe for a monthly or yearly plan. I have chosen Grammarly and honestly, I can’t imagine writing without it. You don’t know how many mistakes you make while writing, until a software points them out to you. Yesterday I checked 10 000 words from one of my newest novels. Grammarly found 400 issues for me, including grammar, interpunction, variety and clarity problems. In addition, it provides the total reading time and evaluates your text, analysing the complexity of vocabulary you are using. I still hire an editor to edit after me and Grammarly, but at least I have a feeling that the text I am sending to the editor is devoid of minor mistakes. Why is that important? Well, if an editor sees a lot of minor mistakes, they’ll focus on them. While I want the editor to point out what I truly can’t see.

And now, let’s get creative:

  • Article rewriting tool – I haven’t found one that I would recommend 100% yet, but you can try Spinbot. Sometimes, such tools won’t work the way they should and they can throw back at you really funny things. However, they still worthy of our time. Why? Because when we want to paraphrase a text, we don’t need to seek synonyms one by one. We can do it in a bulk and have the whole rewritten sentence ready. A reason why you might want to paraphrase is when you have to write a very similar scene to the one you already wrote, but you don’t want to repeat yourself.
  • Random word generator – Random Lists, this free online tool will pick a number of random English words for you. It can be 12 or more. Why does it matter to us writers? Because sometimes, especially in times of creative drought, we don’t know which words use to use, and sometimes, simply seeing a bunch of new words we wouldn’t think about will be inspiring enough to strike “a writing response”. Do you remember when you were learning a language (any language) and the teacher asked you to build sentences with words given? It’s one of the best creative exercises ever that we’ve been taught with school.
  • Book title generator – I am not saying that you should just pick up any title for your novel or chapter, but it’s worth taking a look if you can’t think of anything on your own. Sometimes just seeing a word will inspire you. I recommend this book title generator, as it has many genres to choose from.
  • Word lists – List of colors, hobbies, bucket list dreams and quirks… All those can be found on the internet, and if you need anything more specific, like characteristics of weapons, attractive traits or plot twists, you can always grab an Amazon copy of books written by Rayne Hall, Dahlia Evans or Bryn Donovan. In short words, don’t reinvent the wheel: there are resources shared by authors all around the world.

Thanks to all these tools, I:

  • Have all the parts of my novel in one orderly place and can find easily the parts that I am looking for;
  • Don’t need to worry too much about interpunction and spelling mistakes;
  • Can quickly recycle already written scenes using synonyms;
  • Have sets of inspiring vocabulary that can help me build the next scene of my novel when I am completely stuck;
  • Find novel and chapter titles much quicker;
  • Research less as someone else did that for me already.

I hope that you find these tools useful and your writing routine becomes easier and quicker. Stay inspired!