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Category: The Writing Diaries

The Writing Diaries: What Writing is All About

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Writing is an art, and like any other art, it requires time and devotion. In order to understand the purpose of creative writing, (such as novels, poetry, and short stories) we must think of the purpose of more “familiar” art–such as painting or music.

The Feels

With art, the purpose is to make the audience feel. This is the exact same thing with creative writing. The best books are always the ones that made you laugh out loud or cry (or both). They are the ones that made your heart swell and break–taking you back in time.

The Truth (However Ugly It May Be)

However, there is more to writing than just evoking feelings. Writers are a special breed of artist because what we do is convey the truth. I know for a fact that when I am writing from deep within my heart, I cannot lie. Something about the way my pen flows or my fingers strike the keyboard causes my soul to just pour out.

To be a good writer, one must be a good observer. This includes observing the world around us and even ourselves. Sometimes I find that I don’t even know myself that well until I put on some music and just start free flowing some poetry.

Raising Awareness 

It is astounding how unaware we are about our feelings, desires, faults, and strengths. I believe that all artists are naturally pretty self-aware, and even more so if you’re an introvert. However, I am often surprised at some of the inner feelings that surface as I write.

The scary part about writing this first novel is that I find myself afraid of publishing the truth. I don’t believe for one second that I am the only one who is facing this. It’s not that I am the main character or that the plot is my life story or anything, but I find some surprising truths about me and the people in my life in unexpected ways.

Even though hardly anyone really knows what my book is about or the characters that are in it, I am always asked by people who are close to me, “which character am I? Or, “am I in there?”

To be honest, probably–they might even be more than one character! Each person my imagination creates is a woven piece of art of the different people I encounter daily–including myself. 

The same goes for the plot line. It is a tapestry of the things I have seen, experienced, or find fascinating in the world.

Expression and Discovery

So this is it. This is what writing is all about. It isn’t about money, fame, popularity, or trying to get your series made into some movie franchise (although that may be kind of cool). It’s about expressing yourself–while at the same time discovering  more about yourself and the world around you. 

Thanks for reading! Have any thoughts on this? Please comment below 🙂

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The Writing Diaries: Overcoming Writer's Block

writer block

It is one of the most dreaded nightmares for writers everywhere. It is the one that keeps us up at night–haunted and staring at a computer screen. It is absolutely paralyzing, and (if nothing is done about it) could lead to the demise of a piece of work.

Writer’s block.

What do we do about it? Well first of all, we need to acknowledge this fear for what it is. Writer’s block is when a writer of any kind gets stuck–whether it be creatively or motivational. It’s important to know that everyone gets writer’s block; even Stephen King battles it! That said, it can be conquered. Here are three ways to overcome writer’s block.

Go Through It

Sometimes the only way to get past life’s storms is to go through them. This is the same with writer’s block when you lack motivation. Instead of racking your brain trying to resist the blockage and writing whatever it is you think you should write, just go with the flow.

A good idea is to set the mood with some music. You can always practice some creative writing prompts or write down poetry (it makes you a better writer anyway). The key is to sit there and get something down on paper. And yes, I mean paper. The worse thing you can do when you are stuck or unmotivated is to be connected to the internet. Unplug and get out your notebook!

Remember:

  • Set the mood (use music, lighting, writing prompts, etc.)
  • Don’t leave until you write something!
  • Unplug–use pen and paper.

Think Outside the Box

Sometimes writer’s block is a creative slump–which is always the worst kind. Your words don’t flow, and you feel like someone with absolutely no talent (which is a lie). A great way to spark creativity is to think outside the box.

Let’s say you are writing a story about two orphans on a journey in the forest to find their long-lost parents, but you get stuck. Maybe you need to re-imagine these characters somewhere else. Write about these little orphans as if they got lost in a Wal-Mart. Maybe you need to shift the perspective and look at the story through the parent’s eyes!

Or perhaps you can create an interesting (although temporary) plot twist. Maybe a tornado will come and the orphans need to find a place to hide. Who knows, this plot twist may actually be the very thing you needed in your story!

Remember:

  • Play around with your characters! Re-imagine them in new places/situations
  • Shift the perspective to a minor character. How are they viewing life?
  • Create a random plot twist (even if it’s temporary)!

Always Know What Happens Next

I’m not sure what blog I found this precious nugget of advice, but it is priceless. This tip can cure writer’s block whether it be a motivational or creativity problem. Before you stop writing, always make sure you leave off knowing what happens next. If you read my last post in this series, How Not to Start a Novel, then you might remember my advice of creating a plot outline. This will guide you through your story–one plot twist to the next. It’s essential.

One of my biggest issues with writer’s block with this first novel is that I would have no idea what to write next. The point is to stop writing before you run out of ideas. All you have to do is jot down a sentence or two for when you come back. Bam. No more excuses. Doing this allows you to get your thoughts running so you can generate new ideas as you expand on yesterday’s.

Check out this blog, where I found a piece of wise advice excerpted from the great Stephen King himself. Sometimes we run into writer’s block because the story has gotten too boring. He suggests adding a new problem/tragedy. It’s kind of like my plot twist idea…only more professional.

Remember:

  • Stop writing before you run out of ideas
  • Jot down the next scene or plot twist in a sentence or two for when you come back to it
  • Story getting boring? Add a new problem or plot twist! (Thanks Stephen King)

How do you handle writer’s block? Let me know in the comments below! As always, thanks for reading 🙂

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The Writing Diaries: How Not to Start a Novel

how not to start

Welcome back to part two of The Writing Diaries! I am working like crazy trying to edit my book (and failing lol), but between course work, new church duties (more on this on Friday’s post!), babysitting, and time with family and friends, I am swamped!

And you know what? I love every bit of it! Yes, life can get stressful, but my life is full. It is full of love, opportunities, blessings, and intimate moments with Jesus. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, but I will tell you that my life was never this full until I began my walk with God.

Now back to the topic at hand! Today I want to share with you some of the common mistakes made (or at least that I made) when starting to write a first novel. If you are a newbie like me, then I’m sure you can relate to these. Hopefully these tips will save you some grief in the future!

Don’t Outline Your Plot

If I had only known how much easier life would have been if I had just outlined my major plot points! The thing is, I never planned on writing a novel–at least not this novel. It started out as a poem that became a couple of paragraphs. Soon I began to imagine characters and boom!…Out pops the beginning of a novel.

I actually started writing my book toward the end of the story. Not the brightest idea. If you haven’t started writing yet, then do yourself a favor and sit down with a notebook and pen and make an outline from beginning to end. It doesn’t matter if it’s not detailed yet–you can always add/subtract things as you go. Things just work out so much easier if you have a plan.

Things to Include in Your Outline:

  • Major scenes (aka…important plot points)
  • Plot twists
  • Conflict plot points
  • Resolution plot points

Don’t Make a Character List

To make things worse, not keeping track of character names, attributes, and unique traits is a HUGE hassle (one of the biggest ones I am facing currently). I thought that I would remember all of my characters because there aren’t too many, and after all, I had created them myself right? How could I forget my own creation?

Well, it’s a good thing I’m not God, because I can’t even keep up with a dozen characters from a book (let alone the entire human race). After you do your plot outline, the smart thing to do would be to make a major and minor character outline.

This is great to refer to once you are trying to remember how to describe a minor character without having to go back thirty pages to where he/she was first introduced. Plus, you can carry this list with you and add things as they pop up in your head. This builds great character depth.

Things to Include in Your Character List:

  • Full name and age (unless totally irrelevant)
  • Physical description
  • Main role in the story
  • Likes/dislikes
  • Romantic interests
  • Strengths/weaknesses
  • Close Friends/Enemies

Don’t Set a Writing Schedule

So now that you have set aside a few days to come up with your outline and character list (which you can totally add to or revise later), now it’s time to get started! I remember being so pumped, writing for hours at a time…for three days.

And then I would take a whole week off.

This is a bad rut to get into. I’m not saying that you need to be writing everyday (although it is good to practice some sort of creative writing daily), but you need to have a consistent novel writing schedule. Obviously this will look different for everyone. And if you’re a student like me, then you will find that this may change in between semesters or terms.
Perhaps you are the type of person who likes to write everyday. In order to not overwhelm yourself, allowing one or two hours in the morning (or night) may be just what you need. For those of you who like to “binge write”, then setting a whole afternoon or evening (around 3-4 hours) a couple of days a week may be just what you need.

Again, everyone’s schedules are different. Maybe you will need less or more time to write in a week. Feel free to be flexible when you need to.

Key Points to Setting a Writing Schedule:

  • Remember to plan it around your life (such as work and school).
  • Write it down! Make it a commitment on your planner and keep it.
  • Try out different things. Maybe do it daily for shorter periods one week, and then “binge days” the next.
  • Remember to be flexible. The point of this is to build a habit to prevent laziness and anxiety.

So here you go! I think that if you follow these three steps, then you will have a pretty successful start to your first draft! I know I will follow this for my next novel 🙂

Discussion:

In the comments below, please give your own suggestion for our writing community on how to start writing a novel or story. If you have a question of your own, feel free to ask!

Thanks for reading! Please comment and share 🙂

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