I’m afraid I missed the first post of the #BlogHop for #Writers (“Writing Goals for 2014”), but I wanted to try out the rest of the series, since I like the topics being presented! Many thanks to Cate Russell-Cole of CommuniCATE who posted about the Blog Hop! I hope you’ll find these tools useful.
1. First thing’s first…
UNPLUG. Seriously. The biggest thing keeping me (and probably a lot of other people) from writing regularly is the well of distraction that is the internet. When I want to get down to some serious writing (which should be all the time), I need to unplug the Ethernet cable, turn off my phone (or put it on silent and hide it in the depths of my purse), and bar the door. Need to look something up, a fact or a foreign phrase? Leave a note in the prose and look it up later. Don’t interrupt the flow because I guarantee that you’ll find yourself scrolling through Facebook statuses for an hour and suddenly realize you still haven’t looked up how to say, “What big horns you have!” in Elvish.
2. Dana, My Darling
Typing is, by far, the fastest and easiest way for me to record my thoughts. However, some days, especially in the summer, I don’t want to spend my day cooped up inside staring at a monitor. Or I just might not feel like sitting at my desk. Maybe I want to curl up on the sofa with my cats or sprawl across the floor, or write at the kitchen table with easy access to the fridge. But I can’t afford a laptop, they have overheating issues, and, worst of all, the pontificate of procrastination: internet access. But handwriting scenes and then transcribing them later is both slow and time consuming. The solution? Buying a Dana AlphaSmart:
The only reason I’m going on about this is because I love my little Dana. She has been a faithful companion through the last three years of writing and is still going strong. A Dana is more sophisticated than a typewriter but more primitive than a laptop. She’s essentially a keyboard with a small screen (you can only see about five lines of text at a time) and a wonderful USB cable that can plug into your computer and transfer everything you’ve typed from the Dana into a Word document in a matter of seconds. There’s no internet, no mouse, no pretty graphics, and no problems with overheating. Plus, the lack of frills means a Dana’s rechargeable battery life is far longer than a laptop’s. And she’s not nearly as heavy or bulky. The only downside is that you can’t plug a USB into the Dana and bring up work you did on the computer. The data is a one-way street, so I generally vomit-type on the Dana, then do the spit-and-polish through the computer. But it’s a minor drawback, and I still consider it the best $150 I ever spent.
3. A USB Drive/Pen Drive/Thumb Drive (did I forget any names for this gadget?)
A USB drive followed me wherever I go (my current one is named “LOKI”), so I can plug into any computer and start working. I also save my documents as Rich Text Files (RTF) so there isn’t a compatibility issue between different version of Windows. Some people like using GoogleDocs to get around that problem. I personally don’t care for it because A) it requires the internet and B) I don’t like having my work floating around on Google servers with no extra level of backup.
Helpful Hint: If you want to save a lot of heartache and grief, back up your work daily on a data CD, a portable hard drive, or another USB. And, just to be safe, print out what you’ve written. I print out each page as I finish it, errors and all, just to have a record.
3. Good, Old-Fashioned Notebooks
This is a wonderful way to escape the headaches caused by computer screens. Plus, I tend to remember things better when I write them down. I keep a separate notebook for each project I’m working on, and write in pencil so I can erase if I have to. It takes off some of the stress, since it often takes me a long time to “mar” a fresh, blank notebook with my horrendous scribbling. Notebooks are for generating ideas and working out plot problems; I usually type my prose on the computer because it’s easier to edit and I don’t waste time transcribing.
4. Staying on Target with LeNoWriCha
I am a horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE procrastinator. The ambrosia of inspirations does not often flow freely for me and I think my muse is a sadist. To top that off, my work ethic got left somewhere in my 9th grade art class, so it’s pretty hard to focus and get any writing done. Not only do I procrastinate, I am also a bit of a perfectionist with writing, so when I do write, I want to get it spot-on perfect. On the first try. Which doesn’t happen. So I’ve resigned myself to grinding through pages of crap until I level up enough to put out something worthwhile. But I’ll never improve and nothing will get finished unless I write often, preferably every day.
That’s where LeNoWriCha, the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge, comes in. My friend David made this addendum to the grueling pace set by NaNoWriMo to make it a little more accessible and friendly to those of us in it for the long haul. Writing 50,000 words in one month is a reciepe for burnout if you do it for more than a month, so he made some modifications based off the video game HALO. Since HALO has four difficulty levels (East, Normal, Heroic, Legendary), David set different word count goals for each level (500, 1000, 1500, 2000). Each day you see which level you can reach. It’s a nice way to keep track of my progress and have writing goals that allow for the fact that I have a life. For more detailed information, see my LeNoWriCha Logs.
5. Deadline Treats: Dr. Pepper & Ice Cream
Nothing says “I love you” to a writer on a deadline like caffeine and sugar. These two are my favorites when I have to stay up late working, but I try to use them sparingly. Too much not only expands the waistline, but also interrupts sleep. If you suffer from depression like I do, or if you are prone to depressive episodes, use with caution. The fading sugar-high can utterly destroy your day.
6. “We Can Dance If We Want To!”
I fully endorse exercise as a writing tool, one that is far better for you and your work than junk food. A healthy body means a healthy mind, warding off depression, easing stress, and getting those creative juices flowing! Taking a walk for a break or lifting weights or playing Dance Dance Revolution before sitting down at the desk improves my concentration and the writing itself.
7. Cue the Music
I personally find creating a soundtrack for my stories to be a great creative tool. It can help me get inside a character’s head, feel the mood of a scene, or spark an idea. Whenever a song comes up on the radio, CD, or playlist, I make a note of the song and the feelings or images it inspired. Then I add it to a special playlist for whatever story it make me think of. But don’t force it or listen to songs looking for a character. Try to let it just occur naturally. I don’t know if this would be any help to nonfiction or memoir writers, but as a fantasy writer, I find it both useful and enjoyable.