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Gifts for Writers: Writing Reference Books

Festive trees, snow inspired holiday decorations, and presents. Yep, it’s the Christmas season! Christmas is my favorite holiday and not because of the presents (although that’s a close second). I love it because it brings friends and families together.

Assuming you can’t figure out what to buy that special writer in your life, I’m here to tell you about five books that make great gifts for word nerds.

On Writing by Stephen King

My journalism instructor urged me to the read this book when I told him I was creative writer. A few weeks before finals, he gave me a spare copy! It’s just something that writers must read. On Writing documents King’s time with the craft and gives writers helpful advice on developing their writing skills.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh**t by Steven Pressfield

Okay, the title is a little rough, but there’s a deeper message to it. Pressfield stresses that writers must keep their readers in mind when they tell their stories. He takes us through his personal struggle with his own creativity sharing both motivation and advice on furthering one’s writing career. You can read my full review here.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I recently picked up Lamott’s book from my college’s library and, so far, its been an insightful read. She urges writers to focus on the craft first and leave the drama (publishing, marketing, reviews, criticism, money, and etc.) for later.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

The first “how to” book on the list (and another book I snagged from my college’s library). In Plot and Structure, Bell introduces his plotting technique, the LOCK system, in keeping readers engaged from beginning to end. There’s also information on outlining techniques, developing ideas, fixing plot issues and more.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey is about the mythic structure or Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (sometimes called monomyth) theory. Vogler also talks about character archetypes and gives plenty examples of the Hero’s Journey in use. This book also happens to be the only textbook I decided to keep in my college career.

Bonus! Gift Cards

In case your writer friend has already read the above books, an amazon (or some other book retailer) gift card is a safe bet. This takes the guess work out of the equation and allows your writer pal to buy books that they’re really interested in.

Books aren’t the only things you can gift a writer. You can also give them boardgames that caters to their skills. But, we’ll talk about that later.

Fall Quarter Goals

I have a nasty habit of setting a repeat goal only to not complete it. During the summer, I decided to break that habit by taking on an accountability challenge.

And it was an experience!

The objective was to make a list of goals for the summer quarter (June-August) and then complete half of them by September 1, 2016. Then, to keep myself motivated throughout the quarter, I have to publicly announce my successes and failures to you guys.

That’s what today’s post is about. So, lets see how I did.

 

Summer 2016 Goals

I set a total of ten goals, so I need to complete FIVE for the summer to be successful. They were…

1. Finish Editing Ruin

Oh I edited Ruin alright. Edited it, rewrote it, and edited it again, but am I done? No.

I still have a few continuity and structure errors that I’m working on, so I’m counting this one as a loss.

2. Outline the sequel to Ruin

Have I laid the sequel out scene-by-scene? No, but I do have a rough idea of the major events that’ll take place in the sequel. I just need to fill in the blanks.

3-4. Start Drafting/editing Retaliation

I didn’t get a chance to work on this project at all since I was waaay to busy with Ruin.

5. Read 2 (or 3) Books

A win, finally! I probably read more than I wrote (oops!), but that’s okay. I spent my entire spring semester reading critical texts and classics, so some modern fiction was a nice change of pace.

You can check out the reviews for two of the four books I read via these links: Joe Gollem and the Drowning City and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t.

6. Write a (or 3) Short Stories

Yay, another win! I wrote a total of three shorts (1000+ words) and two flashes (100+ words). I’ve never completed a short story before, so this was an enlightening experience.

Lesson: writing a short story is just as difficult as writing a full length novel. Go figure!

7. Write a (or 3) Guest Posts

I wrote a piece on criticism that Luther M. Siler from Inifintefreetime was gracious enough to post on his blog. You can check it out here.

8. Post once a week

Nope. I fell apart at the beginning of August.  😦

9. Be more active on social media

I set out to be moderately active and I did. Woot!

10. Get Podcasting Equipment

I can start recording episodes at this very moment! I have the editing software, microphone, and a recording strategy all set. Alas, I’m going to set my podcasting ambitions aside for this quarter.

Yay, 5 out of 10! Not bad for my first time.

 

Fall Quarter Goals

The end of the year is almost here, and I don’t want my biggest 2016 goals to spill into 2017. With that said, my goals are…

1. Read 2 (or 3) books for fun

I love being an English major. I get to read tons of critical texts and write about them (yay!), but I also like modern fiction. Managing two books this semester should be enough to keep me from wanting to bang my head against a table.

That and I really wanted to beat my Goodreads challenge this year!

2. Write 12 blog posts

The idea is to post once a week (preferably on a Wednesday), but I doubt I’ll have a stellar record this quarter especially during midterms and finals. Writing a total of 12 posts should be enough to keep my blog alive while I stress over my GPA.

3. Write a blog post series

I got an idea and I can’t wait to do it! Be on the look out.

4. Completely finish editing Ruin

This is it. This quarter is when I finally finish editing Ruin—no excuses!

I can do it, I can do it, I can do it…

5. Outline Retaliation

Retaliation is a sci-fi novel that I’ve been working on since 2012 (yes, that long! One of my biggest flaws as a writer is that I’m constantly rewriting my work). I’m hoping that I can do this during October so that I can…

6. Compete in NaNoWriMo

I love NaNoWriMo! It’s like a holiday for writers.

I didn’t compete last year so I’m going to do it this time around with Retaliation.

 

I know, I know. I have a short list of goals this time around, but that’s only because I have to make room for my studies. Hopefully I can complete all six, but the goal is to finish three by December 1st.

Wish me luck. 🙂

Book Review: Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Christopher Golden (Illustrated by Mike Mignola)

I can easily get “lost” in a store with a book section (woe to the soul that accompanies me to a book store or, worst, library). There you’ll find me gazing at book covers, reading enticing blurbs, and sampling the first pages (okay, first CHAPTER) of an interesting novel.

The aisle where I found Joe Golem and the Drowning City, written by Christopher Golden and illustrated by Mike Mignola, looked like the aftermath of a Black Friday sale. Books were pulled from their proper places and thrown on shelves where they didn’t belong (I found Fifty Shades of Gray in the middle grade section). I unearthed Joe Golem and the Drowning City from a pile of books in the romance section and bought it.

I really intended to read it, but the spring semester started and…you know how that song and dance goes. I picked it up in June (or July) and finished it in three days!

It’s an amazing read filled with occultists, steampunk machinery, otherworldly gods, and dark illustrations to boot.

Synopsis

The inhabitants of the “Drowning City,” formally Lower Manhattan before the sea flooded the streets in 1925, do whatever they can to survive the city’s watery slums. Molly McHugh use to be just like them. She lived a life of fear and poverty until Orlov the Conjurer, a powerful magician hindered by age, pulled her from the streets and employed her as his assistant.

Things change when Orlov is abducted and his capturers try to kill Molly. She runs into the mysterious detective, Joe Golem, who promises to help save Orlov.

But neither are prepared for the world that lies ahead of them.

Blurb from Amazon:

In 1925, earthquakes and a rising sea level left Lower Manhattan submerged under more than thirty feet of water, so that its residents began to call it the Drowning City. Those unwilling to abandon their homes created a new life on streets turned to canals and in buildings whose first three stories were underwater. Fifty years have passed since then, and the Drowning City is full of scavengers and water rats, poor people trying to eke out an existence, and those too proud or stubborn to be defeated by circumstance.

 

Among them are fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh and her friend and employer, Felix Orlov. Once upon a time Orlov the Conjurer was a celebrated stage magician, but now he is an old man, a psychic medium, contacting the spirits of the departed for the grieving loved ones left behind. When a seance goes horribly wrong, Felix Orlov is abducted by strange men wearing gas masks and rubber suits, and Molly soon finds herself on the run.

 

Her flight will lead her into the company of a mysterious man, and his stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, whose own past is a mystery to him, but who walks his own dreams as a man of stone and clay, brought to life for the sole purpose of hunting witches.

My Overall Thoughts

Since I respect those who haven’t read the book, spoiler text will be in GREEN from this point forward.

The bleak atmosphere of the Drowning City drew me in. Its inhabitants occupy the tops of skyscrapers and use makeshift bridges to get around. Beat-up boats transverse waterways that snake around abandoned buildings. To make matters worst, those who live in the city are essentially abandoned because no one is willing to help them rebuild.

There’s also a supernatural element with staeampunk undertones that makes the setting even more wild: Church (Joe’s partner) uses alchemy and a mechanical heart to prolong his life, Joe is an ancient stone golem meant to protect the world from witches, and Orlov is the son of an interdimensional god.

In my opinion, the interior format of the print book is amazing. It’s about the size of an adult coloring book with Mike Mignola’s shadow-heavy illustrations displayed in the margins. They aren’t prominent (there’s a few full page illustrations), but they’re detailed enough to pull you further into the story. You may be more familiar with Mignola’s work than you think, since he wrote and illustrated Hellboy (check out his work here).

The characters were also interesting; however, I didn’t like Molly very much. She wasn’t a bad character: she’s decisive and abrasive (definitely not a damsel in distress). The only problem is that she’s a normal character amongst extraordinary ones (Joe is an ancient golem, Orlov is a magician, and Church is basically a cyborg).

Even the antagonist was oddly charming. He has this jolly santa clause vibe…right up to the moment when he starts explaining his evil plan to open a up a parallel dimension that’ll throw the world into eternal damnation.

Things I loved!

The illustrations! Beautiful.

Joe’s gruff, stoic, attitude.

The scene where Joe saved Molly from the possessed tree that tried to eat her.

The part where Orlov finally becomes the freakish god he’s destined to be in the climax of the story. His metamorphoses causes tsunamis that ruin upper Manhattan (where the wealthy live) and a parallel dimension to bleed into our world. It’s a touching moment because Orlov is confused and doesn’t want to be this thing he’s becoming. At the same time, he has to leave to the parallel dimension or risk destroying the world Molly lives in. No matter which decision he chooses, Molly will be left alone (so sad).

Things I Tolerated.

I’m not kidding when I say this book was awesome. I also don’t finish books that I don’t like (and I finished this in three days!). With that said, there were a few places in the book that were a bit drawn out. The scene with Molly being chased by the gas man for example, could have been shorter.

The story’s climax was spectacular, but I was a bummed when Joe bailed at the end. When Molly asked where he was going, he simply told her he was going to hunt witches (keep in mind that Joe’s witch hunting days were over centuries ago…he just doesn’t remember). Molly didn’t want him to leave just as much as I didn’t, but he did anyway. Boo! I can’t say this is a bad thing, it’s actually good writing on Golden’s part. Makes me want to buy the sequel.

My Recommendations

If you’re someone who likes steampunk, supernatural thrillers (bordering on occult), or you’re a fan of the Hellboy series, then you may just like this one.

Links:

Christopher Golden’s Website

Mike Mignola’s Website

Behind the Scenes Blogging Tag

I was scrolling through my WordPress reader one typical morning and found this blogging tag on Sophie Dishman’s The Journey Begins. I thought, “This would be an interesting post to do” but never did it because of…you know, procrastination.

Since I’m bogged down with my writing projects (hence why there wasn’t a post last week…oops), I figured writing a fun post wouldn’t hurt.

The way this tag works is that I have to answer the twelve questions below and then “tag” another blogger.

Alright, so here’s the questions:

 

1. Where do you blog?

On my laptop (sometimes on my kindle). I don’t have a place dedicated to blogging—or writing for that matter. Simply put, I write wherever I’m comfortable which may be at my computer desk, living room couch (or floor), garage, and etc.

 

2. Where do you find inspiration for your posts?

That’s a question that not even I know the answer to.

Sometimes I get ideas from other writers and writing communities that I follow via social networking sites (that’s how I got the idea for the post you’re reading and this Bookshelf Tag!).

If I see something online that I think is interesting, than I’ll dedicate a post to it (for example: Is YA Fiction Becoming Repetitive? or Basing Your Reading Habits off of Reviews is so…Grade School!).

Honestly, I think the biggest inspiration is my life. If I’m having troubles with something or have something to share, then I’ll write a blog post about it (for example: Backhanding Procrastination When Camp NaNo isn’t Motivational Enough and Fight the Monday Blahs!).

I don’t get blogging ideas as easily as I do fictional ones unfortunately :(.

 

3. How long does it take you to write a blog post?

It depends on how busy I am. Sometimes it can take me an hour to a week.

 

4. Do you plan your blog posts? How?

I use to! I stopped recently in favor of focusing on my fiction (which is why things have been a bit haphazard lately).

I use to plan out five posts for the month and outline what I wanted to write. Then, I’d spend each week getting one post ready (writing, editing, and formatting) for a set due date.

 

5. What kind of Camera do you use?

If I ever decided to take my own pictures, I’d probably use my kindle, laptop, or Nintendo DS camera. Nothing fancy.

 

6. What editing programs do you use?

Inkscape or Canva.

 

7. Do you use a notebook to track your ideas?

I put my ideas in a dedicated folder on Scrivener or OneNote. Sometimes I jot them down on whatever I can find. It’s not a pretty process and I can loose most of my ideas if I’m not careful.

 

8. Do you take your pictures?

I use royalty free stock photos for my blog.

 

9. What’s your favorite type of blog post to write?

Two types: motivational posts because I like to help people and personal updates because they don’t take a lot of research or preparation (you just write!).

 

10. Who knows about your blog?

My family knows. They may browse around every so often. Oh, and you guys!

 

11. Are you an organized or messy blogger?

Messy. Very very very very messy. I’m not organized and I don’t plan them.

But that’s the beauty of blogging! You get the real, imperfect, me.

 

12. Biggest blogging pet peeve?

I read my posts over multiple times before I publish them to make sure there’s no typos or silly errors. Problem is, I usually find some seconds after publishing a post! It’s so irritating.

Sometimes I edit them, but most of the time I get into the “screw it” mood.

 

And that’s my messy blogging life!

I don’t want to impose anything on anyone, so if you feel like doing this tag—go ahead. Don’t forget to link your post back to this one so I can check it out.

Small announcement: Inky Tavern is now on Bloglovin! Yay 🙂

*Picture Credit

If We Were Having Coffee On July 23, 2016

It’s Saturday?! When the heck did that happen? I thought for sure today was Thursday until Cortana kindly corrected me. Whoops! Anyway, if we were having coffee, I’d tell you that…

 

I’ve spent a good chunk of the week working on Ruin.

Okay, maybe not “a good chunk of the week” since I lost track of time. I probably spent three or four (?) days filling in plot holes.

Ruin and I have an unhealthy love-hate relationship. One moment I’m smitten, thrity minutes later I’m pulling my hair out thinking, “this is the worst thing I’ve EVER written!” That’s why I decided to let it rest for a few days which somehow turned into two weeks.

A family member got wind of this and pointed out that I was slacking (it’s kinda hard to get upset over a piece of criticism that’s true). I went back to work and made a ton of progress because of them.

I guess you can say I needed rest, but I think I needed the encouragement more.

 

As expected, I didn’t win that flash fiction contest.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that I wasn’t a tad bit disappointed. At the same time, I felt an odd sense of triumph.

Writers, like you and I, work in a very subjective field and subjectivity isn’t all that bad. It means that at least one person is going to like what we do! We just have to find them. This is why I wasn’t too disappointed.

I’m thinking of editing (once I get the critique) and submitting my piece somewhere else. OR I’ll turn it into a short story and self publish it on Amazon.

Haven’t decided yet, but I’m gitty over the possibilities!

 

I’ve won two scholarships and the ceremony is in August.

I’m excited(!) and freaked out at the same time.

I mean…do I have to dress up for this? I hate dressing up.

 

I’m looking for guest posters for the fall quarter.

The Fall semester is starting back earlier than I thought (it’s in August). College and writing have always vied for my time and it’s an intense competition. I’ll attempt to blog once a week but don’t expect a stellar track record (especially during midterms and finals).

I don’t want Inky Tavern to be inactive for too long and I want to give back to those who have given to me (thanks for following and commenting 😇). With that said, I’m offering guest posting opportunities. You can talk about anything that enriches someone’s life so long as it follows these guidelines.

You can write your post in a blogging fashion (like you see here) or as a piece of creative non-fiction. Let me know if you’re interested or have questions!

 

That’s my life right now, how’s yours?

Also, if you want to participate in the “If we were having coffee…” community you can do so by simply writing one and tagging it #weekendcoffeeshare on twitter. Go to Part-Time Monster’s blog for more information.

Book Review: “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It” by Steven Pressfield

Advertiser. Scriptwriter. Author.

Do you know what these three careers have in common? According to Steven Pressfield, storytelling.

If you’ve read last week’s post or are following me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I’ve recently picked up Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why that is and What You Can Do About It. I’m a big fan of Pressfield’s no-nonsense writing style and intended to buy his book the moment I heard about it. That was until Marie Forleo gifted a free version to her mailing list subscribers (woot!).

This book didn’t disappoint (not that expected it to). It’s so informative and inspiring that it should be on every writer’s TBR list. Lets talk about why that is.

What was it about?

Similar to On Writing by Stephen King, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t walks us through Pressfield’s career as a creative. Each career has taught him something about storytelling and he’s sharing those techniques/life lessons with us in short, vignette-like, chapters. He also discusses how writers can use these techniques in all forms of writing (novel, script, self-help, non-fiction, etc.).

What are my thoughts?

30556551When I first read the title, I thought “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.”

Then I read the subheading and thought, “Okay. Now this makes sense.”

I like the title because it’s a sneaky, yet brilliant, way to get your attention😈. Love it. Good job Pressfield!

Anyway, the first three chapters set the stage for the entire book. But, well, as shameful as this was, I…uh…I skipped them.

They weren’t bad! I just really really really wanted to get to the meat of the book. And boy, was it juicy!

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t reads like a narrative with Pressfield being the main character. So you’re getting some sweet advice on writing but you’re also learning about Pressfield’s personal struggles with the craft. In my opinion, this little snippet into his life was uplifting because he never gave up.

Grit and determination can help anyone succeed.

Whenever he introduces a new storytelling technique, the narrative pauses so he can explain it. He explains some techniques/lessons better than others, but I think this is because the “less explained” ones are pretty self-explanatory. He also repeats the complicated techniques throughout the prose so you can’t forget them (at least, I can’t).

Overall, this book is packed with value. The underlining lesson is that us writers must take our readers into account. If we fail to do that, we’ll have one heck of a time trying to get them to read our writing.

What was my favorite part(s)?

After the first eight chapters, the book is broken down into eight parts. The two parts that I like the most are “Book 3: Hollywood” and “Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time.”

“Book 3: Hollywood” is where Pressfield learns about story formula. He delves into my favorite topic, the Hero’s Journey, which is an ancient story structure that (believe or not) every story follows.

(Warning: This book isn’t technically a novel, but it reads like one. So if you don’t want me to spoil the effect for you, skip to the next heading.)

“Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time” is where Pressfield uses the life lessons and writing techniques he learned form his previous careers and applies them to writing his first novel.

This is an intense time in Pressfield’s life because novel writing has impacted his life in a negative way in the past: his manuscripts were never”good enough,” his marriage faltered, and he was jobless.

Despite all this, he still had a burning desire to be a creative and he fought for it even though resistance held him back. This struggle makes his triumph in book “Book 4” especially moving in my opinion.

What are some key take-aways?

Do you want to know what Pressfield means when he says “nobody wants you read your sh*t”? He means:

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs—the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with ev­ery sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?

Pressfield on the struggles of writing a novel:

As artists, you and I are struggling each day to dominate our material, to shape it into a cohesive whole with a beginning, middle, and an end. But at the same time, the raw entity defies us. It’s a living thing, with its own power and its own destiny. It ‘wants’ to be something. Our job is to discover what that something is—and to help it become that.

On structuring a story:

The ending dictates the beginning. I’m a huge fan of this back-to-front method. It works for anything—novels, plays, new business pitches, music albums, choreography. First figure out where you want to finish. Then work backward to set up everything you need to get you there.

What are my recommendations?

As I’ve said before, this book should be a must read for every author, writer, and aspiring author out there.

I think it could also be helpful for those who are struggling with their writing careers or are in need of some inspiration.

If you’re someone who just likes to learn new things (like me), then this book might be good for you too.

Lastly, if you’re going to read this book, please do so with pen and paper. Don’t just read it, try to apply the techniques to your W.I.P.

Links

Goodreads

Amazon

Author Website


Image result for goodreads logoWhile we’re talking about books, how about we be reading buddies on Goodreads?! I’m starting to post updates about the books that I’m reading (snippets of the reading material and my reactions to them) because, gosh, books are awesome.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in (or you just need a friend), send me a request and we’ll be book nerds together! 🙂

If we were having coffee on July 8, 2016

Two weeks ago I wrote my first Coffee Share post and loved it! So I decided to do another. I don’t have much to say but If we were having coffee, I’d tell you…

 

I submitted my short story!

Maybe I should call it “flash fiction” since it’s 500 words?

Anyway, I finished my editing and then submitted it to the contest’s judges four days ago. Whoopie!

Writing a piece of flash fiction is challenging but fun. You have to make sure every word progresses the story because there’s little room for fluff. The story needs a point and you need to get to it in a quick, but satisfying, way.

I admire the writer who can do this in 100 words.

 

I expect to be rejected.

This isn’t depression or resignation, it’s fact. We writers have to face rejection from publishers, agents, readers, and so on. This isn’t an excuse to quit however. Even the most seasoned writer faces rejection on a daily basis.

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow

I love this quote the most:

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

You can find more quotes here.

Anyway, I have too many projects and am way too stubborn to give up so I’m not worried.

 

I’m reading Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t and you should be too!

The book is not as discouraging as the title sounds, I promise.

I received the book from Marie Forleo who asked Mr. Pressfield if her email list subscribers could get a free copy. I’m 63% through and that’s only because I had to pause a few times to get back to my writing.  The chapters are small (I think this is Pressfield’s writing style), but gems exist in each one. I plan on writing a review so keep an eye out.

 

That’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. As always, I’m eager to hear (um…read) your comments below.

You can also participate in these “If we were having coffee…” posts by simply writing one and tagging it #weekendcoffeeshare on twitter. Go to Part Time Mosnter‘s blog for more information.

Stay Motivated to Write with these Four Tips

If you’re one of the many writers competing in Camp NaNo, good luck because NaNo will challenge your commitment. Wait, sorry, that’s not entirely true.

Writing will challenge your commitment — period. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, screenplay, comic script, or term paper you will reach a point where you’re motivation goes POOF! Gone.

It’s totally natural, but here’s four ways you can keep yourself motivated to write:

 

Make yourself accountable by telling others your writing goals

Letting others know about your writing goals is probably the most effective way to stay motivated. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable to tell those same people you gave up.

You can tell a writing buddy, family member, spouse or friend so long as they hold you to your goals and give you moral support.

Some bloggers, myself included, share their goals with their blog subscribers.

 

Diarize your writing journey

Writing down your problems can reduce the control they have on your emotions. 

Journaling brings you into that state of mindfulness; past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment.

Thai Nguyen

If something emotional is keeping you from focusing on your writing, journaling (keeping a diary) can help you evaluate or purge those negative feelings.

Maybe you thought you had writers block but you’re really suffering from impostor syndrome. Maybe you can’t focus on your writing because you had a nasty argument with your spouse. Whatever your problems are, try writing it down so that it doesn’t bother you as much.

You can journal your writing journey on your blog if you’re comfortable with that. Just be mindful about what you put on the Internet, okay?

 

Have a reward system

Pair a goal with a gift and you have a reward system.

During 2015’s NaNoWriMo I had a bunch of left over Halloween candy (no one was trick-or-treating where I lived). I set up a reward system where I got to eat candy only if I wrote 1700 words that day (it totally worked).

I think it’s only fair to warn you that reward systems require a ton of self-control. So, yeah, keep that in mind.

 

Time Travel

You read that right. No, I’m not crazy.

Well…not legally.

You can “time travel” by sending an email to your future self via futureme.org.

Pick a due date, write yourself a congratulatory email, and send it. You’ll feel uber special because you’ve not only completed your goal, but you also received a well deserved pat on the back from your past self. And, lets face it, sometimes all you have is yourself to count on.

Seeking validation from others is a waste of time. All you need is determination and grit.

Tweet This!

What if you don’t meet your goal? Well, then you’ll feel like crap which will turn into determination for next time. No one likes feeling like crap.

 

I’m not saying any of these tips are foolproof, but they can help reduce discouragement. Motivation is a battle we writers face daily so maybe give one or two a try?

If you want more tips about keeping yourself motivated to write, I suggest reading this post I wrote during 2014’s NaNoWriMo.

Good luck out there!

If We Were Having Coffee…

If you want to know more about these coffee share posts, you should visit here or here. I thought they were pretty neat and decided to try one!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that…

I redesigned my website/blog.

This will actually be my fourth time redesigning it and by “redesign” I mean “using a new theme.” I was using Suits but it was way too bland for my taste. I’m now using Goran and I’m loving it.

I’m still toying with the options so you may see a few changes every now and then.

I don’t like this summer heat but…

I’m a winter person. I like the snow, rain, and chilly air which is unfortunate because none of that exists where I live.

On the bright side, I’ve finally found the time to read Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan. I bought the book during the Christmas season so…it’s about time I’ve read it. So far, Sullivan hasn’t disappointed me and it’s a pretty good fantasy read in my opinion.

I’ve also “finished” reading Podcasting for Dummies by Tee Morris, Chuck Tomasi, and Evo Terra. I don’t think you can ever “finish” a book like this since it’s always something to have on reference, but I got what I needed out of it (I’m working on a review post so keep an eye out).

The summer heat also gives me a reason to eat a bunch of popsicles and spend more time outside. I guess it’s not all bad, huh?

I have “Writer’s Block,” but it ain’t stopping me.

When I say I have “writer’s block” it’s code for I’m stumped, lazy, confused, or discouraged. I’m suffering from the “stumped” kind right now but I’m working through it.

This week I wrote two short stories, outlined a third, penned a few poems, and edited Ruin. I submitted one of my poems into a competition and am editing one of the shorts for another competition. So I’d say I beat writer’s block this week.

Lesson:

Writer’s block isn’t an excuse to stop writing, it’s a call to action!

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Anyway, that’s my life right now. How’s yours?

Make Your Writing Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R.!

Hey writers: is there a writing goal that plagues your to-do list? Do you repetitively set it but can never seem to finish it?

I know I do. Good news: it may not be your fault! Flawed writing goals are always difficult to do, but you can fix this my making them S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

Note: While this post is centered on writing goals, it can be re-purposed for any goal type.

 

What does S.M.A.R.T.E.R mean?

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound, Evaluate, and Re-do (whew!). It’s a variant of “S.M.A.R.T.” which is a criteria that helps make your goals accomplishable. The “E.R.” (Evaluate and Re-do) is what you do after putting your goals into action.

 

To make a goal S.M.A.R.T.E.R., you need a general goal.

General goals get a bad rep for putting too much focus on the end result. They seem harder than they really are and we feel like crap when we haven’t completed them. They’re just too darn broad.

But…you need a general goal before you can make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R.. Just make sure that your general goal isn’t focused on the end result. How? Break it down into increments.

My goal:

I want to be an author (too broad).

I want to finish a manuscript (better).

I want to write a 5k word short story (Great!).

 

Specific

A specifically stated goal mentions what you plan to do, how you’ll do it, and the due date. We can’t do much at this point since all we have is a general goal so the first order of business is to make it S.M.A.R.T.. Then we’ll make it S.M.A.R.T.E.R..

I promise this will all make sense.

 

Measurable

How do you know when you’re done? How can you track your progress?

You can track the progress of your writing project by word count, page count, chapters, and so on. Just make sure you have a number in mind!

My goal: I want to write 5,000 words.

 

Achievable

Do you have the resources necessary to achieve your goal?

A resource could be something tangible like a USB flash drive, notebook, or organizer. It can also be something non-tangible like a word processing software, commitment, or time.

Also, take into account every responsibility or distraction that could impact your goal (work, family obligations, school) and decide if it’s still achievable. If it’s not, you may need to adjust something.

My goal: I write in Scrivener, back up my work via a USB flashdrive, and use a planner to track my progress. That’s pretty much all I need for writing. I always write in the morning when I’m not too busy so time isn’t a problem. Writer’s block may wear down my commitment, but I can fight against it by outlining my short story ahead of time or relying on good ol’ fashioned grit.

 

Realistic

Why did you make this goal? Is it relevant to the life you have or want?

There needs to be a point to your goal or else its just valuable time wasted.

My goal: I want to be an author and writing something, like a short story, will help me get there. Balancing cups on my head or chugging ten gallons of maple syrup won’t help me (unless it’s for the sake of research).

 

Time-bound

When do you want your goal to be completed?

Set a due date! This keeps you motivated and prevents procrastination (hopefully).

My goal: I want to write my novel during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s 161 words a day–easy! In case life decides to be a jerk, I can stick to my original plan of getting it done by the end of the summer but I’m aiming for July 31st.

 

Revisit Specific

Now you can specifically state your S.M.A.R.T. goal.

My General Goal: Write a 5k word short story.

My S.M.A.R.T. Goal: Write a 5,000 word rough draft during July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do this by writing 161 words a day and keep track of my progress via Scrivener and my planner. The due date is July 31st (or September 1st) at midnight.

Do you see the difference? The reason why I did the “Specific” step last is because I wanted to flesh out my original goal first.

 

Evaluate

This step only happens after you’ve tried your S.M.A.R.T. goal. Take some time to analyze what’s working and what’s not. Check your performance. What did you struggle with? Do you need to lower the stakes or increase them?

For example, you may want to decrease your word count goal or extend the due date if you’re having trouble keeping up. Or maybe the hours in your job has changed and you have to adjust something.

 

Re-do

Detect a problem? Go back through the S.M.A.R.T. criteria and make a new goal. Put it into action and then evaluate how things are working for you. Going bad? Re-do it. Going good? You’re golden.

WARNING! You may be tempted to use the Evaluate and Re-do steps as excuses for procrastination. DO NOT DO THIS EVER! Only do it if you really really really need to. I suggest limiting yourself to one (OK, two) re-tries.