Host a Writing Sprint

RunnerHaving trouble getting started with your writing today? Why not host a writing sprint?

WHAT IS A WRITING SPRINT?

A writing sprint is a focussed block of writing time. Ideally you announce it to the world and invite others to join.

It’s usually pretty spontaneous. A writer announces that they’re doing a writing sprint at :15, for example (meaning ’15 minutes past the hour wherever you are’), and says ‘join me?’

I see writing sprints mostly on Twitter, because that’s where I hang out, but there’s no reason you can’t host one on your favourite social media network: Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, LinkedIn, even the StoryADay activity stream.

WHY HOST A WRITING SPRINT?

  • You’ll inspire other people to join you in real time, as you write.
  • You’ll feel like you’re not in this alone.
  • You’ll be accountable to the other people taking part and less likely to abandon your own efforts.

HOW TO HOST A WRITING SPRINT

Start It

All it takes is a simple announcement. You can give people some notice (if you know you’ll be writing at 7 AM EST, say so) or you can just say “Go”.

Here are some sample messages you can send

About to write my storyaday story. Want to write with me? #WritingSpring at 0:15.

I’m #writing RIGHT NOW. Join me?

The hashtags are a Twitter thing: they let people easily find other people who are interested in the same things. the ‘Writing Sprint at 0:15’ part lets people know you’re starting at fifteen minutes after whatever hour it is now, wherever they are. (Obviously you can make it 0:00 or 0:23 or any time you like).

Set A Time Limit (optional)

Some people say they’re going to ‘sprint’ for 30 minutes or an hour or 15 minutes. That lets people know how long you’ll all be writing together (though anyone should feel free to write for more or less time). This is optional, though it increases the sense that you’re all in it together for at least that amount of time.

Write

This is important: get offline and write.

No, you won’t actually know if anyone is writing along with you because you’re not checking your messages (right?!). But just imagining a squad of other writers out there writing along with you is kind of fun.

End The Sprint

When your story is finished (or your time is up), send another quick message to let your followers know you are done, and invite them to check in. Sample messages:

#WritingSprint finished! I got a lot done! How about you?

That #WritingSprint was bit of a slog, but I did get 523 words written. How did you do?

Enjoy The Feedback

Sometimes you’ll hear nothing (especially if your network is small and not populated by writers) but sometimes you’ll hear from people you don’t even know, who just saw your hashtag, or message, and jumped in because you gave them the motivation they needed to get going today. And even if you don’t hear from them, there mayl be writers out there who saw your ‘writing sprint’ announcement and buckled down to write a story that would not otherwise have been told.

And trust me, it’s a pretty warm and fuzzy feeling, knowing you’re helping motivate people to write.

Save Our StoryADay!

Sending out an SOS to writers who are struggling with StoryADay this May

sos

Maybe you haven’t started yet. Maybe you’re eight stories in. Maybe you started and then, well, life got in the way and…
But where ever you are, there are still 23 days left in May.
What will you do – in the next 23 days – as your gift to your Writing Self?
Here are 9 Ways To Save (or Support) Your StoryADay May:

1. Reset Your Goals

Only you know what’s going on in your life. If you know (or have discovered) that you simply can’t write a story a day, ask yourself what you could write. Three stories a week? One story, but worked on four days out of the week?
This is your challenge. Make it what you need it to be.

2. Forget The Past

Missed a day (or eight)? Forget it. Forgive it. You have today. Write something today.

3. Forget The Future

31 stories in 31 days sounds like a lot – and it is. What if you’re tired? What if you can’t face the idea of having to do another story tomorrow?
Well, what if the world ends and there is no tomorrow? What if aliens abduct all the writing materials on Earth tonight?
Just write for today.

4. Forget Your Audience

Nothing is more paralysing than thinking about what someone might think of your writing. On a first draft you must shut out all those voices. Don’t worry about the snooty woman in your book club who thinks First Person stories are lazy. Don’t worry that your sister will recognize herself in the portrait of the uptight pain in the posterior you are writing. Write to entertain or amuse yourself, to exorcise your demons, to distract yourself from having that drink or eating that fourth slice of pie. Whatever.
You do not need to share these stories with anyone. Write for yourself.

5. Write Rubbish

Really. You are allowed to write something truly terrible. Because if you allow yourself to write badly, you can laugh at yourself, and laughter is powerful voodoo. And then you can learn what not to do tomorrow.
And, the chances are, somewhere in that steaming midden of middling prose, will be a phrase, a clause, a character, an image — something — that you’re just a little bit proud of and that will make you come back and try again tomorrow.

6. Read & Comment On Someone Else’s Stories

Go to the StoryADay blogs and pick one. Read a story. Leave a comment. Admire the double bravery of your fellow writer who both wrote a story and put it out into the world. Encourage them. Imagine how it might feel to get a little of that love in return. Want it? Write something!

7. Get A Buddy

If you do read and comment on some other StoryADay participants’ stories, you’ll probably find that you’ve just built yourself a personal cheering squad.
It’s a pretty awesome, supportive community over at StoryADay.org. Comment on someone’s story and they’re liable to come looking for yours. Ask them to check in on your progress and they will. Knowing that someone is waiting for your story (or to see your post in the Victory Dance group) can work wonders for your productivity!

8. Use The Prompts

Even if you hate the idea and sit staring at them for ages before anything comes, prompts can be a great way of getting you started on your day’s writing. Even if it’s just to shout, “This is stupid. I’m writing X, instead!”
You can subscribe to the StoryADay Prompts By Email service (this week they’re focusing on ‘character’), or check out these other prompt sites on the Resource Page.

9. Take the StoryADay SOS Course

I’ve run this course in April for the past two years, with good results. It’s a guided writing course with lessons and a dedicated private forum. You write three stories each week, starting with micro-mini stories and building on your successes. If you are really having trouble knuckling down and writing, this might be just the jump-start you need.
I’m going to run the course again starting this Friday, May 11, and it will run through until May 31 as a Save Our StoryADay Rescue course.Click here for more details.
BONUS CONTENT: I’m including in a weekly one-to-one Accountability phone call with me – a 10-15 minute check-in each week to chat about how you’re getting on, and what might be holding you back.

Limited to 20 people so don’t delay!

You Can’t Write Well Without Writing A Lot

“If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story.”
– Ann Patchett “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life (Kindle Single)

 

I had barely started reading Ann Patchett’s short treatise on writing, when I wanted to adopt her.

We, as writers, can spend all day reading about writing (or just reading, for that matter), but there is nothing like the act of writing to teach us how to do the job.

 WRITE A LOT

And not just writing, but writing a lot.  My new buddy Ann puts it perfectly:

“Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment: The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stores, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the fresh water underneath.”

 

What?! There’s no reason to apologize or feel bad about all the trite, self-indulgent stories that bubble up to the surface? There is no reason to expect that any of what we write will be good, especially if it has been a while since we did any serious writing-in-quantity? We can write without being perfect? What a concept!

 TEN THOUSAND HOURS

And it’s not just m’buddy Ann.

Malcolm Gladwell points out, in his fascinating book Outliers: The Story of Success, that experts become experts not by being talented or smart, but by loving what they do and putting in lots and lots of practice. He refers to a study into musical talent and preparation by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson:

“Ericsson and his colleagues then compared amateur pianists with professional pianists…The amateurs never practiced more than three hours a week over the course of their childhood, and by the age of twenty they had totaled two thousand hours of practice. The professionals, on the other hand, steadily increased their practice time every year, until by the age of twenty they, like the violinists, had reached ten thousand hours. The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any ‘natural’, musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did.”

 

(And you thought a story a day sounded like a big commitment!)

Gladwell applies this theory to all kinds of experts and ‘geniuses’ including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and The Beatles.

“And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyeone else. They work much, much harder.”

THE JOY OF WORK

But don’t let that word “work” scare you. After all, you are a writer. You love to write (or at the very least, you love having written!).

The reason the Bills, Steves, John-Paul-George-and-Ringoes and Yo-Yo Mas of the world “work” so hard to become world-class at what they do, is precisely because they don’t see it as “work”. They love what they do.

 

Not every second, I would imagine — any more than you love those moments when you want to bang your head off the desk then throw your computer out of the window. But we love what we do, in the sense that we will do it forever, for the joy of it, whether or not anyone ever pays us for it.

 LEARNING TO DO IT WELL

So we might as well do it well.

The consensus seems to be that to do something well, you have to do lots of it. You have to practice. And you have to learn to love the practice, not just the promise of future rewards. Steve Jobs famously celebrated his meandering approach to education, saying that if he had never stumbled into a typography class (and loved it), the Mac would never have become what it did – and nor would Apple, and nor would Steve Jobs.

StoryADay is here to help you get back into the habit of practicing your writing. It’s not here to promise you publication, or fame or riches. It’s not here to promise you’ll write anything throughout the whole month that will be worthy of publishing. But StoryADay May is coming to help you push yourself to practice. Think of StADa as the parent who made you play scales between piano lessons; the coach who inspired you throw endless pitches at the side of your house in the evenings; the teacher who made you do fractions over and over and over again until it finally clicked and you started to see the music between the numbers.

Use StoryADay in place of the teacher Ann Patchett still celebrates for teaching her,

“..how to love the practice and how to write in a quantity that would allow me to figure out for myself what I was actually good at. I got better at closing the gap between my hand and my head by clocking in the hours, stacking up the pages.”

 

Are you ready to start stacking up the pages?

Warm Up Writing Course Begins This Weekend

Thinking about signing up for StoryADay May but scared to take the plunge?

 

If you need proof that YOU CAN WRITE, sign up for the StoryADay Warm-Up Writing Course starting this Friday, April 6. But sign up today and receive immediate access to the bonus Time To Write Workshop.

 

What: An online short-story writing course for writers who want to warm up their writing muscles: 2 weekly lessons, 3-4 weekly writing assignments. Starts small and builds your confidence over time. Continue reading “Warm Up Writing Course Begins This Weekend”

Writing With Confidence – Imagine The Perfect Reader

When you write, if it is to be any good at all, you must feel free, free and not anxious.
-Brenda Ueland “If You Want To Write”

friends

Some of my best writing, before I started to concentrate on my fiction again, was done in hand-written letters to my childhood friend, Linda.

She is witty and clever and very different from me in many ways, but we share a long history, and she understands all my references. She is unfailingly supportive, except when I’m being an idiot and need a kick up the rear, which she will happily – and gently – administer.

Writing letters to my friend is effortless because I want to entertain her, I know her, and I know she will be a generous reader.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could be sure that all your stories were met with such an audience?

Well, of course, you can’t. But the best way to assure a good response to your writing is to write your very best stuff. And the only way to write your very best stuff, is to come at it with confidence, as if it were going to be read by your ideal reader.

Do you know who your ideal reader is? (Hint: it might be you).

Sketch out a few characteristics of you Ideal Reader now.

  • Do you actually know someone who would be your ideal reader?
  • What authors does she like?
  • How does he like his characters to act?

Now, keep this image of your ideal reader in mind next time you sit down to write a story.


If this technique helps you, leave a comment and the description of your ideal reader, below. I’d love to see what you came up with.

Have Fun Storming The Castle – Writing Lessons From The Princess Bride

Writing and crafting a good story is hard work. But there is joy in it too. Otherwise what would be the point?

I was reminded of this when quoting one of my favourite lines from the movie, The Princess Bride.

The heroes are off to take on bad guys. The odds are against them and they have a hard, painful and probably futile fight ahead of them. Neverless Miracle Max and his wife Valerie wave them off cheerfully, crying,

“Bye, boys! Have fun storming the castle!”

Writing a story is a lot like storming a castle and there is a lot we writers could learn from Wesley, Inigo, Fezzik, Buttercup and yes, even Vizzini, as we storm the gates of our stories.

Have a good reason to storm the castle

Castles are strong. They were built specifically to withstand a good storming, employing all kinds of tricks to repel attackers. You had to have a damned good reason to want to storm a castle. As we know, Wesley had the most important reason to storm his castle (‘true love’). No lesser cause would have compelled him to overcome the difficulties of overpowering enemy manpower, a locked gate with only one key, and having been mostly dead all day.

You need a good reason to write. Even if you lose faith at times, at one point you believed enough in this story, this character or the lesson you felt you could share, to begin the audacious process of breaking through fear, apathy and laziness and begin writing this story. Hold fast to that reason. Your story is worth fighting for.

Formulate A Plan

It may not seem like the heroes have much going for them, but they take stock of their resources (“If only we had a wheelbarrow”), examine their strengths (“your brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel”), and come up with a plan, long before they take their first step towards the castle gate.

Don’t assume that, just because you like to write, you can sit down and create a whole story without doing any planning. You don’t have to know what will happen at every step of your plan but you need something to build on. Every story needs a hero, a setting, and some movement (something must happen or change between the beginning and the end). Do you know what must change for your character? (even if you don’t know *how* it will change).

You don’t even have to form a plan before you begin writing (the heroes have left to storm the castle before Wesley even wakes up, never mind begins to form his plan), but perhaps, like Wesley and his friends, you should pause at the edge of the woods to take stock, and plan the next stage of  your battle every so often.

Be Flexible

WESLEY: Now, there may be problems once we’re inside.

INIGO: I’ll say. How do I find the Count? Once I do, how do I find you again? Once I find you again how do we escape?”

FEZZIK: Don’t pester him. He’s had a hard day.

Just because I’m saying you should plan a little, doesn’t mean you need to be rigid. Once you have stormed the gates of your story (the beginning), you still have to find your enemy, rescue the princess and find a way out. You do not need to know how all these things happen before you start to write. You may find that circumstances within your story take you in unexpected directions. You will need to be flexible. But bend too far and your story can break.

To avoid this that each of your characters, and you as the writer, stay true to your goals.

Stay True To Your Goal

When Count Rugen is at the point of Inigo’s sword, he offers Inigo money, power, all that he has and more, anything he asks for. It’s a pretty tempting offer for a drunk with no prospects (“there is not a lot of money in revenge”). Inigo, however, does not hesitate. He knows exactly what he wants, and that is: to avenge his father.

As you are writing, your story and your characters will offer you little side trips, new characters may pop up and tempt you with their fascinating foibles, new elements may demand to be included. Take some advice from Vizzini (“When a job goes wrong, you go back to the beginning”). Take a breath and ask yourself what was your goal for this story?

However much it loves being endlessly written, this story’s fate (like Count Rugen’s) is to be finished off. Stay focused on the main idea, the main theme, the main direction of the action, and ignore all its false promises of goodies if you just keep writing it, if you let it live, forever. You know, as well as Inigo, that the only way to satisfaction is to stick with your goal until the end.

Trust That An Ending Will Present Itself If You Keep Moving Towards It

At the climax of The Princess Bride, things are in a bit of a mess for our heroes. Sure, they have successfully stormed the castle and Inigo has his revenge, but it seems that Buttercup has married the evil prince after all, Fezzik has disappeared and Inigo can’t find Wesley. Buttercup is about to kill herself, Wesley cannot move and is at the point of Prince Humperdink’s sword in a tower room with no apparent exit.

Does Wesley give up? No, he does not. Instead, he vamps.

That’s right, he keeps talking, until something changes, until he finds the strength to take action. And when that moment comes, everything changes for the better: Humperdink surrenders, Inigo reappears and Fezzik turns up with the perfect means of escape.

The “all-is-lost” point is a classic narrative technique. Unfortunately it tends to hit us writers hard, too. The only piece of advice I have ever heard about how to get out of the pit of despair while writing a story, is to keep writing. It’s about as appetizing as that Miracle Pill cooked up by Miracle Max, and ultimately just as effective.

Even if you stumble, like Wesley, or end up editing out some of what you write, keep moving and a solution will spring from your characters, your situation or both.  Trust me on this. Just keep writing and an ending will appear. If you start to question this advice, remind yourself of what Buttercup says to Wesley when he first reappears in her life:

“I will never doubt again.”

StoryADay.org's Have Fun Storming The Castle


There are so many wonderful moments in this movie that I’m sure I could have kept writing on this theme all day.  What writing lessons would you draw from the characters and scenes in The Princess Bride? Please do share your Princess Bride writing tips in the comments 🙂

Does Thinking Count As Writing?

I asked a friend the other day how her writing was going.

“I’m thinking about writing,” she replied. “Does thinking count for anything?”

Thinking of you

Ouch. Sound familiar?

So, you know what I’m going to say, right?

Thinking…well, actually thinking DOES kind of count as writing. (There, did I surprise you? Wait for it…)

But only if you’re doing it in the right way.

(Oo, you knew there was a catch!)

Thinking Kinda Does Count…And It Really Doesn’t

  • Writers need to think — We need copious amounts of thinking time. We need to daydream and imagine and ‘what if’. Happily, we can do this while attending to all those routine brain-free tasks we have to do every day: you know, the ones that keep us clothed and fed and sanitary. (If you’re an adult you know what I mean. If you’re a kid…no, if you’re a kid you won’t even be reading this. You’ll just be writing your first best-seller. Move along.)
  • Beating ourselves up is not productive — unfortunately a lot of writers (especially the ones who aren’t doing any writing) spend a lot of their thinking time fretting about how they’re not writing, not good enough, a lousy person for not doing more actual writing. This is not only unproductive, it is destructive. The best way to stop this kind of thinking in its tracks is to write something — anything. (Keep reading for ideas on what you can write on a day like this)
  • Capturing ideas is useful — sometimes ‘not writing’ means you’re out living. This is a wonderful thing for a writer. You need experience to be able to write anything meaningful. You need to come home and process the stuff that happened to you today, so that it’s there in your brain ready for when you need it. We need to hate people and imagine all the things we should have said to them. We need to love people and freak out when our imaginations show us what life would be like without them. We need to wonder what it would really be like if our plane crashed on a desert island: how would we wash our clothes and what plant fibers could be spun into thread to repair them?
  • Thought vs.  creativity — There will come a time when you need to look at your work with a critical eye, but that time is not during the initial writing phase. In fact, the less you think while you’re writing your first draft the better. Turn off that brain, move your hands and just let the words pour out.

It’s all very well for me to sit here saying this. But how do you actually move from thinking to writing?

You Must Take Action

You have to actually carve out time to sit down and write. Even if you can’t finish a whole chapter. Even if all you can manage is 100 words, 55 words, 140 characters,

DOING something (i.e. writing, crafting a story and characters) is so much better than thinking. Always.

(You may not feel great while you’re doing it, but trust me, afterwards? You’ll feel awesome.)

How To Take Action With Your Writing

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and beat yourself up because you haven’t finished your first novel yet.

Screw that.

  • Set yourself a tiny goal and meet it. Write a twitter fiction story. Write a 55-word story. Write exactly 100 words (no more, no less). Set a deadline. Do the work. Now tell me that didn’t feel good.
  • Use prompts I know it can seem corny but grab a writing prompt and use it for your own purposes. I assigned everyone on my writing course the same prompt one day and you would have been amazed at the radically different stories that came back from 12 different people.
  • Embrace the first draft — Give yourself permission to write something truly dreadful. Tell yourself no-one is going to see it. Picture a baby learning to walk: they fall down, they get up again, they fall down, they get up again, and eventually they are up more than they are down. We learn by doing. We learn by making mistakes. Write something terrible, don’t show it to anyone. Remind yourself the goal is to write something, not to write something good. Not yet.
  • Get an accountability buddy — life comes at us fast. If you’re like me, there’s nobody knocking down your door to hand you a living wage for your fiction yet. It’s easy to let writing slip into the background and — whoosh! — a month has gone by without a single word written. By finding someone to keep you honest, you give yourself the kind of deadlines that you need. You don’t even have to swap writing samples. Just make sure you find someone who will stay on your case and not be too nice to you!
  • So yes, think. Think about your writing. Think about your characters. Think about what you’ll do when you’ve reached your goals.But most of all, keep writing.

    What one thing will you commit to writing this week? How will you make it happen?

    Leave your commitment below, & I will be your accountability buddy for this week (I will personally check up on you on Wed June 22!)

Don’t Write! How ‘Not Writing’ Could Save Your Story

It can be a struggle to find time to write, and yet here I am, bringing you a post on fitness? What’s up with that?

Well, the facts speak for themselves: making time for fitness is like an investment in ourselves that pays us back in increased concentration, productivity and creativity.

Today I’ve asked Lisa Johnson from LisaJohnsonFitness to give us some pointers about how to integrate exercise and creativity without derailing our writing schedules.

I particularly like her 10-minute burst idea – check it out below.

Also, Lisa has offered to answer any questions you might have about integrating fitness into your routine. (Normally she charges people handsomely for the privilege!) Just post your questions below.

Thanks Lisa!

How ‘Not Writing’ Could Be The Best Thing You Ever Did For Your Writing Career

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Joy In Motion!

Hunched over our laptops, tapping away on the keyboard, writers feel like we have to be writing to be productive.

But, to get those creative juices flowing, maybe what we really need is to push away from the desk, slap on those sneakers and head outside.

Taking a break to get your body moving will:

  • Decrease stress
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve time management
  • Improve mental sharpness
  • Boost creativity

The 30 minutes that you spend in motion will be more than made up for through increased creativity and output. I promise. )

So pick an activity that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a prescribed fitness routine with weights, reps, and sets at the gym. It doesn’t have to be the “Om” of a yoga class, but it can be if that’s what you like to do. Some options to consider:

  • Just go for a walk; nature helps us calm down and declutter our brains.
  • If you’ve got the cardio endurance, go for a run.
  • Take a yoga or Pilates class for weight-bearing strength work and a little Zen.
  • If you like group exercise classes or watching TV while you do cardio, go get a gym membership.
  • Buy some free weights for your home (cuts out all travel time).
  • Watch fitness DVDs; stream them on your computer or use your local cable company for free routines.

Also, if the idea of being away from your writing for an hour just seems completely unfathomable, you can always break workouts down into 10-minute bursts. I tell this to clients regularly. When you’re transitioning from one task to another, do a quick 10-minute burst of cardio. This can be as simple as running in place or skipping rope or throwing on some tunes and dancing around your living room. The brain break will give you a clean slate as you start your next task. It’s amazing how well this works.

If you’re looking for overall guidelines, you want to do a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio per week; anything above that is gravy. Your heart will thank you, your doctor will thank you, and your readers will thank you!

If you have any questions, just ask below, and I’ll answer them.

Cheers,

Lisa


Lisa Johnson has been a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor since 1997. She owns Modern Pilates in Brookline, MA and has been a fitness blogger for three years at Lisa Johnson Fitness.com. She also blogs for FitStudio.com (a Sears company.)

http://lisajohnsonfitness.com
http://modernpilatesboston.com

An Accountability Buddy: The Productive Writer’s Secret Weapon

Today’s guest post from Melissa Dinwiddie is a wonderful primer on how to use the StoryADay community to help you become more productive than you ever dreamed. Thanks, Melissa!

Farewell to Polina!

Do you know one of the most effective things you can do to get your writing done?

Make yourself accountable.

I don’t know the statistics, but it’s a well known fact that if you want to reach a goal, speaking your commitment — including your deadline — to someone you know will hold you to it makes you dramatically more likely to actually do it.

Accountability is a powerful tool, and there are a number of ways you can integrate it into your writing practice. One of my own secret weapons is an accountability buddy.

Here’s what I’ve learned about maintaining an effective accountability partnership.

At the start of the year I was in a mastermind group (another great accountability tool), assembled with the express purpose of helping each other accomplish one specific goal in the month of January. When that group dissolved, a couple of us decided to keep checking in with each other.

At first our monthly calls started to get a little chatty — understandable enough, since we liked each other and had come to think of each other as friends.

This is an inherent danger in any accountability relationship. The problem, of course, is that chatting does not make for finished projects and completed goals.

Accountability partners have to be vigilant, and must keep coming back to the purpose for their partnership. If you want to chat, set up another date specifically for that. During your accountability check-ins, stick with the agenda: keeping each other on track.

This is exactly what I did at the end of a particularly chatty call. “Before we hang up,” I asked, “what’s your next step?”

My buddy confessed that she had a novel that had been sitting in a drawer for way too long, and what she really wanted was to get it edited and up for sale as a download on her site.

“Aha,” I responded, kicking into coaching mode, “so what’s stopping you?”

I asked her realistically how long she thought the editing would take, and when she said “about four hours,” I suggested (okay, I practically insisted) that she do it this week. In other words, I held out an expectation that I thought was achievable.

With my kick in the butt, she was ready to take on this project that she’d been putting off, so the next step was to set up a check-in schedule that worked for her. She committed to emailing me a progress report every night before going to bed, and set a goal of a 2-3 chapters per day.

Although it turned out four hours was an underestimation, I’m pleased to report that in less than two weeks my buddy had finished editing her entire manuscript and was ready to tackle the production side of getting her novel made into a downloadable ebook format. She swears she never would have gotten there without my help.

Do you think this kind of partnership might work for you? Give it a try! To keep you on track, I recommend sticking with the same structure every time you meet. The following questions are a good jumping off place:

  • What did you achieve since we last checked in? Did you accomplish your goal?
  • What didn’t work? What are you going to do differently next time?
  • What goal do you commit to between now and the next check-in?
  • What can you use help with?

Remember to reserve your chatting for another time, and let me know how it goes!

Artist, Writer and Inspirationalist Melissa Dinwiddie helps creatives (and “wannabe” creatives) to get unstuck, get unpoor, and just plain play bigger. Find her at her blogs, Living A Creative Life and 365 Days of Genius.



Win! Win! Win!

Leave a comment with your best tips for boosting productivity and/or working with other people and win a copy of Rory’s Story Cubes, a wonderful dice game that doubles as a story-telling tool. Roll the dice and make a story from the extremely cute images on the dice.

 

Today’s winner will be a random draw, so you get extra entries if you post about StoryADay on your blog, Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else (yes, I’ll give credit for blog posts from yesterday). Just leave me a comment saying where you posted.

Special thanks to Rory O’Connor and the lovely folks at Gamewright Games for donating this prize.

First Story Cubes Winner(s)

Ack!

There were so many great comments on yesterday’s post about creativity and productivity for writers that I had a hard time choosing a winner.

And in the end I chose two (and am suffering horrible guilt about leaving out all the other people who wrote great comments).

But don’t fret, because you can all enter again to win another copy of Rory’s Story Cubes on the next post, which is all about how to work with an accountability buddy to make your writing life more productive than you ever dreamed.

This next giveaway  will be a drawing out of a virtual hat (red), and you can get extra entries for posting about StoryADay in other places. See the Accountability / Writing Buddy post for more details.

Highlights from the creativity post comments

Thanks for all your great tips on creativity and productivity.

Brenda said,

1) Go someplace (a mall, a casino, etc.) and people-watch. I try to make up backstory for the people I see.

2) Listen to instrumental music. Classical and Drum music work well, as does the genre aptly called “Trance.”

3) I grab a box of cheap colored pencils and doodle. Sometimes the doodles end up being a creature, or a map of a fantasy land, or a character. I’m not an artist, by any means, but even my second-rate scribbles (lol) can cause a spark that becomes a story.

I think the reason that these 3 usually work for me is that they all have one thing in common: they make writing fun again.

Trina, in confessional-mode, spoke for many of us,

I say I have no time, but if I truly go back and look at how much time I spend on Twitter or surfing the Net, I have plenty of time. Guilty as charged.

MJ gave me a reason to stop feeling guilty for gossiping about strangers,

Myself and my boyfriend stole the idea of sitting in a restaurant and making up stories about the other diners from a movie we watched. It can be a lot of fun and generate a ton of ideas and helps with character development.

Janel had two great points,

I plan on pulling several prompts every night in May.

I’ve just decided that I will write to ease the stress instead of looking at the stress as a writing block.

Dominique’s suggestions were,

I overcome theses moments of writers block by keeping a pen and pencil around to writ down any great thought’s , plot ideas, or character lines. I also Take a trip to the bookstore to look through coffee table books full of images related to the subject I am writing

Steven made me feel a little less schizophrenic,

I was telling a friend about some story ideas I had mulling around in my head, she said that it must be busy “in there”. I told her that at times it seems like a cocktail party,…Once I get at least the outline of a guest’s story to paper, they tend to back off and let me relax.

Brandy is, like many of us, a list-maker and note-taker,

1. Keep paper and a pen/pencil everywhere; in the car, my purse, on tables, on window ledges, etc., because I never know when inspiration will strike and not having materials near me could kill or stall a great idea.

2. Install whiteboards with markers in different areas of the house and several larger ones in your office/studio. I have found that having a place where it is okay to write in an nontrational way helps me free my thoughts. ..Having a wall of white boards in the studio/office allows me to write “on the walls” which is something we have been trained not to do since childhood…

3. Write EVERYTHING down…My grocery lists end up with story ideas, character quotes, and settings along with the bananas and soup…

You can read all the comments in full here.

 

I have decided to award today’s prize to Brenda and Brandy, but thanks to everyone for taking the time to share your tips.