If you're anything like me, there's just not enough time in the day to get all your tasks done. And if you're a writer, imagine that ten-fold. Not only must you try to work around the house (cooking, cleaning, folding laundry), you have to take care of your family (or pets - gosh, they're a TON of work as well). Most of us have full-time or part-time jobs to contend with. Plus, we're expected to try to fulfill our dreams of being a writer, or at least keep the author engine going (cranking out books). But, how? It's all so exhausting!
As someone with 130 story ideas in progress, I can fully relate to your situation. Too many book projects, and so little time. But sometimes, you just have to narrow them all down and focus on one story. Honestly, I promise that will help you figure all of this out, and still manage to get something accomplished with your writing career.
First, let's completely eliminate the editing, publishing, and marketing aspects. That stuff comes later, after the work is done. For now, just focus on writing.
"But, Marie, I just have too much going on. Too many ideas, no time."
Makes sense. Me too. Believe me, I know. But the point is to make this situation a little more doable, right? So, what's next? How do we tackle all those story ideas or writing projects?
1. Randomly pick one. Even if you have to toss all the folders behind you (or move virtual files around) and work on what's left, just try.
2. Focus on the story/project that calls to you the most. There will always be one that you feel really passionate about. Even if you're just going down the list of titles or file names, which one do you feel more drawn to?
3. Brainstorm genres or categories. Circle two. Choose one of those, and focus on a story which fits under it. If you don't have an idea for that genre yet, pick the latter.
"I'm still overwhelmed. Where do I start?"
1. Break the project into smaller, manageable tasks. By doing this, it takes a lot of stress off your goals.
Tell yourself you'll devote an hour per day to writing. Or even less, try five minutes, twenty or thirty minutes. Just give yourself enough time to complete a task. Even if it's just one tiny aspect of the project (such as two paragraphs), you'll feel a greater sense of accomplishment.
Try to complete one scene at a time, depending on your schedule. We all have distractions at home or around us in public. But, if possible, try to keep on the same train of thought. Or at least jot down specific notes so you won't forget the details. It's a lot harder to return to an idea that you've abandoned in mid-scene if you don't have a general plan. Later on, you can worry about sectioning your manuscript out into chapters.
2. Plot it out. Make an outline for your story or writing project. Now, I'm not saying that you can't be a pantster type of writer, if you're comfortable with it. But having at least a loose outline will help keep you on point. It also gives you the room to keep an open mind in case the muse throws a curveball, and then you decide to go in a different direction entirely. Plans can always change. There is no right or wrong way to approach your story.
3. Research your project for inspiration. Sometimes when I get stuck, it's not because I don't know where the main story is going. The reason is due to lack of information about a person, place, or object. Have a better picture in your head before you try to describe it. Research the setting. Where does the character live? What are his/her main hangouts? Favorite places to visit? What do you know about your MC's (main character) profession? You should at least have a general impression of their day to day life, and how the elements of the story may throw a wrench in their plans.
If you're writing fiction, you should also know your main character as well as you know yourself. Consider filling out a character worksheet. When the story is happening, you'll be able to ask yourself if that individual would really perform those actions.
"I've got nothing to work with."
This happens now and then. For some writers, they get stage fright. Not necessarily with public speaking, but instead with the concept of writing. How do I do it? How do I get there? Or rather, how to get from point A to B. No, the writing journey is not remotely linear. It looks more like this.
The big problem is that you're getting all caught up in what comes afterward - the business of writing - and you've forgotten to just enjoy the experience, the creation of the fictional world. Or, you've become overwhelmed with producing an idea that you can't bring it to fruition. True, there's a big difference between having a concept and actually putting it on paper. Or on the screen, whichever format makes you more comfortable. It isn't that you don't have any good ideas. Your brain is full of them, I promise. You're just getting bogged down with the thought of the end product. Rome wasn't built in a day. It takes time to get there, so give yourself a break.
Here are some possible approaches:
1. Find inspiration in the world around you. Get out and observe people and places. Enjoy nature. Do more walking. Take in the sights, sounds, and pay attention to the emotions they evoke within you. When you return, go back to your desk and write about what you noticed.
Current events, the people we know, even local happenings (sometimes crimes, of course) can inspire us to write. Think of your mind as a bucket in which to toss your experiences. The everyday stuff we go through is the perfect raw material that we can turn into a masterpiece.
2. Do more freewriting. Freewriting is a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise. The idea is to writing continuously, without stopping for at least five or ten minutes. You can go as long as you want, but the point here is to prevent yourself from getting bogged down in typical sentence structure or grammar. Just write whatever comes to mind, on a train of thought, even if what you're writing seems silly. Grab onto nearby objects to give yourself a creative boost, but keep the thought process going until you've basically puttered out.
You can come back and reread the passage. See if you notice any nuggets of wisdom, even sentences or paragraphs you could use to spur a project idea. Circle the usable sentences, phrases, and descriptions. See if they spark some extra creativity.
3. Try writing prompts or exercises.
Here is a list of options:
4. Read books about writing. There are numerous self-help books on writing. Check them all out on Amazon or your favorite bookseller.
Here are some suggestions:
Also, go ahead and subscribe to newsletters that help boost your writing performance. Here are a couple, to name a few:
Don't forget check out their archives for helpful posts.
5. Read more books. See how other writers are writing their stories.
You don't want to mimic them (each writer has their own unique voice), but being familiar with books in your genre (and outside of it, simply for variety) doesn't hurt. This helps you recognize different writing styles.
I hope this article assists you in your writing journey...
As always, happy reading!
As writers, we're always looking for ways to improve our craft - skills we can add that will boost our experience level. Here's something you may not have considered...
Have you ever thought about how someone's assumption of your character may color your performance? As a Libra, I've always found it rather annoying to see that one main personality trait in the zodiac claims that all Libras are lazy creatures. Do I take downtime now and then? Sure. Everyone has to at some point, or they'll just get burnt out. But I'd never term myself as 'lazy'. My closest friends and fellow writers would probably tell you that I am far from being lazy in life, or in writing. I always have a long list of tasks to accomplish, and I do my best to get it done. If you're also a Libra, I'd wager you don't agree with that 'assumption' about yourself either.
Even if you don't exactly believe in astrology, that's okay. You can still beat these assumptions and come out a better writer. Let's take a look, shall we? Where does your birthday fall here?
Zodiac Signs, Traits, and Evaluation
Aries (March 21st -
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