Better late than never: A few writing/writer tips

So, as you can see, I’m posting a bit late today. Every once in a while the Spellbound Scribe of the week will forget their turn to post and we scramble to catch up. This week was my turn to post and to forget. So here I am, desperate to get this up today!

Last night, when I was falling asleep, I realized I’d forgotten to write up my post for today. I laid there and tried to think of something to write that wasn’t just self-promotion, because those can get a little boring (don’t worry, there’s some self-promotion at the end, don’t want to disappoint!). And I came up with a great idea! I even thought of the opening paragraph! Huzzah! I’ll wake up in the morning and write it straight away! I thought.

But, of course, because I didn’t write the idea down, I forgot it.

So that leads me to a new idea for today’s post. Tips for writing/writers.

1. Write your shit down. This seems like an obvious one, I know, but we all need reminding. We all think “eh, I’ll remember.” Or, “No, this is such a good idea there is no way I’m going to forget it.” You know what? Maybe. But what if you don’t? What if you don’t remember that perfect fix for that plot hole? What if you don’t remember that awesome name for a character and you end up with calling him Bob? What if you’re already late with a blog post and, because you thought of an idea as you were falling asleep, you’ll forget it? My phone charges on my nightstand, I could have easily opened the note app and jotted down my idea. I have a notepad there too. But I didn’t. Don’t assume you’ll remember. Write your shit down.

2. Back up your work in multiple places, continuously, as you write. Tuesday I went to open a manuscript doc that I finished back in September to finally start editing the rough draft, but when I did, only half the doc would open. The MS is just over 75k words, but for some reason only 39k would load. Half. Half the book wouldn’t load. I closed and reopened, closed and reopened. But still, just 39k words. Then I checked the properties and saw, yes, the file was just 39k words. Half my book was gone.

Luckily, when I’m writing a book, I will email myself every day the latest version. Sometimes I’ll only email myself every new 5k words, or 10k, but more often than not, I’ll email myself every day even if it was just a new 1k words. So I was able to go into my email and find “Completed First Draft of XXXX”. Crisis averted. I do also have an external flash drive where I save all of my completed drafts, but usually just the finals, not the roughs. I like email for multiple copies because of the unlimited space. Don’t depend on your computer or Dropbox (I’ve known friends who’ve depended solely on Dropbox to find that the only version saved in there was a corrupted one. Not cool.). And, with email, if your computer crashes, or your external hard drive does, you can log on to any computer, open your email, and bam! You’re back in business.

3. When editing, read your MS in different formats. Often, writers are staring at the same computer screen for months, writing their books. So, you’re used to seeing your MS this way. It is an easy way to miss things because your mind sees it the way it’s supposed to be. Open your doc on a tablet or ereader, read it the way you imagine thousands of people one day will, use the highlight and note functions to keep track of mistakes or edits. Print out your doc and go old school with a red pen – I do this. If you can’t do these thing, enable the speech option in Word and have your computer read the story to you. Yes, it’s a bit robotic, but you’ll hear mistakes. Change it up so you can be the best self-editor you can be.

4. Don’t only self-edit. It is so terrifying when you’re a new writer (yeah, okay, not just when you’re new) to ask people to read your work and give you feedback, but it is vital to becoming a better writer. You don’t have to take the notes you get, but hearing reactions from outsiders really helps. An honest beta reader/critique partner will help you make your work stronger. And they might even catch some mistakes you missed. Multiple sets of eyes are good. And you can build your own critique group, which helps with morale and getting through the tough times of writing. If you don’t have anyone who can or will do this for you, there are resources out there, look for them. I, for example, offer professional critique services. *cough*

5. Give yourself a break. Notice earlier I said I was just starting to edit the rough draft of a book I finished in September? It’s now March. When you finish a project, whether it’s the rough draft or the final, take time off. We have to replenish our wells of creativity, collect the spoons we’ve given out, we need time for ourselves. Go read someone else’s book for fun. Take a day trip somewhere. Sleep in. Binge watch something on Netflix. Go to a museum and see some beautiful art that isn’t the written word. You can’t be creative day in and day out without taking a break. This, I think, is what leads to writer’s block. Not a lack of ability or that your story is bad, but that your mind needs a break and replenishment. Don’t finish a rough draft one day and then two days later think you’ve had enough time to come back to it and start editing (no I did not take five months off from writing, but I did leave that particular book alone because I knew I needed a lot of time away from it. I worked on other projects in the meantime). Yes, sometimes, you can finish one book and are still able and ready to write something new. Go for it, if you think you can, but remember, it’s okay to take time to play.

(Now for that shameless self-promo. Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve revamped my Patreon account and am actively working on it. I hope, if you’re a reader/fan of mine, you might check it out. For $3 or more a month, you’ll get access to exclusive posts of fiction and rewards depending on your level. I’m hoping to make it worth everyone’s while, so please have a look.)

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