10 Ways to Make Your Writing Routine Actually Stick

  1. Schedule your time. You’ve probably heard it before, but it helps to make a schedule of everything you do everyday for a week. After the week, you can see where you have space to write and what you can move around to make space to write. When doing this, consider when you prefer to write. Are you a morning or evening person? I find I am much more productive in the morning! This being said, you can learn to write at any time of the day. So, make a schedule and stick to it.
  2. Have a convenient and comfortable location to work. Some people work better at home. Some people work better out of the house. I’m one of those people who works well in my room at my desk. Frankly, I don’t have the budget for cafés and my local library is a fair trek. Make sure that you have a place to write that is your own where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Inform the people who you live with about your writing time. It is important to do this so that your time is respected and they are aware that you are working and aren’t available. My husband and I have a rule with each other. When one of us closes our door, it means we are working  and are not to be bothered. Since we both work from home, this is necessary! Otherwise we wouldn’t get anything done!
  4. Protect your time. If you’ve decided that your writing time is in the afternoons and friends keep calling you to hang out during the afternoon and you keep cancelling on your writing time… Well! either you should reschedule your friends or your writing. Treat your writing time with respect, otherwise no one else will.
  5. Avoid distractions. Disconnect the WiFi. Unplug. Don’t be checking Facebook, email or twitter every five seconds, otherwise bam! You’ve just scheduled yourself a time to tweet everyday. Have a separate time to surf the net.
  6. Record your progress. Make Nanowrimo everyday! You can record your word count at the end of each session in a spread sheet to keep you motivated. However, this might not work well during editing. Then the delete key sometimes feels like the only key, so your word count might grow slowly. When editing it’s helpful to keep a time log of your sessions instead.
  7. Tell people about your project. Broadcast it among your friends. This serves as a huge motivator for me, since I know the next time I speak to my friends they will ask me how my writing is going. If I’m not keeping my writing routine, then I can’t give a positive answer.
  8. Set goals for yourself. Weekly goals, monthly goals, big deadlines, small deadlines. Make lots of goals, see if you meet them, and reevaluate. This way you can monitor your progress.
  9. Reward yourself after you meet these goals. Get yourself something you really want and is a little frivolous. I’ve heard of one writer who got herself a pair of fancy shoes. I tend to buy music albums. That way I can listen to them as I write some more!
  10. Have a ritual. Some writers like to make a cup of tea, or listen to a certain song to create the right head space, or light a candle. I have a very bare bones ritual, where I start my laptop, look out the window, and prepare my mind to write. Do whatever works for you.

5 Things I Learned about Writing from Reading Maggie Stiefvater’s “Raven Cycle Series”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I read “The Raven Boys” I’d been in a terrible writing slump, where I was working away at my draft in a dull monotony. I’d forgotten why I liked reading. I’d forgotten why I liked writing. And then, when I read the first page of the novel I was hooked on the entire series. Stiefvater is a master of her craft and you can learn so much about what makes a novel work by reading it.

1) The opening lines are brilliant. Stiefvater chooses to start each book with a prologue, and although there is plenty of conflicting information out there of whether to prologue or not, this choice works so well for her novels. The prologues set the mood for the novels and serve as seductive promises of the intrigue to follow.

Take the first sentence of “The Raven Boys.”
Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.

BAM. The reader needs to know more. How can someone tell Blue with certainty that she will kill her true love? And why so frequently? And will this even happen? If so, how? And more importantly, who IS her true love anyway? Does she have a true love yet?

The rest of the prologue expands this theme and by the end, the reader is committed to reading the rest of the book. The entire series answers the questions raised by the very first sentence of the book.

The first sentence of the second book in the series, “Dream Thieves” is equally as brilliant.
A secret is a strange thing.

Simple, but effective. In this prologue, Stiefvater breaks into an essay of the different kinds of secrets and how they apply to one of her characters. It. Is. Amazing. The theme of secrets immediately brings intrigue to the novel and promises that the reader will understand her characters like no one else will.

Which leads me to the next point.

2) The books are incredibly character driven. Forget about flat sucky characters that drift around aimlessly and only jump to the plot because the author tells them to. Stiefvater’s characters have so much depth they seem like real people. Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Blue have their own hopes and fears, secrets, families, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Although Noah isn’t as well developed, that’s for other reasons.

In each of the books, the personal motives of each of these four characters are made perfectly clear. Each of them is different. Each of them drives the plot in their own way. And the way they interact together is magical. So much yes.

By the end of the series, I felt a physical ache inside that I would be leaving the characters behind forever. It felt like losing old friends. Fortunately, Stiefvater’s writing a new book about Ronan so I won’t have to say goodbye just yet!

3) The brand of magic is distinct, unusual and kind of quirky. The magic doesn’t fall into typical YA fantasy clichés and is refreshing. Obscurely Old Welsh Kings in the Virginia Hills and Lee Lines are awesome. The novel revolves around Glendower’s burial, a king whose refreshingly not Arthur of the famous legend. There’s an arcane historical element, which I loved and the Latin never gets old.

However, the medieval historical magic doesn’t make this a dry read. In fact, Stiefvater balances this unusual topic with aspects the YA readership loves. Namely one girl hanging out with four hot private school boys in cool cars exploring the countryside. What high school girl doesn’t want to do that? If there’s some weird magic going on, why that’s just a bonus.

Basically, the reader doesn’t have to like history to like this book. The history just sort of slips in.

4) Stiefvater has a clear, concise way of writing. Nothing rambles. Every sentence has a purpose and leads to the next one. The descriptions usually highlight character or the setting and use the perfect words to do so.

I learned so much just by checking out how she starts each of her chapters. There are three main ways she does this:

a) A opening sentence telling you the character and the setting where the action will take place for the scene.
e.g.: Gansey woke in the night to find the moon full on his face and his phone ringing (“The Raven Boys,” Chapter 9).
Clearly, the character is Gansey.
The setting is at night and the reader probably can assume that he’s in his room at Monmouth since he just woke up.

b) A topic sentence that reveals an aspect about the character or setting we’re going to follow for the chapter, almost like the start of an essay.
e.g.: Mornings at 300 Fox Way were fearful, jumbled things (“The Raven Boys,” Chapter 3).
This is a topic sentence about setting.
Or
e.g.: Blue wouldn’t really describe herself as a waitress (“The Raven Boys,” Chapter 6).
This is a topic sentence about character.

c) Or she starts the chapter with Dialogue, often asking a question.
e.g: “Mom, why is Neeve here?” Blue asked (“The Raven Boys,” Chapter 13).

The first two ways demonstrate how to start a scene without ambiguity. It’s helpful to be precise and tell us who, what, where, and why as quickly as possible. Ways b and c also promote intrigue for the reader. These three ways to start a chapter work well.

5) Authentic dialogue. Each character has a way of speaking that’s uniquely their own and showcases their personality. I’ve read before that for good dialogue, the tags aren’t entirely necessary. You should be able to tell without tags that there are different people conversing. Stiefvater’s dialogue definitely meets this goal.

Also, the dialogue is humourous. This in turn, makes the characters more likeable even if they are difficult people.

 

4 YA Books about Sexy and Dangerous Faeries

Or should I say the Fae. Whatever you call them, it can’t be denied. Immortal faeries with powerful magic, cruelty, hot bodies and tricky bargains are causing YA books to fly off the shelves. This fantasy trope still is going strong, although soon it may run the danger of being overused.

Here are 5 great books about sexy and dangerous faeries that you should read:

1) “Wicked Lovely” by Melissa Marr

This is a gritty fantasy book about Aislinn, a teenage girl with the sight. When Keenan, the Summer King, starts stalking her and trying to make her his Queen, Aislinn has to make a series of difficult choices. Keenan is sexy, but dangerous. He doesn’t care about Aislinn’s typical teenage hopes and desires. He doesn’t care about Aislinn’s relationship with her super pierced (and sweet) boyfriend Seth. All this faerie cares about is what he wants. Will he get it?

 

 

 

2) “Lady Midnight” by Cassandra Clare

It’s true: Clare’s latest series in the Shadowhunter world features other fantastical creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and warlocks. However, faeries take a critical role in the plot here – perhaps more than any other creature. The faeries are nearly at the brink of war with the Shadowhunters. When similarly multilated bodies of both humans and faeries are discovered again, protagonist Emma Carstairs gets involved. Her parents were killed in this way when she was a child. Many deals between faeries and humans will be made. The humans will always get the short end of the stick. As Clare excels in writing romantic relationships, faeries are some of the love interests and may form a love triangle later in the series. Ooooh.

Read my review of “Lord of Shadows,” the sequel of “Lady Midnight” here.

 

3) “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

The romance is the driving force behind this book. You have Feyre, a Katniss type character, who hunts for her family’s survival. One day, in pursuit of a doe, Feyre kills a faery in wolf form in the woods. But it doesn’t matter. Sexy Tamlin drags her to the faerie kingdom as punishment. Feyre has to live at court for the rest of her days. At first, Feyre resents the faeries and worries about her family’s survival without her. However, after she gets to know her captor better… well, romance!

 

 

 

4) “The Iron King” by Julie Kagawa

The first book in this series, describes Megan Chase, a girl who goes to the Faerie world to rescue her little brother who was replaced with a changeling. There she meets many characters inspired by Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” including Oberon and Puck. Of course, there is a dangerous faerie love interest as well. Who? Well, I won’t say.

 

How to Manage Carpal Tunnel as a Writer

Just a quick disclaimer before we start this post: I’m not a doctor and my tips should not replace medical advice. Anything that I say is purely anecdotal. That said, I’m writing this post in case anything that I’ve discovered over the years helps someone with a similar condition.

One of the most annoying things that can happen to a writer when they’re in the middle of a manuscript and making good progress is bam! They’ve been writing for six hours straight and then they’re stuck with a repetitive stress injury that lasts for years. Yep. I’m talking about carpal tunnel. It hits, it sticks and then your wrists may never feel the same.

To say the least: it sucks.

Of course, the first step when you feel this kind of pain is to seek medical attention. The doctor or physiotherapist can tell you what kind of activities you can do with your hands (spoiler alert: they’ll probably tell you to rest) and get you back on track.

However, what can you do after you’ve followed their advice and rested? What should you do when you’re allowed to write again? How can you avoid a relapse?

1) Start to write gradually. Set a timer for a few minutes. Type. Then stop and rest some more. If you write for many hours, the pain may come back. If you feel okay after a long rest, start the timer for another couple of minutes. Type again. Slowly build up your typing time over many weeks.

Even now when my wrists are doing very well, I break after an hour of writing. If I want to write more than one hour, I hold one writing session in the morning, take a break for lunch, and then have another writing session in the afternoon.

2) Mix it up. Consider doing a mixture of typing and hand writing. Again, take lots of breaks.

3) Heat your room during your writing sessions. My apartment has poor insulation and is quite cold. I find if I use a space heater, my wrists don’t seize up during my writing sessions. Also, dipping your hands in hot water can help loosen them.

About ice. I know some people respond well to ice, so if that’s you go ahead. However, I find that ice makes my hands tighter and then my pain gets worse. I tend to prefer heat over ice. But that’s me. You do you.

4) Buy an ergonomic keyboard. I bought the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse. Although sometimes I still get pain, it’s a lot less. I find the keyboard position is better for my hands and has more natural spacing between keys. The mouse is pretty nice too.

I would recommend this product for people with with wrist pain, because it’s definitely worth a try. It also works with Macs. I can’t comment on other ergonomic keyboards on the market, because they aren’t sold at Officeworks in Australia. I tried shipping some stuff over from amazon, but it was wildly unsuccessful.

(By the way, this isn’t an add. This is my own opinion. I’d love to have gotten a discount on my keyboard, but this really didn’t happen. Still, the price was definitely worth the reduction in pain.)

5) Remember to stay active. If you are a writer, you probably like to sit at your desk for long periods of time. It’s important to work out the rest of your body, because if you suffer from carpel tunnel you may have a greater likelihood of acquiring other repetitive stress injuries. Keeping your body strong may help reduce your chances of injuring yourself as well as improve your general health.

 

“The Wrong Side of Right” by Jenn Marie Thorne

I have to admit: I’ve always found American elections ridiculous. They start campaigning so far in advance it is absolutely insane. They debate all issues dry well before election night and it becomes more performance than promise. And it completely dominates Canadian news, but I digress.

With the current political climate being what it is in the US, it isn’t surprising that writers have taken inspiration. Say hello to “The Wrong Side of Right,” a YA novel that describes an election campaign.

When teenage Kate Quinn’s mom dies that year, she meets her father for the first time. He’s a Republican politician whose running for president. His campaign team turns a potential scandal into a promotional opportunity. Everything changes for Kate when she is thrust into the public eye, campaigns for causes she doesn’t necessarily support, and meets a family she never knew existed.

In an environment where everyone constantly adheres to party policy, it is hard to know who people actually are and Kate is constantly at risk of losing her identity. Should she stand up for what she believes in even if it opposes her father? Should she trust a boy she’s falling for, even if he’s on the wrong political side? Will she ever fit in with her new family if she’s true to herself?

Despite my poor interest in the subject, I found myself immediately swept up in the political drama. There are clear messages about people, politics, and extreme beliefs and how when they mix together there are necessary compromises.

However, this novel doesn’t just talk about political relationships. The strongest relationships are actually about family and friendship. There’s also a strong element of romance if you’re into that, which I am.

Of course, the most interesting part of the novel was the election’s conclusion. How the novel resolves and how the past election resolved and how they compare… well. You’ll have to read “The Wrong Side of Right” to find out what happens. Let’s just say in lieu of recent events the novel’s conclusion is most interesting.

 

“13 Days of Midnight” by Leo Hunt

When 16-year-old Luke’s estranged father dies, he bequeaths his entire inheritance to his son. This happens to be six million dollars – nothing to sniff at.

However, it isn’t that simple. Luke’s dad was a necromancer. Along with the money, Luke inherits eight ghosts. Eight ghosts who hate his guts and want to kill him so they can go free.

I don’t usually do ghost books and the emo cover really threw me off (so much so that when I was reading this one in public I was like “God, I hope no one asks me about this.” No one did though, so yay). However I’m glad I gave this one a try. It’s compelling yet creepy and Leo Hunt’s voice really captures the teenage vibes. His sentences relate to the real world in such a way that it makes the first person narrative believable.

The main character Luke has a nice character arc and although he’s okay, he certainly doesn’t start super likeable. He can be kind of a jerk actually. He’s got a lot going on with a mom in chronic pain though, which explains some of his stuff. Anyway, it’s nice to see him grow through the novel.

His ally the goth girl Elza though… I don’t know what it is about these books where the main character’s like “ooh it’s a goth girl she’s creepy” and then discovers that the goth girl really knows what’s up and what’s going on and is smart and kinda hot and he was wrong to judge her… Seriously. This goth girl character is becoming a common trope in YA.

Not gonna lie, I liked Elza. She works. But sometimes I wish that instead of the “I judged you wrong you’re awesome” plot twist, that it was more like “I judged you wrong you’re more awesome than I expected but you still have flaws.” I mean, Luke has flaws. Why doesn’t Elza have any either?

The plot was very compelling. So much so that when I was reading it in a busy place with lots of background noise, I became completely immersed and forgot about what was happening around me. Leo Hunt knows how to raise the stakes for Luke so you have to find out what happens next. At all costs. Also, the dog character Ham is hilarious. I laughed out loud. In said public place.

Overall, I really enjoyed “13 Days of Midnight.” And I’m glad I wasn’t born with second sight. Seeing ghosts everywhere would be waaaay too creepy.

 

 

How to Tell People You are a Writer

Simple. You tell them that you are a writer.

I say that it’s simple, but I’m writing this post to help writers who struggle when faced with the dreaded question. And by the dreaded question, I mean you’ve just met someone and they ask all chipper, “So what do you do?”

When I started writing I hated being asked that. “Uh, actually, I’m a –” I used to whisper, full of apologies because I hadn’t *you know* published anything yet.

I’d blush and stumble and stammer and avoid eye contact. After all, how could my profession be real when I hadn’t landed a deal yet? Even though writers often don’t find an agent until their manuscript is polished and that takes time. Even though getting an agent doesn’t guarantee a publishing contract.

So how long do you have to wait until you can call yourself a writer?

The answer is easy. If you write, then you’re a writer.

Haven’t published yet? Haven’t found an agent? Haven’t sold your book’s movie rights?

It doesn’t matter.

Do you write? Yes? BAM you’re a writer.

So, can you call yourself a writer? Of course! That’s what you are silly!

Let’s have a practice run. You’ve just met some person and they ask the dreaded question.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” you say with confidence. No apologies. No explanations. No excuses.

Chances are the rest of the interaction will go well. Usually they’ll ask you what genre you write, what your book is about, and whether you’ve published yet.

I’ve found that if you say you are a writer with confidence and pride people take the rest of what you say seriously. You’ve shown that you believe that what you do is valid. After all, being a writer is valid! The rest is all in your head.

“American Girls” by Alison Umminger

This book is a modern take on “The Great Gatsby” with Manson girl undertones. When teenager Anna loses it with her family at home, she runs away to LA to meet her half sister Delia. Delia is trying to make it as an actress, but despite her beauty, struggles.

On the sets of Hollywood’s D-list, Anna is forced to acknowledge that glittery LA is actually kind of scuzzy. Although not everyone is terrible, a creepy director wannabe hires Anna to research the murderous Manson girls and she becomes obsessed with discovering their back story.

This book is dark, but sometimes I like my books dark like my chocolate. There is a lot going on. The emotional violence in Anna’s family contrasts with physical violence of the Mason girls.

The book focuses on an intense comparison between women. The women include:
Daisy in “The Great Gatsby,” who is stunningly beautiful.
Delia Anna’s actress sister, who is getting too old to really make it.
The Manson girls themselves, whose beauty contrasts with their crimes.
An teenage princess star, who used to be on top but is on her way out.

The main character Anna may be an allusion to Daisy’s friend Jordan in “The Great Gatsby.” Anna is girl who’s in the middle of society, but isn’t the queen bee. Instead, she is on the side of all the action. She still somewhat has her head, even though she’s a little lost.

The comparison between women in “American Girls” left me with questions about why we value beauty in women the way we do. Can we, as women, really live the American dream? Does beauty help or hinder us?

“13 Little Blue Envelopes” by Maureen Johnson

When Ginny’s Aunt Peg dies, she leaves her niece with a little blue envelope. Inside is a thousand dollars to get Ginny started on a trip to Europe and instructions to receive the twelve other envelopes that will instruct her on where to go and what to do next.

Along the way, Ginny learns to come out of her shell, stay true to herself, and uncovers more stories about her aunt. Some of Ginny’s experiences cause her to understand her aunt better or herself better or a combination of the two. Also, there is a love interest.

it was interesting to learn about Aunt Peg, who is a critical character in the book who never appears. Also other forms of art, such as visual art as well as performance art played a thematic role.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It really captured the feeling of exploring new places and meeting new people and different kinds of tourists. Even though there was a light hearted quality about it, ultimately the novel centres around grief and growing up.

“Goodbye Stranger” by Rebecca Stead

“Goodbye Stranger” has a definite middle school vibe, where your friends are the most important and boys become interesting to some of your friends, but not everyone. Bridge, Tabitha, and Emily are best friends who encounter changes from growing up.

Bridge meets Sherm and starts hanging out with her maybe-crush. Tabitha starts resisting the appearance and attitude expectations that come with noticing members of the opposite sex. Emily has an older boy who’s actually interested in her. When Emily starts taking pictures of herself for this boy, the three friends have to decide if they fit together in the same way anymore.

Both libraries I visited placed this book on the YA shelves, even though it has a distinctly middle grade voice. I mean the characters are twelve-years-old for goodness sake! I suspect this decision was made because of the supposedly mature topic of a girl sending pictures of her body to a boy.

I think an age limit on this topic is a little ridiculous. Girls notice boys at a fairly young age. Boys notice girls around the same time. It is good for girls to think about boundaries and their bodies and the internet before they hit the late middle school and high school crowds. In fact, most of this book isn’t about the pictures. It’s about becoming comfortable about who you are.

There’s also a subplot about bullying in high school told from the second person in occasional chapters. I mention this because I think it’s the first time I’ve read a second person narrative that wasn’t a choose-your-own-adventure. At first it was jarring, but eventually I really wanted to know who “I” was and how “I” fit into the plot.