2016 December Writing Challenge Wrap Up

Today is the final day of this year’s December Writing Challenge. How did you do? Did you write every day? Make progess on our current project? Start something new? Maybe experiment a bit? At the very least, I hope you set up some good habits for the year ahead.

Many writers have successful careers without producing material daily, but regardless of your writing schedule, creativity is a muscle that must be exercised regularly. Train your brain to produce on demand and you will find the ideas flow much more easily than if you attempt to write merely when the whim strikes you. If you’re just starting out, you’ll develop good habits that will help you continue to write under deadline or when you’re traveling or when your day job rears its head and demands your attention. If you’ve already been at this a while, you probably realize that writing can be more of a challenge if you fall out of the habit of sitting down and tackling the work in a set rhythm.

Regardless of your progress this month, I hope you’re heading into the new year with some wonderful ideas and plans to write, and that you make excellent headway with all your goals for 2017. Wishing you a wonderful New Year’s Eve! Stay safe and enjoy.

Friday Links: Inspiration to Write through the Holidays

Happy Friday! Apologies for the lack of links last week, but between the holiday and my own self-imposed social media blackout, I didn’t have as much as I would need for a full post. And you were all shopping anyway, right? However I am back this week with an all new collection of Friday Links to kick off December and this crazy final month of 2016.

First, a quick reminder that this is Day 2 of the December Writing Challenge. Even if you are just hearing about it now, it’s never too late to start, so make sure you get your writing time in for the day. Now’s also a good time to take a quick look at your weekend plans and figure out when you plan to write tomorrow and Sunday. Don’t risk running out of time; make a writing date with yourself and stick it on your calendar.

All right! Without further ado I give you this week’s Friday Links. There should be something here to inspire all of you to read and write through this busy time of year. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Roxane Gay on the Importance of Storytelling – A short Q&A with the author.

John Scalzi: Writing for Audio Made Me a Better Writer, Period – The author discusses how writing specifically for audio changed his approach.

The Man Who Invented Bookselling as We Know It – The history behind The Temple of Muses, the famous London bookshop that set the standard for book retail in the 18th century.

Putting Penis to Paper: When Sex Writing Goes Terribly Wrong – A humorous look at the art (or lack) of writing sex scenes.

These Women Reporters Went Undercover to Get the Most Important Scoops of Their Day – A look at the girl stunt reporters of the late 19th century.

35 Gifts Under $35 for Writers and Book Lovers – A nice roundup for those of you shopping for the bookish and/or writing set, or who need to nudge your own friends and family toward getting you things you’d like.

The Non-Western Books that Every Student Should Read – Great assortment of titles for anyone looking to diversify their TBR pile.

The History of Female Titles: When ‘Mistress” Meant ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’ Meant ‘Prostitute’ – An interesting account of how women’s titles have changed. Particularly useful for historical fiction authors.

Happy Halloween!

(c) Can Stock Photo/ mythja
(c) Can Stock Photo/ mythja

It’s a day known for candy, for costumes, for scary stories and haunted houses and a final settling into the autumn season. So whether you plan to take your little ones out for some trick-or-treat fun, read a great old horror novel, or simply steal some time to work on plotting out your NaNoWriMo novel so you’re ready for tomorrow, I wish you a fun-filled, safe holiday, complete with all the best sorts of thrills.

Emergency Writing Prompts: Day 23 of the Challenge

Those of you participating in the December Writing Challenge are inching into sticky territory. Last minute shopping, cleaning the house, cooking for the holiday dinners. You name it, suddenly you can’t put it off any longer and writing might be looking like something that should take a back seat.

If you’ve saved your two days off for the month, it might be time to use one. But if you’re still trying to squeeze in a little writing and you’re feeling uninspired with the pressures of the holiday bearing down on you, here are a few quick prompts to get the ideas flowing. Don’t forget, you don’t need to write daily on a single project, so maybe a little time to play will get you over the hump.

  • Write about the absolute best holiday memory you have, from any holiday. A party, a gift, a trip, a visiting relative. Were you a kid or an adult? Were you awed or surprised by something? Make that memory as vivid as you can and get it down on paper.
  • What about your worst holiday memory? Did you ever experience a holiday where something bad superseded the holiday celebration for your family? An ill relative, an accident, some ongoing issue? Or perhaps the holiday itself turned out disastrous. Burned dinner, no-show friends, a blizzard keeping everyone trapped under one roof for too many days. Write about a tragic holiday experience, or take what was a holiday disaster and write it as a farcical experience with the benefit of hindsight.
  • How about a character forced to spend a holiday alone? Maybe they’re stuck somewhere without the money to visit family, or they’re in a situation that won’t allow them to travel: prison, quarantine, orbiting Mars. How might they celebrate? Or regret that they can’t? Or, a slightly different take: a character celebrating with a group of total strangers. How or why might that happen?
  • Write about a family holiday from the point of view of your pet. What might your dog or cat think of the human holiday traditions? Make it serious or funny, your call.

I hope these give you a little jump start, or at least set your imagination flowing. Have fun and remember that all the words count. Happy writing!

 

On Holiday Reading

Anyone who has spent much time visiting this blog knows I’m a sucker for seasonal reading. I love matching some of my reading choices to the time of year, and of course Christmas begs for this sort of treatment. As an adult, my favorite reread in December is Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but I’m also happy to cherry pick from a volume of Christmas stories or delve into something new. Romance readers know that this time of year brings a wealth of holiday-themed romances, both novels and anthologies, because romance goes so well with winter activities such as sleigh rides and ice skating and shopping for the perfect gift for that special someone. Young adult fiction has a handful of holiday choices, too, and of course, children’s books provide the most plentiful selection, with books about Santa Claus or Hanukkah traditions, holidays from different countries and cultures, or holiday mishaps.

Do you pick up something special to read this time of year? What are your holiday favorites?

Writing in the Face of Distractions: Day 19 of the Challenge

I am sitting at my parents’ kitchen table. My mother has the New York Times spread out next to me. My father is floating around somewhere. At the moment, all is quiet, and so I’m taking the time to post here for all my December Writing Challenge folks, as well as anyone who has tried to get a little work done in the presence of family members.

Writing with a person or people as a distraction might be the ultimate challenge. I can tune out the radio or the TV, construction noise from outside, ambient sounds from strangers in a coffee shop, and even an annoying bird chirping loudly outside my window. But what do you do when someone starts to talk to you? Your mother or sister, your child, your spouse? They have something important to say. They want your attention for some bit of trivia. Or, as is often the case with my mother reading the paper, they just want “to read this one thing to you.”

Now, my mother knows I’m working right now. I explained to her that I had to post for my blog, and that’s why I showed up at the table with my laptop in tow. I’m not on Twitter or surfing websites. I’m writing. So far this means she hasn’t felt the need to read to me from the paper. The only thing she has said since I started was that it sounds windy outside. Honestly, this, for my mother, is surprising restraint. When I was in high school, she was known to stand in my doorway and tell me things while I was working on homework, and having my nose in a book is an invitation for her to come chat at me. I am fair game at all times.

However, I explained what I needed to do. How much time I needed. And she’s respecting my wishes. So if you need to get a few minutes of writing done today while family is around, try telling them straight up that you need half an hour to get something done. Children may have a harder time with this concept, but try explaining to the older ones and showing them on the clock when you’ll be finished, then stick to that promise. With smaller ones, try finding a small project for them to work on (or, I’m sorry to suggest, a half-hour holiday special to watch) and set them up to do their “work” while you do yours.

Writing with family at home or in town for a visit can be one of the more difficult aspects of creating through the holidays, but it is possible. If you can’t steal the time away to do some writing on your own, explain to the people around you that you just need a little bit of time to finish one important thing. They might surprise you with how cooperative they can be.

Now it’s time for me to let my mom read me that one thing she’s been marking with her finger between two pages of the paper. Have a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!