2017 December Writing Challenge

2017-December-Writing-Challenge

The 2017 December Writing Challenge kicks off tomorrow. Every year I issue this challenge to help writers get some words down during what’s arguably the busiest month of the year. Between holidays, family obligations, a slew of events, travel, and year-end expectations at work, many writers find their days completely packed. For those writers finishing a month of intense creativity for NaNoWriMo, taking December off from writing can seem particularly appealing. Hence this challenge.

If January is the month for resolutions, December is the month for distractions. But if you plan to set yourself some writing goals for 2018, you don’t want to lose your writing momentum now. No writing in December makes it hard to ramp up again once the new year starts. So I challenge you to write this coming month. Make yourself, and your writing, a priority.

2017 December Writing Challenge: The Rules

Because December can be crazy, this writing challenge is simple. I challenge you to write every day during the month of December. Unlike with NaNo, you aren’t aiming for a specific word count. Write as much or as little as you wish. But every day over the course of the month, sit down with your notebook or in front of your computer and do the work.

Write whatever you want. Work on your current novel. Get some editing done — including new words, not just deleting them. Try your hand at a new format, such as flash fiction or a personal essay. Focus on one project or have several going. Keep your eyes on an upcoming deadline. This challenge is for you, so you decide what to write.

As a nod to the true insanity of some people’s Decembers, I allow you up to two days off. Aim to write every day, but if you need to skip it once or twice, you have those two free days to use. Maybe you want to take a break for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Perhaps your New Year’s Eve plans require a nap instead of a writing session earlier in the day. Or you need a full day to clean in prep for your relatives coming to visit. Again, your choice.

A Few Tips

  • Even on your busiest days, try to squeeze in a bit of writing. Even 15 minutes will do, though I encourage you to aim for at least 30 minutes.
  • If you’re having a hard time finding sufficient time to write, try breaking it up into two smaller chunks over the day.
  • Do have a backup project or two at hand, so if your writing stalls on one thing, you can still work on something else.
  • Do commit to yourself and to the challenge, but don’t beat yourself up if you end up missing a few days more than planned. The point is to write enough that you don’t lose your momentum. Aim for every day, but regardless, just do your best.

I’ll be back tomorrow and periodically throughout the month with more tips and pep talks for inspiration. Also, keep an eye out on Twitter (@NepheleTempest) for additional cheering throughout the month under the #DecWritingChallenge tag. The 2017 December Writing Challenge starts tomorrow, so I hope you’ll be joining in. Happy writing!

Friday Links: Holiday Writing Inspiration

Everyone can use some holiday writing inspiration, and this marks the start of my annual pep talks for the season. We’re heading into Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and from there it’s one occasion after another until New Year’s. I run a December Writing Challenge each year, but I encourage you to schedule your writing all through the holidays.

Check out this week’s links for industry information, ideas on characterization, and ways to drum up that holiday writing inspiration. And keep an eye on this space for more writing challenge information coming soon. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

It Is Okay to Change Paths. – Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen talks about changing her career from doctor to writer.

Paper is a wonderful technology. – Austin Kleon shares how an exhibit at the Ransom Center inspired him to embrace his paper notebook.

Ilana Masad on the Shrinking of the Industry, Literary Social Media, and Hidden Criticism. – The writer and podcast host discusses how social media has changed literary criticism, and other shifts in the industry from a reviewer’s point of view.

50 Noteable Works of Fiction in 2017. – The Washington Post weighs in on some of the best titles of the year.

Inside the Dystopian Visions of Margaret Atwood and Louise Erdrich. – At a time when Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a sort of feminist dystopian bible, Erdrich adds her own take on the idea of reproductive slavery.

Marvel’s Black Panther Rules. Literally. – A wonderful interview with actor Chadwick Boseman, with excellent thoughts regarding how characters build from the setting and politics of a fictional nation in this installment in the MCU.

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2017. – Another best-of list, with some great titles for your own TBR or gift-buying lists.

A Night at the National Book Awards. – A look into what may by the shiniest event in the U.S. publishing world.

 

Friday Links: Weekend Writing Inspiration

Are you looking for weekend writing inspiration? The end of the year brings so many challenges for writers. Holidays loom, making you plan and shop and rush to finish projects by December 31st. But you still have that writing project that calls to you. Maybe you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or up against a deadline. Or you simply started a new novel and you’re twitching to work on it. Set aside some time this weekend to write. Fight the start of the holiday chaos, and remember to make your writing a priority. I hope the links below will help give you a bit of a kick in the right direction.

This Week’s Links:

Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. – Strapped for time? Try to write a super short story and enter this Writer’s Digest contest. Or look through finished or drafted projects to see what might work.

13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Accomplished. – Author Gretchen Rubin offers some great tips for pushing past your busy calendar and getting words on paper.

Austin Kleon: Pencil vs Computer. – The writer and artist discusses his own process and how different mediums set the mood for stages of his work.

How YA Literature Is Leading the Queer, Disabled Media Revolution. – Looking for ways to be inclusive in your work? Get your weekend writing inspiration from some of these fabulous YA titles.

10 Novels Agents Have Already Seen a Billion Times. – You might want to steer clear of these ideas, or if you have to write one of them, find a great way to turn them on their ear.

Cove Park Literature Residencies: Applications Close 11 December. – Shake up your writing by finding a new place to work, and apply for a writing residency.

Interview with Janet Fitch. – The author discusses research, writing process, and her latest book, The Revolution of Marina M.

Ready, Set, Write: Turning Off Your Internal Editor

Ready, set, write. It sounds incredibly easy to do. You sit down at your keyboard or a notebook, and get to work. But most writers hear the nagging voice of their internal editor from the first sentence. That voice says you’ve started at the wrong spot. Or it insists your opening sentence is boring. Maybe you should start with a different scene. Are you sure that’s the correct point of view? Your internal editor pokes and whines and insinuates as you write, growing louder with every paragraph. It makes you doubt yourself, and slows your progress.

ready-set-write-woman-writing

Silencing Your Internal Editor

Writers everywhere have their own methods for silencing the nagging voice in their heads. The one that tells them they’re doing it all wrong. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working on your first draft. Post your favorites over your desk or tape them to the edge of your monitor. Maybe create a mantra or two.

  • It’s just a shitty first draft. No one writes a beautiful or perfect first draft. It’s supposed to be a brain dump. Plenty of time to make it pretty when you start to revise.
  • I’m figuring out who the characters are. First drafts help you flesh out your protagonist and the rest of your cast. Get to know them, determine what they want, and how they’re likely to behave while getting it.
  • Only reread the previous day’s output. When you sit down to write, don’t allow yourself to read anything older than what you wrote in your previous session. Out of sight, out of mind. And again, you have plenty of time to revise once you’re done with draft #1.
  • I don’t have to know everything yet. First drafts are for fleshing out the plot just as much as the characters. If you don’t know what happens next, skip ahead to where you do have an idea. Put brackets and come back later to fill in the details.
  • Everything is relative. Remember that the things you write start to build on each other. You may reach a juncture at page 50 or 150 or 250 that gives you wonderful ideas for shoring up earlier scenes. Sometimes you need to build the castle before the foundation.
  • You cannot edit a blank page. There’s no point in trying to perfect what you haven’t written. Write first, edit later. By this I mean the entire book. Editing a single sentence in a void is almost as bad as trying to write one perfect sentence from the start.

If your internal editor becomes particularly persistent, try some other ways of distracting yourself. Put on instrumental music to fill your head with some other sound. Scroll down the page so your screen is blank (or turn to the next page in your notebook), then take a short break to walk around; when you come back, start writing without looking at what you’d been picking over before you left. Change the font color of the last section to white so it’s invisible, then keep writing. Go for a run or hit the gym to get your blood flowing — you’ll feel more creatively inspired.

Every writer must face their internal editor, but only you can determine how much power you’ll give to your nagging voice. Whether you’re piling up words for NaNoWriMo or fighting to meet a contract deadline, there will be days when reaching your writing goal feels impossible. Remember that the internal editor is you — you at your most critical and insecure. Remind yourself that you are not alone in your efforts, and the only way to reach the end is to keep pushing through. Good luck, and happy writing.

Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Get Ready to Write

With just two weeks left in October, it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, otherwise knows as National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands and thousands of writers around the world attempt to write a novel in 30 days. No prize awaits them. There’s no guarantee of publication. But writers still churn out hundreds of words each day, hoping to hit the goal of 50,000 by November 30th.

Why do people challenge themselves to write so much in a short period? Some do it for fun. NaNoWriMo has become something of a party over the years. Writers gather with other local participants to write in coffee shops or bookstores. Online forums provide a way to reach out and chat about your work-in-progress. Others use the energy of the event to force themselves to finish a first draft. Professional writers often join in, working on current projects or starting new ones. Writers with thoughts of publication know that 50,000 runs a bit short for a traditional novel, but NaNoWriMo still offers great motivation to get to work.

prepare for NaNoWriMo

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Plenty of writers just open up a new Word doc on November 1st and start typing at random. It can be entertaining to see where your imagination takes you. But if you prefer to plot, or you want to make sure the words flow daily, it’s a good idea to prep for NaNoWriMo. If you have at least some idea of where you’d like your story to go, it will help you build your word count and avoid facing a nasty bout of writer’s block.

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Technically, you’re not supposed to start writing until November 1st, but you can still put together some notes.

  • Determine your major characters. Figure out who your protagonist is and what they want. Name some people. Give them jobs and relationships.
  • Do you at least have an idea for your book? If you do, dream up a few scenes you’re really looking forward to writing and sketch out a few short notes about them. (Not the scenes themselves, of course. That would be cheating.)
  • Get some research done. If you have to do some leg work or reading about your setting, the time period, characters’ careers, etc., now is the time to do it. Plus all that wonderful detail and vocabulary you dig up will help you increase your word count.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to use NaNoWriMo as a time to play. But if you plan to use it to work, just a little bit of prep will help you make the most of your experience. And don’t forget: the manuscript you finish on November 30th will be a first draft. So don’t waste time editing while you write. Plenty of time for that later.

Good luck to everyone participating this year!

Friday Links: Revisit Writing Basics

What does it mean to revisit writing basics? Simply put, this week I’d like you to peel away some of the technology and bells and whistles and look at the bare bones of your writing habit. If you have writer’s block, this approach may help unmoor your ideas. Otherwise, going back to basics for a day or two can renew your creativity in general. A short hand way to think of this approach is “butt in chair, brain in gear.” You might also want to focus on the building blocks of your craft. Read some of your writing aloud, listening for rhythms and word repetition. Maybe forget your fancy computer program and work for a bit in longhand. Write daily and read good books.

I’ve collected the ususal assortment of links this week, with a fair amount of writing advice included. Keep in mind that the best writing style is the one you develop for yourself. So take a look at these varied ideas about writing and apply the ones that work for you. Not every writing trick inspires every writer. I hope at least a few of these will send you to your desk this weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links

Why Digital Note-Taking Will Never Replace the Physical Journal. – Thoughts on why physical journals survive in this digital age.

An Oubliette of Unconventional Writing Advice. – Chuck Wendig offers some entertaining advice on writing advice as a whole, and some common-sense ways to get your work done.

How I Do It: Anne Rice on Writing Technique. – Some very specific ideas on how to approach the art of writing.

London’s Amazing Underground Infrastructure Revealed in Vintage Cutaway Maps. – Fabulous images to inspire either historical or fantasy fiction set in London – or something completely original.

NaNo Prep: Make a Box for Your Bully. – Some excellent advice on silencing that inner editor so you can just write. (Plenty of time to edit when the draft is done.)

Start It Already: How to Start Your Novel – Great tips on how to actually start writing that book, for those of you staring at a blank page/screen.

2017 Writing Goals: 3rd Quarter Check-In

Play Your Writing Goals

Time to review your writing goals for 2017! We’ve entered the final quarter of the year, so grab that list of goals and see where you stand. Or maybe you’re just getting around to making some writing goals. Whatever stage you’re at with your writing, consider where you’d like to go next, and how to get there.

Writing Goals Review

If you set goals for your writing at any point this year, look back and see what you’ve achieved versus where you need to recommit. Maybe you managed to complete some smaller goals, but you’re behind with a big one. Perhaps you focused on a major goal, while some small ones fell by the wayside. Or perhaps circumstances have changed and you need to rework one or more goals to match.

Be honest when you assess your progress, but don’t beat yourself up. Use your goals as a tool, a rudder by which to steer your career as best you can. Sometimes we lose track of what we’re trying to achieve, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Only you know where you should be working harder, and where you have to cut yourself some slack.

Reassess Your Writing Goals

Once you know where you stand, you can determine where you want to go. Maybe you’re on track, and all you need to do is keep working as you have been. Congratulations! But maybe you want to cross a goal off your list as no longer valid, or you need to change the timeline on something you’ve been writing. Don’t hesitate to tweak your goals as necessary. These goals are for you; you get to say what they should be, what’s working and what isn’t.

Writing Goals Going Forward

If you didn’t set goals earlier in the year, do so now. Even with three months left to 2017, you can accomplish plenty to help you move forward with your writing. Commit to writing daily, or consider submitting short work to a contest or for publication. Start researching literary agents, or get your author’s website up and running.

Even if you did set goals for the year, you can certainly add new ones at this stage. Maybe you’ve come up with a new idea for a project that requires some research, or you’re ahead with something and ready for the next step. Goal lists should remain flexible, and not adhere strictly to the calendar year.

Checking in with your writing goals enables you to keep on top of your career and your accomplishments. People typically forget about their new year’s resolutions by March. If you check in on your writing ambitions frequently over the course of the year, you’ll keep them fresh in your mind. So make your list of goals, set some calendar reminders, and go write.

Friday Links: Writers on Process and Intention

Happy Friday, all! I’m having another one of those long, busy weeks leading into an equally busy weekend, so I’m just going to wish you all some great reading and writing time over the next couple of days and leave you with some links I hope provide excellent inspiration. Among them are a few profiles of talented writers, sharing process and experiences. Every writer has their own approach, interests, background, etc. It’s part of what makes this such a fascinating career; no one can really give you a road map to success. You need to find your own path, based on your own interests and goals.

So without further ado, here are this week’s links. Enjoy and happy writing!

Who’s Afraid of Claire Messud? – A fascinating interview with the writer, delving into her background and the types of characters that interest her.

Why We Read and Why We Write – Thoughts on what we gain from the reading and writing processes.

Marlon James Needs Noise to Write (and Other Revelations) – A nice long conversation with the author (close to 50 minutes long, so plan accordingly) about writing as work and the importance of curiosity.

The Book Lover’s Guide to Publishing Part 3: Printing & Production Process – The next installment in the series being posted at the Penguin Books blog.

PBS to Unveil America’s Favorite Books in New TV Series – Public broadcasting will be bringing out a new eight-part documentary on reading in America.

Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels – A fabulous list of some of the best works available in comics form, from graphic novels to online comics, as chosen by NPR fans.

Working for the Queen of Spies: Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray Discuss “The Alice Network” – Kate Quinn talks about the writing of her new work of historical fiction and the real-life espionage group that served as her foundation.

Friday Links: Finding the Best Way to Frame Your Story

Happy Friday, all! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week with some productive writing time and maybe a good book on your nightstand. Heading into the weekend, I’ve some lovely links for you all, and in particular I’d like you to consider how you frame your stories. I don’t just mean the ones you’re writing, but the ones you tell about yourself, your life, your experiences, your daily frustrations.

While not everyone is a writer, we’re all storytellers, so that’s something to think about when you look at the things that might be getting you down. The story is yours to tell, yours to sell, and that includes what you’re telling yourself. A series of rejection letters can be terribly disheartening, but you can also consider them a countdown to an eventual sale.

Without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

How Writing Let Me Take Control of My Own Story – One writer’s disconnect between her writing and her life.

This Is Going to Be about Heroes – Author Maggie Stiefvater on heroism and finding the right way to tell a story.

When Reading Isn’t Enough: Book-Adjacent Hobbies – For book fanatics who love all the bookish things.

The Book-Lovers Guide to Publishing, Part 1: Publishing Ephemera – The first in a series of publishing-related blog posts from Penguin Books.

So You’ve Decided to Write: The Best Way to Deal with Rejection – Some tips on how to move past ‘No’.

My Own Kind of Beautiful: How Geography Affects the Writing Process – One writer’s take on how travel affects his work and what it means to be ready to write about a place.

$5,000 Grants for Writers and Artists with Children: Applications Open until 31 August – 20 grants are available this year for writers and artists with children, to be used for child care, new equipment, or any other number of things.

Friday Links: Writing from Different Perspectives

Happy Friday! There’s another hot, sunny weekend on the horizon, and I fully intend to spend the majority of it indoors with my nose in a book. Why? Because this weekend is the 24 in 48 Readathon, one of my favorite events of the year, and it is my excuse to get a lot of reading done and not feel guilty about putting off the laundry or ignoring my other weekend chores. The readathon kicks off midnight ET on Saturday morning and runs through the end of Sunday, and there’s still time to sign up in you want to join in the fun.

Before I get to reading, however, I need to get some more work done, so I will be leaving you here with this week’s Friday Links so I can go be productive. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with reading and writing and all good things. Enjoy!

Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman – An interesting look at how the famous author’s pseudonym became public.

Are We So Unwilling to Take Sylvia Plath at Her Word – In light of recent revelations regarding Plath’s relationship with husband Ted Hughes, important questions as to whether the information was really new, and what that says about how women are treated.

Sherman Alexie’s Heartbreaking Reason for Pausing His Book Tour – A bit of a ghost story.

Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering – A love letter to libraries and the areas around them.

Difference Is an Asset: Writing in a Second Language – How a challenge can shift a writer’s perspective.

6 Reasons Aspiring Writers Should Act More Like Musicians – A touch harsh, perhaps, but still offers some basic, down-to-earth advice regarding putting one’s nose to the grindstone and getting the work done.