I’m delighted to announce the launch of my online course, Master the Art of the Synopsis. Designed for writers struggling to craft a compelling synopsis, the class divides the process into manageable stages. It expands upon the course I’ve taught for years, both in person and virtually, and adds supplemental materials including a workbook and sample synopses. Students will have lifetime access and be able to work through the units at their own pace.
After spending months–or years–writing a novel, writers often hate having to tackle a synopsis. How do you distill an entire book down to a few pages, or even paragraphs? But don’t let a sense of overwhelm stall your submission process. If you or someone you know needs to polish up those synopsis-writing skills, check out the course today.
Wishing you all the best as we transition into 2023. The last few years have been difficult, so I hesitate to weigh this new year down with too many expectations. But when in doubt, choose optimism. Health and happiness to you in this holiday season.
Let’s write! Today marks the official start of this year’s December Writing Challenge. But what does that mean?
December might well be the busiest month of the year. Stuffed with holidays that require shopping, cooking, travel, and entertaining. That end-of-the-year push to finish up everything your job demands. How can you think of taking time to write? But my answer is, how can you not?
Maybe writing is your job already, and you have a deadline on the horizon. Or perhaps you’re still working to get published. Either way, if writing is important to you, make it a top priority. You don’t need to devote hours each day to putting words on the page, but do set aside a small block of time for your work-in-progress or some writing sprints or a bit of literary playtime. You will keep your creative muscles limber through the holiday season, ready to pounce on those new year’s goals. Plus your friends and family will see, if they don’t already, that writing is a vital part of your life.
Full details for how to tackle the December Writing Challenge in my previous post. I’ll be cheering you on throughout the month, both here and on various social media platforms. You can find me @NepheleTempest on Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, and Hive.
So pull out your calendar and set some writing dates for yourself. Maybe pick up a new notebook so you can jot down words on the fly. However you commit to the challenge, start by commiting to yourself. Happy writing!
Are you ready for the December Writing Challenge? Each year, I challenge writers to make their writing a priority, despite the busy nature of the month. Between the holiday season and year-end wrap ups, it’s very easy to let your writing time slide, especially if you have not yet made the jump to professional writer. But a writer is someone who writes, not someone who gets paid to do so. And so I challenge you to keep writing during the craziness of December, no matter where you are in your career, even if you only manage to steal a little time each day.
It might sound insane to try to write with any set schedule in December of all months, but there is a method to my madness. First of all, many writers spend November participating in NaNoWriMo. That’s a month-long, very intense attempt to produce 50,000 words. And while it’s tempting to take time off after that sort of slog, I say make the most of the momentum you’ve built up. Your brain becomes accustomed to producing words after 30 days of demanding output. But whether you’ve been writing all month or just on your normal schedule, keep going. Don’t allow your creative muscles to grow flabby. A writing challenge offers a little bit of a framework to help.
The second reason to write through the month of December comes in January, when you’re staring down a brand new year and thinking about your writing goals. Whatever you wish to achieve in 2023, you’ll have a head start if you’re already in the habit of writing regularly. Set your goals and dive in, no need to get yourself back up to speed or to flex rusty skills. Future you will definitely thank present you for putting in some desk time over the holidays.
The December Writing Challenge hinges on a few very simple rules.
Write every day during the month of December.
No minimum word count, no mandatory amount of time per day (though I recommend you try to squeeze in at least half an hour).
Write whatever you want: Novel in progress, poetry, short stories, nonfiction, one project all month or bits of different things.
If necessary, you can take up to two days off. Try not to, but this is a nod to the time of year. So if you’re entertaining or traveling or whatever, and you have a day when you just can’t imagine stealing a few minutes away from everything to write, use one of your free days.
Advice for Managing Your Writing
There are always people demanding your time and attention, especially during the holidays, so one tip I have is to tell your family and friends that you’re participating in this challenge. Let them know you want their support. Ask them to honor your commitment to your writing by leaving you alone when you have a scheduled writing session (emergencies aside, of course).
Next tip: really schedule that time to write. Look at your calendar at the start of each week and pick a time slot for your writing. Consider it an appointment or date with yourself. Block it out, complete with a reminder/notification, and stick to it the way you would a meeting or trip to the dentist.
If you have writer friends in your neighborhood, set up a buddy system. Meet for a writing date once a week at your favorite coffee shop or the library. If you’re avoiding public places, set up a joint writing time on Zoom. Cheer each other on while you keep each other accountable.
Keep your writing portable and take advantage of downtime when you’re out and about. If you have a notebook and pen in your bag/car/office, you’ll be more inclined to jot down some words over your lunch break or in the doctor’s waiting room or sitting in the pickup line at your kids’ school.
Break your writing up if you can’t fit a full session one day. Try writing for 15 minutes over your morning coffee and again during lunch, if that’s the only time you have. The important thing is to get a few words down and to train your creative mind to show up when you call.
The Option to Push Yourself
Feel free to set yourself some additional mini challenges, especially if you’re concerned about what to write every day. Maybe you fear writer’s block or think you won’t be able to get going on your WIP in a small window of time, or perhaps you’re between projects and don’t know where to start. Take an hour before the beginning of the month to set yourself a few writing prompts/challenges you can fall back on when you need ideas or a little extra motivation to write. Make them fun or silly or weird—whatever will make you more likely to sit down and write for a while.
A few potential prompts:
A list of first sentences for new stories
Settings you’d like to describe
Weird real-life events that could be twisted into fiction, such as the infamous Darwin Awards, missed personal connections, what-ifs based on bumping into people from your past or celebrities or someone you thought was deceased
Memories of holidays long past
Retellings of fairy tales or myths
Something in a different genre from what you typically write
Craft exercises, such as writing a scene only in dialogue, or writing a scene multiple times from different points of view
Do some online image searches—for cities you’ve never visited, mountain tops, forests, cabins, castles, beaches—and use the resulting photos as inspiration
Try your hand at fanfiction if you’ve never done so; rewrite the ending of a favorite film or tie up loose ends from a beloved series that got canceled prematurely
Whatever else you have going on this month, try to remember what you love about writing, what started you down this path in the first place. A busy schedule combined with the frustration of a plot that’s not cooperating or perhaps looming deadlines can make writing feel more like work and less like something you love to do. And while writing can be work, it should also have an element of joy to it. It’s not something you should do if you hate the process unreservedly. So take a few moments to embrace the joyful aspects of writing. Allow yourself to play with it. Appreciate the rhythms of a well-crafted sentence. Admire a deft description. Pat yourself on the back over that witty dialogue. Be proud of your writing accomplishments, at every stage of your journey.
I’ll ask again: Are you ready to write? Ready for a bit of a challenge? Prioritize your writing this December. Remember what makes it important to you, and why you love it.
We kick off the challenge on December 1st, here and on various social media platforms. I look forward to hearing how your challenge progresses. Happy writing!
Toward the end of last year, I mentioned I planned to make some changes here on the website moving forward. Given how infrequently I blog, it makes sense to shift gears. This site will continue as an informational hub from now on. I plan to maintain the archive of posts, but in future things will be more news/announcement focused.
What does that mean? This site will remain your go-to spot for finding out what I’m looking to take on/represent, and where I’m traveling once the world opens up and we start to see in-person conferences again. If I’m teaching online, I’ll include that information here. Plus, announcements about TKA clients, book covers, and so on.
What’s going away? Anything that feels like an actual blog post. It doesn’t make sense to maintain a blog if I only write occasionally.
Instead, I’ve started a newsletter for anyone interested in the more personal side of publishing life. I plan to chat about the industry, books, reading, and writing, plus likely a bit of cultural overlap. Whatever I’m feeling passionate about at the moment. Right now the goal is two issues per month, directly to your inbox. The first post is up, so if you’d like to check it out and/or subscribe, you can find me over on Substack at Tempest in a Teacup.
One last announcement for now: Queries reopen on February 21st. I’ll likely update the wishlist here right before reopening.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year, filled with accomplishments, joy, and love! It’s been a tough few years, and we certainly don’t want to put too much pressure on 2022. But I, for one, choose to go into this new year with hope for positive change, new energy to stand against all the strife, and a belief that we can all do better, whatever that means in your life. If nothing else, we can celebrate that we’ve made it this far.
With about a week and a half left to the year, now is the time to tie up loose ends and plan for 2022. If you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge, go you! Keep going. Even if you have to take a couple of days off, your writer’s brain will be warmed up for the new year. But don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on what you’ve accomplished, also. Figure out where you are so you can decide where to go next.
I encourage everyone to go easy when it comes to assessing the last year. It’s been another difficult one. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t reach your goals. Consider every small bit of progress to be a win. If you just made it to December still standing, I applaud you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to where you are, both personally and with your writing.
Think about what you’d like to do in the coming months. What changes would you like to make? Consider what tactics have been working and what no longer motivates you. And while it’s great to think big and come up with a major goal for the year ahead, give yourself plenty of small challenges, too. Finishing something with a shorter time horizon or that’s less demanding will give you a sense of accomplishment. Getting the thing done motivates you, not the other way around.
Remember to focus your goals around things you can control. What steps lead to where you want to be? Which ones do you take yourself, and which require input from others? Stick to the first and try and be zen about those other ones. And keep on writing.
I asked you to remember what you love about writing this month during the December Writing Challenge. Find your joy. Have you done that? Or if not, would you like to give it a go? Carry that attitude into 2022. There will always be difficult moments in your writing process, but if you remember the joyful parts, they will help you continue down the path toward your goals.
My New Year:
In keeping with my own advice, I’m making some changes going forward. I’m no longer setting a reading goal for the year through the Goodreads Challenge. I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed because I have a slower reading year and don’t hit an arbitrary target. It’s enough to keep track of what books I’ve finished and enjoyed.
In addition, I intend to make changes here on this site in the new year. I post so infrequently, the time has come to reimagine things. It will transition to more of a hub than a blog: a resource for news, archived advice, information on submissions, and links to what I am doing around the internet. I love sharing Friday Links, so those might show up in another format. Stay tuned!
I’ll be checking in again before the year ends, but will mostly continue cheerleading over on Twitter. But before everyone vanishes into the depth of holiday hussle, I want to wish you health, happiness, and success, now and into 2022.
Let’s kick off December with a writerly bang! For those of you who missed it, my December Writing Challenge for 2021 started on Wednesday, and I posted the day prior with a quick rundown of how the challenge works. Don’t panic if you haven’t started yet; you can still join. I aim to keep this challenge low key and encouraging. Have fun, and remember that all the words count!
As for Friday Links, I know they have been few and far between lately. I will likely be making changes to this site come the new year, but in the meantime, I do have goodies to share. Mostly, I’m offering up some lighter fare in the spirit of the season, and how busy we all are. But I hope you find something entertaining and/or inspirational.
Wishing you a weekend filled with good writing time, a fabulous book, and some holiday cheer, whatever you celebrate. Enjoy!