December Writing Challenge 2019: Mid-Month Check In

Hey there, writers! Today marks the halfway point for the month of December, and with it the December Writing Challenge. Are you still writing? Have you made a little time for your work-in-progress each day? If not, have you still written more than you might have otherwise?

I know December runs away with us sometimes. Even when you think you’re on top of everything you need to do, something will sneak through the cracks. But if your writing is important to you, take that time to commit to it, even when life gets hectic. Something can always come up. There will always be emergencies or sudden demands for your time. You decide what ranks high enough to disrupt your routine–but you need to determine the routine first.

I hope making the effort to write daily in December shows you how much you want your dream–and that you can put it first in many instances. Not always, of course. Everyone has responsibilities. But if you plan for it, if you think about it and say “this needs to happen,” you can make it work. The key is to write enough to keep your brain nimble and the words flowing the next time you have a good chunk of time to write.

Good luck with the rest of the month! You can keep up the momentum. I’ll be back in a couple days with thoughts on making goals for the new year, so be sure to check back. Happy writing!

Friday Links: The Completely Random, Tired-Agent Edition

Welcome to this week’s unapologetically theme-free Friday Links. Work and holiday prep beckon, and my brain refuses to conjure up a creative topic for these babies. Yes, they’re all bookish. Or writing related. But otherwise, they’re just things I stumbled across this week, or recently, and found fun or useful. Themes will return when I’m no longer falling asleep at my desk, likely in the new year.

The December Writing Challenge keeps on trucking. Are you writing every day? Is the challenge proving hard? Or are you setting your schedule and sticking to it? Remember, even a short writing sprint counts. You can do this!

And on that note, I’m off to do a million things before the weekend can start. Have a great one, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

The Best Overlooked Books of 2019. – 10 titles Vulture thought got too little press.

Little Women Is a Big, Important, American Masterpiece. Let’s Treat It Like One. – A.N. Devers looks at the history of the novel and its adaptations as we wait for the eighth film version to hit theaters.

How to Spend a Literary Long Weekend in Chicago. – A fun itinerary for bookish visitors to the Windy City. Keep in mind for your next trip!

At a Romance Cover Shoot, There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Wind Machine. – A terrific and wildly amusing look behind the scenes of a recent cover shoot for Milla Vane‘s A TOUCH OF STONE AND SNOW (A Gathering of Dragons, book 2: July 2020).

By the Book: Edelweiss, Edelweiss? Julie Andrews Loves Reading about 18th-Century Plant Hunters. – The actress and author talks about her relationship to reading, books she’s loved, and what’s on her current TBR stack.

Mistakes Writers Make When Submitting to Literary Magazines. – An older post (one I’ve likely linked to previously) with excellent advice, much of which carries over to submitting to agents.

December Writing Challenge: Why Write Daily?

My December Writing Challenge asks you to write every day this month. However, the point is not to convince you that you need to write daily. Rather, the challenge focuses on squeezing in your writing time, no matter how busy life gets. If you aim to write every day, you might miss one or two (I give you two freebies), but you will manage to write most of the time. Even if it’s just for a few stolen minutes. Writing becomes your priority. You become your priority. Your writing goals are important, and I hope to help you see that through this challenge.

Plenty of successful writers do not write every day. Others do. Only you can decide what schedule works best for your life and your career in the long term. And writing habits change over time. I do believe writing on a fairly regular basis helps train your brain to perform on command. It’s not a perfect system, but your brain is a muscle, and conditioning it to be creative isn’t a bad thing. However, I will never claim that writing daily is the only way to become a good writer. Creatives follow many paths to their goals, and your journey is your own.

Come January, you might resume writing four days a week or only on weekends. You might find that daily writing boosts your creative juices, and continue to work a session in each day. Maybe you’ll try something else entirely. But for December, give daily writing a chance.

If you’re already sailing along with the challenge, thank you for joining in and good luck with your writing! For those of you who are just dropping by or who haven’t considered daily writing but who are curious to give it a go, it’s never too late to start the challenge. You can find the full explanation of how it works over here.

Wishing you all the best as you navigate this busy month. Now go write!

December Writing Challenge 2019: Lift Off!

Welcome to the 2019 edition of the December Writing Challenge! I laid out the rules of the challenge yesterday, all two of them, so please check those out if you haven’t done so already. Today, we start! This is our official lift-off post, but I hope at least some of you have gotten a few words down already. Remember, it’s not about how many words you write, but the fact that you’re taking the time to do so.

My goal for the challenge is to encourage writers to remember that their writing ambition, at whatever stage, should remain a priority. During this time of the year, it can be difficult to do things for yourself, even important things. The season pushes us to do others; to give, to shop, to cook, to help. And that’s wonderful–something more of us should keep in mind all year long. But your own needs should not be discounted simply because a busy month asks you to prioritize the holiday spirit.

Writing asks a lot of a person. If you’re just starting out, there are so many facets of the craft you need to master. Once you’re further along, you need to continue to grow while taking a more business-minded approach to your career. People don’t often take writers seriously, because so many consider writing something anyone can do. But writing is hard work. And like any hard work, it requires dedication and training.

Writing Is Exercise

Your brain does the heavy lifting when you write. It’s the source of your ideas, your creativity, and of all the different ways you can put those down on paper. And like any muscle, your brain must be conditioned to perform on demand. You would not take a month off from running and then expect to go run your best race. Likewise, you can’t allow your writing to take a backseat to life for a few weeks and expect the words to flow when you finally return to your work-in-progress.

A little bit of writing daily, even for half an hour, will keep your brain in shape. You might not love everything you produce this month, but that can be said of any month. So make a date with your writing. Make it a priority. Remember that come January, you have lofty goals for the new year, things you want to accomplish. Keep writing now and keep that future in your sights.

I’ll be posting bits of encouragement and tips here throughout the month. You can also follow me on Twitter for more regular reminders and cheerleading @NepheleTempest. I’ll be using the tag #DecWritingChallenge. Now, go write!

December Writing Challenge 2019: Rules of the Game

Every year, I challenge writers to defy their busy schedules in December and keep up their writing. December brings so many obstacles with it. Between holidays, shopping, entertaining, travel, and work responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to write. You intend to work on that current project, but distractions keep cropping up, pulling you away from your computer. Before you know it, a week has gone by and you haven’t even opened your project file. All the writing momentum you’ve built up over the year, whether through NaNoWriMo or just your own schedule, gets lost. Instead of making new writing goals for the new year, you just hope you can remember where your story goes next.

December Writing Challenge 2019 banner on a chalkboard

Enter the December Writing Challenge. I challenge you to make your writing a priority. Your goals are just as important as fixing the perfect holiday dinner or cleaning the house before the family descends. So decide now that you are going to write every day in December. It doesn’t have to be for long, or polished and perfected. You can work on a shitty first draft or play with a new idea or tackle a new writing exercise each day. But sit down and write. Try for 30 minutes, though 15 will do in a pinch. Commit yourself to keeping your writing momentum going through the holiday season, so you’re all ready come January for your 2020 resolutions.

The Rules:

  1. Write every day. Doesn’t matter when or where or what. Just set aside half an hour to dedicate to your writing.
  2. You can take two days off over the month, if you really need them. Planning a big holiday dinner at your house? You can take a freebie day. Travel day that sucks up hours with you behind the wheel? Maybe that’s a good day not to write. But only take them if you have to, and try to keep it to two days out of 31.

That’s it. Those are the only rules. Keep in mind, you can customize the challenge as need be. Edit if you’ve got a deadline coming, or schedule longer writing sessions. Break up your writing into small chunks over the day if that makes it easier. This challenge isn’t about word counts or finishing a novel in a month. It’s about keeping your brain in training so the blank page isn’t so scary come January 1st.

A Few Tips:

  1. Schedule writing sessions ahead of time, and put reminders on your calendar, complete with alerts.
  2. Let your family know what you’re doing and that your writing time is non-negotiable (assuming no one’s bleeding).
  3. Find a few writing friends and set up writing dates over the course of the month to keep yourself accountable.
  4. Carry a pen and notebook with you so, if need be, you can spend a few minutes jotting down words when you’re standing in a long line at the store, commuting on public transportation, or waiting in the car to pick up your kids.
  5. Have fun with it. Let yourself play around and write something different if you’re having trouble with your WIP. Don’t make this stressful, just keep writing.

Countdown to the December Writing Challenge 2019

Each year, I challenge you to spend your December writing a little bit every day. Why? Because for most of us, December marks the busiest part of the year. Between holidays and end-of-year work projects, traffic and crowded stores, family and entertaining, it can be chaotic. Writing often takes a backseat to all your other tasks and commitments. Then January hits, with its new year resolutions, and your brain stalls out immediately on your writing goals.

Girl-on-laptop

 

My challenge involves prioritizing your writing. You don’t need to write a great deal (unless of course you have a deadline or other motivating factor). The idea is to write a little bit every day. Try and grab half an hour, but fifteen minutes will do. Warn your friends and family that  you’re setting aside a little time each day for your writing. Mark it in your calendar. Whatever you need to do to commit to the page.

I’ll post the full rules for the writing challenge later in the week, and I’ll be back on Sunday, December 1st, to kick it off officially. Over the month, I’ll be posting mini peptalks here, with suggestions to keep you going. I’ll post reminders on Twitter daily, too, along with a little cheerleading.

I hope you’ll join me for this year’s December Writing Challenge. If you’re working on NaNoWriMo, it’s a great way to keep up your momentum. If you’re hoping to make inroads with your writing in 2020, this will give you a push. Dare to take your writing to the next step and see what you can do. Happy writing!

Friday Links: Holiday Insanity Edition

Holiday insanity seems to have struck full force, so this week’s Friday Links are more fly-by than focused. Everyone apparently realized over the last few days that there’s about a week of business left before people vanish for the break, so all the work needs to be done. Right. Now. This means meetings, phone calls, and extremely-late-night reading sessions.

A few quick announcements before I move on to the links for the week. First, in case you missed it on Twitter, I will be closing to new submissions as of tomorrow, December 15th, through January (more or less). I’m trying to slow the deluge going into the holidays, and then I hope to catch up reading existing submissions. I’m still behind from our switchover to Query Manager. I love the new system,  but juggling two sets of submissions has been challenging. I hope to get through the backlog from the old system so I’m just down to one set of projects to read. Currently, I plan to reopen to submissions around the end of next month. I’ll post here and on Twitter when I’ve got a precise date.

Also, the December Writing Challenge continues! If you’ve missed some days, don’t sweat it. Just get back to writing and make an effort to set aside at least a small window of time for your work each day. You can do it, and you’ll be so happy come January that you didn’t get completely out of the writing habit.

Finally, we’re coming up on the time of year for setting new goals. I’ll be talking about goal-setting next week here on the blog, so start thinking about what you might want to accomplish in 2019.

And with that, I will move on to this week’s links. I hope that you find them entertaining, and a good break from the holiday insanity. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

A True Utopia: An Interview with N.K. Jemisin. – This lovely interview over at The Paris Review blog discusses short fiction vs. novel writing, what Jemisin envisions for the future, and more.

Tin House Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Issue Will Be Its Last. – Tin House announces the end of an era. Full focus will shift to their book publishing division and their workshops.

How a Cover Letter Can Help You Get Published. – Great tips, many of which hold true whether you’re submitting to periodicals or to agents/editors.

Kate DiCamillo, Chronicler of the Hard Truths of Youth. – NPR interviews the author about her honest approach to children’s fiction.

A Tour of a Writer’s London Sitting Room. – Take a peek into the world of author Ben Schott.

13 Libraries Book Lovers Need to Follow on Instagram. – A great assortment of library accounts, though just the tip of the iceberg.

December Writing Challenge: Helpful Hints for Daily Writing

Looking for some helpful hints to keep the words flowing during the December Writing Challenge? You’re in luck. I know that this challenge can feel like a lot, even without the pressure of hitting a certain word count each day. Many of you are coming off NaNoWriMo and feel you’ve earned a rest. Others of you are just so busy with holiday prep, or end-of-year work deadlines, that writing takes a back seat. So I’m zipping by to give you a few tips on ways to squeeze in a little bit of writing time each day. Remember, it doesn’t need to be a big chunk of time. Just enough to keep your creativity on track and your hand in the game. That way, come January, you won’t lose a week or two trying to get back in the habit.

helpful hints for daily writing

Helpful Hints for Daily Writing

  • Take a long look at your calendar and figure out what days are going to be the worst for you. Parties? House guests? Big work project due? Kids home for winter break? Then figure out how you can manage half an hour of writing time on those days. Maybe you want to schedule yourself a writing lunch. Or it could be as easy as taking a tape recorder on your morning walk and dictating some words instead of physically typing them. But assign yourself a writing block for each of those tough days and set a calendar reminder so you don’t forget.
  • Line up a fun project to work on. This can be instead of or–even better–in addition to whatever your current WIP is. It can be anything that you look forward to working on; a short story, some fanfic, a set of short rhymes, something holiday themed. The sky’s the limit, and there can be as many of these as you’d like. This way when you sit down to work on your main project and the words don’t want to come, you can trade off and get a few words down on the alternate project. You won’t feel nearly as stressed, and you may find it helps you kick any blocks on your main project to the curb.
  • Carry a small notebook and pen with you everywhere, and write if you find you have a few extra minutes. Maybe sitting in the pickup line at your kid’s school, maybe at the dentist’s office–wherever. Put down your cell phone or that three-year-old copy of People, and write instead.
  • Buddy up with a writing partner and make a point of meeting for coffee and writing time. You can trade off houses or hit your favorite coffee shop–whatever is fun but not too distracting. Do a couple of ten or fifteen minute timed writing sprints together, with short breaks in between to chat. Set a timer so  you don’t just talk your day away. It helps to be accountable to another person, so cheer each other on.

Remember that every bit of writing is forward momentum, even if you end up rewriting those words later on. The idea is to spend a few minutes each day thinking about your work and making a bit of progress. All the words count. Good luck, and happy writing!

December Writing Challenge: Maintaining Momentum

Maintaining momentum with your writing can be difficult at any time, but December offers some unique obstacles. Whether you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo and hope to keep writing so you can finish your novel, or you despair of getting any work done in the coming weeks, this challenge is for you. The December Writing Challenge seeks to help writers generate words during what is probably the busiest time of the year. December comes with a collection of holidays, all requiring cooking and shopping and socializing. Plenty of distractions from your work in progress. Plus it’s not just the fun distractions. Year end means finalizing work projects, reconciling finances, and other less pleasant but unavoidable tasks. What’s a writer to do?

Every year I challenge writers to keep their writing going. Don’t let the busy season keep you from maintaining momentum. If writing is important to you, you’ll commit to working on that latest project, whatever it might be, all month long.

So what’s the challenge? I challenge you to write, every day in December, for at least a little while. That’s it. There are no manditory word counts or goals for the month, just a commitment to putting your rear in the chair. I hope you’ll manage at least 30 minutes per day, but 15 will do if you can’t swing more.

Why every day? I know there are plenty of successful writers who do not write every day. But I’m a fan of building a habit, and the idea here is to keep your brain primed for the new year. Most writers charge into January with all sorts of writing goals, so this keeps your imagination churning in the meantime. Train your brain to come to the table–or desk–expecting that it needs to produce. You’ll be much happier come January 1st.

I do, however, acknowledge that life happens, especially in December. You’re traveling. You have guests staying with you. Holiday traffic leaves you trapped on a freeway for hours. I get it. So you are allowed two free days, to use at will, when you can take the day off from writing. Use them for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Use them for the day the in-laws hit town. Whatever. Your choice. Choose wisely.

Of course, there’s no grand prize if you complete this challenge, beyond the satisfaction of knowing you did. Oh, and that lack of dread when you head to your desk in the new year. It’s all up to you. But I believe you can do it, and maintaining momentum with your writing will give you a great head start on those 2019 goals.

I’ll be putting up some cheerleading posts here and also on Twitter as the month progresses. I hope you’ll have fun with this challenge. Work on a couple of projects. Start a new story. Experiment in a different genre. Hit that upcoming deadline. You decide what to write; the sky’s the limit.

Enjoy, and happy writing!

December Writing Challenge Kickoff

It’s the December Writing Challenge Kickoff!

Writers, start your engines!

Writing-Challenge-Fireworks

The truth is, this is a low-key challenge. No huge word counts or goals for the month. Just write every day. For full rules, you can check yesterday’s post. Today I’m here for the official writing challenge kickoff, and to provide you with a few more tips to keep you writing through December.

Life goes a little crazy in December. Writers who crave quiet can find it difficult to carve out time to work on their current projects. Thoughts turn to lists of gifts to buy and plans to make. Everyone wants your attention, your time, your participation. Your boss needs something done before the holiday break. Your kids want you to take them to see Santa. Hanukkah starts on the early side. Your in-laws plan to visit. Suddenly your sister’s turned vegetarian, throwing a spanner in your holiday dinner menu. And you love it all, because the holidays are a wonderful time of year. But… you also love to write.

Tips for Getting to Your Desk

Make yourself a priority. The key to writing regularly is telling yourself, and everyone else, that writing is just as important as any other vital thing on your to-do list. Commit to your writing, and to yourself.

  • Schedule your writing time on your calendar. Write it in like a doctor’s appointment. Set an alert to remind yourself when your writing window begins.
  • Make writing dates with your local writer friends. Agree to meet and do a writing sprint or two at your local coffee shop. No treats or talk until you’ve put in your half hour minimum for the day.
  • Tell your family what you’re doing. Explain that yes, you still plan to do all the normal holiday activities, but writing can’t take a holiday this year and you need to write every day.
  • Set up a signal to let family know it’s your writing time. Whether that’s a sign on your door, a place you sit that’s “writing only,” or a writing sweater you put on, make it clear. When you’re writing, they need to leave you alone unless there’s a blood-or-fire emergency.
  • Don’t limit yourself to your desk/computer. Grab a pen and a notebook and find somewhere to hide. Dust off a corner of your attic, pick a favorite spot in your local library, go to the café that has no wifi and write your heart out for a while.

Writing should not be something you steal time to do. You do not write at the expense of other things. If it matters to you, it’s earned its own space. Assign it time, and honor that commitment. And remember, all the words count, and it all adds up.

Happy writing! Don’t forget to check out the #DecWritingChallenge tag on Twitter to see who else has joined the challenge and for ongoing cheerleading. Plus, spread the word about today’s writing challenge kickoff! I’ll be back here later today with this week’s Friday Links.