Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday List: Four Ways To Get Your Writing Back in Gear

Many writers hit a down spot in their writing routines. For some, it's perceived as full-blown writers' block where they feel like they can't get anything new written. For others, it may be more subtle -- a sense that they are not writing as much or as well as they are capable of doing.

Whichever the case may be, there are a variety of things you can do to try to get your writing routine back in gear when it feels like it's not where it should be. Here are several of the ones which I would personally consider using at a time like that.
  1. Change Your Physical Location -- One of the things I've noticed is that when I make a point to actually go somewhere (library, coffee shop, etc.) to write, I typically end up being particularly productive. For me, I think there are several reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that those writing sessions tend to be longer than average. But it's also a psychological indicator to myself that "this time is for writing" and not for anything else.
  2. Write Something Different From Your Usual Fare -- I've written a whole blog post about some of the benefits of writing something different than what you usually write. If you're struggling to get words down, particularly if you're feeling that what you're writing isn't "good enough", then you could use this as an opportunity to write something with no expectations of yourself other than getting new words down.
  3. Set A Specific Short-Term Goal For Yourself -- Be careful, as this can be a double-edged sword. If you set too ambitious of a goal and don't meet it, you run the risk of reinforcing negative mental narratives. But, if you set a goal which is challenging enough to make you feel as if you've accomplished something significant while also being reasonably attainable, it can give you an opportunity for a short-term "win." Bear in mind that goals are best when they revolve around things entirely within your power. Setting a "goal" of having a story accepted by a specific magazine isn't something you can completely control. That could be an "ambition", certainly. A better goal -- one that's entirely within your control -- would be to plan to write a new story aimed specifically toward that publication and submit it there within the next month.
  4. Find Productive Tasks Related To Your Writing Which Aren't "Writing" -- Setting aside for the moment notions specifically of "writing every day," there are plenty of writing-related tasks which need attention. Perhaps you have work which you are circulating to publishers in general but which is not currently out on submission. Then get it back out the door! Maybe you have promised to critique a story by someone else but haven't done that yet. Use some of your writing time to get the critique written up. And so on. These aren't necessarily glamorous things to be doing, but if you get them finished, then you no longer have them sitting out there needing your attention "sometime." And maybe that "sometime" will be a time when you have an especially productive writing day.
Those are four tools I have used and would use again. What do you do to try to help get yourself back into gear when things aren't going as well as you would like?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Link of the Month: NaNoWriMo

It may still be summer here for a little while longer in the Northern Hemisphere, but it's also just over six weeks until the first of November and with that, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I've got a whole chapter in "Write Every Day" about my experience with NaNoWriMo and how it might fit into developing a Daily Writing Routine. Here is an excerpt:

If you're excited about the idea of trying to write every day but nervous about doing it "on your own" here's an option to at least consider. You could jump into the deep end with tens of thousands of other people in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
The first thing I would suggest if you're going to try to use NaNoWriMo as a springboard to developing daily writing habits is to put your focus specifically on those habits and not on "winning" NaNoWriMo by getting to 50,000 words. If you've struggled to be consistent with your writing in the past and find that having the support of the community around the activity helps you write each of the 30 days but you "only" end up with 25,000 words, I would say that you'd have an accomplishment there to feel good about. The goal, then, would be to keep that rhythm and energy moving forward into December and beyond.
So, if I'm saying that trying to meet the stated NaNoWriMo objective of 50,000 words needn't be your top priority, why am I mentioning it at all? Simply because there is so much energy and support in the community around the event. The NaNoWriMo website has forums filled with conversations, particularly during the month itself. If you live near a decent-sized city you can also find scheduled "write-ins" where groups of people working on a novel that month will get together for part of a day at a coffee shop, library, etc. and hang around and write together.

If you're a writer who likes to have things planned out to some degree before you starting writing, now would be a good time to consider your approach if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

As for me, I'm not likely to actively do NaNoWriMo this year. I still need to revise last year's novel if I want to see it published some day and I don't need to be piling up more unfinished work. But I'll probably try to latch on to the energy around the month online and maybe try to go to a write-in or two.

Are you thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, are you planning in advance or just intending to hit the ground running 11/1 with only the beginning of an idea?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Penumbra, Tin House, and Crab Orchard Review

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about three such calls for submissions.

Actually, four, since before I get to the other submission calls, I'd like to remind my readers that I am currently guest-editing the Kazka Press flash fiction contest for this month on the theme of "Love Beyond Death". Stories need to be submitted by September 20th and Kazka will be paying a flat rate of $10 for stories of 713-1,000 words.

Penumbra has opened submissions for their January 2013 issue, a tribute to Ray Bradbury. They specifically say that they are not looking for "fan fiction" but rather for stories in a similar style or dealing with similar themes. This submission call runs through November 30th, 2012. They pay 5 cents per word for stories of 500-3,500 words.

Tin House is currently reading for their Spring 2013 issue, with the theme "This Means War."  About the theme, they said: "We’re looking for the grey, the messy, the not-so-easily classified. We’re not just looking for work about armed conflict, but domestic, political, ecological, religious, and moral battles." They are looking for essays or stories of up to 10,000 words or poems (submit up to five). Submissions for this theme are open through October 31st, 2012. Pay rates are not stated in an obvious place on their website, but Duotrope does list them as having professional pay rates for fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.

Finally, Crab Orchard Review is looking for poetry, fiction, or literary nonfiction relating to the portion of the United States (generally speaking) East of the West Coast states and West of the Mississippi. (That's not wholly accurate, so please take a look at the specific regions they are including.) They describe the theme as being "Prairies, Plains, Mountains, Desert." They do not take email submissions; submissions must be postmarked by November 3rd, 2012. Creative non-fiction and fiction should be 25 pages or fewer, novel excerpts are allowable, and up to six poems may be submitted at once. Payment is $25 per printed page in the magazine with a minimum of $50 for poetry and $100 for prose plus two copies of the issue.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back on the second Wednesday of October for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Updated Blog Schedule

After giving a lot of thought to balancing time for my various writing tasks, I've decided that I'm going to cut back on blogging somewhat. I'll be retaining my usual Monday/Thursday/Sunday schedule on my main writing blog. However, instead of having daily blog posts here on the "Write Every Day" blog, I'm going to switch to a once-a-week schedule. So, starting this week I'll be having a post on this site every Wednesday.

The content will remain roughly the same, just spread out differently. Here will be the overall schedule:
  • 1st Wednesday of the Month - Guest Post/Interview
  • 2nd Wednesday of the Month - Upcoming Deadlines
  • 3rd Wednesday of the Month - Link of the Month
  • 4th Wednesday of the Month - Wednesday List post
Questions Which Might Be Frequently Asked:
  • Ah, but wait! Some months -- such as, in fact, the very next month, October -- have not just four Wednesdays but five! What then?
    • Well, it won't just be a lie-about Wednesday for me. But what it will be is Grab Bag -- whatever I feel like posting about for that day. The one thing it will do is, in some way, relate to writing or reading.
  • We've already passed the first Wednesday of September.
    • Correct! But that's not a question.
  • Oh, sorry... Ahem... What about the first Wednesday of this month? I didn't see a Guest Post or Interview then.
    • Indeed. So the first Guest Post/Interview with this new schedule will actually come around on October 3rd. I don't have anyone lined up just yet for that so if you're interested in participating, let me know!
So, apparently there really aren't that many questions which might frequently be asked... But if you have a question I didn't think of, do feel free to ask me in the Comments below.

Thanks for reading!