Five Lessons Learned While Writing My Debut Novel - Blog Take Over!

Hello my lovely and wonderful followers! This month, I've handed over the keys! I've sent my child away for sleep-away camp! I've ... well I've let fellow writer Jade Young full access to my blog, and given her full approval to post here for all of you. Join me in welcoming Jade to my page, and let's dive in!

Ah! I’ve been at this writing game for a year now, and I still find myself making mistakes and learning lessons every single time I sit down to write. Every single time, I overcome a writing hurdle, and feel like I’ve finally made it and I’m a successful writer, there’s always another obstacle to push me back on my butt and keep me humble. The truth is, as writers there will always be something new to learn or some obstacle to overcome. However, we don’t all have to make the same mistakes or overcome the same struggles. It is my hope that by sharing my writing struggles and lessons learned with you, that you can avoid some of the many pitfalls I’ve struggled with in the past.

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplash.jpg

Lesson One - Don’t Lose Your Joy:

Don’t be afraid to experiment, try new things, and make mistakes. Writing is extremely hard, but it can also be fun. If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up, be kind to yourself. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Also, don’t put unnecessary deadlines on yourself, or feel that you have to put out a bestseller or you’ll be the joke of the writing community. The truth is, whether one person, one hundred people, or thousands of people read your book, nothing can compare to the real reason you write. It’s not for the money, for the reviews, or for the success – it’s because writing brings your joy. It’s your passion. And I promise you, if you write because it lights you up and makes you happy, then you can overcome every single struggle and hurdle your author journey throws at you. (If you’ve fallen out of love with writing ,check out this amazing article by Kristen Kieffer to help you rediscover that love.)

Lesson Two - Second Drafts Exist for a Reason:

Writers! You will never write a perfect first draft. I’m sorry, but it just isn’t going to happen. All that stress and anxiety we bring upon ourselves struggling to make our first draft perfect is for nothing. There will be constant rewrites. Characters will need to be developed further. Plot holes will pop up in places you least expect. You can go back three, four, or five times and still find something to improve or change. There is no reason to stress. There is no reason to cry. There is no reason to feel overwhelmed. As you’ve no doubt heard many times before, the first draft is simply you telling yourself the story. Get it out. Throw caution to the wind, turn off your inner critique and editor, and focus on simply getting the story out of your head and onto the paper.

Lesson Three - Consistency is Key:

It is so easy to get distracted by shiny new ideas while working on another writing project. Some people can balance multiple writing projects and that’s great! (Check out this blog post for four tips to help you balance multiple writing projects.) However, I could build a graveyard to house all of the writing projects I’ve abandoned and that’s not okay. You can have multiple ideas, but the goal is to finish a writing project. Complete a first draft. Publish a novel. Once you’ve successfully published a novel, then you can decide which writing project you want to devote your time to next.

Lesson Four - The Writing Community is Your Best Friend:

I don’t like putting myself out there on the Internet. That’s why I write under the pen name Jade Young. However, when I put myself out there, and started to interact and connect with other writers a whole new world opened up. I had writing buddies to do group writing sprints with! I had editing friends to critique my novels! I had access to amazing cover designers and book formatters! I had people who were going through the same struggles and hurdles that I was and who knew just what to say to help me get back on my feet! There were writing chats on Twitter! (You can find a list of daily Twitter writing events here.) Group hashtag games on Twitter and Instagram! Writing advice YouTube videos and podcasts! Writing tags! And when I opened myself and my heart to the newfound friends I made on the Internet, I realized that yes, writing is oftentimes solitary, but with such a strong, helpful, and welcoming community, I no longer had to struggle, or celebrate, alone.

Lesson Five - Go at Your Own Pace:

The comparison game is a trap! Don’t fall into it! I know this is easier said than done, but every writer is different. Some will pop out two or more novels a year while others might pop out one every three years. Some excel in character development while others excel in knowing how and when to set up the perfect plot twist. And that's okay! No two writing journeys are the same and comparing yourself to someone isn't going to make you feel better. To stop myself from falling into this trap, I started posting positive affirmations around my writing space to remind myself of my strengths. I’ve also started saving positive feedback in a file on my computer This way, when I feel like I’m moving too slow in my journey, I can read these comments and affirmations and chase away the self-doubt or feelings of comparison. After all, the only person I should be comparing myself to is the writer I was yesterday.

I hope my shortcomings and the lessons I’ve learned can be helpful to you on your writing journey. If you don’t remember anything else, remember to believe in yourself and above all continue to write! Have you learned any lessons on your writing journey? Leave them in the comments down below so we can all learn from each other!

Happy Writing!

jade young.jpg

 

 

 

Jade Young is a blogger, and writing coach, currently working on her debut novel. You can find helpful tips, writing advice, and more information about her services on her website at www.theeducatedwriter.com.

It's time to get productive!

Has it really already been another month? So much has already taken place this month... and there's still so much I can't wait to start talking about and revealing to all of you. 

Make sure you're following my on social media over the next couple months to hear about all the really amazing things coming your way, and click that little tab at the top left of your screen that says Newsletter. That's going to be the first place I reveal everything you'll want to be watching for. 

With Camp Nanowrimo upon us, let's talk productivity. Let's chat about using your time in the best, most effective way possible. 

I have 6 tips to help you be the most productive person you know. (grab a pen, some of these are really good!)

1. EAT THAT FROG - Have you ever read this book by Brian Tracy? It's a game changer - seriously! Ok, so without giving you any reason not to read this book (seriously, you need to read this book!), the general theory is simple. If you had to eat one live frog every single day, wouldn't you want to do it first thing in the morning, get it out of the way, and go on with your day? If you have looming tasks that weigh you down, that are ugly, and difficult... If you have things that need to get done that you absolutely hate doing, do them first. Do them before you do anything else, and move on! Try tackling your challenging tasks before noon, every single day!

2. Cut your to-do list in half! - Trust me on this one. Do you know the 80/20 rule? 20% of what you do with your day produces 80% of your results and success. Why spend the remaining 80% of your time focusing on things that only offer 20% of results? When you focus more energy on the tasks that matter, your productivity will skyrocket! Let me help with a visual...

 3

3. Use your mornings to find your focus - Ok, this might not work for everyone, some of you just aren't morning people, no matter how many times I try to convert you. That's ok, but make either the last thing you do in a day, or the first thing you do in a day, a time of focus. Get your priorities straight, make those shorter to-do lists concise, and plan out what you need to get done in that day. 

4. Take a load off! - No seriously... take a break... go... now! When you focus for too long on any task, your brain goes into a sort of "autopilot" mode. There's sciency stuff that I could explain, but we're creatives, we don't really do science - am I right? So - get up, stretch, grab a snack, or fresh cup of coffee, meditate, go for a walk, whatever you can do that takes you away from where you're working. When you come back, I promise you'll be recharged and ready to tackle more. 

5. Learn the art of Single-tasking - We've all heard of multi-tasking, it's been the buzz word in interviews and corporate environments for the past fifteen years. Multi-taskers are what everyone wants - someone who can balance a million small tasks, who can write an email, while answering the phone, drinking a coffee and saving the world at the same time. Let me tell you, this is a lie! Multi-tasking is evil incarnate! Single tasking is where it's at. I work in Corporate Canada (like Corporate America, just colder with better spelling haha) and when I'm interviewing candidates, I look for someone who can single-task over multi-task. Someone who's capable of focusing on accomplishing one task at a time, instead of spreading themselves too thin, playing a balancing act, and ultimately, dropping every ball in the air (did you know that changing tasks more than 10 times a day can drop your IQ by up to 10 points!) Be more productive, more efficient, and more results driven by focusing on just one task at a time!

6. Understand what is productive, and what is procrastination - Most people wouldn't put these two together, but let me tell you - it's shocking to learn that what you think is productivity, is actually procrastination! How often do you turn to your inbox, and send out emails instead of doing actual work that you might not be too excited about doing. How often do you accept a meeting, instead of grinding out a project or a report that you know needs to get to a client. These are all laziness - procrastination. It's time to get down to it, and it's time to be real with youself, are you being productive, or are you procrastinating. (For the record, I, myself, am procrastinating writing this blog, since I know I should be knocking out word count on my WIP - but let's just keep that between us!)

So there you have it: my top 6 tips to be more productive, results driven, and efficient! 

On your way out, don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter, and make sure to check out all of my social media for daily updates and inspiration!

 

 

 

How to Find the Time

Holy moly it's been a hot minute since I last sat down to ponder blog topics. 

I have an entire series coming up in the next couple months that I think you're going to love; but I'm just not ready to reveal those details just yet. Therefore, in the meantime, it's back to the drawing board and generating fresh content for you all... but with a busy schedule, and amazing weather and a new writing group that is completely rocking my world, who has the time?

I think time is something that most creatives struggle with. There's never enough of it, and it flies by way too fast - am I right? You want so many things, and your goals are sitting and waiting, but you just aren't getting to them fast enough. You have a full time, gruelling job (or at least I do), and maybe kids or a husband that occasionally want to see you. You want to be healthy, and get outdoors, or maybe you just love being in nature, and to get out of a concrete jungle it's at least an hour each way to find grass and trees. Either way, the full time hustle can get you down. 

Now, I don't think you ever get this down to a science, at least, it's still all trial and error for me; but I'm ready to impart some of my tried and true techniques to fit your creative life into your busy schedule. 

1. Create a schedule. 

I know, you're probably going to give me a hard time on this one. "But Sammi, not everyone is as type A as you, I have enough schedules to deal with in my day job!" Hear me out. If you plan your creative passions into your day, each and every day, you're more likely to show up for your passions. In the same way that your full-time hustle demands you stick to a schedule, so should your side hustle. It works in two ways. First, it demands the time be spent on achieving your goals. When you have the time set aside, you'll have less excuses not to do it, and eventually, you're going to get bored of making excuses. Second, it sets a precedent in your mind and equates the importance of your side hustle to your main hustle. If you have to show up daily, as per your own schedule, to spend time working on your goals, your brain gets tricked into thinking your goals are just as important as your full time job.

1.jpg

2. Prioritize.

This one sounds easy right? It's not. Let's say you wake up early, and think "fantastic, an extra half hour this morning to sip my coffee in peace and listen to the birds!". This is when your brain needs to kick in and respond. "Or, do a few stretches, get your coffee and plunk down in front of your computer for just one quick sprint!" Where are your priorities? I'll admit, sometimes you need those moments of silence to meditate and just be in the moment. But I know for me, I use a lot of these times and excuse them as "I just need downtime" when in reality, I just need to let my creativity run wild. It's easy to make excuses for our lack of progress, but when you prioritize your goals and your passions, you will begin to find all sorts of breaks in your day that will allow you to make huge gains on those goals you've set. 

3. Create every day.

I know, I know. "But Sammi, that's where the problem comes in, I just dont have time!" My answer is simple. You do. You always will. Whether it means waking up 20 minutes earlier each morning, taking your lunch break and pulling out your WIP, or dictating words on your drive to or from work, you have time. You need to find opportunities to create every single day. This is not just a hobby (maybe for some of you it is, but for most of us, we take this very seriously). Your creative life is a discipline. The only way to do it, is to do it!

And lastly...

4. Set Deadlines. 

Again, just like in your day job, I'm sure you have hard deadlines that are required by your boss, upper management, clients, etc. If you miss those deadlines there are serious repercussions to deal with. For your goals, you need to hold yourself just as accountable. Do you want to have that first draft written by the end of August? Do you need to have your cover art completed and ready by July 15th? Sit down with a full list of the steps needed to reach your goal, and set firm deadlines for yourself. Now I work much better with a reward system for accomplishing my goals, or hitting my deadlines, but I will tell you, when I set a deadline, if I miss it without a good explanation, I am just as hard on myself as I would be for any employee at work. Privileges get removed, whether that's a date night with my husband (that's a good solid 3-4 hours of editing that I can spend on my WIP) or Netflix gets shut down for a month, or that new pair of boots I've been wanting to buy, get cut from the 'budget'. I make sure that I give myself just enough of a push to go hard on that deadline until I'm done. Deadlines will have you showing up, and finding those extra 15 minutes while dinner is in the oven, or while you're sipping your morning coffee, to make sure you're getting your targets hit.

 

 

 

BIG MAGIC - A powerful read for Creatives!

I hadn't really set out to include book reviews as part of my blog content. Although, I am all about providing feedback and reviews for everything I read, and you can follow me on Goodreads if you want to see what I've loved or... didn't, but I had never intended for reviews to be among my blogging content. I'm still not completely sure that, beyond this post, there will be any other reviews to come; however, after recently finishing BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert, I am bursting at the seams to have every "creative" that I know, go out and buy this book... Now.. Seriously! Close your laptop, grab your keys, and drive yourself to the nearest book store to get a copy of this. 

I know I'm a little behind here, and that Big Magic was published nearly 3 years ago, but I've been busy! 

This book was moving, enlightening, surprising and genuinely changed the way I see my own creativity and inspiration. I've read a lot of personal development books, on living your best life, on positivity, on mindfulness, and I generally get something out of them.. sometimes big, sometimes small, but it's been a very long while since I read a book that completely changed my perspective. I also cannot recall the last PD book, or any book for that matter, that was directly focused on mindset for creatives. 

Sidenote: When I say creatives, I am speaking of anyone that wants to live their most creative and inspired life. I'm talking authors, painters, photographers, dancers, singers, landscapers, candle makers, architects, etc. Anyone that has found a passion in their life to "create".

24453082.jpg

I'm going to start, and very briefly boast about Gilbert's writing style, because although it was delightfully light hearted and casual, this wasn't the best part about this beautiful creation.  

Gilbert's way of explaining inspiration was remarkable, and struck a chord. So many times I have ignored inspiration, or not given it the attention it requires, and it has left me. It has moved on. In BIG MAGIC, Elizabeth gives life to inspiration, uniquely explaining how it moves into our lives, and out of our lives, and how it's neither good nor bad. How when a great idea passes you by, and you miss out on an opportunity to write your next story, or paint your next canvas, it isn't a negative experience, but one that just wasn't the right fit. 

If you look at the reviews of this book, so many have said that it came into their lives at just the right time, but I believe that Gilbert's theories, views, and perspective are exactly what every creative needs, in every step of their journey. 

I am not about to spoil this book. I am not going to give you any content at all, because I believe that everyone needs to go into it with an open mind, and a willing heart to experience Gilbert's work for themselves. I will, however, give you my top 3 take aways from BIG MAGIC. 

1. Respect inspiration. You never know when it is going to tap you on the shoulder and proclaim that you are its vessel! Show it the time, consideration, and respect that it deserves, and work your butt off, to earn the right to manifest it into reality.

2. Confidently put yourself, and your work out there, and know that no matter what the results are, that you have no control over it. You are allowed to speak your truth, and put it into the world, but so are your critics. The reaction of those who don't like you or your work, doesn't belong to you.

3. STOP CREATING UNNECESSARY SUFFERING! The starving artist is a thing you have created in your own mind. The struggle, the negativity, the "unless you are killing yourself, you aren't creating a masterpiece" doesn't exist. You don't have to hate your work to be considered a genuine artists. You don't have to partake in the emotional rollercoaster. You can love your work, and enjoy every day you create, and still be successful!

I honestly don't go around telling others to read (usually because I always get the same excuse from people - "I don't have time to read", "Books? like real paper books?") but this is a book that can change your life, and change how you approach your creativity. 

 

Complimenting your Characters

You may think by the title of this blog, I am going to delve into a world of how amazing your characterization is... right? Well you'd be wrong. 

When I talk about complimenting your characters, I don't mean "well, Cosmo, don't you look pretty today" kind of compliments. As many of us are artists, I am going out on a limb here to assume a good number of you have gone through a few art classes. (if you haven't, I promise, this isn't going to be an overly complex concept.) 

Do you remember learning about colours? Remember ye' old colour wheel?

Color_Wheel.jpg

Above is a colour wheel (ok, a little less of a wheel than conventionally seen, but play along!) A complimentary colour is a colour that appears exactly opposite from the colour in question. In the above example, the blue swatch is exactly across from the orange swatch, and coincidentally, blue and orange are complimentary colours. No I didn't bring you over to my website for grade 8 art lessons. I will get to my point, I promise!

When using colour, there are five master colour schemes. Without getting too complicated here, I am going to be discussing only two of those five. (if I have sparked some interest, there is a great resource that describes all five of these colour schemes at LifeHacker.com) Complimentary, as explained before, are colours that appear opposite each other on the colour wheel (the teal arrows). Analogous colours are colours that flank the colour in question (the red arrows). 

Back to writing. When you write characters into your story, as mentioned in my last post about characters, we discovered that typically, the good guys have good traits and your bad guys have bad traits (except for the few traits that you have now reversed as per our previous exercise). In the example above, let's just assume that the cool tones on the colour scale - that being the purples, blues and greens - each represent a different good trait; and the warmer tones - the yellows, oranges and reds - represent bad traits. Your main character is probably going to embody quite a few of these cooler tones, whereas your antagonist would fall into a lot of the warmer colours - fair to say? The next assumption would be that your hero's side kick will more than likely be analogous to your main character, just as your villains squad is probably analogous to your villain. But here's the real question. Where does your Villain and your Hero fall in relation to each other on this colour chart analysis? 

Great writers find ways to mirror your characters using a similar approach to my colour wheel analogy. Where your secondary characters on either side of the score will remain analogous to their leader; your protagonist and antagonist need to be complimentary to each other (do you finally see where I was going with this?)

If you can portray your good guys and bad guys as complimentary to one another, you are going to create more of a distance between those characters and heighten the readers distrust or dislike towards the guy that is, in every way, contrary to your MC. This may help in the previous exercise, in trying to find a redeeming trait for your antagonist. If you can find the fault in your hero, that opens the door to find a subtle positive trait to your villain, and maybe that specific trait is what could bring your MC down. Maybe that one negative attribute in your protagonist, is just enough to make him sweat, because your antagonist possess it. 

Give this one a whirl. Use Thesaurus.com to pinpoint the exact antonym for your MC's traits, then ensure that your villain possesses these exact traits. Is your Hero generous, make your villain greedy. Is your Hero courageous? Make your bad guy a coward. You get what I'm saying. 

Leave me a comment below if doing this helps you with your own characterization in your WIP. For more helpful hints and motivation, you can always find me on instagram, and until next time, go get some writing done!