Know Your Value

Peggy Carter is kind of who I want to be when I grow up.  I have a bookmark of her tacked to my wall, with the quote “I know my value” across the bottom.  Even when nearly everyone around her professionally treated her like a less person, she did not give up on herself.

I am not sure if I was born a competitive person, or if it was later ingrained into my brain. To an extent, the determination and drive that comes with a competitive personality can be a good thing.  There are certainly times that I have achieved more because of my need to feel competitive.

The problem is when you make a lot of things a competition, you don’t always win.  Failure stings a bit harder.  You tend to want to give up if you don’t do your best and beyond, every time you try.  Or if someone just happens to do better than you did.

The problem with this kind of attitude, it’s  a losing game, no matter how many times you think you’ve ‘won.’

In this life, there should really only be one person you are competing against. Yourself.

This is a concept I am definitely still working on.  There are times I have to remember that as long as I did better than past-me did, strived a little harder, did a little more, that I’m winning.

There are also ways to take the competitive nature out of a competition.  In her book “Yes, Please!” Amy Poehler talks about the “Pudding” and how we all want it.  For her, the “pudding” was an Emmy award.  So Amy made a game of it, to take the sting out of not getting that yummy, delicious pudding.  She got all the women who were nominated in her category to do bits and make funny jokes.  She saw them as her friends and teammates, instead of her competitors.

I think this is a great attitude to have, to see those around us as our teammates, rather than adversaries.  If your friend gets their book published?  Cheer them on.  Gets a raise at a job they love?  Be excited for them.  By recognizing the worth in others, rather than tearing them down in a misguided attempt to make yourself feel better, you’ll find that it is a lot easier to recognize your own worth as well.

You have value.  When that little green monster climbs into your brain and tries to compare you to someone else, try to drown out that little voice by saying “They’re doing great!  I’m working hard too.  I’m going to reach my goals too.”  

 

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Ways to Quiet Your Inner Editor

It generally takes me about a week to quiet my inner editor during NaNoWriMo.  For the first week, I fight with her a lot.  She tends to want me to go back and fix plot ideas, weird sentences and anything else she can think of.  I have learned one thing from her, listening to her is the quickest way to stop myself from getting my writing done.  I’ve also watched a lot of friends become crippled by their inner editor, so they don’t make their daily word counts and end up quitting before they make that one week mark in NaNoWriMo.

So I decided to share a few handy tools to circumvent your inner editor.

ILYS

Ilys is a great website that even lets you test drive their software. When using their software, you set a word count goal and then it brings you to a screen where you can only see single letters as you type them.  You cannot see if you have made errors and you cannot go back and fix them if you did until you hit your word count goal.  This is a great way to set a word count goal and just go for it.   It basically forces you to complete your writing without any sort of editing.  You also cannot see the errors, so it may make you less anxious about making them.

The trial account allows you to write up to 10,000 words before signing up for a member account.  When I looked into a paid account, it was only about 10 dollars a month.

Write or Die

Write or die is a program that sometimes scares me.  When I first used it, the program would actually delete everything you had written if you waited too long to keep writing.  Write or die now comes with several different options, and you can also try out the service to see if it is the kind of app that will motivate you.

You can still set the app to erase your writing if you pause for too long.  You can also ask it to provide negative reinforcement.  When I stopped writing, the app played horrible, off-key violin music until I started writing again.  You can also set it to reward you, if you buy the program, and it will provide positive feedback as you hit your writing goals.

Both of the apps are great ways to break things up and force yourself to write!  Are there any other tools you use to get yourself writing?

 

 

Story Brainstorming Worksheet

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo and I’ve already managed to get my 1,667 words in for the day.  I hope that all of you are making great progress as well.  I wanted to share with you all a great way to get a story started, if you are stuck and lacking ideas.

A few years ago I attended a comic writing workshop taught by Kelly Sue DeConnick and in the workshop, she walked us through a writing activity where we started with a setting, created characters with basic traits, and figured out theme/world/plot from there.

Eventually, that exercise inspired me to create this worksheet, so that I could easily run myself through it.  I use it whenever I am trying to brainstorm a story, but I’m unsure where to start.  For short stories, generally, this sheet and a brief outline are enough for me to write a story from start to finish.  For longer fiction, this sheet tends to be the first brick in the wall.  I will have a link to the PDF at the end of the post, here’s a preview of the worksheet:

 

This worksheet can be used backward or forwards, depending on what kind of writer you are. I tend to start with a theme.  I figure out what kind of truth I want to tell in the story, and that helps me nail down what kind of characters I need, what the plot will be about, etc.  I also tend to write details about submission due dates, word count requirements and other details in the “Title” section of this sheet, so I can keep track of what I’m working on.

You can start with characters if that is how you prefer to write story, or plot.  Or if you have an idea for a story, but nowhere to put it yet, jot it down on the worksheet and hold onto it until you feel ready to flesh it out.  By no means do you need to start and work from top to bottom with this sheet, you can make the worksheet work for you.  

That’s probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last year of writing.  Make the tools work for you.  If outlining a certain way is difficult and you find you work better when you reverse engineer an outline, do that instead.

Story Brainstorming Worksheet Click Here to Download

Write-Ins – Countdown to National Novel Writing Month

Writing can be more fun when other people are there to share the experience with you.  Like writing sprints, write-ins can be a great way to keep yourself moving forward toward that awesome goal of 50k words.

If you’ve started an account at nanowrimo.org, you’ll find a tab toward the top of the page that says “Region.”  If you select “Home Region” from the drop down menu, you can usually find people who live in your area that are planning write-ins locally in the forums at the bottom of the page.

I live in a rural area, in Wyoming, so there are not a lot of write-ins in my area.  But, this is the age of the internet, so I rely on virtual spaces to fill needs when my physical spaces do not provide them.  As I mentioned in my last Nano post, you can look for writing groups online.  I have a group I sprint within email, but I also attend virtual write-ins in SecondLife.

Write-ins are a great way to connect with other writers, and not feel so alone as you are hammering away at your keyboard.

Review: I Am A Writer

This month has been filled with a lot of books about craft.  I’ve been reading up on self-publishing, blog writing and increasing my word count.  I stumbled across the book “I Am A Writer: A Story About Finding Your Inner Author” by C. G. Cooper and I want to recommend it, especially if you are starting out and still feel like you are suffering from impostor syndrome.

The style of the book is more like a short story, we follow Sherri, a character who wants to be a writer.  She is guided through the book by her would-be mentor Daniel.  Sherri shares the insecurities that a lot of new writers share.  She thinks there is some arbitrary finish line she must cross before she can call herself a writer. With each chapter, Sherri learns a lesson that puts her one step closer to becoming a published author.  The story is interesting and inviting, while also providing the reader with useful information about writing. After reading several stories on craft, it was kind of refreshing to read one that was actually written with a narrative, rather than being written like a “how-to” guide.

Many of the lessons shared are simple thoughts that I discovered as I worked toward a writing career, but the story and the lessons are written in a way that is easy to absorb and the book itself is short enough to be read in one sitting, as the book is only 74 pages.  Cooper covers topics like figuring out your voice as a writer, finding a writing group to provide and share feedback with, and getting in a consistent habit of writing each day.

At the end of each chapter, there is a “Practice.”  Each practice builds upon what you have already learned, and gives very practical advice about what it takes to be a writer.  Cooper builds you a step by step process for getting started, and though this book is by no means a comprehensive outline about writing a book, it would certainly be a valuable addition to any budding writer’s toolbox.  

Writing Sprints – Countdown to National Novel Writing Month

I actually did a lot of writing sprints before I  knew what they were.  A friend and I would find a writing prompt, usually a word or a song lyric we liked, and then we would write for a set amount of time and swap what stories came out of those sprints.  Writing sprints are very commonly used by NaNo participants to bolster their word counts.

A writing sprint is where you write for a set amount of time.  Generally, you do not edit during this time, you just hunker down and get those words on the page.  During NaNoWriMo, these sprints can be essential to ensuring you get your word count.  I personally like sprints that are 20-30 minutes long, but you can do sprints that are 10 minutes or 15.  I’ve seen some people even do 45 minute sprints.

Sprint with friends!  Hop on twitter, email a friend, invite them over.  When I sprint with friends, I find I’m more motivated to get that word count going.  We will usually share our word counts when the sprint is over.  I am the competitive type, so it often has me typing like crazy to try and get the most words on the page for that sprint.  There are also apps you can use like wordWar by Dr. Wicked.  You can join competitions in progress, or get a Pro account and start your own “word war” with friends.

Twitters sprints!  You can check out NaNoWordSprints throughout November to sprint along with others working on their NaNo Novels. You can also check hashtags like #wordsprints or #writingsprint to find others on websites like Twitter and Tumblr, who are sprinting.

If you need a sprinting buddy for November, please let me know, and I will give you my email for sprinting.  Or check me out on twitter @TamingTheMuse.  I will definitely be doing some sprints next month!

 

Flash Fiction Friday: Ghosts

Prompt: Ghosts

Word Count: 286

Kara wasn’t sure she believed in ghosts, until her favorite uncle, Robert, died.  He had been the person in her life to encourage her love of reading and the first person to tell her she should try to be a writer.  He gave her a copy of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Octavia Butler’s Kindred.  Books are precious gifts, because it is not only words and paper that are given, but entire worlds.  And Kara dove into those worlds, head first, traveling and teleporting between them.  Returning to the books she loved now and then, to visit the old friends and old enemies she had made in their pages.

Though Uncle Robert had never written a book, Kara still felt his spirit in her library or at the bookstore.  A book would fall from the shelf, or remind her of something she had read before, given to her by Uncle Robert. After awhile it became so commonplace, that Kara was certain it was still him, giving her books from the great beyond.

It was not quite the same, she still longed to call him up and tell him how much she had enjoyed his selections.  Sure, she could say the words aloud, but it was not the same without his own opinions and thoughts being said back to her.

Eventually, Kara decided she would make Uncle Robert immortal.  As she crafted her first novel she wrote a familiar character into the pages.  Now, Uncle Robert could share his wisdom and heart with anyone who flipped through the pages of her book.  He could be the friend of many other budding writers and novelists, a kind ghost of the written word.

Flash fiction is short fiction, often under 500 words and often written in a short space of time.  If you would like to do your own piece of flash fiction, feel free to put it in the comments or link me to the place you post it.  I would love to see what you come up with for the prompt.