Saturday, April 29, 2017

#WritersLife: Measuring Your Writing Progress

#WritersLife - The Blonde Writer

#WritersLife, where I talk writing in real life.

Measuring your writing progress is not always an easy--or a motivating--thing to do. If you determine a measurement and then fall short, you risk putting down your self-esteem or slowing your momentum, and that could jeopardize the entire project. Not only that, but by choosing to by-pass this potential dilemma by not setting goals, you risk putting off the writing entirely until you have more time, which never magically appears like the time set aside for certain tasks.

If your writing is important to you, then creating goals is necessary to prioritize it. There are multiple ways to measure your writing progress; it's a matter of trial and error to see which ones best match your personality and writing style.

Word Counts and Page Counts

Counting words and pages is the most common practice for all writers. A popular writing program, NaNoWriMo, encourages writers to get 50,000 words on paper in November and then pushes writers a little further to write what they can in April. This is a great tangible way for writers, especially new writers, to see their progress before their eyes immediately. 

For me, this measurement works best when I have a novel in mind and know what the outline is to follow. I can see the physical words on paper as they are in my mind. At my peak, I was averaging 3,000 words a day and was kicking my revision's booty. However, if you're a slow writer, this may not be the best measurement for you.

Hours and Sessions

Measuring by set parameters is a great way for all writers to dedicate a chunk of time to their craft. In Stephen King's On Writing, he talks about getting up first thing in the morning and writing until noon. For some of you, doing this kind of thing after your shift at work would be the same idea: get home at 5:30, spend some time with your family, and then write until 7:30 (or whenever dinner is).

This can be a stronger motivator for writers who spend a little more time thinking through their first draft. Putting in an hour of work can get me 2,000 words during a first draft; for another writer, an hour of work may be closer to 400 words. However, dedicating an hour everyday will generate content for you to revise, and that constant motivation will keep your writing alive.

If you already know you can't set aside a daily time to write, give yourself a weekly session count to follow. If you find extra time on Tuesday to have two half-hour sessions, do it, and then you won't feel behind if you didn't write on Sunday and Monday. If you write by an outline, you can even measure your progress by your story's progression.

Scenes or Development

Measuring based on the story progress is definitely for those who are detail-oriented or faithfully following a plot outline. You can write one major scene a day or write until a change occurs in a character or the setting. Really, this one probably has the most flexibility, so if you're more of a chaotic thinker (and I envy people like that when I feel paralyzed because my planner isn't updated), you may find the most motivation with this method.

When I first started writing, I wrote a chapter a day with a minimum of 7 pages per chapter. I don't often follow this mindset while drafting, but for my revision process, I edit per scene so I can try to treat each individual scene like its own story. I'll admit that I am terrible at this because I'm super impatient and want to finish the revisions as fast as possible, but it does help me catch all the ways my writing can be improved.

While planned and chaotic thinkers may work with these physical measurements, spiritual thinkers may benefit more by listening to their inner muse.

Personal Satisfication

As Sarah from Sarah's Day says, "Listen to your body;" listen to that inner muse or inner writer and understand your personal satisfaction level. One day, 500 words is what makes you happy. The next day, 2,000 words is when you finally feel ready to stop. I had a handful of days last year where I wrote 5,000 words in a day because my inspiration for the story was so fresh. These fluctuations are normal.

I repeat: These fluctuations are normal.

Our desires fluctuate. Our inspiration fluctuates. Our work ethic fluctuates (I'm a prime example of this one). However, we should not compromise our writing goals for these inner changes. Even when you don't feel like writing, try brainstorming, outlining, or revising. Always put effort into your work to keep your mind fresh on the subject.

Whatever way you measure your writing, it's important to track continual progress. And don't think of measuring as a way of measuring your worth as a serious writer. The purpose of measuring your progress is to keep you going in any small way you need. Your worth as a writer is measured by your faith in yourself and nothing more.

So long as you always end the day feeling satisfied with everything you did and attempted to do, you've succeeded in meeting not just your writing goals, but your life goals.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Words on Bathroom Walls

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that focuses on the yet-to-be released books we're waiting for. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm highlighting a wonderful novel about mental health awareness!

Title: Words on Bathroom Walls
Author: Julia Walton
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: July 4, 2017
Add to Goodreads

Goodreads summary:

Adam has just been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He sees and hears people who aren’t there: Rebecca, a beautiful girl who understands him; the Mob Boss, who harasses him; and Jason, the naked guy who’s unfailingly polite. It should be easy to separate the real from the not real, but Adam can't.

Still, there’s hope. As Adam starts fresh at a new school, he begins a drug trial that helps him ignore his visions. Suddenly everything seems possible, even love. When he meets Maya, a fiercely intelligent girl, he desperately wants to be the great guy that she thinks he is. But then the miracle drug begins to fail, and Adam will do anything to keep Maya from discovering his secret.

Why I'm Waiting:

I first heard about this novel last year, and I have been counting down the days until it rests in my hands! Novels that showcase mental health awareness are always a hit or miss with me because I dislike how the characters are portrayed. However, this one sounds promising and the story line hooked me from the start. I hope it lives up to its expectations. *fingers crossed*

What books are you waiting on?

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Friday, April 21, 2017

#WritersLife: Finding Inspiration to Write

#WritersLife from Amber the Blonde Writer

#WritersLife, where I talk writing in real life.

Something I've been struggling with for many moons now is finding inspiration to write. I am not, by any means, jumping right into a daily writing routine because I know myself well enough to know that will burn me out in a week's time. However, I'm also learning new things about myself as I age, and one of the new things is that I need new inspiration in all areas of my life.

Writing is no exception.

The methods I used before to inspire me no longer carry the same potency. Before, I relied on friends and peers to motivate me, on social media writers to "compete" with (friendly rivalries, always), and strict work schedules to highlight my determination to make it.

When I vanished from social media last summer, I lost the first two inspiration methods, and it will take time to rebuild them. I am also working more hours now than I was a year ago, so I need to manage my time to fit writing and brainstorming back into my weekly routine. Some serious reconstruction would need to happen for me to revert back to my original lifestyle.

On the other hand, I'm trying to be more positive. Rather than lament on the fact that the writing encouragement I've had for 15 years no longer works, I want to think of new methods I can fall back on. After speaking with a couple friends and testing out new ideas, I've compiled a list of the things that are currently motivating me to write again.


This one isn't a new idea, but it's definitely one I'm actively following now. Some of my go-to authors are Marissa Meyer, A.G. Howard, Sara Raasch, and Leigh Bardugo. While I love reading new books and authors, the majority of them end up being entertainment rather than lessons.
With the above writers (among others), I am encouraged to write because I am in love with their storytelling skills, the way they develop characters, the detail in their setting, and the unpredictable turn in plot. I aspire to be more like them, to write stories that carry messages and new perspectives and understandable people. 

I haven't read a book by any of these authors this year, but I have a feeling if I jump back into one, I'll be pushed to write something that they would be excited to read.

Writing Prompts

I think Pinterest is absolutely wonderful and severely underutilized in my writing career. 

I have a board on Pinterest called Writing Inspiration, but I wasn't drawing anything from the character building exercises or pretty quote pictures. However, something I've seen more and more of are brief writing prompts (10-40 words or so), and these are gold.

Whether a writer changes up the words to match their vision or only use the prompts as a free writing tool before they begin work on their masterpiece, prompts are a great resource to get thoughts on paper. I use them as I imagine my characters saying or living them. If I can't imagine it, then my characters wouldn't think it, and so the prompt doesn't fit the direction I plan on going.

There are some hilarious prompts out there, and I think these are the best ones to use for free writing because letting the silliness out early on saves room for the tension that stories thrive on.

Unconventional Storytelling

A brilliant man brought the idea of unconventional storytelling to me this week, and it's one that I never thought as a free writing exercise until I realized I needed new inspirations for my work. 

He said to think of it like profiling: pick a person, and based on their expressions, their walk, their clothes, and a few other things (I have a terrible memory but so far he doesn't seem to mind repeating himself), decide what kind of life they're living in this present moment. It's like people watching, but with a purpose: to inspire character development.

I think this method is also great to try with friends. Two perspectives offer more fluidity in possible story lines, especially when you and your friend view the world or live your lives differently. Not only that, but I like to link my characters with certain mannerisms and quirks, and watching people provides a fresh look at ones I may not have come across yet. 

Creating New Goals

Continuing the trend of the aforementioned brilliant man (I fear he may become a force to contend with on the blog; Marvelous Eric, take caution!), he suggested creating new goals within my writing if I'm still blocked.

This writer's block has been with me since last summer. I tried starting a new daily word count goal and that feel before the first days ever ended. I tried scheduling time, and I found excuses to avoid it. I even disappeared from the blog because I felt like nothing I was doing was contributing.

#WritersLife - Finding Inspiration to Write - Confirmation certificateWriting aside, I need new goals for all things in my life. I made the decision to join the Catholic Church last year (Confirmation was April 15, 2017! Catholic peeps, holla!--er, alleluia!). This was the first milestone decision I made since before I left my last job. It made me feel so good last week to accomplish the goal I gave myself, and I want to keep feeling that way in all areas of my life.

What is it I want to do with my writing? In my jobs? Within my relationships? I need to break these up into milestones so I am always actively working toward something achievable rather than falling into the pit of "just surviving."

What motivates you to write? To actively pursue your dreams? We can't brainstorm our dreams forever; at some point, the outlining must begin.


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