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8 Ways to get out of Your writing rut

8 Ways to get out of Your writing rut

In Minnesota winter consists of two things. Cold and snow.  So, naturally, when I have to drive out in that snowy, wintery yucky, boo-hoo-ness, I spend my ride trying to avoid two things.  Death by car crash, and getting stuck!  Fingers crossed I continue avoiding both this winter.

Though I’ve successfully avoided getting my car stuck, I have been feeling stuck in a ditch in my writing.

We’ve all been there right?  Uninspired, not sure which way to go.  Trying to plod forward but simply spinning our wheels.

If you’re stuck like me, here are some tips to get you moving again.  Are you ready?  Here comes your tow truck!

8 Ways to Get Out of Your Writing Rut

  1. Review: Our stories are big and complex, and holding all that information in your head at once is impossible. By the time you reach chapter 22 it can be hard to remember what went down in chapter 6.  Instead of forcing yourself to struggle forward take some time to look back, and reorient yourself to your story. Then, when you return to chapter 22, you’ll have the traction you need to get moving forward.
  2. Take a break: Sometimes we work on a project for so long that it becomes boring, unexciting and a chore to keep writing it.  We love it, but we don’t want to work on it. Just as in every relationship – absence makes the heart grow fonder.  So take a break!  No, not from writing entirely, but from your project.  Pull out a short story you’ve put on the back burner.  Play around with a fun writing prompt, write a book review, pen a dissertation on the medical benefits of eating snail slime.  Whatever you choose, take a few days to give your story some space.  Make it miss you, make it call you drunk at three in the morning begging for you to give it one more chance, it promises to be better this time.
  3. Skip it:  Some scenes are hard to write.  Maybe you don’t know how you want a certain scene to play out.  Maybe you can’t write such a sad scene when you are feeling so happy right now, or maybe you have zero ideas for this scene and a million for one that happens two skips down your plot road.  Whatever the reason, when you are feeling stuck you don’t have to stay put.  Jump over the scene that is giving you trouble, and come back to it later.  This strategy is particularly good during first drafts, and slightly less advisable the deeper into editing you get, but worth the risk if it gets your writing moving again.
  4. Get inspired:  Has life been dull lately?  Have you been in a rut with your routine as well as your story?  Then you my friend need some inspiration.  Read an epic book, watch a magical movie, visit a museum, or better yet go out into the world and have some adventure.  You’ll come back with new ideas and new motivation to rock your novel.
  5. Create a deadline: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the secret to getting things done is deadlines.  If you’ve got a story section that you have to work through, but desperately don’t want to, give yourself some external motivation.  Create a deadline and stick to it.  If you have to reward yourself with a shopping spree when you finish so be it.  Desperate times, desperate measures.
  6. Bring in a friend:  Authors are often so close to their stories, they can drive themselves into a writing ditch without even realizing they have.  In times like this, writing buddies and beta readers are actual lifesavers. Readers will have insights into what still needs tweaking and will have a fresh perspective a to fill your brain with new ideas.  Plus, nothing motivates you to make sure your writing is top notch like the threat of somebody else reading it, am I right?
  7. Consider why you are stuck:  Sometimes we lose our creative mojo because life is handing us a whole grove of lemon trees.  Are you stressed, grieving, depressed, lonely, angry, hurt, ill, anxious, all of the above?  As much as we wish to, we cannot always turn those emotions off when we’re writing.  Sometimes we are in a life stage where it takes all our energy just to get through our days, and there is nothing left over for our writing.  That’s okay.  You need to give yourself some grace and take care of your body and your soul first.  Then, once you’re thriving again, your writing will be too.
  8. Push Through:  Sometimes there is no magic answer to getting you out of the writing ditch, you just need to floor the gas pedal and hope you can pull yourself out.  Take away the distractions.  That’s right, your phone, internet connection, pets, windows, people, food, books….basically lock yourself in a dark room with no wifi and tell the person with the key not to let you out or feed you until you’ve finished with the scene/chapter/section you’re stuck on.    Nothing like a personal prison to stir up those creative juices.

If you’ve been feeling stuck in your writing, believe me, I feel ya.  Just like everything else in life, writing has seasons. There will be seasons where the words pour easily onto the page and others where you’re stuck in a snowbank.  The good news, at the end of the day, when that book is finished and sitting on the shelves of bookstores around the globe, readers won’t see which parts you struggled with, and which came easily.  They will only see the amazing story you’ve written.  

I hope one of these tips helps you pull out of your writing ditch.  Do you have any tips for getting out of a writers slump?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

Stay amazing my friends,

Brooke’s Best Books of 2017

Brooke’s Best Books of 2017

As promised I have also created a list of my top books of 2017.  Unlike Kayla, I had a bit of a rough reading year, spending too much time reading books I didn’t love and not reading as much as I would have liked.   Thankfully, I still met my goal of reading 40 books last year, and of those 40 I have pulled out my top 7.

Are you ready?  Can I get a drumroll?  Let’s do this.

1.) Meg by Steve Alten – This blast from the past published in 1997 was a book I randomly found while looking up titles similar to Jurassic Park.  If you checked out my 2016 list you’ll know I’m a sucker for dinosaurs, and dinosaur sharks have twice as much to love.  Seriously, just look at that cover, how could I not read this book.  Despite there being some serious misunderstandings about sharks being mindless killers (but hey, it was the 90s) this book was a wild adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering who would be eaten next.  It also ended with a major cliffhanger, so be prepared for me to gush about the sequels in 2018.  Read if you love suspense, sharks, or deep sea exploration.

2.) The Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson – This three book series was superheroes meets future dystopian society.  Sanderson, a master of characters, created a diverse cast of individuals who were witty, smart and each amazing in their own way.  This series is also one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to.  MacLeod Andrews was outstanding, bringing these already fantastic characters to life.  Though this series is technically under the middle-grade genre, it is well up to the task of wowing adult readers who are kids at heart.  Read if you love action, plot twists, or laughing.

3.) The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson – This nonfiction title came to me at the perfect time over the summer.  2017 was a year filled with many different challenges in my personal life and this novel about persistence in prayer and the faith to dream big dreams has given me lasting encouragement. Read if you have big dreams, love being inspired or need a pep talk.

4.) Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers – This book is living proof that romance can be well written and about so much more than just the hanky panky.  If you can look past the awful cover (seriously, I read this on audiobook just to avoid looking at the cover) the story inside is truly magical.  With themes about loyalty, persistence and being loved despite your flaws, it will have you swooning over the male lead and dreaming about moving to a farm.  I will note that the beginning of this book is a bit slow (and the whole book is loooong) but once you get into the story you won’t want to stop.  Read if you love historical fiction, traumatic backstories, or romance.

5.) Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake –  This book was so different from anything I have read.  I loved the universe the story was set in and was fascinated by the concept.  If you are a fan of dark fantasy I would recommend you give this book a try.  Read if you love female leads, magical powers, or political power plays.

6.) 59 Seconds: Think a little, Change a Lot By Richard Wiseman – Another nonfiction novel this is the love child of a psychology textbook, a self-help book and Ripley’s Believe it or not.   Full of tricks to help improve everything from your creativity to your parenting you will enjoy the clever life hacks as well as the fascinating psychological studies.  Plus, the audiobook version is read by a man with a very appealing English accent as an extra bonus.  Read if you love your brain, self-improvement or sexy British men.

7.) The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling – If you are a Harry Potter fan and haven’t read this yet shame on you.  This was the first thing I read in 2017 (I waited until I received the book for Christmas to read it) and I loved it.  Though it was not the 8th Harry Potter book all Potterheads dream of, it was still a fun adventure that included all my favorite characters from the Harry Potter series.  Plus it was fun to read the play script versus the typical novel format we are all familiar with. Read if you love Harry Potter, magic, or the theater.

There you have it, folks.  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Kayla’s top 10 books here.  Hopefully, between our two lists, you’ll find some new books to love this year.  Happy reading and happy writing!  Be sure to tell us about your best reads in the comments.

Stay Amazing My Friends,

How to Fill Plot Holes

How to Fill Plot Holes

As much as I am in love with my current work in progress, I am aware that it has a few major problems.  This novel truly is my tester novel, where I am making every writer mistake out there from spending too long on the first draft to under-developed characters to impressively poor world building.

Now that you all want to hire me to market your novels as well as I am marketing mine let’s continue.

I have learned so much from making these mistakes, and though it is taking me some time to work through this novel, I know it will be worth it in the end

My most recent round of editing has focused on filling potholes

I mean, plot holes….see what I did there?..?..?  Okay, moving on.

Since I initially wrote this story without an outline (big no-no, I would not recommend this) my plot was holier than a nun at a golf course.  There were small plot holes, large plot holes, confusing plot holes and plot holes with the potential to turn into plot twists.  

After navigating the treacherous plot road of my novel and carefully filling all the holes I could spot, I’ve learned quite a few techniques that I want to pass on to you wonderful readers.

Plot Hole Filling Step One:  Know where you want to go – Since I was a silly goose and wrote my first draft without an outline before I could begin filling plot holes, I had to know what my plot actually was.  This meant I needed to make an outline.  As Kayla wrote about in a recent post my first outline was a rather magical moment in my writing journey.  For the first time, I laid out my entire story from beginning to end.  The path between points wasn’t always clear, but with the outline I at least knew what the important points were, and could proceed to fill in the gaps along the way.  This step should ideally be done before you draft, but hey, nobody’s perfect right.  If you were a responsible writer who created an outline before typing out your manuscript it is still good to go back and review your outline once draft one is on the page.  You’ll be surprised how much things have changed.

Plot Hole Filling Step Two:  Know what you wrote – Now that you know where your story should go, you need to read to find out where your story did go.  Though time-consuming, my favorite way of doing this is to simply read my rough draft…twice.  The first read through I do not make any notes, I simply read and absorb, then the second read through, once I have the grand arch, of my story fresh in my mind I’ll make notes like there is no tomorrow with all the little, medium, and big problems I see.  This step helps me identify the plot holes.  If I just jumped right into plot hole filling without reading my draft first, it’s likely I would just create a bigger mess than I started with.  Which, let’s be honest, would be impressive – but sad.

Plot Hole Filling Step Three:  What’s causing the hole? – Now that you can see clearly where your plot holes are in your story, you need to determine what is causing the hole.  There are many different types of plot holes.

  • Character inconsistencies:  This can be anything from your MC being blonde in the beginning and a ginger at the end, or something more serious like your MC changing personalities halfway through.  Throughout the whole story your character needs to behave in a way that is true to them.  Yes, they can grow and change, but these changes should be evident to the reader throughout the process of the novel.  To fill these holes you’ll need a strong sense of who each character is (and what they look like).  You can then begin combing through the story and make sure your characters are doing things because that’s who they are and not just because it is convenient to the plot.  
  • Dropped Themes:  It can take a long time to write a book, and throughout that time you might forget that you started a theme then never followed through on it.  Perhaps you introduced a shadowy figure in chapter two, and then forgot they were going to attack your MC before the final battle scene.  Or maybe you wanted to play with how birth order affects a person’s personality, but never managed to fully flesh out the idea.  Cut out the themes that no longer seem relevant and tie in the themes you want to keep all the way through
  • Universal Law Breaking:  The universe your story takes place in has basic laws, but sometimes those don’t help move your plot forward.  For example, when writing about werewolves in my current WIP it made my plot more exciting if my characters couldn’t remember what happened to them when they turned into wolves, but the universe I set up also has the wolves keep their human spirits while in wolf form, making it unlikely that they wouldn’t remember what happened when they were wolves.  So I had to decide to change my universe’s laws, or change the storyline to work with my werewolves remembering their shifting nights.
  • Timeline Inconsistencies:  Again, this is a big one for me as my story is told from multiple perspectives, and also pays close attention to the phases of the moon.  I need to make sure the full moon comes after the first quarter, and that two weeks pass before the new moon.  Plus, when I’m chilling with my male MC on Monday, and can’t suddenly jump back to Sunday to talk about what my female MC was up to.  This is where my outline really helps.
  • Continuity:  This is the grab bag for the rest of things. Maybe you said your characters live on the south side of town, but then they always walk east to get home.  Maybe the math teacher is named Mr. Bog in the beginning, and Mrs. Bellpepper at the end.  All these little inconsistencies can easily be cleaned up once you identify them.  For my story, I’ve created a master list of characters, so I always know who’s who, as well as a map of the town so it is easier for me to describe my characters movements.

Sometimes identifying plot holes can be hard for an author to do on their own.  Beta-readers are an essential part in identifying your plot holes, however, they will be much more effective if you utilize them after you’ve done your best to eliminate all the plot holes you can find.  Otherwise, they might disappear into your oversized plot holes never to return.

 

Plot Hole Filling Step 4: Fill those holes  – Now that you know what your plot should be, and what is causing your plot holes you need to fill them.  I highly recommend doing this in stages, starting out with themes and characters, and finishing with timeline and continuity.  Each hole will take a variable amount of work to fill, but believe me the deeper the plot hole, the more satisfying it is to finally get it patched up.

 

Getting the plot of my novel right has been a huge ordeal for me (one that would have been somewhat avoided by having an outline) but I could not be happier with the progress I’ve made.  I am so excited about where my story is going and cannot wait to share it with all of you.

I hope your writing is going well.  Remember no matter how rough your story currently is, if you have the passion and determination you will someday turn it into a beautiful gem. When you do be sure to let me know, cause I’d love to read it.

Stay Amazing my friends

 

Boost Your Creativity

Boost Your Creativity

I love psychology.  The brain is the most fascinating thing, it encompasses our thoughts and emotions and has the capacity to think about itself, which is pretty cool.  In another dimension, I would be a psychologist.  In this one, I’d be too busy creating characters based on my therapy patients #youknowyoureawriterwhen

Recently, I have been listening to the audiobook “59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change A Lot” by Richard Wiseman (what a great name for a psychologist turned author).  It is all about easy things we can do to trick our brains into doing what we want them to do.  There are chapters on happiness, persuasion, romance and even creativity.    My Favorite nuggets of wisdom from Sir Wiseman were the tips for boosting creativity.  They were too good not to share on the internet.

So, next time you are in a writing rut, don’t know how to get your characters to do what you want them to do, or feel uninspired test out one of these tips.

  1. Find some trees:  Apparently, humanity as a species really likes trees and shrubs.  They make us feel relaxed because trees mean food.  When your brain is relaxed it feels free to be creative and take risks!  So, for optimum creativity write in a space where you can see some trees, or go stand by a tree for a few minutes before moving inside to write.  Fake trees or pictures of trees do not work.  See how smart you are?  Only the real deal for you and your brain.
  2. Look at some art: Looking at pictures like this,where there is a pattern, that eventually gets broken gets your brain thinking more creatively.  What is super cool about this, is if you hang this picture on your wall that is enough to get the creative boost.  You don’t even have to actively look at it, it just needs to be nearby.  Going to an art gallery is also great for creativity, but for those days when you don’t have time to take an extra 9 hours to fly to Paris, hanging an image like this on the wall of your writing space will have to do.
  3. Imagine a creative stereotype:  This one is super strange.  Imagine an artist – not a specific one – a generic one.  How do they dress?  What kind of art do they make? What do they like to eat?  What is their opinion on grass fed beef?  Congratulations, you have just boosted your creativity.  Apparently, thinking about a stereotype of a creative person (musicians, nonconformists, and dancers work too) convinces your brain that you are creative like them.  You should start to feel inspired and your ideas will suddenly be more creative.  
  4. Pull Something Towards You:  We learn, almost from birth, that we pull good things close to us and push bad things away – picture a baby pulling their favorite blankey to their face while pushing away a spoonful of pureed brussel sprouts.  This creates a positive association with the motion of pulling.  Again, positive associations make you more relaxed and that helps you be more creative!  So, if you are sitting at your desk writing, take one hand and attempt to pull the desk towards you (you don’t even have to move the desk, though you could if you wanted) even though you might be slowed having to type with just one hand, it’s a great creativity boosting strategy for plot mapping, brainstorming and rut breaking.
  5. Lay Down:  This rule is my favorite, and one I have been unknowingly applying for years.  I love laying down, I would never stand up if a sedentary lifestyle wouldn’t turn me into a beached whale.  My husband always laughs at me because even if I start out places in a seated position, usually after 15 minutes I’ve somehow managed to adjust my body into a horizontal angle.  When you are standing, or sitting upright, all of your blood would want to rush downwards because of gravity.  Again, you are a smart cookie, so your brain has a mechanism that keeps your blood flowing throughout your body instead of pooling at your feet.  This mechanism is running full speed when you are standing, but turns off when you lay down.  The benefits of shutting this mechanism off are twofold.  First, your brain isn’t working so hard so it can focus on being more creative, and second, when your brain isn’t working hard it is more relaxed and at this point you should know that your creative mind likes to be relaxed.
  6. Distract You Consciousness:  Though the conscious part of my brain is definitely what I want running the show when I am in the office or doing my taxes, my consciousness isn’t the most creative part of my brain.  In creativity, the subconscious is where it is at.  Problem is, we can’t just turn our consciousness off, unless we are sleeping, and I am not the best speller in my sleep.  Thankfully, psychologists have some tips on how we can learn to listen to our subconsciousness in our waking lives.  You’ve probably experienced this, getting a great story idea in the shower or solving a plot hole on your drive to work.  This doesn’t happen just because your shower and your car have good brainwave acoustics – it happens because getting all your parts clean, and keeping your car on the road distracts your consciousness.  With your conscious thoughts distracted, your subconscious can come out to play, coming up with creative solutions your consciousness would never think of.  A good way to do this without having to drive somewhere or shower is to first give your subconscious a problem to solve i.e. how can my character who is tied up to a log, floating down a river towards a death waterfall escape this situation.  Then, stop thinking about the problem and go do an activity that requires focus, but not necessarily creative problem solving.  Go organize your books in alphabetical order, play a game of pinball on your computer or reorganize your tupperware shelf so that it doesn’t all fall out when you open the door (that actually might take too much creativity if your tupperware is as unorganized as mine).  As you do these things your subconscious will be running on the creativity treadmill and when you go back to your writing your brain might have solved the problem for you, allowing your character to remember there is a knife in his pocket that will allow him to cut the ropes and swim to safety.
  7. Cross Your Arms:  This one isn’t actually a creativity booster, instead, it is a motivation booster.  Sometimes in the middle of a writing session I will suddenly run out of juice, and even though I have ideas to write down, I suddenly don’t feel like writing anymore.  If this happens to you, try folding your arms across your chest for thirty seconds.  This body language will trick your brain into thinking you are feeling stubborn/determined and will help you find new motivation to keep writing.

 

Obviously, none of these tips are going to turn you into a creative mastermind (but you probably already are one, you just don’t know it) but, they are fun little tricks to pull out when you need that extra boost.  I’ve been working them into my writing routine, and it could just be the placebo effect talking but so far they seem to work.  

What do you do when you feel creatively stuck? What are some of your #youknowyoureawriterwhen moments?  

Stay Amazing My Friends!

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

At the start of 2016 I planned to give up desserts for one month.  After three days I was doing awesome, and feeling super confident in my dessert resisting abilities.  Sitting across the dinner table from my husband I looked to him and said “I could do this all year!”  He had enough wisdom not to respond with laughter, but his face still told me he thought I couldn’t do it.  I took his disbelief to be a direct challenge.  Hubby thinks I can’t give up desserts for a whole year, I will prove him wrong.  It’s now a couple of months later and here I am dessertless until 2018.  

Without sugary confections to fill my belly – I’ve been turning to books to add some sweetness to my life.  Have you ever read a story, or watched a television show, that you knew was terrible, like junk food for the brain, yet you absolutely loved it and could not stop yourself from reading or watching?  If not try giving up desserts for a year, your brain will seek out some desserty entertainment.

I recently read a book series that from page 1 I knew was not the most well crafted story.  The writing, and characters and ideas were all just…okay.  It wasn’t awful, but it shouldn’t have been something I enjoyed.  To my surprise, I did not just tolerate this book, I became OBSESSED with it.  

There were 3 books in the series and I gobbled them up like I’ll be gobbling desserts on 1/1/18.  Why did I love these stories?  The characters were frustratingly dim witted, the ending was predictable, and the plot twists weren’t really twists, but rather sharp turns that didn’t make sense.

Wondering if I was going insane, I turned to reading reviews on Goodreads to see if any other readers were experiencing the same phenomenon I was.   It turns out that many readers loved the books without question, while others simply hated the stories. I found one review that fit my emotions to a T.  This reader found the writing and style as lackluster as I had, and the more she read the more frustrating it became, but she could not stop reading.  In the end she compared the stories to deep fried Oreos.  Wonderful in the moment you are eating them, but quite regrettable in the digestion process.  These books were literally brain dessert.

 

Just like deep fried Oreos are lacking in nutritional value, sometimes stories lack substance and depth, but we still enjoy consuming them.  If I didn’t enjoy this book for the writing, then what was it that appealed to me so much?

The answer: these books had something special, something I wasn’t getting from other (more well written) books.  And the true magic of this series is I can’t even tell you what that something special was.  It could have been the lure of royalty, beautiful dresses, and great wealth. Or the drama of the back and forth romance.  Perhaps the joy of a rags to riches story?  The somewhat dull protagonist who allowed the reader to insert themselves into her place and picture themselves in the same situations?

I don’t know.  To be honest these books had many things I  usually hate reading about.  Love triangles, females who need to be saved by men, females who aren’t confident in themselves for no apparent reason, multiple love triangles, endings that don’t actually solve the problems going on in the world, and did I mention love triangles.  Yet, far from being turned off by these features, I looked past them because I was captivated by the story.

Along with making me question my judgement, these stories give me hope.  I know my writing is far from perfect, and there are some things I wish I could do with my story that no matter how many times I rewrite it I can’t seem to get right.  But, I still believe my writing has value, that someday it will be worth reading.  These books were proof that I’m right.

Were these books impeccably written?  No.  But they made sense, one of the key steps to being able to publish a book.  Was the plot layered, intricate and rich with symbolism and depth of meaning?  No, but it felt like all the elements the author wanted to include were there.  Were the characters well done and the plot without holes?  No, but there was something special about the way the characters interacted with each other and their world that made me unable to put these books down.  I craved these books and when I had to wait three days for the final book to come in from the library I thought I was going to die of impatience.  And I’m an adult, I should be able to wait for a deep fried Oreo.

So take hope, your stories will be beautifully flawed, but they will also be special and though there will be readers who hate them, there will be others who love them, even if they know they shouldn’t.  Don’t be afraid of writing a deep fried Oreo book, be afraid of inventing the deep fried Oreo and then never sharing it with anyone.

What are some of your guilty reading pleasures (don’t be shy I know you have them).  Or tell me about a book you thought you were going to hate, then ended up loving.  
Stay Amazing my Friends,

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

The vast majority of the reading I do is full length novels.  I don’t read magazine articles, novellas, short stories or even a lot of blog posts (yes I realize that’s pretty hypocritical of me).  Because of this I’ve always focused on writing full-length novels.  After all the saying goes – write what you want to read.

Only, full length novels are long, not to mention scary, overwhelming, intimidating and downright difficult.  As a no name author, with this blog as my only published work forward progress on my novel felt way too slow. I wanted to share my writing with others, wanted to learn about the self-publishing process and wanted to know what if feels like to finish a story.  The struggle felt much too real.

This year I encountered a solution to all the problems that come with full length novels.  Short Stories!  These magical little things have been the answer to all of my writing woes.

 

 

 

Here’s what I’ve learned in the six months since I started writing short stories.

  • Short Stories are Short:  I can quick draft a short story in just a few hours, and can move through the entire editing process in about ten.  Without increasing the amount of time I spend writing each day, I can get a short story ready to share in about two weeks.  That is lightning speed compared to novels.  This gives me a chance to experience the entirety of the writing process on a small scale.  I can see drafting, revising, editing, polishing and publishing through to the end, on a time frame that doesn’t require a boatload of patience.  This not only fills me with satisfaction as a writer, but it improves all of my writing skills.  Short stories are the practice course for your novel.  Do you want to revise, edit and publish that novel you’ve been working on for years without practicing those skills first?  Me neither.  It’s much better to gain experience on these short stories that are a smaller time commitment.  You might learn you are terrible at drafting, but an amazing editor.  Or maybe you’ll learn you can’t remember how to use commas appropriately to save your life and need to study up.  An added bonus is if you publish a short story and everyone hates it, oh well, you only spent a few hours on it, and now you have feedback about your writing and how to improve in the future.  I cannot emphasize enough all of the benefits of seeing the writing process on this tiny scale.  It has literally changed my life.
    • But Brooke – writing short stories takes me forever – I could spend six months on a single short story!  If that’s you then you need to take a step back and look at your writing process.  If it takes you six months worth of consistent writing to finish a short story you are most likely caught in the editing spiral.  Or you don’t have healthy drafting habits.  The good news, it’s better to discover this about yourself while writing a short story rather than a full length novel.  Short stories are the perfect venue for learning when to stop editing and reveal your work to the world!  Pluck up some courage and stop making excuses.
  • Short Stories get your name out:  Back in January I took one of the short stories I wrote and self published (buy it here yo).  This was mostly an experiment to learn about the self publishing process, marketing myself , and how to boldly stand behind my writing.  So far I have made a whole $2.00 on the book, that’s right, be jealous of me making a living off my writing.   Okay, so one short story isn’t exactly paying the bills, but what it has done is allowed me to get my name out there.  Now, when I talk about my writing I don’t have to fumble through some awkward statement about how my novel is a work in progress and won’t be published for a long time and it’s about dorky stuff you probably don’t want to read about anyways….awkward pause….change the subject.  Instead, I can just tell them to check out the short story I published.  Even cooler is some people who I wouldn’t have expected to buy my little e-book not only purchased it, but they loved it and have been begging me for more ever since.  There’s no better motivation to write than knowing you have fans (besides your mom) who are anxiously waiting to read more of your writing.
  • Short Stories Keep Your Creativity Fresh:  I don’t know about you, but the longer I revise, the more I dream of new stories.  Sometimes this pull to write something new can suck me into a writer’s block and suddenly I make zero progress despite spending every day revising.  This of course is incredibly frustrating and leaves me feeling discouraged and hopeless.  Short stories are my new super hero, swooping in to save my writing day.  When I don’t have the will to revise, short stories are there as a creative outlet allowing me to make progress in my writing, even if it’s not in my main novel.  I used to think any time not spent writing my novel was a waste of time, but now I’m learning how wrong I was.  Giving myself a few days break to write something new brings me back to my revisions feeling fresh and motivated.  I think I’ve actually started getting more revision done since I began writing short stories.  
  • Short Stories don’t have to be serious:  Before writing short stories I had an idea built up in my head that short stories had to be these serious, literary pieces in order to be considered a short story.  I’d never be able to get a short story published – or liked for that matter – if the writing was silly and casual and didn’t say some huge and thought provoking lesson.  Unsurprisingly, just like novels, short stories can be whatever we want them to be and there is literally a market for anything.  Never let other people’s opinions dictate what you write.
  • In a short story every word matters…not: Again before I started writing shorts I was really intimidated by them.  I’d heard over and over “In a short story every word has meaning.” Leading me to then assume writing short stories would take even more time than a novel because I would have to spend three months picking out each word.  I was so wrong.  Unless you are writing literary short stories (we bow down to your talent and patient attention to detail), the fate of your tale does not hang on every word.  Write freely, and write boldly because you can do what you want in short stories!

 

My absolute favorite part about short stories is sharing them.  Below is a short I wrote a while back, it came to me on my lunch break at work so I wrote it down.  It isn’t perfect, it isn’t even a complete story, more of an intro to a story, but I think it’s worth reading.  And don’t forget to join Kayla and I on May 7th at the Underground Cafe for an exclusive look into who we are, what we’re writing and why we do what we do!


 

Pain blossoms in my side, making my vision dim for a second as I crash to the sandy desert ground.  I’ve just been stabbed.  Awesome.  Grunting, I try to get up, try to move, but the pain is too intense.  It feels like – well I was going to say it feels like I’ve just been stabbed with a knife – but I literally have just been stabbed with a knife.  A bread knife.  In my side.  What organs are over there?  Pancreas? Spleen?  Maybe kidneys?

Blood seeps through my fingers as my hands presses my side.  A gunshot rings out and I know my assailant is dead, my partner is the vengeful type. 

“Jake, get up, we need to go.” She says trudging through the sand in my general direction.  Her eyes look up at some point beyond me.  Listening I start to hear the rumbling of a car engine.  Again, I try to move, but with my hands still compressing my side and the sand slipping around beneath my legs I don’t get far before I slump back in the sand with a pained hiss. I’m going to have sand everywhere after this.

Nikki stops when she comes level with me and twists her mouth to the side, “Helpful.” She remarks spotting the bright red blood now seeping onto the sand.

Hardly missing a beat Nikki stoops and in one quick motion throws me over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  I scream as the motion tugs at the edges of my wound, and struggle to get into a position that doesn’t make me wish for death to come quickly.

“Gentle please.” I huff out, panting from the intensity of the pain.  They simulated being stabbed, and shot and what not in my training of course, but the real thing is so much different.

“Sorry I can’t cradle you in my arms.” Again with the sarcasm.  She does have a point though, it’s impressive she can lift me at all.

The sound of the engine grows closer, I can’t see if it is friend or foe, and Nikki doesn’t give any indication that she thinks the fight is over.  She still holds her gun in one hand, though how she would shoot it while carrying me is a mystery.  Still, I have no doubt she would find a way.

I loose track of time and suddenly the vehicle is upon us, I can hear it’s tires slowing and the doors whooshing open.  Nikki sees something I don’t for she says, “He’s fine – knife in the side.”

Fine?  She doesn’t know what this feels like, it’s taking all of my strength to refrain from screaming or passing out.  

I’m suddenly chucked sideways.  Thankfully, I land only a short way down on a cushioned seat.  An embarrassing yelp of pain escapes me and I make a point of avoiding Nikki’s eye.

“What happened out there?” the familiar voice of Captain Michaels barks from the driver’s seat.  He doesn’t waste any time as he throws the car into drive and speeds off.  We are crammed in the back of the SUV with at least three other people, and I hope to god one of them is a medic.

“How should I know, it’s not my job to babysit him.” Nikki scoffs, as she’s shunted forward by  Jerry, the closest thing we have to a medic, who is emerging from the third row of seats like a giraffe from the womb.  Blessedly, he has a first aid kit.  I don’t see the exchange between Nikki and captain, but I can practically hear Nikki’s eye roll, “Alright so it was sort of my job, but seriously I turned my back for like two seconds.”

The vehicle goes over a particularly large bump and I gasp as fresh waves of agony race through my side.  I become vaguely aware that my focus is slipping.  I’m loosing a lot of blood.  I wonder if the stains will ever come out of the upholstery.  They really should have sprung for leather seats back here.

“Jake, you need to move your hands.” Jerry says, snapping me back to the present.  Reluctantly, I peel my fingers away.  Sticky with blood, they cling to my skin for a painful moment before I can fully get them out of the way.

Jerry whistles, “Sexy.” 

Nikki wrinkles her nose in disgust, Jerry has a very unique idea of the meaning of the word sexy.

“Did you get it at least?” Captain Michaels grunts as he jerks the wheel hard to the right narrowly missing a sand dune.

Nikki reaches into her cheek and pulls out the small computer chip we were sent to acquire, “Duh.” She says casually, but her eyes flick to my now fully exposed wound and I see worry there for the first time.

Captain grunts in approval and gestures for Nikki to give the chip to Clara our data wizard.  I hear the whine of a zipper and suddenly Jerry’s hand is directly in front of my face “Take this,” He says shoving a tiny purple pill into my mouth, “I need to stitch you up – and it’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Even though the drug is tiny, I struggle to swallow it.  When I do, the effect is immediate.  My limbs go limp, my eyes droop and the last thing I remember before passing out is Nikki sliding her fingers between mine and saying “Captain, we have a tail.”

The Editing Spiral

The Editing Spiral

Today I woke up with a lot of determination to push forward on editing my novel.  I was fantasizing about sending my manuscript to a publisher, creating cover art, turning my series into a trio of Hollywood Blockbuster movies, appearing on morning talk shows, translating my books into Spanish and German and Mandarin, choosing a voice actor for the audiobook…then I remembered I’m not even halfway through editing my first draft.  Serious reality check.

Still, I got to work, determined to get a little closer to making my dreams a reality.  But I quickly became frustrated with how far I have to go.  My novel needs so many edits!  Will it ever be good enough?

You see, there is one thing standing between the current version of myself – 1.5 drafts in full of hope, fear, determination, confusion, ideas, courage, yearning, and doubt – and the dream version of myself – Successful author, happy and fulfilled, sharing my secrets of success to all of my adoring fans……..and that thing is the EDITING SPIRAL.

No not that!  Anything but that!

Alright, maybe you don’t usually have that strong of a reaction to editing, but you should.  Editing is what will keep you from becoming the author you’ve always dreamed of being.  This is not because you can’t edit, or are too lazy to edit or don’t edit well.  It is the exact opposite.  The editing spiral traps so many authors in its deathly slew of doubts and revisions because we don’t know when to stop.  And sometimes we get sucked in so deep that we literally can’t pull ourselves out.

It’s easy for us writers to fall into the never ending editing spiral of doom because we love our stories, and we want them to be perfect.  So, like an overprotective mother bear we hide our manuscripts from the world, telling ourselves it just isn’t ready yet, I need to work on my sentence structure, character development, plot twists, you name it.  Then before we know it we are on the 22nd draft ten years later and we’ve become sick of our story, the more we fuss with it the more we hate it so we eventually set it aside, and  try moving onto a new book where we fall into the same cycle and then suddenly we are 85 years old with half a dozen manuscripts and have never realized our dreams.

I know, I sound a little doomsday – I am only in my second draft after all – but this is real.  Editing exposes me to all of my writers insecurities on a daily basis.  My sentences feel forced, the characters are one note, I leave out important details, my word choice is uncreative, hey look at that a new story idea that sounds easier than slogging through this mess.  

I want my writing to be perfect, so I get carried away trying to fix everything, or I give up and move onto a new story.  Striving for perfection is overwhelming, makes me question if I will ever finish, if my story will ever be worthy.

I have a crazy newsflash for myself and all you other authors out there.  Your writing does not need to be perfect in order to publish your book.  It doesn’t even need to be great.  It doesn’t even have to be GOOD!  It only needs these three things

  1. To Make Sense
  2. To be complete
  3. To have something special

 

Your Story Needs to Make Sense:  On both the macro and micro level if you want to publish your novel it needs to make sense.  You can’t start out with a book about zombie mermaids taking over the planet and then suddenly switch to a poem about scratchy cat kisses (unless you can find a logical way to connect the two, please feel free to prove me wrong).  You also can’t have a story with gaping plot holes, disappearing characters, out of order events or distorted passages of time.  This can be stupid hard to accomplish.  I know halfway through my second draft, my story still probably wouldn’t make sense to a reader who hasn’t been debriefed on what to expect.  Though obvious, this is one of the hardest parts of storytelling, but a necessary goal, and something that should be a priority from the start.

Your Story Needs to Be Complete:  Yes, you know all stories have a beginning middle and end.  You learned this in preschool, that’s not what I mean (though please make sure your story does have these three things).  Only you know all of the elements you want to put into your story.  Maybe there’s a thread of symbolism you want to tie throughout the whole thing, maybe you need to include foreshadowing of events from your second book.  You can’t be done until those have been added to the manuscript.  Sometimes having a complete story can also involve having all the scenes written.  Do you have an awkward time gap that you know needs an additional scene?  Do you need a conclusion?  A fight scene?  A character that you can kill off in chapter 7?  There is a fine line between including all of your desired elements into your story, and getting so caught up in making your book complex and interesting that your story becomes too cluttered.  Always keep that balance in mind and always seek to complete your stories when editing, hold off on the embellishments to add later on if needed.  Or, as Kayla would put it “Get the meat in the stew before the herbs”

Your Story Needs to have Something Special:  You are not a perfect person, and therefore you are not going to write your story perfectly.  Instead you will write it adequately.  Sometimes, book readers get a little too demanding of us authors and they get irritated when we reveal that we are humans and have a story element that isn’t as strong as it could be.  Maybe you struggle with developing complex characters, maybe you didn’t pace your story correctly, maybe your plot is a little cliche, or your prose are less than eloquent.  That’s ok!  Readers will keep reading your story because you have a secret weapon up your sleeve.  Just as all of us have different writing weaknesses, we all have some writing strengths too, and those are how we are going to grab our readers, lock them in their bedrooms and not let them leave until they have finished reading every book we have ever written.  All you need is one strong, and interesting story element to keep the reader moving forward.  So your characters are one dimensional?  Who cares, because your plot is so fast paced and exciting, the reader doesn’t have time to notice the problems with the characters, let alone consider putting the book down, because they HAVE to know what happens next.  Or maybe your prose is a little boring- a little elementary sounding – but you pace your novel perfectly, and the reader finds themselves propelled onward without noticing you started five sentences in one paragraph with the word “She” and use adverbs like sprinkles on a donut. Rather than wallowing in your weaknesses focus on highlighting your strengths and your readers will do the same.

Now, I am not saying that editing is unimportant – Editing is THE MOST important part of story writing.  Rather, I am telling you that editing can go on forever, so you need to have a cut off.  Don’t waste your time seeking to perfect your story, hiding it from the people who would love it the way it is.  Get your story to the point of good enough, and then do something really scary.  Let others read it.  They will help you close the editing gap, and will help push you over the final hurdle to publishing.

You know what your story needs, perhaps it will need 37 drafts just to get to a point where it has my three essential elements – that’s ok.  Perhaps in three drafts and six months you are able to get a story beyond these basics – that’s ok too!  But if you are like me, and are feeling discouraged and depressed about the long arduous process of editing, then take heart, because we are so close.  Though we would love for our stories to be perfect, they don’t need to be.  Even in a flawed state they can be shared with and loved by many.  So go forth young author, take courage and strength from the fact that you can finish your novel, that it’s ok if some parts of your writing suck and that you will achieve your writing dreams!

 
Stay amazing my friends!

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2016

Can you believe it is almost 2017?!?!  I feel like the older I get the faster time seems to go – which is a bit alarming when I think about it.  2016 has been a great year though between the start up of Silverskypress, winning NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, and making some serious headway on my novel who could ask for more?

Well lucky me, I got more because I also read some really amazing books during 2016 written by some amazing people.  Here are my top ten books/series that I read in 2016 (don’t worry there are no spoilers).  In no particular order because that would be hard yo:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  If you are not typically a fan of classical literature I would highly recommend this book (the audiobook version is really good too) I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story, plot and gorgeous writing.  I’ll admit that I struggle to slog through some of the “Classics” but this was a joy to read.  Read if you like romance, well-rounded characters, and fancy british stuff.
  2. The Lunar Chronicles – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter by Marissa Meyer:  OMG you guys I came to this series a little late in the game – and I didn’t want to like it because I knew it was sort of popular – but I loved it!  The writing was solid, the characters funny, smart and relatable and the plot was action packed with many twists and turns.  Each book focuses on a different main character, while still keeping the same plot and cast from the preceding books.  Loved every second of it – one of those series I can’t wait to reread.  Read if you like adventure, humor, romance, and multiple perspectives.
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys:  I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book but talk about powerful!  Based on a true but little known historical event I kept thinking about this story for weeks after I finished it.  Heartbreaking, yet uplifting, challenging but still beautiful.  Everybody needs to experience this for themselves.  Read if you like history, thinking, and boats.
  4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan:  The title perfectly explains what this book is all about.  Laugh at the outrageous characters, dream of extravagant lifestyles, cringe at awkward family gatherings, and gasp in shock at the scandal!  I loved the audiobook version.  There is also a sequel to this book “China Rich Girlfriend” that is worth an honorable mention – though the audiobook has a different narrator who I didn’t enjoy quite as much, but the book was still good.  Read if you like drama, humor, and money.
  5. Raptor Red by Robert T Bakker:  This is a book from the 80’s not sure how I found it, but it was so fun and different.  I am kind of a dinosaur nerd so a book about the dramas of a Utah Raptors life was oh so fun.  Read if you like dinosaurs, nature documentaries, and eating meat (jk, you can be a vegetarian and still like this book).
  6. The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst:  This book was inspiring.  If you ever feel like you are just too busy, overwhelmed by the pressures of life or torn while trying to make a big life decision this book is your answer.  Through witty anecdotes and sage wisdom Lysa will teach you how to say yes to the best things in life and how to say no to the things that aren’t worth your time.  Read if you are too busy to read, can’t make decisions, and need a nap.
  7. The Raven King By Maggie Stiefvater final book of the Raven Boys Series:  I have been in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing since 2014 and have been anxiously awaiting the final installment of the Raven boys series.  Magic, mystery, romance and beautiful prose make this book, and the whole series one of my all time favorites.  Read if you like amazing characters, romance that doesn’t drive the plot, and magic.
  8. Hammered, Hexed and Hounded (three separate books) by Kevin Hearne: There are a lot more books in this series, but these are the three that I have read.  Upbeat and packed with adventure these books are a great easy beach read, or something to lighten your heart after reading a more intense story.  I love the quirky characters, the adorable Irish wolfhound and the awesome humor in these books.  Read if you like mythology, druids, and laughing.
  9. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey:  Another nonfiction book, this is a no nonsense read giving out no nonsense financial advice, challenging you to live life debt free.  My husband and I are taking up the challenge of scaling back so we can pay off all of our student loans as quick as possible (which will hopefully open up doors for my writing!!!).  Dave is blunt, honest and real about money and all the stupid things we do with it.  Gasp as Dave debunks common myths our culture teaches us and put on your boots when this book motivates you to get in the trenches and get your pocket book together.  Read if you have debts, want to be retire well, and are always up for a challenge.
  10. The Job by Janet Evanovich:  Part of her Fox and O’hare series I am convinced that disney stole this concept for the Movie Zootopia.  Seriously they have a fox named Nick…and Evanovich’s character is Nick Fox…come on Disney!  This book, along with the rest of the series is a classic feel good heist adventure where the good guys bend the rules to get the job done.  Read if you like wit, big guns, and suave male leads.

This year has been a bit of a slow reading year for me.  I focused a lot more time on writing (yay) and got a little addicted to television over the summer months (boo).  My biggest reading victories were discovering audiobooks and taking some books off my “to read” list that had been there for a looooong time.  I can’t wait to see what stories I’ll find in 2017!

Tell me about some of your favorite books, what should I add to my reading list (or bump to the front!) Let me know in the comments below.  This is my last post of 2016 so I’ll see you in the new year.
Stay amazing my friends!

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

Wow we are halfway through October!  That is just crazy – especially because it means…NaNoWriMo 2016 is almost here!

Hopefully all you plotters out there have been prepping your November project for months, and hopefully you pansters have been working on your projects too.  Or, you might be like me – coming to the realization that you need to get a move on if you are going to make NaNoWriMo 2016 happen.

I’ll be honest with you all.  After NaNoWriMo 2015 I did not think I would want to participate in 2016.  Last year, I picked a really bad project to hammer out in a month and because of that I didn’t have the greatest experience with NaNoWriMo.  I still won (because winning is important yo) but I hated what I wrote, and have been so overwhelmed by the concept of editing it that I have not looked at the draft one single time since finishing it last November.

I had a lot of excuses for avoiding NaNoWriMo this year.  I need to focus on editing my Moon Cursed series.  I’m not at a good place in my drafting cycle.  I’m going on vacation in November so it will be too hard.  But, at the end of the day, these excuses were all just that.  Excuses.  Despite my hesitation, and my experience last year, I still believe the challenge, community, message and adventure of writing a novel in a month is worth it for me.  

So, I am back on the bandwagon and have been brainstorming ideas for what novel I want to write.  Mostly, I’ve come up with stories I know I shouldn’t write, as well as a few that seem promising.  And because I want you to have a fantastic, successful, winning and satisfying NaNoWriMo experience I am going to share these thoughts with you – because you know, after participating in NaNoWriMo for one year I am a freakin’ expert.

 

Things you Shouldn’t Write:

Vague Ideas – Don’t think you can have a vague story concept and take it to the finish line during NaNoWriMo.  This is what I did last year and it was a disaster.  Yes, I wrote 50,000 words, but I actually wasted a lot of time and agony getting them on the page.  If I had developed a clearer picture or planned more it would have made November 2015 way better.

A story that needs a lot of research:  Unless you are a hardcore plotter and have already done all the research, picking a story that requires research such as historical fiction, will slow you down.  You won’t have the time to look up facts when you are cramming in an average of 1,667 words a day.  You’ll be much better off saving those types of stories for a different time.

Something too big:  50,000 words is a lot of words, but some stories need even more than that.  Unless you are up to the challenge of writing more than 50,000 words in one month or plan to use NaNoWriMo as a kick off for your project, you are going to be disappointed when come November 30th you are worn out, burnt out and only ¼ of the way through your story.

Something too Important:  If you have a story that means a lot to you, that has a really strong message, or that you’ve built up forever in your head NaNoWriMo probably isn’t the time to try and get that story on the page.  This is because you will want to edit as you go.  It will be hard to push through, writing garbage scenes for a story you really care about.  Not all novels can be written in a month, and that is ok.

 

Things you should write:

Something Different:  If you have been wanting to try out a new genre, perspective, or target age group in your writing NaNoWriMo is a perfect opportunity to experiment with such things.  It’s a short time commitment that won’t throw you off course if you end up hating what you try.

Something that plays to your strengths:  We all are good at different things as writers,  and we all have things that come naturally that we can write out really quickly.  Use those skills to your advantage.  If you are great at writing action and can slam out 2,000 words in thirty minutes pick a story with a lot of action scenes to help you reach your goal!

Something fun:  In case you haven’t caught on NaNoWriMo is all about speed.  It is much easier to write a light hearted, feel good, easy reading novel in a month than it is to write a complicated, metaphor laden, iambic pentameter driven, hope it wins the Pulitzer Prize, novel.  I am not saying the later can’t be done, but I believe you will have a much more enjoyable experience if you pick a less serious and more whimsical project to tackle in November.

Something You’ve been wanting to write:  We all have stories we can’t get out of our heads.  I have a lot of individual scene pieces that will keep me up at night as I dream about them.  NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to take those scenes without a home and finally put them on a page – even if it is for no other reason than getting them out of your head so you can focus more on other projects.

Short Stories:  If a single novel with 50,000 words seems intimidating – don’t forget that you can write short stories or novella’s too!  

A sequel:  Perhaps you already have book 1 of 7 written, you haven’t finished editing that yet, but you know what you want to happen in book 2.  NaNoWriMo is a great time to go for it.  You’ve already created the characters, world, and set the plot in motion which means half of the prep work is already done!

If you are still unsure about NaNoWriMo let me encourage you to take the plunge.  Step out of your comfort zone, prove to yourself that writing is your passion, and be brave enough to do the work it takes to make your dreams happen.

Let me know in the comments below what you are writing for NaNoWriMo 2016!  I also have an exclusive extra short scene I want to share with you.  It’s fun, sassy and came to me out of nowhere.  If you would like to read it e-mail us at thewriters@silverskypress.com and I will send you a copy.

Good Luck in November and  as always

Stay Amazing my friends!

Why Netflix is Toxic to my Writing (and really my whole life)

Why Netflix is Toxic to my Writing (and really my whole life)

I love stories.  Any kind of story, long, short, funny, serious, fantasy, mystery, drama they are all good.  I will gobble up stories through any form of media, internet, television, paper, billboard, audiobook, spoken, interpretive dance, whatever.  On one level this is great.  There is a sea of inspiration out in the world and I will happily drink it in through any format.  This is also super dangerous, especially when I have easy access to unlimited story input at my fingertips.

I am talking about Netflix.  I love Netflix, but ever since it came into my life I’ve struggled with the biggest, most common pitfall of it:  Binge Watching.

 

This has become such a universal activity for myself – and my entire generation – that it is hardly seen as a problem.  Rather, it is just a joke, we laugh about how late we stayed up watching, how fast we got through the 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls, and the things we forgot to do because we had to watch just one more episode.  I’m not judging, because I do this – a lot.

This tendency to become addicted to watching the show of my choice on Netflix has become especially toxic to my writing life.  For three and a half main reasons.

  1. I don’t watch high quality stories:  Yes, this is a self imposed problem.  Netflix has some AMAZING shows that maybe could offer some inspiration for my writing, but those stories are not usually what I choose to watch.  Instead I gravitate towards the simple, the silly and the easy to understand as I am often multitasking while I binge watch two seasons worth of episodes in one week.  As the saying goes, quality in, quality out.  When I am not putting quality stories into my brain, quality stories do not come out of my brain.  I see this whenever I go on a Netflix bender, as well as when I sober up and suddenly my story makes sense again.
  2. It is easier to choose watching over reading:  I have multiple really awesome books I am in the middle of right now, one paper, one audio book.  I could easily listen to my audiobook instead of watching my shows, but there is something about the flashing lights of the screen that always pull me in.  I used to spend nearly 45 minutes a night reading, I could power through a 300 page book in less than a week.  Lately, I barely make time to read and it took me three weeks to read a simple 400 page YA fiction book.  When given the choice between Netflix and reading, it takes less energy and brain strength to go with the screen which loops back to point number 1.  Poor input = poor output.

      2.5  It is easier to choose watching over writing:  If I can hardly muster the strength to read a book, I certainly won’t have the strength to write a book.  Though I made some amazing book breakthroughs in July, and am actually really excited about where I am at in revising my novel, forcing myself to commit time to writing is like forcing a vegan to eat pork chops.  It’s a real battle.  Where I used to easily spend an hour every night writing, I find myself tiring after barely fifteen minutes.  I can’t blame a busy  schedule for this problem, rather it boils down to the fact that I’ve been valuing entertainment over pursuing my passion which, frankly, is not okay.

  1. It encourages instant gratification:  Television has long been criticized for the three things I’ve listed above.  It makes us lazy, and stupid and fat.  Netflix has added a new layer to these problems, it encourages instant gratification.  Back in the old days, we had to wait for the next season of a show to come out.  It took patience, and dedication to watch a show from pilot to final (My family was super into Lost, and we literally watched every episode from every season in real time.  Hey can you hang out on Wednesday – No my show is on!) With Netflix, we no longer need that kind of dedication.  I can watch all the episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” without any work or patience required.  This translates to me wanting to rush ahead with my stories.  I find that I no longer have the patience to delve into an important theme, or to rewrite a scene 12 times until it is perfect.  I just want to push through and get to the next episode.

As the saying goes, realizing I have a problem is the first step to fixing my problem.  So, here’s my plan for ditching my Netflix obsession:

  1. Create Rules:  For me, I need to do a total cold turkey to really shake off my Netflix cravings.  Others might be able to set rules like 1 episode a night, or only watching on Mondays.  I do not have that kind of will power so I need to just stop, detox for a while and focus on other things  
  2. Read:  My best cure for a Netflix bender is to switch over to reading.  It satiates my desire to be entertained while still putting good stories and good ideas into my brain.  To encourage reading, I’m going to reread my favorite book series of all time because I know I will be hooked from day one.
  3. Write:  Plain and simple, I need to put my foot down and focus on writing instead of entertaining myself.
  4. Don’t go back:  My biggest issue with Netflix is I always seem to relapse.  Every time I think I’m finally done with binge watching I get over confident, find a new show and relapse myself into this mess once again.  I’m tired of the cycle.  In order to avoid falling back into this familiar pattern I need to keep looking forward towards my goals and be intentional about prioritizing my time.  This includes setting concrete goals for my writing timeline, choosing healthier entertainment options, and keeping a good work life balance.  With some perspective, and a lot of discipline I believe this will be the time I kick the Netflix habit for good.  And a little external motivation from sharing this all with you probably won’t hurt either.

Do you have anything in your life that consistently keeps you from writing, or from writing your best?  Do you have any tips for me on how to break my Netflix addiction?  Let me know in the comments below and together we can find our best life balance so we can write at our best level!


Stay Amazing my Friends,