Ways Writers Can Collaborate – and Kick-Start the Creative Process!

Earlier this week, I shared some of the joys of collaborating with other creative types…but I think I missed something. It’s all well and good to talk about why collaboration is great for the creative process, but if you’re a writer–probably working solo from your home office–what does collaboration actually look like?

HansSplinter_Flickr-framed

Hans Splinter, Flickr

The Many Faces of Collaboration

I’m not expert on the collaboration front. I haven’t co-authored a book with anyone, for instance–the stereotypical form of writerly collaboration. However, I’ve found that kicking around ideas with other readers, writers, and daydreamers is a great way to improve my fiction writing.

It got me thinking: Where have I benefited from working with others on a project? What opportunities for collaboration have I stumbled upon, and what collaborative possibilities have other writers harnessed that I haven’t yet tried?

Here’s what I came up with, listed from least (“Level 1″) to most interactive (“Level 4″). Feel free to suggest more possibilities and examples in the comments!

Level 1: Soliciting Feedback

This is a great starting point for the novice collaborator: sign up for a conference critique, find a writing mentor, or join a critique group to solicit others’ views on your plot, story world, characters, etc. This is a great way to experiment with what it feels like to work with others on a creative project.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • When giving or receiving feedback, be sure to bring an open, non-judgmental mindset to the process
  • But also remember–you’re the owner of your project, so don’t let others squash your vision

These days, though, critiques from other writers aren’t the only form of feedback you can seek. You can also connect with “regular” readers. Share your writing on platforms such as WattpadFictionPress.net, or even your own blog or website–not for a critique, but to get a sense of what is and isn’t working in your stories.

Continue Reading

Why NaNoWriMo?

What Insane Person Tries to Write 50K Words in 30 Days?

One who wants to improve their ability to create!

This quick video explains why NaNoWriMo is worth doing and what you’ll gain from the experience.

This is for you if

  • You’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and want to know more
  • Your friend / classmate / significant other is participating in NaNoWriMo and you think they’re crazy
  • YOU are participating in NaNoWriMo…and you’re wondering if YOU are crazy
  • You know you thought this book-in-a-month thing was a good idea, but you can’t seem to remember why
  • You just need a good excuse to procrastinate because you don’t want to write :)

If you enjoy, please share!

This is also available as a Prezi (below) if you prefer to go through it without the narration.

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Beat the NaNoWriMo Blues

Only 1667 words

Participant-2014-Web-BannerYou’ve outlined — plus created character sketches, researched settings and historical context, and honed the details of your magic system.

Your freezer is filled with prepared foods — buying you more time at the page, time in which to pen (or type) those words every day, come what may.

You’re determined — just 1667 words a day and by November 30, you’ll have a NOVEL, 50,000 words strong.

Your plans are beautiful…except for one, small problem.

It’s now day 3 (or 5, or 17 — insert your day # here), and your plans aren’t going quite as anticipated.

Perhaps you’ve been at your computer for an hour already today. Maybe more. You’ve cranked out a measly, what — 500? 200? 150? — words. You’re never going to meet your day’s word count goal at this rate!

Worse, as panic sets in, that pathetic trickle of words threatens to dry up completely. Your stress is mounting, and stress is not a friend of flow.

Before you sink into despair — before you give up this crazy affair known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) — take heart, take a deep breath, and take a look at the tips that follow.

You might have forgotten to prepare your most important #NaNoWriMo asset: your mindset.

Prepare Your NaNoWriMo Mindset

It’s easy to overlook this most important tool for  NaNoWriMo success: a winning mindset. Don’t worry. I’m not going to tell you to give yourself a Rah-Rah, Go Team! pep talk. I’m not even going to tell you to think positive and banish those pessimistic “I can’t” thoughts from your vocabulary.

I WILL tell you to check out your mindset: do you have any of the following unwanted assumptions tagging along?

These assumptions are common and easy to make. They’re easy to miss, if you aren’t looking for them. And, unchecked, they can seriously damage your ability to benefit from (and yes, meet your word count goals during) NaNoWriMo.

Are any of them directing your writing this November? If so, it’s time to kick ‘em to the curb. You’ve got writing to do!

Assumption #1. I need to get the language perfect!

The pursuit of perfection — whether you’re trying to attain perfect language, perfect flow, perfect description, or something else — never fails to sabotage first draft writing efforts.

Truth is, you probably know about this stumbling block. You probably tell yourself not to strive for perfection yet, because you’re only writing a draft, and it’s okay for there to be mistakes or for the wording to be a little rough. You tell yourself these things. But do you listen? Or do you find yourself backtracking during the writing process, looking over previous paragraphs and letting your brain start pointing out flaws and edits that you need to make?

Watch out for that drive to be perfect! At best, it will slow down your NaNoWriMo writing productivity; at worst, it will slam your writing to a screeching halt.

Assumption #2. I need to write the story in order.

Most of us don’t necessarily feel the driving need to write a story in the same order in which events unfold but, until someone points out that there are other possibilities, most of us don’t consider that there are alternatives. I’m here to tell you that if you’re stuck on a scene, it’s perfectly okay to jump to a scene that occurs later in the story.

In fact, jumping to another scene often leads a writer to focus on writing the pivotal and climactic scenes first. Those are often the scenes that are clearest in the imagination. Writing them is often easier, even fun!

On top of that, writing any scene tends to reveal information about things like your plot, story world, and character motivations. The process of writing those compelling, “easier” scenes first often leaves you with a writing to-do list to inspire your next writing session.

Assumption #3. I have to finish this scene/chapter/whatever before moving on.

This is a variation on assumption #2. There can be many reasons for stalled writing. Read through the following list and — this is important — choose your best answer quickly, without taking in a lot of time to “logic” your way through them:

  1. Your brain is tired; you could probably take a break and come back to writing and it would go fine.
  2. The scene is a good idea; you’re just having a hard time finding your way through it.
  3. You don’t know enough (about the character’s motivation, the setting, etc.) to write the scene; you need to do more research.
  4. You have a feeling that this scene is going in the wrong direction, which is making it hard to write.
  5. The scene isn’t inspiring you and you’re not sure it ever will; deep down, you feel like there’s something irreparably wrong with it.

Sometimes, when you feel stuck, you just need to power through it. (My DH calls this the “beating your head against the wall” approach.)

However, that stuck feeling may be sending you information about some obstacle to writing flow. Identify the obstacle and you’ll solve your problem far more quickly than if you just try harder.

Assumption #4. I have to stick to my outline.

This one’s only relevant if you’re an outliner, not a seat-of-the-pants writer. It’s also an assumption I can speak to personally, since I tend to outline my stories in detail…and then resist getting off the outline’s planned track with all my might.

But if your muse is calling you to turn left when the outline says go right, then by all means check out that left-hand turn! You can always return to your outline if you don’t like where it takes you. Meanwhile, following your gut instinct (or intuition, or muse, or whatever you want to call it) is the best way to make unexpected creative connections.

Similarly, if following your outline makes you feel like you’re slogging through hip-deep mud, that can be a sign that you’re not heading in the right direction. Try asking “what if…?” questions.

  • What if your character cooperated with his abductor instead of fighting?
  • What if your antagonist felt unexpected sympathy for her victim?
  • What if that important message didn’t reach its destination?

What if your carefully planned story goes in the complete opposite direction of what you planned? You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Assumption #5. I shouldn’t write this scene, because I’m not sure it has a place in my final manuscript.

Don’t be afraid to write scenes, character descriptions, settings, and dialogues that probably won’t appear in the final story. Even if these are “only” backstory, if you feel drawn to write something — write it. In the long run, these writing side trips will help you create a richer story with greater depth.

Besides, you never know what will make its way into your final manuscript! Those scenes may end up appearing as memories, flashbacks, or daydreams that build character and provide additional story layers.

If you’re writing a story from a single point of view, you may be making this assumption unconsciously. Be open to the possibility of testing out key scenes with a different point-of-view narrator. Sometimes a different narrator can give your reader different insights into a story’s events. This technique can also be used to add narrative tension, provide critical backstory, or withhold information from your reader.

This isn’t a post on writing craft; if it were, I wouldn’t advise you to randomly change narrators during your story. However, during the first draft stage — which is what you’re writing during NaNoWriMo — experimenting with different narrative voices can be a powerful technique to help move your story forward.

Join the discussion: What hidden assumptions can sabotage YOUR first draft writing attempts?

P.S. For those of you working on NaNoWriMo this year, friend me! Username Cherylreif

Character Date Ideas #3

This week, we’re taking a look at different ways to spend time with our characters.

Why “spend time” with them, you ask? Because we want to learn more about them…and since most of us don’t have a crystal ball, we’ll have to actually get to know those characters up close and personal-like.

Santiago_Nicolau_Flickr_Creative_Commons-ribbet
Photo courtesy of Santiago Nicolau, Flickr Creative Commons

If you want your characters to trust you with their innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, and desires, you need a good relationship with them. Or–if your characters aren’t the trusting types–then you’ll need time to learn to read between the lines of whatever they DO tell you.

We looked at a few “character date” ideas on Monday and Wednesday. We’ll wrap things up today with some more general resources on creativity. If you have any to add to the list, please give me a shout in the comments!

Continue Reading