Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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How to Prep Yourself for NaNo WriMo

A woman stretching her leg before a run.Maybe you’re one of those people who can prepare your novel before you start writing, or maybe you’re one of those people who prefer to write by the seat of your pants. Either way, knowing you intend to knuckle down and do some serious writing next month, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself.

Note Down Your Ideas

We’ve already mentioned some things you can do to prepare your novel. However, even if you don’t have the time or the inclination to go to that extent, chances are you still have ideas floating around in your head.

The problem is ideas can be elusive little things. They’re there in the front of your mind when you’re having a shower or trying to sleep, but when you want to put them down on paper – well, they’re off somewhere else for the day and will check back in with you later.

So why not get yourself a notebook or piece of scrap paper and jot down the thoughts while they’re hanging around. Then, if you get stuck during November, you have something to refer back to.

Having ideas down on paper also helps when you start to get that nerve-wracking feeling that you may just have plunged in over your head. ‘What craziness is this I have got myself into? What on earth am I going to do with myself for 50,000 words?’ Look at the paper/notebook and know you’ve already got some things to start on.

Decide When You’re Going to Write

Set aside writing time!

‘It’s okay,’ you might say. ‘I’m motivated. I’ll find the time.’

Perhaps you will, or perhaps you’ll get distracted/overwhelmed by all the other things clamouring for your attention. Now it’s true that life must go on during November and there are things which must be done. However, with any goal that you set, it’s a good idea to put together a schedule of some kind to outline how you’re going to achieve it.

First of all, work out what time of day is your best writing time. Morning? Lunch break? Late afternoon? 10pm? See if you can align your writing with your best time of day. This will make it easier for you to get going with your daily word count.

Once you’ve picked your time, then think of specific ways you can use it. Can you get up earlier to write before you head off on your day? Can you find a quite place during your lunch break to jot down some lines? Can you get to work earlier, or work through your lunch break to give yourself some writing time in the late afternoon? What bed time things can you get done before 10pm so you can have an hour or so of private time with your novel?

Declare an Embargo

Make a pact with yourself now that your writing time is sacred. No checking your e-mail. No twittering. Just writing!

Perhaps, if you’re getting up early to write, decide that you’re not going to check your e-mail until you’ve written a set number of words.

Be strict! This is important to you! Make it happen!

Try Out Your Routine Before November

Why not get into a good writing routine now? Instead of starting a brand new routine on November 1, ease yourself into it over the next week so you’re already in the swing of things before the starter’s gun.

If you’ve decided on a specific time of day when you’re going to write, try it out for a couple of days. Does it work? Should you try another time?

Tell Others

Tell your family, friends and work mates about your goal for November .

Some of them will get excited and might even join up too! They may show an interest in your progress throughout the month, encouraging you to keep going.

It will also help them understand why you might be vague and out of contact for a couple of hours a day. If they understand that this is because you’re working towards a goal, rather than just ignoring them, they’re more likely to be supportive.

When others know what you’re trying to achieve, it provides you with extra incentive to keep going. After all, when they ask you how your day went you want to be able to tell them something.

Get Ahead on Your Odd Jobs

If you have a little extra time this month, why not get ahead on some of the things you’d normally be doing next month? For example, can you write a couple of extra blog posts to give yourself some more writing time?

What about that outcrop of mould in the corner of the shower that you’ve been eyeing off for ages? Get it cleaned up now so it’s not plaguing your conscience while you write.

Maybe there’s that button which needs sewing onto your shirt sometime in the next couple of weeks. Do it now!

Or that e-mail you were supposed to write to your friend which is a month overdue already…

You get the idea. Get some of these jobs done now so they don’t impinge on your precious writing time next month. 

Get Excited

Most importantly, get excited about what you’re planning to do.

Why not try:

  • Buying a new pen especially for November.
  • Clearing your writing desk.
  • Making a motivational poster.
  • Designing a cover page for your novel.
  • Envisioning yourself with a 50,000 word manuscript in your hand at the end of November and the elation you’ll feel on completing it – or even just having given it a go.

Gear yourself up mentally for what you’re going to do. This is a great goal. You’re going to have fun!


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How to Prep Your Creativity for NaNo WriMo

A woman standing at the edge of a pool about to dive in.

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity (you can tell from the purple text). I’ve been a little busy lately working on Jessica’s new novel for November so that’s why I haven’t posted for a little while. Anyway, I’m back now but a little out of practice. 😉

I love watching someone launch themselves off the side of a pool, dive gracefully into the water with barely a splash, and then ride the momentum under the water for a couple of seconds before they surface to start swimming. 

Do you know what makes a good dive?

A large part of it is the stance you take up before you dive into the pool. 

Think about it. If you only get yourself ready for the dive during the split second before you hit the water, you’ve got about a 78% chance of belly flopping, which not only hurts but has got to be in the top 5 least graceful ways to enter the water – listed just above sidling in inch by inch with your face screwed up and squeaking about the temperature.

Now, what about when someone pushes you in? Then the whole thing becomes traumatic. Shock. Panic. Water up the nose, down the throat, in the lungs. 

Where am I going with this?

Well, starting NaNo WriMo is like you and your Creativity diving into a project. Ideally you want to get yourself into a good stance before you dive, then launch yourself into the novel using the momentum to give you a head start on your word count. 

However, some of you will only start preparing for NaNo WriMo a day or two beforehand, possibly leading to a rude awaking upon hitting the blank page.

Then there are those of you who will just shove your Creativity into the water on November 1st and expect a miracle. Now perhaps you and your Creativity have an understanding about these things. Perhaps he/she enjoys a good practical joke and may reciprocate in kind with a wild ride to the other end of the pool.

But can I plead with the rest of you? Don’t traumatise your Creativity from day 1. Take a little time beforehand to prepare your Creativity for what lies ahead by trying these suggestions.

Prime the Pump

You can’t start writing on your novel draft until November 1st, but you can still write plenty of other things, for example:

  • Character profiles or a plot synopsis for your NaNo WriMo project. 
  • Short stories based on writing prompts.
  • Journal entries.

The important thing is to start getting into the habit of writing daily. Coax your Creativity into the routine of meeting you at a regular time every day to help put words on the paper. 

Writing is often likened to a water pump, which has to spew out dirty water first before the clean comes through. And I’m sure you’ve all experienced days when the words and ideas spewing forth weren’t up to scratch. But you have to pump them out for the good stuff to come. 

Now is the below par output your Creativity’s fault? No! Just the same as it’s not the pump’s fault that the water starts out dirty. It’s simply a fact of life – things stagnate when they’re not flowing (like melted chocolate and country streams). 

So start pumping now. Move the rusty words through your fingers and out onto the page. Your Creativity needs you to get the inner workings going, so he/she can start creating fresh ideas and words for you in November.

Expose Your Creativity to Interesting Stuff

Remember, your Creativity is like a sponge. You have to soak the sponge in idea juice before you can give it a good squeeze – otherwise nothing will come out!

How can you do this with your Creativity?

Try:

  • Reading good books.
  • Visiting interesting places.
  • Initiating interesting conversations.

Actively search for fascinating facts and intriguing ideas. Deliberately place your Creativity in inspiration’s path. Your Creativity is stuck in your head, so he/she can only see what you expose them to!

Give Your Creativity Time to Mull

The best ideas come after your Creativity has had time to ruminate, or shall we say ‘stew a little flavour’ into the concept you’ve provided. They need to potter off into their own little space, make themselves a pot of maple syrup and ponder on things, stirring them around in the noggin for days (or more!) until the pieces kaleidoscope into something unique and usable.

So give your Creativity something to work on. Maybe it’s just the beginnings of a plot or a theme you want to explore. Perhaps it’s a character you want your Creativity to get to know better to discover their secrets. 

Whatever it is, no matter how small, give it to your Creativity now and allow them free reign to mull it over so there’s something there ready for you when you begin writing…

…because you want dive into November as smoothly as possible. Okay, it probably won’t be a splashless wonder, but a little preparation goes a long way.


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How to Prep Your Novel for NaNo WriMo

50,000 words in 30 days. Sound like a daunting prospect?

‘What if I get blocked? What if I get 2,000 words in and then get stuck?’

You can either spend the next couple of weeks stressing over that question, or you can get to work. Yes, I know the writing doesn’t start until November 1st, but an important trick to winning NaNo WriMo is the preparation. Developing plot, creating characters and researching facts can all be done beforehand.

Here are three tangible ways you can start preparing for your 50,000 words – with examples from my own novel prep.

(If you’re one of those people who can’t or don’t want to prep before you start writing your novel, then I’ll have a post especially for you closer to the start date.)

My Grand Luxe Dialogue Too Notebook

Keep a Notebook

You’re probably already getting little ideas for your story. Where are you putting them? Are you filing them away in the back of your mind for later? I’ve got bad news. The back of the mind is full of holes, moths and mould. Chances are when you return, your idea will no longer be around.

You need to get those precious ideas down – be it on real paper (an ‘old fashioned’ notebook) or in an electronic format (using one of these note-taking apps, my favourite being Evernote). I use both, as I need the flexibility of editing electronic notes when working on my plot synopsis but absolutely can’t do without my pen and paper for brainstorming and mental ramblings.

When choosing a notebook, I find I need to shop around a little. The receptacle for my ideas has to be inspirational. I have to connect with it. When I pick it up, the cover, pages and even the lines have to feel just right. Sometimes it feels like it belongs to my main character. Other times it just feels comfortable in my hand. Whatever the reason, once I’ve found the right notebook, I know my ideas will come more swiftly.

Moleskine notebooks are classic writer indulgences. I also have a very soft spot for PaperBlanks which are superbly gorgeous. My latest acquisition was found in Singapore Airport and is a blue Dialogue Too from Grandluxe (see photograph above). I especially love it because it has lines on only one side of the page, so there’s plenty of room for sticking things or doodling. I’m in heaven!

You may particularly want a notebook small enough to carry around with you, so it’s there whenever you’re struck by inspiration.

I can’t stress this enough. Start writing down your ideas now! Anything and everything. It will be invaluable when you’re stuck for words or in desperate need for inspiration on Chapter 10.

My Vision Board

Create a Vision Board

(Please note that my vision board pictured above is in the early stages so the images are a little sparse. I’m still adding to it!)

A vision (or mood) board is a collection of pictures, quotes, dialog and objects which capture the essence of your story (or whatever project you’re working on). They are elements which inspire you, which have meaning and which convey the concept you’re working on.

You can start with a noticeboard, a piece of foam or cardboard – anything you can put up somewhere and stick things too. Then you can begin collecting things you feel help you to get a handle on the world and characters you are looking to create.

Let your Creativity run wild. This is exactly the kind of thing he or she loves to get involved with. The process may start out slow, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll gather momentum.

While you’re at it, try finding a piece of music which you feel captures the mood you’re looking for. Play it while you work to help you focus on what you’re trying to achieve.

For more helpful tips on creating vision boards, head over to Word Strumpet.

My storyboard

Create a Storyboard

Have you ever watched the ‘Making Of’ feature for an animated movie? They will usually show you at least part of the storyboard they worked on. Often the storyboard takes up entire walls, each little piece of paper depicting a shot or scene which will hopefully end up in the move.

Storyboards work for any kind of storytelling. Mostly they are used for screenplays. In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat he talks reverently about ‘The Board.’ It’s basically a collection of 40 cards, each representing a scene, pinned to a noticeboard in 4 rows of ten. For more information, read the book as he goes into fantastic detail about how to beat out a story.

Storyboards also work for novels. Laying out important scenes on a noticeboard forces you to see the holes in your story. Where do you need more scenes? Where are your scenes not working for you?

The beauty of storyboards is that they are extremely easy to change. You can move elements around at a whim to see how they would work in a different order. Then you can stand back and muse.

If you don’t feel any of these three options would work for you, don’t panic. The important thing is to get your ideas out of your mind and onto some kind of paper or screen so you can massage them into shape and return to them as you write your draft.

Do you have any favourite ways to prep for your novel?

By the way, Charlotte Rains Dixon over at Word Strumpet is offering free half hour coaching sessions during October. I tried one out last week and highly recommend it!


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First You Must Write Badly In Order to Write Goodly

As pen touches blank paper...

Writing can be hard at the best of times. It’s been likened to bleeding onto the page.

Writing after a hiatus can be even harder!

Your good writing habits have to be rediscovered, or even reinvented. The words refuse to flow, and the sheer whiteness of the screen or page is downright unnerving.

What’s worse is any words that do venture through your fingertips are of such low quality that you want to give up right away and go back to television.

But, no!‘ you cry valiantly, ‘I shall stay at my computer. Maybe my flair will come back.

In the mean time you surf over to your favourite blog and start reading. The latest post is up. As you read, you fall in love with the lilt of phrase and choice of words to such an extent that you want to jump up and burn your keyboard.

With a groan of anguish you declare, ‘I’m never going to write like that!‘ and then slink off to the couch to see what’s on.

(We shall save the discussion of ‘how your voice is unique and the fact that you’re never going to write like so-and-so is a good thing’ for another time.)

The point is, just about everyone started out writing badly. Most people are thoroughly embarrassed by their early work, and sometimes by their current work on a bad day. While they may wish that work had never been posted/published/left somewhere for others to find, they know that piece of writing was a stepping stone to what they are writing now and what they will write in the future.

You cannot remove a piece of your journey or skip it and still expect to end up in the same place. Writing badly is part of the journey to writing ‘goodly’.

So you must allow yourself to write badly. Revel in it! Set yourself a word count and let it all come out. We’ve spoken before about how Creativities are like water pumps in a previous post and how you have to let yourself pump out the gunk before you can start writing the good stuff. So embrace the process and go with it!

This is why National Novel Writing Month (NaNo WriMo) is such a fantastic project. It encourages you to just write, even (and especially) if it’s just piles of random, meaningless words – just write!

So if you’re in one of those phases of your literary life where you want to get back into serious writing but you’re just finding it all too hard to get going, then jump in with us during November and get a boost.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be good writing – it just has to be words.

*******

If you’re thinking about writing a novel during November for NaNo WriMo, the trick to winning is in the preparation beforehand. I’ll be posting more on this subject soon!

In the meantime, let us know your plans for November in the comments!