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Monday Motivation — Unusual Writing Tips from Andrea Heckler

Monday, November 16, 2015

Happy Monday, all!

Since I enjoyed finding the videos for the Monday Motivation posts that I did back during FirstDraft60 in October, I thought I’d continue doing that.

Here’s a video with four “unusual” writing tips from Andrea Heckler. (A couple of them may sound very familiar to those of you who’ve been around my blog for a while.)

What do you think? Are these things that you already do? What “unusual” things do you do that you’d like to share?

Updating Our 2015 Reading Challenges

Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015 Reading ChallengeFor the last couple of years, I’ve set forth reading challenges for myself—not just to ensure I’m reading more books each year, but to make sure I’m expanding the scope of what I’m reading. In 2014, I chose different genres for my challenge categories. This year, I went for more of a Time (you know, that wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey thing) and Place challenge. I knew I still had some categories I hadn’t checked off yet, and since I’ve been in a reading slump lately, I thought it would be a good time to check in on the list to see just how far I still need to go.

And I’ve got a long way to go—at least as far as meeting the category challenges. I’ll definitely meet the number challenge (I’ve already finished 51 of 53, and I currently have two in progress).

How is your 2015 reading challenge going?

Here are the categories I’ve yet to complete. Because there are so many and only seven weeks left of 2015, I’ve decided to add in a whole lot more short stories and/or children’s literature (many with a focus on Christmas!) in order to be able to complete these categories. But because I don’t want them to feel like “throw-aways,” I’m also challenging myself to go back to some of the writing assignments I’ve either used as an instructor or completed as a student to make sure I’m giving the books due consideration—especially children’s books which may take only a few minutes to read.

2015 Reading Challenge Categories
Read a book (romance or non, fiction or non) set in each of the following time periods/locations:

1. Ancient (BCE)
2. Roman Empire (to approx. 300s)
3. England: Roman Era to ~1060ish
4. Europe ~400–1100
5. England ~1060ish–1099 (Norman Conquest)

6. 12th Century (Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick)
7. 13th Century
8. 14th Century (A Sword Upon the Rose by Brenda Joyce)
9. 15th Century (By His Majesty’s Grace by Jennifer Blake)
10. 16th Century (The Tudor Vendetta by C. W. Gortner)
11. 17th Century (“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
12. 18th Century
13. 20th Century (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
14. 21st+ Century (Red Shirts by Jon Scalzi)
15. Australia (Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure)
16. New Zealand (Just This Once by Rosalind James)
17. Asia
18. Russia
19. South or Central America
20. Canada

21. Tennessee (in progress: All the Pretty Girls by J.T. Ellison)
22. New Mexico
23. Alaska
24. Louisiana
25. Virginia

So, of the 25 categories I set for myself, I still have fifteen to complete. However, I did spend a lot of time last night on Goodreads and my library’s website, and I think I have a pretty good plan for how I’m going to fulfill this list. And I’ve actually borrowed or placed on hold (from the library and through Kindle Unlimited) books that fulfill all of them. And a good part of it is going to involve a day spent at the library delving into some children’s literature and stretching my recently unused academic writing muscles. Which I’m really looking forward to. So much so that I’m thinking about adding writing assignments to my challenge list for 2016!

What Are You Reading? (August–September–October Catch-up Edition)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy First Monday of November, everyone.
It’s Reading Report time!

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Because of the FirstDraft60 challenge, we’ve missed our last couple of check-ins, so we’ve got lots of catching up to do. Tell us what you’ve finished reading in August, September, and October 2015, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!

To format your text, click here for an HTML cheat-sheet. If you want to embed your links in your text (like my “click here” links) instead of just pasting the link into your comment, click here.

  • What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since the last update?

  • What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

  • What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?

#FirstDraft60 Day 61 — Wrap-up and Check-in

Saturday, October 31, 2015

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comSo . . . yes, I missed posting every day this week. And I only wrote one day out of the past seven. But you know what? I feel like I accomplished a whole lot in the last sixty days. I’ve written more since the beginning of October than I did in the previous two or three years combined. I’m thinking about my characters and the story daily, even though I’m not actually writing while I struggle with the side-effects of the medication I’m on (combined with the dreary weather we’ve been having . . . ugh). I plan to continue writing this story with a goal of writing at least a few hundred words or more every day.

How did you do with your project(s) in the last sixty days? What is your take-away from the challenge (other than word count)? What did you learn about yourself as both a storyteller and a writer?

#FirstDraft60 Day 58 — The Importance of Props in Storytelling

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

#FirstDraft60 |
While in the written version of storytelling, we don’t necessarily have the same ability to use props as a visual prompt for viewers, they’re just as important to incorporate into our stories. Props can be used to great effect in most, if not all, of the ways mentioned in this video. So as we near the end of this challenge and either continue on with trying to get our first drafts complete, start new ones on November 1 for National Novel Writing Month, or enter into the revision phase on our completed manuscripts, think about (and make lists of) the props you’ve used in your story that you can make better use of—or objects you can add to create more layers of nuance to your story.

Why Props Matter from Rishi Kaneria on Vimeo.

#FirstDraft60 Day 57 — Timer Tuesday! (#1k1h Sprint Day)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comOnly FOUR (counting today) days left in the challenge!! And if you’re anything like me, you have a loooooooong way to go when it comes to word count. After having great success with writing every day last week, I was slammed this weekend with a side-effect to a medication that I’ve recently started taking and spent most of the weekend in bed. Hopefully, as of today, everything is balanced out and I’ll be able to move forward with writing every day.

This just goes to prove what we’ve talked about before when it comes to goal setting—we need to set them; we need to write them down; we need to break them down into actionable, attainable steps; but we also need to be flexible enough to be able to revise those goals when other things come up.

If you haven’t yet participated in a 1k1h writing sprint during this challenge, you may not have had the chance yet to discover just how much you can do when you push yourself to focus solely on writing for a solid hour. These one-hour sprints can help build word count and our story’s momentum when doing a marathon writing challenge like this. On Tuesdays, the challenge will be scheduling and completing at least one 1k1h writing sprint some time during the day.

Today, I will be doing one 1k1h sprint tonight at 10:00 p.m. (Central).

I know that’s really late for a lot of you, but writing at bedtime is what works best for me, so that’s why I’m scheduling it for that time. I’d love to make these writing sprints (or at least one a week) a “team” effort with as many of you participating as possible. The more support (and accountability) there is, the more successful we’ll all be! But if those times don’t work for you, go ahead and pick the times that work best for you.

1k1h Tips for Success

  1. Let anyone within your household know that you need one uninterrupted hour to try to head off at the pass any interruptions.
  2. Set a timer. This is most important. Don’t do this by just watching the clock. You’ll find yourself only watching the clock and not getting anything written. Setting a timer allows you to forget about the time and concentrate fully on writing.
  3. Prepare yourself before starting your timer. Re-read the last few pages you wrote (without editing/revising!) to get your head back into the story and figure out where you need to pick up. Review your outline and/or character pages in your Story Bible. And then put all of that away so you don’t use those to procrastinate during the hour.
  4. If you listen to music while writing (I recommend instrumental so that you don’t get distracted by the lyrics), have it set up and playing before starting your timer. Use earphones, even if you’re working at home, to block out any sounds that might pull you out of your story.
  5. If you can’t listen to music while writing, I recommend wearing the earphones anyway. People are less likely to interrupt you (at home or working somewhere like a coffee shop) if you have them in/on—and they help block out those distracting sounds.
  6. Make sure your writing space (both physical and mental) is set up and ready to go before you start your timer.
  7. In other words, make sure that about five to ten minutes before you start the 1k1h sprint, you’re in the process of getting ready to write.
  8. Silence or turn off your cell phone (unless you’re using it as your timer—then don’t turn it off). Close your Internet browser. Close Facebook and Twitter (as soon as I give the “start” signal, of course). Close your email program if you use something like Outlook that isn’t web-based. Eliminate all distractions!

Don’t Know How to Start Writing?
If you aren’t sure how to start writing when the hour starts, even after re-reading what you’ve previously written, here are a few suggestions.

  • Which character had the viewpoint in the last scene you wrote? Start with a different character in this scene.
  • Still not sure what to write? Try this prompt:
    Character walked into the room. Character saw a piece of paper tacked to the wall on the other side of the room. Character walked across the room and took the piece of paper down. Character read the piece of paper. The piece of paper said . . .
  • If that prompt doesn’t work, try the exercise of taking your character to the market to buy food.
  • If you can’t think of what the “next” scene is that comes after the one you just left off with in your previous writing session, start writing something you know comes later in the story that you already have a good idea for. Though I recommend writing your story in linear fashion (from beginning to end) instead of jumping around, sometimes you need to write stuff that comes later if you already have a clear idea of the scene in your head, just to make sure you don’t lose it. And that can also help you figure out what comes between what you’ve written so far and that future scene and help you to fill in the gap next time.

Hopefully, I’ll “see” you at 10:00 p.m. (Central) tonight. If not, don’t forget to check in with your progress and how you do with your own 1k1h sprint(s) today!

#FirstDraft60 Day 56 — Monday Motivation with Madeleine L’Engle

Monday, October 26, 2015

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comOn Mondays, I’m going to share some writing advice/motivation from authors who may be well known to you, or whom you may never have heard of. Hopefully, you’ll find inspiration or a new way of looking at or thinking about writing from these little clips.

Today, our Monday Motivation is a recording of a 1975 talk given by Madeleine L’Engle on writing with your heart:

Hope you’re doing well with your writing. Don’t forget to check in with your progress!


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