National Evaluate Your Life Day

Today is National Evaluate Your Life Day. Are you meeting your writing goals?

Take today and think about your writing life. If it isn’t exactly what you want it to be, make a plan to make it better. Maybe that means committing to daily writing practice  Maybe it means working to get published. Maybe it’s just improving your dialogue.

Whatever your goals are for your writing life, make a solid commitment with a deadline and specific steps you can take to get there. Hopefully by October 19 of next year, you’ll have reached your goal and be working towards a new one.

What are your writing goals? How well are you achieving them? What could you improve on? Share in the comments.


Strategies for Winning NaNoWriMo

Winning NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing a perfect, or even complete, novel. It’s about putting your butt in the chair and writing all month.  You win if you reach 50,000 words. The end. That’s all there is to it. I know it seems easy now, but let’s talk about some strategies to make sure you finish the month with a shiny site badge that says you won NaNo.

1. Plan Ahead

Yep, the easiest way to stay on track during November is to plan ahead. This means planning your novel, planning your writing, and planning everything else. This will save you a lot of heartache on day one when you have no idea what you’re writing and on day twelve when you’re struggling to keep up with your word count. Planning makes NaNo and commitment, and you’ll be more likely to keep at it.

Last time I posted about how to prep for NaNo. Check this post out for more ideas.

2. Adjust the Plan

Plans are only good if they work, so don’t be afraid to change your plan once you get into NaNo. You may have an emergency that makes it impossible to stick to your schedule. Don’t stress if you have to take a day off, just make sure you make up the word count later in the week. Spreading the work across several days will be easier than trying to catch up on all your missed words at the end of the month, so adjust as you go, and you’ll be fine.

NaNo is all about discovery, so adapt.

3. Learn How You Focus

You may hear about people who do all their NaNo writing on the weekends and think it’s a great idea to do all your writing in two days a week. Others will find that a daunting plan and want to write a little bit daily. Figure out how you focus best. Do you need to do long blocks to stay in the flow? Do you need to take breaks to keep from burning out? Change your plan to fit your specific needs.

It doesn’t hurt to practice writing some stories or other projects now if you’re unsure about how you best work. That way you can head straight into November knowing exactly how you need to plan to work.

4. Learn What Inspires You

When you don’t have a ridiculous deadline looming over you it’s easy to say you aren’t inspired and not do any writing for the day. During NaNo, you won’t have time to wait until you’re inspired, especially if you’re playing catch-up towards the end of the month. Find out what helps keep you inspired now. Do you need to take breaks to read and recharge? Does writing with quiet music help you? Do you get ideas when you have coffee or tea on hand?

Part of NaNo is learning to write out of habit, rather than inspiration. Finding out how to force yourself to be inspired can make the process a lot easier. Work on it now so that you have some ideas when NaNo starts.

5. Change the Story

Whether you plan or pants in your writing, you will find that your story changes from your initial vision as you go. It can be scary, frustrating, and exhilarating all at once, but it’s part of the process. Don’t be afraid to make changes as you go. You need to write the story in the correct way. Don’t stick to the plan because you feel it’s set, and you don’t want to change it. You’ll just waste your time later when you have to come back and edit. Embrace the changes.

I know this can be doubly scary during NaNo when you’re just trying to push ahead with word count. In order to keep going during NaNo, don’t worry about going back to change the beginning to match. Just make a note of what needs to be changed and keep pushing with your new ideas. NaNo isn’t about creating a perfect first draft. You just need to get the structure down on the page.  Second drafts are for ironing out all the changes, and you can do that in December.

Check out this post on how to stay sane when your plot changes if you’re a little freaked out by the  idea.

6. Do Strange Things

Don’t be afraid to make your characters do weird things or to experiment with strange settings and styles. If you get stuck, sometimes making your character do something unexpected is the best way to fix the problems. Writing is about surprising your readers and yourself. Don’t be afraid of the weird.

7. Set Goals and Reward Yourself

Setting your own smaller goals and rewarding yourself can be a great way to keep motivated on those longer writing days. Maybe you tell yourself you get candy if you write for twenty minutes. Maybe you get to watch your favorite show without feeling guilty if you make it through a scene. Break the task into smaller goals to keep from scaring yourself with the large word count total you’re aiming for and to make the task more pleasant. It isn’t hard to work when you have something nice to look forward to.

8. Don’t Over Think It

It’s really easy to let yourself get critical about your work when you write. Sure, the dialogue is garbage and the plot is going in circles. Your characters may sound whiny, but that’s part of the process. Don’t get frustrated by the quality of the draft. Your job is to get it all down so that you can make it prettier and cleaner later.

9. Focus on the End Goal

You may think that the goal of NaNo is to reach 50,000 words in a month, and in a sense it is, but the real goal is bigger than that. The goal is motivate you to write. It’s to make you attempt something scary and crazy and fun. lt’s to make you ignore that crazy voice in your head that tells you everything you write is crap. NaNo is about ignoring the fact that you may not get published, or that the draft may fail, or that you may not be a good writer yet. It’s about sitting down and doing the work, so do just that. At the very least, you will learn a lot about your process and yourself during NaNo, and you’ll learn that you can write a lot. That’s what really matters.

10. Don’t Cheat

Sure, you can copy and paste 50,000 words of text from something else into the verifier and get the badges and prizes. No one will stop you, and no one will care, but you’ll be cheating yourself. Really commit to doing this the right way, or you don’t gain any of the benefits of doing it in the first place.

Prepping For NaNo

Start exercising your fingers for the furious typing frenzy. We’re prepping for NaNoWriMo! If you’re playing by the rules you can’t officially start writing until November 1, but there’s plenty you can do to get ready.

Make a Commitment

Before you do anything you need to commit right now to doing everything you can to reach 50,000 words in the month of November. It sounds easy now, but crises will come up, you will get sick, relatives will drive you crazy, and/or you’ll eat way too much on Thanksgiving and fall into a food hangover. Plus, you know, you’ll also be fighting your normal amount of procrastination/writer’s block.

Trust me, stuff will happen, and NaNo will be the easiest thing to push aside. That’s why you have to seriously commit, and, more importantly, know why you want to do it. Is it because it gives you an excuse to write that novel that’s been stewing in your brain? Is it because you want to create a daily writing habit? Does it sound like a great way to challenge yourself to avoid procrastination? Whatever your reason, understand what is going to make NaNo important to you, and commit to finishing.  Otherwise you’ll get too busy and never finish.

Once you do that, you can prepare in lots of other ways to eliminate obstacles for November.

Plan Your Novel

As of today you have a little over two weeks before NaNo starts, and that’s plant of time for outlines, character sketches, background research, and any other preparation you think might come in handy. You can save yourself the “what am I going to write?” headaches by doing a little preparation. Even if you prefer pantsing you can spend time getting to know your characters and learn all kinds of facts you think will be important later.

Get Your Supplies and Your Spot

It’s best to anticipate future challenges. Figure out which tools you’re going to use, how you’ll save your work (and for heaven’s sake, back it up!), and what supplies you’ll need. If you’re planning to handwrite your novel, you’ll want a solid supply of paper and writing utensils of choice. If you’re typing, you’ll want to figure out what programs you’ll use to write and at least two methods for saving your work.

You can also get ahead by setting up your writing space. Find a quiet spot that you can claim for a month. Make it comfortable to fight back and body aches. Make it well-lit to fight eye-soreness. Give yourself plenty of room for materials to prevent frustration.

Tell Your Loved Ones

Sure, November is right in the middle of the holiday season, but you’ll need your family and friends’ support to get through November. They need to understand that you may neglect them during the month, but it isn’t because they’ve done anything wrong. You may want to spend extra time with your loved ones in the next two weeks to prepare them for your absence, and make it clear that you don’t want to be disturbed during your writing time.

You’ll also want your friends and family to encourage you during NaNo. During November, you will have many doubts and and fears, and your friends and family can help. Tell them now how they can best support you when your confidence fails, and they can be your biggest assets during NaNo.

Make a Writing Schedule

The biggest obstacle to NaNo will be finding convenient chunks of time for extensive writing. Try planning a writing schedule. By notating when you hope to write now, you can thin out the rest of your commitments come November. This can help you keep from over-shceduling yourself and leading to exhaustion and anger. If you know you have major commitments that can’t be rearranged during November, plan larger blocks of time before it to get ahead.

Making a writing schedule will also help you commit to daily work.

What are you doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo? Do you have any tips for first time NaNoers? Share your thoughts in the comments.


How to Make the Most of the NaNo Writer Community

In my last post I talked about how great the NaNoWriMo community is, so I wanted to follow up by talking about how you can make the most of the NaNo community this fall.

1. Forums

The NaNo forums are a great place to connect with other writers before, during, and after the event. You can talk about any part of the writing process, NaNo, or anything else. There are boards dedicated to novel research, in which experts in different subjects can answer your questions, plot generation, character naming, and pretty much anything else you think you might want to talk about.

Most importantly, the forums provide an online support group of others who are participating in the same event and understand your challenges. It’s nice having a large community to share your experiences with, or even just vent at the end of your writing day. In my various NaNo attempts, I have found the community to be extremely supportive, and sharing with other NaNoers is a great way to relieve stress and talk about ideas.

You can also find new writing partners to critique your work or to do sprints and “word-wars” with you.

2. Regional Groups

The NaNo site allows you to set your regional settings, and it will help you find other writers in your area. Many regional groups hold various events during November. You can meet other NaNoers in person, making you feel less alone. One of the great types of events many of these groups hold is the write-in.

3. Write-Ins (And Virtual Ones)

Write-ins are NaNo events where local writers get together for hours at a time to write. Take part in write-ins hosted by your regional groups, or even virtual ones. The great thing about write-ins is that you can write in the company of other writers. It makes the process less lonely, and you can make great friends with common interests. It can also help you focus to have other people busy with the same task around you. If you’re feeling blocked up, you’ll probably find some other writers who are struggling or in need of a break to talk to.

4. Friends

Invite your real-life friends to participate in NaNo. You can share the experience and have fun. Maybe some of your non-writer friends will participate, too. Then they’ll see how difficult writing a novel really is, and you’ll have another thing in common to talk about.

How do you use the NaNo community to help you write in November? What do you love about it? Share in the comments.

Banned Books Week

In case you haven’t heard, this week is Banned Books Week. As writers, we are all book lovers, and we know that books have immense power to change us as individuals and to impact society. Censorship threatens freedom of expression and represses the spread of great thoughts and ideas.

I believe that challenging and banning books does nothing but hurt society. Civilization cannot grow and evolve without ideas that open our minds to new perspectives.

Stretch your mind and honor controversial books that challenge norms by reading a book from the list of frequently challenged and banned books. Earn extra kudos by reading a book that challenges your own beliefs.

What books have challenged your beliefs? What frequently banned books do you love? What challenged books are you reading right now? Let’s talk about them in the comments.

Traits of a Good Writing Group (And What a Good Group Isn’t)

Better Writing through Critique Group

A good writing group can be a great asset to creating your best work, but a bad group can be worse than trying to work alone. How can you tell if you’ve found the right critique group? Here are some things to look for to make sure you’ve found a good group:

Members challenge each other

One of the main points of a writing group is to share your work and discuss how audiences might react to it. In a good group, members will be honest about their opinions of the work and challenge each other.

While a group that’s always positive might make you feel good about your writing abilities, it doesn’t help you improve your writing skills or your work. Look for a group where members are not afraid to critique honestly, but remember that you don’t have to make every change suggested. It’s your job to be open to criticism and new perspectives. Consider alternative ideas that your group members suggest.

Beware groups that offer each other nothing but positive feedback. No one is gaining anything except an ego boost.

They support each other

While it’s important that your group members challenge your writing, a good group also offers its support. You don’t want to be in a group that’s always negative and makes you feel bad about your writing, since this can lead to more writing fears. Instead, try to find a writing group that offers a good balance between critique and support. A good group will offer encouragement when you finish that difficult scene, even if it isn’t perfect yet.

Beware groups with members who do nothing but tear work apart. Sure, every piece of writing has plenty to work on, but every piece has something going well, too. Too much negativity could be a sign of jealousy.

They understand grammar and story

Good critique groups can help you work through both your grammar hang-ups and your story qualms. You don’t want to waste time on a group that only picks apart your comma usage, since that doesn’t help you with your story, but you don’t want to spend too much time with a group that never points out your sentence fragments, either.

Beware groups that only want to focus on grammar or story. You need both to be successful.

They understand your genre or topic

You need a writing group that understands the basics of the type of writing you want to do. While broadly focused groups can be helpful, you need other writers who get your genre and your topic. It’s really frustrating to talk to people who just say they “didn’t get it” week after week. You also don’t want to waste time trying to give feedback on a type of writing you don’t get. A reader’s response to writing has a lot to do with taste. Find people who love the your genre as much as you do, and you’ll get better feedback. You’ll also have more fun reading the work of writers who like the same work you do.

Beware groups that focus too broadly. Poets won’t need the same feedback as fiction writers and vice versa.

You enjoy spending time with them

Make sure you can get along with the people in your group before you waste time trying to build relationships that aren’t going anywhere. Sharing your work with others requires a certain level of trust, and this is even more important when those people will be critiquing your work. If you don’t like the people in your group, you’re never going to respect their work or their opinions on your work. You’ll have to spend a lot of time together, too, and you don’t want it to be painful.

Beware groups made up of members with whom you don’t connect. You won’t enjoy the group, and you’ll probably waste your time.

They Get to Work

When you connect with your group, you’re bound to want to discuss more than just writing, but this can really get in the way of progress. It’s fine to have a group that wants to talk, but a great group understands when it’s time to get serious. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and not improving your writing at all.

Beware groups that can’t focus. They won’t help you focus on your writing.

Members are on a similar level

While it’s great to have members that are more experienced writers, it can also be hugely detrimental to have a group with extremely varied levels of writing knowledge and skill. Beginning writers have different needs than intermediate writers, and professionals need a completely different experience. Find a group that fits your skill level to help build better relationships and make sure you’re focused on the right things. Putting professionals with beginners can cause animosity, and it can also be a waste of time for one skill group or the other. It can also cause animosity and jealousy between writers.

Beware groups with large gaps in experience and skill, since this can lead to arguments and wasted time.

Do you have any other feedback on finding a great critique group? Share it in the comments.

11 Essential Traits of Talented Writers (And How to Learn Them)

Be a better writer

I’ve heard many times the argument over whether writers are born or made. Can you teach someone to write, or is it inborn talent? I think that argument is too simple. I think the question should be what is talent, and how do we foster it? I’m not talking about knowledge of story structure and principles of grammar. I’m talking about the intangibles that make great writers great:

1. Love of words

I think this is common sense. A passion for words is the most important requirement for writers. You won’t get far in putting words on paper if you can’t stand them. Talented writers are lovers of words and communication. They appreciate the nuances of how words convey meaning. They are never satisfied with a decent word when there is a better one, and they have a good understanding of when there is a better one, even if they don’t know what it is yet. They are unafraid of playing with sentence structures and never doubt the power of language.

As a writer, studying words and grammar is a necessity to the craft. You must understand how to use words and language effectively to convey meaning. Make a study of the works of other writers.  Look at how Nabokov plays with language in Lolita. Learn about how Shakespeare crafted at least 1300 new words and many phrases when existing ones did not fit his purpose, which we still use today, by the way.

2. Love of reading

Good writers are made from good readers. I haven’t heard of a successful writer yet who hates to read. How can a writer grow and learn if she isn’t concerned with the works of other writers? How can a writer build on the work of past writers if he never reads them? How can she know a good story if she never experiences them for herself?

Reading makes writers better. It stretches us and teaches us. It gives us successes and failures that are lessons. We learn about the elements of a story and about how words work together to tell it. Reading teaches us about genre, about conventions, about how to take valuable risks. It teaches us about compassion and emotion and how words can convey feeling. Reading is essential practice for a writer. Read everything you can. Read fiction, drama, poetry, nonfiction, manuals, textbooks, anything you can get your hands on. Read widely. Read to learn. Pay attention not only to story, but to how the writer accomplished his or her task.

3. Curiosity

One often-overlooked trait of good writers is insatiable curiosity. Writers must ask questions and love learning to generate ideas or to decide how to present them correctly. They must be open to new ideas.

Question everything you know. Ask questions of everyone you know. Don’t accept something because it’s common knowledge, or because others say so. Be passionate about learning and follow your interests to new ideas.

4. Tough skin

Even the best writers face criticism. It is impossible to be universally liked, and taste is a fickle thing. You will fail as a writer, and you will have successes, but understand that your successes can often feel like failures when you listen to the criticism. Good writers may listen to criticism, but they move past it. It doesn’t hold them back. The best writers learn that they can’t please everyone and don’t try to appease everyone. They have learned that for a work to be a success, it must please one person, and if it please others along the way, so be it.

Get used to readers not appreciating your work. Learn to understand the difference between criticism to help your work and criticism due to taste. Ignore the latter. Taste is fickle, and when people don’t like your work, that’s their problem. Learn to accept valid criticism about how to make your work better from editors and other writers. Practice by finding beta readers, critique partners, and writing groups.

5. Stamina

Writing isn’t a quick way to earn success. The act of putting words on the page, one after another, takes time and effort. Writing a story can take hours or days, and a novel even longer. Then there’s editing. Then there’s the wait for submissions. During the process, no one will tell a writer that his or her work is needed. No one says, “Writer, I think the one thing missing from the world is your novel.” The writer must motivate herself to finish. He must work tirelessly on a manuscript with no promise of success. She must lock herself alone in a room and writer. Oh, and did I mention that writing is lonely? You have to be okay with being alone with your own company for a long time.

Write when you’re tired. Write when you’re lonely. Write when you’re sad. Write when your story is driving you crazy. The only way you’ll be a writer is to write. Put in the long hours and the hard work, and you will see the benefit of practice. You will benefit from completed drafts. You’ll learn a lot about the process.

6. Daring

Good writers take risks. It isn’t about what is popular or what will sell. Writing is about telling a story and doing what needs to be done to make it work. Good writers take risks with plot, character, setting, grammar, and every other element of a story. They play with language and structure and make it work for them, rather than chaining themselves to outmoded conventions that do nothing for the work. Good writers understand the rules, and break them. More importantly, they understand when to break them. They don’t take risks for risk’s sake, but they are unafraid of the risks when necessary.

Don’t break rules for the sake of breaking them, but don’t be afraid to break rules when it will help your writing. Don’t shy away from subjects because they may hurt feelings. Don’t stay away from topics because you’re afraid of how you’ll be perceived. Learn when taking risks is beneficial. The best literature does not exist because it was easy or safe to write. It is great because it challenges ideas or challenges readers. Sometimes it challenges the writers.

7. Emotional strength

Good writers are unafraid of good stories, even if they are painful to write. They don’t shy away from the difficult ones. In fact, they embrace them. They don’t worry about what the public or their families will think if they write on certain topics. They don’t worry about perceptions, they simply create their art.

They have the emotional strength to subject themselves to sadness and fear. They brave the darkest places in their own minds if it means they can create a better story. They test their own emotions and capture them for audiences.

Try writing about your person traumas. Write about what scares you. Write about what makes you sad or angry. Those are the subjects that you can write well about because you are passionate about them. Don’t write something because it’s easy. Stay away from writing something that doesn’t challenge you. Write what challenges you. When you leave your work, you should be emotionally drained, but you should be proud of the challenge of tackling your own monsters.

8. Understanding of human nature

Good writers have a finely developed sense of the essences of human nature. They understand how people act and react. They understand tensions under the surface. They recognize subtleties of character and speech. They understand that when faced with a decision, humans make said decision one way because that is how their natures allow them to react. Writers don’t look at the other humans in their life merely as company and entertainment. They dissect interactions. They watch. They listen. They learn, then they create.

Spend time watching and listening. Don’t always be the first to jump into a conversation. Try to understand what lies beneath the surface of each person you meet. What are the struggles that challenge each person? How do underlying tensions affect his or her behavior? Make it your goal to study people. Ask them tough questions about the meaning of life, about love, about emotions, about perspectives. Get to the root of human nature.

9. Desire to improve

A good writer understands when her skills are lacking and attempts to improve them. He understands when a story isn’t quite right and tries to find the solution. The act of writing is the act of constant growth and change. Writers want to adapt to become better and look for ways to grow. They seek feedback. They try to learn from mistakes. They want to discuss craft with other writers in hopes of learning the secret to success. Good writers are never stagnant.

Make an effort to figure out what you are weakest at in writing and try to improve it.  You may need the help of a writing partner to help find your weaknesses. You may need to work with a mentor or take a class to improve. Whatever the struggle, don’t just accept it and move on. Make it your goal to learn how to improve.

When you’ve written a messy draft that feels like a failure, learn from your mistakes. Figure out how you can improve it or write a better draft next time. Don’t simply accept your failures. Learn to improve on them.

10. Have a persistent skewed vision of reality

Good writers tend to ignore the realities of life in favor of creating good art. Sure, there are bills, and the chances that art of any kind will earn enough money to live off are slim, but it doesn’t matter. The chances of being published are slim, and the chances of a book selling once it is published can be even slimmer. They believe that if they just take a chance and put in the effort, it will be worth their while. It doesn’t matter what past results were. They keep trying. The world needs their work, even though no one will say it.

I’m not saying to quit your job and stop paying bills. I am saying that good writers work past those setbacks in order to become great writers. You may have struggles, but you have to focus on writing. To a great writer, none of those struggles matters. Here’s why:

11. They need to write

Great writers are the ones who write because they love it. They don’t do it for money, though most admit it would be nice. They don’t write to amass followers or to become famous.

Great writers write because they love it the act of creating a story. They love to examine people and express the nature humanity. They love to represent culture. Their brain comes up with stories and they can’t shut it off until they tell it. They may agonize during the process of putting words on the page, but when they finish, they agonize until they can start again.

Sure, it’s probably accurate to say that writers are masochists who enjoy suffering, since writing can be a very unpleasant task; however, true writers know that they would go crazy without it. They don’t care if it hurts. They don’t care if they won’t be successful. They write because they need writing. They believe that the world needs writing.

If you don’t feel the need to write, put down your pen. Shut down your computer. Stop. Don’t bother. Writing should be done out of a need and a passion and not for any other reason.

If you need to write, then do it. Don’t make excuses. You won’t be happy until you do. Make an effort to work at it. Give writing everything you’ve got. That means working at it until you think it will make you crazy. That means dedicating your time to improving. That means doing everything in your power to become a successful writer. It will be difficult, but if you’re truly passionate, it won’t matter.

I’m not saying that if you do all these things you’ll pick up these traits. I’m not saying that if you pick up these traits you’ll be successful. There are many factors that play into a writer’s success. I am saying that if you make an effort to improve as a writer, particularly in these aspects, you will be a more successful writerYou will learn to be a better writer in the process, but whatever you do, don’t ever stop trying to learn. None of the best writers ever gave up on improvement. Do your best to foster a life of literary growth, and you will be a better writer.

What are your thoughts on the traits of successful writers? Do you have any other ideas? Do you have tips for improving as a writer? Share them in the comments!

Be a Better Writer This Month in 4 Easy Steps (Really!)

What part of writing is difficult for you? What are you bad at doing and have always wanted to get better at? What are you okay at, but you could improve on? Well, now’s your chance. September is National Self-Improvement Month, and I want to talk about how we can improve as writers.

If you’ve done any amount of writing, you know that it’s challenging. Many writers struggle with dialogue, while others have trouble coming up with great ideas. Some have difficulty describing character actions and reactions, and more are confused about grammar. We all have trouble with certain aspects of writing. We could all work on writing better first drafts, and we could all improve on managing quicker edits. So how do you get better?

1. You practice

You practice a lot. In honor of self-improvement month, I’m going to be posting tons of writing exercises you can try to improve your skills. I want you to seriously commit to trying the exercises and sharing your results so that we can grow as a community of writers. Additionally, I’m going to create a series of workbooks to help you improve your writing, the first of which will be available for free this month. Give it a try to see how you can work on your writing.

2. Understand what needs improvement

I want you to really focus your thoughts this month on your weaknesses as a writer. Once you’ve identified a few aspects you can improve on, I want you to pick two that you can focus on improving this month. Try to think about why these are weaknesses and how you can improve them.

3. Make a plan

Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, I want you to make a plan to improve two of them. This may include writing exercises, asking another writer for help on a specific aspect of your work, reading books on craft, or researching tips on that element of your work. For example, if you struggle with grammar, you may decide to read a few books on grammar to improve or invest in a manual. If you struggle with character development, you may want to invest in a book on craft. If you have trouble coming up with ideas, you may spend time on writing prompts or spending ten minutes a day brainstorming ideas.

You don’t have to come up with ideas that will take a ton of time. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. The only plans worth having are plans you can actually stick to, so don’t come up with a huge multi-step plan that you’ll quit working on after two days. Come up with a few small steps you can take to get better. Small improvement is better than none, and committing to the work will help you improve.

4. Interact

I hope you’ll share your plans here on the site so that we can support each other as a community of writers. We’re all going to focusing on improving, so don’t be shy. Help each other. Give each other support. Writers tend to be loners, but the support of peers in similar situations is hugely valuable when you’re making changes. Try to build a network of writers you can commiserate with and that can help motivate you.

Don’t forget to reach out to me as a resource if you need help. I may not be the greatest writing expert, but I am a writer, and I do have experience practicing. At the very least, I understand where you’re coming from, so feel free to reach out.

Already have some ideas about how you want to improve? Let’s talk about them and your plans in the comments.

Rather Than Writing is Evolving

So I’ve taken a pretty long break from this blog. To my followers, I want to apologize for my absence, but I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve taken time off to make make some huge life changes. This year I left my job as an executive as a corporation and decided to dive into writing full-time. I knew I would never be happy unless I dedicated myself to writing. I’m running my own freelance writing and blogging business.

That’s right, folks. I’m blogging full-time. While I’ll be working with corporate clients, my main focus is going to be working on blogs. That means I’m going put a lot more work into this blog, and Rather Than Writing will be evolving. You’re going to see some big changes here in the near future, and I’m really excited to announce them:

1. The site will be changing names and will move to a self-hosted domain

I’ve wanted to do this for a while, and I’m excited to finally have the time to make it a reality. I’ll be announcing the new name and address as soon as I get the site running and load it with tons of new content. Don’t worry, this will be happening soon! In the mean time, I will be updating this site before fully migrating.

2. I’m going to be making this my number one blogging priority 

Writing is my passion, and I love to talk about it and teach it. You’re going to see frequent, regular content that provides value to readers.

3. I don’t want this to just be a blog

I want this to be a writing community where writers can come for advice, to talk, to share, and to learn. I want to encourage relationships with other writers, and I want to see you talk about writing in the comments.

4. I want to know what you want to see on my site.

What interests you? What do you want to know about writing? What types of content do you want to see? What are your questions? I want to commit to your needs as writers and readers. Please leave feedback when you have ideas, or feel free to contact me privately via email any time.

5. Content will evolve

I have big plans in store. I’m not quite ready to announce all the changes yet, but I want to put a larger focus on writing craft and how reading impacts writers. In my survey of writing sites, I’ve found that while many experts talk about reading as important to writers, no one is talking about that reading. There aren’t many sources showing writers what they should get out of their reading or how to apply what they’ve learned. I intend to tackle that gap as one of my larger focuses, so stay tuned for more information.

6. I plan to offer writing exercises and practice more often

The point of a writing site is to help writers become better writers, so I feel that is a major gap in my existing content. You’ll see tons of great opportunities to practice the craft of writing.

I’m really excited about the future of my blog, and I can’t wait to share all my work with you.

If you have any initial feedback or ideas, don’t hesitate to share it in the comments.

5 Reasons Why It’s Great to Be A Writer

I think that sometimes when we’re working hard to get through a draft, it can be easy to lose focus of why you want to be a writer in the first place.  This is by no means a conclusive list of all the best reasons to be a writer, but here’s a quick reminder of some of the reasons we love writing:

1. You Can Write About Anything

Are you interested in physics?  Baseball?  Bowling balls?  You can choose anything you want to write about.  I’m not saying that you can expect anyone to read it, but if it interests you, why not?  How many other professions let you research and spend time on whatever subject you want?

2. Your Schedule is Flexible

While I think there is a lot to be said for writing schedules, nobody checks to make sure you do it every day.  If you don’t feel like it, nobody forces you to get out of bed and write.  While this can also be a curse, I’m going to call it a perk for now.

3. You Get to Do What You Are Passionate About

So many people have jobs to pay the bills, but they aren’t passionate about what they do.  You probably have a job like that, too, but at least you get to spend time doing something you choose and you love!

4. Anybody Can Write

You don’t have to go to school.  You don’t have to get certifications.  You can just sit and write.  I know a lot of people talk about the benefits of classes and degrees, and I’m not arguing, but at the end of the day, all you need is a computer or some paper, or a stick and some mud if it comes down to it.  The only thing you need is words.

5. It’s Fun

We wouldn’t write if we didn’t think some part of it was fun.  We get to sit and think about life and then figure out how to put the words on the page in the right order.  We get to dissect human nature.  We get to think about the essence of emotion or the basis of all actions.  We get to be philosophical and creative.  We get to do it over and over again because we love it.

I know there are a lot of reasons not to write.  I know a lot of people don’t make it in publishing, but try to take a moment every day and think of why you do it.  It’s probably because you have a passion for stories and words.  When you get bogged down in the process, or you have a bad writing day, try to remember why you make the effort.

What do you love about writing?  Leave a comment.