Monday, March 23, 2015

36 Tips And Tricks For Writers, plus Why I Like Writing Conferences

First things first.

The best thing you can do for yourself, as a writer, is to WRITE.

Yes, yes. You've heard this a million times before, and I'm pretty sure the Universe will continue to send you this message. Eventually you'll start wondering why you aren't doing it, and you'll go ahead and flail through your next book project. 

It's worth it.

The second best thing you can do for yourself is invest in going to a writer's conference. I go to two per year, volunteering at both so that my cost is very low. Conferences serve writers in a multitude of ways. Different writers want different things out of going to them, and most are extremely satisfied with the results they get.

Here are the reasons I go to conferences:

  • Networking with other authors and "book people" gives me a sense of belonging. I'm with my tribe. This borderline euphoric feeling I get carries me a good four or five months before I'm planning to attend my next conference.
  • Networking with other authors occasionally rewards me with paying clients for my freelance editing services or manuscript reviews.
  • I get to serve my community through my volunteering.
  • I get to meet famous authors! Which, I have to say, is both exciting and fulfilling. And it really gives the famous author a kick, too! We're all people who crave adoration and external validation, after all. (Well, at least I am.) And, at the end of the day, reminds me that I'm an author, too. 
Gail Tsukiyama at the Wordcrafters Conference keynote address.

  • I like supporting fellow artists, and when I buy their books and get them signed, and spend a few minutes talking with them, it just really toots my horn. Plus, it reminds me that there is a person behind these books we casually download to our reading devices or purchase with a click off Amazon. Or even buy from our favorite independent bookstores. A person wrote this piece of art and put sweat and tears and time into it. It humanizes the experience for me and pulls me into the reading in a different way when I remember that.
  • I learn new stuff. Always. Even if it's just looking at a problem in a new way. Which is pretty cool in and of itself.
Case in point:

On Friday of the Wordcrafters Conference in Eugene, Oregon this past weekend, during the lunch program, fellow writers were asked to write down their favorite Tips and Tricks for the writing life. They were posted, quaintly old-school style, on notecards pinned to a cork board. I thought you'd enjoy seeing them. Maybe one or two will have a lasting impact on you and your writing life.

  1. Find your way, but WRITE!! [Editor's note: See?! I told you the Universe would bring it up again.]
  2. Recharge your batteries--attend Nanowrimo, Wordcrafters, Willamette Writers meetings. Talk to other writers. Listen, too!
  3. BIG FUNKY HEADPHONES. Even if you don't listen to anything, people are less apt to interrupt you.
  4. When at final edit, read sentences backwards. It will make errors spellcheck misses--as well as missing words--pop out. Otherwise, your brain fills in the right word and you miss it.
  5. Make a binder with divisions for each chapter, then write your ideas for each chapter on Post-It notes and file with the chapter.
  6. Write On! [insert "hang loose" hand symbol]
  7. Don't worry about it. Just get it down on paper.
  8. Read a lot. Take on the inspiration and write soon after reading a great one. Take on the song and sing, too. [sic]
  9. Write first thing in the morning when you're still kind of sleepy. Ideas will be less censored. Your editor will take less hold.
  10. Select a piece of music which really resonates with you, your current piece of writing, and play as you write, as a kind of theme. Inspiring music!
  11. Think of the worst possible thing you could do to your particular character and DO IT.
  12. When receiving notes or feedback, keep in mind the source (person) of the feed back. It may or may not be total crap. Or it might be just the idea you've been searching for; your key.
  13. Eight minute walk every two or 1 1/2 hours during writing.
  14. There are only TWO kinds of writing. Writing that works and writing that needs work!
  15. Drink and buy books!
  16. Give each scene a title, and use your software's table of contents to help you keep track of your scenes. Make the title as descriptive as possible.
  17. Get off your phone and Facebook. :-)
  18. See yourself doing it.
  19. Write your heart.
  20. Turn off the T.V.
  21. I like writing in the company of other writers. It forces me to focus and there is someone present to bounce ideas off of.
  22. Don't edit until later.
  23. Write a minimum of 2,000 words a day, but never on Sunday.
  24. At the end of each scene, imagine a puzzle piece. At the beginning of the next scene, imagine a piece that fits it.
  25. I listen to thunder storms on Spotify while I write. No lyrics or rhythm to distract me and I can block out dog and kid noises.
  26. Schedule my writing. I have a standing appointment with myself at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. I write at other times, too, but I always keep my appointments.
  27. Journal every day.
  28. Pause during moments of passion to capture the feeling of the experience in words.
  29. Dial up the tension! In every scene, infuse it with tension. If in doubt, add ninjas or zombies...pirates are okay, too.
  30. Enjoy distraction to prevent concentrating too intently.
  31. Talk to your characters in print. Ask them questions. Count the words in the word count.
  32. Don't turn off the T.V.! You'd be surprised how the "perfect" word will pop up.
  33. Get in a writing group!
  34. Do not over-plot or over-edit on the first draft. Even if you think that your first draft is horrible, just get your thoughts down. You will have another opportunity to edit.
  35. For a time, become the character. Act as he or she would act, be in the places where the character would be, dress like the character.
  36. "Write drunk. Edit sober." ~Hemingway

  •  And lastly, another reason I love attending conferences is sometimes I get to see my own book on the conference bookseller's shelves. Bonus! 

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