Lessons learned: five things that help me write

I’ve just started working on a new manuscript for a children’s book and I really want this one to be at least slightly better than the last, so I’ve been thinking about the things that worked well and not so well for me in the past.

In my previous post, I wrote about the five habits that I’m going to leave behind to help with my writing. This time, I’m going to be much more positive and think about the keepers. Here are the things that I WILL be doing this time around.

  1. I WILL MAKE IT A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON

There are, like, a LOT of words in a book and it takes aaaages to come up with the right ones. And I’m THE most impatient person ever so even if I’ve had a really good writing day, I can’t help but feel like I’m never going to hit my magic full manuscript target.

BUT I can trick myself into thinking that I’m getting somewhere if I break my goals down into smaller daily word counts. This way, I actually feel like I’m hitting targets. Also, I get to put a sticker on my word count chart – I like to have an audience that gives me a rousing round of applause for this.

  1. I WILL SPEND TIME LOOKING AT PRETTY PICTURES

Mood boards, inspiration boards and Pinterest are things that are very new to me. When I first started writing, I was worried that using a picture of a person or place for inspiration for a character or setting would limit my imagination but I was totally wrong.

I have discovered that the key is to use LOADS of pictures and pick little bits from each to compliment the things that I have already thought of. Even (or perhaps especially) if the picture doesn’t seem related.

Example: I have a picture of a red panda that I’m using as inspiration for a character’s hair. She has THE BEST hair.

  1. I WILL MAKE NEW FRIENDS

I don’t mean that I need to get rid of any of the ones that I have. Well, maybe I do but that’s a completely unrelated point.

No, I mean that I need some additional friends that understand what I’m trying to do and have been through it or are going through it so that we can support each other. Maybe even look at each other’s work and offer some friendly and useful feedback.

I’ve joined a children’s writing community (SCBWI) and have booked a few events and workshops (WriteClub, YALC). I’ve also bee getting involved with twitter chats (I recommend #ukmgchat and #geaqa) and this has been a great way to connect with other writers, hear about upcoming events, and get some tips.

  1. I WILL KEEP THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING

I can’t work on just one thing. I have to have breaks. I have to be able to write something silly and fun without any pressure. I want to experiment. But if I do this in THE MANUSCRIPT and it doesn’t work out, I’m riddled with self-doubt and an acute sense of failure for days.

Instead, I give myself an hour or so a day to write about anything. I use pen and paper instead of my laptop. I usually use a prompt but sometimes it’s just a way of getting the idea that kept me awake all night out of my head or writing about something that happened to me the day before. It doesn’t matter if there’s no real plot or I spend too long describing a river and never actually get around to the action I had planned. I love it. It stops me from going mad.

  1. I WILL COVER THE WORLD IN INDEX CARDS

I discovered after a workshop last year that I had unknowingly been dabbling with storyboarding when I wrote my major scenes on index cards and then moved them around the room until the order made sense.

Now, though, I am older and wiser and I have a better idea about what the right order should look like. I’ll be able to review and plan the story arc, break it down into acts, pinpoint inciting incidents, cliff-hangers….

Is it wrong that I’m really excited about this?

So, that’s my personal DO and DO NOT lists covered. Now I just have to get going. Easy, right?!

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