Sunday, 24 August 2014

Moving Through Challenges, Lessons Learned

Image by FidlerJan courtesy of

Isn't it funny how, when you're going through a challenging time, things come to your attention that could possibly provide a way through?

I had three things show up this week.

The Wrong Turn

The first is David Farland's post on Beating Writer's Block. The first point he made in particular got me thinking. Was there anywhere in my story that felt "off"?

And the answer is, yes, there's one thing that niggled at me from not far into my first draft. I kept ignoring it because it affected the ending only. I thought if I left it alone till I was actually ready to write the ending, I'd discover something along the way through the novel that might resolve it.

Lesson No 1 - don't ignore the niggles!
When a niggle rears its head, talk to it. Find out exactly what the nature of the niggle is and then brainstorm how to resolve it.

I've found a potential solution that not only works with an idea I had for the ending before this, but also does away with a tertiary character and gives her role to a secondary character in my protagonist's life.

Let's call that a goal achieved for this week. :)

Happy Writers

The second article I read was about how to be a happy writer, on the Writer's Village blog.

There are those who believe that only if you're writing every day are you a proper or true writer. Everyone else who does not meet this standard is not a serious or committed writer. They're dabblers. Hobbysists. Whatever.

(This came up before in a slightly different way in a post by Jami Gold on the two different types of writers - the Professional-Author, who pretty much HAS to write every day if they want to have a chance at a financially-successful career, and the Artist-Author who isn't in it for the money but for the need to communicate. The money is a very welcome side benefit, but it's not the reason they write. The link to that post is here:

I left my thoughts on the Gemma Hawdon's blog post and briefly, this is what I think:

There are as many ways of writing as there are writers. To say that only serious writers write in a particular way is damaging. It's like trying to fit round pegs into square holes. The writer who doesn't physically work on her WIP every day is no less committed to writing than the writer who does write every day.

Some writers need to step back from the writing to get a feel for what's been written, and to get a feel for what's to come. Some writers, I suspect, do not think in words. They are more right-brained, so feelings, shapes, colours, characters, textures, and everything else that makes up a scene is a picture or feeling and needs to be translated into words. This type of write needs time out to just immerse themselves in their inner worlds and try to make the intangible tangible.

And good luck to them in attempting to do that in a busy, busy, "go faster", "do more" world.

The point is, whatever method a writer uses to write, be it plotting or pantsing, typing or long-handing (!), writing every day or striving every day to make the intangible tangible, we are all writers and we have more in common than we do differences.

Lesson No 2 - I am still a committed writer, no matter how my writing method differs from other writers or how long it takes to produce the polished work.

Shakespeare in Love

I watched brief moments of Shakespeare in Love last night. Great film.

It got me to thinking about how the Shakespeare in the film was spurred to a frenzy of inspiration after meeting Viola. The time spent not writing, the time spent being fully present in each moment he was with her, the time spent feeling ALIVE, is what fed his inspiration.

Lesson No 3 - Slow down. Live fully in each moment. Live with Heart. The time spent not writing is just as important - if not more so - than the time spent writing.

Goals from last week:
  1. Create a piece of artwork each day - did this for 3 days and loved it!
  2. Relax in a relaxed way each evening - yes, most evenings.
  3. Set my writing goal for the next day - no.
  4. Write in my journal, 15 minutes a day - yes, for my personal journal and yes on two or three occasions in my writing journal
  5. Comment on my team's blogs - yes.
Bonus Goal: Looking at the Niggle. :) 

Goals for next week:
  1. Write the Fix for the niggle down on paper and examine it from all sides to make sure it works
  2. Continue to create a piece of artwork each day
  3. Relax properly each evening
  4. Get to bed by 11pm at the latest
  5. Write in my journal, 15 minutes a day
  6. Comment on my team's blogs
And please check out the other ROW80 blogs. :)

What writing lessons have you learned over the time you've spent honing the craft?


  1. Good lessons, especially #2. Writing books and blogs are great, but you have to take the advice they give with a block of salt. Slavishly doing everything by any one book is a waste of time and a frustrating experience. If you read enough books and blogs, you find that often one source will contradict another. If something you saw in a book sounds like a good idea, then try it; if it works for you, great, if not, fine, too. Gradually you figure out what works for you, and it looks like nothing that's been written up. Kind of like DNA.

    Fixing the niggle seems like the best way to start the week, and if it's all you do for the week, so be it. Good luck!

    John Holton
    The Sound Of One Hand Typing

    1. So true! There is no One Right Way to write a novel. But I think it's only when you get tired of trying to do things the wrong way for you that you say, Enough! I'm going to follow my own path from now on. All journeys are useful. Sometimes you need the experience of the wrong to know what the right is. :)

  2. Your bit about the niggles definitely ring true for me. It's taken time, but I've definitely learned to embrace that those little niggles are there for a reason, even if it means rewriting a whole manuscript from page one (which has happened for me). The last thing you want is to force a plot or a point...if something doesn't work, don't try to make it fit. Cut it, work around it, try for something that doesn't require so much effort, because a reader can tell when a writer is trying to put a square peg into a circular hole.

    They're all great lessons, really, ones it doesn't hurt to relearn every once in a while. Great job with the goals, too! Best of luck on the next set!

    1. Thank you!

      Yes, talking to the Niggle. Who knew how well that would work? I'm in the process of drawing a Niggle so that I can pin it to the wall above my writing desk to remind me to listen out for the little Niggle voice. :)

  3. I am definitely the type of writer who first gets vivid sensory, emotional, or dialogue snippets. Sometimes it's just one; sometimes it's a chain of loosely connected bits.

    I've learned not to hurry to write these out. I used to worry that I'd lose them, but, if I let them be, they tend to grow and connect to other scenes. I tend to get these images and conversations while I'm in the shower, and I usually reread what I have beforehand, to provide inspirational fuel. I also fall asleep most nights thinking about my stories, and that often translates into new ideas as part of my dreams.

    I love what John said up there - we are all different. I learned this for certain when my first child was born, and I went through all the nursing positions in my books, or suggested by my midwife. The one that made him happiest, though, was not in any book - I don't even think it has a name, but it worked for my son (but not for my daughter),

    What works for me is lots of different projects. I am definitely an artist-writer; money isn't a big motivator for me, personally - I like communicating, sharing, creating, and connecting for their own sakes. If my belly was empty, I might see it differently.

    Some people like only one project at a time, and that's perfect for them. But my mind is wide angle, and I need lots of things going on to feed it.

    I'm glad you shared Jami's post; I hadn't seen it, but will go read it. =)

    It sounds like you had a good week, and settling a Niggle (I love that you gave it a name, and I may need to adopt that), is a huge step. Hooray for that, and may this week be even better!

    1. Thank you Shan!

      I don't know what it is about writing, but it seems to trigger the most unhelpful, rigid, one-size-fits-all, type of advice - and I don't mean yours! I mean "out there on the web". Thank god there are sane writers doing ROW80!!

      I'm a writer-artist, too. I'd love to be able to add to the household coffers with my stories, but it's not what spurs me to write. The love of stories, of finding the right words to describe things, of offering a new way of looking at things - that's what motivates me.

      I'm going to name my Niggle, I think, and that plus the drawing I pin to my wall will help me to remember to listen when it pipes up. :)

  4. Yeah I really like lesson 2 as well. I'm a procrastinator so it probably takes me longer than normal to be 100% happy with what I've written. I always need to look for inspiration away from the computer too. Whereas other people work faster and type a certain amount of words each day like clockwork.

    I just take each day as it comes :)

    1. Take each day as it comes - that is actually the best way to live, I think. We're not robots. We're not meant to be robots, going through the motions. The seasons change. The world turns on its axis. Things bloom and die. We're part of those cycles, so to keep going with the "same old same old" is unnatural, really.

      Seize the day. Take each day as it comes. Love what you do each day. Do something you love each day. :)

  5. Good points. I'm relatively new to this, so still learning - and enjoying.
    After a few years of retirement I decided to try writing, and did NaNoWriMo 2010. It was so much fun I did another, and another, plus lots of Flash Fiction. Flash gave me an opportunity to push myself and learn, plus was a way to get valuable feedback from followers. And learn and improve.
    Constructive criticism is hard to find, as friends and family will often try to be too kind. Or when you do find someone that says what they don't like, they don't always know what might help improve your story.

    1. I love NaNo! The fact that there's a month-long writing challenge with people from all over the world taking part. It's amazing. I fast drafted last November and it was brilliant. It's how I produced my first rough draft in two weeks. An excellent way to do things.

      Where do you go to do your Flash Fiction challenges? I think I'd like to give that a go. :)

    2. Before my life was consumed by either editing or feeling guilty for not editing - I did a lot of challenges on Chuck's Terrible Minds site. His language can be a little rough at times, but he does have some interesting prompts. Here's a recent one - . Do the prompt, link in the comments. He gets a lot of entries though, so you're not likely to get feedback form others there.
      Flash Fiction Friday was a site I used a while ago. It's since gone, but had excellent prompts and a small enough group that I got some great feedback. And made some good friends. I included the prompt before the stories I did, so you're welcome to go to my site and use the same ones. This is the first one I did from there -

    3. Thank you for the links! I've checked out Chuck Wendig's links and the prompts are fabulous. Even if I don't post to his site, I could always find somewhere else to get feedback...

      And I love your short story. It made me smile, thinking of all the characters in retirement and what they were doing and what was coming to them next. Wonderful!

    4. Thanks, glad you liked it. I did several Flash with those characters and then used the idea for my 2012 NaNoWriMo. The set of them are all under the category Fairy Tale Folk.
      I've had good feedback from fellow ROW80 writers.

  6. I think the everyday rule is utter rubbish and is designed so those who can do it feel superior. Granted I feel a true writer writes frequently i.e. multiple times. There are a lot of days I don't work on my novel but I am processing the plot/characters in my head. Also, there is nothing wrong with writing being a hobby, I know many strong writers who only write a short story every other week.

    1. Yes, I don't physically write every day on my WIP. There are days when I just can't. It isn't happening and forcing myself to sit there is counterproductive. I'm going to write a post about this, because I think it's important to voice another opinion of the Write Every Day Rule. :)


Hi! I love reading new comments so thank you for sharing. I'll be sure to get back to you to continue the conversation. :)