Building up our writing muscles and endurance

photo by K.B. Owen, WANA Commons

photo by K.B. Owen, WANA Commons

If writing is a marathon, we need to train, to build our writing muscles so that we can write faster and more efficiently. After all, we only have so much time and energy.

What if we want to increase our daily or weekly word counts? I think the best answer lies in this analogy: It’s a lot like fitness. We start small and work our way up to our goal.

Since I’ve been writing full time, I’ve wanted to increase my daily word counts while avoiding burnout at the same time. Every writer works at a different pace and has his/her own process. I’m a big believer in doing what works for you and avoiding one-size-fits-all advice. But I suspect the concept of endurance works for us all.

Think back to when you started writing. I don’t mean novels. I mean when you first had to write a report or an essay. I bet writing 500 words, three pages, whatever the assignment length was, seemed daunting. Today, I can write 500 words pretty quickly because I’ve trained myself to do so. I can even write 1K pretty quickly.

It’s sort of like training for marathon: We don’t start out running five miles. We start out running one mile, and we’re about to collapse after the first quarter-mile, depending on the shape we’re in. We work up to five miles or whatever distance we want to run.

Writing is the same way. If we want to write 10K/week—or whatever number suits you—we have to build up our writing muscles. For me, my natural pace is about 1,000 to 1,500/day. I can write that pretty easily. But I’m thinking of challenging myself to write 2K/day in two writing sprints. That sounds reasonable with my schedule as it is.

If you’re trying to write more, my suggestion is not to do it all at once. Set your goal and gradually increase to that number. Figure out your natural writing pace and work from there. Maybe try to reach your new goal one or two days per week at first, or break it into writing sprints instead of doing it all in one sitting. Give yourself time to reach that goal. If it’s too much, don’t feel guilty about scaling back. Just don’t stop. Only you know what goals work best for you.

ROW80 midweek check-in

1.) Writing: Wrote 1,310 words in WIP, currently untitled. I’m tentatively calling it Goblins and Glamours. It’s a short work, one that I’m hoping to finish before May 1 so I can move on to editing and revising Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.

2.) Read four books on writing. Still reading Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Favorite quotes so far:

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. … When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the parts that are not the story.”

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. On track so far.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. On track so far.
  • Blog 2 times per week. On track so far.

What about you? What’s your daily or weekly writing goal? How did you choose this number? What’s your natural writing pace or schedule?

And how are your goals for the week coming along?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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The Promise of Spring & ROW80 Check-In

Has spring arrived in your neck of the woods yet? Here, the daffodils are in full bloom and the buds are bursting on the trees.

Spring holds the promise of renewal and rebirth, of transformation and new beginnings. And with that promise comes a sense of connection to the world around us, and to the inner self that is called to the world’s magic the way a seedling is coaxed out of the ground by sunshine and spring rain.

In honor of the promise of spring, here’s a lovely little tune I’d like to share, “Bird Song,” by The Wailin’ Jennys. A sample of the lyrics is below. Enjoy, and happy spring.

 

I smell the flowers blooming, opening for spring
I’d like to be those flowers, open to everything

I feel the seasons change, the leaves, the snow and sun
I’d like to be those seasons, made up and undone

I taste the living earth, the seeds that grow within
I’d like to be that earth, a home where life begins

–The Wailin’ Jennys, “Bird Song”

ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. I set this story aside for a while so I could get some distance, but I think I’m ready to return to it with a fresh perspective. Finish short story/novelette that I just started. Wrote 3,679 words in this project. I’m still working on a title.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic. On hold until I finish the short story I started. Planning on starting the second draft in May.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Currently reading “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Goal met for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, not for Monday or Friday.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met all days except Monday.
  • Blog 3 times a week with new blog schedule. Blogged twice this week. I’m thinking of changing this back to two times per week instead of three, since that schedule seemed to work better.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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3 Life Lessons from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. On the surface, it might seem like an action-packed show solely meant for entertainment. But it’s so much more than that. I believe that this show contains valuable lessons for our lives. Here are a few. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

1.) Never judge a book by its cover.

Joss Whedon is great at taking stereotypes and upending them. A cheerleader can be a vampire slayer. A vampire can have a soul. Buffy was as far from the flaky cheerleader stereotype as one could get—street-smart, clever, and kick-ass, she was a girl no vampire should want to tangle with.

Or take Cordelia, the head cheerleader slash “mean girl.” She ends up falling for Xander and playing a role in Buffy’s vampire-fighting gang—even if she never quite loses the urge to make snarky comments about everyone else’s wardrobe.

Everyone is complex. People can be strong and vulnerable, smart but naïve, silly but serious—we’re each many, many qualities rolled into one person. And Whedon’s work reminds us of that.

2.) “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” –Buffy

Have truer words ever been spoken? The world can be a scary place. Sometimes, even on the most peaceful of days, violence can break through and upend our lives. Uncertainty lies under every step we take.

But so does beauty. As I type this, I have a view of the deep-pink blush of buds on the maple tree outside my window. Maybe today I’ll spot a deer in the small stretch of woods behind my apartment. We can take pleasure in these simple things—a cup of tea, a deer pausing in mid-step, the pages of a much-loved book.

Yet we also have to challenge ourselves. Because Buffy was right. To live in this world requires bravery. We have to try things that scare us—even if what scares us is something that never makes the news. Maybe we want to go skydiving or bungee jumping—or maybe we simply want to try our hand at a new career or tackle an overwhelming project.

I remember the day that I told my boss I was leaving my job in university publications in order to write full-time. A voice inside told me it was silly to leave a job I liked to pursue writing. But I knew if I didn’t, Old Denise would regret it. I would regret the stories I’d never told, the characters I hadn’t meant, the road I hadn’t taken. So I took the plunge. It was a hard decision, but I’m glad I made it.

Was there ever something in your life that scared you but you knew you had to do it anyway? Have you ever moved toward something that frightened you?

3.) We all fight our own battles—but it helps to have back-up.

Buffy may have been the Chosen One, but that didn’t mean her ragtag group of friends didn’t have something to contribute. Giles supplied the wisdom and book-learning; Willow supplied the tech skills and later, the magic; Xander supplied the much-needed comic relief. We all have a role to play, and none of those roles is meaningless. We might not be fighting vampires or saving the world on a daily basis, but we can all help our friends, our family, and our community.

Are you a Buffy fan? If so, what lessons do you take away from this show? What is your favorite TV show, and what has it taught you about living in this world?

Lastly, a midweek ROW80 check-in…

ROW80Logocopy1.) Writing: Wrote 2,165 words in a short story. I’ve put revising on hold for the moment to do some work on this  new short story/novelette, so this goal is slightly revised. Instead of revising two WIPs, I’m going to finish this new one, then dig into revisions on the WIP I finished last round.

2.) Reading to hone my craft: Haven’t read any writing books this week, but I plan to start reading a new book later today. One of four writing books read for this round so far.

3.) Social media: Checked in on Twitter on Tuesday, but took Monday off to spend the day with hubby. Commented on 5 blog posts on Tuesday, none on Monday. On track with my blogging for this week.

What about you? What life lessons have you learned from your favorite TV shows? And how are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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Slow progress and ROW80 check-in

Writing seemed to be moving slowly this week, and I’m not sure why. I only revised two chapters, and only one of those involved major additions. The other chapter was just line editing to clean it up for critique. Since I’m one of those people whose self-worth is tied up in how productive I am (if I’m being honest), I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get more done. But last week is over and there’s always the upcoming week to push myself harder.

Revising is always more difficult for me than writing a first draft. I’m not sure I’ve cracked the secret yet, but hopefully I will this year.

The heart of the problem is this: When I envisioned myself writing full time, I imagined sitting at the keyboard eight hours per day, regularly hammering out thousands of words on a daily basis. A few months in, I’m still trying to find my stride. In her most recent book, “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World,” Kristen Lamb notes that the pace for a professional writer is somewhere around 2K to 5K per day. I’m still building up my endurance to reach those levels, but I know I need to get there. More than that, I know I can get there.

original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons

original image by Myndi Shafer, accessed at WANA Commons.

What about you? What do you consider to be a good daily goal for a writer?

ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. No progress on this story this week. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to revise this manuscript yet, so I might revise this goal and select a different project to work on. This one might need to sit on the shelf a little while longer.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic. Revised chapters 4 and 5, sent to critique partners.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing.

  • Finished “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb. Highly recommend it.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Every day except Friday.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.
  • Blog 3 times a week. 2 out 3. (I didn’t blog on Friday.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

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Writing Exercise: 100 little ways to discover your authentic writing voice

Quick question: Have you spent a lot of time trying to discover your writing voice?

Another quick question: Does your writing voice reflect what you love?

On another blog post, I included a link to author Barbara Samuel’s voice worksheet. I was fortunate enough to attend her voice workshop at a conference a few years ago, and her approach to writing and discovering your voice stuck with me. One of the exercises included on the worksheet and in the workshop was to make a list of the things you love. Making this list, she reasoned, would help us to better understand our unique voice.

Exercise: 100 favorite things

A simple version of this exercise is to write a list of 10 things that you love. But I think 10 is too easy. Let’s make it 100. Sound overwhelming? I promise, once you get going, it’s much easier than you would think.

What are a few of your favorite things? (Image from Dreamstime.com)

What are a few of your favorite things?
(Image from Dreamstime.com)

Writers are, by definition, observers of the world and the human experience. We observe birth, death, relationships, love, loss, pain, joy, elation, laughter and sorrow, trial and triumph. Justice is done; hearts are broken. Winter freezes the landscape, and with spring comes the thaw. The things we love in this world are often those that we are most attuned to. And they often show up in our stories, whether we intend them to or not. They just seep out of us onto the page.

After you’ve made your list, examine it. How many of these things appear in your work? If the things on your list often appear in your stories, chances are, you’re writing what you love. And therein lies the secret to your writing voice.

The exercise in action

Here are a few things that made my list: robins’ eggs, the vibrant green of spring and summer, starlit nights, Earl Grey tea, fireplaces, fairy tales, cottages, trees, the scent of lavender, magic.

From this partial list, it’s easy to tell that nature is a strong influence in my life.

After I made my list, I turned to a manuscript I’d recently finished a draft of, and I wasn’t surprised to find that many of these things made a cameo appearance in my story—not all, but a fair number of them.

What makes your list? Maybe you’re in love with New York City. If so, have you written an urban fantasy or a gritty suspense set in the Big Apple? I’m not saying every story needs to be set in New York, New York, but why not allow your love for that city to shine through in your work? If your story needs to be set, say, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, maybe one of your characters is a transplant and notices how different this locale is from where they grew up in Brooklyn.

Once you have your list—tell me, was it as difficult to come up with 100 things you love as you though it would be?—compare it to one of your manuscripts. What are ways you could make the story sing with this newfound knowledge of your heart’s delight? In what ways does that voice shine through already?

Take, for example, this sentence from my manuscript: Relief bobbed inside her like a harvest apple.

I should note that the main character is a witch, so this sentence, in her point of view, suits her as a character, just as it suits me as a writer. The image is unique, to the character and to the story. It’s not just relief bobbing inside of her, but like an apple—and not just any apple, but a harvest apple.

Now, voice is made up of many things, but one of the key aspects is what we choose to observe in the world. The sentence above could’ve been written in any number of ways, but I wrote it using my unique voice.

Can you identify 10 specific examples in your story where the things you love help create the voice?

Now, can you identify 10 more?

Having a unique, authentic voice is part of what helps a reader connect to a story. Some writers with voices that I love include Sarah Addison Allen (Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen), Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic, The Ice Queen), Yasmine Galenorn (Witchling, Changeling),and Jane Austen—among others. Given that magic, nature, and fairy tales made my list of things I love, the fact that these writers’ voices speak to me isn’t surprising.

I challenge you to look back through one of your manuscripts and compare the imagery, the details and descriptions, the characters, the setting, and the overall word choice to your list of 100 things. Hopefully, you’re pleasantly surprised.

Midweek ROW80 check-in

1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. No progress, since I was focused on other WIP.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic. Revised chapters 4 and 5. Going to send those off to CPs today or tomorrow.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Currently reading “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital Age” by Kristen Lamb.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. On track.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. So far, so good.
  • Blog 3 times a week with new blog schedule—Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. ROW80 check-ins will be included. So far, so good.

***

Now, tell me: What sorts of things made your list? Did you find some of these things in your story? What surprised you about this exercise? Which authors have voices that you just can’t get enough of?

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Down payment on a dream & Round 2 ROW80 goals

ROW80Logocopy2014 is shaping up to be a very goal-driven year for my husband and me. Last year, I left my day job in publications to write full-time, and I’m more determined than ever to be the best writer I can be and get my stories onto the page and then, one day, out into the world.

We’re also saving for our dreams—to buy a home, to visit a place we’ve always dreamt of seeing, and to be able to retire one day. Writing full-time meant sacrificing my former steady paycheck, but it’s an investment in the life I hope to build. Thankfully, my husband fully supports my efforts, for which I’m forever grateful. Storytelling is a calling, and one I couldn’t put on hold any longer.

So, to save up for a home, we’ve made sacrifices. We went from being a two-car family to only having one car, saving on maintenance, gas, insurance, and repairs. We try to stretch our grocery budget as far as we can, and we’re downsizing to a smaller apartment when our lease is up this summer. We’re striving to live as simply and as frugally as possible. We’re making progress, but I’m also trying to learn some patience. Whether it’s making progress in our writing careers or saving up a large sum, these things don’t happen overnight.

Finally, here are my goals for the second round of ROW80:

1.) Writing:

  • Work on revising Made of Shadows, a paranormal romance novel. I set this story aside for a while so I could get some distance, but I think I’m ready to return to it with a fresh perspective.
  • Finish the second draft of the novella I finished in Round 1, Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.

2.) Read 4 books on the craft/business of writing. Currently reading “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb.

3.) Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily.
  • Comment on 3-5 blogs per day, Monday-Thursday.
  • Blog 3 times a week with new blog schedule—Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

***

Have you ever saved up for a major goal, such as buying a home or taking a dream vacation? (For us, the short list right now is Hawaii, France, and Ireland.) What were you willing to sacrifice to reach your goal?

What are your goals for the coming months—writing or otherwise?

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Tia Bach cover reveal, “Chasing Shadows”

Today, I’m handing the blog reins over to Tia Bach, for a cover reveal of her book Chasing Shadows. Without further ado, here is the cover reveal (lovely, isn’t it?) and the details:

Chasing_Shadows_Final_SFW

About Chasing Shadows (Tala Prophecy, Book 2)

Reagan thought one night changed her life forever, but her fate was written long ago.

Merging creature and white blood,
One of flame, one of night,
At eighteen years it will commence,
Spiritual warrior and power,
Will bring an end to the lawless ones.

A war looms: One that pits brother against brother for werewolf supremacy. Angels and demons will each have a say before a victor is chosen.

With her eighteenth birthday only six months away, time is running out. Reagan must find a way to harness the two powerful, ancient bloodlines coursing through her: Werewolf and Wiccan. Then, she has to figure out her role in the century-old prophecy foretold by her great-grandmother.

However, if Reagan can’t save her family from her most vicious rival, Rafe, the forces of Hell will be unleashed and the war will be over before it starts.

BookCover_Chasing_Shadows_Tia_Bach_SFW_RevealFile

Add Chasing Shadows on GoodReads.
Cover Design by Jo Michaels.

About the Author

Chasing Memories Tia author picTia Silverthorne Bach is an avid reader, sometimes runner, involved wife and mother, and rabid grammar hound in addition to being a multi-genre writer. Her three daughters were born in Chicago, San Diego, and Baltimore; and she feels fortunate to have called many places home.

She’s the award-winning co-author of Depression Cookies, a coming of age story written with her mother. Tia’s office is wherever her laptop takes her and any place that’s conducive to allowing a wild imagination like hers to flourish.

Connect with Tia
Website: www.tiabach.com
Blog: http://depressioncookies.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tia.bach.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tia_Bach_Author
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/TiaBach

Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Have a great day. :)