Posted in writing advice

Writing at the Holidays: Keeping Momentum Going

The holiday season is here again. Bakers are baking. Shoppers are shopping. And writers, well, we are having an existential crisis.

Writing during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is hard. It’s easy to fall behind. So how do you keep things going when everything else is calling your name? There is no one answer, but here are a few things I’ve tried in the past to keep moving forward without losing what is left of my sanity.

  • Schedule Writing Time

I know I’ve discussed scheduling time before, but it is even more important during the holidays. It doesn’t matter how long it is. Maybe it’s 15 minutes right before bed or 5 minutes while you’re waiting in the school pick-up line. Even if it is only a few minutes, the work you get done adds up. It is better to do a small amount of work than lose all the momentum you worked so hard to gain.

  • Set Smaller Goals

You will not be able to get as much done as you usually do without losing your mind. It’s not going to happen. So, pull back on those lofty goals for a minute and set something a little more reasonable. Try cutting your goals in half, or even a third, until the Season of Giving stops trying to give you a migraine.

  • Give Yourself Permission to Take a Break

Okay. I know this is supposed to be about how to keep writing during the holidays but hear me out. Overly stressed people produce lower-quality work. While being Super Writer may make you feel more accomplished now, future you will pay for it. They will have to do twice as much editing. They may even burn out altogether. Let yourself say enough is enough and stop if you need to. Protecting your mental health and well-being will make you a better writer in the long run. Trust me.  

The holidays are crazy. Don’t be afraid to make some adjustments to take care of yourself and keep what is really important in front of you. . . your loved ones.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Posted in writing advice

The Power of the Skinny Draft

 There are a thousand ways to draft a novel. They can be broken down by scene, chapter, character. The list goes on. They can be told in order or have scenes shuffled around like a deck of cards. A method I’ve learned about more recently is the skinny draft. A skinny draft is a complete draft that focuses on placing the plot elements in the correct order with minimum description. It can contain dialog and locations, but describing the setting and emotion is left at a bare minimum.

I know what you’re about to say. Erin, aren’t we supposed to use description and emotion in our stories? Of course we are. Those are the things that bring a story to life, but that doesn’t mean you have to have every possible detail in your first draft.

A skinny draft is designed to get you to a completed draft as quickly as possible. A lot of writers struggle with feeling discouraged because of the time it takes to complete their first draft. This method shortens that time and gives you a little shot of dopamine to help you stay motivated.

Another benefit of the skinny draft is the ability to learn more about your characters

and plot without having to sort through a massive word count. This can be doubly important for discovery writers or pantsers. Answering the “what happens next?” question can eliminate the need for as many drafts because the plot is solidified much faster.

While skinny drafts can keep you from writing a bunch of words that end up in the trash can, it is not a method that works for everyone.

I used the skinny draft method on my current WIP. It helped me identify issues a lot quicker, but I found that the overall process is going a lot slower for me.

I am an over-writer by nature. (Remember my friend’s wordy bitch comment?) My style tends to include a lot of fluff that must be cut later, but that is also how I learn more about my characters. It is much easier for me to take stuff out than put it in. Without those details early on, I don’t feel as connected to my characters. This makes it harder for me to keep working on it because I’m not as invested in their journey.

 Regardless of your method, ensuring you get to the end is the most important part.

 How do you do your first draft? Have you tried using a skinny draft? What method works best for you?

Posted in writer life, writing advice

Giving Up vs Getting Smart

I think we’ve all heard the phrase “don’t be a quitter” at some point in our lives. Giving up has this negative connotation attached to it that I tend to agree with. Throwing your hands up in the air and saying “ta hell with it” because something is difficult is never the way to go. But what if you want to explore another path to the same destination?

That’s what I ran into with NaNoWriMo this year. The traditional goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I decided to go non-traditional and set a goal of finishing my first round of rewrites on the manuscript I won NaNo with last year.

It was going to be a heavy lift. I had to remove a POV, add a subplot, and fix a litany of general storytelling issues. The plan was to take the detailed notes I’d compiled during the drafting process and edit as I went. I knew the story well enough to start at the top and make the needed changes as I read through it. At least, that’s what I thought.

A week and a half into NaNo, I realized I was creating more problems than I was fixing. So I had two options; press on to win NaNo and fix it all later, or stop and take everything back to outline to get it right the first time.

I’m very goal-driven. The thought of not reaching a goal is crushing to me, so the idea that I wouldn’t win NaNo was devastating. I reached out to a fellow author friend of mine for advice, and they pointed something out to me. The only reason I was hesitating was NaNo. Not getting through the first rewrite in November wouldn’t impact my publishing timeline. In fact, forcing myself to keep going could do more harm than good because of the additional rounds of self-editing I would need. I wasn’t giving up; I was getting smart.

They were right. Not reaching my goal, while unpleasant, didn’t mean I was a quitter. It meant I was learning more about my writing process and what works best. 

I learned that pantsing of any variety doesn’t work for me. Stopping a process that is not working in favor of a new one, does not mean you quit. It means you learned and adapted. As long as I keep working on my manuscript, I’m not a failure.

Changing course is not giving up. It’s allowing yourself to find the most direct route to your ultimate goal.