It’s time for my annual round-up of ‘most popular posts’. I have a few categories this year, including posts for readers and posts for authors, but I’m starting with posts about writing because, well, I know how much my community loves them.
So here, in descending order from 10-1, are my top 10 posts about writing for 2017.
10. Some books are harder to write than others: 7 tips for getting to The End
A terrific guest post from author Allison Rushby about finishing a manuscript
9. 6 tips for getting back into the swing with your writing
How to start writing again after a break
8. 3 ways to make yourself write when you really don’t want to (but absolutely have to)
Winning the title of longest blog post headline of the year, this guest post from author R.E. Devine really hit a chord!
7. How to edit your own writing: 5 top tips from an editor
In which professional editor Nicola O’Shea shares her thoughts on how to wrangle a manuscript edit
6. How to get the words written: 10 tips for writers
Answering the number one question I am asked by aspiring authors: ‘How do I get the words written?’
5. What publishers really want (in their own words)
A rundown of seven podcast interviews with publishers – a great way to hear exactly what publishers are looking for, from the horse’s mouth.
4. Six reasons you should start writing your novel now
This remains one of my perennially popular posts – read it and get started!
3. How to edit your own writing: 5 top tips from a writer
In which I share my thoughts on how to wrangle a manuscript edit
2. How to tell when your writing is ‘good enough’
I asked nine Australian authors for their answers to this perplexing question
1. 5 Brilliant Things You Can Do For Your Writing in 2017
The really brilliant thing about this post is that these are all totally brilliant things that you can also do for your writing in 2018!
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.
Would you love more writing tips and advice? Check out my book So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), co-authored with Valerie Khoo and based on our top-rating podcast.
Buy it here!
If you were part of my most recent #writeabookwithal challenge, you might be familiar with the name Ruth Devine. Ruth, aka R.E. Devine, faithfully checked in each day on Facebook with word counts of 3000 or 4000, leaving the rest of us in awe.
When I asked Ruth about the secret behind her super-productivity, she whispered a word that I understand very well: deadline. You see, R.E. Devine has a new six-book middle-grade series and Ruth was very, very busy finishing the last few books.
How does she do it? Well, I asked her to write us a post on that very thing.
Take it away, Ruth.
Sometimes I have a Bad Brain Day (BBD). I think most writers do. These are the days when no matter how much you know you should be writing and no matter how close your deadline, your brain (without so much as a polite warning) waves a white flag and says, ‘Not today thank you VERY much.’ Then it shuts up shop and heads off for a snooze. So rude.
When this happens it’s easy to sit staring at a computer screen or a blank sheet of paper for hours while achieving absolutely nothing. No words. Nada. A big fat zero. Word counts do not increase, heart rates do. And the more panic sets in, the less likely you are to be able to write.
However, there are a few tried and tested ways to jumpstart your synapses so that words begin to flow once more. They are tried and tested because I have put all of them to good (frequent) use when fear and panic have forced me into finding a solution to my BBD. These are the three that work for me.
- Set an alarm
This is based on what’s known as the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo, it breaks down periods of work into manageable chunks of 25 minutes with short breaks in between. Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer hence the name (pomodoro = Italian for tomato).
I use the timer on my oven because I can hear it from my study and its annoying bleep means I have to get up to turn it off which gives me the chance to stretch, and maybe go wild and switch the kettle on for a cup of tea. These short breaks are important so don’t skip them.
I do 30-minute stretches of time because I like to round things up. Bear with me, it’s just the way my neurotic brain is wired.
In that time I can get about 500 words written because 30 minutes is totally doable, right? Nor do I restrict myself at first to the writing I am supposed to be doing. I might jot down a letter, a limerick or even a list. Other times, I write the part I fancy writing, not the part I’ve got up to. Just by doing this, it seems to short-circuit whatever is holding me back from getting on with the task ahead. No matter if I scrap 400 of those words later, because I’ll still have ended up with 100 more words than I started with. Result!
Using the alarm on my phone provides proximity to too much distraction so for that reason, I leave it outside my study. I also use an app called Self-Control (though there are lots of similar ones) that blocks access for a set period of time to social media and the websites I most frequently trawl.
I’ve only ever had to repeat the timer-write-break routine twice before getting into the zone and the project I’ve been putting off. This really works.
- Mix it up
And by ‘it’ I mean where you are writing and what you are writing with.
I usually work at my desk but if I’m struggling, then I’ll take myself away and give it a go elsewhere. I try the dining table, the garden or maybe the local reserve. In short, anywhere but my study. NOT the lounge room however because ooh, TV! and NOT the bedroom because ooh, bed! Zzzzz. This simple act of changing where I am trying to work seems to help me actually start writing.
Likewise with the tools I use. I write in a Word document on my laptop but I’ve learnt that I can’t untangle knotty plot twists on a computer. I have to use a basic spiral notebook and a variety of coloured gel pens. That’s just me but the point is that mixing up what your brain knows you usually do hoodwinks it into withdrawing the white flag and getting you back to work.
- Write first lines, last lines
When I was studying to be a journalist back in ooh, 1843 when the world was in black and white and we did not – GASP! – even have email, I remember being taught the importance of the first line and last line of any piece of writing. What are the words that will hook a reader in and what are those that will stay with a reader afterwards?
Now, if I’m having a BBD, I look at the basic outline of my story, chunk it out into rough chapters and then write the first and last lines of each of those. No matter if they change later, they help define my start and my finish. All I have to do then is fill in the words in between! It’s a mini map with which my brain can cope when it’s feeling fragile and a method that helps bring me back from looking at the big picture when the big picture is overwhelming.
One final tip…
Just start. Don’t think about it. Turn on your computer or pick up a pen. No matter if you don’t think it’s good enough, you’ll have begun.
Ruth Devine is the author of the children’s adventure series, The Chronicles of Jack McCool. Book one, The Amulet of Athlone, is in the shops now. Find out more at jackmccool.com.
I’m visiting the gorgeous Pip Lincolne from Meet Me At Mike’s today, sharing my 5 secrets of being creative when you have NO time.
Whether you’re a writer or a painter, a knitter or a sculptor, a musician or an artist of any kind, making time in a busy life for your various creative projects can be challenging.
I’ve talked many times here about the importance of not waiting to begin, of accepting that writing is ‘inconvenient’ (and doing it anyway) and about how routine and structure, while deeply unsexy, are at the heart of creative productivity.
In this post for Pip, I’m simply extrapolating those thoughts into strategies for any creative pursuit. Click here to take a look.
As incentive, Pip has an amazingly creative blog and website of her own, and is also offering you the chance to WIN a signed copy of The Book Of Secrets (Ateban Cipher #1), which is the latest product of my own creative pursuits!
Well, here we are. The first day of spring. The start of a new season. The Book Of Secrets is out this month (go here for your invite to my launch)!
And it’s a full 31 days since #writeabookwithal began on the first of August.
So how am I travelling? Well, I start the new month with 15,900 words of a new manuscript. It’s perhaps not as many has I’d hoped for, but it’s been a very busy month, what with Book Week and the promotion work for The Book Of Secrets starting to ramp up. So an average of around 500 words a day is okay by me.
I am going to continue writing this month, but I’ll retire the #writeabookwithal hashtag and updates for the time being, simply because a deadline is causing me to switch projects and start something different as well. So I suspect my writing will be all over the place for the next few months as I switch back and forth.
Having said that, I’ll check in with the hashtag on Twitter regularly, so connect with me there.
And let’s all give some thought to planning anew for NaNoWriMo on 1 November.
How did you get on with your manuscript in August?
PS: Don’t forget about my giveaway – you have until 11 September to sign up for my newsletter to be in the running!
Are you writing a novel, for children or for adults? Or would you like to be writing one? Why not do it with me?
Despite the fact that I thought I wasn’t going to be undertaking any #writeabookwithAl writing challenges until NaNoWriMo on 1 November, it seems that fate has other ideas.
Actually, my dear friend Anna Spargo-Ryan has other ideas.
Anna is working on a new manuscript, which will no doubt be as brilliant as her latest release The Gulf, but is struggling with accountability. So we had a chat, and, somehow, here we are again, beginning on 1 August 2017.
The way #writeabookwithAl works is simple: I write a book (which I really need to do anyway) and you write along with me. I post my word counts each day – and, trust me, they range from zero to thousands (and yours will, too), and you let me know how you’re getting on.
There’s no deadline for this one, simply because I know what my next month or two looks like, but I’ll be aiming for six weeks or so for 50,000 words (and I will not beat myself up if it takes longer – and neither will you).
We have a hashtag (because if there’s no hashtag did it really happen?) and the absolute best place for you to get involved is here on my Facebook page, because that’s where I tend to be, late at night, with my word counts.
In the past, #writeabookwithal has been a terrific community event, with a large group of writers supporting each other, and I hope this time around will be no different. Keep an eye out for #500in30 prompts on Twitter (I’m here and Anna is here) and other challenges to keep your manuscript growing.
If you’ve done my Creative Writing 30-Day Bootcamp, you’ll know the power of accountability (and if you haven’t done it, feel free to do it alongside #writebookwithal to supercharge the 10,000-word goal!).
If you’re wondering how you can possibly make time to take part, check out my Make Time To Write online course here.
So, sharpen your pencils, fire up your computers and do whatever you need to do between now and 1 August to join in.
I’ll be working on a brand new A.L. Tait manuscript. With four books now published in The Mapmaker Chronicles series, and with The Book Of Secrets, the first book in my new Ateban Cipher series coming on 12 September (book #2 in March 2018), it’s time for me to think about what A.L. Tait does next.
I’ve done the research and written the first few thousand words. I’m excited!
Will you join me? What will you be writing?