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sk lamont Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure Giveaway

Do You Write Organically? Story Trumps Structure – Giveaway!

sk lamont Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure Giveaway

Do you write organically or do you plot out your novels? I don’t think there is only one way to write. Different writers choose different paths, and the main question to ask is, what works best for you?

We must each find our own path.

I really wanted to be a plotter. I mean really. I bought books and their accompanying workbooks. Downloaded seminars, audio books, and software for my computer. Then tried to get my ideas to behave themselves, and allow me to organize them into the nice tidy outline had planned for them.

Did it work?

In one word … No!

Not for me, which, to be honest was a bit surprising, I can be a scatter brain, but I also like to follow rules a lot. Especially formulaic rules. I like a nice tidy path to follow, with step-by-step instructions, to make sure I’m getting it right.

A side note on rule breaking – I’m also a bit of a rebel. I like to break the rules too, especially if they’re authoritative, and I love to follow my own path. But, the security of a rule book is a nice addition, so that I don’t get lost.

Breaking The Rules

I’m also a bit OCD: I like to line up my pens, coordinate my sticky notes, and color code everything. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that outlining was not the vehicle for me–at all!

No matter how hard I tried to force my wild and crazy ideas into the box of outlining, the more they refused to communicate. In fact my imaginative ideas dried up completely, and sat in the corner like a glowered faced five-year-old with arms folded refusing to communicate.

Reading Books on Writing

Reading books on writing is very important aspect of improving our craft. We should be like sponges, and devourers of information to become masters of our trade. But, book after book I read kept talking about outlining and all its merits, and referred to pantsing as if it were some dirty little secret. Pantsing, if you don’t know, is the idea of writing without an outline, also known as flying by the seat of your pants.

Set Your Imagination Free

Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure GiveawayAs much as I didn’t want to be a pantser, I thought I would give it a whirl–never say never, right? And, I was surprised by the results! I was truly astonished as my imagination was set alight. My little storytelling five-year-old loved it, she wouldn’t shut up. It was all I could do to keep up with her, as story after story poured out of me and onto the paper.

I believe it’s worth giving your imagination the freedom to fly. You jump off the cliff and see what happens.

No matter what kind of writer you are, you should fill yourself up to the brim with great resources. Have a thirst for knowledge. Even if you’re a pantser you should still know how to outline–at least in theory. You gotta know the rules so that you can break them, well. Read books on how to write, listen to audio books, go to seminars, drink it all in.

Fire Up Your Imagination

If you are a storyteller then read great stories that inspire you. Read what you love. Watch copious amounts of movies. If you watch movies then you already know how story works, it’s innate–it’s in you!

I read a great book at the beginning of last year called Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. In his book he talks about a style of writing he calls organic writing. Here are some of his ideas:

I would rather …

  • Write a story than plot one.
  • Tell a story than outline one.
  • Follow the narrative than follow a formula.
  • Pursue a process that allows for surprises.
  • Save time.
  • Live in the joy of discovery rather than fill in the blanks.

I also listened to one of his seminars online, through Writer’s Digest, and I picked out this idea of his:

“Art requires trust – Fear will always drive you back to an outline.” – Steven James

There are lots of arguments for and against writing organically. But, I did enjoy his book immensely, so I thought I would give away a copy to one lucky reader in this week’s post. Please feel free to fill out the rafflecopter below.

To Enter

Use the Rafflecopter widget below!

      • You get an entry for every item you complete in the Rafflecopter widget (up to eight entries!)
      • You can also come back once a day and ‘tweet about the giveaway’ (for extra entries!).
      • You also get two entries, if you leave a comment!
      • If you already follow or friend any of the items listed, please help yourself to free entries in the Rafflecopter! Just click the appropriate checkbox in the widget.
      • You must have a US postal address to enter.
      • The winner will be announced here March 22nd, the winner will also be contacted by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run till March 21st at midnight (EST).

What are your thoughts?

I would love to know what you think! What have you found to be your best methods for getting a story down on paper? Are you are plotter or a pantser? Or are you still trying to figure out what works for you? Do you believe we are innate storytellers? Or, do we need someone to show us what story looks like?

sk lamont Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure Giveaway

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What kind of writer are you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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Fearless Writing – How I Write with Wild Abandon

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your characters

Do You Use All Five Senses – Do Your Characters?

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your charactersThis week I’m looking into the idea of fully inhabiting our bodies as a way to deepen the experience readers have with our characters. And, maybe in the process this will allow you to inhabit your body, even more fully. So that you too can appreciate the subtleties of life that you may possibly be missing out on.

There is a lot that can delight our senses if we deepen our awareness.

So first ask yourself a few questions:

Do you live fully in your body?
Do you use the full range of your senses?
Do you experience all of your senses on a regular basis, at a conscious level?
Do your characters?

For some this is easier than it is for others.

Some people are a lot more cerebrally driven, than sensory driven. Which means they tend to be pretty focused and get things done, which is great! But at the same time, this may mean that they miss out on a lot of the little pleasures in life that surround us on a daily basis.

Usually what is required to access all this extra information that our brain has managed to delete as unimportant, is an awakening with ourselves—allowing us to be completely grounded and centered in our body. A lot of people walk around not really connected to their body, or some are but only a little.

Others have a heightened body awareness, they are aware of where their limbs are in time and space the majority of the time, they feel the clothes against their skin and sense changes in the environment easily.

So what you might say—what has this got to do with me? For one, the more grounded in your body you are, the more you will experience the fullness of life. And two, if you are a writer, it’s going to help you get inside your characters skin—to breath life into them fully and see the world through their eyes.

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your characters

Make Your Characters Come Alive

If you inhabit your skin well, then it will be much easier to jump into your characters bodies, and experiences life through their eyes and all of their senses. You will breath life into your scenes when you can step into them fully, clothed in your character skin, and experience the world you have created through their eyes.

Connect to Your Characters Environment

Breath in the air and describe it. Marvel at the nuances—the yellow kettle in the corner puffing steam gently into the room. The brilliant greens in a blade of grass at a significant moment. Also pay attention to pain and when the stakes are high, usually our senses sharpen and come into tight focus. We start to notice things that were insignificant moments before—time slows down and we actually start to see and feel what surrounds us in minute detail.

Switch on Your Senses

But this can apply anytime too, we don’t need a trigger like pain to switch us on—to make us come alive. Anytime we want we can step into this moment and feel, taste, smell, hear and see.

The benefits of characters who feel

When your characters fully notice and engage with their surroundings, your readers will too! Thus deepening your reader’s experience. Taste the air, take a deep breath, smell the sweetness or foulness that lingers there. What do you notice?

A Super Power

Do You Use All Five Senses - Do Your Characters

The way to learn this super power, and yes I consider it a super power—I know I’m weird—is to start noticing your environment on a much deeper level. Sound is a miraculous and underutilized sense. An interesting exercise is to open a window and listen to what you hear outside, do you hear birds singing, cars driving past, kids playing, what else do you hear, listen deeply. The same with music, listen to a complex piece of music that you know well—then listen deeper, depending on the music, you might hear a whole other level or layers of instruments that you never noticed before—then press closer.

Pay attention to your skin, what do you feel? Notice the surface you’re resting against, is it rough or soft? Smooth or hard? Where are you clothes touching you? Where do they squeeze or pinch? Where do they feel comfortable? Pick up a drink, feel the weight of the cup in you hand. Is it warm or cold? Touch the cup to you lips, what do you taste? Breath in. When you’re brushing your teeth, really brush them, consciously notice the bristles against you teeth how does it feel, taste the toothpaste, engage and then go deeper.

Now take your new super power and slip into your character’s skin. What does it feel like to be in their body? How do their senses interpret the world you have created around them? What does he/she feel, see, taste, smell or hear? What’s it like to experience your character in this way?

Do you have a favorite sense?

Does one of your senses dominate over another? Do you tend to experience life visually, audibly, through touch? What about in your writing? Do you tend to focus more fully on one sense? Would developing your character’s other senses give your reader a fuller experience?

What are you thoughts?

I’d love to know what you think! Do you inhabit your body? Do your characters? Do you consider yourself pretty well versed in this department, or could you grow? What tips and tricks do you have for living in a body, or for slipping into your character’s bodies?

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your characters

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Who are you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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Do Your Characters Wear Masks — Do You?

sk lamont Gathering my Goals - Getting Ready for the New Year

Gathering my Writing Goals– Getting Ready for the New Year

sk lamont Gathering my Writing Goals - Getting Ready for the New Year Gathering my Writing Goals – Getting Ready for the New Year!

Being a former life coach has its advantages, it means I have the tools and strategies at hand to help me plan out my writing life and get it done! This week I’m sharing how I get ready to make the best use of my time in 2016, but gently does it now, the next two weeks are a time of preparation, or as I like to call it Goal Gathering Time.

Over the next two weeks I tune in to my inner life and listen closely.

Questioning my life

I like to ask the following questions:
What do I truly want?
Am I being congruent?
Is this the life I truly want to live?
How would I like to spend my days?
How can I live out my true authentic self?

Just because I’ve set a goal at some point in the past, does not mean it is still in alignment with what I truly desire today. So I like to take this time, to check in with myself and make sure I’m headed in the right direction. It’s easy to get off track and start pursuing something that once fulfilled you and no longer does. Or maybe you come to the realization that thing you thought you wanted no longer fulfills you, but it helped reveal a deeper part of yourself and now you know more of what you desire.

Hone your desire

What do I truly desire now?

When am I most at peace, most relaxed, most excited?
When do I feel truly alive?
Am I living my passion?
How can I bring more of that into my life?
What would it look like, sound like, taste like?

What do I want my life to look like?

I close my eyes and I imagine the perfect day

What would I be doing?
What is most important to me?
Am I spending time on what I say is more important, or do I let other tasks, get in the way?

Then I start gathering ideas and goals over the coming weeks, as I reflect on that vision, of living my life on purpose.

While most people are winding down for the holidays, I like to gather ideas and goals for the new year.

sk lamont Gathering my Writing Goals - Getting Ready for the New YearWhat new things would I like to see in my life or what I would like to maintain? I also reflect on my life currently- what could I have done better, how am I missing the mark? I start thinking of ways that can improve. I begin three lists, I put them in my phone or journal and start adding to them in the coming weeks.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

~ Benjamin Franklin

Between now and Christmas I gently start to collect thoughts and ideas for the new year. What I would like to see, or be, or continue, or bring in new?

 I add these goals and ideas to the following lists:

  • Add new
  • Maintain
  • Improve

My Writing Life

When it comes to my writing life specifically, I ask, what could I add to my life to make me a better writer?

Before getting into this, I would like to add a side note on the life wheel, this is a tool that is used in coaching to create a balanced life. I may in the coming weeks explore this a little deeper in a more holistic way, but for now suffice to say, that if the wheel is not balanced your life will feel ‘out of whack’ in some way or other. So even though I am focusing on writing, it is important to remember that writing may feel like our all, but we can’t make it our all, or in the end our writing will actually suffer, if our life is not more balanced.

It’s important for a writer to get out and live~

The following quote I think, sums up what I’m trying to say beautifully:

“In order to write about life first you must live it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Gathering my Writing Goals Getting Ready for the New YearThe Writer’s Life Wheel

Big Picture vs Little Picture

Big Picture

Contributes globally to my life, but at the same time enhances my writing, giving me more energy and inspiration to bring to my writing.

Here’s a glimpse of some things on my list:

Get on my pottery wheel and throw pots
Dance
Exercise
Spend more time hugging and playing with my kids.
Research inspirational trips, where do I want to go this year-
– Maine
– Biltmore Estate
– Castles
– Turquoise Oceans

Little Picture

Enhances my writing life directly and obviously.

What do I want to learn?
How to write a series
Deepen characters
Books I want to read

I start collecting like a little squirrel for the bigger work that comes the week after Christmas. This is when I like to plan my next year in full, for now I like to keep this stage of gathering light and have fun with it. I have done this process since I became a coach back in 2000, this will be my 15th year of gathering. I love this time of year, so exciting, so full of promise. In the coming weeks I will be collecting and hiding away ideas, for ‘goal-setting’ week, where I’ll start setting down some hard deadlines.

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What are some of the things you hope to achieve in 2016? How do you hold yourself accountable? What fun ways to do you add another layer of learning into your life? Or what areas do you know you need to improve in? I’d love to know, please share in the comments box below.

What are your goals?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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Confessions of a Pantser – Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

sk lamont All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy - What Do You Do to Relax?

All Work and No Play – What Do You Do to Relax?

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy – What Do You Do to Relax?

sk lamont All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy - What Do You Do to Relax?I felt myself turning into to Jack Nicholson from The Shining this week. As a dark cloud of insanity engulfed me, I had visions of Jack sitting behind his typewriter in that huge great room typing “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again. I knew then it was time to pull the plug.

Staring at my screen in my own Overlook Hotel, getting angrier and angrier, I knew I had to stop.

Working Hard This Year

I’ve been working hard this year, probably harder than I have any year, and just like Jack Torrance who thought it would be great to go to the Overlook Hotel and write his book, as I sat and began my sixth 1st draft manuscript this year, rolling that first sheet of paper into my virtual typewriter, I felt the big black crow of insanity alight on my shoulder.

After a couple of days of typing away on my latest draft, the kids playing in the next room. the Christmas tree was running into its own problems of being erected. I just knew I had to slam on the breaks and do something radical, which wasn’t easy. You see, I’m an all or nothing kinda gal. I’m either all in or all out, I don’t really do the grey area in the middle. It’s hard for me, I loose focus all too easy if don’t commit fully and give it all I’ve got. It has its advantages. If I set my mind to something I can usually make it happen, but it comes at a price, and that is that I shut everything else out of my world till I complete my task. But if I don’t stop and have fun and schedule in play dates for myself, my once fun work can get the better of me and I start becoming dull. And I know with my writing if I don’t take a break in-between projects I end up looking like this:

sk lamont All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy - What Do You Do to Relax?So I pried my gnarled fingers away from my iMac, iPad and iPhone, I had to shut it all off at least for one whole day and sever the cord that kept dragging my back to do the next writing related task.

Writing Related Tasks:

Writing my 2,000 words a day
Editing a manuscript
Reading the next book on writing
SEOing my site
Coming up with the next blog post
Checking social media

As much as I love this stuff normally, I knew I had to take a break and have some fun. I told my husband how I was feeling and he asked me when was the last time I danced? Hmmmm probably over a week ago, I thought. Then thoughts of Christmas loomed over me knowing that I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming weeks, so that Santa can show up for our five kids! I was starting to crumble under the pressure of it all.

Time to Relax

Not wanting to just swap one task for another, I decided to set up my pottery wheel in the garage that’s been collecting dust for months, and at least set down my writing for four days to give my creative self a different outlet!

sk lamont All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy - What Do You Do to Relax?As I sat behind my potter’s wheel and felt the clay begin to mold beneath my fingers, I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy at first. As I wrangled with that mud, trying to center it, doubt started to creep in around the edges. As I wrestled with the clay in front of me and the idea of getting back to my real work. I kept coming back to it day after day, and eventually I started to sneak glimpses of the peace I was seeking. When the clay finally complied and slipped through my fingers effortlessly, I let out a long low sigh as my wheel began to sing to me. Relaxation seeped in and the pressure began to ease.

I have decided to take my foot of the gas a little, to allow space for my other creative pursuits that feed my soul in different ways. This ultimately can only help my writing, so that I can bring a more playful and creative spirit back to the page. And I definitely know I have to take breaks between drafts. I already had this as one of my writing rules knowing that I need a break between projects, but I broke it anyway, knowing I had one more draft to complete by December 31st. That was a mistake, because instead of lessening the pressure I was feeling, it was only increasing. I still plan to ‘do my best’ and finish my manuscript, trusting that by taking a few days off, I will bring back my old fun-loving playful self and the work will be easier!

My goals for 2016 are going to look a little different, I plan to make sure there is more play and less work!

I would really love to hear from you this week, seriously, I need to! What do you do for fun? How do you change things up? What do you do to kick back and relax? What’s your work / play balance like?

I’d love to know, please share your stories, suggestions and ideas in the comment box below!

Oh and don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Serafina and the Black Cloak

What Do You Do to Relax?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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Why I Write

sk lamont Fearless Writing

Fearless Writing – How I Write with Wild Abandon

Fearless writing – How I Write with Wild Abandon

sk lamont Fearless Writing - How I Write with Wild AbandonOut of all the people that I’ve talk to about writing their book, finishing their book or even starting their book, the root cause that has slowed them down or even stopped them in their tracks completely, is fear. What will people think? What will my family think, my friends, an agent- fill in the blank.

The thing that stops them is worrying about what other people will think, or perfectionism which is just another form of fear- of not being good enough.

But the good news is, if you’re contemplating your first draft, you are a long way away from showing your work to another soul. But there are some important factors to consider, if you want to write fearless. The main thing to take into consideration is that this is your story, your property, and as such you need to protect it. Think of it as a tiny little sapling just starting to push its way out of the ground, at this stage in the game, you have three roles, protection, space to grow and sunlight.

1) Protection

Don’t talk about your Book

I am a firm believer in never talking about my work-in-progress, I keep it hidden away, JK Rowling has a great quote that I believe in 100%.

“I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead.”

~ J.K. Rowling

I have seen this so many times, where people talk about their work, share it with others and in the process squeeze the life out of it!

You’re not supposed to talk ‘about it’, you’re supposed to ‘write it’! By sharing it too early you’re allowing others to steal your books power and energy, and your passion to write it. It dissipates all the energy surrounding it. Give it only one outlet through your fingers. You want it bursting forth birthing on the page. Not giving it out to the world whilst it’s not even a newborn, so that people can prod and poke. “Eww, I don’t like its eyes, it’s legs are too short, I think it’d look better with blonde hair.” What are you doing? STOP, this is your precious little baby, its fragile and needs to be protected. Wait until it becomes strong, when you ‘know’ your story, then you can open the door to respectful criticism, until then don’t let anyone else steel your baby and run with it.

2) Space to grow

The secret place

This is also your time to get to know your little sacred baby, to coddle and coax it into existence. You’re dealing with something ethereal here, gossamer like an angels wing, so hold it delicately. Don’t show it to anyone until you know what that thing in you cupped protective hands is. There will come a day when it’s ready to fly out into the world and defend itself, until then you get to decide.

Here is the key to writing fearless, to writing with wild abandon. You write the truth that is whispered in your ear and nothing but the truth. You leave nothing off the page. You do not judge it, that comes after, right now this is a safe place. A place to pour blood, guts, sweat and tears onto the page. Hold back nothing, let everything out, knowing that this secret is safe with you. You are the gatekeeper of your work, when it comes time to review your work you decide what stays and what goes. But remember, if you are in your first draft, you’re a million miles away from showing your work, if you’re protecting it. So kick back, enjoy the journey and dive in, there is nothing more exciting than the thrill of letting it all out, there will come a time later when you judge, but now is not that time.

3) Let it see the light of day

Ship it!

Finally, and don’t let this scare you, but there will come a day when you have to decide if you want this work to enter the world. If and when you decide it’s time, then and only then, you must share your work. The No. 1 success factor is shipping, in other words getting it out the door, even if it’s imperfect. The chances of being published are a million times higher than the person with the near perfect manuscript sitting in their drawer, tweaking it to death, afraid to ever let it see the light of day.

sk lamont Fearless Writing - How I Write with Wild AbandonSo cherish your work whilst it’s all yours in the secret place, decide if you want it to leave the nest, then you can sit back and see if your baby can fly.

Until that day relax, you’re not there yet.

Enjoy this special secret time, one day it will be gone.

 

What are your thoughts? These thoughts, skills and techniques are my own, they are what work for me. So if you have strategies that work great for you, then awesome! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What are your thoughts?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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sk lamont writing in the storm

Writing in the Storm – How I get my Story Moving Again

Writing in the StormI love writing in the storm, only being able to see a few feet in front of me at a time, as the story takes shape behind the veil, capturing it as quickly as I can type, as it comes to me through the clouds.

This is the way I like to write, I have tried planning my stories out, but it just does not work for me.

Nothing thrills me more than setting off into the wilderness grasping an idea in one hand and a hope and a prayer in the other. I can consistently kick out two thousand words, six days a week, with little to no problems. I like to give my imagination a rest day, at the end of the week, after an intense week of writing.

It is an exciting thrill ride, where given the right conditions, showing up consistently, on time everyday, it pays off.

“Inspiration exists, but has to find you working” ~ Pablo Picasso

But it is not a path for the faint of heart, many perils lie along the way, self doubt, the ridicule of others, crazy ideas that make no sense. But I believe if I show up consistently my ideas will come and they usually do, as the story reveals itself to me.

Sometimes as the self-doubt starts gnawing on my creative edge, usually around the 10k-20k mark, where I think, where is this story going, why am I writing it? I take an hour or two or just even twenty minutes to throw a quick premise down. To quell that inner doubter. I do it in the evening to separate it from my regular writing times. But it helps crystallize things in my own head, so that I can get moving again.

Here is my formula:

First I ask myself five fast questions –

  • What is this story about?
  • What does my protagonist want?
  • What do I want to resonate with my readers?
  • What’s the point of this story?
  • Do I care about this story, what lies at it’s heart?

I grab a note pad and pen and go as fast as I can, I brainstorm the answers.

This is not a linear list, it’s just to get my brain thinking about my story, from a global view, like pantsing my draft, I pants my premise too. Knowing that thinking too much, at least for me, might scare the magic away, so I hold it loosely.

Then for about 10-20 minutes I try to nail my story to the page, in one or two sentences.

Here’s a formula for building a logline-
* a logline was once used in the movie industry to sell a movie to a studio, it is a great way to condense and crystallize your story.

It’s the one or two sentence summary of your story that not only conveys your premise, but also gives the reader emotional insight into the story as a whole.

Here’s an example from Star Wars:

Restless farm boy (situation) Luke Skywalker (protagonist) wants nothing more than to leave home and become a starfighter pilot, so he can live up to his mysterious father (objective). But when his aunt and uncle are murdered (disaster) after purchasing renegade droids, Luke must free the droids’ beautiful owner and discover a way to stop (conflict) the evil Empire (opponent) and its apocalyptic Death Star.

I take the example above and slot my story in, moving around the elements that I need to. Once my logline is nailed down, this becomes my guiding star that helps direct my story. Now I said helps, because if a better idea decides to show up with something unexpected that I love, I stay flexible to new possibilities. The truth is, for me at least, the bones of the story are already there, I’m just clearing off the dirt so I can see the shape better.

Then I file away my premise, as I hand it over to my unconscious mind to continue solidifying what my story is about.

Writing in the StormThis is like throwing creative rocket fuel on my story and away we go again. Normally I don’t hit too many bumps in the road, usually only once or twice, once near the start and occasionally once near the end. I’ll share my tips and strategies on how I get past the final bump in a couple of weeks, as I approach the finish line on my current work.

Finally I put my head down once more to write, the path way opens before me and I see the sunshine peeking through the trees, whispering softly, let us go, your adventure lies this way.

These thoughts, skills and techniques are my own, they are what work for me. So if you have strategies that work great for you, then awesome! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What works for you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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Confessions of a Pantser – Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

 

sk lamont Pantser - Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

Confessions of a Pantser – Write 2,000 Words a Day Fast

Today sees the beginning of NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. I have seen a lot of articles flying around the internet lately about how to win. So I thought I would throw in my two cents. These principles can easily apply to any time of the year, so if you missed November, no worries, don your pantser t-shirt and dive in.

As you can see from the title, I write 2,000 words a day consistently, usually within a two hour window and have completed four NaNo* style first drafts this year alone. The word counts range between 54k to 64k. I usually take a week or two inbetween novels, to recharge my imagination before setting out on my next adventure. I have gone back to back on projects, but to be honest, I think it burns me out. A rest in between novels works well for me. Before beginning NaNo this month, I decided to take a break to do some serious edits on one of said novels. I am very excited about where that manuscript stands and I am ready to plunge deep back into river of writing every day, where my heart beats faster and I hold my breath in anticipation of what lies around the next bend.

*NaNo style equates to 50,000 words in 30 days.

Coaching Backgound

Coming from a coaching background, I have developed many strategies over the years to help people install successful habits and achieve their goals. Now being a fiction writer myself, I apply these strategies to my own writing and have found them to be highly successful.

On a side note:

I am not here to argue what is better, pantsing or plotting, you do what works for you! I know many people that are a combination of both. So you choose the path that works best. To be honest part of me loves the idea of plotting and sitting down and strategically planning out my novel. I am a bit OCD so I would have thought that plotting would have been perfect for me, but I have tried potting several times and my imagination and passion shrivel up in front of my eyes and when I try such techniques the story stops dead in it’s tracks. So I have found for me, that the story flows more freely from my fingers when I fly by the seat of my pants. Not always and not perfectly, but that is why I have set strategies in place to get the creative juicing flowing again when the story decides to slow.

If you’re reading this article, then I am guessing you are looking for tips and strategies on how to pump out those elusive words as fast a your fingers will type.

So with no further ado, here are my top tips for kicking some word crunching butt!

Time to get serious

It’s Do or Die time – Make a Decision

The truth is if you want to get serious about your writing and writing 2,000 words a day is pretty serious commitment, then you have to make a decision to put your writing at the top of your list of priorities, or at least very close to the top.

If it’s not taking one of those top spots, then anyone of a number of things in your day will come along and hijack your writing time – 9 times out of 10 – because if you’re not taking your writing seriously then why should anyone else.

Get consistent

Consistency is the key, carve out the best time of the day for you to write and stick with it. Sure, things are going to come along and try to rob you of that time, but the first step on the ladder to your success, is making that commitment. Make your writing time sacred, it comes first, then you rearrange the rest of your life to make time for the other priorities in your life. You must choose to allocate time to what is most important to you in life, it’s the only way to get results and move forward on your dreams and goals.

Be flexible

Now we all know as soon as you make a decision to commit to something, all hell breaks loose, it’s Murphy’s law, so don’t get mad, life happens and stuff is going to get in the way. There’s a great article here about how to commit to your writing and stay open and flexible too.

Set some writing goals.

Write down what work you want to produce and by what day. For instance, my goal for 2015 is to produce six 1st draft novels and have one completed manuscript ready to begin querying come January. Set a daily word count and cast it in stone. Commit to how many words you will write everyday. Or at least on the days  you have set aside for writing. For instance, I like to take one rest day a week, that’s what works for me. If I have committed to 2,000 words a day, on my writing days, then I hold my feet to the fire, no matter how painful till I get those words out. 9 times out of 10 I hit the mark, occasionally something overwhelming happens and I may have to miss for that day, it’s okay, be gentle with yourself, as long as you’re hitting you word goals consistently, you are making progress.

Write Fast

Don’t think, write

I know this sounds crazy but it’s true, your imagination and intuition already know the story you want to write. The only thing that stops the words from getting on the page is your thinking mind, analyzing everything, questioning everything. You are a storyteller that is why you are drawn to writing. So the stories are already lying dormant within you somewhere, your job is to tickle them awake and get them into the world, without that sneaky inner editor trying to strangle the life out of them.

The first word that shows up is right

Nearly a hundred percent of the time, the word that shows up first, is the right word, so throw that sucker on the page, doesn’t matter if you want to tweak it, tweak it later. Throw it on the paper. Let’s get going.

Never look at a blank page

It’s like looking into the abyss and it will swallow you whole, as soon as you sit down, WRITE, let nothing stop you or get in your way, just write. If you feel stuck, the first thing that pops in your head, throw it on the page and you’re off. I use visual cues a lot to get me going. The first thing I see, a bird flies past my window, my character sees it and boom, I use that as a trigger to jump straight back into the story and were off running again. Write and write fast, doesn’t matter what comes out, just go, go, go! Remember you’re wearing your big red t-shirt that says ‘I’m a total pantser’ on it, this is what living the life of a pantser looks like, so rock on!

Also sometimes reading the last paragraph can help, but if you do, do it fast and move on, no fixing!

Write as fast as you can, faster than your inner editor, out run him!

The secret to writing fast, is writing faster than you can think, then you don’t have time to sit around and mull over the words, for instance, deciding on the color of a character’s shirt. Take the first idea that pops in your head, boom, throw it down on the page. If you feel yourself slowing down, try chanting a little, run run run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the ginger bread man 🙂 !

Believe it or not you will be able to read your own mess when you come back to it, so punctuation forget it, periods who needs them, add it later, you’re going to be editing this sucker till you want to kill yourself anyway, so there is pleeeenty of time to fix those suckers later. In fact you’ll probably enjoy those simple fixes as a light reprieve from the madness you spewed out on the page on your first go around, so get going. Write now, edit later.

Time yourself

I personally love to time myself and try to kick my own butt by out doing my own word counts. In my opinion sprinting is a lot of fun, especially if you’re highly competitive, this works for me. It’s not for the faint of heart, so be warned 😉

Write like no ones watching

This is your time, your special covert, ‘I’m never showing these words to another being on the planet time. This is my story and further down the line, I get to decide if I want anyone else to take a peek.’ So write with wild abandon and with tears streaming down your face if need be and put all that wild crazy stuff down on the page. Then later you can decide what and if you want to share it with the world.

To quote Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Capture those Distraction Monkeys and put ’em in a cage

Distraction capture device

Write down distractions, anything that needs researching put it on a piece of paper, those little distraction monkeys are going to come and steal your precious time and end up stealing your story. Put those distractions on a piece of paper or in your phone, (or other electronic device, if you can trust yourself to resist facebook and the myriad of other time sucking sites available online). Jot it down and keep going, relax that piece of paper ain’t going anywhere, so you can come back to it later. If I know I need to expand an idea, I usually write something like ‘come back to later’, or ‘research’ in my draft, if I’m going to need more information to complete that scene.

Same with those sneaky brilliant ideas that always seem to show up, at just the wrong moment. Believe me, those little distraction monkeys are in the background rubbing their grubby little hands together, it’s just another sneaky ploy! Capture ideas briefly in a note book and move on!

Eliminate all distractions – turn off the internet! I have five children ages two through fifteen and I homeschool, so being distracted is a full-time occupation for me, but if it’s important enough and you have made it a priority, then you’ll find away.

Take a Break

Get up and move

Feel stuck, slowing down, get up and move, I usually get up every twenty-five minutes and move for five minutes whether it’s stretching or dancing or whatever the heck I want to do, I get up and move move move, then I jump back in the hot seat and get my fingers flying again.

Music is your friend and inspiration

Now I’m the sort of person that likes to write in utter silence, I even write on my iPad because the sound of my own typing can drive me crazy. So I do not write with music blasting in my head, though I know some people do and love it. Usually the only thing I hear are children trying to kill each other in another room somewhere in the house, so I get up and have a good scream at them, then sit back down and get to work.

But if I’m feeling really sludgy or bogged down, or I’m getting ready to write a completely epic scene, I get up and I crank that music. I love to dance so I let the music infuse me and take me anywhere it wants to go. I am deep in my imagination and let the music guide me and show me scenes. I have had whole epic scenes play out in my head during times like this, where moments before I had felt completely stuck and unsure of where to go next. So do not under estimate the power of music, it is phenomenal weapon to kick some serious scene writing butt.

Eat a quick snack, or have a tea or coffee

I usually have something ready to go, or something that takes under five minutes to fetch and consume.

Get in the Zone

Pray

Finally I pray, right before I write, I know that may seem weird to some, but I don’t truly think I’m all the clever. Sometimes these crazy stories just show up out of the ether, I do not take responsibility for them, which actually takes the pressure off, whether they’re good or bad. I step back, bow my head and let someone greater than little old me, take the reins. I’m not here to tell you what to believe, I’m just sharing what works for me.

There is a great Ted talk here about taking the spotlight off you, I thought it was very helpful.

Just Write

And lastly if I had one piece of advice to give to my fellow would-be pantsers it would be this… Just Begin… there is wisdom in this… you want to write don’t you, so write!

A Great Adventure Awaits You.

These thoughts, skills and techniques are my own, they are what work for me. So if you have strategies that work great for you, then awesome! Why don’t you share them in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What works for you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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