6 Secrets To Winning NaNoWriMo Early

For most people, dedicating a whole month to writing 50,000 words can sound a bit shocking, and that number alone can scare a lot of newcomers out of even trying NaNoWriMo. But for the insane percentage of people who do participate in it every year, we know that 50,000 words is not that daunting once you break it down into daily goals of 1667. I know that I personally have a few people on my buddy list who stretch for 200,000 words in the month of November, which is way too intense for me, but all the power to them. It’s all just a matter of setting your daily goals a little higher than the suggested word count.

But sometimes the word count isn’t the scary part. Sometimes, it’s the time that people have to set aside to work on NaNoWriMo on a daily basis. It’s not always possible for people to work on their project for 30 days straight, and this is where finishing your 50k early comes to be most handy.

Today we are going to be talking about how I beat the clock and win NaNoWriMo early every year. Here are some of my secrets to getting ahead and staying above the suggested daily goals:

  1. I personally write an average of 2200-3000 words a day on days that I am working, and 5000 words on days that I am not working. I tend to split up my writing sessions into 3 separate times (early morning before work, before dinner, and before bed). This helps me split up the times and helps me gather my thoughts before binge writing.
  2. I try to do at least one write-a-thon a week. Sometimes I don’t even set big goals for them, but I don’t separate the sessions. If you want to learn more about my tips for write-a-thons, check out my post about them!
  3. Sprints are my absolute best friend during writing sessions. I am generally a focused writer and don’t have a procrastination issue, but I do get easily distracted by the Internet, by my kitten and by all kinds of chores and things I could be doing instead of writing. So I set up a schedule for my sprints. I will write down what sprint times I want to do, and then I will also schedule my break times and what tasks I want to do during the break times. Whether those tasks are switching my laundry over, or sweeping the apartment, or anything that helps me feel more productive, they really help me justify sitting down to write for longer periods of time.
  4. I scout out fast writers in the forums and add them as buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. I often find myself racing a lot of them or trying to keep up with them. I am very competitive by nature, so it’s really easy for me to get motivated when I see people 4000 words ahead of me. I keep a tab of my writing buddies page open at all times.
  5. If you don’t think setting a word count goal for yourself will motivate you, try using the daily-suggested word counts on the NaNo Stats page. Usually, if I can’t get motivated to write a bunch of words, I tell myself that I am going to write ahead two days and set my goal for the one on the website accordingly. For example, if it’s Day 5, I will tell myself to write ahead to get to Day 7 on that day instead. Even if you only write ahead one day, you are still a step ahead.
  6. When you get ahead, don’t stop writing. Even when I am 10,000 words ahead of the suggested goal I make sure I am writing at least the recommended number of words per day, because as soon as you stop writing you will start losing momentum and you will start losing progress. One day will turn into 2 days and that could and has easily turned into a week of no writing. The goal is to win early to give yourself free time at the end of the month. Obviously if you have plans on a day that you would normally be writing, don’t hesitate to take a day off if you have to, but do make sure that your reason is never lack of motivation.

I really hope that all these tips have given you some ideas on amping up your writing sessions and have given you some insight into the processes of those people who have already won. The biggest thing to remember is that while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge, it’s also supposed to be a fun experience full of writing habit-building as well as a way to meet other writers locally and around the world. Don’t rush through NaNo just to “get it over with.” With all that extra time, you could set a higher goal, you could start editing and take up some of the sponsors on their winner offers, or you could just spend the rest of the month cheering on your fellow Wrimos!

If you have any tips or tricks for getting ahead and winning NaNoWriMo early, please feel free to leave those in the comments below. I would love to hear them and maybe try a few out!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 yeaMazie-Bishopr-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Fallen Behind During NaNoWriMo? 5 Tips to Get Back on Track!

Behind During NaNo(1)How has the first week of NaNoWriMo been treating all of you? Are your novels coming to life as you zip through your words? I sure hope so!

But, realistically, a fair amount of us have already fallen behind.

*gasp*

It happens to the best of us. We all start out each November with a few thousand words and the undeniably optimism that this will be the year that we write AT LEAST those 1,667 words (the bare daily minimum to write 50,000 words in 30 days) each day during NaNoWriMo. But, while our muses and creativity are in a frenzied excitement, real life doesn’t slow down.

Maybe you had to work some unexpected extra hours, or maybe you caught a nasty cold. Or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to face another bout of writer’s block the other night. Whatever the reason, many of us have already fallen behind where we should be for the NaNo word count and are now playing the desperate game of catch up.

We’re all human and it happens to most WriMo’s. But you can’t beat yourself up about it if you still have your eye on that 50,000 target.

To aid you in your quest to claiming that NaNoWriMo victory this month, here are 5 tips to help you get back on track!

1. Do the Math

Go into your NaNoWriMo dashboard and see how many words you should have, then look at how many words you actually have. What’s the difference? If you’re behind by 1,000 words, just write 500 extra words (on top of the typical 1,667 per day) for two days. Or distribute the difference in smaller amounts over larger days. Whatever seems doable to you. In fact, NaNoWriMo’s site has a section that tells you how many words per day you need to average in order to finish on time. To find this, navigate to the stats page of your current novel and look on the sidebar for “Words Per Day To Finish On Time”. Use this is a guide for how much you need to write in order to catch up.

2. Take advantage of small pockets of time

If you find yourself at a loss for extra writing time, start using those little lulls throughout your day to get those words in. Use part of your lunch hour to write. Or if you find yourself in a waiting room, whip out your notebook or laptop and start writing. Even if you just get 50 words written, those little spurts of writing will add up and boost your word count.

3. Make time

If you can’t seem to find enough time to get your writing done, it may be necessary to go on the offensive and create the time you need. Get up 30 minutes earlier (or whatever is plausible for you) than usual, and use that time to write the extra words you need. Or maybe order in some food one night to save on cooking/clean up time. Start carving out time so you can get back to writing.

4. Set aside a whole day

Let’s say that you’re REALLY far behind. Or maybe you just can’t seem to work productively in short 30 minute spurts. If that’s the case, it may just be time to go all out. That’s right, pick a day in the next week or so and block out a huge chunk of time – if not the whole day. Don’t make any other plans for that time. This is your writing time and you’re going to use it to get back on track with your NaNo word count. It may be a bit drastic, but sometimes you need a whole day to do nothing but write in order to refocus on the goal at hand.

5. Keep writing

No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged! Keep writing and hitting your goals each day. But Don’t get down if you fall behind. You can only catch up and stay on track if you’re both optimistic and defensive of your writing time. So keep at it, hold that 50,000 word goal in your mind, and go for it! You can do this!

Guest Post: Sara Letourneau – Seven Keys to Maintaining Your Writerly Well-Being

Our healGuest Post Template(1)th and wellness are two of the most important “possessions” we have. Yet as writers, sometimes we take them for granted. If we’re too engrossed in our work and lose track of time, or a crucial deadline on a blog post or a round of rewrites is looming, we might feel tempted to ignore sleep, hunger, and other needs.

Here’s what I can tell you from personal experience: It’s not worth it. In fact, it’s essential for us to step away from our craft now and then so we can take care of ourselves. And by remembering to balance creativity with self-care, we can be productive, happy, and healthy.

So, how can you maintain your well-being without sacrificing too much of your writing? Here are seven keys that focus on all-around areas of physical, emotional, and mental wellness.

Key #1: Hydration

Staying hydrated isn’t limited to physical exercise. Drinking enough beneficial liquids during the day can improve energy levels, mood, and concentration – all of which are crucial for writers. So, don’t wait until you’re thirsty. (It’s a sign that you’re already dehydrated.) Have a cup of water, coffee, tea, or other beverage of choice ready when you sit down to write and use your breaks to get refills.

Key #2: Nutrition

Do you find it impossible to write when you’re hungry? (I do!) Not only does hunger lead to a distracting sensation in one’s stomach, but it also throws the brain “off-balance” by forcing the hypothalamus (which regulates a body’s homeostasis) to work overtime. As a result, the body’s focus shifts to finding food. Malnutrition, or the state of not getting enough food or enough of the right foods, can also affect memory, sleep patterns, mood – even motor skills such as writing manually or typing.

Don’t let an empty stomach derail your ability to think or write. Instead, have a snack handy for when those familiar pangs pay a visit. Some healthy choices include fresh vegetables, dried fruit, cheese or peanut butter with crackers, or nuts and seeds. And when it comes to meals, take a break from writing to feed and refresh yourself, or set a deadline so you can wrap up your session at a reasonable time.

Key #3: Exercise

Not only is exercise good for your physical health, but it also has emotional and creative benefits. It can enhance your mood, improve energy levels, and boost self-esteem. It can also put your brain in a relaxed state that opens the spontaneous pathway, which happens during free association and idea-generation. (In other words, those “a-ha” moments that happen when you’re away from writing? Your spontaneous pathway is open then!)

Since every writer’s schedule differs, it’s important to fit in exercise when it works best for you. And whether you prefer cardio (aerobics, swimming), toning (yoga, pilates), or strength conditioning (weights, indoor rock climbing), there’s no shortage of activities to try. Also, have a journal or recording device ready for when your spontaneous pathway opens. If I’m outside walking, I take my cellphone with me for safety reasons – and for saving “text messages” when inspiration strikes.

Key #4: Rest

Some writers have no trouble sacrificing sleep for their craft’s sake. A few even advocate that insomnia boosts creativity. Not me. I’ve learned first-hand that sleep deprivation can hinder concentration, disrupt the ability to fight stress, and make you super-cranky. And when the cycle goes on for too long, it can force your body to shut down.

If this happens to you, listen to your body. Ensure you get enough sleep by going to bed and getting up at times that work for you. You’ll feel refreshed as well as mentally and emotionally prepared for your next writing session.

Key #5: Relaxation

One of the perks of being a writer is using our craft as a form of stress relief. When something troubles you, journaling can often help you find a solution. Not only does journaling allow you to acknowledge your current emotions, fears, or worries, but the act of writing by hand can also put you in a meditative state by slowing your breathing, relaxing your muscles, and clarifying your thoughts. I’ve kept a journal off and on for years, and it’s been a savior for problem-solving and for calming my (sometimes) anxious mind.

However, what about the times when a journal isn’t available? Try listening to new age music or guided meditations that can reduce stress and anxiety. Practice yoga, which promotes relaxation by combining stretching exercises with focused breathing. Other artsy hobbies such as knitting, painting, and adult coloring books can also help.

Key #6: Social Life

As much as we love writing, we shouldn’t let our passion turn us into hermits. ;) Take some time to meet up with friends, attend events that appeal to your interests, or volunteer for meaningful charities and causes. It nurtures your current relationships and helps you build new ones. And on a wellness level, it can buoy your energy and self-confidence.

Key #7: The Occasional Reward

Did you recently finish a draft? Or hit an important word count milestone? You should celebrate! A chocolate bar, a dinner at your favorite restaurant, a shopping trip, or a day at the beach – whatever brings you euphoria or peace, give yourself permission to indulge in it for the moment. Then, when you go back to writing, you’ll feel satisfied with your progress so far and even more motivated to reach for the next goal.

What are some of your tips for maintaining your “writerly well-being”? Is there one particular area you want or are trying to improve on?


unnamed

Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to revising a YA fantasy novel tentatively titled THE KEEPER’S CURSE, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and contributes to the writing resource site DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

NaNoWriMo Prep: 8 Things to Do Before NaNoWriMo Starts

Untitled

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves start to fall, the crisp air bites at your cheeks, and all of the coffee shops are full of the smell of pumpkin… and crazed over-caffeinated writers preparing for the impending storm. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but for people like me, this is the month of readying yourself for the battle against a novel that seemingly never wants to be written. Ideas for stories or novels swarm my brain on a regular basis, but as soon as NaNoWriMo is in arm’s-reach, it’s like they go into hiding.

There are millions of things we suddenly remember while NaNoWriMo is in progress that we wish we would have thought about before–or, at least, that’s the case for me. So I took it upon myself last year to keep a little ongoing list of all the things that I should have done before NaNoWriMo started. Here are some things you can think about or start working on now to have a more productive November.

Find Character Inspiration and Names:
We all know the struggle of character naming in the heat of the moment. Even if you are a “pantser” at heart, you know the time that building a character can take away from your word count. So why not do some minimal planning and figure out your characters before you have to stress about them?

Create/ Brainstorm your Cover Art:
If you are anything like me, you know the pain of going onto the NaNoWriMo forums and seeing all the beautiful cover art all ready in the signatures of all the eager and prepared Wrimos. You try to ignore them, but in the back of your mind, every sentence you write is backed up with an unbearable longing for your own cover. For me, it was my greatest downfall and distraction in the first week of last year’s festivities, and I will definitely be working on mine before November this year.

Research your Genre and Take Note of Any Applicable Conventions:
This is a great thing to do, especially if it is your first time writing within this genre. Knowing the conventions or other common features of your genre will really help you get in the groove, and it’s one less thing you will need to research when you get started.

Do the Math, Plan Your Numbers for the Month:
If you are a student or work full-time, you will need to work around your life’s schedule to win NaNoWriMo. The lovely word count tool on the website will try to tell you that you need to write roughly 1600 words a day, but for some people that’s simply not doable. So go through your schedule, find the best writing days, and try to amp up your word count on those days. This is also good if you suffer from chronic stress and need to give yourself a little break once or twice a week from novel land. If you need a few days off, just calculate that into your weekly numbers and make sure that you can make up for them on another day. The biggest part of NaNoWriMo is keeping a steady pace and making sure you take care of yourself and life outside your novel, as well.

Book Some Days Off for Catch Up or Damage Control:
This one kind of ties in with the last tip. Slipping and falling behind is pretty easy to do–life happens and you can’t expect the world to stop for NaNoWriMo (not yet at least). If you can afford to do so, I highly recommend keeping at least one day near the middle and end of the month dedicated to catching up. I personally keep a few days closer to the beginning of the month to get ahead so that I can focus on all my duties as a Municipal Liaison, and that works best for me.

Figure Out Your Goals and Rewards:
I’m a big believer in setting goals and planning rewards for when goals are achieved. If you are someone who finds themselves unmotivated often, then you should definitely set multiple short-term goals and rewards, such as for every 10,000 words written. But if you just need that one big push to get to the end, give yourself one big end goal and work towards that. Every year my reward is a winner shirt for the year and a big celebratory dinner with all the friends that had to put up with crazy-NaNoWriMo-me.

Prepare Your Inner Editor:
I want to talk more about this in a later post, but for now, I am going to explain what you can do to get ready for your novel frenzy month. Any seasoned Wrimo knows that the biggest word count killer is your inner editor. That little voice in your head that moves your fingers to that backspace button, makes you read back 8 pages, or convinces you to delete whole chapters. You need to start training yourself to fight against that little voice. I have some tips and tricks to help you beat it once and for all, but right now, you can start by practicing the ever so simple mantra “write now, edit later.” It will seriously change the way you write anything and everything. There are settings for you to turn off your word-processors editing tools if that helps you at all, but just start practicing, I promise it will make a huge difference.

Clear Your Workspace and Computer of Distractions:
Nothing is better than a well-organized workspace. All your references in order, the perfect little spot for your coffee… it all helps everything flow better when things are in place. I always make sure to clean up my computer while I’m in the cleaning mood. I hide all the distracting files or games in a folder and flood my desktop with motivational quotes and inspirational images or references. It’s really helped me out when I am looking around for something to distract myself.

How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? Will you be trying any of these tips this October? Let us know!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

What to Do When You Have Too Many Story Ideas

How can you cope with idea overwhelm? Through using these four fun and creative methods. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comYou’re a writer so your head is probably brimming with ideas (most of the time, anyway). And that’s a good thing. We’re a creative lot, with story ideas sneaking up on us at the most random and often inconvenient of times—like in the middle of our current works-in-progress.

But what if you have too many ideas? So many you just can’t decide which to write next. So many you keep hopping from project to project because you just have to write those shiny new ideas now.

Okay. Deep breath. Here are four methods that could be just the ticket to saving you when you have too many story ideas swirling around your noggin.

1. Summarise your idea so that it fits on an index card and put that card safely away in an “idea box”.

When inspiration first blossoms, it can be tempting to dive straight in with writing that new story. The problem with this is that these ideas tend to be undeveloped. They haven’t had time to mature, to grow into fully fledged plots, so you hit a brick wall after a few chapters of furious writing and scratch your head, wondering where the story will go next.

If, instead, you write your new ideas down in a few sentences and store them away for another time, you give your muse the chance to work on them at the back of your mind. This method keeps a record of your ideas so that you don’t forget them and gives them a place to grow and develop. In fact, I once heard this technique described as the ‘plot bunny nursery’.

2. Use your ideas as inspiration for shorter fiction.

If you really can’t wait to start writing your shiny new story, then giving novellas, short stories or microfiction—stories under 1000 words—a go can help to alleviate this burning desire. This way, you don’t have to spend months, if not years, turning each idea into a full length novel. You can have fun with your story seedlings by writing some microfiction, short stories or novellas about them instead.

I’ve also found this method particularly useful for experimenting with different genres, voices and styles of writing. Because you’re not dedicating yourself to a 70,000+ word book, you have the freedom to try something new without worrying that you’ll have wasted all that time should it not work out as you planned.

3. Combine several ideas to create one story.

Got too many ideas that you want to make into full length novels? Try weaving them together to create one story. This method’s very effective if you have several ideas that can’t make a story on their own, like a character, a magic system, a conflict, and so on, but can also be used when you have fully formed plots that line up with each other nicely.

For example, a character who can read auras has taken up residence in your head and demands you write a story about her. You also want to write a thriller involving a therapist who manipulates her clients into committing crimes for her. And you really like the idea of setting a story in a futuristic world teetering on the edge of societal collapse. You could write separate books about each of these elements or you could combine them to create a novel about an aura-reading therapist who’s been driven to manipulating her clients in order to protect her family as the world slowly crumbles around her. Interesting, right?

4. Use your ideas as inspiration for subplots.

Subplots support the main story, so there’s no reason not to incorporate one of your many ideas as a subplot as long as it helps to drive the main plot forward.

Maybe you really want to write a story about the adventures of a swashbuckling airship pirate, but you’re also dying to write a mystery set in the Alps. What if, in the course of his daring adventures, your air-pirate stopped to get supplies at a small town in the foothills and was drawn into a murder mystery there?

Is your multitude of ideas slightly more manageable now? I hope so. Have fun with these methods, dear readers. There’s a lot of scope for imagination and that’s what we writers are all about.

~

Do you ever feel like you have too many ideas? How do you deal with idea overwhelm?

A Tiny Guide: Prioritizing Your Writing Time

prioritizing your writing timeSomething’s been bothering me lately about my writing habits and, after a long week of solemn reflection, I came to a realization that I wanted to share with you: it is impossible to do it all.

That’s right. I’m talking to you over-achievers out there. And to those of you that are inundated with responsibilities outside of your writing life.

After switching into a new job a couple months ago, I’ve found that my time for writing has shrunk and my energy and motivation have been steadily declining.

After reaching a point last week where I felt that I could no longer keep up with all my writing commitments, I took a step back and evaluated the situation. What was really going on here? Why couldn’t I prioritize my time correctly and get into a good writing rhythm?

Then it hit me: I was overwhelmed. I’d taken on too much and assumed I could make it all work. And what was more, I had so many writing commitments on my plate that didn’t truly interest me, that I was avoiding them. So, to remedy this issue, I started breaking down my writing commitment and created a guide for myself that I’d like to share with you.

Below is a breakdown of the percent of my writing time that I spend on different kinds of writing (to make sure my time spent writing is manageable, productive, and enjoyable), as well as a list of questions to ask yourself when you need to figure out what you should cut from your writing workload.

Writing Time Spent on Different Projects

I’ve found that most of my writing projects fall into three different categories. I’ve broken down the percent of my writing time that I spend (or would like to spend) on each category every week.

Passion Projects (35%)

Blog Posts/Projects with Deadlines (25%)

Paid writing (40%)

Note: there might be some overlap between these categories – which sometimes makes things easier – or harder – to prioritize.

I’ve found that when I stick to this sort of writing schedule, I’m a happier, more motivated writer.

What Happens When Something Has to Give?

Sometimes there’s just too much. Sometimes, you have to make the tough call and resign from that editor position or give up trying to squeeze an extra blog post in each week. To help you make the decision on what to give up when you need to let something slide, use the below list of questions to determine what is really important to you and what you should let slide.

  • what makes you happy?
  • what allows your writing to grow?
  • what do you look forward to writing?
  • are you under a contract?
  • will you be letting anyone (including yourself) down if you don’t complete this?

The secret to being a great writer is loving your craft, devoting your time, and prioritizing your projects. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with uninspiring work or items that take up your time and leave no room for other projects.

Balance your writing life in order to let it grow.

~

Do you have any tips for prioritizing your writing time? Let us know in the comments below!

Hit an Inspiration Dry Spell? Pinterest Has the Solution

So, what will you write about next?

Usually, having ideas isn’t a problem for most writers. Our brains are brimming with them. They come to us in flashes of brilliance, in bits and pieces, in the form of plot bunnies, leading us down the rabbit hole.

But what happens when those ideas just seem to… evaporate? What do you do if you hit an inspiration dry spell?

First of all: don’t panic. You haven’t lost your spark. There’s an abundance of creativity within you—it’s just blocked right now. Whatever is holding you back, it’s not unfixable, and sometimes all it takes is a dose of the strange and unexpected to get your imagination back in business. The best way I’ve found to do that? Writing prompts. And the best place I’ve found to get them from? Pinterest.

(What is Pinterest? Find out in Pinterest for Writers in 6 Simple Steps.)

With Pinterest being such a visual platform, it’s a great opportunity to find writing prompts, whether they’re stunning images or written prompts. It could be a single pin or a whole board centred around a theme or style that gets the ideas flowing again—you just need to find them first.

So how can you find a wealth of prompts on Pinterest?

1. Search for them.

If you’re new to Pinterest or don’t follow many prompt-related boards, often the best place to start is with the search function. Simply type in a few keywords, like ‘writing prompt’, ‘settings’, ‘characters’, your genre of choice, etc., and search away. See any images you like? Create your own inspiration board and pin them to it!

2. Follow themed boards.

If searching for prompts doesn’t turn out the best results for you, the second option is to scout out inspiration-based boards that have been compiled by others. Found a pin that you really like? Chances are, you could like the other pins on the board it’s a part of.

To find the board the image is from and preview the other pins in it, simply click the image and look at the column on the right (highlighted in the image below). And there you have it.

How and where can you find the best writing prompts on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to find the spark that can rekindle your imagination. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com

My favourite inspiration-based boards:

3. Check out all the pins from a source.

What if you’re looking for pins from a particular source, rather than from a particular pinner? For instance, you really like the images created by a certain artist or writer, but the boards you’ve found only have a few of their many pieces of art or prompts on. What now? Pinterest has you covered.

Every pin has a source, the web address it came from, and if that’s the same source as the artist’s other images (e.g., their website), then you can find them easily. Click on the pin and look at the column to the right of it. There’s the name of the board at the top and the other pins on it, and underneath that there’s a ‘more from’ section. This is the bit we’re interested in.

If you like Sarah Selecky’s writing prompts, for example, you can find one of her pinned prompts, click ‘more from sarahselecky.com’ (highlighted in the image below), and explore all the images various users have pinned from her website.

How and where can you find the best writing prompts on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to find the spark that can rekindle your imagination. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com

My favourite sources for writing prompts? Right here:

4. Make use of Pinterest’s suggestions.

As you start pinning prompts to your own boards, you’ll see more of Pinterest’s ‘picked for you’ suggestions, which is a great way to find more incredible prompts and follow boards that collect them too. In fact, that’s where I find the majority of the prompts I get from Pinterest!

You can spot the ‘picked for you’ pins by looking at the section beneath each image, which contains the name of the pinner and the board it comes from. Check out the image below for an example.

How and where can you find the best writing prompts on Pinterest? Here are 4 ways to find the spark that can rekindle your imagination. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com

So now that you have some prompts to get you over that inspiration dry spell, it’s time to get writing. Enjoy your idea hunting on Pinterest! (But don’t get too distracted—you actually have to write the thing, remember!)

~

Where do you find your writing prompts?

Finding Your Writing Niche (Plus, A Challenge!)

More often than not, when I am writing, I find myself questioning my choice in genre. It can be half way through a project or sometimes even in the middle of a novel, but when it hits, there is nothing more confusing. I haven’t managed to pinpoint the exact thing that triggers my indecision but I think it could be the fact that I, like many other writers, haven’t explored other genres.

I read a wide range of genres and have studied all of the different components that make a genre what it is, but I haven’t used that knowledge as a writer yet. Imagine an ice cream parlour, full of new flavours you could try: you can guess what they all taste like, but you have only tried butterscotch. So you play it safe, and just stick to what you know, but there are so many other possibilities for new favourites out there.

I mainly stick to contemporary fiction or fantasy/warfare but there are so many other genres I want to try my hand at. So that is why I have decided to dedicate this next couple of months to tasting some new genres. I will be exploring many genres as well as some sub-genres in the form of short stories.

I encourage all writers to join in on this challenge, no matter how many genres you have tried your hand at. Especially if you are feeling confused about where you stand as a writer.

Since I am familiar with poetry, contemporary and fantasy, I am not going to include those in my list of genres to conquer, but if you haven’t tried them yet, add those to your list for sure.

Here is my list of genres to try:

  • Sci-Fi
  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Adventure
  • YA
  • Paranormal
  • Slice of Life
  • Crime
  • Comedy
  • Satire

Everyone’s lists are going to vary, because all of our interests are different. For example, I didn’t choose Horror because I can barely watch or read anything in that genre. I have a pretty crazy imagination and it wouldn’t be good for anyone if I tried to write horror, but I’m going to push myself and try to write a thriller!

Challenge time! Let’s find our niches together.

Since this is going to vary so much from writer to writer, it would be difficult to formalize an actual schedule for everyone to stick to. There are 11 genres on my list, but someone else could only have a few, so I think that this would work better if everyone wrote at their own pace.

To stay connected throughout our journeys in genre, we will be using the hashtag #findyourniche. Whenever you write a post about your challenge or try a new genre, or even if you have some questions, please tweet using that hashtag and also mention @TheSprintShack to be sure we see it, since others use the hashtag for tweets not relating to our challenge.

I look forward to seeing how everyone decides to challenge themselves, and I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures into the worlds of new genres! Let me know in the comments below what genres you are going to try out and if you have ever felt unsure about your genre choices. Time to go exploring!
________________________________________________________________________
Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Twitter for Writers: 3 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections

Twitter for Writers: 3 Ways to Make Meaningful Connections | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comWriting can be solitary in nature, but that doesn’t mean you have to scribble down words all by your lonesome. Now you can connect with people all over the world, right from the comfort of your write cave. The internet is a wonderful thing, no?

In my previous post in the Social Media for Writers series, I walked writers through six steps to a Pinterest traffic flood. Today we tackle another titan of the social media world: Twitter.

If you haven’t given Twitter a try yet, you’re missing out—it provides a plethora of opportunities for writers. You can connect with fellow writers, find new readers, seek out inspiration and let your creativity shine, if you know where to look and what to do.

Ready to delve into the fast-moving, exciting (and highly addictive) world of Twitter? Let’s go.

Know Your Writerly Hashtags

The trusty hashtag is one of the most useful tools for writers on Twitter, yet sadly many people give them a wide berth because they aren’t sure what hashtags are or how to use them. But no more! Time for a quick hashtag lesson.

Using a hashtag in a tweet is a way to categorise your message and reach others who have used or searched for the same hashtag. For example, the #amwriting hashtag is commonly used in tweets about (you guessed it) writing. If you click on ‘#amwriting’ in a tweet, you’ll bring up a list of messages that also include that hashtag.

Why is that useful for writers? Connections, my friend. You can use writing- and reading-related hashtags to find fellow lovers of the written word and be found by them in turn. Including these types of hashtag in your tweets can help you to make new friends, find new readers, build a network of contacts and more.

So what are these magical hashtags for writers? You can find a more detailed list on our Writing & Sprinting Resources page, but some of the most popular ones are:

  • #amwriting
  • #amediting
  • #amreading
  • #writetip
  • #writerslife
  • #writerproblems (one of my personal favourites)
  • #writingprompt

Give it a try yourself if you’re new to hashtags and take full advantage of the hashtags for writers listed here to make new connections in the writing world.

Take Part in a Twitter Chat or Two

The beauty of Twitter, I feel, is it’s real-time nature, which becomes highly apparent when taking part in Twitter chats.

What are Twitter chats? In a nutshell: live conversations in which participants use the same hashtag to discuss the host’s questions or topic and chat with each other.

Some regular Twitter chats for writers, creatives and bloggers are:

  • #Storycrafter, hosted by @Writerology. Held on Sundays from 3-4 p.m. ET.
  • #StorySocial, hosted by @ShesNovel and @BlotsandPlots. Held on Wednesdays from 9-10 p.m. ET.
  • #StoryDam, hosted by @StoryDam. Held on Thursdays from 8-9 p.m. ET.
  • #K8chat, hosted by @K8Tilton. Held Thursdays from 9-10 p.m. ET.
  • #createlounge, hosted by @kayla_hollatz. Held on Wednesdays from 8-9 p.m. ET.

Join Creative Challenges

Want to exercise your creative muscles and/or let others see your skill? Join in a creative challenge or event on Twitter and do both.

My top Twitter challenges for writers include:

  • #FridayPhrases, hosted by @FridayPhrases. Can you tell a compelling story in under 140 characters? If you can, you can #FP. (You can find out more about Friday Phrases here.)
  • #sixwordstory, hosted by @WriterlyTweets. This challenge invites you to write a story based on a prompt in six words or fewer. Can’t get much more micro in your microfiction than that, eh?
  • #AuthorUp, hosted by @ShesNovel. Author Up challenges writers to 30 days of intentional improvement of their craft, and to make sure you can do that, it includes a free course (which you can find out more about here).
  • #WriteChain, hosted by @WriteChain. Want to make writing every day a habit? Set yourself a daily goal and create a chain with every consecutive day you reach it. You can sign up for the challenge here.

Whether you use hashtags, chats, creative challenges or all three in conjunction, the aim for writers on Twitter is to make meaningful connections. Share your writing journey, talk to others about the craft, enrich the lives of every tweep you meet, and enjoy the ‘social’ side of social media—because writing might be a solitary pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.

~

How do you use Twitter to make new writing connections?

Mashing Mediums: How Switching Gears Can Improve & Refresh Your Writing

In March, I wrote a postUntitled on my first-ever 10KWritathon and the valuable writing and productivity lessons I learned from it. While I didn’t achieve the 10,000 word goal I had originally set for myself, I did get quite a bit done, and there’s one thing I attributed my final push to: switching mediums when my current fiction project was becoming a chore.

During the 10kWritathon, I devoted a good chunk of my time to my fantasy WIP. Several hours in, the writing became stale—I was tired and no longer interested. The words were coming slowly. I needed some space to clear my head, so I switched to writing a blog post. And just like that, the words flew.

You don’t have to be shooting for a challenging word count or personal record to reap the benefits of variation and experimentation, and the benefits aren’t limited to a boost in word count; after all, as motivating as a hefty word count can be, you’ll never finish Project A if you keep diverting to Project B. But whether your goals are to finish a current project, edit X number of words on any of your multiple projects per day, or to just sit down and write, working within multiple mediums will likely give new life to your voice.

What do I mean by switching gears or working within multiple mediums? Simply spending some time writing outside of the genre or form of your current project, or better yet, your comfort zone–such as a fiction writer dabbling in poetry or screenwriting.

Real-life example: After the 10kWritathon, which took place on a Sunday, I returned to work. At my day job, I spend my days writing newsletter and blog content for a staffing and recruitment firm. The content is very straightforward, professional, and to the point: pretty different from the fantasy and young adult fiction I enjoy writing in my spare time. I had noticed some of my pieces getting a bit repetitive around that time, not in content but in voice—it seemed like all of my articles sounded the same regardless of their subject. But that Tuesday, I wrote an article that was much more prosey. It used imagery and metaphor, avoided the standard numbered-list style that my latest articles had all utilized, and told a story much like a short work of fiction would. When I handed it in, I was a bit nervous; I’d never written an article like that before, especially not to represent this company, with its very corporate appearance and professional style. I expected the pages to come back bleeding red, marked up with my boss’s many edits.

It came back pristine.

My boss loved the article and didn’t suggest a single stylistic edit, which is rare. Spending all of Sunday working on fiction and making that transition to blogging in the last few hundred words sparked a connection for me, one that blurred the lines between the writing styles of fiction and nonfiction and allowed me to utilize them tangentially. This can happen with your writing, too.

Think about each major form of writing and how different it is from whatever it is you do: fiction, poetry, screenwriting, nonfiction writing:

  • Fiction: focuses heavily on description and plot and, in most cases, insight into a character’s thoughts
  • Poetry: makes great use of imagery, metaphor, and other useful tools that can add life to other genres
  • Screenwriting: carries a story through dialog and minimal description/action
  • Nonfiction: focuses on the facts and a logical flow of information

Of course, there are many exceptions and these aren’t hard lines—they too get blurred, and there are many more factions they can be broken down to. But I think many would agree these are typically the main characteristics of each.

While these differences may be daunting when you aren’t used to writing in a certain way, playing within them can open your writing up to so much more within your usual form. Struggling with dialog? Write a short scene of a play or movie. Over-describing a scene and taking away license from the reader? Try writing poetry or flash fiction, both of which are typically evocative but clipped. Having a hard time getting to know a character in your cast? Try writing a scene from his or her point of view, long-form, to learn more. The list of possibilities goes on.

Have you found switching gears to be a useful tool for your writing? What else do you typically try when you’re having trouble with your current project? Let us know!