30 tips to spring clean your writing.

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SPRING TIP #1: Keep a journal.

Journaling everyday helps to improve your writing, is great for reflection and is a fantastic tool for ideas and inspiration.

SPRING TIP #2: Add a writing warm-up exercise to your writing routine.

I challenge you to add a writing warm-up to your writing routine for 2 weeks and see if it makes a difference to your productivity and creativity. Let me know how you go!

SPRING TIP #3: Write everyday.

It doesn’t matter if it is only 10 minutes here and there around all your other responsibilities; the point is that the only way to be a better writer is to write. Writing everyday improves your practice, inspires ideas, and sparks creativity. Learn to take advantage of any down time to capture some of those words floating around in your head.

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SPRING TIP #4: Organization.

To run a successful writing business organization is keen. And what better time to get organized then the season of spring-cleaning! Make sure all your files are up to date (and backed up), clean up your computer, buy some lovely stationary and diaries to keep dates and projects organized, and keep your work area as clutter free and neat as possible.

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I love spreadsheets. Spreadsheets for timelines, projects, income, invoice trackers, publications….pretty much everything! I find them an easy way to keep track of what I am doing, and where I am up to. I am also a huge fan of to-do lists. The main key is to be organized, in whatever fashion that is for you.

SPRING TIP #5: Develop a writing routine.

Forming the habit of writing everyday helps to improve your writing and productivity. However a writing routine is not just about writing, it is about how you write, and how you organize your time to ensure you make the most of each moment.

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SPRING TIP #6: Take regular writing breaks.

The recommendation when sitting at a computer is to stand up, walk around and stretch hourly. You should do this when writing too. And not just a brief 5 minute break, a walk outside in the fresh air can help clear your head and improve your concentration and productivity when you return to your writing.

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Make sure you eat at regular times. It can be easy to forget, so I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat and drink if I am having a long writing day.

Taking regular breaks away from your writing helps clear your mind, refresh you and ensures you don’t become stiff and sore sitting hunched over your computer!

SPRING TIP #7: Motivation.

How do you find your motivation? What motivates you? How do you maintain motivation? If you can find the answers to these questions it is half the battle!

SPRING TIP #8: Inspiration.

The search for inspiration can sometimes feel endless. I find spring is a great time for sparking new ideas. Have a walk outside and see the buds of new growth, the sun breaking through the clouds and your ideas and creativity will sparkle!

SPRING TIP #9: Read, read and read!

Reading exposes us to other styles of writing, other forms, genres and voices. The more you read the more your writing will improve, and you will be exposed to more ideas and inspiration.

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SPRING TIP #10: Make time for your family and friends.

Whilst writing may not be a regular job with normal hours, it is still important to make time for your family and friends. You don’t want to miss making precious memories with your loved ones because you always have your head buried in your computer…and you know what they say, all work and no play turns you dull!

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SPRING TIP #11: Stick to time frames!

If you tell a client you will have a writing project to them in 2 weeks, make sure you stick to that. I tend to over-quote on how much time I will need in order to avoid the stress of not having work done on time.

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SPRING TIP #12: Social Media.

Social Media is an important tool to promote your writing business, network with other writers, build your reputation and to research other writers. However, it is a black hole that can suck us in. You may find that instead of spending valuable time writing you are surfing through various social media mediums for hours on end. The trick is to limit the time you spend on social media, and to ensure you use that time efficiently and effectively.

SPRING TIP #13: Develop a work/life balance.

One of the best things about being your own boss is you can choose how much work you take on. However one of the hardest is also saying no. Keep in mind that you need to maintain a healthy balance between work and living your life. One of my favourite sayings is you need to work to live, not live to work.

SPRING TIP #14: Do not rely on spell checkers to catch all mistakes.

Never trust a machine to do all the spelling and grammar checks! Nothing beats good old human interaction and checking of your work. It is a great idea to check your work on paper and on your computer, things may look different and show mistakes you missed before!

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SPRING TIP #15: “Rest” your writing.

When you have completed your first draft, “rest it”. Put it away for a few days before you take it out again to start the lengthy editing and revising process.

Once you feel you have a finished project, “rest it” again. After a few days, weeks or a month (whatever time frame you choose), take it out again and read it one last time before sending it to a friend, family member, editor or if you feel 100% confident you are completely done then send it to a publisher.

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The point of these “rest periods” is to take a break from your project and come back to it with a fresh perspective and clearer mind. This way you will catch mistakes you may not have noticed otherwise, and will recognise changes that need to be made easier.

SPRING TIP #16: Read other writers websites/blogs/articles.

Think of it as research! To find out what other writers are writing or reading about, then the easiest way is to research by looking at their websites, Facebook, google+, blogs, twitter etcetera. Not only will reading about what and how they write help you with your own writing, it can inspire your own blogs, posts and writing projects. One of the best ways to learn is from those who are more experienced and knowledgeable.

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SPRING TIP #17: Write yourself a schedule.

You are running your own writing business, and you must treat it as such. If you are writing for others, such as freelance projects, then obviously it is important to ensure you stick to the time frame you negotiated with your clients.

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If you are writing for yourself, however, then it is still important to develop your own schedule and stick to it. Such as, by this date I will have the outline completed; by this date I will have a first draft finished, etcetera. This way you will ensure you will actually get your writing projects finished, and it is a great feeling when you tick off a to-do list!

You can use a spreadsheet, calendar or good old-fashioned diary. Whatever works for you, but make sure you create an achievable schedule and STICK TO IT!

SPRING TIP #18: Avoid “overwriting”.

“Overwriting” is a wordy style of writing, wrought with repetitions, figures of speech and convoluted sentences. Try to avoid using too many words to describe something, if one word will do. Go for simplicity to convey your writing and I guarantee it will get your point across just as effectively without hitting your reader in the face with all those words.

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SPRING TIP #19: When undertaking large writing projects, turn off your internal editor for the first draft.

When you are writing a long first draft the best way to get all your ideas and thoughts out is to simply write, and keep on writing. Do not stop and correct or edit as you go. Turn off that little editor and judgmental voice in your head so you can get all those words out initially before you forget that great idea.

This can be difficult. I know I find it quite hard due to my innate need for perfectionism. However, the more time I spend writing long projects the better I am at simply sitting in front of my computer and letting the words and thoughts flow out of me. You will spend more time editing and revising, so this first draft is all about capturing your ideas on paper no matter how poorly they are written!

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SPRING TIP #20: Plot!

When writing a novel, developing an interesting plot is essential. It helps to ensure your story unfolds in a logical manner, whilst building tension and suspense to draw your reader in and keep them interested.

SPRING TIP #21: Read your old work.

If you are feeling lost, unmotivated or have lost confidence in your work then have a read through your old projects. It is a great way to see how far your writing has come. I know I have read back through some of my very first blog posts and cringed.

Reading back through your old work can also help inspire you and spark new ideas, or thoughts on how you can improve upon it and re-release it.

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SPRING TIP #22: Keep a list of all your publications.

I find it easiest to do this on an excel spreadsheet, with columns for dates, genre, format and publication type. It helps so that you can see how many of your projects have been published and also if you ever need to refer back to a project you can quickly find where it was published and those other details you choose to input into your spreadsheet.

And lets be honest here, the longer that list gets the better you feel! Think of it as a brag sheet if you want. It is a great way to see where you have been, where you have published and the footsteps you have left behind with your writing.

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SPRING TIP #23: Ask friends and family to read your writing.

If you have friends or family members who you know will be able to provide constructive criticism you should ask them to read your work before sending it to a publisher, or self-publishing. Their eyes will help to pick up on any mistakes or plot flaws that you may have missed in your editing and revising process. They can also provide feedback and encouragement before the intimidating process of sending your work out in the big wide world.

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SPRING TIP #24: Time management.

A concept I feel most people struggle with! Juggling your own writing business, especially if you are still working another job whilst attempting to get your business up and running, with family, home life and chores is a difficult thing to master. You need to work efficiently in the limited time you have, whilst ensuring that you leave time in your busy schedule for family and friends. I have found the best way to manage your time is to stick to your schedule and timeframes for work, whilst penciling in time for family, friends and most importantly, yourself!

SPRING TIP #25: Join an online or in person writers group.

Writing groups are a fantastic place to meet like-minded people, find sources for ideas and inspiration, and as a free source for constructive criticism and feedback. Whether you join a group online or in person, or several groups, doesn’t matter, the point is to find a group of writers in your niche and to actively participate in discussions with them. I challenge you to find a group of writers and to join them. Most importantly…..ENJOY!

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SPRING TIP #26: Don’t forget why you write.

Why do you write? What do you get out of writing?

I write for the love, passion and enjoyment I get from creating a great written project, no matter how big or small. I always get a small thrill upon completing a written piece. Never forget the positive reasons behind why you write. Always write for impact, and not income.

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SPRING TIP #27: Draw inspiration from your surroundings.

Look around you. What is happening nearby? What conversations? What characters? What scenery? Use your surroundings to form pictures and characters in your mind that you can translate to paper.

Where do you find your inspiration?

SPRING TIP #28: Do not procrastinate.

Your time is at a premium, do not waste it procrastinating! Learn to recognise when and how you procrastinate, and identify strategies to overcome it.

SPRING TIP #29: Keep your end goal in mind.

When your energy wanes, you lack motivation, and you feel as though you have lost your creativity and inspiration focus on your end goal. The sense of pride and achievement from seeing your name in print, being a published author, a successful freelance writer. What ever your end goal is, allow it to guide you through the tough times and keep your focused and writing!

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SPRING TIP #30: Never stop writing!

The final tip for this lovely spring month is to never stop writing. Writing promotes writing, and the more you do it the better you will become. Just like practicing at a sport or cooking, the more you practice the more adept you will become.

So never stop writing.

 

Journal Prompts

Journal Prompts
When sitting down to write in your journal it can be hard to know where to start. You psych yourself up to write, sit down with your journal and then stare blankly at the page. I know I have wasted a lot of time doing this. So I have developed a list of journal prompts to overcome the journal block!

 

Daydreams:
  • Describe your dream: partner, job, house, holiday.
  • If you were to organize a dream party whom would you invite and why?
  • What superhero/magical power would you like to have? Why? What would you use it for? Good/evil?
  • If you had 3 wishes, what would they be? Why?
  • If you were to win the lottery what would you do with the money?
Memories:
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • What is your most embarrassing moment?
  • What’s something you were afraid of as a child, or are still afraid of now?
  • What has been the most difficult thing you have done or decision you have made?
  • Who is someone you’ve lost? What are some of your memories about that person?
  • Describe your teachers at school/university.
  • Describe your work colleagues.
  • Describe your best childhood friend and your relationship with this person then and now.
  • What are your favourite or least favourite memories about holidays?

 

Write about your first:

  • Day of school/high school/university
  • Crush/partner
  • Best friend
  • Car
  • Home
  • Pet
  • Job
  • Child
Milestones:
  • Graduation
  • License
  • Wedding or divorce
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Job or career change, retirement
All about you:
  • What is your favourite place, food, movie, book, song, colour, animal, season, flower, and why?
  • What kind of day are you having, and why?
  • What do you like to do, and why? How does it make you feel?
  • Describe your happy place.
  • What is your relationship with your family?
  • If you have brothers or sisters, how are you similar to them or different from them?
  • What are your views on religion or politics?

There are so many more journal prompts out there. Try typing it into google and seeing what pops up!

119 Journal Prompts for your Journal Jar – Marelisa Fabrega

Journal Writing Prompts – Penzu

 

The Art of Journaling

 

The Art of Journaling

I had never been one to keep a journal, and the few times I attempted, the entries were spasmodic and few between. The closest I came to consistent journaling was a book my best friends and I kept back in high school of letters we wrote to each other. It was very cathartic and maybe one day some of those letters will form a bestseller! But I never thought of myself as the type of person who kept a journal.

Then I read some articles about how journaling can be a very useful tool for writers. The premise of the articles was that journaling is a great way to improve your writing, as well as a great warm-up activity that stimulates ideas and gets the creative juices flowing.

One article I found that inspired me to keep a journal “What is a Journal and Why Keep One?” on the Creative Writing Now website. The article also has some useful links to other pages about journaling, in particular how to keep a creative journal, and some great journal prompts.

Seeing as I have knuckled down and become serious about my writing I thought I should give it a try. What could it hurt? Since then I have been writing in a journal almost everyday. Despite my initial hesitation it has really helped to get all the chaos out of my head and onto paper. It may not make sense to anyone else, but no one else has to read it! It makes sense to me, and it has definitely helped to inspire and stimulate thoughts and ideas for current and future projects.

In my recent experience of journaling I have found that it is not only therapeutic but a great place to record all those snippets of scenes, or vague ideas for writing projects that seem to float through your mind at random times. I’m sure you know how frustrating it is when you are staring at a blank page, that great idea eluding you because you cannot fully remember it. If only you kept a journal, you could have jotted the idea down and come back to it when you had the time to bash out the details!

It is also great in the case of writers block. I read back over my entries and find inspiration. I have a colour code system where I highlight certain things in my journal so when I am flipping through for ideas to do with my writing projects I just look for that colour, as opposed to having to read every single entry. This may be a little nerdy and too much like a control-freak for you, but it works for me! And that’s the point of any writing exercise, to adapt and change it to suit your needs and style.

Your journal can be anything from a simple notepad to an app on your computer. It can be as dull or as fancy as you like. It doesn’t matter what or how you choose to journal, the point of it is to write everyday, or as often as you can. Try work it into part of your routine, whether it’s just before you sit down to work on your current project or just before you go to bed. Find what works best for you. I have a set time before bed each night where I will write in my journal. I use this time to reflect on the events of the day and how my writing is progressing. However my journal is never far from my side these days as I have learnt to jot down those fleeting thoughts and ideas as they enter my head. I know some people who scribble their ideas on scraps of paper or napkins (whatever is handy at the time) and later stick these into their journal. Once again, it is about finding the habit and technique that suits you.

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Coffee and Journal, the simple things in life!

 

Journal Ideas.

If the idea of keeping a “dear diary” journal doesn’t appeal to you, there are many other ways to journal that still achieve the same goal of establishing the healthy habit of writing every day. We all know that the more you write, the better your writing becomes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. People watch. You can use people who are already in your life, or take your journal to a café, a bookshop, a hotel lobby, anywhere you go where there are people. Make notes about the people you see from their physical appearance, the sound of their voices and laughter, to their body language and the way they relate to people and the environment around them. Use your imagination to come up with their back-story. These character descriptions could very well kick-start your next story, provide a new character or even revamp a character in your current book.
  2. Listen to all the conversations happening around you. To family and friends, strangers on the train or in the café. Listen to the unique rhythms and cadence that make up their speech, the words they use, the pauses and the tones. This helps you learn how to capture different voices that will provide added depth to your writing. And you may even overhear an interesting conversation that will inspire your next story!
  3. Take a walk or an excursion. Take a walk outside and describe what you see. Not just the sites, but also the sounds, smell and feel of the walk. You can also take an excursion to a place you need to describe in your book, like a movie theatre or hospital. Write down the details, no matter how big or small that make up the place. And once again don’t just focus on what you can see but use all of your senses to help add depth and authenticity to your writing.
  4. Use real-life stories. Have you ever heard or read a story in the news and wondered what exactly lead to that event? Use that as inspiration in your journal. What is the story of the people involved, what led to the event; what where they thinking and feeling; what will happen next?
  5. Free-write. Set your timer, 5 minutes should be sufficient, and keep writing for that length of time. Don’t stop. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write that you can’t think of anything to write. You can keep writing the same thing over and over again until something else comes to mind. Do not stop to edit, judge or correct. The point is to warm your “creative muscle” up and get the words flowing, to limber your mind!
  6. Try different points of view. This could be describing the same scene from many different points of view (first person, third person, omniscient etc). Or you could describe the world around you from the point of view of a child, or animal, or object. For example, how would a cat describe your living room? How would a cat describe you in the living room? What parts of the room would attract the cat, or would they overlook?
  7. Collect words and expressions. If you hear a word or an expression that you liked jot it down in your journal. Research the meaning or story behind it; it can be quite an adventure. For example, the old saying “cat got your tongue”. This is used quite commonly and dates back to the middle ages when witches were feared. The story goes that if you spotted a witch her cat would steal your tongue to stop you from telling anyone.
  8. Collect creative writing ideas. This is just simply jotting down ideas that pop into your head for your creative projects. From names of characters, places, events, topics and themes.
  9. Dreams. Wake up in the morning and record what you remember of your dreams. It is surprising what your subconscious dredges up!

There’s so many more prompts out there you can use. There is another list of journal prompts I have compiled simply by googling and asking other writers I know who write in their journal everyday. Feel free to use it!

Journaling everyday helps to foster a healthy writing habit, and can inspire and limber up your mind. It can be as personal as you want, or simply utilizing one or more of the journal topics above. The point is to write whatever you want, as often as you can to keep your creative mind active.