By award-winning author, Allison Rushby.
We've all been there. It's Sunday. Your chores are done. Everyone else in the house has gone out. The dog/cat/ferret has been walked/played with/whatever you do with a ferret. You've got a few hours up your sleeve. Uninterrupted time! You were all set to write at least 1500 words today. And now…
Well, so far you've checked out Facebook. And Twitter. And Instagram. You've scanned the news. Twice. You've taken everything out of the pantry and wiped the shelves down. And now you're considering reorganising the linen cupboard.
Yeah, I see you and your 0 words.
But, wait. We're not going to play the shame game here. The truth is, we've all been in that place where it feels like every single word has to be plucked from somewhere deep inside our brain with rusty tweezers. We've all hated ourselves after we've had that lovely chunk of uninterrupted time and have squandered it. But today, instead of berating ourselves over time lost, we're going to do something else instead.
We're going to make writing fun again.
Wait. What? Writing's meant to be fun?
Well, sort of, yes. I'm sure you've also been to that other place at least a few times. That place where you're writing a scene you've been looking forward to getting down for some time. One of those key scenes you envisaged in your mind right from the very start of your story idea. It's coming out exactly like you'd planned. All those snippets of dialogue you'd jotted down over the past few months, that great bit of research you'd dug up, that amazing twist that came to you in the middle of the night. You can't type fast enough. The words are flying from your fingers! See? Fun!
Of course, you can't expect to have a writing day like that every day, but what you can do is find ways to inject a bit of fun into those other days. The days when the writing is tough.
I had a few tough writing days myself recently while I was writing my new Middle Grade book When This Bell Rings (Walker Books Australia). In hindsight, I'd set myself up for failure. I'd decided I wanted to write a book where my setting was a fictional world within a fictional world. The fictional world inside the fictional world was so amazing, it had become a worldwide bestselling series of 10 books. So, at one point, I was sitting at my desk telling myself, ‘Now just make up an entire fictional world that's so brilliant it has a movie franchise AND A THEME PARK'. Ha ha ha. Yes, that was a tough book to write. My gift to you is a few little tips and tricks I used to stop myself going insane in the process:
- Written? Kitten! Who knew that kittens could be such a great writing tool? For every 100 words you write, you get a brand new picture of a kitten. And every single one of them will give you a goofy smile.
- 750 words Maybe you're the competitive type who likes earning points and badges and things (were you a prefect?). If so, 750 words may be for you. Form a new writing habit, write at least 750 words per day and boast about your new writing ‘flow' on Facebook.
- Ambient Mixer I can't even tell you how much I love this site. You can listen to or create all sorts of sounds. You can pretend you're hanging out in the Hufflepuff common room (come on, you know you're really a Hufflepuff), or get back to basics with ‘dark and stormy night' and listen to typewriter keys tapping and rain. Personally, I like to channel Jane with ‘Jane Austen at work'.
- Embrace the Pomodoro Technique. Created by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and working solidly during that time. You then take a short break and set the timer again for another 25 minute session. After four such sessions, you take a longer break. Doesn't sound like fun? Here's the fun bit: don't use the boring old timer on your phone. Treat yourself to a gorgeous timer. Mine looks like a pistachio macaron. I bought it in Seoul (shameless timer boast).
- Navigate on over to Twitter and make some new writing friends. Try #1k1hr to slam out 1000 words in an hour, or #5amwriters if you're the kind of person who gets up early. Sadly, I am not that kind of person, so won't be seeing you there.
- Check out #writeabookwithAl on Facebook and Twitter and take heart in the fact that even seasoned pros struggle with getting the words down. Join bestselling author A.L. Tait, who is often found sharing how many words she got down today and encourages other writers to get their words down too.
- It's September. And you know what that means? Next month it's October. And the month after that it's November (I'm going somewhere with this… really). November means it's National Novel Writing Month! You're reading this at the perfect time to sign up at nanowrimo.org and ‘win' by writing 50K during November. There are fun badges and merchandise and such to be had and also real life write ins when the world is slightly more normal again.
- Have an accountability friend. Made a friend along the way who's at the same stage of the writing journey as you? Get accountable. Check in with each other on Sundays and set your writing goals for the coming week. Then check in with each other again mid-week. Not met your goals and have no good reason? Suzie* is not going to be happy with you (*accountability friend does not need to be named Suzie for this to work). For fun you can send each other gifs about how tough writing is and have in-jokes.
- The old carrot on a stick trick. Rewards never really get old and they can be big, or small, depending on your budget. I've gone from a gold and silver star stickers that I got my kids to stick on a chart on the fridge for me each night, depending on my word count for the day, right up to a cruise in order to get a first draft finished (to be fair, it was a cruise for writers where we did writing sprints each day, so totally justified).
- Throw in a zombie. I'll admit it, I hate writing middles. Always have and probably always will. When I feel like I've been plodding along in the middle for days on end, sometimes I'll sit down at the computer, add in a zombie and just go with it for a page or two. Sure, they're wasted words that will have to be deleted, but you know something? There are always more words. And sometimes you just need a little zombie action in your day to get the words flowing again.
Allison Rushby is the author of several award-winning Middle Grade reads for children. These include The Turnkey series (The Turnkey, The Seven Keys), The Mulberry Tree and now When This Bell Rings, all published by Walker Books Australia.