How to Make Real Progress on your Work-in-Progress

Hi everyone,

Recently I’ve been making more progress than ever on my WIP. I’ve finally managed to get myself out of the rut that I fell into after my writing degree, and it feels so good to be back. I am definitely not a planner when it comes to writing. For some reason, I just can’t come up with decent plot points in the planning stage. My planning consists of lines I might use, characters, and moods, but never plot points. This has undoubtedly lead me into some dead ends, but it’s something that I haven’t been able to change, no matter how many hours I’ve spent trying.

In the past month or so, I have been focussing on how to get back on track, and I discovered how to work with my process, rather than against it. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you to get out of a rut and make some significant progress on your work-in-progress.

 

1  Only stop if you know what is going to happen next

I used to only write until my inspiration fell flat, and then pack up shop for the day. Don’t do that! Stopping at a dead end meant that the next time I sat down to write, I felt defeated before I even wrote a word. Now, whenever I reach my writing target for the day (more on that later), I make sure that I know exactly which scene I will write the day after. I know that I said I’m not a planner, but I’ve found that right after reaching my target, I’m able to make a tiny, one-scene plan with the momentum that I still have from the writing session. This way, it’s much easier to slip straight back into it the next day.

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
― E.L. Doctorow, Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews

 

2   Set flexible and realistic writing targets

Obviously we need to push ourselves if we ever want to finish anything, but I think it’s important to avoid being too rigid. I’ve found that for me, the best writing targets are small, attainable, and flexible. I feel so much better about my writing and myself if I manage to reach my goal every day. I keep my targets flexible by giving myself both a word target, and a time target. This means that every day, I will either write at least 1000 words, or work on the manuscript for at least three hours–whichever comes first. I’m not saying that you should only write when you feel inspired; I’m saying that if you’re not reaching your goal every day, you need to check in and see if you’re not working hard enough, or if your goal is simply unattainable for your lifestyle.

 

3  Find your routine and treat yourself!

Discover the power of a hot cup of tea, or the right song (try calming classical), or the perfect writing spot. Try to really enjoy the time that you set aside for your writing. My writing time is the only time that I can get out of my own head and live in someone else’s for a while. I have found that, by creating the ideal environment for my writing, it feels less like work and more like a treat.

I think it’s important to experiment a little to find out what works best for you. Are you a morning writer or a night writer? Do you work best at home or at the library? Are you a planner or an improviser? Once I really got to know my process, and worked with it rather than against it, I started making real progress on my manuscript.

 

I hope this has been helpful to you, and I wish you all the best.

Talk to me in the comments! What are you working on?

 

Thank you so much for reading,

Tamara Drazic

 

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Dealing With Self-Doubt While Pursuing a Creative Career

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for sticking with me during this busy time. I know I’m not posting as regularly as I’d like, but now that the first issue of Spinebind is out (finally), I’ll have more time to focus on this blog.

Today I want to talk about self-doubt, particularly surrounding career paths. As you may know, I’m studying Creative and Professional Writing at university, and I’m really enjoying it. I want to write books, personal essays, columns, articles, web content, and poetry, and I also want to edit fiction and non fiction, and write manuscript assessments for publishing houses. There are jobs available, and although it’s going to be hard, I think I’ll be able to get a job that I love. So why is it that I used to just add “it’s like journalism” after telling people what I study? Why was I so scared of telling people I was studying something creative? I think it was because I didn’t want people to think that I thought I’d make it. I was afraid of seeming like I believed in myself.

I also had a habit of mocking myself, so other people wouldn’t do it.

“I don’t have a plan, I study creative writing.”

“I’m used to being unemployed, I study creative writing.”

“Don’t ask me, I study creative writing.”

This sort of thinking doesn’t help anyone with anything, least of all yourself. In the past year I’ve come to realise that the people who try to tear you down and who think badly of you for trying to reach your goals really shouldn’t matter to you. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I think we’re all guilty of looking at other people’s life choices and measuring them up against our own. I just mean that other people’s opinions shouldn’t have control over how you feel, or the goals that you set, or the career that you pursue. In the end, it’s your life, and yours alone.

If you are struggling with self-doubt, I’ve found it really helps to look at your intentions. You want to achieve something. You want to do what you love every day. You want to try, even though you know it might not work out. That’s pretty admirable, in my opinion.

So next time you tell someone what you want to do with your life, don’t mock yourself. Don’t feel stupid. Don’t think about what the other person is thinking. My lecturer read us this quote just last week:

“We’re all failures, at least the best of us are.”     – J.M. Barrie

No creative person will go through life without failing at some point. In fact, no person in general will always succeed at everything. And that’s ok.

I hope this helped at least a little bit. I think that self-doubt and fearing other people’s opinions is just a part of learning what is really important. Be proud of yourself that you believe in yourself enough to pursue what you love, and don’t give up.

I’d love to hear your stories, so if you’d like to share, please feel free to start up a discussion in the comments section.

Thanks so much for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

Marketing Tips for Literary Journals – Part I

This blog has so many amazing tips!

Journey of a Literary Journal

I know I’m jumping the gun here, but I just love this stuff. At some point we’ll actually have a product to promote, but until then here are some marketing tips for those who have journals out there already. And for our group, let’s start thinking about creating a “marketing team” in addition to the standard teams of readers, genre editors, & production staff.

I’m halfway through my note-taking of the interviews I’ve conducted in the past 2 months, so this is just Part I of a compilation of promotional advice from various editors. If you enjoy this stuff like I do, and/or have some marketing tips of your own to add, please “Leave a Response”! 

  • Develop a clean, sophisticated design for your site – this will announce the value of your enterprise more than anything else
  • The best marketing technique is simply to publish excellence from a variety of…

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Dealing with Rejection

As a young writer, I have a pretty big collection of rejection letters cluttering my inbox. I’m a very sensitive person, but over the last two years I have developed what I like to call a writer’s shell. It lets the rejections bounce off of the outside, and lets me keep in all of my positive thoughts, ideas and creativity. Before I started regularly submitting work, my creativity levels were directly related to the feedback I received. If it was positive, I would write for days and have endless ideas; but if it was negative, I wouldn’t write anything, for fear of it not being perfect. As you can imagine, that way of thinking was extremely unproductive. I had to get out of it if I was ever going to get something published, so I decided to follow my own advice, and the advice of my amazing tutors and lecturers. Below are a couple of tips that I use to help me deal with rejection.

*Remember that it’s normal – After getting a couple of rejection letters in a row, it’s easy to start doubting your writing ability. You have to remember that rejection is just something that comes with the job. Every single writer has been rejected.

*Don’t take it personally – A lot of the time, your piece just doesn’t suit the other pieces in the issue, or the market at that point in time.

*Do keep improving – In response to the previous tip, it’s equally important to never stop learning and experimenting. If you’re getting multiple rejections, and you just keep sending out the same piece, maybe it just isn’t quite finished. Take advice, make drastic changes, and kill your darlings.

*Honour your rejection letters – Ok, so you don’t have to frame them and hang them on the wall, but I think it’s important to not just disregard your rejection letters. If the editors have taken the time to give you feedback, use it. Keep your version saved, but also make the changes that the editor suggested and see what happens. Even if it’s a generic letter with no feedback at all, keep it and remember what that particular literary journal or publisher does not want.

*Don’t compare your successes to those of others – You are on your own path to becoming a better writer. You have your own style, voice and goals. Try to be happy for fellow writers when they succeed. Don’t look at someone else’s success and think you will never achieve what they have achieved. Comparing is a sure way to kill your creativity.

*Write a blog post about how to deal with rejection – This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Remember that you are emotionally invested in your rejections because making it as a writer is something that is important to you. That means it is worth trying for. I know the feeling. I’ve also found that the closer your piece gets to publication, the scarier the thought of getting rejected is. One of my pieces is currently on a short list, and I feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t know if this feeling changes once you’re an established writer, with pieces in every major publication. For now all we can do it keep doing what we love to do, and just keep submitting.

Best of luck to all of my fellow writers out there!

– Tamara Drazic