Those (Writing) Games We Play

by Heather Kelly, Founder, The Writers’ Loft

As writers, it can be hard to take ourselves seriously. We write during the in-between times—when the house is quiet because no one else is awake, before and after our day job, and in the car waiting for a child to finish their school day. It can feel like writing is an aside, the first thing to ditch when real life rears its ugly head.

Taking our writing—and ourselves—seriously is the most important step toward success.

But how?

By doing something that might seem counterintuitive.

We drive more effectively toward our goal, and take ourselves more seriously, when we treat our writing like it’s a game.

Take a moment to consider how Jane McGonigal turned healing her brain from a concussion into a game. And then turn your writing into a game.

  1. Choose your best author self. Jane chose the Concussion Slayer. What super identity are you going to become when you sit down to write?
  2. Identify your writing goal—your epic win. Identify the quests you need to go on and achieve to get there.
  3. Assemble your team: your allies. Let them know what your everyday quests are and let them hold you accountable. Talk through your plot problems with your team. Lean on your allies when you get lost.
  4. Activate your power-ups. Reward yourself when you do something that will progress you toward your writing goal. Wrote for an hour: +1 Butt in Chair. Read TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS? +10 Knowledge Boost. Sent an ad to Book Bub? +10 Marketing Ninja Points.
  5. Continue your quests, vanquish writer’s block, and slay those plot holes all the way to your epic win!

You’ll trick yourself into becoming a happier, healthier writer.

So, while you’re waiting to join me in playing Wizards Unite, go get your writing EPIC WIN!!

Heather KellyWhile exploring the fabric of the universe by writing YA and MG novels, Heather runs The Writers’ Loft, a supportive writing community in Sherborn, MA. She believes that writing is too hard to do alone and encourages anyone who needs a critique partner or a quiet place to write to stop by the Loft. Look for her 2017-2018 YA new releases: Blindspot (Book 1 in the AfterFlash Series, as HG Kelly), and The Surge Chronicles, co-authored with Ansha Kotyk.

Mapping Out Your Writing Life

by Allison Pottern Hoch

It’s the beginning of the year and everything feels fresh and possible. Whether you’re still chipping away at a work-in-progress, starting something new, or staring down the lane at future publication dates, your writing life lies open before you.

But the wide-open possibility of an entire year doesn’t always jibe with reality—work, deadlines, kids, travel, housekeeping, health, pets. What has worked for me is mapping out a mix of fixed and flexible goals. This helps me have plan, self-motivate, and stay nimble as new opportunities present themselves.

Setting a fixed goal

Fixed goals can be both ones you set yourself and ones set for you by others. Have a book coming out? The deadlines dictated by your publishing schedule—edits, proofs, pub date—are all fixed goals worth planning for. Map out time to sit with your work and give it the attention it needs to meet these deadlines. What steps do you need to take to accomplish the goals behind each deadline?

For those of us without book contracts, it can still be helpful to work under a deadline set by someone else. Signing up for a Writers’ Loft class or one-on-one critique or a writing retreat can motivate you to complete a desired task for which you are now held accountable. For example, I signed up for a first-pages evaluation in the early spring. I’m also participating in two critique groups with rolling submissions, forcing me to produce and share work every few weeks.

Setting flexible goals

Flexible goals include wiggle room in case of illness, snow days, or new and unexpected deadlines. “Start a new project by the beginning of the summer,” “start querying agents by September,” or “attend a writing conference” would fall into this category.

These goals give you something exciting to shoot for without the pressure of an exact deadline. As writers, we’re often hard on ourselves. Beating ourselves up over missing a self-set deadline is counterproductive. Keeping clear but loose goals gives you permission to react to new circumstances and opportunities without feeling like you’re failing.

Setting ongoing goals

Ongoing goals speak to your writing mentality. They help set the tone for how and when you write, and what influences your work. Some ongoing goals might be:

Write it down

Write down your goals, whether in a notebook, on a vision board, on your blog, or on a calendar. Recording your goals cements them in your consciousness and makes them an active part of how you schedule your life.

Check-ins

Goals are great, but accountability is what helps you keep them. Check in with friends periodically to let them know how your goals are going. Do some of your flexible goals need to shift? Have your ongoing goals provided fodder for fresh goals? Are you meeting your fixed deadlines? You can even find support right here at the Loft with the new Productivity and Accountability Group where you can celebrate and commiserate with fellow writers.

What are some of your goals for the coming year?

aph.jpegAllison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She organized, hosted, and promoted over 150 events during her tenure, ranging in size from intimate workshops and lunches to multi-media events with over 700 attendees. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and book event coach. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea. http://events.pottern.com. To learn more about engaging with your community bookstore or develop your own successful event and marketing plan, check out the talks and workshops Allison is leading.

If you have marketing goals to tackle this year, Allison is teaching an introductory marketing-for-writers seminar at Grub Street on Feb. 3rd and will also be giving a session on parenting/writing balance at their Muse & the Marketplace Conference in April. For more info about her sessions and marketing services, you can visit her website at http://events.pottern.com

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sanchez: A Discussion Guide for Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

Erika L. Sanchez’s novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a first-person narrative of a teenage girl struggling with her sister’s death, her parents’ disapproval, and ultimately with depression and attempted suicide. By studying Sanchez’s novel, writers can explore managing a depressed and potentially unlikeable main character, the balance of dialogue to narrative text, and the tools writers use to create tone in their novels. Continue reading

Send Yourself A Letter

by Kelly Carey

(Note: a version of this article appeared previously on Kelly’s blog, 24 Carrot Writing).

Give your writing self the gift of encouragement.

This summer, I took a class at The Writers’ Loft taught by Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss. At the end of class, Karen asked us to write ourselves letters. The letters were an opportunity to chat about our writing hopes, dreams, and goals. Karen collected the letters and tucked them away. Five months later my letter appeared in my mailbox, and it was the most wonderful gift. Continue reading

Full Speed Ahead—Write Faster, Write More!

by Dave Pasquantonio

Sometimes the words come easily—and sometimes they don’t. We writers know exactly what it feels like to want to write more, to want to write faster, but the muse is not cooperating.

But we can’t always blame the muse. There are actions we writers can take to make the words flow faster.

Anna Staniszewski led a recent craft chat at The Writers’ Loft, “Write Faster—Write More!” She gave the enthusiastic attendees exactly what they were looking for—methods and insights to help us get those words out. Continue reading

Under the Skylight: Finding the Core of Your Story

by Erin Dionne

My most recent post was about writing the best story you possibly can. This one deals with another element of the revision process that I find really important: finding—and using—the “core” of your story to shape your revision.

What is the core?

The core of your story is its heart. It’s the one thing that holds your book together and provides your unique perspective on the world. Without it, your book would fall apart. Continue reading

Where Do Ideas Come From?

by Sandra J. Budiansky

Is there anything better than coming up with a brilliant idea and then sitting down and writing a best seller? Probably not, but that doesn’t usually happen. Many writers struggle to come up with an interesting book topic. On October 11th, Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss presented the Writers’ Loft workshop Idea Development, and When To Let Go, and it led to a lively and inspiring conversation. Continue reading