Thursday, September 19, 2013

5 Ways to Pursue Writing Right Now

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

This is a blog post I wrote in the spring for the Go Teen Writers blog tour, so you may have seen it already. With school having started up and many of us feeling our time get crunched, it seemed like a good time to publish it here as well:

Most writers want to be published. For whatever reason, we feel it's important to get our stories into the hands of people. It feels as though something about our journey will be complete if we can accomplish this.

But the reality for many is that we're far from this, and we often live in seasons of life where we aren't making noticeable progress on this dream. Maybe we aren't even getting to write. Even published novelists go through that during seasons of marketing and book promotion.

While I don't know your unique situation, here are five ideas to help you pursue your dream of writing wherever you are today:

Take Notes.

Some seasons of life simply are not conducive to writing. Like your first semester of college, when you're having your wisdom teeth taken out, or when softball and play practice overlap for a few weeks. There are times in life that are better for story gathering than story writing. Even if you can't be writing, try to tune in to the details of your life to save them for later.

If you're fighting with your brother, take note of how your body is reacting. Pounding heart? Clenched fists? You can use that later in a story.

Or if you're in the middle of a cross-country move, try to right down the mood swings you might be experiencing. The excitement of boarding a plane for the first time, mixed with depression over leaving your friends, anger with your parents, and anxiety over the new school.

Save up those life experiences to draw on later, and you'll find your stories coming to life like never before.

Write 50 to 100 words a day.

If you can find ten minutes a day to write, you can make more progress than you think with your novel. 100 words is basically a paragraph, and if you can do it everyday for 100 days, you'll have at least 10,000 words in a few months. If you can't commit to 100 words for 100 days, go smaller. Try 50 words for 50 days.

You won't be able to make much progress in your writing if you aren't writing. So even though it may not feel like much, the discipline and rhythm of writing regularly can do a lot for you.

Look for one thing you could cut.

I received a crash course in prioritizing when I had my daughter, McKenna. Before she was born, I was living the writing dream. I could sit at my computer all day every day and write if I wanted to. Most of the time I wrote in the morning and read in the afternoons. Bliss.

And then came McKenna. Who was beautiful and who I loved like crazy ... but I also had this agent who wanted to see revisions for Me, Just Different. And then, a few short months later, I had an editor buy the book and ask me to write two more. A call I received as I changed my baby girl's diaper after a too-short morning nap.

Pursuing writing - pursuing anything you want in life - will require giving up other things. When pressed for time, I had to make the call about what mattered most. I chose my husband and daughter, followed by writing. This meant saying no to lunch with friends. It meant telling myself no when I wanted to read or take a nap in the afternoon. It meant choosing to write or edit when I felt more like watching The Daily Show.

If you're wanting to get serious about your writing, look at your schedule and see if there's one thing you can cut or trim back to make time for writing. This might involve asking a friend or parent to help you.

Give yourself brainstorming assignments.

This is something Jill Williamson has taught me to do. If I'm getting ready to wash dishes or shower or go on a road trip, I give my brain an assignment. I'll remind myself that I still need to figure out how my main character is going to get from point A to point B, and then I let my mind wander around possible solutions. Often times my mind has wandered away from my current book when the right idea strikes and I have to yank off my dish gloves to get the idea written down. This means that when I'm back at my computer after the kids are in bed, I'm able to use my time well.

Read books ... especially ones on writing!

If I'm feeling stale or like my writing has plateaued, I often pull out my favorite craft books to peruse or reread. It's an activity that refuels me and gets me thinking creatively about my story. For brainstorming, I like ones with exercises in them, like Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass or Deep and Wide by Susan May Warren.

What's a step that you've taken to pursue writing right now?


  1. Ok, totally awesome post!!! It was so very helpful. Even though I'm writing really well, as in no writers block right now (yeah!) These tips are so awesome!!!! I love the brainstorming idea!! Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Thanks for the suggestions! My step would be to do the 100 4 100 writing challenge, so that I actually have a goal to work towards and I'm writing pretty much every day.

  3. Yeah, so far I've been writing as much as I can, and I have been a BUNCH of writing books.

    Haha, take notes about how I feel whenever I fight with my brother! Ha ha....heh heh... Yeah, umm.... Good idea. :)

  4. The brainstorming one is great. I do that sometimes when I feel like I'm getting nowhere with this scene/chapter/whatever. I tell myself, "Okay. You can stop for now and go do ____. But you have to be thinking about such-and-such..." :) It works well, except for when I become too quick to use that excuse and don't follow through ;)

    What am I doing to pursue writing right now? Well...writing. xD And making an effort to apply what I'm learning. I'm already seeing this first draft be so much better than my last one, which is awesome. :)

  5. This is exactly what I'm going through! And will be all year because here in the UK, we have these big exams this year that are important for getting into university and stuff. So writing comes after grades, at the moment :(. That's why I made the decision not to worry about writing my next WIP, and just editing for now. Two stories + school + life = CRAZY STRESS PANIC!

    1. I'm having the exact same problem this year, Hannah. :(

  6. Very useful, I am quite reluctant sometimes to look for advice on writing through books or blogs and to then actually put it into action, because you know, that requires effort. However, some of these suggestions really appeal to me, especially the first one, and I am definitely going to try put them into effect.

  7. Great post! This totally helps me. Everything here does. And I've been keeping track of the editing posts for when the editing time comes 'round. ;)
    As for writing everyday, I've been doing the 1004100 pretty well, most days only going about fifty or so words over a hundred. Other days I've been writing and getting out a whole chapter. But when I see all the progress I have made on my, it really inspires me. :) So thanks!

    1. And I think I will try to continue the 1004100 even after its over. I can do pretty good at procrastinating when I set my mind to it, or I don't feel like writing.

  8. I really agree with you. I'm going to do 100 for 100 and see how it goes :) Maybe next year, my goal will be 200 for 200. I've been doing too much editing as I go, so I need to cut that out and just write.

  9. At the moment, I get my writing time in the early morning, before anyone else is awake. Sometimes I don't get very much done and I feel so bad, but this post helped me see that the little things matter too. 249 words is 249 words. 249 words closer to finishing my novel.
    Thank you, Mrs Stephanie.

  10. I don't comment very often, but this post really spoke to where I am in my writing journey. I'm in my first semester of college right now, and, like any other college freshman, greatly lacking extra time. I keep feeling like I should write, but with everything else I have to do, I feel like writing is not the best use of my precious time. Thank you for reminding me that some phases in life, such as this one, are better suited to observation than writing, and that it's okay to wait until the stress of this semester is over :)

  11. well, for starters, I signed up for the 100 for 100 challenge! I've never been very disciplined on when to write, and weeks would go by without me once touching my writing. And it REALLY annoyed me. But in the last four weeks it's become natural for me to sit and write just a little each day. So when a day goes by that I don't write, it feels like something's missing. Which is a good thing! And for some strange reason, I also feel like suddenly the world around me has so much more ideas and potential in it! :) And, thanks for all of your recent posts on editing and writing the first draft. They've really been a motivation for me and encouraging!!! :D

  12. My biggest step is...writing. I'm finding it really hard to just buckle down and get some writing done. >_< I agree that trimming things is a great idea, and also making sure to refill the creative tank by reading. It's hard to balance everything...but toootally worth it.

  13. Heh. I've been doing the 100 4 100 challenge and so far I've written 19,135 words. So I'm feeling pretty proud. The problem is I'm going to need to sleep eventually. XD

    My life is pretty busy right now so I keep my writing on my iPhone. That way I can write anytime I have a spare minute. I usually spend the rest of my time mulling over plot problems. Of which I have too many.

    1. This afternoon though, I was out. And this weird scene happened in real life. I jotted it down. I hope to slip it in somewhere soon.

  14. To continue writing, even though school is so pressing on me and life doesn't slow till I'm in bed, I write a little bit in my journal everyday. It helps me get into a writing habbit so that when I do have time to continue my stories, I'm not out of the habbit.

  15. This is exactly what I needed to read! I start college this spring and I was really worried about not being able to write seriously. I never thought about using that time to take notes and create new ideas.

  16. I'm taking notes right now. School + volleyball is just too much to sit down and write every night. Plus, trying to do 100 words for 100 days, it throws me off my groove from the night before and my 100 intervals seem disjointed. So I'm writing a glossary of my book instead. I'm getting all the new technology and government system worked out before I continue.