Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When I'd Rather Sharpen 96,000 Pencils BY HAND Than Look At My Manuscript One. More. Time.

Jill here! Today I am thrilled to introduce to you all a talented young author/editor. Alexa has been a part of Go Teen Writers for many years. I first got to know her better when she volunteered to be one of several proofreaders on the first edition of Storyworld First. She did an amazing job. She recently started a freelance editing business and gave my newest release Broken Trust an excellent edit that really helped improve the story. I'm proud to know her and excited to see her career blossom.

Today, Alexa is writing to us about those times when we are SICK of our books. Whether it be editing them or just trying to get that first draft done, we would pretty much rather do anything else. I'm in a place like this right now, so I'm excited about this topic.

Alexandria, better known as Alex or Alexa, is a strange Christian-fangirl-YA-writer medley tucked away in an undisclosed location in Virginia. She loves creating worlds out of keystrokes, discovering adorable ships (platonic or romantic), and becoming besties with clever characters who wow her with smarts and sass. You can find her on her blogs Summer Snowflakes and Verbosity Reviews, her editing website Edits by Alexandria, and on Pinterest and Goodreads.


For the most part, being a writer is pretty cool—I mean, we literally create worlds out of a bunch of tiny squiggles—but there are days that just don’t fit into that “most part.” Days when my characters won’t talk to me, my plot is chockful of holes, and as for my writing… well, let’s just say I’ve been staring at the same sentence for the last thirty-seven minutes and I’m beginning to question whether or not I can spell “the.” It’s those days that I wanna give up on writing and just do something… achievable. But because, even on the worst days, my heart’s calling is to write, I have to find a way to slog through those rough moments.


Different systems work differently for different people, and honestly, even I don’t use this system exactly like this every time. But… it looked prettier arranged in steps. So.






Step 1: Take A Break

Now I know all my fellow perfectionist over-achievers are already laughing their way out, because they’re not gonna do that are you crazy how will you ever finish anything BYE. But I promise: it’s not admitting defeat to walk away for a little while. Watch a movie. Listen to music. Read that one book your bestie’s been shoving in your face for a month. Just step away from anything to do with your wayward characters and your swiss-cheese manuscript and give yourself time to decompress.

Eventually though, you do have to come back, because—sadly—your book won’t write itself. You may find taking a break is all you need and it’s almost easy to refocus when you return. But if it isn’t (or you realize you’ve been avoiding your manuscript for several months now. ;) ), then it’s simply time for your butt and your chair, your fingers and your keyboard, to have some extended quality time.


Step 2: BUTT IN CHAIR

This step is fairly self-explanatory: butt must be in chair and fingers must be on keyboard. Got it? Great.


Step 3: Remind Yourself Of Your Why

One of the best ways I’ve found to pull myself out of a slump is to remember Why I Want To Be A Writer, or even, Why I’m Working On This Project (these could be completely different things). What is my point to coming back every day, jamming out another hundred words? What, with this project, do I want to achieve?

What do you want to achieve? Do you want to give your characters a voice? Encourage others? Something entirely different? When you wanted to give up, why did you say, “I can’t quit,” and drag yourself back?

Once I’ve regained a grasp on why I’m here, I’m sometimes ready to start again. Other times, I do all of the above, and my brain still goes, “Writing? Enh... How ’bout we don’t?” After that, I’ve found the only thing to do is trick myself into pounding out the words with some good old-fashioned bribery.


Step 4: The Reward System

1.      Music: I actually am one of those people who likes to listen to music while they write, but sometimes, I find the songs more of a distraction than a help. So I tell myself, “If you edit this chapter” or “if you finish this blog post” or even “JUST READ THE NEXT TWO PAGES,” then I’m allowed a quick jam session, celebrating my success.

2.      Desserts: I. Love. Chocolate. During NaNoWriMo 2013, I rewarded myself with my favorite: Lindt Dark Chocolate truffles. They’re kind of expensive, especially for a then-jobless high schooler, but I “made the investment” and bought myself a big bag at the beginning of November. The catch? I couldn’t even sniff them until each 10% of my word count was reached.

3.      TV: I rarely find time to watch anything; simultaneously, there are so many shows I love. So on those days I just wanna give up and binge-watch CW’s Flash, I put myself on a schedule and focus on finishing quickly and well so I can watch an episode before quitting time.


Final Tip: Hold Yourself Accountable

As I’m writing the first draft of this post, I promised myself that if I finished writing by 10:10 tonight, I could watch 30 minutes of Allegiant. But I’ll be honest: I majorly procrastinated today and there’s no way I’ll finish on time. That means that when 10:10 rolls around, I’ll still be writing and Allegiant will still be in its case. Reward systems only work if you commit to holding yourself accountable. :)

Thank you so much for having me on Go Teen Writers! What do you use to trick yourself into writing? What’s your reason for returning to the story of your heart? Hope you enjoyed, and thanks again!

~ Love, Alexa

31 comments:

  1. It's the holding oneself accountable that I'm not so great at... ; D Great post!

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    1. Haha, I have problems with that too sometimes. :p I think the reward system really helps with that though... most days.

      Thank you!


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  2. I'm one of those writers who has kind of put it off..... For several months.... Or half a year....But thanks for this post! Hopefully it can help me to actually write instead of just pretend to write.

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    1. Haha, I have definitely been there! In fact, I was when I wrote the first draft, which is why I mentioned it. :p

      And yes, I hope it does!! :D


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  3. I usually take a break or else take part in the 100 for 100 challenge. Unfortunately, rewards do not really work for me and I have to be somewhat accountable to someone else for me to keep pounding out the words. Deadlines are what typically help as well, though I don't usually completely finish by the deadline.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The 100-for-100 is one of my favorite things on GTW!

      Aw. Well, like I said, different thinks work differently for different people, so I'm glad you've figured out what systems work best for you. :)


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  4. Thanks so much for being with us, Alexa! Loved having you share your wisdom in your fresh, beautiful writing voice :)

    Something that has worked for me recently is searching for what I'm excited about in the scene I'm working on. If there's nothing I'm excited about, then I need to find something! When you're excited about what you're working on, it's more joyful for you as a writer, and I have to think it benefits the reader too!

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    1. That helps so much, Steph. When I'm not excited, it's so hard!

      Delete
    2. You're welcome! Thanks for having me! :D

      Ah, yeah, that is a great one! Like Mrs. Jill said, it's so mcuh harder to write when you're not really into it. Plus, when you're excited, that passion comes out in your writing, which makes it even easier for the reader to engage with your story. :)


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  5. Might sound silly, but I usually sit down with whatever project I'm working on and have something bizarre happen to my characters. An alien abduction, a stampeding horde of gerbils...whatever will make me laugh at the absurdity.

    Humor helps me bring back the joy, which in turn keeps things fresh. The gerbils or aliens, having done their job, disappear and I'm able to get back to work.

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    1. Oh my gosh, that is amazing! LOL, I can see how that would definitely get you back into your story.


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  6. So cool to see you here, Alexa! :)

    Sometimes if I'm getting frustrated with my stories, I have to remind myself of why I love them. I'll think of the scenes that I loved to write (or can't wait to get to), the characters I adore, the parts where I managed to give myself chills... anything that I love about the story. I'll tell myself this thing deserves to be finished. That's what makes it worth it to go on. ;D

    ReplyDelete
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    1. HEY!! And ISN'T IT THOUGH??!! I'm still probably a little too excited, lol

      Yes, I've done this one too and it helps so much: to remind yourself of the good parts of the story when all your brain wants to see is the bad.


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  7. Loved every word of this! And I totally relate!

    From: a fellow writer whose agent suggested I rewrite my novel and switch it from women's fiction to YA. ��

    I've always loved GoTeenWriters!

    Blessings ~

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    1. Thank you!!! :D

      Me too! Like Mrs. Jill said, I've been here for a long time (almost 5 years). It's amazing. :)


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  8. Nice post! I love all of these ideas!

    Whenever I find that I'm procrastinating or whatever, I usually turn to the rewards system. Especially TV! whenever I do NaNo (camp or official), I always have some sort of rule that if I write a certain number or words, I can watch an episode of something.

    I'm actually procrastinating right now, but if I manage to finish part of my outline for NaNo tonight, I can start experimenting on Netflix and figure out what my NaNo show this year will be!

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    1. Thank you!!!! :D

      TV can definitely be a great motivator. ;)
      Haha, go get that outline, and best of luck with NaNo this year!


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  9. I like to bribe myself with candy. Sometimes
    what also helps is to walk away from the computer and narrate into my phone. This is nice because I can go outside and get a change of scenery.

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    1. Candy just about always work for me, lol

      Ooh, yeah, that's a great one! I've done it, but I normally just pace inside my bedroom until I get it right, rather than going outside. The change of scenery probably makes things even easier though.


      Alexa
      thessalexa.blogspot.com
      verbosityreviews.com

      Delete
  10. Wow! I love you, Alexa!! This is one of those blog posts that is just fun to read. Your tips are super true and super helpful, and your unique flavor of humor and charm makes the hard truth a lot easier to choke down. Also, I have to say I'm jealous you got to edit Broken Trust. I'm still waiting for it to come out on Amazon (in book format, not ebook), and I'm being pretty impatient. Hmm... maybe once it's out I can use it as the foundation of a reward system. Thank you so much for sharing, Alexa!

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    1. Oh my gosh, THANK YOU! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :D

      It will be 100% worth the wait. And hehe, that would definitely be a good reward. ;)

      No problem! Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  11. This is a great post--I like your easy writing style and your advice is very good. Unfortunately, bribing never works for me because I'm always convinced that it would be more efficient to get the reward first without having to bother to work for it. The best idea for me is just to sit down and write, and to take a break every so often. But mostly just to sit down.

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    1. Thank you!

      And haha, yeah, that mindset would make it more difficult to set a reward system. But at least you've got down what does work for you, so you can start using that. :)

      Delete
  12. This post was so great, Alexandria (and your name is awesome, by the way)! Loved all of your advice - one thing I like to do to motivate myself to write is to make collages of pictures that go with my story. It's so much fun to have visuals :D.

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you! :D (and haha, double thanks! I'm kinda a big fan of it too ;) )

      Oooh, yeah, I know of a lot of people who do that! I've never been very good at putting them together myself, but it looks awesome when other people can manage it.

      Delete
  13. This is the kind of post I need right now! I've been avoiding my current story for days, if not weeks. One of those slumps where I'm always carrying my notebook around and letting the story float around in the back of my mind, but not writing anything. Great tips, Alexa! Can't wait to put them to good use! :)

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    1. Glad to catch you at a timely moment. ;) And I hope they help you! :D

      Delete
  14. I'm at the 'I'd rather sharpen 96,000 pencils by hand' point, but I'm not sure what my bribe will be. I've been trying to keep going, but I feel like I've been dragging a broken leg after me...It's a tough life, this writing.

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    1. Yeah, definitely been there. :p And it is hard... but if writing is something we truly desire, we have to find a way to pass these rough points. :)

      Perhaps you could consider the things you fill up your free time with instead of writing. Could any of them be replaced and used as a reward system only when you finish the writing?

      Delete
  15. Love your title!! Epic, lol! And taking a break is essential... I'd need to listen to music, walk in the fresh air, or have people time :)

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    1. Haha, thanks! Yeah, I think it's a part of the process that can often be disregarded, but is vital to keep from burning out.

      Ah, music. I love it <3

      Delete

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