Another Round of Shameless Self-Promotion

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe July is already more than halfway over?  Neither can I.  But I must admit it’s a good month.  First and foremost, Dad’s birthday is tomorrow (happy early birthday, old man!), so drop him some birthday love here or on my social media pages and I’ll pass it along to him.  Secondly, I recently found out that a piece of mine called “Cracked and Broken” will be appearing in Harbinger Press‘s Flash Fiction Fridays.  So, I thought I would take this week’s post as a chance for some shameless self-promotion.

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For Dad.

Harbinger Press is a brand new venue that opened in March of this year and was founded by Marie Robinson and B.C. Palmer.  It will be running its first round of Flash Fiction Fridays from July 19th through November 29th. My story will appear during this time.  I will announce via social media the exact Friday it comes out, plus I will share links to the story in those posts and on my website.  In other words, if you haven’t done so already, please stalk my pages all of which can be found off to the side here or at the top of my website.  And if you want to see all of the flash fiction pieces in this series (and participate future events like the “best of 2019” contest they’ll be having for their flash fiction selections), subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter, which can be found on their website linked above.

If you’re interested in submitting your own flash fiction pieces to them, their winter call opens on August 1st and runs until November 1st.  They’re open to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror according to the submission page.  I know I have some friends whose writing could fit in those categories!  Harbinger Press pays a flat rate of $25 for stories with a maximum of 1,000 words (so, basically semi-pro pay).  You can find their guidelines and the basic rights they purchase on the website I linked above.

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Borrowed from their website.

I’m extremely happy to be included in this debut batch of flash fiction.  “Cracked and Broken” is one of the few pieces I’ve written that I liked even before my writing group  gave their approval of it.  They helped me improve it a lot, so I have to thank them for the suggestions and critiques.  They know who they are.  It was also one of the first pieces I wrote after Stonecoast, without the guidance of my mentors, so it was a little scary to send it out into the world.  But I’m glad it has found a home!

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Will o’ the Wisp by Rob Powell.  Not what the story is technically about, but close enough visually.

As I mentioned above, I’ll announce when the story is released on my social media pages, so stalk me or subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter to catch it when it comes out.  Next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled program of trying to figure out this writing life.  Or maybe something cripple-focused.  I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll see you then.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to June.  How’s everyone doing?  Is the year going the way you were hoping so far?  Things have been weird for me with random bursts of productivity and bouts of “why bother?” generously sprinkled throughout.  I’m having more trouble than usual coming up with blog post topics, if you can’t tell.  It got me thinking about the writer’s life and wondering where I’m going wrong.  I Googled writer problems and found a few lists of “deadly sins,” but none of them quite worked for me.  Don’t get me wrong, they were cool in their own right, but many were directed toward the technical aspects of writing which aren’t where I’m having trouble.  So, I came up with my own list of seven deadly sins.

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The Seven Deadly Sins by Marta Dahlig.

1. Vanity/Pride.  The mother of all sins is dangerous for a writer, especially when we start thinking our stuff doesn’t need to be revised or changed.  When we’re not open to critique from our peers.  It’s perfect as is.  But art is never perfect.  The story may be great, but there’s always room for improvement.  A great story could become fantastic if you listen to others’ thoughts.  I never used to revise things, because they were “good enough.”  I learned a long time ago that that thinking was flawed.  Granted, I still hate revising pieces, but it’s usually because I’m not sure how to implement the changes I want to include.

2. Avarice/Greed.  Writing isn’t really a gig to get into if you’re just looking to make some quick money.  I mean, it would be nice to earn a comfortable living off of it and it’s totally fine to daydream about, but let’s be honest… we aren’t all Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t make us any lesser as writers.  They work hard just like we do, but they eventually got lucky.  If we persevere, we might get lucky too.  But don’t expect an easy payday in this line of work.

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Don’t be like Greed from FMA.

3. Wrath.  If constant rejection and critique upsets you, writing isn’t the job for you.  This is one of the few things I haven’t really been bothered by.  If someone dislikes my work or thinks I need to change things, that’s their opinions.  I take what’s useful to me and put the rest aside.  As far as rejections go, in total I’m nearing 300.  It’s just part of writing.  It stings sometimes, which is fine.  We’re human.  We’re allowed to get upset.  But if it stops you from submitting, then you won’t last long as a writer.

4. Gluttony.  If you do anything too much, you’re going to burn yourself out.  This includes writing and reading.  I do this a lot on both fronts, but especially with writing.  I’ll get in a good rhythm and forget to take a break until I hit a wall and the words just won’t come, then I fall into a bout of laziness (see Sloth).  I know it’s super hard to find a balance, but remember to take a break now and then.

5. Sloth.  You remember that laziness I was just talking about?  This is that.  For me, sloth is putting off writing until I know what I want to say, which never happens.  I have a general idea of the story, but I don’t really know where it’s going until I start writing.  I know this.  Yet I still get lazy and use plotting as an excuse not to write.  But if you never actually write anything, you’re not really a writer.

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Because sloths are cute.

6. Envy.  I am guilty of this.  Of course I support my writer friends unconditionally, but I admit to feeling the occasional twinge of jealousy.  Humans do this and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m human.  I don’t let it get in the way of being excited for them and cheering them on, though.  Writing is lonely enough.  If you start getting upset and jealous at others’ successes, it’s just going to get lonelier.

7. Lust.  I had a hard time making this one work for writing, but then I thought about the fact that we all have authors we lust after in one way or another.  A lot of times it even appears in our work because we imitate them.  Imitation is a good teaching tool, but if writers don’t make the style their own, it comes off as derivative.  So, lust after whoever you want, but don’t just copy them.  Make it your own.

And that’s how I interpret the seven deadly sins for writing.  What do you agree with?  What would you change?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

More Shameless Self Promotion

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this wonderful day?  I just realized it’s National Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate than to announce my latest publication?  My poem, “Dear God,” was released on Monday in Breath and Shadow’s Spring ’19 issue.  So, I thought I would take a moment to update you on this and on how Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 3 is doing.

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Couldn’t find one with a writer instead of the skier.

First, the new one!  “Dear God” is a piece I shared on here a few years ago, so if it seems familiar, that’s why.  However, the version posted on Breath and Shadow has been edited into a more streamlined piece.  It was originally written while I was an undergrad taking an Intro to Poetry Writing class with professor Jennifer Key.  One of our assignments was to write a poem speaking to God.  Many of the students wrote extremely happy and/or vague poems, so it was a little weird when it came time to read mine.  But I’m glad I read it to the class and I’m proud that this newest version is out in the world.

A little bit about Breath and Shadow.  It’s a quarterly journal out of Maine that focuses strictly on disabled writers, no matter the disability.  It’s a wonderful publication that gives a voice to a vast group that often goes unheard.  Normally, I keep my disability to myself when I’m submitting my work because I don’t want to be a publication’s token cripple or fodder for inspiration porn, but Breath and Shadow is a place where I didn’t have to worry about any of that.  Why?  Because all of the editors and staff have their own disabilities, as well as all of the contributors.  It’s simply a neat journal that publishes awesome writing by people who happen to be disabled.  Check it out.

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Inspiration porn, BUT there’re also adorable puppers.  I’ll let it slide.

And lastly, an update on Road Kill vol. 3.  It recently won the North Texas Book Festival Book Award!  I’m super proud to be in a collection with such a wonderful group of writers.  Thank you once again to E.R. Bills for putting it together.  If you haven’t checked it out, visit the link at the beginning of this post and consider picking up a copy.  It’s available as a paperback and a Kindle ebook.

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Wootwoot!

I’m wrapping this up a little quicker than usual, since I’m sure you’re tired of my shamelessness.  I’ll be back next week with a special book review of a duet (two reviews for the price of one)!  In the mean time, feel free to share your thoughts, comments, or recent accomplishments here or on my social media pages.

Keeping Track

Hello, hello!  Thanks to my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Tony PisculliI actually have something halfway productive to talk about today.  After my last post, he asked me how I keep track of my submissions and gave me a couple of ideas for how to improve on it.  So, I’m going to ramble a bit about three options for keeping track of the things you submit and where you submit them.  The first two options are things I currently do, but the third is one that I hope to implement in the near future.

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As one should.

1. Duotrope.  This is a nifty website that offers a searchable database of magazines and anthologies looking for submissions.  It keeps track of acceptance rates and a bunch of other useful tidbits like what word count and genres these places accept.  Its information is fairly accurate, but always check the submission guidelines of each venue before you submit, just in case.  One of its main features is the ability to track what you’ve submitted where.  It’s currently my go-to way of keeping track of everything, but it is flawed in that some smaller venues aren’t listed, so I need a backup way of tracking those.  But for $50 a year, it’s a great tool for writers to invest in.

2. File names.  I learned a long time ago to use the date, the story title, and the name of the publication when I’m saving my work for submission.  Labeling the file something like 2019.03.20_story_publication keeps everything in a neat chronological order.  However, the more submissions you make, the more unruly this method becomes.  One thing Tony suggested to help improve this was to give each story its own folder, that way everything isn’t mixed together and it’s easier to scan through and see where you’ve submitted individual stories.  I plan on giving this a shot before I send out too many more submissions.

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3. Spreadsheets.  This is something I’ve been meaning to create for a while now, but I keep putting it off because it’s going to take at least a couple of days.  It has been a long time since I’ve made any kind of in-depth spreadsheet for anything, so I’ll have to teach myself all the ins and outs of it again.  But I would love to not only track where I’ve sent things, but where I want to send them in the future and when.  It’s difficult to keep track of which venues have open submission periods.  I’ve almost missed a number of windows because I didn’t write it down anywhere.  Plus, a spreadsheet would allow me to personalize the information I keep track of, like which venues encourage me to submit again or random encouraging words for a particular story to look at when I’m considering trunking something.  When I do get around to creating a spreadsheet, I’ll make sure to give you all a glimpse!

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Sure…

What about you?  How do you keep track of your submissions?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Have you ever considered a spreadsheet?  What kind of information would you include if you created your own tracker?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media profiles!

That Didn’t Go Right

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this week?  I’m a bit annoyed at myself if I’m being honest.  I was going over my story’s timeline and looking at the revisions I’ve made when I realized I had made a stupid mistake.  There were two main plot points that I meant to reverse, but apparently in my zeal during my rewriting sessions, I forgot to switch them.  So, today, I’m going to ramble until I figure out some kind of solution for my dilemma.

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Me when I realized why something felt off with my story.

The more I think about it, I have a couple of solutions.  The easiest one would be to leave the story like it is and follow my original plotline.  I admit that I liked this section the way it was, but it drags a little in between scenes this way and there’s no good transition that will speed things up.  Slowness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It gives the writer a chance to build up the setting or show the characters in different types of interactions.  All of that can give the story depth.  But, it can also cause the reader to put the book down and makes it easier for them not to want to pick it back up.  Which makes this option dangerous.

The other solution would be to go back and add the chapter I wanted to move in the first place.  This would require reading through what I’ve already rewritten and finding the best place to transition to the “new” material, then figuring out how to make that section flow into the old one.  Luckily, I haven’t gotten too far ahead of the switch, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to go back and find a place to insert the other plot point.  And it should speed up the pace of the story.  Plus, some of the scenes in that section would really benefit from appearing earlier in the novel anyway.  My main concern is that, while it sounds great in my head, it won’t work as well on the page and I’ll end up switching everything back to the original order in the next draft.

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Because I’m too lazy to think of any others right now.

Honestly, since my first instinct was to flip these two plot points when I was working out the timeline for the revision, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing.  It’ll be more difficult and time consuming because I’ll have to read through what I have thus far and find a good place to insert a chapter.  However, I think the potential benefits are worth the risk.  It’s not as if I’m on an official deadline or anything.  If it sucks, I have time to switch it back.

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Maybe not always, but enough to trust it.

Have you had any moments where you realized you made a stupid mistake in your creative work recently?  Did you decide to go back and do what you had originally planned or did you go with the flow?  Feel free to share your stories or comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages.

Writer’s Block AKA Stubborn Procrastination

Hello, hello!  I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day or Excuse for Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call Thursday.  I have no plans, but I do have chocolate.  Huzzah!  Anyway, that’s tomorrow.  Today is about confessions of a writerly nature.  Namely, I haven’t done anything productive since January 20th (the day before the sickness of doom took over).  Yeah, I can blame the illness for about two weeks worth of laziness, but what about the last week and a half?  I had no excuse for vegging out.  So, I thought I would talk a little about what some people call writer’s block and my plan to deal with it.

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This is true.

First off, I want to say that I don’t particularly like the term “writer’s block.”  It sounds like something that just happens, something you have no control over.  For some people, that might be true.  Other people might enjoy having the excuse, being able to say that their lack of writing time is out of their control.  Not me.  I fully acknowledge that when I’m not writing, I’m usually procrastinating.  It’s rare for me to run out of words, at least on fictional things.  Motivation is my biggest issue.  And sometimes, I admit that the procrastination bug digs deep and stubbornly refuses to let go.  It’s what’s happening right now.  My motivation is low due to an influx of rejections I’ve been expecting (because of my year-end submissions that are just now being looked at).  It’s hard to want to write and revise when you keep getting told “it’s not for us, but good luck elsewhere.”  So, when the opportunity to procrastinate presented itself, I didn’t bother fighting it.

However, it’s about time for me to get over myself and get back to writing regularly.  Before the sickness decided to knock out all my will to work, I was actually struggling back into a decent rhythm.  How?  I joined a sprint group and one of the leaders happens to write around the same time I do during the week (early evening).  So, I have the support of checking in after each sprint and being held accountable.  Even if the leaders aren’t doing sprints, I can still create my own sprints and see if anyone wants to join me.  It’s a super helpful group for me and I plan to get back into it this week.

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I feel this on a deep level.

Aside from the sprint group, I need to find other forms of motivation as well, otherwise I know I’ll eventually fall back into the procrastination pit.  The problem is that I don’t respond well to self-appointed rewards.  Mostly because I usually forgo the rewards.  I promise myself anime or manga and by the time I get everything done, I’m either too lazy to find something to watch/read or it’s time for dinner and TV with Dad.  I guess all I can do is keep trying different things until I find something that works for me.

What about you?  How do you battle writer’s block or the procrastination bug?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

What’s Your Novel Really About?

Howdy, howdy!  Have you ever run into one of those people who asks what your novel-in-progress is about, but after you explain it to them, they’re all like “no, what is it really about…”?  They’re usually English majors or something along that line: people who can’t accept that sometimes, in writing, blue curtains are just blue curtains.  These are the deep thinkers, the over-analyzers.  And they’re usually pretty cool people.  But if you aren’t prepared for the question, it can be annoying and frustrating.  Especially if you’re like me and don’t consciously build underlying themes into your work.  So, I thought I would take a minute to ramble about hidden meanings and all that fun stuff.

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It’s the controversial meme of (writerly) doom!

Like I said, I don’t go into a writing session with the purpose of bringing a particular lesson to the page.  I don’t know many people who do.  The few I know who have tried doing this come across as preachy and, in all honesty, more than a little douchenozzly.  (This was a long time ago and in no way reflects my current circles.)  I like to let things happen naturally, especially in a first draft.  If the story is good, themes and hidden meanings will bury themselves into the story and eventually make themselves known.

How do I know this?  Because when I was doing exercises from Sandra Scofield’s The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision, one of the things I had to do was state the main vision of the novel I was preparing to revise.  I had no idea what LR was about in any deep sense.  I didn’t really care.  The story and characters were fun, so why did it need to be about anything other than dragons and war?  Then, I started reading through it and noticed a weird trend.  When everyone listened to each other and thought things through, there was forward momentum.  When everyone just argued and ignored things, everything stalled out.  So, I ended up with a sticky note on my computer that says “Vision: Looking at conflict from multiple angles (including the enemy’s) allows one greater access to the Truth and the ability to make difficult decisions.”

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At least he’s honest.

It turns out that listening and understanding are things I write about a lot.  I don’t know why.  It’s kind of like when Nancy Holder told me that young people getting dragged into new worlds was “classic Shawna.”  I had no idea.  Apparently, it’s what I gravitate towards without realizing it.  Granted, listening isn’t the only thing hidden in my stories, but I think it’s a lesson we all need to consider getting into the habit of, especially right now.  Maybe that’s why I notice it cropping up more and more in my stuff.

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Surprises are… fun?

Anyway, I suppose all of this just boils down to the fact that I think it’s kind of neat to see things I never intended to write about pop up in my stories.  So, while I may not know what my novel is about when you ask, I’ll eventually figure it out during revision.  What about you?  What themes pop up in your work?  Feel free to share your comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Writing Stints: I Should Get Back to Those

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone’s year going so far?  I’ve been fairly productive in getting ready to dive back into revisions in a serious manner.  I read through the revisions thus far, made sure I knew where I was going with things, and reviewed the plot to come.  But I admit that it’s a daunting task to sit down and seriously work on the story.  That’s why I’ve been looking into different variations of writing stints/time management methods.  I thought I would ramble on about a few of my options today, since I have nothing else to write about.

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This is not wrong.

For a while, a friend and I did a couple of hour long stints a day (or when we were both writing at the same time).  In other words, we’d check in with each other with our goals for our stints that day, write (or revise or blog or whatever we needed to do) for an hour, take a short break to check in and rest, then repeat the last two steps until we met our goals or were exhausted.  That method worked for me.  It helped me concentrate and reporting in with said friend helped hold me accountable.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way of these things and makes it impossible for us to do this at the moment.  And, honestly, I don’t know if I could keep up that kind of momentum on my own.  An hour is a long time.  That’s why I’ve been looking at other options.

One of the most popular options for time management seems to be the Pomodoro Technique.  Yes, it means tomato.  Supposedly, the guy who started it used a tomato shaped timer.  In this one, you select a task and work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat 4 times, after which you take a 15 minute break then start all over again until you’re done.  It sounds useful and there are tons of apps to use that will help with my accountability issues.  I might try this.

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Apparently this is a thing.

Some of my other friends have recently started doing a 15 minute stint followed by two half hour stints and another 15 minute stint to finish up.  They take short breaks between each stint to check in with each other as well.  It’s a method they found on Twitter through Leigh Bardugo.  Our writing schedules just don’t mesh, so I haven’t been able to join them, but it seems like a helpful style.  Maybe live tweeting progress during breaks could even work for me.  Or at least posting progress on my private Facebook page.  I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to publicly announce how slow I am.

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Because cunning is better than speed.

Anyway, this is all to say that I need to start doing stints again.  I’ll probably try my old way on my own for a while.  If that fails, I’ll try the Pomodoro Technique.  What about you?  Do you have any time management tips?  What do you do to get yourself on track?  Feel free to share your thoughts, methods, or comments here or on my social media pages!

Going With The Flow

Howdy, howdy!  How is October almost over?  Next week is book review time and I have no idea what I’m going to review.  I thought I was more organized than that, but surprise!  I’m not.  I’m also super behind on a lot of my goals for the year.  It has just been really hard to find a balance between writing and life that doesn’t make me sick of either one.  When I hit those points of burnout, it throws off my schedule and everything gets stressful.  So, I thought I would ramble a bit about being organized vs. being flexible.

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Most of the time, I’m in mood number one.

I’m actually a super organized person, even though it doesn’t really look like it.  And by organized, I mean that I verge on the obsessive, especially when it comes to my routines.  I like plans.  I build my writing and slushing (I’m a first reader for PseudoPod) schedule around plans.  In fact, I keep goal lists for the week, month, and year.  Daily goal lists are something I make most days upon getting up.  Knowing what I’m supposed to get done each day eases my anxiety.  It also makes it easier for me to say yes or no to random errands (like when Dad asks if I want to go to the grocery store or Home Depot or out for dinner last minute).  Being organized is great because it even lets me build flexibility into my schedule.

On the other hand, shit happens.  People flake on you.  Allergies attack.  Computers randomly die or the Internet goes out.  Or a million other stupid little things that can’t be controlled happen.  Sometimes, I can foresee that my plans are going to be shot for the day (like when I have a doctor’s appointment that should only take 10 minutes, but I know I’ll be there at least an hour), so I make that a “do whatever” day.  Other times, I get burnt out by my routine and end up procrastinating for weeks.  But usually, life just gets in the way and I have to accept that.  Going with the flow isn’t my strong suit, but I’m trying to get better at it.

616498_1I’m trying to be more flexible, to just go with the flow.  I’ve come to the point where I can acknowledge that I won’t finish all my goals some of the time.  I even push less important things back a week (or month or year).  It’s not a huge step toward being flexible, but I’m making progress.  Building flexibility into my schedules is probably the closest I’ll ever get to being the type who rolls with whatever.  As long as I get my main goals done each day, I think I’ll be fine with the flow.

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Go with the Flow by Amanda Cass.

What about you?  Are you super organized?  Do things messing up your plans freak you out or tick you off?  Or are you the flexible kind who can shrug things off and follow the new path with ease?  Feel free to share your thoughts or questions here or on my social media pages!

New Draft, New File

Howdy, howdy!  Another week gone by in the blink of an eye.  It seems like the only way I can keep up with the days is by the difficulty of the crossword, and that’s not a reliable measure.  Maybe I’m just being over-dramatic.  Anyway, this week, I wanted to talk about another new-to-me revision technique that I’ve been trying.  It’s another suggestion from the same book I mentioned last week, The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield.  Basically, you type up the new draft in a blank file.

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Yes, get into it.

In pre-word processor days, writers had to type up each new draft with their trusty typewriter (or write them out by hand if you want to go back that far).  There was no copying and pasting.  No saving the source file under a new name and making changes in the text you’ve already written.  Sure, they had the hardcopy next to them, but still… it sounds like a long and tedious process.  But it’s worth a shot when you’re having trouble getting into the revision flow.

I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t followed Scofield’s advice as thoroughly as I could.  She suggests printing two copies your first draft and doing a bunch of exercises and making notes on the hardcopies and all of that, then revising into a new document from there.  That’s too much work for me.  I’m not being lazy, just mobility-impaired.  Why struggle with shuffling a bunch of papers around when I can use track changes in Word to make notes and achieve similar results?  Technology makes my life easier and more independent, so I try to make use of it when I can.  If I get stuck in the revision process, then I’ll back up and try it another way.

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That’s when we try something new.  Also, panda butt!

However, I did decide to follow her advice about typing the new draft up from scratch.  I open the first draft, highlight the next 1,000ish words (because it gives me a visual of how much I want to get through that day), then open my current draft file and get to typing.  Even though I was skeptical at first, it has been super helpful.  It allows me to focus on the voice of the narrator, which was shaky early in the first draft, and to fix things in my head as I type up the new version.  I’ve added stuff and taken stuff away.  I play with paragraph breaks and punctuation.  It just feels more acceptable to change things around on a blank page than it does on a completed draft.  I’m not disrespecting what I’ve already written, I’m making it better.   Even the stuff that I’ve sworn I was going to type up verbatim ended up getting tweaked to fit the new flow.  It’s been a freeing experience.

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Okay, it’s not as cool of an experience as this, but it’s pretty close.

I, personally, like starting at the beginning and working through things paragraph by paragraph.  But even if you like to jump around and work on different scenes in different orders, typing everything up in a new file could be helpful.  I know people who write their first drafts by hand and type their second draft from that.  There are so many ways to do this whole writing thing.  I’m constantly tweaking my own method, in case you haven’t noticed.  So, if you’re stuck or just haven’t found a way that consistently works for you, don’t be afraid to try a new process.

As always, feel free to share your own methods, comments, or questions here or on my social media pages!