Discussion: Your Mindset

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http://commons.wikimedia.org

In my Writing Advice post yesterday, I quoted Brandon Sanderson, who said that he loves the process of storytelling. When he sits down to write, he is in the mindset of a storyteller who just wants to get these words onto paper. That got me thinking about what my writing mindset is. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my mindset changes often.

Sometimes I’m not really in the mood to write, but I know that I have to get some words down for the day. On those days, I’m in the mindset of “just get it done.” Other times I am strongly driven to write down the new ideas that are coming into my head. Sometimes I just can’t get the ideas down fast enough. For me, that is the ideal mindset and I wish it came around more often.

On days when my mindset is lackluster, there are ways that I can get myself more interested in writing. I often read through what I wrote the previous day to remind myself of where I am in my project and to kickstart my brain again. I also read to get myself inspired again and ready to write. And, of course, I do bribe myself with the promise of snacks or time relaxing.

Sometimes a writer’s mindset can change during one session of writing. You may sit down not wanting to write and then hit your stride, finding your inspiration and writing much longer than you had planned. This is also an awesome mindset to be in and it can spark all kinds of new ideas.

So, I was wondering — what is your writing mindset? When you sit down to write on a regular basis, how are you feeling? When you want to psyche yourself up to get some writing done, what do you tell yourself? Do you bribe yourself with thoughts of a shiny finished product, or do you have a brainstorming session about what could be included in your next section of writing? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Writing Resolutions

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http://commons.wikimedia.org

For the past couple of years on the blog, I have published a post about resolutions as the new year begins. Some folks always have resolutions related to fitness or diet. But we writers tend to resolve to write more, publish more, and read more. At least, that’s my assumption about the writer community. If I’m wrong, please comment on this post and set me straight. Or simply comment and tell me what your new year’s resolutions are because that’s what we’re here to talk about today.

Personally, I always have at least a few resolutions on my list that are dedicated to the written word. This year I’m hoping to write or edit some of my work every day. This was my goal last year as well, but this year I’m making it seem more doable by setting the bar very low. All I have to do is write 350 words each day. I’m not sure how I’m going to quantify the editing, but if I can somehow get myself to sit down and edit my own work after editing other people’s work at my job all day, then I’ll consider it a victory.

Yesterday I wrote about making the time to write and I think that’s something that you have to keep in mind if you’ve created a writing resolution. Those resolutions are going to seem pretty simple throughout the month of January. But you might find it more and more difficult to keep your resolution until April rolls around and you’re finding that you would rather spend your time on other pursuits. So, start off strong! Section off some time in your day that is only meant for writing. Hold that time sacred and you’ll be more successful than some of your like-minded peers with similar resolutions.

So, now it’s your turn — what is your writing resolution for this year? Do you want to write a certain number of words each day? Do you want to make progress on a writing project that has lain fallow for too long? Do you want to establish a writing routine? Leave your resolutions in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discussion: Getting Ideas

http://on-writing-a-book.com
http://on-writing-a-book.com

This is the final few days before National Novel Writing Month begins. If you’re committed to participating and do not yet have an idea for your novel, I’d say you’re in trouble! But where do those ideas come from? Where does any writer get his or her ideas? It can be a difficult question to answer, but it might be the most-asked question that authors get. Every author has a different answer. Before I give my answer, here’s what Neil Gaiman had to say:

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?…Another important question is, If only…And then there are the others: I wonder…”

Now, I really respect Neil Gaiman and I love his answer. But I also don’t want to steal his answer, so I’m going to try to come up with my own. Where do I get ideas? If the timing of my inspirational bursts proves anything, then shower water must be where I get my ideas from. I’m sure many of us get ideas in the shower, and I think that’s because your mind is not doing anything taxing in the shower. Your mind is left to wander and that’s when the best ideas come.

But where do the ideas come from? I guess I would have to say that I get ideas from what I read, what I watch, and what I would like to see in the fictional world. If I would like to read about wizards in the suburbs, then that’s what I’m going to write (spoiler alert: that’s my National Novel Writing Month idea this year). Many different sources converge in my brain to come up with ideas, and I think that’s true for all of us. And it takes each of our unique brains to come with our own, unique ideas.

So, go forth and create! And please share in the comments where you get your ideas from.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: The Feeling of Inspiration

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http://lunasuryastudios.wordpress.com

Yesterday I wrote about National Novel Writing Month, a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Thanks to the pressure and structure of National Novel Writing Month, I’ve been able to write many a first draft. This will be my eighth time participating, so it will be my eighth first draft of a novel that I’ve completed. Three of those novels have been completely finished, and two of them have been edited into final drafts.

Of course, these achievements are thanks only in part to the structure and pressure of National Novel Writing Month. Another huge element that goes into writing a novel — or any length of writing project — is inspiration. As I’m sure we can all attest to, inspiration does not always come when it’s called. Sometimes you spend the majority of a writing session sitting in front of your computer or notepad just waiting for words that won’t come.

But when it does come, that inspiration can be the absolute best feeling in the world. I recently found an article by Annie Dillard, in which she describes the sensation of writing without inspiration and then writing with inspiration. She says:

“The sensation of writing a book is the sensation of spinning, blinded by love and daring. It is the sensation of a stunt pilot’s turning barrel rolls, or an inchworm’s blind rearing from a stem in search of a route. At its worst, it feels like alligator wrestling, at the level of the sentence.

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then – and only then -it is handed to you. From the corner of your eye you see motion. Something is moving through the air and headed your way. It is a parcel bound in ribbons and bows; it has two white wings. It flies directly at you; you can read your name on it. If it were a baseball, you would hit it out of the park. It is that one pitch in a thousand you see in slow motion; its wings beat slowly as a hawk’s.”

Isn’t that just how it feels? Well, at least that’s how it feels to me. I know that I’ve had days where writing absolutely feels like alligator wrestling. You can’t get the words in line, you can’t suss out the meaning of what you want to say, and the writing just won’t come together. But her description of feeling inspired is just as apt. When you get that sought-after spark and are ready to let the words flow from your fingers or your pen, it truly does feel as though a present has been placed in front of you, only to be unwrapped.

Do you agree with Annie Dillard’s description here? If not, how would you describe the feeling of being inspired? And what makes you inspired? Is there something in particular that you turn to to be inspired? Share all thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://houzz.com
http://houzz.com

Very Specific Book Nooks

I believe I have posted several times about book nooks on this blog. That’s only because I want a book nook of my own so desperately. Despite the fact that I now have my own living space, I still do not have a book nook to call my own. But perhaps one day! And perhaps I will want the book nook to represent a certain type of reading or a certain type of book. The book nooks in a recent post on the website Houzz listed 15 book nooks and what they want you to read.

I love the idea of pairing book nooks with certain types of reading material. For instance, the list shows a grand, Southern-style sort of reading nook and offers up Gone With the Wind as a reading suggestion. There is a calming, light and airy space that might inspire you to journal your feelings. My favorite (pictured above) is a cozy area with comfy couches that Houzz suggests pairing with some Jane Austen.

There are even more awesome reading nook-reading material pairings on this list. Check out the post on Houzz and see which type of reading nook is your favorite. Then think about a reading nook of your own. If you were given the chance to design your own reading area, what would you want it to convey? Would it call to mind cozy reads or hard-boiled mysteries? Would it make you think of classics or romance novels?

Leave a description of your ideal reading nook in the comments, and happy reading!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Lighting that Fire

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

Yesterday we talked about writing what you love. It’s a simple enough piece of advice, but now you need to find out what it is that you love enough to incorporate into your writing. In terms of topics or subjects to write about, I would say the best way to find your passion is to figure out your default interest, that specific thing that lights your fire.

I think we all have one of these–when you’re given the chance to learn about something or read something written in a certain time period, where do you turn? Are you crazy about Victorian era romance? Can you never get enough of WWII mysteries? What is it that just gives you goosebumps and makes you super excited? We all have something, so if you think about it for long enough you’re sure to find your own.

There is a different way of finding the writing motifs that you love enough to incorporate into your own work. I was recently thumbing through No Plot? No Problem!, which is a small writing handbook written by the founder of National Novel Writing Month–Chris Baty. In this little tome, Baty suggests creating a personal magna carta.

This is how the “magna carta” works. Maybe you love when a female lead has no romantic interest, or when the male lead works in a coffeeshop, or when animals are heavily involved in the plot. These are all things that you adore in books that you read. Whenever you think of one of these things, write them down in your magna carta. Then you can reference that list later if you’re stuck or don’t know where to take your story next. The list serves to remind you of what you love to read, which may inspire you to include some of those special aspects in your own story.

So, how about you? What are the topics that light your fire? What are some writing motifs that you love to read? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Your Sounding Boards

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

Yesterday, in our weekly advice post, we discussed the value of talking with someone about your writing. Talking about your writing projects and forcing yourself to say things about your project aloud can have an enormous benefit to your work. On the surface level, it can simply boost your self-esteem to discuss what you’re working on and get validation from someone listening to you. But on a deeper level, discussing your writing may lead you to learn where your plot holes are and figure out solutions to your writing-related problems.

If you’ve already had experience with talking about your writing projects, then you probably have a person or a group of people you typically consult. Maybe you have a trusted family member who has seen your writing grow from when you were young. Or maybe you have a friend who doesn’t do any writing herself, but is a big reader and can always pick out what your story needs. You may even have a writer’s group with whom you regularly meet to discuss projects.

Personally, I have several different sounding boards to discuss my writing with. I often talk to my brother about my various plot ideas, especially when National Novel Writing Month rolls around. I also have some friends who participate in NaNoWriMo with me, so they understand that special brand of insanity. It’s the most fun and the most helpful to discuss matters of writing techniques with them. And my NaNoWriMo group as a whole is a great sounding board for all things plot-related.

So, now it’s your turn. Who do you talk to about your writing? Who in your life can find the cracks in your plot, answer your queries, and support you as you continue to write? Feel free to share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan