6 Habits of Successful Writers

In today’s post we’ll be discussing habits that can help support your success in your writing career. Let’s look at successful writers and learn from them.

What Is Success?

But before we delve into the advice giving let’s take a moment to reflect. Why? It’s important to consider what you think it means to be a successful writer.

Does it mean being a New York Times bestseller author? Or having a book published? Does it mean being able to earn an income from your writing? Or does it mean feeling like you’ve improved your writing craft?

Success in writing can mean yes to all of those questions, or none of them. Take a moment to set some goals for what you’d like your writing to mean for you. What would it mean for you to be a successful writer?

Taking a few moments to do this will help you apply the general habits we’ll be discussing in todays post, to your writing.

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to writing. But these habits are great places to start and many writers can vouch for their validity.

1. Write Regularly

There’s a reason people say ‘practice makes perfect’. You weren’t surprised to see this one on the list, were you?

There’s no magic button to push that will improve your writing. Though many a writer has wished there were.

Good writing, successful writing (not always the same thing, but often closely related) takes practice. There will be lots of bad drafts, awkward sentences and stray commas ahead of you.

But writing regularly enables you to make steady changes as you see what is most effective in your writing. Have a blog post take off? Attempt to replicate it. Have a character that readers love? What is it about that character that you did well?

Set yourself up well and make a considered effort to write regularly. For most full-time writers (those who make a financial living off writing) this means every day.

No, you don’t have to be writing the next greatest novel – but it’s important to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and practice with words on a daily basis.

Your practice doesn’t have to be public, and the amount of time is up to you. This time is for you and your craft.

Some ways to write regularly?

  • Write in a journal.
  • Write a short story
  • Start a blog
  • Get into letter writing
  • Play with word magnets (here’s some cool ones)
  • Use a writing prompt program (like this one)
  • Work on your novel

For me personally, I’m a big fan of incorporating a few of these into my week (though I don’t yet have word magnets). As a freelance writer and editor – words are my job, and I love it! It means I have hours a day dedicated to writing.

Not everyone is in my position, so find what works for you. There is a big debate around whether you should ‘write everyday’ and there are valid reasons people struggle with that pressure. While I’d encourage you to consider a daily habit, so long as it’s regular that’s great. I like to have weekends away from writing to recharge!

Just don’t leave weeks, or even months between writing anything at all.

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

E.B White

Famous writers who wrote regularly?

SO many! But here’s a few

  • Anthony Trollope
  • Stephen King
  • Henry Miller

2. Get Critique

Writing, for the most part, is something we do alone. Just us and a page or a blinking curser on the screen.

But it doesn’t have to be like that all the time – and in fact, you may be missing out if it is! You can gain valuable insight into writing by getting critique.

Finding writing buddies or critique partners can also encourage you. No one knows the struggle of killing off a loved character, like another writer. Finding it hard to fit writing into your life? So do many people, so it’s nice to have them to talk to when you need some help.

Looking at our own work and spotting the areas for growth is sometimes hard! That’s why we need another set of eyes. Find someone who can read your writing and discuss how you could improve.

Where do I find writing buddies?

  • Instagram
  • Facebook groups
  • Writing groups (check your local library)
  • People you know
  • Conventions

Some famous writing buddies?

Even those who are considered successful attribute much of their success to their fellow writers. All of these writers have had success both individually, and as a result of their collaboration with others.

  • C.S Lewis & J.R.R Tolkien
  • Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufmann
  • Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • John Green & Maureen Johnson

What about the professionals?

Getting critique from writing buddies prepares us to be for critique from those in the writing industry. Reviewers, editors, publishers and readers will have something to say about your book at some stage. It’s a good idea to have a trusted someone to look over the writing before then.

Paying for a beta-read or edit can be helpful as you grow your writing.

3. Don’t Wait for Inspiration

If only inspiration could be summoned at will. The concept of ‘writers block’ is one most are familiar with.

But if you’ve talked to those who have been successful in their writing, they typically write their way through a problem. Or come up with an alternative solution.

For the ideas to show up, you need to be there. I believe you can train your mind to be receptive and build habits that will help you make the most of inspiration.

Because yes, inspiration can come at strange times – that’s why shower white boards exist! Or in my case, the notes app on my phone… But most of the time, inspiration doesn’t hit us on demand – this can mean you wait around and nothing comes!

Instead, stretch yourself creatively to encourage ideas. Maybe it’s working on a different project for a little while, or writing in another style. Keep your mind engaged in writing while the problem works in the background – you may find it comes quicker to you that way!

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult

4. Self Care

This point isn’t one that often comes up. But it’s okay to take a break. You need to care for yourself.

Writers are often seen as eccentric, emotionally erratic people sitting in their trackies (sweatpants for non-Aussies) drinking too much coffee and crying over fictional people. But it’s not healthy.

Yes, some people might produce writing in that condition – but at what cost? And is it really worth it?

Writing is a wonderful aspect of life, but to enjoy it to the fullest, you need to care for all other aspects of your life too.

Take the time to give yourself a ‘writers check-up’.

  • How do you feel emotionally?
  • When did you last hang out with friends or family?
  • Are you connected spiritually? (For those who may be religious)
  • How’s your physical health?

Once you’ve done a take of the situation, think about what you can do to improve, or continue to foster healthy a writers life.

Some ideas?

  • Ask yourself when will I exercise today? What will I do to get moving? (Don’t ask will I, that’s too easy to say no to!) Go for a walk around the block or do a Youtube workout.
  • Schedule a ‘wellbeing day’ – Take yourself on a date to do something you enjoy. Go to a gallery, or get a drink in that fancy cafe you’ve been stalking on Instagram. Do something you enjoy, and do it regularly.
  • Catch up with loved ones – movie night anyone?
  • Turn off your screens! It can be freeing.
  • Put on clothes that make you feel good. Put the trackies in the wash.

Famous writers routines?

5. Establish Your Routine

Find what works for you and do it regularly. Incorporate into your routine practices that develop your writing.

Maybe your routine is based on weekly, fortnightly or monthly cycle. Perhaps your day could be structured differently to be more productive.

Productivity in your routine doesn’t have to mean the words are awesome. But they’re there, and each one of them is helping you improve.

I write a lot of material that I know I’ll throw away. It’s just part of the process. I have to write hundreds of pages before I get to page one.

Barbara Kingsolver

6. Read

Reading is a wonderful thing! Reading the words others have written broadens our vocabulary and understanding of different genres.

Spending time to read is invaluable writers.

What should I read?

Whatever you can! But I would say that reading can have different purposes. Reading for enjoyment for example, is quite different to reading for critique.

Both have a role to play in helping your writing improve. Reflect on what you’ve read and discuss with others what makes books great (or not so great).

So whether it’s a book on writing craft, or a cozy mystery, pick up a tome and turn those pages.

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.

Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window

William Faulkner

Happy Writing!

Thanks for reading today’s post! I hope you found it useful. Do you have any writing habits you’ve established? Tell me about your writing habits in the comments on this post!

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What to Consider When Worldbuilding

If you’ve attempted to write a fiction novel, you’ll know world building is challenging! Especially when it comes to fiction such as fantasy and sci-fi where reader expectation is high (along with your stress-levels).

Today we’ll be looking at a few elements of worldbuilding to consider as you write or revise your novel.

Before we begin

I’m still learning, aren’t we all?

So why read what I think about worldbuilding? There’s plenty of wonderful resources you can look at for worldbuilding tips (I’ll be linking to these at the end of the post). So why me? I’m in the process of revising my YA fantasy novel so many of the topics I mention in todays’s post are topics I’ve been thinking about in recent times.

I wanted to share what I’ve learnt so far, and use this post as a place for fellow writers to share what they’ve learned!

I hope you find these tips useful, and if you’d like to share your thoughts on worldbuilding, feel free to comment on this post.

Soft vs hard worldbuilding

Hard worldbuilding is what many people think of when it comes to fantasy or sci-fi. It exists when there are rigid rules for how the world functions. the Lord of The Rings is a classic example of this.

Soft worldbuilding, the rules you’ve established may not be specifically outlined to readers, which gives more flexibility in how your world functions.

An example of ‘soft’ worldbuilding can be seen in Harry Potter. Though the wizarding world functions with magic, the novels do not provide a historical accounting for the existence of magical powers themselves. The characters engage with magic, as a fact of their existence without justifying or explaining its intricacies.

Neither soft or hard worldbuilding is better, though arguably hard worldbuilding may be more time consuming.

Why is it useful to consider if you’d like to use soft or hard worldbuilding?

Deciding which approach to take early in development of your book will assist in clarifying your world. Offer consistency to readers by deciding how this world will be presented, and how the characters will engage with it.

What level of explanation will you need for aspects of your world?

Language & Culture

Minor details can add a lot of depth to a world. In fantasy or sci-fi language can be a great way to distinguish the world of your book from worlds the reader may be familiar with.

Questions to consider:

What derogatory terms or cuss words are used in this world?

What is the religion of this world? What language is used to invoke good luck? For example: ‘First to the key, first to the egg’ in Ready Player One or Mortal Engines ‘For Querks sake’.

Challenges & Conflict

What does this world need to survive?

What are the struggles of those living in this world? What do they want as a world, and what needs to happen for that to be acheived.

The answers to these questions provide opportunity to introduce conflict into your world. You may choose to start your book development by creating the world. What conflicts could affect your fictional world may result in your plot development.

Originality

Yes, nothing is new. The terror of creating a world that already exists can be enough to stall writers in their tracks.

Often this problem is made worse by the comparison tendencies when discussing literature. How many books have you come across described as ‘the next Hunger Games‘? I know I’ve seen a few marketing campaigns using this tactic.

Comparing can be helpful, it lets fans of one series know they might like this book too. But too often, it ends up with disappointment and unfair expectations on often what seems to be a debut novel.

Helpful Resources

This blog post has hopefully given you a few questions to consider as you consider worldbuilding in your novel. There’s so much on this topic, that many writers more qualified than I have put together.

If you’re interested, check these out:

The Writers Edit: The Ultimate Guide To World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi And Real-Life World – The Writers Edit regularly produces excellent content relating to all things writing craft.

Want to learn more about worldbuilding and creating maps of your fictional world? I enjoyed visiting The Worldbuilding School.

Still wondering where to start? I recommend visiting Neil Gaiman’s website. I found this essay particularly useful and entertaining.

Final Thoughts

Good worldbuilding isn’t easy! As I stumble my way through what sometimes feels like endless plot holes, I’m convinced of this. But with each revision, things get a little clearer. A little more exciting.

So keep writing! Ask questions and explore.

If you’re a writer, what do you think about when considering worldbuilding?

If you’re a reader, what makes a great world in a book from your perspective?

If you enjoyed this post consider giving it a share. If you don’t already there’s a button at the bottom of the post where you can subscribe to receive more bookish content! Thanks for reading.

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5 Tricks For Better Self-editing

If you’re really wanting to grow your writing skill, self-editing is necessary. It helps us learn and develop as a writer.

Self-editing also means that many of the more minor issues with our writing will be caught sooner, rather than later.

Editing your own work is hard. That’s why there are editors (like me) to give you a hand in tightening up what you’ve already worked on.

Today I’ll be sharing a few editing tricks and tips to help you with your writing. These are some of the things I’ve realised over the course of editing manuscripts and other editing projects, many writers (including myself!) struggle with.

You’re not alone!

1. Choose your descriptions carefully

This is particularly important when it comes to having multiple descriptors one after the other. Choose your adjectives wisely.

Don’t tell me that a person is beautiful. Show me, through your descriptions of their appearance and character.

Which would you rather read?

“Sally had stunning red hair.”

or

“Sally’s hair was the colour of autumn leaves dancing through the wind. When the light caught the copper strands, it took my breath away.”

While there’s nothing wrong with the first example, the second is more likely to capture a readers attention.

Likewise, if you have two similar descriptors, opt for one.

For example:

“His eyes widened in fear and terror.”

Fear and terror are very similar emotions. Give clarity and power to your prose by choosing one or the other. Usually it’s most effective to opt for the stronger of the two words – afterall, the first description wasn’t strong enough so you added another.

Glasses on a notebook full of writing
Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

2. Don’t hedge. Make the statement.

You’re the one telling the story. You can be direct in your prose and the statements you make. It will give the reader greater clarity and your prose better flow if you do.

Avoid using vague language in your prose. It lessens the impact of what you’re saying. In everyday speech, we often use hedging language to avoid commitment or questioning.

“I can probably write a chapter this week, sometime.”

versus

“I’ll write a chapter this week, you’ll have it by Tuesday.”

There is a place for hedging language. In academic writing caution is often needed around the statements being made. However, in most other writing hedging language weakens the prose.

Be a bold writer, not a timid one.

Examples of hedging words?

Perhaps, maybe, so it seems, usually, might, possibly.

When you use these words in your writing, evaluate whether they’re strengthening your prose. Are they needed?

3. Find your crutch words

We all have them. Words or phrases we repeat, without meaning to. Does everyone ‘gasp’ in your book when something occurs. Or does everything happen ‘immediately’?

Look for words or ideas you’re overusing and diversify. Is there another way you could say the same thing?

Writing on a black typewriter
Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

4. Don’t lean on ‘ly’ words

‘Really’, ‘certainly’, ‘absolutely’.

These words are often unnecessary in prose. Although we use them in everyday speech they can weigh down a book and come across as lazy if overused.

These words add strength to another word, but if you feel the need to add it on, there’s probably a better word out there you could use.

“Really good cheesecake”

Or you could use a stronger word and have a greater impact with your words.

“Delicious cheesecake”.

I’ll take the delicious cheesecake, thanks!

5. Use the programs available

Lots of benefit can be gained from editing software, many of which are free. Though this won’t replace an actual editor (or I’d be doing myself out of a job by telling you) these programs can help you.

Grammarly and Hemingway are two of my favourite programs for self-editing. Both have a free online version which integrates with your software.

Grammarly is great for picking up spelling errors or incorrect grammar. You can use this for everything you write – even emails! Just remember that all programs have limitations and will make mistakes sometimes.

Hemingway online editor allows you to check for readability. Are there sentences that are difficult to understand? Too many adverbs in your prose? This tool will highlight the sections needing your attention. Helpful!

Both Grammarly and Hemingway have premium versions. Personally, I’ve found the free versions are all that’s needed for most projects.

Orange typewriter surrounded by books.

Why self-editing is important

As I mentioned at the start of this post, learning how to edit your own writing is a vital skill to have. Learning how to evaluate and improve your own writing will help you to hone your craft.

If you’d like to learn more about the value of self-editing – here’s a video from author Alexa Donne.

Final thoughts

Thank you for reading today’s post, I hope you found it useful! If you have any self-editing tips that you’d like to share, comment on this post.

If you’d like to discuss getting some help with your editing project, I’d be happy to chat. Contact me or visit my services page to find out more.

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5 Tips For Camp NaNoWriMo

July is here. With it comes camp NaNoWriMo. Get inspired and learn my top 5 tips to get the most out of your camp.

What is camp NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNoWriMo takes place in April and July, and allows you to set a writing goal for the month.

Unlike NaNoWriMo in November, you’re not locked into writing 50,000 words. Instead, this is a creative opportunity for you to set (and reach) your creative goals.

Camp NaNoWriMo encourages writers to support one another by writing together in the month. Encouragement from your fellow writers is extremely valuable.

Will I be doing camp NaNoWriMo?

I am going to attempt to work on my second novel this month. It’s a YA fantasy, the sequel to my first book completed in NaNoWriMo 2019.

I think if I could knock 10,000 words into this first draft that would be excellent.

While I did do NaNoWriMo in November last year, and achieve 50,000 words in the month, for camp I want to take it a lot slower.

Why? My writing and editing business has really taken off in the last few months. While this is excellent, it’s left me renegotiating my available hours to work on creative projects of my own.

I’m still working on editing my first novel, as I write the sequel. Hence giving myself some space to exert creative energy over that manuscript.

I’m curious to see how things have changed this time around, and to see how my attitude towards achieving my creative goals will impact my writing. Now I know I can finish a book draft, I should be able to do it again, right?

We’ll see how we go! I’ll check back in and let you all know how I’ve gone at the end of the month.

With my preamble over, here’s my tips that I’ll be using this camp NaNoWriMo?

1. Give yourself sign-posts

Sure, you might have a fantastic idea for your story. It all might flow out at first, but in my experience, that initial fizz of excitement fades and you soon find yourself lost in your own plot.

Sustaining a writing habit is hard, especially when you don’t know what’s happening in your book at all.

Give yourself a few points of your plot, you don’t have to do a detailed plot outline (though if you want to, go ahead!) but at the minimum, a few points of reference is helpful for keeping you on track.

You might end up going completely away from your map, but I find it a helpful point of reference to return to. Especially when beginning.

2. Get connected to other writers

This goes beyond just this month. Grow your craft and be encouraged by sharing the writing journey with other writers.

I have learned lots from other authors, and am constantly encouraged when they share their writing story. The highs and lows will both come. Some times you’ll love your book, other times you might want to close the file and hit delete.

Don’t delete.

Persevere and surround yourself with those who encourage you to continue. Find those in your real life, as well as online life, who can hold you accountable.

Camp NaNoWriMo has great resources for connecting you to other writers.

You can also find and connect with fellow writers on Instagram, Twitter and in Facebook groups. Writing is usually an individual experience, but you don’t have to be isolated.

I’ve recently connected with a a group of writers on Instagram. The encouragement from one another is excellent motivation!

Photo by Nick Morrison

3. Set deadlines you can reach

The freedom of Camp NaNoWriMo means that you can set a goal that you can be confident you can reach.

Take a look at the time you have available to write in, and be realistic. It’s far better to set a slightly lower goal that you reach easily, than one too high.

Why? Achieving small wins is important. It will drive you to want to write more. Be proud of what you manage to accomplish, even if the word count is lower than others.

Photo by Markus Winkler

4. Focus on the habit

NaNoWriMo encourages you to set a word count goal, but doing so can be both a blessing an a curse.

A firm goal is helpful for measuring your progress towards it. At the same time however, know how you work best.

If I focus too much on the words I want to reach, the pressure can be too much.

I personally prefer to focus on building my writing habit in the month. Setting a specific amount of time in the day to sit and write. It doesn’t really matter how much I write, at least not at first…

The process of developing self-discipling and writing when you don’t feel like it is more beneficial to you long term. That was my true success of my NaNoWriMo experience.

Don’t be bound by ‘writers block’ but work through the problem. Don’t wait for motivation to strike.

5. Begin

What do you have to lose? I regularly speak with people who say they’d love to write more. Worries and self-doubt hold them back. They’ve held me back in the past.

But everyone begins somewhere.

You can begin, and improve, today.

Just sit for a period of time and try to write without fear. Don’t look back on the days writing until tomorrow. Or even the end of the month.

The distance and practice is important. We need to allow ourselves to try, rather than let fear of failing hold back our words.

Final thoughts

I hope you find today’s post helpful for camp NaNoWriMo, but also for developing your writing habit.

Will you be writing this month? I always enjoy hearing about what my readers are working on, so let me know by commenting below or contacting me.

Find out more about Camp NaNoWriMo

Thanks for reading today’s post. If you enjoyed, please consider subscribing using the buttons below – or sharing this post on your social media.

Haven’t had enough books? Come say hi to me on social media by searching @stephhuddlestonwriting or by clicking the buttons below.

5 Tips for Creating a Bespoke Biography

Often when we think of biography we think of the rich and famous. But biographies can be a meaningful way for people to leave a lasting legacy for loved ones. If you’ve been thinking of beginning a biography project, here are a few helpful tips for navigating your biography project.

I offer a number of bespoke biography packages to assist individuals and families in recording the moments that matter in life. I’ll be sharing a little more about this throughout this post.

1. Consider The Goals of The Project

The purpose and motivation which inspires us to create a project, ultimately influences the end result.

As you begin a biography project it’s important to assess your own personal goals you may have for this project. If you are related to the person who’s biography you’re writing this is particularly useful.

Next, consult and discuss the goals of the person whose biography you are writing. This is very important. A few questions you might like to ask your subject to aid this discussion are:

  1. Who would you like to read your biography?
  2. Why have you chosen now to begin your biography project?
  3. How do you want to be remembered?

Asking these questions will help you to identify the direction of your project. You may find that the person provides answers you did not anticipate.

Perhaps you want to write a full-length book memoir featuring your subject, whereas your subject would rather have greater emphasis on photography and thanking those who have influenced their life thus far.

Differences in goals, when not properly resolved can result in tension during the project. It’s important that you show respect to your subject by placing their goals for the project above your own. This is after all, their biography.

2. Decide on a budget and timeframe for the project

Determining a budget and timeframe from the get go can be helpful as you begin a biography project. What is the subject, or yourself willing to spend on the project? How long do you have to complete this project within?

The answer to those questions will give you guidance for the style of project you might to begin. Longer book biographies will typically take longer to produce and be more costly in the production stages.

Your budget in particular will help you determine whether you’d like to outsource any elements of the biography project. Bringing on a writer or a cover designer can add professionalism and quality to the project, but does incur a fee.

Timeframe of the project is a particular consideration for subjects with a life-threatening illness, wishing to complete a biography. Discuss with your subject how long they’d like to spend on this project. This can be helpful in determining the number of interview sessions, and cost of the project.

3. What Style of Biography will you create?

When most people hear ‘biography’ they tend to think of a full length book. While this makes up a great number of biographies, there are other styles which may be better suited to your project.

This is why I call my service ‘Bespoke Biography’ no two people are the same, so neither will their biographies be. The style and content of the biography should be tailored to the individual it shares the story of.

I offer a number of biography styles including:

Children’s books – A great option for parents or grandparents wishing to leave a special message for the children they love. Artistically gifted subjects may enjoy considering the illustration components of this project, or it can be outsourced.

Memory Books – Memory books blend photography and storytelling. This can be one of the most accessible styles, as it allows subjects to share memories as prompted by photography from across their life.

Hybrid Book – Thanks to technology we have many more story-telling options. This style blends traditional print biography with audio and visual components, enabling voice or video of subjects to become a part of the biography.

Full length Book – This is the traditional method of biography for a reason. Typically following a chronological account of the subjects life, these can vary in length.

Once a style has been suggested I work with people to offer them a bespoke, unique biography, tailoring the project to their individual needs and goals.

4. Set up Parameters for your sessions

Determine a day, time and duration of interview sessions for your biography project. This will help you stay on task during these sessions, and meet the end goal of a completed project.

Use this time to seek your subjects permission to either take notes during your time together, or record your conversation to take notes later.

You may find it useful to outline with the subject the boundaries of your discussions. In particular, as to your desire to understand them better, but also as it relates to some subject matter.

There may be some topics your subject wishes to discuss with you that make you uncomfortable. Depending on what these are, it is wise to flag them initially with your subject in one of your first sessions.

Decide ahead of time what you will do if a disclosure is made to you that is distressing because it relates to committed crimes or intended harm. Though this circumstance is uncommon, if it does arrive you will be prepared to respond appropriately.

5. Be Sensitive

Recording a life is often a joyful, wonderful thing and a time of healing through sharing. At other times the process is harder.

You must remain aware that the process can be painful for your subject at times and can bring up unpleasant emotions at times.

All lives have their moments of struggle and pain, so remain sensitive and kind at all times. If your subject does not want to discuss a particular topic, do not pressure them to do so.

If they decide to return to the subject at a later date, it may then be appropriate to discuss it then.

On a similar note, apply discretion when writing. If a particularly sensitive topic is shared with you, ask permission before incorporating it into the final project. It may be your subject was caught up in the flow of sharing and does not intend for some topics to be recorded in their lasting biography.

As a biographer, you also need to be sensitive to your own emotions and take care of yourself. Sometimes your subject may share a story which is distressing to you personally (though not always to them). Strategies to cope with this may include, discussing this with the person, distancing yourself from the person (for a time), or possibly even engaging in counselling.

The past pain of those we create a biography for can be easy to take upon ourselves. Try and refrain from doing so by determining strategies, in advance, to look after the needs of yourself and your subject.

Though the biography process is often a therapeutic process, remember your role and skills lie not in counselling (unless you are a trained counsellor). There may be times when it is appropriate and necessary to refer the person onto additional services.

Final Thoughts

The process of creating a biography is a unique journey for each individual person. The finished biography is a reflection of the life of a person, so no two will ever be the same.

I hope as you have found this post helpful, whether you’re a biographer yourself or considering having someone document your own story.

Life is filled with moments that matter. I feel honoured to hear these stories and work alongside people to help craft their biography.

If you’d like to learn more about my biography packages or book a free consultation to discuss your project, contact me using the button below.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

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5 Lessons From My First NaNoWriMo

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Now that the season is over, I think it’s time to do some reflecting on the year as it draws to a close. I did NaNoWriMo for the first time this year! In this post I’m going to be sharing five lessons I learned through the experience.

But first, what is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is what NaNoWriMo stands for. Started in 1999 in San Francisco a group of writers challenged themselves to write 50,000 words across the month of November. That’s a whole novel!

Since then it’s grown to be a world wide phenomenon with a network of writers encouraging one another onward to complete that elusive first draft. Beyond the writing it is a not-for-profit organisation, with programs and donations making improvements in literacy around the world.

Famous books such as Water for Elephants, The Night Circus and Fangirl all got their starts through NaNoWriMo.

So essentially, it’s a free online platform that you can use to connect with other writers, and track your word count and other statistics. Writers the world over participate every year, and it’s awesome!

Lesson One: Preparation is key

Some of you may know, but I started 2019 with the goal to finish the novel draft I have been chipping away at for almost two years. I have struggled to get traction with this story and make progress with writing it.

So, borne out of frustration and exhaustion I decided to step away from that work in progress and take a break. By starting a totally new project of course! (Does anyone else pick up new projects before their done with their current one?)

I had heard of NaNoWriMo a few years ago and it sounded pretty crazy. A whole novel in one month? That’s a lot of words! I didn’t know if it would even be possible for me with the track record of my other unfinished novel looming over my shoulder.

I decided to take the advice of seasoned Wrimos and do some preparation in October. #preptober anyone? I didn’t do this for my previous novel so I thought it would be good to try something different. I started October with no idea.

The NaNoWriMo website has a great workbook, which I did the first activity to get my ideas rolling. I then spent the rest of the month refining my idea, spending my writing time plotting key events in the story. Ideas for scenes. Character profiles.

This might not work for you, but it might be useful to try something different. Through prepping, I discovered that I was actually really well set up when the time came on November first to sit down and write. This was different to what I did with my other work in progress, and on reflection it could be the root of some of the issues I was having. Insufficient prep.

So figure out what preparation you need to do to sit down and write solidly for a month. Maybe it’s the kind of plot consideration that I did, but it could also mean things like stationary shopping, getting a notebook, or a word processing program. Figure out where you will write, what space works in your home?

At the barest, prep should mean at least signing yourself up for a NaNoWriMo profile!

Lesson Two: Get Excited

I really enjoyed NaNoWriMo because I was really excited about this story I was telling. Unlike my other work in progress *I glance wearily over my shoulder* where I had been trudging on for so long that the motivation and excitement I had initially had was lost.

I spent some time in my October building a vision board full of pins that inspired me about my stories. Artworks, quotes and images that spoke to me about this tale. I could then during November, scroll through the board and regain excitement once more for the world I was writing.

I like to talk about things when I’m excited, and that makes me more excited still! I found talking about my novel to make me want to spend more time. It also helped clarify things within the plot which leads me to my next point.

Lesson Three: Find your support crew

A month long writing saga takes hard work. It’s not easy. So you will need the support of people around you.

NaNoWriMo has local and digital events, and there are many other places online you can receive support from other Wrimos.

For me, my husband is my biggest supporter. I told him about thinking about doing NaNoWriMo and he never wavered in his belief that I could do it. Having that kind of confidence in your corner is great for when you’re a little low on it yourself.

Who are the people in your life who will support your writing? Maybe it’s your family, or a close friend. You’ll want someone to rant at when, mid-November, the glow of beginning starts to fade and you realise what a big undertaking you’ve signed up for.

Lesson four: Don’t look back

But! But! You protest, thinking of the 30,000 words and counting that you’ve written riddled with spelling errors and gaping plot holes. Don’t. Look. Back.

I know the temptation, having begun editing my other work in progress many a time despite it being unfinished. If you begin editing your work to early you may lose momentum.

You might become discouraged by the massive process you have to go through to make this into something that just maybe, one day, could be published.

To make it to 50,000 words in one month you will need to manage your time well. Going back over your words is something that in all likelihood you just won’t have time for in the months time frame.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t come back and edit. But there is a time for that, and that time is after November, and your book, are finished.

One of my favourite pieces of inspiration from NaNoWriMo 2019 came from Erin Morgenstern author of The Night Circus and The Starless Sea. She gave a pep talk that was emailed out to Wrimo participants mid November.

You do not have to make your story perfect right now. You don’t even have to get it right. You only need to get it on the page. That’s all.

Erin Morgenstern

I found this super motivating. You cannot edit words that are unwritten. Finish the book. Go on, find the words and write them down.

Lesson Five: celebrate

At the end of November you should celebrate. Whether you made it to the 50,000 words or not you will have made progress on a story only you can tell. Words that you strung together that didn’t exist until you spoke them…well the words existed but you get the picture.

If you didn’t make 50,000 words you might feel pretty bummed. Nano can be focused on word count which can be a good and bad thing. While the count gives you somewhere to aim for, it is an arbitary number. Some stories are longer or shorter than others. The main thing is that you gave it a go! I think it’s important to be pleased with yourself for trying your best. There’s no reason you can’t keep working on the story!

If you made it to 50,000 words, CONGRATULATIONS! This is a super exciting moment. You’ve done it, and now you know you can do it again. That is what I learned through this experience when I reached the 50,000 word mark on November 30th.

I know now I am capable of writing a novel draft. This really excites me! I’m excited for this story, and the future ones I will write.

So what now? November is over.

Yes, NaNoWriMo is officially over for the year. You can still use their platform year round, and carry on writing this and other projects if you like.

For me personally, I’m taking a break from my Wrimo novel. I am really happy with what I’ve achieved. I set the goal for 2019 to finish a novel draft. No, it’s not the novel I expected to finish when I set that goal, but I met it. I’m proud of this.

When I return to my novel, I hope to edit and polish it and set about the process of seeing just how far I can take this book of mine. It would be a dream come true for one day it to be in the hands of readers and on bookstore shelves.

I’m not naive, I know the chances of that happening, are slim. Extremely hard work is ahead of me, but I’m actually feeling excited. Determined. Only God knows where this path will lead, but I’m eager to begin the journey.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year, or previous years, I’d love to hear about your experience! Comment on this blog to share what you have learned. If you’re a writer, established or new, published or not, feel free to share some of what you’ve learned in the comments too.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post! I know NaNoWriMo is over for the year, but that doesn’t mean your writing has to be. Set yourself a challenge. Go and Write.

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5 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Today’s post is taking a break from reading and focusing on writing. If you follow along with me on social media you may know that I have challenged myself to write every day for at least a month.

This is in an effort to finally make some decent headway on the novel I’ve been chipping away at for the last year and a bit. So far, it’s been a challenging, exhausting but ultimately rewarding experience!

I’m deeper into my novel than I ever have been before which is both exciting and terrifying. One side benefit that has resulted from this daily habit, and blogging regularly, is that words seem to be coming easier to me.

Now, I’m not saying I’m an amazing writer, (I’ve got a very long way before that happens) but I have identified an improvement in my craft.

Writing doesn’t come easily to everyone. Today I thought I’d share some tips to help you improve your writing. They’ve worked well for me, and I hope they do for you too! Whether it’s a novel you’re working on, a report, or emails you send to colleagues, hopefully you find a tip from today useful!

1. Don’t send or publish right away

I‘m a firm believer in reading over your writing. You’ve probably heard that tip a lot. Reading over your writing allows you to correct any mistakes you may have made.

Have you considered giving your writing a second read over once you’ve had a break from it? Many publishing platforms such as email or WordPress allow you to make a draft of your writing that you can return to at a later time.

Why do this? By giving yourself a break from your writing and then returning to it at a later time you will see items for correction you may have missed.

I know if I’m in the haze of writing, I will read what I intended to write as opposed to what I actually wrote.

It’s not until I read with fresh eyes, so to speak, that I pick up on a few of the more subtle issues with my writing.

Even a 10 minute break away from your writing will freshen your perspective and allow you to enter a better mindset for editing.

In particular, this tip is vital when it comes to emails for another purpose beyond picking up on grammatical and sentence errors. If you’ve ever had to reply to an unpleasant email you may know where I’m going with this…

Don’t send emails when you’re angry! You may end up making the situation worse, or not expressing yourself clearly. Have you ever sent a message or email in anger, hit send, then had that nagging doubt or guilt come knocking? This tip is for you.

Write what you want to say in your anger, save it as a draft then come back to send it when you’ve cooled off.

In most cases, you’ll likely want to temper down what you’ve said and will communicate your thoughts in a clearer and more appropriate manner.

2. Decide your Main Goal for your Writing

In all writing, whether novel writing, email or reports clear direction is vital. Otherwise your readers will become lost, and confused as they read.

Say you’re righting an essay on The French Revolution and the question is “How did the French perception of Marie Antoinette impact the French Revolution?” You conduct some research and find a whole host of interesting facts out about Marie Antoinette including a range of bawdy comics. Do you put all of this information into your essay? No! There will be parts of your research that does not make it into the essay.

It can be difficult at times to sift through the amount of information we have available at our fingertips. However, our goal should not be to communicate everything we know on a subject but rather the most essential points we want our audience to understand.

Forming an outline of what you want to achieve through your writing is a helpful way to figure out what you want to express and how you will achieve it.

What this outline looks like can vary, perhaps jotting down a few goals for what you want an audience to learn from your essay. Or what you want your audience to feel from this particular novel chapter you’re writing. This can be a helpful way to prevent you going on tangents with your writing.

3. Edit your work

If you want your writing to improve it is essential you edit it. Read over it and look for incorrect spelling, grammatical errors and sentence structure that isn’t working well.

For that extra polish you may like to run your work through a specially designed grammer program such as Grammerly or Hemingway.

I am currently in the process of exploring which program I prefer to use. I have heard great things about Hemingway, as it includes features that point out repetitive phrases and cliches within your writing.

Doing this will ensure a more readable piece of work that will engage audiences. Spellcheck features in word processing programs only go so far and should not replace a manual edit.

You may like to show your writing to a friend or family member to get their feedback on your work. It can be helpful to have another person’s perspective and suggestions for improvement.

Of course, you can hire a professional editor to look over your writing. I would recommend this especially if you are working towards publishing a book. Editors are a wonderful resource of highly skilled people who should not be undervalued.

4. Research

It should go without saying, but if you’re including facts within your writing make sure they’re trustworthy. Using reliable sources to inform your writing means that your audience can trust you and what you have to say.

If using Wikipedia for research, only use it as a starting point. Never as your ultimate source for information. Wikipedia can be altered by anyone and is therefore an unreliable source that should be checked for accuracy before facts from that website are spread as if they are truth.

Likewise, don’t trust every research paper or study. Not all studies are created equally and so results should be evaluated carefully before being incorporated into your work.

Did the study use a large enough sample size? Has the study been able to be replicated?

I regularly see blog posts that use poor research to backup the point of their posts. It’s irresponsible in my opinion to spread inaccurate information to audiences. As a writer you need to be sure that the material you use to back up your position is accurate. Using incorrect information in your writing will cause your readers to doubt if they can trust your writing.

5. Practice Writing

The only way to truly improve in any skill is to practice. Sorry, I know I personally wish there was a button I could push that instantly honed my writing ability. Alas, it’s not to be.

In the mean time, if you want to improve your writing, write! Whether it’s blogging, journalling or writing a novel if you want to get good at writing, go and write.

I personally am still working at improving my writing. It’s something I’ll continue to work at. Even when I’ve got a snuffly nose and I don’t really feel like it. At the end of the day, if I don’t do something I want to do, I’m only letting myself down.

I want to one day publish a book, but for that one day to happen, I have to write today.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading this post. I hope today gave you some useful tips for improving your writing! If you have any writing tips, please share them in the comments below.

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I can be found @stephhuddlestonwriting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Till next week,

Happy reading!