Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. With that said, I have not partnered with any of the authors or publishers for sponsorship. All recommendations and endorsements are based solely on my personal experiences.
I have arthritis. It’s osteoarthritis, and it’s in my fingers, wrists, and elbows, among other joints. Osteoarthritis comes from overuse, but it isn’t something that goes away. I’ll be dealing with this for the foreseeable future.
Despite my chronic pain, I still make progress with my writing. It’s difficult, but I’ve found some strategies to help. If you also struggle with moving forward in your books when dealing with a flare-up, check out my top five tips for writing with chronic pain.
MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR WRITING WITH CHRONIC PAIN
Take rest days. On days when the pain is too great, you might have to take some time off. And that’s okay! In my most recent newsletter, I talked about taking breaks when you’re feeling low. “The book will still be there when you’re feeling better.” The same holds true for chronic pain.
KT tape. My friend and fellow writer Kate Mitchell recommended this one to me. If you can’t find this tape, try compression gloves. I had mixed results with those, but they might work for you. Buy KT tape here.
Writing via dictation. Text to speech is an absolute godsend. I use Google Docs in Google Chrome, so dictation is built right in. If you want to use this feature, open your document, navigate to Tools, then select Voice Typing. Note: This feature only works when using Docs in Google Chrome. If you don’t use Google Docs, try Dragon or another dictation option.
Communicate. As authors, we frequently have to deal with deadlines. Since I’m self-published to this point, I don’t have to worry too much about that. However, as an editor, I juggle due dates for various clients. When I’m in the midst of a terrible flare-up (like right now), I let my clients know to expect things with a delay. When you communicate what’s going on, people tend to be understanding. If they’re not, maybe they’re not the best people for you to interact with.
Prioritize quality over quantity. Marathon writing sessions are phenomenal, but they can’t happen every day. If you’re in too much pain to get a lot of writing done at once, try doing a few sprints. That way, you’re still getting words down, even if you don’t think you’re getting much done. Every little bit matters.
For more tips for managing chronic pain, check out this post with hacks for living with chronic conditions, or this one featuring tools for pain management that aren’t medications (thanks again, Kate!). Final note: I am not a medical professional. Please take all recommendations with that in mind. If you are truly having a hard time managing chronic pain, your best bet is to make an appointment with a qualified physician.
Let me make the case to you for setting micro goals. Writing a book is a complicated process. Some days, 100 words are more than doable. Other days, it feels a gargantuan task. When I have days like the latter, what helps is telling myself I only have to write one sentence. It’s almost impossible not to talk myself into doing just that much. Usually, once I have that one sentence down, it’s enough to motivate me to keep going with the work.
Take this blog post, for example. I told myself I was only going to write a topic sentence. But a minute or so has gone by now, and I am still writing the post. I can’t keep this little sprint going for much longer, but it’s given me a solid start. That’s the power of micro goals.
When I’m working on a draft of a novel, I set a word count goal for 2,000 words per day. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember, maybe since college. But on days when writing feels impossible, like the last thing I would ever want to do, I lower my expectations.
On days when I’m struggling, I focus on a much lower word count target, say, 500 words, or 100. Once, I even set a target for like, 50 words (a Very Bad Day). Still, it counted as writing, because I was getting words down. Even if my word count goal was lower than I wanted, I still got something done. That is the power of micro goals.
So, the next time you’re struggling, lower the bar. Decrease the word count goal. This is not only good for morale, but also productivity. You’ll be surprised how much progress you’ll make.
As I write this, I am dictating it. I’m in the middle of a pretty bad arthritis flare-up, I have it in my hands, so it makes writing difficult. I wanted to get this blog post done, however, so I set a goal to just write the next sentence. Here we are now, at the conclusion of this post. It’s going to be a short one, but I hope it helps someone as much as it’s helped me to figure this out.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Hello, this is Briana! I’m on vacation in West Virginia this week, so I’m publishing some wonderful guest posts. As soon as I’m back, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Until then, enjoy!
You should be writing. And yet whenever you open your manuscript and write a sentence you delete it, rewrite it and delete it again. Just like that you’re stuck, your mind goes blank and your character voices that live in your mind, who have always been there whispering to you, have fallen silent. And whilst you sit there your deadlines are creeping up on you, getting ready to pounce.
Writer’s block. Hitting a wall. Falling out of sync. These are some of the many different names we writers come up with for one common problem and that problem is when you can’t make the words pour out onto a page, whether it’s a page in a notebook or a page on a computer screen.
So what can you do to get the juices flowing once more? (Aside from making a sacrifice to the muses)
- Sometimes all it takes is a re-read of the last paragraph or chapter you wrote to remind yourself of what might happen next. Though the urge to re-write a whole chapter can be tempting try to focus on just reading and not editing.
- Take a break from your current project and start something new, it could be a blog post or even a competition piece. Anything that can wipe your creative palate clean.
- Take a scheduled break from writing altogether, spend time with friends and family. But fix a deadline so that you know when that day comes you have to return to your current project.
- Do something new. Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go, a new sport you’ve been wanting to try or maybe it’s something else. Whether it’s crossing something off of your bucket list or just following an impulse, give it a go. Take photos. Make the occasional note. If it doesn’t spark your imagination it can always make a great blog post.
- Pick up your favourite book and read the first page, just the first page though. Done it? Now ask yourself questions; what makes me want to turn the next page? What do I learn from this page? Why is this book my favourite? This helps you identify what you find important in a story and if you apply these elements into your book it might help you get back into your writing.
- Change your location. No I don’t mean you have to move house, what I mean is identify where you normally do most of your writing, then change location. You do most of your writing sitting in the living room? Try the kitchen. You write whilst lying on your bed? Try sitting on the stairs.
I hope these tips can help you push through your writer’s block and get the words flowing once more.
What tips do you have for defeating writer’s block?
Feeling stuck? Check out @louisematchett8’s post on defeating writer’s block! (Click to tweet)
Today I’m talking about a little trick that’s saved me so much time while writing first drafts, and I’m so excited to share it with you! Sometimes, it really is the simplest things that can make the biggest difference. Give this technique a try and let me know what you think!
In her book, Writing Faster FTW, author L.A. Witt shares several techniques that have helped her write several books a year at impeccable speed. I’m a huge fan of fast drafting and picked this book up hoping to learn some useful tips and tricks to improve my writing speed. One of Witt’s favorite techniques involves the use of brackets. If, while writing, you get to a point where you don’t know what to put for a character’s name, eye color, or dialogue, toss in some brackets! Then, once you’re finished with the draft, you can search for the brackets and beef up the manuscript as needed.
While working on the first draft of my novel Reflections, I’ve been using a lot of brackets. Most of the time, at the end of the day’s writing session, I’ll go back and replace the brackets with relevant information. But when it seems that more in-depth revision will be needed, I leave the brackets until it’s time to do my second draft. For a glimpse of what this technique looks like in action, see the excerpt below:
With her father out of the room, the restaurant felt [adjective], cold, and unsettling. The television, which had gone to a commercial break and was blaring [description of ads], was far too loud for human ears. Rama’s hands trembled as she picked up the remote again and turned the whole thing off. She [phrase about safety even though it meant she had to face her [adjective] thoughts without any distractions.
This paragraph isn’t my favorite passage by a long shot, but it works for the purposes of this post. While working on this snippet, I used brackets to avoid getting bogged down by words that didn’t come to my mind right away. Once I put the brackets in, all I had to do when I was finished was go back in and flesh out the details I missed. Here are the changes:
With her father out of the room, the restaurant felt cavernous, cold, and unsettling. The television, which had gone to a commercial break and was blaring insurance ads, was far too loud for human ears. Rama’s hands trembled as she picked up the remote again and turned the whole thing off. She felt safer in the silence even though it meant she had to face her racing thoughts without any distractions.
Interesting, right? At any rate, it’s readable. And I couldn’t have gotten that paragraph finished as quickly without using brackets.
If you’re working on a first draft, I highly recommend using brackets when you’re drawing a blank on details. They can be used for everything from names to hair colors and even whole descriptions. Instead of getting bogged down in the details, let brackets do the heavy lifting. You can go back and fix them with the first draft is finished.
What are your tips for writing faster? Have you ever tried using brackets?
Want to write faster? @brianawrites can help with that. (Click to tweet)
I’m an editor. I don’t think that’s a secret. I thoroughly enjoy going through my work and the work of others, pointing out what could be improved, and strategizing how to fix it. I enjoy the process so much that I even edited Blood and Water myself (with the help of some talented betas!). With that being said, I don’t recommend editing your own work. If possible, you should hire someone else to help you fix it. Everyone needs an editor.
Although I edited my novel myself, it took a great deal longer than I would have liked. I kept missing little things because I had gone through the book so many times. That’s one of the biggest issues with editing your own work—you end up missing a lot of mistakes because your mind fills in the blanks and tries to tell you that you know what your novel says… when truth be told, you might not.
Here are a few more reasons why you need an editor:
- They’ll save you time. Like I already mentioned, you can get your finished product out a lot quicker if you’re not spending time going over the same errors every revision.
- They’ll allow you to invest in yourself. You might be worried about the money, but editors are definitely worth the expense. You can rest assured you’re getting the best bang for your buck, and spending money to improve your work might make you feel more professional.
- They’ll make you a better writer. A good editor will not only point out areas of your writing that need improvement, but will also give you ideas for how to improve. If you’re paying for a full edit, chances are the editor will even advise you on craft and technique. The more you work with an editor, the better your writing will be.
- They’ll support and encourage you. Because an editor invests a lot of time in your work, it’s only natural for them to want you to succeed. Think of an editor as a built-in cheerleader who wants to do everything in his or her power to help you publish your best work.
If you’re still not convinced you should hire an editor, ask anyone who’s ever worked with one. They know what they’re talking about. You should also read this post by the wonderful Ksenia Anske, who explains why editing can be so difficult sometimes. Editors work hard, and they’re good at what they do. Hug an editor today, or even better—hire one! 😉
Why do you think it’s important to have an editor?
Don’t think you need an editor? @brianawrites says, “Think again.” (Click to tweet)
Last week, I wrote a post. This, in itself, is nothing unusual. The post was about NaNoWriMo. That also isn’t anything unusual. The unusual part, though, is that the other day, I found myself reviewing my own pep talk. Then, instead of skimming, I really started reading it. I dove in deep, swam to the bottom, watched the air bubbles floating up towards the surface. On the subject of NaNoWriMo, I’ve been treading water for a few weeks; since the thing got started, really. But I’m determined not to drown.
If you’re behind, too, this post is for you. NaNoWriMo may be halfway over, but that doesn’t mean you should give up if you haven’t reached 25,000 words yet. I meant exactly what I said last week: you can totally do this. Keep going. Believe in yourself and the power of your work. And above all, don’t stop writing. No matter what, my darlings, never stop writing.
Sometimes, life is hard. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll never get ahead, never come out on top. Life gets in the way of writing. And you know what? That’s okay. Sometimes, writing can’t be your top priority.
Even if you can’t make word count every day, that’s no reason to abandon the project. NaNoWriMo is halfway finished, but that means you still have half a month to finish strong. Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself feeling down on yourself.
And loves, for what it’s worth, I believe in all of you.
How’s your NaNo novel going so far? What are your tips for staying motivated?
How’s your #NaNoWriMo novel going? Find out why @brianawrites thinks you should keep going, no matter what. (Click to tweet)
NaNoWriMo is almost here! Let’s discuss, shall we?
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, we should be buddies!
What advice do you have for anyone participating in NaNoWriMo?
Are you participating in #NaNoWriMo? @brianawrites has some advice for you. (Click to tweet)
In honor of turning 23 recently (two weeks ago!), here are 23 things I’ve learned about writing.
- My Writing Space (vlog)
- Plotting v. Pantsing (Google hangout)
- How to Avoid Writing Burnout
- How Writing Out of Sequence Got Me Unstuck
What are some things you’ve learned about writing?
In this vlog, author @brianawrites shares 23 things she’s learned about writing. (Click to tweet)
When this blog post goes live, I’ll be close to halfway finished with my novel BLOOD AND WATER. Right now, I’m expecting the novel to be around 50K, which is a respectable length. Lately, I’ve been doing lot of thinking about who would play my characters in a film version of the novel (ambitious, I know). Since a few of you know some things about the book, I thought it would be fun to share my choices for everyone. Keep reading to learn how I envision these beautiful, doomed teens inside my head.
Jay Harris (Michael B. Jordan)
I stumbled upon this one by accident. My friend Whitney was visiting me, sitting beside me, and scrolling through Tumblr. I happened to look over right as she landed on a picture of Michael B. Jordan. It was love at first scroll. Granted, at 28, he’s a little old for Jay, but Hollywood is always casting grown men as adolescents. Besides, I like the way he looks.
If you think this actor looks familiar, you might’ve seen him in Fruitvale Station, Parenthood, or Friday Night Lights.
Maia Harris (Gabrielle Union)
It was difficult for me to find a black actress between the ages of 20 and 30. I settled on the beautiful Gabrielle Union, even though she’s definitely out of my target range (I hope I look as good as she does at her age). SHE LOOKS AMAZING.
Anyway, Gabrielle Union has taken on all kinds of acting projects, including Being Mary Jane, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Bring It On.
Melanie McCartney (Sarah Bolger)
For Melanie, I wanted an actress who was actually Irish. The lovely Sarah Bolger is perfect for the part. I haven’t seen her in much, but she is absolutely gorgeous. I can’t get over her eyes. I get the feeling she’d do a great job of embodying Melanie’s sweetness and sass.
You can watch Sarah Bolger in The Tudors and Once Upon a Time.
Sean Wu (Darren Criss)
I’ve been a fan of Darren Criss since A Very Potter Musical (Look it up on YouTube). I’ve never stopped loving him, even when he joined Glee. How’s that for dedication? Criss is my first choice to play Sean, mostly because he’s Eurasian – there’s even some Chinese and Northern Irish in there.
Like I mentioned before, you can watch Criss in A Very Potter Musical, Glee, and Girl Most Likely.
Fleur Devereaux (Nathalie Emmanuel)
From the moment I first laid eyes on Nathalie Emmanuel, I knew she was perfect for Dr. Devereaux. Beautiful, smart, and capable of holding her own, I have no doubt that Emmanuel would do the French doctor justice. I don’t want to say much more about the character, since a lot of you don’t know her yet. All you need to know is that Emmanuel is flawless. AND LOOK AT HER HAIR.
Nathalie Emmanuel has landed roles in Game of Thrones, Hollyoaks, and Furious Seven.
If you’ve read part of BLOOD AND WATER, what do you think about these choices? Who else could you picture acting these roles? Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so you can stay updated on my writing progress!
How do you envision the characters in your novels? @brianawrites shares her ideas for her novel BLOOD AND WATER. (Click to tweet)
It’s hard for me to stay focused while writing. Sometimes I feel like there’s a perception on social media that I have my writing act together – which isn’t always true. While I do make an effort to concentrate when I’m working on something, it’s not guaranteed to happen. Sometimes the shiny lure of the internet is too strong to resist.
I wrote a similar post ages ago, but I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s time for an update. I want to share with you what works for me now, in hopes that you might find something that works for you, too. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve discovered some resources that help me stay focused.
- Write or Die. If you haven’t heard of Write or Die, check it out immediately. I’ve written some posts about it, but I’m not sure I’ve give you my settings yet. What works for me is setting the word count goal to 500 and the time limit to 30 minutes. You should experiment ad see what works best for you.
- Fullscreen mode. Whether you’re writing in Scrivener, Word, or some other program, going fullscreen is a great way to block out distractions and keep you focused on the task at hand. Ava Jae wrote a post about this technique.
- My laptop’s wireless button. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the most effective. If you just can’t bring yourself to stay off the internet, turn off your switch or your router for a while.
- Music and headphones. When I hear kids playing outside or my apartment is too quiet, I plug in my headphones and put some music on low in order to get in the zone. If you’re not a music person (first of all, how?), try a webapp like Coffitivity or focus@will.
- StayFocusd. I used to use this Chrome extension in college, but it’s been a while since I tried it again. Last night, I downloaded it and gave it a whirl. I’ve got to say, it’s just as great as I remember. Since I use social media for my job, I set the program to run from 5 p.m. when I get off work to 8 a.m. when I go into work. It lets me browse my blocked sites (Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) for 30 minutes before telling me to get back to work. There’s also a nuclear option if you want to block sites on the weekend or whatever, for a set amount of time. Give it a try.
I’m constantly on the lookout for more tips and tricks to keep me focused while writing. As I discover new methods for staying productive, you can count on me to share them with all of you here. While the methods in this post won’t work for everyone, I encourage you to try them out to find what works for you.
What are some tips, techniques, and resources that help you stay focused while writing?
Do you have trouble staying focused? Writer @brianawrites has some tips to help you write without distractions. (Click to tweet)