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.
I have a confession. I’m terrified to share this with you all, but I want to nonetheless.
I haven’t been reading. Well, that’s not quite true–I’m reading a lot at work, since I’m an editor, and I’ve been reading some essays and articles and things of that nature. I just haven’t been reading fiction–not anything that’s published, not outside of work.
I know that as a writer, I have to read often. Stephen King, one of my writing idols, said in his book On Writing, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
According to King, reading helps you recognize the shape of good and bad prose. It helps you appreciate language and hunger to put magic down on the page. You can’t be a good writer if you’re not a good reader. Reading is the best thing you can to to improve your writing prowess.
And I wholeheartedly agree with him–reading is important. As much as life gets in the way, I’m well aware that I make a lot of excuses. I do have time to read. But I often fill that time with Netflix or iPhone games or just wasting time on the Internet. I don’t put it toward furthering my writing career. I don’t use my free time as productively as I could.
It should come as no surprise that I want to make a living from my writing. I want it to be my career. In order for me to realize that dream, I’m going to make every effort to improve as a writer. That means I have to learn to make better use of my time–which in turn means I have to make myself read more.
Recently, I read a post by the wonderful Lucy Flint in which she confessed a similar struggle. Like me, she wants to make it a point to read more, concentrating her efforts on reading more fiction in order to improve her writing. So I’m coming clean, too. I want to read more. And I need you all to help hold me accountable to that.
Also, that means I need more book recommendations. Feel free to leave some in the comments below!
What are your tips for reading more? What are some books that you couldn’t put down?
.@brianawrites hasn’t been reading enough fiction, and she needs some advice. (Click to tweet)
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)
I love following other writers on Twitter. It’s great to get to see other authors’ processes and methods for writing productivity. I’ve mentioned how Twitter can be useful for writers before, but in case you’re still not sold on the idea, let me share a more concrete example.
I’m not sure where exactly the idea came from—whose tweet sparked my inspiration—but a year or two ago, I discovered a unique method for increasing writing productivity. Various authors were posting pictures of paper calendars covered with stickers. Often, there were multiple stickers on different days, or different colors with different meanings. The authors using this method usually posted some kind of key with their pictures, revealing what the number and color of stickers stood for. Most of them even used this method for editing.
It seemed so simple that I was convinced it wouldn’t work. I shoved the idea to the back of my mind. I would find another way.
Flash forward to last month. I happened upon a pack of cute summer-themed stickers in Target’s Dollar Spot, and grabbed them up right away. I was in the middle of a writing slump and had tried almost everything. What could the sticker method hurt?
When I got home, I decided on a simple system—one sticker each day I made some progress in my WIP. Even if I only wrote a sentence, that would translate to a sticker. And you know what? It worked.
I couldn’t believe it. Halfway through the month of April, I realized I’d written almost every single day utilizing this method. And now into May, as you can see from the picture, I’m still going strong. I’ve even bought some more stickers to use once these are gone!
Am I crazy? Maybe. Is this childish? Probably. But guess what—it does challenge me to keep writing each day. Every single day, in order to earn a sticker, I have to get words down. And that keeps me going.
The next time you’re stuck, consider trying something as silly as the sticker method. Don’t be too surprised if it ends up working out.
What are your tips for writing productivity? How do you stay motivated to keep your writing schedule?
How do you stay motivated while #amwriting? @brianawrites shares a surprising method that worked for her. (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)