The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

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The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:28 am

Welcome to HolWriMo’s Motivation Station! Here you’ll find lots of great advice, encouragement and plenty of virtual cookies to see you through the challenge.

I’ll be posting a weekly pep-talk/cheerleading post on Mondays to kick start the week. If there’s anything you’d like me to address specifically during the month or if you feel like doing some cheer leading of your own, just shoot me a PM here or on HOL!

Don’t worry, this won’t just be me spouting endless optimistic gibberish at you (alright…I’ll be doing a bit of that too). Several amazing members of HOL (including the team who came up with HolWriMo in the first place) have been good enough to come up with inspirational pep-talks to help you out. Whether it’s writers block, misbehaving characters or a project that keeps stalling, hopefully we’ll have the right tool to get you back on the creative road.

Um…yeah, I should warn you now, there will be a lot of questionable writing analogies ahead.

If you need any particular advice or have a writing question not covered here, head over to the HolWriMo Lounge thread and hopefully your fellow writers can help you out!
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"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:35 am

Hi Guys *waves shyly*
I'm just kicking off the motivation station with a bit of advice I found useful when doing NaNoWriMo. First things first: if this or anything else I suggest doesn’t work for you, please ignore it. We’re all different and work in different ways. The most important thing is to discover what works for you.

That being said, I thought I’d start by introducing you all to someone. And that’s your inner Editor. You all know who they are: the tiny doubting voice that tells you what you just wrote isn’t good enough or might be a little better if only you went back and changed something (alright, a lot of things).

Don’t get me wrong, your inner editor can be a valuable assistant. They can help you to know what works in a piece and what doesn’t, what to keep and what to prune out. But they tend to get in the way when you just want to tell a story or get an idea going. When your goal is just to see what your mind can do with a blank piece of paper, you don’t want a little voice nagging you to stop, go back or to start over. As Andy Warhol puts it:
Don't think about making art, just get it done

Anyone can write, including you. What you come out with might not (almost certainly won’t) be perfect first time. But that’s okay, more than okay. A challenge like HolWriMo is about pursuing ideas and seeing what happens. Tell that voice to take a hike for a while. It can come back when you’ve got something written and you’re ready to start trimming and polishing it.

So, humour me for a second. Go grab a piece of paper and a pen (a document on your computer will work too). Draw or describe your inner editor in any way you choose: a stick figure, a cartoon or even a bullet pointed list of what keeps you from creating. Then put it in a draw or a box (or a folder on your computer that you don’t go into). Don’t let it out until you feel you’re ready to start being critical about your work again.

I'll end on some more words of wisdom, this time from Shannon Hale
I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk » Sun Apr 30, 2017 7:49 pm

*waves*

A certain silly bean-a-bear who I won't name *coughTARMAcough* had told me HOLWriMo was going to run again, and as writing is a passion of mine, I'm always excited to see people try their hand at writing their own narratives!

That said, a few words of, um, writing wisdom?

You're slowly chugging along your story when suddenly you stop. You are plunged into a cold sweat and you stare at your words. They start to blur. They no longer make sense. Your hands begin to shake with anxiety. And you don't know why this is happening. (Or you do and all you're thinking is "Oh, no, not again...")


If you are suffering from many of these symptoms, then you, my dear, are likely running out of plot. Somehow your characters have overcome their hurdles, have completed the hero's journey way too quickly, have nothing too challenging ahead of them. And you've only just started, darn it!

What happened to the plot? Why did it finish so quickly? And what happens next? Is there even a next?! Help! Panic!

If you're like me, you've suffered through the dreadful middle part of the story. Usually, the middle is where I have the most trouble, and often this is the time I flounder in my writing, to the point where I've procrastinated continuing the story for weeks on end. I tend to know how to start my scenes and where my story ends, but how do I get from Point A to Point B?

Time to run the other way, I say!

But in all seriousness, I have realized that this anxiety is normal. Perfectly normal for writers, actually. Many of us go through this all the time. Yes, it's a scary thing, not being able to figure out how to make your plot bunnies scurry to your chosen direction. I could even say it could get super frustrating at times.

DO NOT STOP WRITING. DO NOT run away. DO NOT get discouraged, DO NOT ever think that your story is no good or pointless. DO NOT worry about whether anyone will be interested in reading it because you, at some point, believe that it's gotten dry and boring and altogether uninteresting.

This is quite possibly your inner doubting mind playing tricks on you, and like a mirage in the desert, it is absolutely a tempting process to stop.

So how do you really fix something like running out of plot?

    - Throw another problem in. Another hurdle. Think of the things that could possibly go wrong, and then WRITE IT.

    - Do a "what if...?" situation. What if your character does something else instead of what you had planned him/her to do? WRITE IT.

    - MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS SUFFER. You may cringe, but let's be honest. It's good to deliver a bit more pain to the characters in your story. Do the right thing and have bad things happen to your characters. They will forgive you. Eventually. (And if they don't, be comforted in the fact that at least they won't be able to hunt you down in righteous vengeance...right?)
One way or another, your story will move on, and you're left with just another thing to tie up at the end of your story. (Or don't tie it up. Cliffhanger endings are the worst, but I swear most authors will cackle while they write up these abominations.)

Most of all, you have CONTENT to work with. That's the important part.

"But, what if my hurdle doesn't make sense? What if all I'm doing is adding empty nonsense that I'm bound to cut out anyway?"


Pish. You won't really know this is the case until you try to write as much as you can. You won't really know which added scene will spur you into working up a new narrative heading. Something you threw in (like a velociraptor apocalypse...) could lead to some other plot that might actually work. Let the plot bunnies run wild, I say! It will do your story some good.

Or, if nothing else, you can add much-needed chaos.

So don't panic. Just write. And write. And write!

Good luck.

- Cassie

***edit permitted by Cassie before I'd read the above and now I don't know if I want to do it but oh well***
Our very own special contributor here, Cassandra Lobiesk, is a published author in her own right click here.... she knows of what she writes! Oh. And she loves to kill off my favourite people in the stories. >.<
Last edited by Prof. Tarma Amelia Black on Sun Apr 30, 2017 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: edit permission granted by the evil-favorite-person-killing-off Butterfly - Tarma
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Mon May 01, 2017 10:39 am

Thank you so, so much for that invaluable and hilarious advice, Prof. Cassie!!! (Listen to her, guys. I’m certainly planning on coming back to this the next time my plot bunnies start misbehaving). I’m not at all sure how I’m going to follow that class act though….

Here we are, the first day of HolWriMo! We’ve got a month of the magic of writing ahead of us and who knows where we might wind up? How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous? Relaxed? They’re all perfectly reasonable answers. If you’re feeling great, then awesome. If you’re a little unsure, then listen up.

Starting a story or some other piece of writing can be incredibly nerve-racking. You’re basically walking out into the unknown, right? There could be bears or gaping plot holes or a plot desert or the horrible quicksand of writers block out there. Well, yes, there could be. But the real danger of these things is that they’ll stop you from even starting. Don’t let them. You have stories to tell, stories that shouldn’t go unheard. As Margaret Atwood says
If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word


You (yes you) can write, anyone can. More importantly, you’ll have an amazing time doing it. Sure, there will be rough spots ahead where you question whether you made the right choice two paragraphs ago. You’ll find yourself worrying that what is coming out is utter troll bogeys. You may even, as Cassie has warned us, run out of plot and find yourself stranded.

So, Sky, why exactly am I doing this? Because those moments don't last. And for every moment of panic or doubt, there will be many, many more moments of pure joy. Inexpressibly exciting, exhilarating moments when your imagination comes out with something you never could have expected or where a scene just clicks. Any writer you ask will tell you that those moments are worth any amount of wrestling with your doubts. Honestly, I’ve never found anything that can beat them.

A tricky part of writing is finding the courage to start. It’s something I still struggle with after who knows how many stories. The blank page is just as scary as the bears up ahead. But I know for sure, once I take that leap, I’m in for the best rollercoaster ride ever. And all you need to start off your own adventure is a word (it doesn’t even need to be a good one!). Don’t waste time worrying that you aren’t good enough: only you can write the wonderful things inside your head (and Trust me, there are wonderful things in there somewhere). Just leap in.

I’m going to finish with some amazing words on writing from Stephen King
You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will


If you need some extra encouragement, a second opinion on a pesky paragraph or just a sympathetic ear, my inbox is always open (I mean it). Wishing you all the best of luck in whatever weird and wonderful places your words take you!
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Prof. Zoki Phantom » Sun May 07, 2017 9:12 pm

Hello, folks!

I have a confession to make. I’ve tried the lengthy NaNoWriMo many times. I've also failed almost the same amount of times.

It’s not an easy quest to assign to yourself, writing a story in a certain period of time, but I also believe that it can be a fulfilling and teaching experience. Therefore I think everyone can, and should, give a shot at project of that type and HOL WriMo provides a great opportunity for everyone to let those creative butterflies go crazy wild, while at the same time not putting too much pressure on the pesky word count.

One particularly challenging topic for me has always been character building (but I also have trouble drawing humans, so maybe I just have a problem with people in general *giggle*). Whether it is the protagonist, the antagonist, or just a random cabbage merchant that makes a random comical appearance from time to time, they all come with their own difficulties when trying to implement them on the page.

Even their introduction can become complicated if we get lost considering all the possibilities. They all have their appearance, their personal traits, their experiences, their backgrounds, their ambitions, and more. Don’t even get me started on their relationship possibilities. So how does one start writing about them? How does one continue writing about them? How lengthy should their dialogues be? Do they need monologues?

In all my readings and writing, I’ve found that the one and only answer to writing a character smoothly is to keep things simple. Even for those of us who are not social creatures, we have our fair share of dealing with other human beings on a daily basis. And there lies the infinite source of inspiration when it comes to characters. To make my point, I will quote Mr. Ernest Hemingway here:
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”


Stories, especially fantasy ones but it surely applies to all genres, to some degree have a touch of magic that makes them feel distant or surreal. It is the character and their humane reactions that are so familiar to us that anchor the story in reality and make everything feel as if we could be any of those characters. They’re relatable, whether to our very selves or other people we know, so we can easily connect to them.

So whenever you have to write about a character, consider how that would have gone in our own little world. Think about similar experiences you’ve had. Never make it complicated, just focus on what the next step in that scenario was, or should be.

If we take introducing a character as an example we can ponder on how that has gone for us in the past. Did it happen at a bookshop because you were both looking at the same thing? An unpleasant event took place that affected both of you? Did you notice their attire first, or their appearance, or maybe it was actually their voice when they spoke up? A little bit of daydreaming may help, but if we simply look back at our own interactions with others in the past, all we have to do is grab our typing/writing tool of choice and let the events shape themselves on our page.

Whatever character you’re currently writing about is already one you’ve established in your mind, because you’re basing them on an idea that ultimately comes from your own life experiences. Think about what a real person might do in such a case, and you’ll know what your character might do as well.

“A writer, even a fantasy writer, has an obligation to tell the truth and the truth is, as we say in Game of Thrones, all men must die.”

In the words of George RR Martin, as writers we tell the truth, and the truth is that despite everything else, the characters in our stories as just as human as we are. So stop your brain from complicating everything, don't overthink think it and write whatever feels the most natural!
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Mon May 08, 2017 11:19 am

Thank you so much for that wealth of writing wisdom, Prof. Zoki! That technique is so simple but so, so effective. (And I’m loving the GoT quote!)

Now, onto Monday’s Motivation. Neil Gaiman once said
This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy and that hard


And he’s right. Anyone can right, it really is that easy. But it’s also that hard. Sometimes putting one word after another feels like you’re wading through mud. Sometimes you’re tired. Sometimes what you’re trying to write is just boring you to tears. Sometimes you spend hours trying to get past one sentence or paragraph.

And it’s all well and good for me to say ‘carry on in spite of that. Keep going. It’ll get better’ (sometimes, it will). But if you really are struggling, then stop for a bit. It’s okay, tell your conscience I gave you permission.

So, I present ‘Sky’s Guide to Making Writing Fun Again’:
1. Change of pace. Take a walk, get a shower, do some chores, do some other activity or read for a while. Just give your brain a break from the blank page. Chances are, new ideas about your writing will surface at some point.

2. Change of place. Take your laptop or notebook or tablet outside or at least to another room. Perhaps even try writing in a coffee shop or on the bus.

3. Change of Scene. If this bit of the story is boring you, switch to another. If there’s a bit of the story that excites you, just skip ahead to it for a while. If you’d rather write chronologically, why not switch to another character’s point of view? Even if you don’t keep it in, you’ll have gained a greater insight into how they think.

4. All Change. If this story is honestly getting you down, why not try writing something else (at least for a while?). Sometimes a brand new idea can give you the creative freedom you need to kick start your wish to write again.

None of this is giving up or in any way something to be ashamed of. Sometimes writing just stalls and you have to give your brain something else to play with. There is nothing wrong with going away and coming back. I can’t stress this enough: writing should be fun or at least rewarding. If it isn’t: STOP. Take a break. Come back to it when you feel better.

You could always check out the activities we have here on Book Club to get you going again. If you’ve finished with the prompts and challenges we have here on the HolWriMo sub-forum, head over to Quill and Ink and check out the Word Crawls. You can easily repurpose those to help make the next 300 words of your story a bit more interesting.

Now go, take that walk or write that next scene. You’re doing amazingly!
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Mon May 15, 2017 7:50 pm

The moment I believe that someone else’s opinion of my work is more important than my own, I am lost. I have nothing to guide me through the uncharted waters of a story. If I believe this, then I have annihilated my own curiosity in favor of another person’s.
-Bill Kenower

Tarma showed me this quote earlier and I thought it was ideal for the half way point of HolWriMo. And yes, we are just about half way through now! Some of you might not have started yet: don’t worry, you still have time a plenty (if you’re struggling to get going, check out the advice available on the sub-forum and don’t be afraid to ask for some tips). Some of you might be making slow but steady progress: keep it up, you’re doing brilliantly. Some of you might be on track or ahead: that’s amazing!

Wherever you are though, I want to remind you of that curiosity Mr. Kenower was talking about. Because that really is the most important part of this whole thing. You are your first reader: make what you want happen. Write the story, poem or project that you would want to read. Let your curiosity range out through the landscape of your ideas (through those uncharted waters) and find the way you want to go. If you have one of those wonderful ‘bam!’ moments where the project completely changes direction, then run with it. Don’t worry too much about ‘a plot’ or the rhyme or reason for every single thing, just pursue the ideas that excite you. The shape of the story or poem or article or whatever you’re trying to write will emerge later. As Ray Bradbury put it
Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations


But what about that other person’s curiosity Kenower mentions? That invisible audience or person you think you’re writing for? I’ve battled this particular monster. As soon as I thought about sharing my story with my friends, I began to worry that they wouldn’t like the places I was going. That my plot wasn’t the one they wanted. That my choices for my characters wouldn’t mesh with their view of them. That my poems were off-puttingly personal. The problem only got worse when I started writing for classes or for competitions. ‘What if my choice isn’t the RIGHT one? What if my plot is too cliché or not literary enough?’ Those questions made me miserable. They made me not want to write anymore. I ended up as two people: ‘Sky the lover of writing’ who wrote things that gave her genuine pleasure and ‘Sky the SERIOUS writer’ who wrote things she thought other people would find good. Don’t be like me: do it for you.

True, it can be important to make tricky decisions. Sometimes your initial idea of how something will work just doesn’t turn out (it happens). It can be key to know when to take a different course to what you expected. You have to be prepared to trim things out or re-write where needed. But make sure you know why you’re making those choices and that they are for you. They must be true to the story you’re telling, not to someone else’s view of it. If you aren’t writing for you in your heart of hearts, if the story isn’t yours anymore, you’ll find it very hard to keep writing.

The first draft is the perfect time to be gloriously, unashamedly selfish. So write for you. Take risks. Follow your gut. Make mistakes. Fix them. Start again. Make different mistakes. Choose the paths that excite or enthrall you. Worry about the shape (if any) later. Use the images that first occur to you, not the ones you think will appeal to more people. Remind yourself that nobody knows or loves your characters like you do. Send them off on adventures without knowing for sure how they’ll get home. Don’t write one version of something for the world, knowing that there’s a truer one still inside your head. Trust yourself. Most of all: write something that’s yours.
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"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Mon May 22, 2017 10:41 am

Two
Four
Six
Eight
You are doing really great
Eight
Six
Four
Two
No matter what there’s left to do
Go you! *Sky shakes her sparkly pom-poms maniacally’

“Um…that’s great, Sky, but could we return to the kind of pep talk where you just…talk?”
“Well yes, if we must, dear but tragically unadventurous reader.”

I don’t have any particularly profound words of wisdom for you this week. Not mine, in any case. I just wanted to take this time to remind you how amazing you are. Whether you’ve already finished your target for the month, are part of the way there or still trying to get started, you’re awesome. You’ve made an effort to be creative. And you know something? You’ve got this. All you need to do is sit yourself down and put one word after another without worrying too much what they are. Just keep reminding yourself that yes, you can.

For those of you who’ve already finished or are near to it... well done! Seriously, you’ve done something a lot of people don’t: you committed to writing and saw it through. Whatever you think of the work you’ve done this month, be proud that it exists.

For those of you who are part way through: keep it up. You have plenty of time to realise your ideas. Even if you have a long game of Catch-up to play (Psst…me too but don’t tell anyone), you can do this. If you’re stuck, that’s okay. It happens. The only thing you can do is take time to breathe, then try, try and try again. Don’t worry about ‘writing’: just put your thoughts down on paper as they occur. You can tidy up later.

For those of you who have yet to really start and are wondering if you should even bother: yes. Yes you should. There is still over a week for you to put pen to paper in. If you don’t have an idea: find one. There is no shame in using an online generator or a prompt to spark off your creativity. Is there an idea at the back of your mind? Expand on it. Has your favourite TV show or book series disappointed you recently? Write the storyline you wanted. Is there something you’ve always been fascinated by? Research it and tell the world about it. There is no harm in trying or in getting so far and realising something doesn’t work. At least you can say you gave it a shot. Further down the line, you might be glad you did.

I know there’s only so much good me yelling will do, however sparkly my pom-poms. So instead (and with a little help and encouragement from Kendra on IRC yesterday), let's pay a visit to ‘The Motivation Market’. Shop around the isles of inspiration and pick a writing quote that speaks to you.

Maya Angelou:
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song


Jack London:
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club


Ann Lammot:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere


Isaac Asimov:
Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers


Ray Bradbury:
Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.


Louis L’Amour:
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
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"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
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Re: The Motivation Station (Pep-talks)

Postby Sky Alton » Mon May 29, 2017 12:01 pm

There’s been trials and tribulations (you know I’ve had my share), but I’ve climbed a mountain and I’ve crossed a river and I’m almost there…I’m almost there
-The Princess and the Frog

Alright, some of you may still be feeling like that mountain is a bit on the tall side or that the river has a spitefully strong current… I just couldn’t resist starting a pep-talk with a Disney sing-along. I’d intended to give you another amazingly and daringly choreographed cheerleading routine today but someone (mentioning no names) has gone off with my pom-poms. So, time for something a little different…

According to my extensive googling, the average person types roughly 38 to 40 words per minute. That’s approximately 400 in 10 minutes. Even if that’s a bit unrealistic to maintain, it means in an hour, you could have conceivably written well in advance of 1000 words. I think what I’m trying to say (with my very shaky and simplistic maths) is you have time.

You have time to earn those points and meet your target, whatever it is. You even have time to pass that target and go well beyond it. All you need is a handful of ideas, a double shot of determination and perhaps a pinch of adrenalin. Yes, I realise those magical ingredients aren’t as easy to come by as they sound (and you certainly won’t find them in the potions supply cupboard)

Let’s take ideas first. If your current direction isn’t exciting you, try skipping ahead or even adding in something that might. When I thought my story needed a massive shake up, I went back and slotted in a very sassy character who utterly revitalised it (it was also a lot easier to re-write than I thought it would be). Don’t be afraid to add in something big or crazy just because it wasn’t in the plan. Be bold. Alternatively, ask someone to dare you: get them to suggest a random object, person, animal or concept that you must work in somehow (I’ll happily double dare you).

Determination. There really are no cheats for this. You have to be firm with yourself. Tell yourself that you need to sit down and see this through. There are house points and awards at stake but more importantly, your pride and sense of accomplishment. If you can manage this, who knows where it might go later on? As Sun Tzu put it:
Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can


Finally, adrenalin. Sometimes it helps to psych yourself up and there are a few safe ways to do this that don’t even involve double espressos or unhealthy quantities of sugar.
1. Music. Even if you’re a person who can’t write to music, listening to a song that excites you before you set pen to paper can help give you a boost. I take periodic music breaks to give my brain a quick reprieve from writing and to recharge my enthusiasm levels.
2. Pressure. Some people work better under pressure. Set yourself a timer for a certain period and write as much as you possibly can in that time.
3. Rewards. Rather than being tough with yourself, how about dangling a carrot? Reward yourself with a hot drink, a snack or half an hour of TV every time you write a certain amount.
4. Visualisation. Vividly picture where you want to get to with the piece. The amazing, action packed climax or the moment when everything you’ve been working towards comes together in the killer concluding lines. Hopefully this will get you hooked again as you write towards that heart pounding moment.

I can suggest things until I keel over from lack of oxygen but, in the end, the best person for this job is you. You are the only one who can persuade yourself to write and keep it up. All I can do is tell you (and keep telling you) that you have it in you. You have a dream of a whole new world, don’t let it go, you can feel the love and you can go the distance (alright, enough with the Disney). Go on, go prove me right!
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"Does the Walker choose the path or the path the walker?" -Garth Nix
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