Last of the Summer Series: Brandon Sanderson BYU Writing Class

Children are back in school, pumpkin spice lattes are making a reappearance, and I’m getting back to a more normalized schedule.  Fall is here and I have one last link to share as a part of the summer series of YouTube videos (and podcasts) I have found helpful for writing.

I was able to spend a lot of time this summer listening to writing podcasts and an assortment of audio books at work, all of which I believe have helped to strengthen my craft.  I’ve also developed a taste for Yoga and I’m hoping the introduction of a new discipline will also aid in getting back into the regularity of a writing routine (though bribing myself with pumpkin spice lattes are also likely to help).

That said, here’s the video of the week.  Brandon Sanderson, in addition to hosting “Writing Excuses”, also teaches a creative writing class over at BYU wherein the assignment of the semester is to create a novella.  I believe one of the stipulations of him teaching the class is that his lectures must be allowed to be available online.

What that means for the rest of us is a free workshop on writing fiction with one of the great high fantasy authors of our time.

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Writing Excuses

The name of this post is a bit of a double entendre.  For one, I’d like to point those interested in writing to the podcast titled “Writing Excuses” put on by Wesley Chu, Piper J. Drake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Anne Monhanraj, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Dan Wells.  It contains fantastic information and writing advice from established authors, I have enjoyed it and found that it does help my own writing.

Now, the other reason for the title is my excuses for not posting as often this spring.  I have been deep into edits and my day job has been extremely busy as of late, and both have cut into the time I have for keeping up with the blog as often as I’d like to.

There is some good news though, I have gotten a good deal of notes prepared on my novella and have been working on rewrites.  The short story collection I’m working has been put on pause for the moment.  I do have a few micro fictions I’d like to get posted here in the next few weeks.

And in the section of general geeky updates, I’m finding myself identifying more with Dr. Strange out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes.  This has a great deal to do with my recognition that I need to take care of myself and not just my projects.  I tend toward worrying and anxiety, both of which have been catching up with me.  As a result, I’ve been looking into the benefits of yoga and aromatherapy to help keep myself centered and grounded.  There may be more here on that later.

Hope you are all having an amazing day!

Getting Down to Business

A.K.A. Working through Procrastination.

Many times I fall into a couple forms of procrastination

  • Cleaning, texting, daydreaming, reading, etc… (these may be productive, but will not get my novels written).
  • Looking up clips from favorite shows, listening to some of my favorite music, and/or looking up quotes from favorite novels.  I do this to help me get my muse going, but more often than not it leads to rabbit trails of distraction.

Those two observations seem obvious right?  Well they are two of several traps I fall into when I should be taking time to write.  Most often what happens is I’m tired from work and want to relax a bit before working very hard on stories.  To be honest, more often than not the social media I rely on to get my name out there – as great as they are – often distract me as well.

Now, I have no idea if you have some of the same struggles or if yours manifest differently, but here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  • Self Discipline – The tricks I have learned won’t work unless I make myself do them.
  • Full Screen Mode – The writing software I use (Scrivener) has a mode where the only thing I can see on my computer screen is the part of the document I am working on.
  • Pen and Paper – This has been my favorite of late.  You can’t access Twitter from a piece of paper (at least not yet, I assume something crazy like this will one day be invented to our detriment).  And, as I discussed in a previous post, there are advantages to writing stories out in longhand.
  • Lyricless Music – Music without words coupled with sound proofing ear buds help me isolate myself from the world and the worries of it.  This gives me a clearer focus while writing, especially when I don’t have the lyrics to listen to as an added distraction.  Besides soundtracks, I really like listening to piano music.
  • A Plan – If I use a planner to write out what I want to get done in the course of the day, I am far more successful at it than when I am not writing it down.  (I personally use a bullet journal, an example of which can be found here).
  • A List – I learned a while ago that if you want to focus, write down your stray thoughts on a pad of paper next to you.  It releases your mind from worrying about it and helps you focus on the tasks at hand (other advantages can be found in this article).
  • Rewards – Though I do this less than I should.  Giving myself a reward for finishing my daily goals and larger rewards for larger projects has been useful.

Hope this is helpful!  Time for me to get back to work myself.

 

The Advantages of Longhand

(The above interview makes note of longhand but also has some fantastic general advice)

I am not one of those authors who will write everything out by hand and then meticulously copy it into the computer.  That being said, I am experiencing my own resurgence in using paper and pen instead of a strict computer model.

I’m finding that I’m less distracted when I’m plotting, creating character notes, and world notes by writing rather than immediately typing up my ideas.

Now while I may be using a computer first model for novels, for short stories, I have been writing a first and very rough copy by hand.  Once those are done, I enter them into my computer and make a few adjustments as I’m typing.

I am finding that with physically handwriting the stories, the ideas have a little more clarity in the early draft than some of my projects that were exclusively done on the computer.  As a result, I have been writing chapters of my novels in long hand when I find I need a little more momentum without the distractions that a computer offers.

All that said.  Here’s a quick breakdown of a few of the benefits I’ve found:

Retention – I quite literally remember more of the details that I’ve written.

Brevity – The physical act of writing at a slower speed keeps the superfluous words to a minimum.

Clarity – When it takes more time to write a phrase down, it is easier to keep the target in sight.

Edits – It’s far easier to make notations in different colors on a manuscript than to go through all the steps to get a comment in on the computer.  I also appreciate how it is ultimately always visible when you are looking at the physical document.  This is also why the edits on my first draft are all in pen/pencil on a printed copy.

Attention – I am far less likely to browse the web if I have a piece of paper in front of me than a blank document on a screen.  My attention is drawn to the paper, and while I may check my phone, I am still often more productive with the pen and paper method in the same amount of time as I would have spent on the computer.

I’m still working on my own process.  As I find more tips, tricks, and recommendations I’ll be sure to pass them along!


For additional reading:

The Very Weird Handwriting of Very Famous Authors

This Is What A Handwritten Novel By Neil Gaiman Looks Like 

(Both of the above links make me feel a whole lot better about my own handwriting style.)

8 Ways Writing Longhand Amps Your Muse