Unlock the Muse – July 30, 2019

Camp NaNoWriMo ends tomorrow. Ready or not, Camp is closing for the season. Time to clean out your bunks and pack up to go home. Back to real life.

It also means that deadline has gone beyond looming, and is now breathing impatiently down the back of your neck. If you’re here with me, up against this deadline, don’t give up. Keep going until the end. I believe in NaNo miracles!

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write for 10 minutes today. Tomorrow add five more minutes, the next day five more, etc., until you complete one writing goal.

Whatever that next goal is, put in the time to make it happen. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach that goal! Me? I’m going to finally binge watch Stranger Things once this is over!

Encourage
As it’s the fifth Tuesday of July, this is sort of a bonus week. As such, I’ll share briefly about the down side of deadlines. I know, I’ve been raving all month about how great deadlines are at motivating you toward that goal. But let’s get honest for just a bit, shall we?

Deadlines aren’t always fun. Or helpful. Sometimes they are down right stressful. Unless it’s your livelihood at stake, sometimes it’s even okay to reevaluate that goal and that deadline.

I am something of an over-achiever, and this year, I set myself up with more than is good for me. Between my reading and writing challenges, I’m not keeping up very well, and it has begun to wear me out. I’m battling burn-out and discouragement.

This is another thing I love about Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s flexible, and allows you to set goals for yourself that are both challenging and reasonable. It will also allow you to change those goals when they are no longer reasonable. And this is exactly what I did. I was no longer having fun with my writing project. It had become a slog I had to get through and a massive guilt monkey hanging around my neck. No one needs that, and so I lowered my word count goal to a more reasonable, more reachable, number. It will still be a push to finish this thing on time, but I can breathe again. And enjoy my story again.

So, deadlines are great. Until they’re not. Don’t be afraid to rethink your goals. Push back the deadline. Break the larger goal into smaller, more manageable ones. It’s okay. It’s not cheating. It’s not giving up. It’s about stepping back and remembering why you started this project in the first place.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 23, 2019

The final week of Camp NaNoWriMo is here. Ready or not, the deadline is within sight. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to set aside extraneous distractions. Turn off Netflix and Twitter. Put aside your recreational reading. That puzzle in the front room? Finish it immediately and move on! Whatever it is that’s holding you back, put it away for now and look ahead only toward your goal. Plan for yourself a reward once the goal is achieved.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

We dare you! Imagine your perfect writing job (other than freelancing). An editor at Simon & Schuster? Staff writer for Sports Illustrated? Write down four reasons why you would be perfect for the job. Then send the letter to the company’s editor or human resources department. The worst they can do is ignore it.

Dare to dream big! Whether or not you actually send the letter, it’s never a bad idea to examine what your goals really are, and why you are pursuing them.

Encourage
It’s play week, and even with that looming deadline, there’s always room for a little creative play time. Here’s a roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes to inspire some fun in your work-in-progress.

StoryCubes14

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 16, 2019

How can July be half over already? The Camp NaNoWriMo deadline looms ever closer, spurring me forward toward my goal. I’m still lagging behind, but doggedly pressing on.

In light of this looming deadline, I thought I’d take a look at what others have to say about deadlines. This article by Jeremy Miller talks about the power of deadlines. He describes a deadline as an incredible tool for harnessing energy and achieving results.

Another article by Andreea Clair lists a few reasons deadlines are a good thing. Reasons such as better prioritization, improved productivity and increased efficiency.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a letter to yourself when you were 10. Tell this young you what you wish you had known or understood them.

Life doesn’t really give us do-overs, but if it did, wouldn’t it be nice to be armed ahead of time with the information that help us reach our goals without hitting so many roadblocks? Oh, and you’ve got a week. Go!

Encourage
dead·line
noun
1. The latest time or date by which something should be completed.
2. Historical: A line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot.

The word deadline comes from around 1920, the American English newspaper jargon meaning “time limit.” It is perhaps influenced by an earlier use of the word (1864) to mean the “do-not-cross” line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

For more on the story of Henry Wirz and the history of the word deadline, check out this interesting article by Paul Anthony Jones.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 9, 2019

It’s week two of July as well as Camp NaNoWriMo. The writing has started out pretty slow for me. I’m still plugging away at my goal, but I’ve fallen rather badly behind. It’s good that I have that end of the month deadline looming to keep me motivated.

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you up against a deadline? I am at my most productive when facing a deadline. How about you? Does a deadline spur on your muse? Or do you rage against them?

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

List the issues, both big and small, that make you angry. Getting in touch with subjects you feel passionately about can help you decide what you need to write about.

Passions are powerful, and can make your writing even stronger. Use them to fuel your words and your energy. In this way, too, writing can be cathartic.

Encourage
A final thought for you on deadlines:

Deadline Quote

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 2, 2019

Welcome to July!

If you’ve hung around my blog for any length of time, you’re aware I’m an avid participant in National Novel Writing Month, including the two mid-year Camp events in April and July. So, yep, it’s time once again for Camp NaNoWriMo.

There are two things I love about NaNoWriMo. First, I love the community of writers who take part in this activity. In the Camp editions, participants can opt to engage with up to 19 other Campers to commiserate with and encourage one another throughout the month.

The second thing I love about NaNoWriMo is the deadline. Yeah, that’s right. I said I love the deadline. I usually do my best work under pressure.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

An ode to Monday: Pen your feelings for the dreaded Monday in a haiku.

Do you live for Mondays? That return to the daily grind after a day or two of liberty? Or are Mondays your worst nightmare? As in there’s not enough coffee in the world that can make a Monday better?

Encourage
It’s a new month, time for a new theme. This month I’ll look at the pros and cons of writing deadlines. Personally, I like a good deadline, but I’m not so good at self-imposed ones. That’s why NaNoWriMo works for me.

How do you approach a deadline?

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – April 16, 2019

The past two weeks I have been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. I have been working hard at reestablishing a consistent writing habit. I managed to take my laptop with me every day. I’ve written a little something everyday. It hasn’t always been easy, and several days this past week I was downright discouraged with my lack of progress. But consistency has helped me.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Look in the mirror at least three times today and tell yourself, “I am the best person in the world, and there is no one like me.” After you have done this, write 400 words on how it made your feel and whether or not you would do the same thing again. If it didn’t really work for you today, try it again tomorrow and see if your feelings change.

There is power in positive thinking. You are the only one like you. And you are the only one who can write your story. Go, and be amazing.

Encourage
con·sist·en·cy

noun
Conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.
synonyms: evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy, regularity, uniformity, equilibrium, unity, orderliness, lack of change, lack of deviation, dependability, reliability

The word consistency dates back to the 1590s and comes from the Medieval Latin consistentia, literally, “a standing together.” The meaning of the word as a “state of being in agreement or harmony” (with something) dates back to the 1650s.
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 26, 2019

This month I’ve talked about momentum – how to build it and what sort of things can disrupt it. I’ve had some small successes in battling my writing inertia. I banished the time-consuming distractions and I committed to taking my laptop to work with me every day.

But it isn’t enough. I think it’s going to take a more significant push to get the words flowing consistently again. Something like Camp NaNoWriMo. I haven’t signed up yet for the April session, but I think I need to. And I’ll start writing again. Right after vacation.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Blindfold yourself for 10 minutes, and take in your environment. Later, challenge yourself to write a story from the perspective of someone who cannot see. The ability to empathize with others is necessary if you want to be a good writer.

The ability to put yourself in another’s shoes is vital to a writer. Do what you can to experience life through other perspectives. Though more than likely, we can’t alter the physical truths about who we are, we can read stories. Read widely, and read well.

Encourage
It’s play week. So here’s your roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes, brought to you this week by my youngest minion. Have fun!

StoryCubes10

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 5, 2019

It’s a new month. Spring is trying to emerge in my neighborhood, but it’s still been frightfully cold. I’m looking forward to warmer weather fun. Spring break vacation with my kiddos. Snuggling up with a book. Daylight Savings Time. Camp NaNoWriMo.

Okay, so not all of these things are fun. And some, though fun, will prove to be somewhat trying. Still, spring is in the air – a season of new birth, new beginnings.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a journal entry about someone close to you who is no longer in your life.

This exercise is potentially a difficult one, but it could lead to a moment of catharsis. Let emotion loose on the page.

Encourage
Newton’s first law of motion: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

This month, I’m focusing on MOMENTUM. If an object in motion stays in motion, than a writer must stay busy as well. Too much inactivity tends to stay that way. This is where I find myself of late. I allowed myself to take a break following November’s NaNo frenzy. The problem is, once idle, it is very difficult to start moving again. So what I need is that “unbalance force” to act upon my inertia. What do you do to kick your writing back into gear after staying away for too long?

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – July 25, 2018

This week my writing was interrupted by a huge yard sale. My mother needed to clear out her storage unit, so my sisters and I helped her pull it out, sort through it, and put it all out on my lawn for strangers to peruse. It turned out to be a great weekend for yard sales. But not so great for writing. I did, however, make an amazing discovery about my novel in progress that will help me move forward with the story.

Inspire
Here is your writing prompt for the week:

Write a scene in which you make a minor character vivid through a single quirk or personality trait.

This could be a lot of fun. If it goes well, keep going with the scene. Introduce another minor character and let them interact. Perhaps a new subplot will be born out of this. Or even a spin-off novella.

Encourage
It’s the final week of Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2018 edition. During week four of any novel writing challenge month, the remaining days might not feel like enough for the remaining word count. But don’t give up! In No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty offers this encouragement:

You are on the verge of pulling off something incredible here. You have many more words to write and, given the short time remaining, success may involve hard work. But over these past three weeks you’ve honed all the skills you need to pull this off – to glide over that finish line.

You can do this. Just make the time to write, however much time it takes. Move forward, relentless, determined, confident.

And as you cross these last few miles, savor them. For the pain is almost over, and the celebrations are about to begin.

Equip
I will leave you this week with this thought from NaNoWriMo’s founder, Chris Baty:

BatyQuote1

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

Unlock the Muse – July 18, 2018

It’s been HOT this week! We’ve had the highest temperatures of the year so far around my part of the world. Not record-breaking temperatures, thank goodness, but still too hot for me! I’d like to say my writing has been just as hot, but to be honest, I’m moving a little slow. I will have big leaps forward, followed by slow plodding progress. Still, I’ll take the forward progress however it comes!

Inspire
Here is your writing prompt for this week:

Make a list of all the things you hope to accomplish or experience by the time you are 30, 50 or 100 years old and tell why.

Now, create this same list for your protagonist. And again for your antagonist. What big goal of the latter’s stands in the way of one of the former’s? Use this to create more conflict in your story this week.

Encourage
It’s Week Three of Camp NaNoWriMo. Here’s some advice from Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! to keep things moving forward on a month-long novel writing challenge:

One of the worst things about being an adult is not getting to color as often as we should. This week, give your monitor-burned eyeballs a rest for an hour or so and go old school, forsaking the computer for a big piece of blank paper and some colored pencils or crayons.

The goal of this exercise is to create a map of your fictional world. On the map, you should include all your characters’ homes, their schools or workplaces, and any place they’ve visited in the book. This may be the first time you’ve thought about the spatial layout of your world, so feel free to make things up as you go.

Baty goes on to suggest you add further details to your map, things that don’t already exist in your book – a tattoo parlor, a clock tower, a giant swamp. Use this as a creative opportunity to add color, detail and new life to your story.

Equip
It’s vocabulary week, and this our word for today is:

e·piph·a·ny
əˈpifənē/
noun

1. a. (1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something. (2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking. (3) an illuminating discovery, realization or disclosure.
b. a revealing scene or moment.

2. an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being.

3. capitalized: January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ.
(from merriam-webster.com)

It doesn’t surprise me to learn that the word epiphany originally comes from the Greek. It comes from the late Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation, striking appearance, festival held in commemoration of the appearance of a god at some particular place.” In the New Testament, this refers to the “advent of manifestation of Christ.”
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!