Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Surviving and Thriving in NaNoWriMo

November 25, 2021
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As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.

National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.

The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.

Here are a few tips I found worked for me:

  1. Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
  2. Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
  3. Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
  4. Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
  5. Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
  6. Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
  7. Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
  8. Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
  9. Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
  10. Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
  11. Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
  12. Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
  13. Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
  14. Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
  15. Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Toolkit to Create a Writing Retreat at Home

May 27, 2021
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Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Without the luxury of travel during COVID, regular writing retreats have been cancelled, but it is not all bad news. We can create our own mini retreat at home. There will be some necessary arrangements to be made, which relate to your personal circumstances but it can be done. If you have a full household ask if it is possible for your partner to take your children out for an extended walk or to a play ground or even outside yard activities? Set times that you want to write without interruptions. This may be early morning or late evening, a time of day that you can set aside for writing. If staying in the home is too difficult, maybe drive to a secluded spot and write in a notebook to type up later. There is always somewhere you can find to accommodate writing time.

The length of time you have for your retreat will, of course, depend on what is possible for you. You may have two hours a day over a couple of days or a day or two. Before creating your retreat think about the following:

Why do you need a retreat? This might seem like a silly question but take the time to decide if the retreat has a direct purpose for your writing.

What is your goal? Again ask yourself, what can this retreat help you accomplish. Is it to begin or finish a project, a full edit, or a final read through?

Once you have identified these two points, you can plan by initially setting targets with measurable realistic goals, don’t overwhelm yourself. Depending on the time allotted for your retreat, create a daily writing plan. What are your objectives for each day? This can be writing or editing a certain number of pages, sequencing chapter content or revising scenes.

It is important to eliminate distractions as much as possible allowing you to concentrate. This should include switching off your cell phone, setting specific times for social media interactions, or even setting a timer!

The more you organize before hand the better your experience will be. Let’s look at some essentials.

Plan Your Retreat Time– use your preference – a simple sheet with goals for each day/hour, or a whiteboard with retreat objectives or notes in a day planner.

Tools – these can include a notebook, laptop, post-its, record cards, mood board, a print out of your manuscript, reference books or research sites bookmarked on your search engine. Everything that you need to successfully accomplish your goal.

Snacks & Water– the brain needs to be fed and watered as you delve into your project. Have plenty of water and easy nibbles handy.

Space – designate a space where you will work, where you and your tools will not be disturbed.

Rewards – how will you reward yourself for accomplishing your set goals? Decide how, it can be going for a walk, or thirty minutes on social media, or relaxing reading a book.

Remember this time is ultimately for you and your writing, a time to invest in your craft.

I’d love to hear your experiences with a home writing retreat. How did you achieve it?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – 8 Tips for Submitting to Writing Contests

January 14, 2021
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There are a multitude of writing competitions available, whether locally or internationally. When submitting to a competition there are a few common ground rules to adhere to.

Tip #1: Be clear on your goals before entering any contest. Why do you want to enter in the first place?

Tip #2: Follow the rules and submission guidelines – each contest is different. This includes keeping to the submission deadline. ( A day earlier is best)

Tip #3: Proofread – this is absolutely vital. Make sure you read and re-read your entry before submitting.

Tip #4: Enter writing that is appropriate for the contests’ stated theme or topic. Familiarize yourself with the press or journal hosting the contest. Take note of their style and content.

Tip #5: Enter numerous contests to improve your chances of winning.

Tip #6: Don’t ignore lesser well-known contests, it could mean winning it gains you exposure and connections for your writing career. And of course, there is always the prize money! Not only does submitting to a range of contests maximize the likelihood that you may win, but it is a great way to improve and expand your writing skills.

Tip #7: Exploit your genre, your niche when researching the range of contests, there are always specialized creative writing contests out there that suit your style. Make the most of the opportunity to showcase your writing.

Tip #8: Create a story with an emotional impact, and topic. Make it memorable, new, fresh and focus on clarity. Choose a brilliant first line and action. Give your character a goal, a choice and ensure there is a change of personality, status or situation. And above all nail the ending.

Do you have any tips for entering contests? Care to share?

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Has Isolation Been Productive or Not?

April 2, 2020
mandyevebarnett


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As we try to occupy ourselves in isolation, has it been productive for your writing or not?

There is an emotional component to this particular imposed isolation that is subduing creativity. Our emotions have always influenced our mood and in turn our writing. Strong emotions, such as anger or depression subdue our creativity while feelings of love and happiness enhance it. Our concentration is in short supply or our focus limited. To pour out these feelings in words can dispel some of them.

You may find it is helpful to journal at this time to help lessen your heightened state of anxiety. It is also a record of our experience for future generations but maybe, also, the genus of an idea for a future work/narrative/story.

As writers we use many influences, experiences, emotions and personal knowledge in our narratives and this extreme situation may give us remarkable ideas. Think positively and use it for inspiration.

I think this particular writing tip is also relevant. With some sort of goal or deadline, even if it is only 20 minute sprints in writing can help us.

Writing Tips:

Set your writing goals for every writing session

Outline your aims for a writing session in order to keep yourself focused. It may help to write down what you want to achieve in the next chapter or scene. However, remember,  to give yourself elbow room. It is okay to depart from your scene summary if you feel the story should go (or wants to go) in a new direction. Personally, I let the story flow but some writers find writing a pre-scene enables them to maintain a clear sense of direction for each scene in relation to their story arc.

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Maybe hook up with another writer and set a time to write virtually. Find a writing prompt and time yourself. There are ways to encourage your Muse, find the one that works for you.

Take care & stay safe. Stay well.

 

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Goal Planning

January 2, 2020
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Firstly, a Happy New Year to you all. I hope the writing gods are kind to you in 2020 and inspire you to write many new stories.

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It is customary to make goals or resolutions with the arrival of a new year, some will be accomplished others not, but no matter what, we can help ourselves by planning. There are several way to do this, such as:

  1. Making a goal board
  2. Using a planner
  3. Writing out each goal on your calendar so you have a deadline
  4. Work with a group of friends to encourage each other to stay on track
  5. Or even a mixture of some or all of the above!

As you can see from the image, I have four different ‘planning’ tools – I always use the same fridge calendar, where dates are entered for all my ‘writing’ related items such as conferences, meetings and events etc. This year I am attending a new event, When Words Collide and traveling to  new parts of Alberta and British Columbia on writing road trips.

The weekly notepad with the lovely floral background now has my facebook/twitter group schedule so we all post the same subject each day enabling us to share and comment. The smaller notebook has freelance projects listed in it with details, contact information and deadlines. I also have a new ‘word of the day’ desk calendar, which I will use to inspire my Muse.

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What do you use to keep yourself on track with your writing life?

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