Posted in A Writer's Life, creative writing, focused freewriting, free writing, freewriting, the creative process, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing journey, the writing process, writing

Journaling Series Part 3: How to Stick With Journaling?

The content in this journaling series is from what I shared with my recent in-person journaling class. My original idea was to try and create an online class, but ultimately decided to create a blog series in which to freely share this information.

Last week we talked about What is Journaling? The week before we talked about Why Journaling is Important? Now let’s finish up with ways to keep inspired and to keep journaling.

Ways to Stay Inspired

We all know how hard it can be to stick with something, but it helps if we can get some inspiration here and there. Here are some great places to help inspire your writing!

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Posted in A Writer's Life, focused freewriting, free writing, freewriting, sparking creativity, taking time to write, the creative process, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing journey, the writing process, writing

Journaling Series Part 2: What is Journaling?

The content in this journaling series is from what I shared with my recent in-person journaling class. My original idea was to try and create an online class, but ultimately decided to create a blog series in which to freely share this information.

Last week in this series, I talked about Why Journaling is Important? This week let’s talk about what journaling is and is not. Let’s also get rid of some preconceived ideas and stereotypes about journaling and understand how powerful a tool it can be for every person of any age.

What is Journaling?

  • Is first and foremost an expression of the Self
  • A form of self-expression that works best if it comes directly from the heart (don’t lie, don’t be in denial, just let it all out)
  • Is a written record of thoughts, experience, and observations
  • It can be something you do regularly or just when you feel you need it
  • There are no rules to journaling, expect for the ones you make yourself (if you decide to make any at all)
  • You are in charge of what you write or don’t write and when you write

What Journaling is NOT.

  • Something you HAVE to do (so don’t stress over journaling if it’s not something that speaks to you, or you only journal every once in awhile)
  • A place where you need to worry about proper grammar, spelling, or punctuation
  • Journaling is NOT just writing, it can include paintings, drawings, pictures, stickers or keepsakes that have meaning (like ticket stubs for a dried flower, ect.)

This sounds easy enough, and usually it is, but I think journaling can have a bad stigma because it might seem to only be for “girls” or something that can be considered boring because no one thinks their life is interesting enough to talk about. I say not at all to both these things. Journaling is for EVERYONE of all ages. It can be very fun too. It all depends on how it’s approached. What kind of journal you keep matters too. What might work for one person, may not be as effective for another.

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Posted in A Writer's Life, better writing, free writing, freewriting, good writing, inspiration, inspirational, the creative process, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing journey, the writing process, writing, writing better

Journaling Series Part 1: Why is Journaling Important?

The content in this journaling series is from what I shared with my recent in-person journaling class. My original idea was to try and create an online class, but ultimately decided to create a blog series in which to freely share this information.

I feel very passionate about journaling and the great tool it can be in helping to discover more about who we really are, but I find information on journaling is scattered over many places. Also, there’s a lot on bullet journaling (the most popular type of journaling right now), but there isn’t a focus on all the broad possibilities of journaling or why it is so important. I hope through this blog series I can address these things as well as express why I find journaling to be such a vital part of my life.

So let’s start with why I believe journaling is so important. The best way I can do that is to tell you how journaling has affected my life.

I didn’t always journal, and when I did start it was very infrequent. Maybe once a month or two and it remained this way for a while. Usually my journaling was just a dump of negative emotions and when I went back to read what I wrote, I’d become incredibly depressed. Because of this, I decided I didn’t want to write because I didn’t want to depress myself further. I thought “What’s the point?” “Life sucks and it’s nothing but a gaping raw wound. Why make it worse by spilling my crap on purpose?”

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Posted in A Writer's Life, creativity, free writing, inspiration, inspirational, the creative process, The Writer's Toolbox, the writing journey, the writing process

The Journey of a Creative Life

It amazes me. Life. The journey we take. It takes surprising turns and we end up in locations we never thought possible. We have these big ideas of where we want to go. Sometimes we get there and we don’t even know it, because we get so wrapped up in all the craziness that is our life. Sometimes we don’t get there, but we arrived in a place that’s just as good or even better. And we think, “Wow, how did I get here?”

Living a creative life isn’t easy in this world of constant distractions and doubt. We wonder if what we are doing is right. We wonder if we should do this or do that. We fear what others might think if they find out exactly what we want or exactly how we think. We fear judgement and scorn. We fear failure. We fear success. We fear doing the wrong thing.

But even with all this tumbling in the back of our minds, we still feel the need to live our life the way we want to. That pull. That desire to just be us. It’s not just enough to live. We want to live a creative life. We want to be expressive. We want to experiment. We want to try new things. We want to do more than what we are doing. We want to be more than what we are, or maybe just a better version.

We also worry about how much we are getting done. Is our life where it should be? Shouldn’t we be doing more? Shouldn’t we be farther along than we are?

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Posted in basics of plot, free writing, how to write, novel writing, plot, plotting, plotting a novel, plotting a story, scrivener, story structure, strong plot, The Writer's Toolbox, writing, writing advice

5 Ways to Untangle Plot

This is a subject I haven’t talked about much lately, but it’s certainly been on my mind as I work through the third draft of Blood Feud. The twists and turns my story takes sometimes even baffles me. I then wonder if that’s a good thing. Maybe this story is getting too complicated, or maybe I just haven’t thought things through enough. So then I go back to the drawing board to see how to untangle the twisty plot strings, and hope I don’t make an even bigger mess. Sound familiar?

Or how about a plot that sounded really good at first, but then a little ways into the story realization hits and that neat idea doesn’t work like it was supposed to? Yeah, I’ve had that problem. Or how about that plot that started out in a frenzy, but now doesn’t have any get up and go? Yep, I’ve been there too. Plot seems to have a mind of its own. It works some days and other days it decides to take a vacation. Sometimes it takes an extended vacation like weeks or months. And all I want is to stop using my messed up or missing plot as an excuse to not write, but how can I do that when I keep getting whacked in the face with plot barriers that seem to come from nowhere?

Well, here are 5 things I have discovered (over many years of trial and error) that help with untangling messy plot or to get around those annoying plot barriers…

1. Free write. So much can be discovered or understood just by this one simple tool. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s easily the most powerful (and most ignored) thing a writer can do. Just write. Write for 10, 15, 20 minutes or longer, or however long it takes to break through the ice freezing up the ideas. Sometimes it takes multiple free writing sessions. I once had to do free writing for a week before I figured out a certain plot angle, but I finally did it, and it felt so good to finally get there all on my own.

2. Time. Time is a writer’s best friend, really it is. Time gives the subconscious a chance to work out difficult problems. I can’t tell you how many times I finally gave up on a certain plot point and moved on to either another section of the story or another story all together, and then when I least expected it, the answer came to me like a flash of light. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens, and the excitement of discovery usually throws me into a writing frenzy for the next several weeks, or months.

3. Friends. Another great way to work through plot problems is to talk it out to a friend, preferably a writing friend or a person who is an avid reader. There’s a saying that two heads are better than one. It’s true. What one person can’t see, another picks up on immediately. An impassible dark passage becomes an easy hiking trail when another prospective lights the way.

4. Outline. Sometimes it’s as easy as getting it down on paper to see all of the plot at once. Make a map of the story (two or three sentences of the major plot points will do). Spread it out on multiple sheets of paper if need be. Link the pieces together. See if they fit or don’t fit. The point it to get the basics of the story down to view it as a whole. Then notice where the plot holes are and work to fill them. Some people use index card to do this and others use poster board and post it notes. I’ve done both ways. I happen to like the poster board the best. Also, some really great outlining software comes in handy too. I use Scrivener, but I hear Outliner works well too.

5.  Learn. Plot is something that is learned. Complicated plot (the kind that works and makes senses) takes even longer to learn. Sometimes plot doesn’t work, because the knowledge to make it work doesn’t exist within the person creating the plot. That’s when writing classes, books, and workshops come in handy. I can’t tell you how many books on plot I have purchased and read over the years. I’ve taken just as many classes and workshops on plot too. By far the best help I’ve ever found in plotting are the fiction novels and stories I’ve read in my spare time. By reading what others have done, I too learned. Also the book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (the workbook, not the book) by Donald Mass has become my constant plotting companion.

These tools have all helped me past plotting hurtles at one time or another. Sometimes I use just one and that’s all it takes, sometimes I use a few, and sometimes it takes all five to get past a particularly difficult barrier.

Plot is different for everyone in how a person works through it and manages ideas. The best thing I’ve learned is to never give up. If it gets too much and you can’t seem to move past a certain point no matter what you do, let it be and find something else to work on for a while. If the story is truly meant to be, it will happen. Don’t let one story, one plot problem stall your writing all together. Writing is about the experience, and if the experience isn’t fun anymore it wears down the desire to write. Don’t let your desire to write be crushed under the weight of plot. Life is too short.

Do you have a different way to break through plot barriers? Please feel free to comment below and share.