Setting Goals and Deadlines

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It’s important for every writer to have goals and deadlines, know the difference between the two, and balance themselves over long and short-term assignments. It may be difficult at first to discipline yourself enough to meet said goals and deadlines, but if you’re writing every day, you should have no problem meeting those dates.

Goals and deadlines differ in one basic, essential manner: goals are tasks you would like to get done by a certain date; deadlines are tasks you have to get done by a certain date. Distinguishing between the two will help you understand the importance ranking of each task on your list. Set a “deadline date” for each item you have to complete. This will allow you to see when your assignments absolutely have to be finished.

CalendarAfter you’ve set your deadline dates, go through and set realistic “goal dates” that fall before each deadline. Having an earlier, yet less impending, date may help you feel less anxious or nervous about your projects. Reward yourself if you complete them before the goal date; penalize yourself if you miss the deadline date.

Learning to be your own manager and editor will put your strides ahead of the game. Many people have a hard time with this aspect of self-regulation, but don’t be afraid to be a hard-ass. It may feel strange at first, but the more you learn to be true to yourself and your time, the better you will become at meeting goals and deadlines.

Many editors and managers will be impressed with your time management skills. They look for writers who can be honest with their skills and abilities and who can stay true to timelines set for them. This trait will make you and your writing more attractive to the publishing market, but don’t fudge your numbers when presenting your work either. If you missed your deadline of three months and got your work done in four month, it took you four months, not three.

The last important thing to know about goals and deadlines is to spread them out. Have short-term and long-term dates set. It may seem obvious, but give easier, smaller tasks earlier dates, while allowing more time for larger, more difficult projects. Being able to cross things off your list quickly and efficiently can help you feel accomplished and productive and this in turn may motivate you to reach your other goals and deadlines.

Photo by Flickr user lism., some rights reserved.

Do Your Research

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Another piece of advice you’ll often hear as a new writer will be “write about what you know.” This is valuable advice and later, we’ll discuss the importance of keeping a journal. However, for now, we’ll focus on the importance of doing research on the subjects you want to write about, but aren’t too knowledgeable about.

Think about the best books, poems, or articles you’ve read and liked. They’ve been enjoyable because you’ve believed them (to an extent), right? Readers are more likely to enjoy your piece more if they know that you know what you’re talking about. This includes everything you write about; whether it is character descriptions, setting locations, or languages.

If you’re making up or creating any of the above (character, setting, language), it’s kind of hard to do research on it, isn’t it? One solution to this problem that can help you learn more about whatever you’re writing about is to pretend to write a research paper on the subject. Write a short biography of your main characters. This allows you to learn who they are, where they came from, and how they ended up in your story. This will also help you learn how they might change and grow.

If you’ve made up an imaginary world, again, write a research paper on it. How did come to be what it is? What are the rules or laws of said world? Do people look different or the same? How is it structured and what do the towns and cities look like? It’s important to know everything you can about your setting, real or fake.

Creating a language is probably one of the more difficult aspects of creative writing. Be sure to create a full dictionary with translations for your readers and that you can include with your piece. A new language is only effective if your readers can understand it in their native language as well as the one you’ve created.

For any non-fiction aspect that you choose to write about, preform the same exercises. Research your subjects until you know them inside and out, until you could give a flawless presentation on them, and until you can answer any question thrown at you about them. Readers and editors will ask questions if there are gaps in your information and it may deter them from reading more. No one likes to read half – hearted, empty descriptions and you shouldn’t like writing them either.

It has taken me years of struggle, hard work, and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence.
— Isadora Duncan

These exercises will not only help you write a better book, poem, or article, they will help you write them with ease, too. By being so knowledgeable, you’ll be able to write smoothly, rather than having to stop and struggle to figure out what a place looks like in the middle of the story line. Your readers will be more impressed with your writing if they can flawlessly believe and read your content without hesitation.

Image by Flickr user Alpha six, some rights reserved.

Characters Grow, Just Like People

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Character (char-ac-ter) /ˈkariktər/:(noun)

1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual; the distinctive nature of something; the quality of being individual, typically in an interesting or unusual way; strength and originality in a person’s nature; a person’s good reputation

2. a person in a novel, play, or movie.

The Oxford English Dictionary

Think about the characters in your story. How are they unique from the other characters in your story? What are their defining characteristics? What makes them who they are? The goal of creating a character is to make them into a believable person that fits into, yet also shapes, the story. Whether they’re a fiction character or an account of an actual person in a non-fiction piece, every character you in your plot will need to be as realistic as possible.

It is the character that rounds out a story and makes it move. It is the character that your readers will relate to while they’re immersed in the world you’ve created. It is the character that can become a champion, an enemy, and even a friend. Which is why it’s important to recognize that as you write, your characters will grow and change with every interaction, just like real people.

Many new writers make the mistake of determining what type of person their protagonist (or antagonist) will be and setting that in stone when they write. This mistake can cause a character to seem flat and boring. Remember that major events in your plot will change how your characters act, feel, and interact with others. It’s expected of everyday society to react to events like proposal, death, betrayal, and other major changes, so we should expect the same thing out of the characters we read about.

Reading a book

The most successful characters are ones that yes, are well defined, but that also change while the plot line changes. Let your characters grow with each other, as we grow with those who surround us. However, an important thing to remember is to not let your characters be influenced by your mood. It is perfectly acceptable (and normal) for a writer to use their characters as emotional outlets, but just because you may be frustrated one day does not mean your protagonist can scream at the sandwich lady for forgetting the mayo. Your characters must stay true to the world you create for them, and you cannot change their attitude for any ol’ reason.

A useful way to learn believable and realistic human behavior is to study the people around you. Keep a journal that is purely used to write about the interactions and reactions you experience and observe. A man who cried over the loss of his old dog is hesitant about his new pup, but able to find companionship again. A widow wants to shut herself out from the rest of the world, but finds strength in raising her children. The more you watch how real people act and grow, the better you’ll be able to develop your own characters.

Readers want to love the champion and hate the enemy. The only way they’ll successfully connect is if you help them along the way. It’s good to lay the groundwork at the beginning and introduce your character the way you want to, but do not be afraid to let go and watch how they mature along with you and your story.

Above image by Flickr user Ed Yourdon, some rights reserved.

Tweet tweet!

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Hey everyone, we’re huge fans of social media here at DI. We know how important it is speak up and spread the word about what you’re up to and and your current projects are. We want you to be able to keep tabs on us and our projects, so be sure to follow us on Twitter @debutink!

You can tweet at us with your ideas, comments, suggestions, or even a simple “hi.” We’d love to hear from you!

Write. Every Day.

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Whether you’re writing for money, for free, or just for yourself, write every day. This is a piece of advice you’ll hear from almost every writer out there. That’s because it’s one of the most important and valuable pieces of advice you will get. It may seem obvious and slightly generic, but sometimes it takes even experienced writers a while to grasp the importance of a daily writing session.

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well”  ― Agatha Christie

If you don’t have a project you’re currently working on, writing exercises are a great way to hone and stretch your writing skills. Sit down and write about the setting you’re in; create a dialogue between the two people you see; create a character out of the contents of your wallet/purse. The great thing about these kinds of exercises is that they can work well with almost every kind of writing: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, play/screen-writing, etc. Tailor the exercise to the genre and style of your choice and go from there! Writing exercises and constant diligence can take your writing to new heights. You’ll develop an eye and ear for what sounds good, what’s too cliché, and what is just bad writing. Writing is the same as any other craft: the more time you devote to practicing it, the better you’ll become at it.

Writing

Image by Flickr user Pascal Maramis, some rights reserved.

Keep a log of your sessions for each day. Write down where you were when you were writing (home, at school, in a library, etc.), what type of writing you did, how long your sample was, how much time you spent on it, and the type of mood you were in when you wrote it. This will allow you to track your progress and see what types of places, moods, and genres help create your best work so you can keep that in mind for future endeavors. Be honest with yourself, though. If you miss a day, write it down with the reason why you missed it. Don’t kid yourself and say “Oh, I can write for double the time tomorrow and write down both days.” You would never say that to an editor or a boss, so you shouldn’t say it to yourself.

Try creating ultimatums and rewards if you’re having a hard time staying true to a schedule or regime. For the days you skip, take away something you love for the next day (ex: you can’t have coffee or chocolate), or add something you hate (ex: do 50 push-ups). If you’re a positive reinforcement kind of person, have a reward for writing every day. Find something that you could give yourself at the end of each session that can be exclusively a reward for writing. This should motivate you to stay on track and be honest with your behavior.

No matter what it takes, even if you don’t particularly want to, write. Every day.