Writing Badge

NaNo at Red Cup 11/15 2

Originally uploaded by nodigio

Step One: Visualize riding a bus and seeing someone reading a book you wrote and published. Visualize responding to fanmail about your stories. Visualize sitting at a table in a bookstore, autographing your book for a line that stretches out the door. You have stories in your head, just aching to come out through your fingers to be told to those about you. You’ve had interesting experiences to share with those about you. You have special skills and a knack for finding the right words to make it easy for others to do what you did. Only you can put together the words in your way, and there are people who want to read what you write. Now that you’ve seen yourself as a writer, it’s time to make it real.

Step Two: You benefit in many ways from writing, even if you never publish or choose to self-publish (more about these in the Publish Badge). Writing itself is a pretty solitary act – kind of like earning these badges is pretty much a solitary act. You can get advice and gather friends and get a Badge Buddy, but when it comes right down to the wire – you’re the one who gets things done. The big draw of writing for many people is the ability to communicate – to reach out to people you may never meet and tell them your stories, share your expertise, amd teach them a little bit more about themselves. You are sharing a deep and powerful part of yourself.

As you write, you learn a lot of things about yourself. There are surprises and adventures along the way. Like all true adventures, it’s not all glamorous, either. There are pitfalls and maddening moments when you just can’t force another word out – or everything you’ve written seems trite and banal and better off burned. But then you get those moments where the words flow and the images evoked ares trong and powerful and so very right. You get obstacles and detours, and sometimes the new direction turns out to be the one you needed to be on. A dear writer friend of mine said when she wrote, she always had a beginning, an end, and a muddle. The challenge was making that muddle into a readable and fun middle.

As you write, you also learn your voice. You learn how to say things that capture attention, that conveys a message, and you do it in words only you would think to put together. Your voice becomes strong and it gets heard. And that’s a very empowering thing to have happen to you.

You make friends along the way. Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but writers, they’re a talkative bunch. They like attending conventions, doing book tours, and chatting up people in bookstores and coffee shops. If you choose to join in a shared writing adventure, like NaNoWriMo (more about that later), you’ll find all kinds of support – and distractions – and joy in your writing.

You’ll never be a writer if you don’t write. So write.

Step Three: Find a writer who’s willing to talk to you. There are lots of them at writer’s conventions. Scan hte internet and local papers for listings of such conventions near you. The Romance Writers of America have chapters practically everywhere and even if you don’t want to write a romance, the skills and experience are the same. How about a Science Fiction Convention? Many of them offer workshops and writer’s group meetings – all included in the cost of attending the convention and prices are reasonable – less than $50 for most of them for an entire weekend of workshops, panels, discussions, readings, and opportunities to talk with writers.

Beginning in October, there’s NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month . October is the month when writers gather in the web forums to discuss what they will be doing, and how they hope to do it, and to ask hekp in getting research for hteir novel done. They share jokes and anecdotes, and seek out local writers so they can arrange meet-ups during the month of November, when the writing officially begins. The rules of NaNoWriMo are very simple: Start writing a novel on November 1st, and write until November 31st, with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Yes, an entire novel in one month. You’ll have to go back and edit it, and probably exapnd sections, and maybe even re-write the whole thing, but you will have written an entire novel. And that gives you something to work with. Everyone on the NaNoWriMo boards is willing to be your mentor. So, if you want to write a novel, I can think of no better place to start.

There are other organizations for writing scripts, or how-to books, or memoirs, or cookbooks, and you can find most of them on the internet. Once you find them on the internet, you might be able to find them locally, too.

Step Four: Write. One of the best things about NaNoWriMo is that they encourage, nay, impell, you to do just that. Other organizations like LiveJournal and Blogger offer support and tools for writing, too. Blogger even has a format that lets you see your book take shape by chapter in a book-style format. There are writing communities where you can post sample and snippets of your writing and get help – but they can’t help you if you haven’t written anything. So write.

Step Five: Learn your craft. There are places like Forward Motion that offer a wide range of mentorships and encouragementm tips, and resources, and critiques, for writers. Check them out. Take a class on writing. Take classes on grammar. If you’re writing about a particular subject, take a class on it to help you formulate a structure for your book. And submit your writing for critiquing. There are online groups that will critique your work in exchange for you critiquing someone else’s. Forward Motion, Critters, and other places like them can provide valuable feedback and help you learn your craft.

Step Six: Create a writing lifestyle. To write, you need time and a place and tools. Planning, reading, and talking about writing are an essential part of the process, but the payoff is in the actual writing. Some people are gifted with the ability to write anywhere anytime. Dr. Suzette Hadin Elgin has a method where she can write if she has a 15 minute block of time – so anytime she has 15 minutes where she has to wait for something, she can write. Others need larger blocks of time to get their creative juices flowing, or they need to be free of distractions. Find what works best for you and arrange your life so you can write.

Some people like to hang out at a coffee shop to write. It provides them with inspiration as well as caffeine, and it takes away all their normal distractions and disruptions that would come with being at home. No laundry calling out to be done, no friends dropping in for a visit, no phones ringing. Other people prefer to park in their car in some quiet spot, maybe a park or a distant corner of a parking lot.

Some people have a best tme to write – early morning, late evening, lunchtime. Sketch out a block of time that your writing time and keep to it as closely as you can.

You’ll need some tools to write with, too. I prefer to go paperless, and use computers to store my writing. You may prefer to write it out in a notebook or on a legal pad, which means you’ll need paper and pens or pencils. Some people prefer to record their stories on tapes or MP3s. So, depending upon your method, you’ll need a computer, paper and pen, or a recorder. That’s the bare minimum you’ll need for writing. Index cards, magnetic poetry sets, chalkboards, pushpins and a bulletin board, markers, and action figures can also help in the writing process.

Set goals for your writing. One of the good things about NaNoWriMo is that they have preset goals built in – 1600 words a day, 50,000 words in a month. That’s a reasonable goal. Most people can write 1600 words in an hour or two. You can follow their goal, or set your own. 250 words at each writing session, or three pages, or one good scene or vignette are all good goal choices.

Most writers develop little tricks to keep them inspired and involved in their story. Some warm up with writing exercises. Others end on a cliff-hanger so they are compelled to continue it. Find what works for you and use them.

When you start writing for the first time, you don’t know what will work for you, so you need to spend time figuring that out. Commit yourself to writing for one hour every day for a week, and change things around – write in the morning once, break it up into 4 smaller chunks, or 2 chunks of time, write in the evening. Do warm-ups before you write. Write in different places an with different mediums – use a computer, or a notepad, or record your words and transcribe them. Scribble on index cards, then write it out later in more detail. Find a writing buddy (at NaNoWriMo or Forward Motion or somplace similar) and commit to exchanging writings daily or weekly – a paragraph, a page, a chapter. Find, during that week, what’s best and most comfortable for you.

If you use a computer, take distractions off it or hide them so they are difficult to bring to the screen, like solitaire or WoW.

Step Seven: Once you’ve finished your book, it’s time to revise it. Holly Lisle and S. L. Viehl both have methods to revise and polish your work. Forward Motion has good tips on polishing your work. There are other resources out there to help as well. Listen to the critiques you get, look at what you’re writing, and see if what they siggest will improve your work. You have to have a thick skin and not take the critiques personally. Don’t identify so strongly with your writing that you take criticism as an insult instead of a sugggestion for improvements. Sometimes, it really makes a critical difference when you flip a sentence or use a different word. Maybe you fell in love with a word or phrase and used it so often in your story that it becamse invisible to you, but caused your critiquer to wince and dread the next instance of it. If you wrote a short story of 3,000 words, and you used the phrase :like a rock” in it 16 times, you really need to reconsider it. Search and replace can be your biggest friend if that happens to you – and don’t worry, it happens to professional writers, too. That’s why even the best writers will revise and polish what they wrote.

Step Eight: Type or write The End.

Step Nine: Claim your badge!

Some Resources:



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