Shelley Widhalm

Top 10 Tips for Writing

In Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Motivation on January 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm

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A new year is a great time to think about your writing plans and goals.

Lists are a great way to get motivated and to turn desires into habits—and to get motivated to write, I resort to my top 10.

Over the years, I’ve collected notes about writing processes and habits from magazine articles and books on writing, writing conferences and workshops, and my own personal experiences. I find these notes to be helpful, especially at those times when I feel discouraged, unwilling or stuck.

From these notes, I’ve generated my top 10 tips for writing and rules to live by to make writing a routine and, over time, a habit that I do without thinking or agonizing about it. I don’t want to have ideas and put them on hold because I’m busy, tired or overwhelmed. Instead, I want to show up for writing, finding that once I got started, I have something to say, a poem to write, or descriptions and storylines to add to a work in progress. It can be sticky or rough at first, but once I write, it seems easier to continue and I’m glad I put in the effort.

Top 10 Writing Tips

  • Write as much as you can, setting a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week. For example, make it a goal to write for two hours or 1,000 words in a session.
  • Get rid of distractions and the inner critic, which can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration, because the more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Figure out what is most essential for you to write about. Write about what interests you, what you want to learn about and, of course, what you already know.
  • Have more awareness, using all of the senses when making observations to add details to your descriptions. Take notes for later use.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story or message unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the sentences down, then revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

Writing in the New Year!

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the best writing advice to find the time, discipline and inspiration to do the hard work of sitting down to write. It’s a great time to make writing a habit through the year of 2018!

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Writing in the New Year (to make it fun!)

In New Year's Resolutions, The Writing Life, Writing, Writing Advice on January 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

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Zoey the Cute Dachshund poses by a 2018 planner to welcome a new year of writing.

The best part of the New Year is the new planner and seeing all of the blank pages to fill in plans for the next 12 months.

This year, I got the same purple one as I did last year. I tried to go with another color, like pink, but the brand I like didn’t have the nice little silver bookmark, only in the purple and red versions. I don’t want red because it makes me think of fancy dinners and fast cars. I needed a serious color, so really I should have gotten black.

Writing Resolutions for 2018

As I look at my planner with 2018 in gold letters, I think about my resolutions and big plans to make my writing more of a priority, instead of fitting it in when I have time. I plan to work on some novel revisions, giving my young adult novel one final editing pass and one of my literary adult novels two passes, including one through my writers group. I plan to keep on the daily poem challenge. And I plan to continue writing short stories and start drafting a new novel for 2019.

What are your writing resolutions for 2018? To join a writers’ group and stick with it, to write a novel or a few short stories, or to participate in NaNoWriMo, a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November? Or if writing is something you don’t like to do and would like to try, start with a class or one-day workshop or meet up with a writing friend to get some tips.

But keeping to a resolution can be difficult—according to the latest statistics, only 8 percent of those who make resolutions follow through. Research shows that the top resolutions are to lose weight, get organized and spend less money.

Sticking to Your Resolutions

Here are a few ways to stick to those resolutions:

  • Pick a resolution that you want to do, instead of something that is good for you or is something everyone else is doing (like writing novels when writing short stories is your preference).
  • Pick one, two or three resolutions instead of a long list that will be difficult to manage or even remember. That way you can focus your efforts on what you really want to accomplish.
  • Write down your goals and visualize what you want to accomplish and how you’ll do it. Put your goals in a prominent place, such as on your desk or the fridge.
  • Make a plan to carry out your goals with smaller steps that can be accomplished each week or month. If writing is one of your goals, start out with 500 words or a half hour and build from there.
  • Be specific, such as planning to write two days a week for one hour each time, or to write 2,000 words three times a week. Set aside a certain time for writing or for your other goals.
  • Check in every so often to make sure you’re meeting your goals and ask if any adjustments need to be made.

As you work on your resolutions, reward yourself as your efforts lead toward tangible results. Writing consistently to make that progress takes some adjustment, motivation and discipline. But then it will become habit and easier for 2019!

Happy Writing New Year (with a few reflections)

In Loving Writing, New Year's Resolutions, Writing, Year in Review on December 31, 2017 at 6:00 pm

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Zoey the Cute Dachshund unwraps her presents on Christmas Day, leaving bits of ribbon and paper. Her unwrapping antics are like reviewing a year of trails, tribulations and presents!

Wrapping up a year is a time for reflection, and starting a new one is a time for resolutions.

My reflections will be in two parts: practical and then personal. As for resolutions, I’ll wait for January’s first blog in 2018.

The Practical

This year, I made the commitment to blog every week, though at times it’s felt like a chore. With 52 spots to fill, how do writers keep coming up with ideas to write about writing and editing that are interesting, informative and insightful? I developed an editorial calendar and a topic for the month, using my writers’ magazines, conversations with writers and brainstorming sessions for idea generation.

I made the commitment to write a poem a day, starting in August—I mostly kept on track with that, slipping here and there and then poem cramming, writing five to eight at once to fill in the blanks.

I also made the commitment to write short stories, edit my novels and get published. My ROI was a few stories, partial editing that still is on my task list and stuff in the drawer—or in the laptop files.

I also (another also!) learned a lot by writing about writing and all of the components of the process.

The Personal

This is where I could go deep about my awful, wonderful, tiring, I-wonder-if-I-can-do-it 2017 year. I didn’t plan to get laid off from a newspaper writing position in November 2016—of course not!—nor did I plan to start a writing and editing business, Shell’s Ink Services. Freelancing and writing and editing for clients is something I did on occasion and wanted to do professionally but in one of those bucket list kind of ways. It was for later and to not take too seriously, because it seemed scary and a big unknown.

But then I found myself building a website, teaching myself along the way and crying out of frustration and not knowing what I was doing. I filed the paperwork for my business in mid-January, created marketing materials over the next couple of months and started freelancing for a couple of newspapers. I also looked for a job.

My friend, an entrepreneur who does tech support, said I should launch my website—I said, “It needs to be perfect and I’m not ready!”—but I did it (in February). He suggested I send a press release to the local newspaper—“I’m not ready, again!”—but I did it (in March).

I started going to the Loveland Business Development Center, getting advice on starting and building a business (in April). I went to Loveland Startup Week (also in April) geared toward entrepreneurs, feeling scared and out of place.

At the Bottom to the Top

That’s when I started the name calling. About and against me: Insecure Entrepreneur, Shy Entrepreneur, Scared Entrepreneur.

What am I doing?

I wanted a guidebook, a textbook and directions step-by-step of how to do this. I wanted 9-to-5. I wanted Linus’s security blanket. I wanted my puppy.

I got questions. I got lost. I felt alone. Scared. Unsure of what to do or what’s next. I’ve heard that entrepreneurs feel scared and alone, so I wasn’t “alone” technically. I called my mother—lots. I cried—lots. I wondered what I was doing.

And then I got sick of feeling like a “loser” when I was trying to win. I decided to be happy and tell myself that “Yes, I can,” and took my little writing and editing engine and pushed it up the hill. I Facebooked a friend five days before Christmas, who is Grinch-y at Christmastime and loves to post negative crap online: “I am happy even when things suck because I have me.”

I posted on my wall a few days earlier: “I feel gratitude that I got thrown to the wind and found my wings. I finally see this!”

Every time I get discouraged, I imagine big wings on my body and the image reminds me of that post. Thinking about myself with fluffs of feathers is a way to get rid of any negative thoughts, because it’s a funny image that takes the mind to the power of wings that lift.

At the end of 2017, I can say I’m more confident, less scared (but still so, because I don’t have my 9-to-5 to count on) and more in the moment. I can’t think about the big future and the crappy layoff and the other crap of life. I have to think about what brought me to this point in the first place: I love writing. I can’t live without writing. Writing is my joy.

Happy New Year and Joy to Writing, Reading and Editing!