I’m about to start a writing challenge. Want to join in?
Back in 2015, I embarked on my first self-imposed writing challenge. The goal was to write a scene in response to a picture or dialogue prompt everyday. I made it to about June before letting the habit drop and then madly tried to dash to the end near Christmas. You can find the pinterest board for that challenge here.
Of the 365 prompts, I did something like 250 of them. I considered it a success, even if I hadn’t reached the goal. I had tons of story tidbits of character development and worldbuilding as well as the makings of many stories that I can’t wait to write.
The next year I did something similar and didn’t reach my goal again. In 2017 I tried to do 52 prompts, one for each week. It also didn’t go well.
Today, though, I have created the Micro Fiction Challenge to attempt during the month of March.
Here are the guidelines:
I have to write everyday
I have to use one of the prompts from my Pinterest board
Each scene can only be 100 words
I have to post my favourite 100 word story on here, partially so you can see what I’m writing, and partially to hold me accountable
BONUS: Each scene has to be in the same storyline or with the same characters
I’ve been neglecting my writing a bit as school has picked up and I’m hoping this challenge will help me to take the 10 minutes from my day to stop and write. I’m hoping to succeed because of the shorterm goal and low commitment each day.
If this sounds like something you’d like to do, feel free to join me. You can find my Pinterest board here. It’s very eclectic. Basically, I went through the alphabet and pinned some of the first things that Pinterest suggested. (c-cat. D-door. I-ivy, etc).
If my board doesn’t give you inspiration, try creating your own (and be sure to share it so I can check it out!).
If this challenge goes well for me, I will create more for the coming months and focus on different kinds of prompts. For example, next month maybe a word or a piece of dialogue for each story. I might do people’s faces or landscapes, plants, etc. The ideas are endless.
Stay tuned for my first 100 word story to be posted on Saturday, March 3rd.
Let me know in the comments if you will be taking the 100 Word Stories Challenge for March!
Share your progress with the challenge or keep up with my progress using the hashtag #microfictionchallenge
This is the second instalment in my series on a Writer’s Tool Kit. If you haven’t read the first one on people watching, you can find it here. Today we will be talking about one of my most practical tools for the pre-writing process.
In case you haven’t been made aware, I love worldbuilding. I love it to the point that I have to restrict myself or risk never starting a story because of all the worldbuilding I do. But one of the things I’ve struggled with is finding names. Not just for characters, but cities, geographical locations, artifacts, events, diseases, technology, taverns, companies, the list goes on.
Sometimes I just know what I want to use for a name for something, but other times, I need a bit of inspiration. For me, this inspiration comes in the form of name generators. Oh, glorious, wonderful name generators.
For the longest time I used one name generator specifically which you can find here. This generator had everything I needed for my fantasy world creation and many of my first novel places and names are inspired by what I found on that generator. But as time went on, I realized that a lot of the names generated on that site were becoming repetitive. And with a world fleshed out with dialects and languages, it didn’t make sense for all of my character names to have iel endings.
Shortly after, I discovered possibly the second greatest writer website on the internet following only Pinterest. I found www.fantasynamegenerators.com. Now don’t be fooled. There is a whole lot more than just fantasy names to be found here. I’m talking everything from star names to herb names to weapon names to geographical names to ship names to (heroic) horse names (and yes heroic horse names are different from run of the mill regular horse names).
The person who created this website has tirelessly put together a seemingly endless collection of names for every purpose imaginable. If you ever need any kind of inspiration for a name I highly recommend checking out this website. In fact, here’s the link again.
How do I specifically use name generators?
It depends. Sometimes I am genuinely looking for names and will take them as they come from the generators. These are more often for filling my world with random citizens with ‘normal’ names that don’t sound as if they should be the protagonists of a novel. Desiree Falcon sounds more protagonist-y than a name like David Cole, for example.
Other times I am looking for names that have more memorability or edge to them. Often I will scour the generator taking first names and trying them out with other last names that the generator comes up with. Sometimes I will create completely new names by taking letters or sounds and putting them together.
Once I have a name that I like, I play with spelling to fit the desired effect the name is supposed to have. For example, adding double letters or replacing ‘i’s with ‘y’s will give the name a fantasy feel. Victoria could become Vyctoria, Vyctorya, or Victorria. Each new spelling gives a certain character to the name which will help dictate how I want to portray the character as soon as they are introduced.
I’ve been talking mostly about people names, but the same principles are true for places (and many other types of names). Below is a simple example of my thought process for coming up with something like a nation name. There’s a list of names coming from the country/nation generator. I go through and pick some of the sounds and letter collections that I like from the list and then combine them.
The first name in red is basically combining two of the names existing from the generator, but then I play with the letters a bit more and come up with a very different couple of names based on the original ideas. In the end I may decide I like the original combination of the two generator names, but I always try to make the names my own. In this case, I like the look of Esminstrea the best.
Name generators have saved me on so many occasions. When the world you write in is completely made up, everything needs names. Famous people, paintings, fairytales, seasons, holidays, cities, franchises. And in the fantasy world, weapons, creatures, potions, books, battles, and taverns all need names and name generators are a great place to get the ideas churning.
Do you use name generators in your writing? If so, feel free to leave links to them in the comments; I’d love to broaden my name generator database!
In case you weren’t aware, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and tis the season of love. In light of this holiday, I thought I’d share fourteen of the many reasons I love writing. You are being warned. This post is gushy, sappy, and probably just a little bit sentimental.
1. I love living vicariously through my characters.
One of my favourite things is having a secondhand experience for something I would never be able to experience in real life. I don’t have much hope of becoming a dragonrider, or rebel queen, or pirate on the high seas, but my characters can go on those adventures for me, and I get to come along for the ride.
2. I love the ability to create worlds and bring them to life.
World building is so close to my heart and one of my favourite parts of writing is getting to develop cultures and societies. I love building races and histories often based on what I’m learning about world history while I’m in school. There’s something so wonderfully geeky about looking up the population of a city and its typical holiday cycle that I made up years ago and are rediscovering when a character decides to visit that city on a quest.
3. I love the dynamic between writers and readers.
It’s so amazing to see such a wide range of people gather around a single topic like books. Whether writers, readers or both, the community is a family of diverse backgrounds and views and there are so many friends to make along the way.
4. I love being able to empathise so deeply with the figments of my imagination.
When my characters hurt, I hurt. When they get excited you can be sure I’m jumping up and down in giddy joy. And when they are scared, my stomach is flopping all over the place with them. But what’s so cool about that for me is the fact that these characters come from my head and still have this enormous emotional impact on me.
5. I love that others can empathise so deeply with the figments of my imagination.
It gives my heart joy to see people interacting with my characters and stories with the same level of emotional connection as me. When they tell me who they are shipping or what story arc they are most excited to read about, my heart soars.
6. I love that there are no boundaries or limits about what I can write.
I’m allowed to tackle really tough topics involving mental health, religion, and trauma, but I can also just write stories that speak to me. I can write stories as prose or poetry, in a variety of styles while mixing and bending the rules of genre and literary form. I love that flexibility in writing.
7. I love the beauty of words. Not just arranged in sentences, but the richness of language both metaphorically and physically.
In terms of the physical, Elyse and Elise are not the same name even if they technically are the same name. I love that English does that. But also, I love the emotional response that comes from words like serenity, throttle, mist, or stagger. There’s something absolutely beautiful about the way letters arranged into words can evoke such intense responses. (Which is why I’m a self-proclaimed logophile)
8. I love being able to share what matters to me through made-up stories.
These things most often come out in the themes I typically write about. Sacrifice. Redemption and forgiveness and anything involving motifs about light and darkness or keys and secrets get me all excited. But on a more serious note, these themes, which I believe are highly important can come about in such bizarre ways which add an extra layer of depth to the complex subtleties of writing that I adore so much.
9. I love when I begin to see a story take form and see every connection that’s been made.
Connections. Intertextuality. Context. These words are like diamonds to me. Seeing my characters finally fit into the world I’ve created for them, or how one character’s story perfectly influences another character from a completely separate story makes my excitement level reach astronomical heights.
10. I love that writing can suspend the scepticism of the impossible.
So maybe dragons aren’t real. But when I’m writing, impossible things suddenly become reachable and there’s something magical about making impossible things possible through story.
11. I love that history is written through stories and that our history will live on through stories.
History is one of my greatest joys. Stories are one of my greatest joys. But even greater a joy is when history and stories come together. Even better, we get to take part in history by sharing our stories—both fictional and non-fictional. What could be better?
12. I love how real something fictional becomes.
In the deepest crevice of my heart I’m still waiting for a wardrobe to take me to Narnia. That idea of breathing in a created world so much that it actually becomes a part of your daily life is something I aspire to create for readers one day. If one day I hear even one person say they wish they could wake up in Consealia, then I’ve done my job as a writer.
13. I love being able to express my deepest sorrows, darkest fears, and most simple joys through writing.
Part of the reason I love this is because of how equally vulnerable yet anonymous it is. Clearly I haven’t gone through every trial or happiness as my characters, but being able to take the essence of my pain or gladness and give it new life through writing is incredibly freeing and therapeutic.
14. I love that my love of writing can be used to bring honour to God and what he’s done for me.
For me, writing and telling stories is one of the greatest gifts God has given me, and it’s a gift I can use to bring praise to him and the things he has done for me. And I am so thankful for a God that loves and gives love to his people through their passions and gifts.
And there you have it–a compressed list of a few of the reasons why I love writing. What is it about writing that you love?
Sometimes writing at your own pace is all you need, when there’s no deadlines or schedule to follow, and just a blank document to fill at your leisure.
But sometimes, there are deadlines, there is a schedule, or a word count to reach. For example, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, can not simply be done at leisure.
But how do you write more? What methods or techniques are there to increase the amount of words written?
First thing to do is increase the amount of time worked—I mean actually worked. I could spend 8 hours “working” on a novel, but spend at least half of that unproductively staring at the screen. The next step is to increase the focus of the time worked and optimize breaks between periods of work to prevent burnout or loss of motivation.
What if I told you a tomato could help? This is the Pomodoro Technique.
I discovered this technique during one of my Camp NaNoWriMo experiences. It was a busy month, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to write 50,000 words while taking my time. And so I sought a more efficient way to write. Using the Pomodoro Technique I was able to write 60,000 words in just 12 days!
And more than that, the novel has become one of my favourite projects. The success of the novel and the efficiency in which I wrote it not only made me believe in the power of the Pomodoro Technique, but also in its usefulness and practicality.
Essentially, the Pomodoro Technique, which means ‘tomato’ in Italian, is based on a time management theory surrounding a standard kitchen timer. The technique breaks tasks into 25 minute increments called pomodoros. In between each pomodoro is a 2-3 minute break and after four pomodoros is a 15-20 minute break.
25 minutes is the goldilocks amount of writing time. It’s not too short; it’s not too long. Any shorter and just as you get into the groove of writing, the time runs out. Any longer and you risk the focus you’ve worked so hard to maintain. It’s just right.
The short breaks allows you to rest your eyes and wrists and take a walk around the room, grab a snack or sit and enjoy a sip of that cup of coffee that’s been cooling next to you.
And the longer rests are good for stretching, taking your mind off the project, reminding your family that you exist. The longer rests are perfectly balanced. After 15-20 minutes it’s not too difficult to get back into the writing mindset as the story is never far away, but any longer than 20 minutes, and I lose momentum.
The trap I fall into while writing leisurely is losing time daydreaming (not a bad habit, but quite distracting at times), or stressing over the order and choice of my words more than getting my story down. Then I tire of writing and take a half hour break that ends four hours later after I’ve scrolled to the bottom of Pinterest.
Someone once told me that “minutes are wasted more often than hours” and my solution to that is the Pomodoro Technique. When there’s only 25 minutes to write, each minute, each second must work to my advantage. I don’t have time for daydreaming or fretting over finicky grammar when there’s only 25 minutes to write. And so, I go full out for that 25 minutes trying not to stop, not to edit, not to worry about that spelling mistake. I tune out the world and immerse myself in the story I want to tell.
The same focus is employed with the breaks. When there’s only 2-3 minutes of breaks, you better believe I sprint to grab a glass of water, change my position and take a break from my computer screen.
In short, the Pomodoro Technique makes the most of those potentially wasted minutes by ensuring all are put to use, resulting in a highly effective way to approach writing when leisure just won’t do.
If you want to try using the Pomodoro Technique, there are a variety of apps and websites that provide the service, the one I personally enjoy can be found here.
Did you try the Pomodoro Technique? I’d love to hear about your experience in a comment down below!