Write Or Die: A Free Tool for Procrastinating Writers


By Jennifer Blanchard

I was recently introduced to an awesome writing productivity tool from a follower on Twitter (@armselig). The tool is called “Write or Die,” which is “a Web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences,” according to the tool’s creator, Dr. Wicked.

Here’s how “Write or Die” works:

  • There are 3 modes: Gentle, Normal and Kamikaze.
  • In Gentle Mode, when you stop writing, you will get “writing reminders” that pop up on your screen reminding you to keep writing until your time limit is up/you have hit your word count.
  • In Normal Mode, when you stop writing, you’ll hear a very annoying noise, which will only go away if you keep writing.
  • In Kamikaze Mode, when you stop writing, it gives you a few seconds and then it starts deleting your words. To keep it from deleting everything, you have to keep writing.
  • Once you choose your word count/time limit, mode and how “forgiving” you want the tool to be, you’re off and writing.

Now before you try out this tool, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This is for productivity ONLY—Do not expect to write anything even remotely close to The Great Gatsby or Grapes of Wrath just by using this tool. This tool is not here to make you a better writer. It’s here to make you write, period. (You can worry about editing what you’ve written after you’ve written it!)
  • Kamikaze mode is the BY FAR the best mode to use—Since it deletes your writing if you stop for more than a few seconds, you are forced to keep writing in order to not get anything deleted. If you are serious about getting writing done, this is the mode for you.
  • If you’re attempting this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, Write or Die will easily help you reach your daily word count (of 1667 words).
  • Remember to select all the text you wrote and copy it—There is no way to save your text using this tool, and once you navigate away from the page, everything you’ve written is gone. That’s why you need to copy what you wrote and paste it into a Word document in order to save it.
By using this writing productivity tool, you are learning to shut off your inner editor and just getting writing done. And that, Procrastinating Writers, is what it truly takes to be a successful writer.

Why Every Writer Needs A Website


By Jennifer Blanchard

If you ever plan to turn your written talent into dollars, you need to market yourself. With the wide-spread availability of the Internet everywhere from computers to cell phones to game systems, writers need to be accessible to their readers (and potential readers) at a moment’s notice.

One way to do this is to have a Web site.

A Web site:

  • Makes a writer look professional—If you’re ever going to make any money from your writing, you need to appear as professional as possible to the public.
  • Is a simple marketing tool—Anyone can create a basic Website. Especially these days when you can use templates and click-to-publish Web programs.
  • Can serve as a writer’s portfolio—Imagine your writing being available to prospective customers/readers 24/7/365.

When it comes to creating your author Web site, you have a couple of options: a blog—where you use a site such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com to create a blog that spotlights your writing—or buying a domain name and building a Web site using pre-made templates.

Also, it’s important to remember, if you are writing under a pen name/writing alias, you should create the Web site for your alias, not for yourself.

At a minimum, your Web site should have the following pages:

  • Home page—Use this page to welcome and introduce people to your site.
  • Samples of your writing—Include at least 2-3 pieces samples. Create separate pages writing in different categories, such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry.
  • About the Author—Include your full bio and a professional photo of yourself.
  • Contact the Author—Include your E-mail address. Don’t include your address and phone number. You can exchange additional information with the person who contacts you later if necessary.

How To Overcome Writing Rejection

By Jennifer Blanchard

Rejection is a part of life. And one place you’re almost guaranteed to run into rejection is when you’re trying to get your writing published.

Rejection.

Yes, I said it.

And if you’re planning on making a career in writing and publishing, you better plan on facing the facts: Your writing will be rejected (Note: I said your writing would be rejected, not you. You are fabulous!). Every writer experiences rejection. It’s the nature of the business.

Here’s how to overcome writing rejection:

  1. Retain Absolute Faith–Step one to putting your writing out there is you have to believe in yourself and your writing. (And if you don’t, you shouldn’t be putting your work out there until you do.) Believing is 90 percent of being successful.
  • Confront the Brutal Facts–You got rejected, that’s it. That doesn’t mean anything. You are still a good writer. Your writing is still worthy of being sent to magazines and publishers.
  • Act!–Keep trying. Keep sending your work out. Keep writing.

As Thomas Jefferson said: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

So, Procrastinating Writers…how do you deal with writing rejection?

Why You Should Start Your Own Blog

By Jennifer Blanchard

If you’re looking for a way to increase your writing clips, while also overcoming your procrastination, blogging may be your answer.

Blogging has been around for years, but it’s starting to rev-up to full speed now. In fact, according to the Technorati 2008 State of the Blogosphere report, 77 percent of active Internet users read blogs. This is a HUGE percentage, and also a great opportunity for you to create a blog and attract some of these blog readers.

Now you may be thinking: “Why should I blog? And especially, why should I blog when I’m not making any money from it?” So here are my reasons for why you should blog:

  • It will help you become a better writer–With writing (as with many other things), you get better the more you practice. And what better way to practice than by writing short blog posts every couple days?
  • You can blog about any topic under the sun–Everyone has topics they would consider themselves “experts” in. For me, it’s writing (thou I have tons of hobbies that I would also consider myself an expert in). For you, it might be baseball or cooking or swimming or fashion or fill-in-the-blank. Creating a blog is an excellent way to spotlight your knowledge of a particular subject.And for you Procrastinating Writers, blogging about a topic that you’re passionate about will help keep you from procrastinating.
  • You can create a blog for free–Take, for one, Blogger.com, which Procrastinating Writers is hosted on. They offer users the ability to easily write, publish and create a professional-looking blog. Another good option is WordPress.com.
  • It’s a rewarding experience–Blogging can be a very rewarding experience, both professionally and personally. Professionally, it can help you fine-tune your writing skills, allow you to put your writing out there for the world to read and help you define what could eventually turn in to a full-time gig if you work hard enough at it.Personally, having a blog can help you feel more fulfilled in life, especially when you start gaining a readership.

When I started Procrastinating Writers in March of last year, I didn’t even really know what my goal was other than I just needed a place to spill the thoughts that were consuming my mind. But what I ended up getting was something that was SO much better than just a creative outlet.

I started to find a purpose for this blog. I started to realize there are TONS of writers out there who procrastinate, and I wanted to help them (and in turn, help myself) stop procrastinating and get their writing done!

From creating this blog, I also:

  • Found a creative outlet; a place to just get things out that were inside me
  • Have something to look forward to every week
  • Developed stronger writing skills; especially writing for the Web, which is very different
  • Created a readership
  • Now have 5 followers
  • Started getting COMMENTS!!
  • Began a conversation on why writers procrastinate
  • Discovered a yet-untapped niche (writers who procrastinate!)
  • Learned how to stick with a project (FINALLY!), even if it doesn’t take off right away
  • Finished writing my first novel
  • Decided that I’d love to do this for a living

These are only a few of the things that I get out of writing this blog. And you’ll get many of the same things and more if you start a blog as well.

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So…how many of you Procrastinating Writers out there have blogs? And if you don’t have one, do you think you might want to start one? What topics do you write about/would you like to write about?

How To Overcome Procrastination

By Jennifer Blanchard

How are those New Year’s Goals going? Have you given some time to thinking about what you want in 2009?

One thing many of you probably have in mind for this year is overcoming your procrastination. So this is one post out of many to come in the months following that will begin to explore what procrastination is, why it happens to you and how you can overcome it.

Personal development blogger and author, Steve Pavlina, explains in his article, Overcoming Procrastination, that there are 4 root causes of procrastination:

    1. Thinking you absolutely have to do something–“When you tell yourself that you have to do something, you’re implying that you’re being forced to do it, so you’ll automatically feel a sense of resentment and rebellion,” Pavlina says. “Procrastination kicks in as a defense mechanism to keep you away from this pain. If the task you are putting off has a real deadline, then when the deadline gets very close, the sense of pain associated with the task becomes overridden by the much greater sense of pain if you don’t get started immediately.”Pavlina says that the best way to overcome this mental block is to realize and accept that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. “Even though there may be serious consequences, you are always free to choose,” he says. “No one is forcing you to run your business the way you do. All the decisions you’ve made along the way have brought you to where you are today. If you don’t like where you’ve ended up, you’re free to start making different decisions, and new results will follow.”Overcome it: Choose projects to undertake in 2009 that you want to undertake. Choose something that inspires you or something that you’re really passionate about. (And if you’re having a difficult time figuring out what you want, do what I do, pretend today is your last day on earth–what would you regret not having done? These are the things you need to be pursuing now!)
    2. Thinking of the project as a whole–“Thinking of a task as one big whole that you have to complete will virtually ensure that you put it off,” Pavlina says. “When you focus on the idea of finishing a task where you can’t even clearly envision all the steps that will lead to completion, you create a feeling of overwhelm. You then associate this painful feeling to the task and delay as long as possible. If you say to yourself, ‘I’ve got to do my taxes today,’ or ‘I must complete this report,’ you’re very likely to feel overwhelmed and put the task off.”

Overcome it: Focus on one small piece of the overall task at a time. By doing this, you’ll complete the task in steps, which will make it easier for you to keep motivated.

  1. Being a perfectionist–Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons people procrastinate. They get so worried and worked up about wanting something to be perfect that they end up not even working on it for fear it will come out flawed.”Thinking that you must do the job perfectly the first try will likely prevent you from ever getting started,” he says. “Believing that you must do something perfectly is a recipe for stress, and you’ll associate that stress with the task and thus condition yourself to avoid it. You then end up putting the task off to the last possible minute, so that you finally have a way out of this trap. Now there isn’t enough time to do the job perfectly, so you’re off the hook because you can tell yourself that you could have been perfect if you only had more time. But if you have no specific deadline for a task, perfectionism can cause you to delay indefinitely.”Overcome it: Allow yourself to be human. Humans are not perfect; they make mistakes. That is part of what is so beautiful about life–you get important (sometimes life-changing) lessons from every experience you have, every mistake you make.
  2. Thinking that completing the task-at-hand will deprive you of fun–“This means you believe that undertaking a project will offset much of the pleasure in your life,” Pavlina says. “In order to complete this project, will you have to put the rest of your life on hold? Do you tell yourself that you will have to go into seclusion, work long hours, never see your family, and have no time for fun? That’s not likely to be very motivating, yet this is what many people do when trying to push themselves into action. Picturing an extended period of working long hours in solitude with no time for fun is a great way to guarantee procrastination.”Overcome it: Plan out your fun activities and schedule your work/tasks around them. By doing this, you’re making sure you have plenty of time for the activities you love to do (the activities where you usually don’t procrastinate). Then work/tasks won’t feel so overwhelming because you won’t feel like all you’ll be doing is working/completing tasks.

For more details on each of these root causes of procrastination and more tips for overcoming them, check out Pavlina’s article.

So for 2009, look at overcoming writing procrastination as small hurdles to jump, rather than as a huge thing you need to overcome.

Now What? The After-Math of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo has been over for about a week and you’ve finally caught up on your sleep. So…how did you do? Did you get your 50,000 words finished and uploaded to the NaNoWriMo site by November 30? Or did you let your procrastination get the best of you?

My procrastination got the best of me, unfortunately, and I didn’t make 50,000 words. In fact, I didn’t even come close. I only wrote 3,700 words before procrastination took over.

For those of you who didn’t make it (like me), better luck next year! But for those of you who did make it, you’re probably wondering now what?

And that question has been answered. The NaNoWriMo Web site has a page dedicated to what you can do now that you’re finished with your 50,000-word novel. Some of their ideas include:

    • Gloat a little bit–You wrote a 50,000-word novel, congratulations! It’s time to celebrate. Get a bottle of champagne and toast with your family and friends. Buy yourself something from your Amazon Wishlist. You deserve it!As a NaNoWriMo-winner gift, CreateSpace, a Web site where you can create and sell books, music and video, is giving you a free paperback-bound proof copy of your novel. Just go to the site and sign up for an account using your NaNoWriMo winner’s promo code and you’re on your way.

 

  • Start editing–Now that your novel is finished, it’s time to start editing! Or, you could wait until March 1, which starts National Novel Editing Month and edit your NaNo-book with thousands of other writers.

 

 

  • Start on your next project–The next writing months coming up are February Album Writing Month (goal: 14 original songs in 28 days) and Script Frenzy (goal: a 100-page script in 30 days). Although these writing challenges can be, well, pretty challenging, it’s good to keep trying different ways to get writing done.

 

As a procrastinator, you need to push yourself a little harder than other people do, and signing up for a writing challenge is a shove in the right direction.

For more challenge ideas, check out the NaNoWriMo’s Now What? page.

 

  • Challenge yourself even more–If you’ve finished writing your 50,000-word novel and feel like you’re up for an even bigger challenge, then check out Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest. From Feb. 2, 2009 until Feb. 8, 2009 upload your unpublished fiction manuscript for a chance to win a $25,000 publishing contract with Penguin Group (USA) and the distribution of your novel on Amazon.com.

For more ideas of what to do now that you’ve finished your NaNoWriMo novel, check out the NaNoWriMo Now What? page.

And if you didn’t make it to 50,000 words this year, don’t beat yourself up. The NaNoWriMo challenge is very difficult, even for an advanced writer. Remember, the start of each month is another chance for you to write 50,000 words in 30/31 days. Or if you want to write with other writers, July and August are novel writing months as well.

Chin up…you’ll get there!

10 Things Procrastinating Taught Yvonne Russell

In light of the fact that National Novel Writing Month is finally over, I thought I’d give you something humorous to read. This comes from the “Grow Your Writing Business” blog written by Yvonne Russell:

Ten Things I Learned From Procrastinating

1. I can get lots of things done, just not the one I should be doing

2. Procrastination can be fun and guilt inducing at the same time

3. Procrastination and perfectionism are a sure fire combo for stress

4. There sure are a lot of interesting sites you discover when procrastinating

5. Procrastination is often called research

6. Research is never called procrastination

7. Procrastination is often called thinking

8. Thinking is never called procrastination

9. Checking emails is high in the hierarchy of procrastination

10. Procrastination inevitably leads to doing… eventually…

Happy writing…jb

Where To Find Creative Writing Workshops

If you’re a writer and you attended college, you probably also took some sort of creative writing workshops. Creative writing workshops are great for writers of all capabilities–beginner to professional. Not only do you learn about writing in these workshops, but you also get to have your stories read and critiqued by other people.

Now there are many naysayers who think that creative writing workshops are a waste of time. They say this because the people critiquing your work are usually just students or people who know as much about writing as you do. Many people don’t see the value you get from these workshops.

What it all boils down to is this–you need to do what works for you. And if you’ve never attended a creative writing workshop, you definitely should give it a try. Some people find it’s a great boost to their creative self-esteem to have their work read and praised. It’s also good to have the critique section because it helps you make your stories better and it prepares you for the often challenging world of publishing (if you choose to go that route).

There are lots of different types of workshops for everyone from beginner to advanced that range in subject from beginner poetry to creating deep characters to how to write short stories to mixed fiction and poetry. They even offer workshops for kids.

Here are some places where you can find creative writing workshops:

  • Local colleges and universities–Check with your local institution and you’re likely to find at least one creative writing class going on. This is an easy introduction to having your work critiqued regularly. It helps writers step outside the privacy of their writing spaces and allows them to start showing their work to others.
  • Continuing Education Classes–Almost every city has continuing education classes for adults who are no longer in school, but still want to learn something. These places usually have creative writing on the menu.
  • Local writing schools–Some bigger cities have writing “schools,” which usually offer a combination of readings by authors and creative writing workshops. Do a Web search for writing schools in your area.
  • Online–Now you can even attend creative writing workshops on the Internet. There are writing schools such as Gotham Writers’ Workshops, Web sites such as Writers.com and even magazines such as Writer’s Digest, who now offer online creative writing workshops.Online learning isn’t for everyone. This type of learning requires you to be focused and dedicated. But if you’re a self-starter who works well independently, can hit deadlines and doesn’t mind a lot of reading, you will most likely be successful in online courses.These courses are set up with forums where you post your weekly assignments and can ask questions of your professor and talk with other students.Here’s the basics of online writing education–Your instructor posts a syllabus with each assignment on the message board or through e-mail, then each student independently completes the work. Each week the work is turned in and usually students are assigned to read each others’ work. Then there’s usually an hour each week where the whole class is online at the same time and you get to have a live conversation with your instructor and classmates.

These are just some of the many creative writing workshops available to you.

If you ever want to get something published, you need to get over the fear of showing your work to people, and creative writing workshops are one of the easiest, least judgemental, ways to do it.

How To Build Complex Characters

Bestselling romance novelist, Connie Flynn, wrote the article, “Building Three-Dimensional Characters.” And she details a pretty amazing way of creating characters that are anything, but flat.

Flynn says all characters need four prominent traits, and you can build your characters by imagining the shape of a diamond. At the top of the diamond is the “Spine;” The point on the right side of the diamond is the “Fatal Flaw;” the bottom point is the “Shadow;” and the left-side point is the “Supporting Trait.”

Here’s how each trait breaks down:

Spine–“Give your character a strong central trait that is somewhat stereotypical,” Flynn says. “Pick something that can be defined in two to four words. For protagonists, this spine will lean toward the admirable. Villains get a spine that leans toward the despicable.”

Supporting Trait–“Next, add a supporting trait that’s consistent with the spine,” she says. “This can be a value, a preference, or a method of expressing oneself. Devoted to family, loves the outdoors, bouncy and outgoing are examples of what can be used.”

Fatal Flaw–“Give your central characters a fatal flaw,” Flynn says. “While greed, envy, vanity and the rest of the seven deadly sins are perfect flaws for villains, virtues carried to extreme usually works best for protagonists. For instance, a nurturing nature can become controlling or smothering. A lighthearted attitude can become irresponsibility. If a more deadly flaw is chosen, it must be well motivated. ”

Shadow–“Last, give the character a shadow (suppressed) trait that is kept under tight wraps because it contradicts the major personality traits,” she says. “The shadow makes room for character growth. As it surfaces, it aids the hero in overcoming the fatal flaw or turning it to his advantage. Furthermore, it rounds out his personality by correcting the imbalance that has stopped him from achieving his goal. Essentially, the shadow is the means for the character’s redemption. ”

To learn even more about using these unique traits to build your own three-dimensional characters, check out Flynn’s article.

To put all this into perspective, I will show you how I used it to create the main character in the novel I just finished writing. Here are the character traits of my main character “Amanda:”

Amanda is a romantic; she believes in true love (spine). Unfortunately, because of this, she tends to wear her heart on her sleeve and fall in love too fast (fatal flaw). This fatal flaw causes her to think that every guy she dates is “the one.” Amanda truly believes in soul mates, which means she also believes people should only get married once in their lifetime (supporting trait). Overshadowing all these traits is the fact that Amanda doesn’t trust any of her boyfriends (shadow).

Read Flynn’s article, then give it a try for yourself. I bet you’ll come up with lots of great, complex characters.

Be sure to come back and let us know how it went for you.

3 Writing Tips That Will Save You Time

This is a writing process I learned from my wonderful writing coach. It’s one of the most efficient, effective ways to write a novel. By using this process, you will likely cut the time it takes you to complete a novel in half.
So… you want to know the process? I thought so.
Here’s what you do.
  • Prior to Starting Your Book, Put Together Plot Sheets and Character Notes–A couple weeks before you’d like to start a new novel (or your first novel!), sit down and figure out the plot. The best book on the subject is Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks.

Having a plot outline makes writing a novel much easier because you have a guide to go off of and you know where you need to be at the end of each chapter. (Of course, if you sit down to write and ideas just take off, feel free to stray from the outline. The idea is for it to be a guide, but imagination rules!)

Also, it’s a good idea to get to know your main characters. You can do this through character sheets. You can find plenty of them online if you search for them. Or you can create your own by just writing down everything you currently know about your characters.

Doing this will ensure your characters are always doing things that fit who they are.

  • Start Writing–Once you have your plot and character sheets finished, it’s time to start your novel. Try to set a daily/weekly writing goal, such as writing a certain length of time or word count everyday or finishing a certain number of chapters by a specific day of the week, every week.When I worked with my writing coach, I wrote two chapters a week. For me, this was the perfect amount. Not too much, but just enough to keep me motivated. Play around with some writing time everyday and see what is reasonable for you. Don’t go for too much in one day/week or you’ll burn out quickly.
  • If Your Plot Changes, Continue On–What that means is, if you start with a plot in mind, but then three chapters in you get a brilliant idea and your plot strays and now your first three chapters need to be rewritten, don’t go back and rewrite them. Just continue on like the first three chapters already fit and finish the book.Doing this will keep you forward-writing instead of backtracking. Backtracking is a waste of time because you never know how much your plot will change as you go through the rest of the book. If you keep going back and rewriting things, you’ll most definitely get tired of the book or at least you’ll never get it finished.I know it’s hard not to rewrite everything to match, but that’s what editing is for. And when you continue writing and reach the end, you’ll realize you have a lot less editing to do. If you had kept going back and changing everything the entire time, you’d have done a whole lot of editing.

This is a very efficient, effective process to make writing a novel a lot less work than it has to be. Try it out and let me know how it goes for you.