Hacks make our lives easier by removing barriers to ease and success. I hope these writing hacks do that for you. One of the most integral parts of writing is to know your characters deeply. If you are a person that writes by the seat of your pants, a pantser, you may not always know the ins and outs of your story when you start a writing project like us outliners do. One thing both types of writers need is a clear, personal connection with your characters. How can you build a complicated- layered story about your protagonist if you don’t know them inside and out. The next few hacks will help you get inside your character’s head.
1-Character development sheets.
These are widely available all over the internet. Here are a few of my favorites. (Character Worksheets) These can be brief, and just give you some personal info, descriptions, and backstory, or they can be hundreds of questions long, and include things like the character’s favorite song, meal, and the reason they secretly hate their father. This is the time I always develop a soundtrack to my book too. I think about my characters favorite songs, and create a playlist on Youtube or Spotify. It helps me to be able to get into my protagonist, antagonist, and love interest’s minds. It also lays a groundwork for a feeling or an era that my character is currently experiencing. These are the soundtracks to Myths, Monsters, and Mary, Hundred Book Summer, and Tilted.
I personally love character art during my writing process. My characters are framed around my writing area to remind me who i’m bringing to life. I go to comic conventions, and their are always a lot of artists that take commissions. I take them my character development sheets, and maybe print off a few key scenes about my character, and let them do their magic. You can also find artists on Fiverr (I have had both great and bad experiences on Fiverr, so carefully read reviews, and what they offer), and there are probably some other places. If you know any leave them in the comments. Make sure you do not pay for your art before receiving it. I prepaid for a well-known artist to do some character art for Myths, Monsters, and Mary at a convention. They got really busy, but promised to mail me the art in a few days. Three months later, after many calls and emails, I received a hastily done sketch as an email attachment. Be specific when ordering your art, pay when you receive it, and only choose an artist whose work you enjoy. Here is some of my art, and as you can see some are much better than others.
Whether you are building a complicated Tolkien-style world, or if you have set your story in Dallas. Know your surroundings. I set most of my books in the made up town of Landover, Missouri, and I created a map of my city, so I’d always know where I was writing about. Here is a link to world building questionnaires that will help you get to the heart of your city. If you are placing your story in a real city, then google a map, so you know your way around.
Every writer stands to profit from increasing their knowledge of the art of writing.The next few hacks will help you with honing your craft.
Making writer friends isn’t always easy since we writers are often somewhat introverted. Again, conventions are a great place to network with writers, but social media has made it easier than ever to contact other artists. From Twitter and Tumblr to NaNoWriMo-- there is a world of authors out there that know what you are going through. My best friend and my husband are writer-editors, and if it weren’t for social media I wouldn’t know either of them.
5-Increase your writing knowledge. Whether it’s watching writing videos on Youtube, taking a writing course, or attending a workshop you should always be refining your writing skill. Jenna Moreci, Ellen Brock, and Ava Jae are some of my favorite Youtubers. They are always posting fresh, easy to watch writing videos. They are also writers, and they are very responsive to their subscribers. You can always take writing classes, but be careful there are a lot of shady companies out there that are willing to pocket your money, and not give you much in return. I did take the James Patterson Masterclass, and it had a lot of good information in it. It cost around $100, so it’s not a bad deal. Writers workshops are a little more expensive, and usually require some significant travel. Here is a list of a few workshops.
6-Find some BetaReaders.
Betareaders are people that read your work, usually as it’s completed, and give you feedback. This feedback is key in making sure you are crafting a book that people will understand and enjoy. Sometimes you can get friends and family to do this, but they aren’t always motivated to give you honest, critical feedback. A great place to look for Betareaders is on Facebook, Twitter, and Fiverr. But again be wary, because often you get what you pay for. If a Betareader isn’t completing their end of your agreement - cut them loose.
Knowing everything about writing won’t do you any good if you aren’t actually writing. The following hacks are about meeting your daily word count.
7-Make a daily writing goal.
The daily target I had while doing NaNoWriMo was 1667 words. That sounds like a lot, but it is the minimum you have to do to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I completed my book, Hundred Book Summer in 15 days. I did that by giving myself a reasonable goal, and then exceeding it as I felt comfortable. Sometimes I barely made my goal, but there were also a few 10,000 word days. Since I always work with an outline I know what I need to cover each time I start writing, and even though sometimes I get off track, the outline is there to put me back to where I need to be. Plan in advance for these writing binges, by stocking up on healthy (yeah right) snacks. I did this, because I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my room at meals.
8-Go off grid.
Another way I made those big word count goals was going off grid. When I was writing Myths, Monsters, and Mary I gave myself 30 days to complete a book that I had been dicking around on for 2 years. I had been writing a few scenes, walking away, and repeating that over and over until I was at a crossroads. I knew I had to finish the book or give-up on calling myself a writer. So for 30 days I removed every game (which was the Sims 4 and Candy Crush) off my computer, deleted every time wasting app off my phone, and wrote. I hung a do not disturb sign on my door, put my cell on airplane mode, and started making my word count goals. I wrote longhand from 3:30am until I started work at 7:30am, and transcribed and edited from 5:00pm until 8:00pm. I treated it like a job, and I got that book done, and it felt glorious.
9-Do the writing.
The number one hack isn’t really a hack at all. You just have to do the writing. A blank page is hell to look at, but write one word and it is less intimidating. Write ten words, and you are on your way. Write one-hundred words, and you’ve showed it who’s boss. Soon you will have hundreds of pages if you don’t give up. DON’T GIVE UP!