Be bold!

“We have to have the guts to make mistakes.”

Those are my art teacher’s words. It gets me thinking. And it’s very true, because without mistakes, where’s the adventure of life? There is none.

Too often you–yes, you!–are stuck in your shell. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, at some point in your life you just want to be less noticeable. Maybe you’re a bad dancer. Or you wrote an embarrassing answer on your last Japanese test. Or you’re awkward with human contact.

Every day we feel we’re not doing something right. We instinctively shrink back from whatever we’re doing if we feel like it’s imperfect, or if there’s a mistake. So what? No person in this world has never made a mistake, whether they like it or not. Even some of the most confident people I know aren’t so confident about mistakes sometimes. Follow the Wikipedia motto and be bold!

We apply this to writing as well. So much of the time, too much, I hear people say they don’t want to make so many mistakes in a first draft, or they can’t stand Write or Die because things aren’t perfect the first time around. There is plenty of time to develop a more precise style of writing, but few first drafts are readable. I’m horrible at them. There’s ugly word padding everywhere, too many adjectives and adverbs, but so what? There’s plenty of time to make those better…later.

Not to say you should procrastinate on editing or anything. But don’t shy away from imperfections. They’re what make us.

– Ann X.
69,084/365,000
(I’m on fire! :P)

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Always Back Up Your Files!

“WORD CANNOT OPEN”

I had my first panic attack over a supposedly lost file today. “Word cannot open blahblahblah”, it said, but all that stood were the words “WORD CANNOT OPEN”. Ever had that happen to you? You see something that’s really inconsequential but it makes you hold your breath and teeter on the edge of your seat and scream until someone gets rid of the spider for you? Yeah. That’s how I felt. But it’s all good now. I got the file open in the end and e-mailed myself a copy. Go me!

The moral of today’s story, kids? Always back up your files! Especially if they contain several thousand words of writing. Heck, even losing a thousand words of writing is something to cry for.

– Ann X.
58k/365k

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Writing Environments

We all have our quirks. Likewise, we all have our own writing environment we work best in.

1. THE MYSOPHOBE

Do you find yourself sanitizing every square inch of your desk? Dusting your computer weekly? Buying new pens by day and sharpening your pencils by night? If so, you may be the mysophobe!

2. THE OSCAR
The exact opposite of the mysophobe, the Oscar thrives in garbage. Let the piles of smelly clothing stay on the ground and let the spaces in between the keys on the keyboard collect dust! All the better for the Oscar.

3. THE NATURE PERSON
The nature person cannot concentrate indoors, instead preferring to crank out their four thousand words an hour bathed in trees and sunlight. Or, if they must be holed up in their room, let all the windows open and the light stream through!

4. THE LONER
Pull down the shades! Lock the door! Get the rifles ready! The loner is about to start writing! Occasionally accompanied by a set of earplugs.

5. THE BORE
Just as it says. The bore doesn’t do anything special. Just sits down with a computer/laptop/notebook and pen and writes stuff. Yeah. The end. Whoop-de-doo. Fireworks.

Which one are you? If you have any other category ideas, feel free to share!

– Ann X.
46.5k/365k
*All category names and descriptions are meant in good fun.

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How to Motivate Yourself Without a Deadline

Some of us have no writing deadlines to work with. There’s little pressure and therefore we are more likely to slack off and procrastinate. How do we motivate ourselves to write?

My favorite method is the lovely Write or Die. If you don’t know what Write or Die is already, it basically focuses on word output more than perfection and punishes you if you stop typing. There are four modes: Gentle, Normal, Kamikaze, and Electric Shock, with a Forgiving, Strict, or Evil “grace period” (the amount of time you’re allowed to stop typing before something horrible happens). You also set your own word goal and time period to type. Personally, my favorite mode is Kamikaze/Evil, as I am too chicken to try Electric Shock (what is that anyway? Does anyone know?). And they have a desktop edition too now so you can torture yourself without the Internet🙂

Word wars come in a very close second. A time limit and a time to start and end are set, and two or more people compete for the highest word count within that time limit. You can do this on the desktop edition of Write or Die as well.

Having other people write with you is always a motivator. Especially if you’re new to a write-in and everyone else there is older than you and working so hard and you get scared if you stop typing they’ll all stare at you with disgust. Not that it ever happened to me.

– Ann X.
16k/365k

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Outlining vs. Plunging Into the Abyss [day9]

I’ve wondered about this for a while myself. Should I outline or plunge into the story? Like puberty, stress, and the urge to touch a hot stove even though your mother told you not to, asking this question is usually unavoidable. And different things work for different people.

OUTLINES
PROS
– a solid idea of where the story is going
– fun for the writers who like planning more than writing
– less irritation in seeing your MC fall in love with someone she or he wasn’t supposed to love
CONS
– the tiniest idea may take your outline completely off course
– less fun in seeing your characters doing something unexpected and/or stupid*

THE PLUNGE
PROS
– you can throw in any plot ninja you like and it can turn into something good
– beneficial for the writers who excel at spontaneous storytelling rather than structuring
– because the next happening is unknown, the twists and turns in the story are genuine more often than not
CONS
– sometimes have no idea where the heck the plot is right now
– matters in the story will come up that need research, which may hinder writers who have just gotten “in the zone”

I think we’re just as likely to cut things from an outline-based story as we are after the plunge. You could even think about the second option as a very long and intricate outline itself.

Different processes work for different writers. Ann Aguirre, author of Grimspace, says, “I’d grown frustrated of writing within a certain formula…So I sat down with a blank mind and began to write.” (from this interview http://bit.ly/6HLgqU , which I found from the lovely InkyGirl http://bit.ly/60jtzZ). J.K. Rowling “always ha[s] a basic plot outline, but [she likes] to leave some things to be decided while [she writes].” (http://bit.ly/559Bow). So it’s really up to you.

Personally, I prefer the plunge. I’m just not an outlining sort of person. I can make notes about characters and events I want to happen, but those are usually in my mind, not on any sort of tangible paper, unless I’m terribly bored in class. I’m willing to take it at the cost of rooting through thorns and brush to get to the plot.

– Ann X.
9,450/365k

*I hope I’m not the only one who gets fun from this.

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Update on Posting Schedules [day5]

Why hello there. It’s a short post today. Basically what I need to say is that I’m not going to be able to post very regularly for at least a few months. It’s almost guaranteed no posts on weekdays, so I’ll try to get them out on the weekends. In the meantime you can follow my Twitter feed, currently located on the right side of the screen (my username is xu_ann). Sorry for the inconvenience!

– Ann X.
6k/365k

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Happy WriYe 2010! [day1]

Well, it’s that time of year again. Even though this is my first WriYe. But still!

I’m definitely out of practice with my writing. 1,087 words out of 1,000 for the day, but it took me over an hour to write that, whereas in November I could do it in half the time. Oh well. As long as I get those words out!

I’m beginning with Katsura-Otoko, as it’s the one I have the most confidence in in terms of plot right now. I was right. Once I got in front of the computer with my trusty earplugs, it was much easier than I imagine Something Like Seagulls or Tendrils would be.

“Doihara Kano wasted no time.”
…is my first sentence. Currently. It’ll change.

What are your first sentences of the year?

– Ann X.
1,087/365,000

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