3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Take a Break From Writing

Before walking away, ask yourself a few tough questions.

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So. You want to take a break.

You’re tired.

You’ve been working hard for a long time.

Or, you’re just fed up, but don’t want to quit completely.

Here are a few things you should ask yourself before walking away.

Are there Important Life Things that, for now, need to take priority over writing?

Last week, I adopted a puppy. I realized very quickly that I needed to take time away from all my personal writing projects to help her (and myself) adjust to the new arrangement. This was an Important Life Thing — I was responsible for a fuzzy chew monster, and couldn’t have focused on writing outside of my day job even if I’d tried. (SHE’S JUST SO CUTE.)

Sometimes, “life” happens. You have to focus on fewer things that need more individualized attention. You have to put aside writing to be a responsible human — and that’s OK. You should never feel guilty for doing this, as long as you set a “restart” date (mine was today!) and jump back in as soon as you are able.

Would you rather do something else because you can’t shake off unimportant distractions?

I’m confident many would-be writers stop because they get too distracted by other things — things they’d “rather” be doing, instead of things they “have” to do.

There’s a big difference between reordering your priorities and not writing because you’d rather do something else. I haven’t played a video game in over two months. I’d love to stop everything I’m doing and do that instead. But I have to write. Until my distractions stop being distractions and start being “earned relaxations,” I’m not allowed to touch them.

Does the writing you’re doing make you feel unfulfilled?

Here’s a final reason you might at least consider quitting temporarily: you aren’t happy with the work you’re doing. It might seem like you’re just tired or it’s just been a long week and you need a short break, but dissatisfaction with your current WIP/job could be the underlying cause.

How do you fix this? You take some time off. You reflect. You ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, how you could make it better, or what you’d rather be doing instead. Sometimes, doubting whether or not you’re doing the right thing is the best way to figure out where to go next.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Writing Every Day: Is It Advice You Should Actually Follow?

Here’s what both sides of the debate have to offer, and what you can take away from each.

This is possibly one of the most confusing, conflicting, and frustrating pieces of writing advice you will find on the internet (and in books, podcasts, etc.).

Some “experts” will tell you that you aren’t a real writer if you don’t write every day. That only “everyday-ers” can write their way into a successful career.

Others will completely discard this advice, saying you should never force yourself to write. Claiming that the best way to practice writing is to only do it when you feel like it, whether that’s daily, once a week, a few times a month, or just … whenever.

I disagree with both of these philosophies.

And since I’m even more subject than usual to backlash if I don’t state this clearly upfront these days, this is, of course, my opinion. Neither of the above viewpoints are wrong. I just do not think either should be taken seriously. In case that wasn’t clear when I said “I disagree.”

While there are cases in which extremes work to our advantage in writing, I don’t believe that applies here. It’s not a matter of whether you write every day or not at all. And it’s not the kind of advice everyone can, or should, follow comfortably.

For many, writing every day becomes habitual after many weeks of maximum effort. NaNoWriMo, for example, motivates a lot of people to write for 30 days straight or more. It’s impressive. But not necessary.

Because there are many writers who join the game thinking that writing every day is this essential rite of passage they have to master before they can achieve anything else. And they aren’t built to make that happen, they don’t have the discipline, and when they can’t do it, they get discouraged. Many quit. And even those who do manage to do it burn out very quickly.

But this does not mean you can’t write every day. Or shouldn’t, if you’re struggling to get your work done for whatever reason.

See? It’s confusing! So let’s finally clear things up so we can all stop arguing about this and do what we’re all really here to do: write.

Do you have to write every day to be a successful writer? No.

Does it help some people write more/better/more consistently? Absolutely.

Is it bad if you DO write every day? Not always. You do need to give your brain a rest sometimes, but if you give yourself enough leisure (“brainless”) time throughout the week, you should be OK.

Who SHOULD write every day? New writers who want to make frequent writing a habit, who want to start building up a portfolio, who want to get a lot of practice time in or just want to start building up some discipline for when things get real. Also, more seasoned writers who are having a hard time getting their work done might benefit from short periods of daily writing sprints. It doesn’t have to be permanent.

Who SHOULDN’T write every day? Anyone who has a tendency to go too hard too fast, wear themselves down, and struggle to get back on their feet. It’s OK to take things slow. Also, if you’re trying to write more consistently, but you’re busy (like, you’re a student, or you work 3 jobs, or you have tiny humans/fur babies), start small.

If you write consistently for awhile but then miss a few days, are you a total failure? Should you just quit now while you still can? No! Just because your routine breaks doesn’t mean you can’t put it back together and/or reconstruct it. If you just had an abnormal few days, jump back in ASAP. If daily writing doesn’t work for you, try every other day, or a few set days every week.

What are the real advantages to daily writing schedules? I find it’s a great way to practice consistency and sticking to a commitment, especially for new writers. Saying “I’m going to get up tomorrow and write 1,000 words before lunch” is a lot different than actually getting up in the morning and writing 1,000 words before lunch. The more you can fulfill your own promises, the more reliable you become as a writer.

What are the disadvantages? Honestly, there’s the danger that you’re going to try this very tough thing (writing every day) and be tempted to give up when it gets hard. Some new writers just aren’t resilient enough yet to keep going when writing stops being fun. It’s OK if you can’t or don’t want to write daily. You’re not less of a writer just because you write less often.

If you don’t write every day, how often SHOULD you write? That’s really up to you. There is no set “schedule” that’s better or worse than another, and no magic number that’s going to give you any kind of advantage. If you only want to write during the week, write during the week. Weekends work best? Write on Saturdays and Sundays. Want to work one day, take the next day off, and repeat? Go for it. It’s OK to try different routines to figure out which one works best for you.

I know you probably came here for more straightforward answers, but the truth is, not all writing advice can or should be generalized to an entire population of writers. I can’t do it all for you. You have to make most of the decisions and do most of the work. Best of luck!


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How a Career In Writing Can Make You a Better Person

Writing isn’t just about skill, fame, or a paycheck.

There’s a lot we learn from spending a lot of our time writing.

We learn how to construct grammatically correct sentences. How to develop effective marketing strategies. How to persuade people to do things they might have never considered before.

But there’s much more to get out of a career in writing than a bunch of followers or a solid reputation as a literary mastermind or even a semi-decent paycheck.

Writing might actually make you a better person in the long-term.

It forces you to think about other people more than yourself

Most people are born selfish and stay that way their whole lives. I’m not saying none of us are a little bit self-centered depending on the circumstances — sometimes, thinking of yourself is the best option.

But being a writer means you can’t focus only on you, your thoughts, or your needs. You have to be aware of what other people are saying, thinking, and seeking — because that’s how you gain an audience, create relatable content, and attract loyal followers.

It teaches you when it’s necessary to respond and when it isn’t

The longer I write, and the more I publish online, the more angry/mean/troll-ish tweets I receive. I eventually learned that not all communications require responses.

There are people that want to have open, constructive conversations with strangers. There are people who have nothing better to do than force their opinions into your face and expect you to agree or disagree rather enthusiastically. Effective communication means that, sometimes, some people aren’t worth the words.

It requires you to look at situations from multiple perspectives

If you can only write about something from a single perspective — typically yours — you have a lot to learn about what it means to “be a writer.”

Good writing forces you to look at something from many sides. Especially when you’re making any kind of argument. “I’m right because I said so” is not a valid statement. And one of the best ways to create relatable stories is to tell them from multiple characters’ points of view.

It reminds you that your issues aren’t the only ones that matter

In many ways, writing is selfless in the sense that just because you might want to write about how hard it is to make money as an [insert your generation here] doesn’t mean that’s the biggest problem facing your audience right now.

Being aware of what’s going on outside your bubble doesn’t just give you more to write about. It also reminds you that there are a lot of causes out there that deserve attention, and there’s a lot you can do, as a person good with using words, to help.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

5 Writing ‘Setbacks’ That Are Actually Tiny Miracles

It might feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. Maybe it’s actually the best thing.

Everyone has setbacks.

It’s true. They’re what shape us into the writers we’re meant to be.

In the moment, it can feel like these are the tragedies destined to end our dreams.

They’re not. Let me show you why.

1. Giving up on a project you’ve been working on for months

After weeks or more of constant frustration and dragging your feet — avoiding the inevitable, perhaps — “giving up” might seem devastating. And in many ways, it is. It hurts. It probably feels wrong.

In actively deciding to put something aside, though — either for now or forever — you’re making a conscious choice to move on. You have enough self-awareness to realize it’s not the right thing for you at this time, and you’re allowing yourself to direct your creative energy where it can better be used.

2. Getting rejected by your dream publication/employer

Rejection hurts, especially when you dared to take a big chance and ended up falling flat on your face. It’s not the worst thing that can or will ever happen to you.

This rejection will either inspire you to work smarter or send you in a different, perhaps better direction in terms of your career or writing focus/niche. Though it might feel like it, rejection is not the end of your journey. It only makes you stronger.

3. Receiving negative, even ‘mean’ feedback/criticism

There’s criticism, and then there’s straight-up meanness. If you’re a person who spends time on the internet, you’ve likely encountered both. One mean comment might send you spiraling — but only for a moment.

You might come to one or several revelations when dealing with trolls (or constructive criticism). You might realize their opinions don’t matter and don’t apply to you. You might realize some improvements you can make, and how. You might even realize you’re a pretty great person, in comparison. That’s nice!

4. Taking a ‘break’ from writing, whether by choice or necessity

Many people feel guilty when they take a hiatus. And if they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, they should. But most of the time, breaks are good. Recharging is good.

Sometimes, we need gaps. We need segments throughout our lives in which we can take a few steps back and reorganize our thoughts and responsibilities. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. In fact, chances are you’ll return to your keyboard more ready to tell stories than you’ve ever been.

5. Doubting whether or not you’re supposed to/you want to be a writer at all

We all have those moments in which we start to question our existence, our purpose, whether or not writing is really the thing we should or want to be doing. This is not a terrible mindset to find yourself in.

In reality, these moments of self-reflection are essential to every writer’s growth and development. You’re SUPPOSED to question yourself, to ask those “why” questions. It’s how you remind yourself why you do what you do, and where your place is in this world.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

21 Thoughts I Had While Rereading a Draft I Hadn’t Touched In 4 Months

14. Focus.

1. I do not remember writing this opening paragraph.

2. It’s not that good, is it? It’s probably fine. It’s not TERRIBLE.

3. Isn’t the first line the most important sentence in a book? Ugh.

4. I should probably read past the first line before I psych myself out.

5. I do remember this part. I thought I might want to change it, but maybe not.

6. Ha! That was kind of funny. Not lame. I giggled. That has to count for something.

7. Aaaand that, on the other hand, was not funny. Deleting.

8. Wait, no! I might regret that. Just highlight it.

9. Maybe highlight that too.

10. OK stop highlighting or you’ll highlight the whole thing and highlighting will mean nothing.

11. This character is pretty stupid, should I keep her?

12. That transition was awkward. I like these scene but it doesn’t belong here.

13. IT DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE

14. Focus. There are already too many Grey’s Anatomy references, no room for more references.

15. There is also a Star Wars reference. I have a problem.

16. Maybe this isn’t as scary/awful as I thought it would be.

17. I can’t wait to outline all this. I have no idea if it actually makes sense outside my head.

18. And that’s where I started skipping around. I’m going to regret that. How was I going to finish this part before?

19. There’s a lot of bad writing in here, but I have some ideas to make it better, eventually.

20. I think I really can do this. I’m not ready to walk away (yet).

21. Alright. Now I actually have to finish writing this thing. AAAAHHHHHHHHHH


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The Types of Writing Advice You Should (and Shouldn’t) Take to Heart

How you should interpret writing advice depends on who — or where — it comes from.

How do you know if the writing advice you’re being given is worth listening to?

Does it matter if someone is a published author or not?

Who is “qualified” to give the best advice?

These are all tricky questions. So here are some of the types of advice you’ll generally get about writing, who they tend to come from, and how to apply them (if at all) to your own writing life.

From a well-meaning acquaintance

“I never, ever do it that way. I always do it like this, and it’s definitely going to help you too.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of (I suppose) well-meaning people out there who don’t know how to think outside their own mindset. They see the world only from their perspective. So even though they might want to genuinely help someone by offering advice, it’s usually very one-sided and closed-minded. But you should never walk away from those conversations believing that their way is the only way. It doesn’t hurt to try their suggestions, but they might not always work for you, and that’s OK. It’s not bad advice — but every writer is different, and not all advice applies to everyone.

From people who write about writing, but haven’t published any professional work

“Here’s advice from my personal experience, don’t worry, I get what you’re going through!”

Because I haven’t “officially” published a book, I know many people who stumble upon my blog have a hard time trusting what I have to say about writing. They don’t realize, or don’t bother to read, that I’m a professional writer, and publish work almost daily, despite not being a published fiction author. But do be wary of writers who talk a lot about writing but don’t actually have much to show for it. Their advice may be well-meaning, but if they lack field experience, they might also fall prey to the issue above.

From accomplished writers along your chosen career path

“Here’s what I have learned along my journey, take from it what you will.”

You’ll find the best, and most applicable, writing advice from these individuals. Let’s say, for example, you dream of –and are doing your best to work toward — a career in print journalism. You’ll want to seek out career and writing advice from people who work in that field, who were once where you are now — an aspiring journalist trying to find your beat and add your voice to the conversation. Someone who publishes novels for a living may have great writing advice, but it won’t always apply to you specifically. That’s also OK.

From ultra-successful writers (e.g., Stephen King)

“Here’s my advice on how to become one of the most successful writers of all time.”

You do have to be cautious of this advice, at least on a personal level. Stephen King has his own way of doing things, and yes, some of his advice very well may change your life. But don’t get too hung up on copying his every move or clinging to every word. You have to learn to take bits and pieces of his suggestions and fit them into your style and schedule. Remember, not all advice applies to everyone the same way. It’s OK if some of his suggestions just aren’t your thing.

From people who have read a dozen books written by other people about writing

“Mer Lafferty said in her book that if you do this …”

The best thing to do in this situation is to read the book! Secondhand advice doesn’t allow you to draw your own conclusions about what a successful writer is suggesting you try. What one person interprets from a book, as you likely already know, might not even come close to what someone else might get out of it. Don’t take their word for it. Check it out for yourself.

And always remember: advice is not law. You don’t have to do something just because one writer says they did it. It’s up to you to use any advice to your advantage as you choose. As long as you’re doing what’s best for you, and aren’t hurting or discouraging anyone else in the process.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

14 Things Every Writer Needs Before They Sit Down to Write

Have these things ready before you get started.

1. A large chunk of time set aside in which only writing is ideally permitted to happen.

2. Coffee, tea, some form of synthetic stimulation to help you get into “writing mode.”

3. A browser plugin that only blocks the websites you’re inclined to visit when you’re supposed to be writing. (That way, you can still look up words and such.)

4. A laptop charger, extra paper/pens/pencils, a backup plan if all these things fail.

5. Patience.

6. A general idea of what you’re going to work on, even if you’re not sure what you’re in the “mood” for.

7. Some sort of timer (e.g., on your phone) so you don’t have to stop writing to check the time.

8. Snacks!

9. Some kind of short-term plan or list of goals, to be accomplished before your butt leaves the chair.

10. Your preferred form of background noise, even if it’s silence.

11. A distraction-free environment (as much as possible, depending).

12. Fuzzy slippers/socks/comfy shoes (unless you’re OK with sitting in a coffee shop in your socks).

13. Plenty of water within reach so you stay hydrated and clear-headed. (Frequent pee breaks are acceptable as long as you don’t get lost on your way back.)

14. The right attitude. It’s much easier to write when you have a positive mindset.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The Best Way to Spend the First 15 Minutes of Every Writing Session

This new habit might change everything.

Every run begins with a jog.

Every rehearsal begins with a round of scales.

If every athlete and every musician precedes every practice or performance with a warmup, shouldn’t every writer start any given session with something similar?

What happens if you start a run with a full-on sprint? Your muscles protest.

What happens if you start singing without doing your scales? Your voice cracks.

So, logically, why would you jump straight into working on your book or writing an article before you “warm up”? Chances are, you’ll get off to a rough or slow start. You won’t be as productive as you could have otherwise been. And you certainly won’t do your best work. You won’t perform to the best of your ability, to your highest possible standard.

While this might seem like a waste of time to some — why spend time “warming up” when you could just dive right in and start getting work done? — you might find that starting slow and working your way into a flow state allows you to do higher-quality, maybe even a higher quantity of, work in the long-term.

So what does a writing warmup look like? You might have already been doing them for years and you didn’t even know it.

I consider writing prompts to be one of the most effective warmups for beginners as well as more experienced writers who are having a hard time sitting down and following through with their short- and long-term goals.

My high school and college creative writing classes almost always began with something along the lines of, “Write 300 words about a hydrophobic lifeguard” before getting into the day’s lesson or practice session. The same way a basketball coach runs her team through a series of drills before the real playing starts.

You can do this on your own by creating or finding your own prompts. I personally prefer making up my own — it stimulates that figurative idea-generating muscle, and then forces you to actually follow through and get that idea onto paper.

If you don’t want to stick with a more traditional prompting style like this, you can do another exercise I learned: stream-of-consciousness writing. Open a blank document or journal, set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes, and start writing or typing. Don’t stop to think, don’t take your fingers off the keys or put down your pen. Just write continuously, whatever comes to mind, until that timer goes off. I still have a journal filled with these, and a lot of the lines say, “I don’t know what to write next but I’m not allowed to stop until Mr. W says we can.” That still counts!

You can do some informal outlining, you can write about where you want your characters to go next, you can jot down some quotes you might want to use or a random description of a scene or location. It really doesn’t matter what you do. But I think spending anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes doing some kind of light mental exercise to prepare yourself for a designated writing task will help you in the long-term, whether you’re new to writing or you just need a new tactic to get you going again.

It’s completely changed the way (and the quality, AND the quantity) I write. Give it a try. See if it does the same for you.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Write (and Do) Things That Excite You

Sometimes, writing feels like work, and you need another outlet.

Let’s jump right into the no-nonsense side of writing advice you all secretly love.

As a writer, you’re going to spend a lot of time — hours upon hours — writing things you couldn’t care less about.

And things that bore you.

Things you wish you could just hand off to someone else, so you’d have more time to write the “fun” stuff.

Very few writers make a living only writing things they’re fully invested in and enthusiastic about. Especially right at the beginning of their respective timelines.

Chances are, you’re going to have to settle for a writing job you’d rather not have. A handful of clients who treat their freelancers like slaves. Some deal that benefits others more than it benefits you.

We have to sacrifice a lot to slowly work our way up to the top of the hill — and maybe further on to the peak of a mountain. Whatever that means for you on your writing path of choice.

You don’t get anywhere in writing without spending a lot of time climbing, carrying a lot on your back, your eyes constantly on your end goal — because that’s all you seem to have to look forward to.

But.

You also won’t get very far along that climb if you don’t have small things to keep you motivated. Personal projects that make every painful step feel worth it. Seemingly insignificant goals that matter so much to you that they’re the things that get you out of bed in the morning.

Excitement is one of creativity’s best motivators. When we feel inspired to make things, part of that is an intense feeling of excitement. I can’t wait to write this thing! I can’t wait to go to this place! I can’t wait to connect with these people and learn these new things!

Not everyone has to have, or can handle, a side project or “hustle” on top of all their other responsibilities. I’m not saying you have to constantly work on five things at once if you ever want to be successful.

But I do believe everyone needs some kind of hobby, whether it’s writing-related or not, to balance out the work that seems boring or pointless. I write full-time, but sometimes, sitting down to write a blog post outside of work reminds me that even though the work I’m doing during the day isn’t always my favorite, I still like to write, and I have the power to choose to still write things I genuinely care about.

We can’t all just walk around, frustrated and angry all the time. Most of us, whether we know it or not, are at our most creative when we’re excited. So whether it’s writing about Star Wars or making music or programming games, you should seek out at least one thing that makes you feel alive. Something that helps you get through the days writing for a paycheck doesn’t make you happy.

If you’re a true creative, there’s already something like this in your life. Your brain never truly rests. There’s always something you wish you could try, something you want to get better at. So do that thing. You can be a writer by day and do something else creative by night — or you can write somewhere else, about your passion, whether you get paid for that or not.

Be excited. If nothing else seems to be able to motivate you, maybe that will.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

This Is Why You Sometimes Hate Writing | #WRITERTWEETS

The good news is, you’re not alone in your suffering.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.