Tag Archives: writing

Advice for Writers

The Viral Post from Tumblr!
The Viral Post from Tumblr!

-Original post published May of 2015-

Advice for Writers

One of my readers on Wattpad recently asked if I had any advice for writers, and while I feel unqualified to give advice on many aspects of writing, I can certainly relay advice I’ve taken to heart and add my two cents. So here goes…

1. You’re a writer starting right now. Own it.

I have tried writing before and could never get into it until a couple of years ago when I decided that I would share my journey as a writer with the world via social media. You don’t have to go crazy with it, you can begin slowly so as to ease yourself into the world of writing like I did with a few mild tweets, but you have to do this. This is step 1.

You have to own your title as a writer. The best piece of advice I got on this matter was to write an affirmation. Post it somewhere where you will see it every day. Mine is on my desk at work, and it says, “I am a writer. Writing is my art.” I look at it when I’m having a rough day or when I am feeling stressed about writing. It’s a kind reminder that I not only CAN write, but I can write beautifully.

2. After you label yourself as a writer and you receive your inevitable first few rejections, don’t beat yourself up.

For a while I wasn’t sure if I could really pull off calling myself a writer, because I hadn’t been published. I felt like I was writing good stories (and I still do), so I wasn’t sure why no one wanted them. I began to wonder if I was really a writer, and started asking myself, “Can I really call myself a writer if I don’t have any readers?”

The answer is YES. You can. One day you will have readers, but you won’t ever get there if you stop writing. And maybe not every story you write will be published, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer, in fact, it’s more like a rite of passage.

I read once, and I really wish I remembered which author this was, that a famous author kept all of his (or her) rejection letters on a wall in his (or her) apartment. At first I thought, “Well, that’s depressing,” but then I got to thinking about it… If you have rejection letters, that means you’re trying. You’re writing and you’re putting your writing out there, which I think is incredibly courageous.

So don’t lose hope. Rejection happens to everyone. Keep writing.

3. All first drafts are crap.

One of the most freeing things I ever learned as a writer was that all first drafts are crap. Once I learned this, I felt free to just write and write and write. I wasn’t caught up in my own head, and I wasn’t getting down on myself for not being the most amazing writer in my first drafts.

My readers on Wattpad always ask me how I can be such an amazing writer, to which I tell them, “I’m not. I write my books and then I edit the crap out of them.” Literally.

I am currently writing the 3rd book of The Deathless Trilogy, and my readers are dying to read it. But there is still no way they are looking at my first draft. It’s a mess! But I allow it to be a mess. I allow myself to work through the story. Your first draft is never going to be the draft that’s published (nor should it be), and that’s okay.

4. Just write.

Stop waiting for the right time or the right idea. There’s no such thing. Just do it, and it will come to you, even if you’re just writing short stories in a journal each day. Writing is a muscle, and if you don’t work it, you lose it.

Don’t worry about what others will say or whether or not it’s good. Start writing just for you, and once you start to feel a little more confident, start considering your audience. But at first, write for yourself first.

Try keeping a diary. You can remember situations and feelings you can use later for characters WHILE you write for only yourself. I kept a diary all through middle and high school, and you know where I go to for inspiration now? You got it–my diary.

5. When writing any story, have an ending in mind.

Having an ending in mind allows you to insert some of those deeper, richer layers into your writing, like foreshadowing. It also helps you develop your character arc, and plot. An ending is a finish line, a goal, and having it in mind–even if you have nothing else planned–will be like an anchor, pulling you deeper into your story as you write it.

For my first book in The Deathless Trilogy, all I began writing with was a first scene image and a final scene image. With those in mind, I filled in the rest, but having my final scene in mind helped me figure out everything along the way.

6. Speaking of endings, finish your writing.

You have no idea how many unfinished manuscripts are posted on Wattpad right now, and many of them have fantastic concepts that were never carried through to an end. Think of all the potential!

Endings are hard, I get that, and writing takes some serious stamina, but you have to do it! You can’t start to understand storytelling without writing endings. Besides, once you type the period of that last sentence of your manuscript, you can sit back and marvel at what you just accomplished.

So seriously, finish your writing.

7. Protect your writing time from others and yourself.

Obviously you need to go to work or school, you need to have some sort of social life, and you need to have some time for yourself. But if you want to be a writer, you also need to carve out a time for yourself every day just for writing.

I remember hearing this piece of advice when I first started writing, and I thought, “Oh my goodness, every day? I’m not sure if I can do that.” Fast forward two years, and I can’t imagine a day without writing.

I go to work Monday through Friday, and come home and write after chores. Saturdays are my writing day. I fiercely protect my Saturdays and my time after work. I go away from everyone (sometimes this even includes my cat, because she is nonsense), and I write for all of that time.

You have to have that time for yourself to write, otherwise you’re not going to get anything done. And after a while, it will get to the point that not writing will make you feel anxious. When I can’t write for a while, I start to actually stress and just start jotting down notes in my phone or on scrap papers. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s because I love writing so much. Even when it kills me, I love it. I have to do it otherwise I shut down. Force yourself to write every day until you feel like that (or perhaps until you feel something a little less melodramatic after a day of not writing).

8. Believe in your writing.

The piece you’re working on right now could be the piece that changes everything for you. Writing The Blast and The Deathless Trilogy has honestly changed my life. My characters have helped me understand myself better, as well as others in my life. I have learned what is most important in life, and I have come to find strength in myself.

If I didn’t believe in my writing and share it confidently, I wouldn’t have ever discovered those things. Believing in yourself and your books is key. You don’t have to be self-promoting or arrogant, in fact, please don’t do that. But you do have to love what you do, and love yourself for doing it.

www.sarahperlmutter.com

Are there any other pieces of advice about writing that have helped you?

How to Write a Long-Term Relationship

How to Write a Long-Term Relationship // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published May of 2015-

Sometimes writing about characters in a long term relationship can be difficult. There’s no new spark, they have settled into companion love, and healthy relationships often don’t have much conflict. I realized this issue in the middle of my second book in the Deathless Trilogy.

So how did I overcome these issues? And how do we as authors write these relationships in interesting and engaging ways?

5 Tips for Writing Long-Term Relationships

1. Establish goals for your characters that can be accomplished outside of the relationship.

Real people who have been together for years have moved past that initial oh-my-goodness-my-life-revolves-around-my-significant-other phase, and have returned to join regular society. They have aspirations outside of “I want this person to love me,” and the all too familiar “I only want you to be safe/I only want to protect you.” They know the other person loves them, why else would they still be hanging around? (Unless that’s the conflict! That there is no other reason to hang around! Oooh.) And if you’re with someone and not living in mortal danger, you can ease up on the safety talk.

Real people in relationships have their own things going on, and can feel comfortable doing them without the other person objecting. Besides, giving your characters unique goals that are personalized to their character helps to deepen their characterization.

2. Give them inside jokes and memories.

There is nothing cuter than a couple who has been together for years, and who still has so much fun together. Because what people say is true: Your significant other really does become your best friend over time. After awhile, the passionate love comes and goes, but the companion love is always there. And think about it: People living together or spending that much time together are going to develop jokes and fun memories together.

What is the phrase your characters repeat? What is the “that one time” they often remember? Including these stories via flashbacks are also a great way to incorporate some of those butterfly feelings other stories about new loves often give readers.

What is important is that you show these characters as friends first. Kissing is awesome, but friendship and laughter with the person you love… man, that’s sweeter than anything.

3. Let them argue.

Real people argue. Especially when they are around each other for so long. What I was concerned about with this one was the line between healthy arguments and hurtful ones. In my books, I often portray arguments, but whether or not the characters say something they don’t mean during their fury, I made sure to always include an apology. (At least at some point. In The Blast one of the characters doesn’t receive an apology from another character until about 6 years after the argument. But hey–at least it happened.)

This was important to me, because I certainly don’t want to write situations that can be seen as unhealthy to one or both of the characters, unless that’s the point. Unless I’m writing to show the dangers of domestic abuse, I don’t want my characters mistreating each other. Especially as a YA author this is important. We have to model what relationships should be all about: Balance.

After my parents got a divorce, I held onto the juvenile belief that if a couple fought, they should break up. This idea ruined a lot of my relationships with friends andboyfriends. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband (who is by far the more level headed person in the relationship), and he explained to me that we could argue and still love each other that I realized he was right. As long as we apologized, and really meant it, and made conscious choices not to upset each other again, we forgave each other.

I still argue with my husband every now and then (usually about stupid stuff, but they are arguments nonetheless), but the majority of our arguments are behind us. Why? Because we apologized, and we worked to make sure we will live harmoniously in the future. We work to balance our own needs with the needs of the other person.  Love isn’t about being perfect. Love is about forgiving each other for your misunderstandings.

4. Give them a new adventure.

Put them in a new situation or on a new adventure. They will be forced to make new memories and learn new things about each other, which can always lead to drama or more butterflies. Besides, your plot needs movement. This helps with that.

5. Give them friends.

Real couples have friends, they don’t just hang out with each other all the time. Or, at least, hopefully they have other people in their lives… unless they’re homebodies… in which case, I guess, staying home might be the best thing ever.

However, giving your characters friends helps to switch up the dynamic. Now it’s not just the two of them providing all the action and drama. Now they can work together with someone else, or become jealous of someone, or gossip about someone.

Friends can also function as foils for the characters, especially if one of your characters feels they need to act a certain way around a new friend, or if an old friend comes to illuminate characteristics your character used to possess.

So those are my 5 tips for writing a long-term relationship. Any other tips you would add to this list, or that you have tried? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

What To Do When You’re in A Writing Slump

What to do when you're in a writing slump // www.sarahperlmutter.com

-Original post published June of 2015-

I’ve always written when I’ve felt upset. When I was younger, I turned to my diary. As I grow older, I turn to fiction more and more, and while I’ve always been a writer, it’s when I’m most upset that I seek solace in writing. Which is why it was so strange to me that recently, when I experienced an extremely stressful situation, I took 2 and ½ weeks off of writing instead of channeling my feelings into my work.

I gave myself the time. I didn’t push myself, but I knew that I would have to return to writing someday. But… I also knew that once I got back into writing, I would feel better, which of course made me more stressed. I had to get out of my writing slump, and now, 2 and ½ weeks later, I feel like I’m finally back on the horse.

I know that this is sure to happen to me again (life gets stressful, friends), so this post is as much a reminder to future Sarah as it is a guide for you.

So…

What to do when you’re in a writing slump

1. Don’t stress yourself out.

If you’re like me, writing is a daily occurrence and days gone without writing lead to some serious stress. Because of this, my 2 and ½ week hiatus caused me intense stress, especially since I’m working with a writing deadline. (Deathless fans, I will get you that 3rd book by the end of summer!) I’m also a teacher, so summer break kicked off my hiatus, which of course led me to stress that I was wasting my free time. Ugh, I am such a worrier.

This all, obviously, did not help me get back to writing. Instead of actually focusing on my work, I would sit in front of the computer, stare at the page, check Facebook, stare at the page, check Tumblr, stare at the page some more, check Pinterest, and then repeat the whole procrastination cycle. Of course I couldn’t focus on my work, because I was too focused on the causes of my stress.

People need time to heal, recuperate, relax. Allow yourself that time without guilt or stress. Your writing will get done. You will do what you need to do. In the meantime, treat yo’ self with some Netflix marathoning and lunch dates with your friends. The writing will return to you with time.

2. Read

Nothing gets your writing muscles warmed up like a good book. You get to stretch your imagination in someone else’s world, so it’s a low stakes and easy way to get back to the writer mindset. Besides, reading is awesome. Do it even if you’re not in a writer’s slump.

3. Sleep

I don’t know about you, but stress and anxiety keep me up at night. During my recent writer’s slump, I was averaging maybe 5 hours a night. That might fly with your body, but with mine, I became a zombie. Obviously I couldn’t think, because I wasn’t allowing my mind and body to rest properly.

I finally got my sleeping schedule back on track, and now that I’m not wasting half of my day trying to wake up, I can get to work on my writing as early as possible, maximizing my time.

4. Create a routine and follow it. Even if you’re not doing a whole lot of writing yet.

The first few days of summer break were killer, mostly because I lost the routine that I had going for the entire school year. Because I was in my slump, I didn’t work too hard to change this or establish a new routine at first, but after a week or so, I created a new routine for myself. I wasn’t writing much. Again, I was mostly just staring at the screen and checking out my social media, but it still helped to have my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys. Eventually, my butt was in the chair for longer periods of time, and my fingers moved across the keys to type my story.

5. Work on a different writing project or scene than the one you left off on.

Sometimes your slump can be cured by working on a scene you’re more interested in than the one that you left off on. Sometimes your slump can be cured by working on something else entirely. You never know until you try.

For me, working on a short story for my book of short stories about The Deathless Trilogy’s secondary characters helped a lot. It got me into a different character’s perspective, into a 3rd person point of view, and into a different time and place in the world I’ve created. This change helped me to look back at my other writing with fresh eyes, and become excited for it all over again.

6. Create a playlist to get you in the writing mood.

As some of you know, music is a huge inspiration for me, so if that’s true for you as well, all you may need are some songs that get you in the mood for your story. I found some songs that fit with the theme of my current work in progress, made a Youtube playlist for them, and listened to them over and over while I stared at the computer screen unproductively. It took me a couple of days, but eventually my brain began making connections between the music and my story, as it normally does when I’m listening to music that inspires me. Little by little, I wrote a scene in my book, and now that I’ve pushed past that hurdle, I’m writing normally again.

Check out maxkirin‘s blog for awesome playlists!

7. Take a walk.

Sometimes you just need a change of pace, a new environment, and some exercise. If you’re not into hitting the gym, a walk is a great way to get all three in one. Besides, when I took a walk, I saw a ton of flowers that feature in The Deathless Trilogy, which inspired me to get back to writing. I even Instagram’d the moment!

8. Talk about why you’re in a slump with someone. There may be more to it.

Like I wrote earlier, I wasn’t in a slump just because I was stuck on a particular scene. I was in a slump because I was super stressed and going through a major change in my life (a new job, and therefore a big career move). I didn’t really understand why I was so upset about it, because I should have been over the moon about my new opportunity. I talked to my husband about it nearly every day, but I couldn’t quite place why I was so stressed until a couple of nights ago.

As we were talking about my writing slump yet again, I finally realized why the new job was stressing me out so badly: Because I like to know exactly what’s going on, and with any new job, there will be new things to learn and you won’t know exactly what’s going on until you’re doing it. Realizing this helped me overcome some of that stress and get back to writing.

The point is, talking to people you trust really helps. It may take you a few conversations, but eventually you’ll get there. Realizing what your roadblocks are helps you drive past them and get back to where you really want to be.

9. Organize and clean your writing space.

An organized and clean writing space invites creativity. At least, for me. I don’t know what it is, but I have a hard time writing when there are dishes in the sink and when there’s a mess around me. For whatever reason, I really like writing in the kitchen at our dining table with the window open, but if the kitchen is dirty, I can’t concentrate (and I can’t open the window).

An organized space encourages an organized mind.

10. Allow yourself to write complete and utter garbage.

After a writing slump, you will probably be at least a little bit rusty. Allow yourself to write crap, it’s okay. You can edit once you’re back in the right mindset. What’s important now is that you’re trying without pressuring yourself, and that will likely mean that you are writing garbage. That’s okay. At least you’re writing something.

11. Return to the inspiration that got you writing in the first place.

In this last writing slump, I felt so lost. I began to question all my projects, published and unpublished, and doubt myself. But as I was staring unproductively at my computer screen, I went to my Pinterest page and looked through my Writer’s Life inspiration board. I scrolled through the hundreds of pins and read all the inspirational messages and quotes I’ve pinned over the years. They reminded me why I’m a writer in the first place: Because I have stories inside me I want to share, because I love my characters, and because writing is how I find solace in this crazy world. I reminded myself of all my goals I’d like to accomplish as a writer, and I realized that I wouldn’t reach them unless I tried. I stopped scrolling and started writing.

12. Get excited for something.

I would have started writing anyway, but finding out that #SFFpit, the fantasy and science fiction pitch day on Twitter, was later that 2nd week really pushed me to get back to writing. I wanted to participate so I started by writing 140 character pitches for my book (which is way harder than you might think), and then wrote the query letter, and then worked on edits.

I was already excited about writing again, but now I was excited about the publishing industry as well, which, let’s be honest, can be pretty disheartening at times. It helped a lot to have a short-term goal in mind that I could be excited for.

13. Try your best to stay off of social media, unless it’s your author pages.

Just… try to do this. It’s hard. I’ve already admitted to doing it more than once in this post, and I’ve checked my social media more than once while writing this post. However, if you can limit yourself to your author page on Facebook, your author Instagram, your author Twitter, your website, etc. then at least you can be on social media while building your brand. (Right? Right….)

14. Write an affirmation for yourself.

Maybe self-confidence has become an issue leading to your slump. It happens, especially in this crazy competitive industry. Write down a positive message, an affirmation, for yourself and keep it somewhere. I already have an affirmation that I like to read, but it’s with my supplies for work, so I wrote it in my notebook: I am a writer, writing is my art.

Write it. Read it. Believe it.

15. Talk through your plot with someone.

If you’re stuck, this trusted friend with whom you share your plot can help you unstick yourself.

If you’re not feeling too hot about writing, talking about your books with someone may help to reignite your passion. You are used to hearing about your characters and your plot, it belongs to you. It will be exciting and engaging to someone else, and their questions and responses to your plot might just help you realize how incredible the book you’re creating is. How incredible it can be if you just finish it.

Writing is hard work, some days more so than others. But at the end of the day, you are a writer. You will write. Have faith in yourself and in your ability to un-slump yourself.

Have you also experienced a writer’s slump? What was something that helped you get out of it?