I’ve long believed that a good writer entertains and teaches others, but a great writer is always learning and growing themselves. For those who simply want to get a book published to share their story or just to see their name bound on a book, it’s all right to stop learning after the first novel’s finished.
For those of us who want to be career writers, it’s essential to keep learning and developing our craft throughout our lifetimes. A writer who stops growing and learning stagnates. Their novels become stiff and dull and lacking in surprises. People stop getting excited about their next novel, if it even gets published. When you accept that you’ve reached a good place in your writing and you feel satisfied with that, you stop achieving and sometimes you even start going backwards. Creativity is a muscle of the mind, and it becomes weaker when we challenge it less.
If we can learn just one thing during the process of creating every novel, we can keep ourselves from stagnating. The only way for us to do this efficiently rather than accidentally is by intentionally challenging ourselves to become better and to learn more.
There are many ways we can challenge ourselves as writers. Our challenges can come from ourselves, from the internet or from our friends. The internet is one of the greatest resources for writing challenges that’s ever existed–through it you have access to thousands of prompts and group challenges.
If you’d like to shake up your writing and challenge yourself to learn something new, try one of these things:
- Write in a new genre.
- Write in a new format–plays, essays, poetry.
- Write a project without using a specific letter.
- Write about a place you’ve never been to.
- Write a first person piece about someone of the opposite sex or from a different culture.
- Write a persuasive piece you don’t agree with.
Every time you get stuck and you start to feel like you’re stagnating, come back and try one of these challenges. Not only will they inspire you to write something, but they’ll challenge you to become a better writer and help you learn the craft.
For those of you who’d like some structured help to challenge yourselves, I’ve decided to run a 7-day workshop at the beginning of June. I haven’t, on the other hand, picked a topic for the workshop. I’ve had several ideas bouncing around in my head, and I know which ones would be most fun or useful for me, but I want to make sure that I pick the one that will be most useful to you.
Please vote for the workshop you’re most interested in–and in the comments, if you’d like, please tell me why that workshop interests you the most.
Today, September thirtieth, marks the end of this month and with it the end of this year’s Dear Diary Project. Hopefully today you’ll be able to give your Dear Diary Project an ending that will tie it up nicely. If not, don’t worry too much about it–after all, it’s not like your character’s life is ending, so why should their diary? If you have the time, you can even keep going with your Dear Diary Project. I won’t stop you, but I will tell you that now is probably a good time to move on to a new project, and unless you have the time to do both, I’d suggest ending your Dear Diary Project now.
What should you do once you’ve finished your Dear Diary Project? First, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing it. Then join me on Wednesday to talk about how to make the most out of your Dear Diary Project. Start something new–a short story, planning for a new novel, a new blog, whatever strikes your fancy. And don’t forget that it’s October now, and Nanowrimo is right around the corner.
Me, I have to work on Moonshadow’s legal code, but I hope to get a little bit more editing done before November starts. And I’ll be pulling out a binder with notes for a story idea I had last year but which I never ended up writing, blowing the dust off of it, and making sure it’s ready to be my Nanovel.
There are going to be some big changes around here, which I’ll talk more about on Monday, but right now what I can promise you for the next month is information on making the most out of your Dear Diary Project, how to prepare for Nanowrimo, and a couple of writing exercises I hope you’ll find useful. In the meantime, there are a couple questions I’d like to ask you:
What did you like about the Dear Diary Project? What do you think would make it better for next year?
Whether or not you planned it, some sort of structure and story arc has probably appeared throughout the course of your Dear Diary Project. With only a few days left in the month, it`s time to start thinking about how you`re going to end your Dear Diary Project and finish your story arc. It`s important to write something which will tie up a couple of loose ends and feel satisfying as an ending to both you and your character.
There are lots of ways to end your Dear Diary Project, and what is most effective depends on you, your character, and what you`ve written so far. You should spend at least a little bit of time during the next few days planning and setting up hints for the end of your Dear Diary Project, whatever that is going to look like.
Here are some ideas for ways to end your Dear Diary Project:
1. A New Journey– Over the last thirty days, I am sure your character has changed, and so have the people around them. It can be surprising how rapidly people change, and how rarely somebody you met a month or two ago is the same person when you meet them again. The changes in your character’s life and psyche can be leading them down a new path at the end of your Dear Diary Project. It may be that your character leaves home now for the first time, or that they choose a career path they’d never really thought about. Whatever it is, the introduction of something completely new will both end the story well and show that the character’s life goes on.
2. A New Friend/Lover– Another interesting way to end your Dear Diary Project is with a meeting. Your character might meet someone new, or they might suddenly realize that a person they’ve never talked to is actually really nice. They might have been waiting for something like this to happen all month, but then again, maybe they haven’t been. Writing down the moment in which they truly gain the new friend or lover, and showing their emotional reaction to it both in the moment and afterwards, also rounds off the story nicely.
3. A Great Loss– We’ve all lost somebody at some point in our lives. Your character is much the same–and if they haven’t lost anyone yet, they’re sure to lose someone eventually. Loss can be a powerful moment in your character’s life, and their reaction to it can show you so much character. As a bonus, this ending gives you extra depth, and an opportunity to let your character really grow. What if they actually stop writing their own diary when you do, because they are so depressed from their loss? It happens to lots of people. We all react to grief differently, and from the point of view of characterization, this is one of the best endings.
4. Something Completely Different– Really, you can end your Dear Diary Project however you want. It’s up to you and your character to find the best ending for your Dear Diary Project. Just make sure that the ending makes sense considering your character and the story you’ve been telling.
Personally, this has been the easiest Dear Diary for me to write, and it will be the easiest to end as well–I decided on the ending more than a week ago. That said, I think it’s also the one I’ve learned the most from. I hope you’ve learned a lot so far. Next week I’m going to talk about how to get the most out of your Dear Diary Project, but in the meantime, enjoy the last few days of your Dear Diary Project.
Have you thought of an ending for your Dear Diary Project yet?
A journal does not need to be simply a recital of facts. Your character’s journal should include facts, some every day things and some unusual events, but it should also include many other things. It’s your character’s space to explore who they are and what they want. Journals can be very therapeutic and can help us all discover ourselves and reach our goals.
Sometimes, when we’re having a hard time, we need to sit down and really think about what’s causing our problems. Not just the surface of it, but what’s really behind it–our own deeper issues. Asking ourselves on paper and then responding honestly can help us reach the heart of the problem and find a solution. Your character might not be the type to do this, but then again, they might be. So I’ve come up with a few basic questions that your character should ask themselves each week, and decided to give you a choice between two every Wednesday. Take each of the questions and modify the pronouns a bit to make them character-specific if you want to write them on the page. If your character isn’t the type to write the question itself on the page, have them writing the entry with that question in mind.
Today’s potential questions are:
What does your character truly want out of life, and what’s stopping them from achieving it?
Does your character get enjoyment out of their life as it is? Why or why not?
And my question for you:
Have you ever journalled your way through a problem?
The Dear Diary project originated as a very basic idea I found on the Wriye forums. The idea was to write a character’s journal for thirty days. The idea was originally dubbed ’30 Days in the Life of’ but I liked the sound of the Dear Diary Project. I thought it was a great idea, so I did two by myself and then began turning it into a workshop on my old blog to help other writers. It helped me develop my characters on a deeper level and get used to writing in their PoVs. To top it all off, I had lots of fun.
During the month of September, I will be running the Dear Diary challenge once again. The goal is to write one diary entry–it can be any format or length you choose–each day for a month. It helps you develop your character and get into the habit of writing often. Here on the blog I’ll be posting weekly exercises to help you get even further into the mind of your character, and discussing different ways to create a journal. At the end of the month I’ll start talking about starting your own journal and making the most use out of what you’ve created.
I’ll be writing one short–250 words–entry each day, from the point of view of Riana in Home. Riana is the main character in the novel I’m currently revising. She’s a demon, and Home is where demons live. It’s not a pleasant place, but she’s had some adventures there and I’d like to think about them more. It’s going to be a big learning experience for me because I don’t really know too much about Home–I have a basic image, but that’s about it. It should also help me dig deeper into her character and flesh her out.
Over the weekend, think about your characters. Which ones do you feel the most need to get to know better? Which ones have the most interesting stories? Whose background do you want to explore for a month? On Monday, I’ll give you the run down on picking your character, word goal, and format for the Dear Diary Project. In the meantime, go out and have a great weekend.
What are your favourite characterization exercises?