author, tips, writing

10 Tips to Writing at Home

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

Pablo Picasso

Most writers usually work at home, or in a corner of a café. It’s just what we do! It is, however, difficult to work from home when you have others around you or, like me, you have a 7 month old at home to take care of.

It can be difficult to write when you have distractions, such as a child (or children) or a partner who now has work from home options. It’s important to maintain motivation as you can and try to stay productive! Here’s my tips in 2022 to staying productive with numerous distractions at home!

1. Noise Cancelling Headphones

These are honestly the best thing I have invested in. I find it’s easier to focus and do my work more effectively when I can’t hear what’s going on around me. I usually put some music on, from my specific writing playlist, and focus on the task at hand. Not being able to hear things around me lets me get into the zone and get writing! Now, I don’t use these during the day when my husband is at work, or working, since I obviously need to be able to hear my child! However, they are really useful in the evenings to block out noises and focus.

2. Set Up Rules With Others at Home

“I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.”

Anna Kendrick

You need to set time for work, and work is writing. You need to let others know when you’re disappearing to do your writing, and when you need to be left alone.

I needed to set this up with my husband and tell him when I was doing something that I needed to focus on. Working at home together than be tough when it comes to distractions, but it helps to set those boundaries and let others know when you need to step away and focus on work.

3. Have a Morning Routine

It is so important to have a healthy morning routine and stick to it. Not only does it help your mental health, it also helps your productivity. Try to get up around the same time each morning, get out of your pyjamas and eat a healthy breakfast. Include whatever you want into your morning routine, but try to stick to it each day and push yourself to have that healthy morning routine.

My morning routine is drastically different now than it was a year ago. Now, when I get up I have to entertain a child! I try to set the same kind of routine for each morning, even with my son. I get up around the same time, feed him, we both get changed and then it’s play time until he goes down for a nap. I have breakfast and exercise when he goes down to make sure I start the day right!

4. Exercise Every Day

Following on from the last sentence, I usually incorporate exercise into my morning routine, but sometimes I just go for a simple walk in the afternoon. Exercise really helps your mental health, and you need to take extra care of that mental health in the current world.

Whether it be a high intensity workout, going for a run, doing some yoga or going for a walk, it really helps to take the time out during the day to get your endorphins up and stretch your muscles. It helps your mind muscles to strengthen and improves your mental health, which positively impacts your writing ability.

5. Make a To-Do List Each Morning

I find this helps me to stay focused and know what I need to do each day. Since I do University and take care of a 7-month-old, I include things like time to study, when my classes are each day and when my boy needs to nap or eat. It helps to have this planned out in the morning and know what I need to do during the day. I can plan my writing around other things and it helps keep my focused towards my study goals and my writing goals.

6. Set Deadlines

“If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.”

Kenneth Goldsmith

It really helps to set your own deadlines and try to stick to them. Things like ‘write 500 words a day’ or ‘finish 2 chapters this week’. It really helps to have deadlines to meet each day, or each week. It helps keep you focused and fighting towards your end goals.

7. Have a Dedicated Workspace

I never saw this as overly necessary pre-COVID, but once the pandemic hit and we were home bound, I came to the realisation that a dedicated workspace is so crucial. I still have my desk completely set up even as the world moves past COVID and it really helps me to focus.

It is important to take that specific time during the day to write and focus on work at a dedicated working spot. Occasionally I will change positions and write on the couch or outside, but I find the dedicated workspace works really well for me.

8. Minimise Distractions

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston S. Churchill

It can be hard to stay focused at home with animals, family, food or social media. I can’t get much done when my son is awake, but even once he’s down for his nap I still get distracted and can often find myself having accomplished nothing by the time he is waking up!

It’s important to minimise distractions as you can, using things like social media lockouts and noise cancelling headphones. By doing this, you can stay focused on your task and be done sooner than you would while being distracted.

9. Have FUN

Don’t forget to have fun! Writing is always a fun activity, even if sometimes it’s tedious or exhausting. Try to have fun while writing or break up your writing day with some fun activities! Play a game, go for a walk, write something different! Just try to have fun because writing shouldn’t become a chore!

10. Be Kind to Yourself

You need to take a step back and remember that we’re all human and days can be hard! It’s okay to have off days and it’s okay to spend a day bludging and accomplishing nothing. The important thing is to not let this be every day, and to keep pushing on where you can. You feel bad, so take a day off. But get cracking back into the next day. Try to not push yourself too much, we’re going through a lot right now and it is okay to feel horrible and have a day, or a few, off. Just take it one step at a time!

“Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going.”

Chantal Sutherland
author, tips, writing

Finding Time For Self-Care

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

Anne Lamott

It’s often hard to take time out of our busy days just for ourselves. I often find myself doing so many things throughout the day that I don’t take any time to sit down and relax. I feel unproductive and lazy when I take a break, which is a terrible attitude to have!

There is a lot to get done in a day, but it is essential to take some time out of a busy day to rest a little and relax. I’ve really started to overload in recent weeks, and I’m needing to take some time out of my day for some self-care.

I’m trying to take some time out of the day in the mornings to rest my mind and I’ve started to do yoga routines again in the morning. It’s been easily 7 months since I last did yoga and I’m definitely not where I used to be with it. I’m liking get back into it though and taking the time to exercise, stretch and calm myself for the day to come.

It’s hard not to see myself as ‘unproductive’ but I try to do yoga to rest my mind and remind myself that I am busy everyday, just because i don’t do anything specifically successful doesn’t mean I’m not productive.

It takes a bit of work to take time out of my day, which sounds funny but it’s true. I need to plan my day and make sure that I have time to exercise and take time out of my day. I’m trying to be kinder to myself each day and if I get nothing done one day, it is okay. I do have a child afterall!

author, tips, writing

Ten Tips for Successful Self-Editing

Editing your own novel is not easy. It does take a ton of dedication and resilience to successful edit your own novel and have it ready for publication. I’ve put together a list of the top 10 tips to successfully edit your novel and not let it drive you into insanity.

1. Let it sit

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

Stephen King

When you finish writing your novel, take a break. Don’t dive straight into editing. I find that you need to remove yourself from the content for a while so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes. You are so focused in on each individual detail that you really do need to take a step back, take a break, and then come back to view the novel as a whole.

Finish your novel and leave it for a few days, a week or a few weeks and then come back to it anew. When you take a break your mind stops being accustomed to what you’ve written and you can see it in a different light.

2. Print it out

I personally find it easier to edit when my novel is in a different format. I print out my work and will go through it with a red pen, like I’m marking it, and edit firstly this way. It really does help to put your work into a different format and see it on paper, rather than just on screen. I often see mistakes easier on paper and can correct things as I go with a red pen, and then change the document on my computer.

3. Read it out loud

You really understand how bad a sentence sounds when you read it out loud. Often you can read a sentence in your head differently than it’s written, since your mind can flip words around so that they make sense. You have no option but to read it exactly as it’s written when you say it out loud. This is effective in recognising bad sentence structure, excessively long sentences and incorrect grammar.

4. Break it into smaller tasks

Don’t tackle your entire novel in one hit – that’s just crazy talk. If you look at your novel without narrowing it down, editing seems impossible. You need to break the editing process up so that the task doesn’t appear unbearable. Edit one or two chapters at a time and give yourself sufficient time in-between chapters to break away from editing.

Focus on small tasks and eventually you will have edited your entire novel. It’s important to take time editing and not try to edit everything at once, because that will just stress you out and you’ll miss a lot of things that could have been changed. Slow and steady wins the race! Break up your novel a chapter at a time and you’ll edit more effectively.

5. Eliminate weak adjectives

I use weak adjectives occasionally in blog writing and some other forms of writing, but never in my novels. Adjectives can be powerful, but sentences can be more powerful without them. Saying ‘it was really good’ sounds quite weak, but when you write ‘it was excellent’, it’s powerful and has more impact. This creates meaningful writing, rather than just filler words.

Using less weak adjectives also creates powerful writing and draws the reader in more. When you’re using strong words, people want to read more. When you use weak adjectives, it can be distracting and make sentences seem less important.

6. Cut long sentences into shorter ones

This is admittingly one of my pet peeves. I can’t stand seeing a sentence that is basically a paragraph long! It’s grammatically incorrect and frustrating to read – I always think ‘when is this sentence going to freaking end?’ when I come across an excessively long sentence.

Don’t fall into the trap of writing without checking grammar – ensure that you have commas and if you can see a lengthy sentence, try to break it up. Two shorter sentences are more powerful than one excessively long sentence.

7. Take a break

Take breaks. Make sure you schedule breaks in and don’t spend every moment of free time editing. You’ll go stir-crazy if you spend every single second of your spare time editing, make sure to give yourself time to rest and get away from editing.

Be careful not to take too much of a break, though. Don’t let one free afternoon turn into two, then a week, and then months of not editing. You don’t want to fall into the procrastination trap, so you need to schedule and be determined to write, but take small breaks as you need them.

I am a master scheduler and I find this really helps in the editing world! I schedule myself time for editing, time for writing and time to relax. I write and edit better when I’ve given myself a day or two to just laze around our go out with friends. Your entire life doesn’t revolve around just editing – there’s plenty of time to get it done so make sure you live your life as well!

8. Don’t be afraid to cut out content

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

Dr. Seuss

Having one page of impactful writing is 10x more significant than three pages of fluff. Make your writing purposeful and meaningful – don’t just fill pages with words. It can appear better to have 300 pages, but if 100 of those are useless information or adjectives, it’s better to have 200 pages.

I find I can waffle when I originally write. I can put in useless information and a plethora of meaningless words. You edit to get rid of useless information and create meaningful writing. Let your reader have some imagination in your world and don’t map out every inch of every room.

Keep your content simple and purposeful. Everything you include in your novel should have a purpose, so don’t write just to fill up pages. A smaller, impactful book will sell more than a large book filled with useless information.

9. Use Grammarly

Programs like Grammarly are a godsend! I always pride myself on being good at grammar and punctuation, but even I can miss a bit. Grammarly is an amazing system that picks up mistakes and it is always my first point of call!

I will send my manuscript through Grammarly first, to pick up any mistakes. It is seriously a brilliant program that helps editing so much! I seriously implore you to use this program to assist editing so that your grammar and punctuation can be fixed before you jump into editing. I also recommend sending your manuscript through the program again when you’ve finished re-writes and your last draft, so that it can pick up any new or remaining mistakes.

10. Edit, edit, edit

“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity…edit one more time!”

CK Webb

Don’t edit just once! You need to edit multiple times to perfect your writing. It can be quite tedious but it really is necessary. Three is usually my magic number and I go through my entire novel three times to perfect it to what I want it to be.

I pop it through Grammarly, then edit and rewrite the entire novel three times, and then I pop it through Grammarly again. I find this system works the best for me, but some people edit more than I do.

I struggle a bit with perfectionism so I’ve capped myself at three times so I don’t edit so many times that my novel starts to suffer (over-editing is a very real thing). Three works for me, but find a number that works for you and stick with it. The final run-through is the last and then you should focus on releasing it to the public.

author, tips, Writing

10 Tips To Successful Writing

1. Write What You Want To Read

This is so incredibly important. You don’t want to write something that even you wouldn’t be interested in. There’s no point writing a ‘popular genre’ if you don’t actually like that genre.

You need to write what you’re interested in. Write what you enjoy. The audience will come, you don’t have to chase after the current fad. Always write what you want to read, then it will be interesting and you will dedicate more time and energy to it.

2. Write As Often As You Can

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

Ernest Hemingway

It’s hard to set out specific times to write. “I will write between 6pm and 7pm” isn’t always feasible. I always have a notebook on me, and the notes app on my phone is always open. I never know when inspiration will hit, and it’s important to write it down as soon as an idea comes to me.

I also like to write when I am in-between something. I write during my lunch breaks at work, I write in the passenger seat of the car and I even write while cooking dinner. It’s useful to write whenever you can, and you can come up with some amazing ideas while writing in these small windows.

Of course, it’s not always completely feasible – but definitely give it your best shot and try to write as often as you can!

3. Write Intentionally

Try not to write just for the sake of writing. It is important to have some sort of idea or goal that you’re headed towards. It is very useful to jot down all sorts of ideas, but when you’re adding to your novel you need to ensure that each addition is intentional.

Make sure you know your characters and your setting. Intentionally write each scenario and how each character is feeling. It’s important to be intentional with your writing, and not willy-nilly. Don’t throw robots into a medieval novel because it needed some drama!

Be intentional. Find time during your day to sit down and focus on your writing. It will help your creativity and keep your novel in the right direction.

4. Create A Writing Space

I love my desk. I love being able to sit down at my desk, open up my document and get to work. It is an environment that relaxes me and enables me to be productive.

It’s not always possible to sit down at my desk, but it is so good when I can. I find having a specific space for my writing is calming and helps me focus.

Dress up your writing space with whatever you need! Plants, photos or pens – add what you want to keep you focused and in the zone for writing!

5. Don’t Expect Your First Draft To Be Good

“The first draft is black and white. Editing gives the story color.”

Emma Hill

First drafts are rarely that good. It takes patience and a lot of editing to perfect your novel and get it to where it needs to be.

When I first started writing, all I thought was that my first draft would be great and publishable. It definitely was not. It can be frustrating and feel like a slow process, but you do need to edit your novel and ensure that it makes sense and is good.

The first draft is like an outline of the novel, giving an overview of everything that happens. When you edit it, you include more character development and go far more in-depth into the story. You can’t be disheartened when your first draft isn’t as good as you thought it would be: just keep pushing forward and edit that baby!

6. Get Feedback

I admit that I find it really hard to ask for feedback. I get embarrassed over my work and don’t want others to critique it. Unfortunately, that will always happen. Especially once it is released to the public!

I find it useful to get friends and family to read my novels. They will be honest, but also kinder than a reviewer. It’s nice to get positive and constructive feedback on your work before it’s out there for everyone else to critique.

If your family and friends like it, and they think it’s good, then it helps immensely to boost confidence. It’s really important to get feedback from people and edit accordingly.

7. Set Goals

“I try to write a certain amount each day, five days a week. A rule sometimes broken is better than no rule.”

Herman Wouk

Goals just work for me. If I don’t have a goal, I often get a little lost and off track. For me, it helps to set small goals and small rules and try to meet those. If I break one occasionally, it’s not the end of the world. But it helps to have that guide around.

I set a general goal of writing an hour each day. Sometimes I meet that, sometimes I’m under and sometimes I don’t write at all. But I try to meet that goal because it is there. It helps to have that direction and drive to meet a goal.

I also set goals for writing timeframes and editing timeframes. I try to make sure that I have a goal for when I want to finish a novel and when I want to finish editing a novel. I don’t always hit these goals, but I get close because they are driving me forward.

8. Create Some Form Of Outline

In addition to goals, it helps to have some sort of outline for your novel. I kales sure that my characters are developed, and I know the basic storyline before I start writing my novels.

It helps to have an outline, because you can then determine what happens and how your characters get to where they need to go. I always outline a basic structure, of how characters meet and what their end goal is. It helps keep me focused and know exactly where I want the story to go.

9. Write Like You Talk – Make Speech Believable

When you’re writing dialogue, try saying it out loud. Sometimes you realise how clunky dialogue is when spoken. Written word and spoken word are very different, and you need to make sure that the characters are speaking realistically.

Think about mannerisms they have while speaking – do they touch their face a lot? Do they stutter? Do they twiddle their thumbs? You need to add those kinds of mannerisms into your novel and show how a person speaks.

People have different speech patterns and different speech mannerisms; you need to show that in each individual character to create a diverse character pool.

10. Read, Read, Read

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”

Jim Rohn

This point has never been an issue for me, as I love to read. But you definitely need to read books and continue to read as often as possible! It keeps your creative juices flowing and it helps to draw inspiration and learn new techniques.

Plus, reading is a fantastic escape into fictional worlds. It’s nice to be able to get away from reality for a while and absorb yourself in a good book. It will help your mind and soul to keep on reading!