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Narrative Distance: Filters and Opinions

Today’s topic discusses narrative distance, or how close the reader feels to the narrator/POV character. For some stories, you may want more distance in the narration. To achieve this, you can add in distancing filters, such as the words: saw, watched, heard, felt, noticed, thought, wondered, realized, decided, etc.  These filters add a layer of distance between the reader and the narrator/POV character.  With the filters, the reader is not experiencing the action along with the character, but rather being kept at arm’s distance, as if they were watching the world of a story through a window, instead of getting immersed in the story’s world themselves.
watching through a window 2
Here’s an example of what narration with those distancing filters might look like.

Ex 1:
 Rose saw Todd pass a note under his desk to Val and heard Val squeal.  Watching her reaction, Rose realized Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

Ex 1 (filters in bold)
 Rose saw Todd pass a note under his desk to Val and heard Val squeal.  Watching her reaction, Rose realized Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

See how that’s more like the reader watching the world of the story instead of being in the world? We are watching Rose watch somebody.

As was mentioned, some stories will want this narrative distance. For most stories, however, authors find themselves wanting to eliminate that distance, and pull the reader closer into the narrator/POV character’s head. They want the reader to emotionally connect to the character and feel like they are right there experiencing the action (and its emotional consequences) alongside the character, inside the character’s head even.  So to do that, the answer seems simple: Remove the filters.  Let’s take a look at how that would read.

Ex 1 (distancing filters removed)
Todd passed a note under his desk to Val, who squealed.  Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

There. The distancing filters have been removed, so that’s better, right? We feel closer to Rose, right?

Not really.

If anything, we almost feel further away because Rose has been taken out of the example all together. It’s only about Todd and Val now.  So how do we achieve that closeness with Rose without those distancing filters? We have to find another way to put her back into the example, and we do that through her opinions of the actions.

There are a variety of words that can help us insert Rose’s opinions into her observations, thus making them her observations, rather than some generic observation.  These personalizing opinion words fall into four categories:

  1. Adjectives. Adjectives are words that describe a noun. Some adjectives are more objective than others, specifically ones describing color, quantity or size. Think words like crimson, big, long, etc. While these words might be good for world building, they aren’t descriptors that tell us much about the observer’s opinions. They’re too generic, too universally accepted as facts, not opinions. We’re looking for more subjective adjectives, things that are much harder to quantify, things that others might not agree with if they have a different opinion. Subjective adjectives are words like: ridiculous, sloppy, perfect, hideous, etc. These are the ones that will insert your character back into the action by revealing their opinion.
    1. Ex 1.1 (subjective adjective added)
      Todd passed a coveted note under his desk to Val, who let out a pretentious squeal. Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

      By calling Val’s squeal pretentious, we know the narrator doesn’t like Val, thinks she’s a bit fake in flaunting her good fortune at being asked to Prom, pretending to be more excited than she really is, just rubbing it in to the rest of the class. Calling the note coveted implies the narrator is a bit jealous Val is getting it and not her.

 

  1. Evidential adverbs. These are words that express a degree of certainty or uncertainty based on the evidence at hand. These are words like: actually, apparently, certainly, clearly, evidently, naturally, obviously, of course, possibly, probably, undoubtedly, etc.   You can’t use one of these words without implying that someone (in our case, our narrator/POV character) is there observing these things and making a judgment about the degree of certainty the evidence implies. And that’s what we want—words that imply the presence of our character without having to use a distancing filter like “she saw” to state her presence.
    1. Ex 1.2 (evidential adverb added)
      Todd passed a note under his desk to Val who, of course, squealed. Todd was now obviously off the market as a potential Prom date.

      There are lots of things Todd’s note could say that wouldn’t merit a squeal from a girl. But by using the phrase “of course” we now know the POV character has made some judgment about Todd and Val. Whether its that Todd is a hunk and any girl would squeal to get a note from him, or that Val is the kind of girl who squeals and gets overly excited about everything, doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is, we feel the presence of a POV character making those judgments.  The fact that there are lots of things that note could have said other than asking Val to prom, reinforces the idea that the word “obviously” is a matter of opinion, not fact. Who’s opinion? The POV character’s.

 

  1. Modal verbs. According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:  “a modal verb changes the other verb’s meaning to something different from simple fact. Modals may express permission, ability, prediction, possibility, or necessity.”  That’s the key. By going away from stating simple facts and instead expressing some type of opinion on the necessity of, or prediction about the probability of certain actions or events, we are implying the presence of our narrator/POV because who else would be expressing that opinion?  The English language has nine main modal verbs. They are: can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would.  There are also things called modal phrases (or semi-modals) like “to have to”, “to be able to”, “to need to”, etc.
    1. Ex 1.3 (modal verb added)
      Todd passed a note under his desk to Val, who stifled a small squeal. Todd might be off the market now as a potential Prom date.

      Modal verbs and evidential adverbs achieve more or less the same affect when it comes to expressing degrees of certainty. But using “might be” instead of “was obviously”  changes the way we perceive the POV character. By not jumping to conclusions and labeling them as obvious, Rose now comes across as a little more uncertain, cautious, hopeful even. But regardless, she comes across, she makes her presence felt, and that’s what is most important to achieve a sense of narrative closeness.

 

  1. Metaphors, similes and other comparisons: Adding in comparisons is another way to express the subjective opinion of your POV character/narrator in order to make their presence felt. The key is to make the comparisons truly be in character. While someone from England might compare their love to a summer’s day, someone from Arizona who has spent their whole summer trapped inside an air-conditioned house might not.  You want to find a comparison that fits with your character, their personality and preferences, their world, etc.   You also want to stick to comparisons the reader will understand (because its universally understood or because you’ve added enough clarifying description) as having a certain positive or negative connotation.  You have to make sure not to overuse comparisons, however. They can bog down the story and the action if too lengthy or frequent.
    1. Ex 1.4a (comparison added)
      Todd passed a note under his desk like he was handing off the football to the star quarterback. Val accepted the note and squealed. Touchdown. Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

      The above example doesn’t create a lot of narrative closeness as is. Why? Because it’s still simply stating facts – Todd’s attempt was successful. Sure we know he’s being compared to a star athlete, but we don’t know what the POV character’s opinion is of athletes or whether she approves of or anticipated his success. But look what happens if we add a few extra words to our comparison for clarification.
    2. Ex 1.4b (comparison added with clarified opinion)
      Todd passed a note under his desk like he was handing off the football to the star quarterback. Val accepted the note and squealed. Touchdown. Figures. When it came to prom, Todd was off the playing field before anyone even had a chance to take a seat in the bleachers.

      See how much more opinion and judgment is loaded into that second example? We extended the football comparison (appropriate for a high schooler to make) through the whole thing and added an element that represents the narrators own spot in that comparison (watching from the bleachers). Before, the POV character didn’t have a place in the comparison, and the positive or negative connotation wasn’t clearly implied, so the first example didn’t promote narrative closeness the way the second example did.

 

Now, these aren’t the only ways to add the POV character back into narration once you’ve removed the distancing filter words of “he saw” or “she felt”.   Anything that inserts the subjective opinion about the events being narrated will serve to bring the reader closer to the narrator. Internal dialogue is another great tool to use (and many of the above examples could fall under the umbrella of internal dialogue). Here are a few more examples of how that scene could be rewritten to reveal Rose’s opinions about the events, without keeping the reader at arm’s length with filtering words like “she watched” or “she realized.”

Ex 1.5
Todd passed the note under his desk to Val who squealed.  It wasn’t fair. Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

Ex 1.6
Todd passed a note under his desk to Val, who squealed. No one needed to read the paper in her perfectly manicured hands. It was obvious. Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom date.

Ex 1.7
Todd passed a note under his desk to Val who, surprisingly, squealed.  Looks like Todd was off the market as a potential Prom date after all.

Ex 1.8
Todd passed a note under his desk to Val, who squealed.  Thankfully, Todd was now off the market as a potential Prom suitor.

Each one creates just a slightly different picture of who each of the characters, including the POV character, are. But most importantly, they all help maintain narrative closeness by eliminating distancing filters and adding in subjective opinions.
They take us from this:
watching through a window 2

To this:
watching in the world itself

 

If you want to learn more about the topic, check out Juliette Wade’s blogpost here:

To close here are some examples of different narration with distancing filters in them. Try your hand at removing the filters and adding in some subjective opinion words or other internal dialogue to create narrative closeness to the POV character, (with whatever personality and opinions you think they might have). Feel free to share your examples in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Ex2:
I watched the men haul the couch through the front doors and listened as the truck drove off. Then I looked around the living room and realized I had just made a mistake.

Ex3:
She felt the hot steam on her face when she opened the door to the sauna. She looked through the foggy curtain at the figures against the far wall and when the air cleared enough to see their faces, she realized her suspicions were right.

Ex4:
Raef saw the way Morgan danced with Joey.  She kept her body close to his. Joey kept his steps synchronized with hers. Raef wondered what it would be like if he was the one dancing with her instead.

 

 

 

Being on the Verge

Song of the Sapien is currently just under 68,000 words (about 250 pages). I’m in the middle of writing chapter 22. There should be about 26 chapters I think, and the rest are already mapped out. Part of me wishes I could run away for a few days and just hammer the rest out without interruptions. It is so close I can taste it. I can see those delicious words “THE END” in my mind and I am salivating.

Of course, I can’t run away. I have to work my writing into my daily schedule. And yet on a day like today when I have had some time, I haven’t written anything. I blame the kids needing my attention, or having to do other things, but truth is, I could have made time. I am avoiding it. Why? Why avoid doing something I’m excited about?

One of my avoidance techniques today has been reading. I’m reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And I think I found my answer on pg 87.

on the verge meme

 

Hard as this endeavor of mine is, this is an “easier” point in my career. I am mere chapters away from finishing my first first draft. The end is in sight. It will be so exciting to hit that goal.

But once I do, the easy part is over. Once I type “The End” the really hard work begins. I have to go back and rewrite the first half because I changed endings half way through and the draft won’t be coherent without key changes made to the beginning. Then I need to get feedback from beta readers. Then I need take all their critiques, and revise the whole manuscript again. And again. I might wind up having to change key plots points and the voice or the tense at some point. I will have to face the reality that all the work I’ve been doing thus far, while it might not be bad, it isn’t going to be good enough. I know that. That’s part of writing. It’s a daunting, nerve-wracking, unavoidable part of the process.

But I can’t stay on the verge forever.

So deep breaths, then full steam ahead. Or half steam. Or any steam at all, Just as long as I’m moving ahead. It isn’t a race. After all, the next thing Liesel realizes on pg 87?

“This would still take time.”

What Harry Potter Teaches about the “Rules” of Writing

Today (June 26th, though it might be the 27th by the time I finish this post!) marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone

Twitter, Facebook, and basically the whole internet have been all abuzz today sharing how the wizarding world of Harry Potter changed their lives. It’s been inspiring to see just how much one author’s words can really impact the world.

In honor of that anniversary, and in doing research for a presentation on how best selling books convey emotion, I have recently started re-reading that first Harry Potter book. But instead of getting lost in the magic like I did all those years ago when I approached it as a reader, when I go back to re-read it now with writer’s eyes, I have been surprised to see so many “rules” of writing being broken right and left.

First off, it starts out in an almost omniscient POV,  (offering adult POVs which is odd for a MG book), and then it switches POV to be 3rd person limited (to Harry’s POV) from Chapter 2 onward. Some might argue the first chapter is really more of a prologue, which is also something new writer’s are told to avoid like the plague. So whether you see this is as an inconsistent POV, or a prologue parading as a first chapter, the opening of the book goes against conventional writing “rules.”

There’s also lots of adverbs all over the place.

  • “said Harry furiously.”
  • “He eyed them angrily.”
  • “He cleared his throat nervously.”

We’re talking seven adverbs a page in some cases. There are almost more adverbs in this book than references to magic.  And if ever there was a writing “rule” written in stone, it would probably be: “Thou Shalt Not Write Adverbs.”

With that over use of adverbs is another rule Ms. Rowling breaks. In so many cases those adverbs tell, instead of show, emotion.  We are just flat out told a character is furious, angry or nervous instead of really being shown it.  (This is one of the reasons the rule against adverbs exists.)

Also, there is a “rule” out there these days that says not to use anything but “said” in your dialogue tags, as all other synonyms are distracting from what’s actually being spoken and the word “said” is more or less invisible to a reader. Yet in this book, in the first chapter alone, there’s all kinds of “said synonyms.”

  • “snapped Mrs. Dursley.”
  • “she pressed on”
  • “cried Professor McGonagal”
  • “repeated Professor McGonagall faintly.”
  • “hissed Professor McGonagall.”
  • “sobbed Hagrid.”

At first, seeing all these broken “rules” bugged me.  The struggling new writer in me wanted to stomp around on the playground screaming, “No fair! How come I have to play by the rules and she doesn’t!”

But then I realized, I wasn’t mad at J.K. Rowling. I wasn’t even mad at the rules themselves. I was really mad at myself for feeling so bound by the “rules” and not seeing them for what they truly were: suggestions, guidelines, and advice.

Once I recognized where my frustration was really coming from, I took another look at the “flaws” in this first Harry Potter book, and instead of bugging me, they comforted me. The presence of all those adverbs, said synonyms, and switching POVs sends a clear message to me now:

If your characters and world building are good enough,
all kinds of writing “sins” will be forgiven.

Whew! Isn’t that a relief to know? Think about it. Not only did some publisher take on The Sorcerer’s Stone with all those adverbs and told emotions and varied dialogue tags, but they didn’t make her edit them out before publication either. Because they worked. Because the story was magic. And all the readers and sold copies testified to it as well.

Does that mean I advocate for ignoring all the writing rules? No. I believe everyone’s writing is stronger without the adverbs and by following show don’t tell as a general rule. But in an effort to have “stronger” writing by obsessing over all these rules, I fear some writers (ahem, me) are missing out on developing their true strengths: characterization, world building, and conflict. I believe those three things will always carry a story further than any adherence to the “rules” of writing ever will.

So, by all means, know the “rules.” They will make you a better writer and help you not seem like an amateur author when your manuscript is pulled from the slushpile. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that these “rules” are the end-all-be-all of writing. Your focus should always be on your characters, your world building, and your conflict. That’s your story. The “rules” are just a more polished way of presenting your story, but they will never make up for a lack in the story itself.  And if you struggle to follow all the “rules,” take heart. Your story could still be a success.

After all, it worked for J.K. Rowling.

Book Babies and Low Sales

A fellow writer recently lamented how discouraged she was when she went to check her sales numbers two weeks after releasing her second book. She said it was hard to justify to herself and her spouse the amount of time spent on the craft when those statistics seemed to indicate she should quit and move on.

This got me thinking. We writers often talk about our books as our babies because they’re a part of us, and they seem to take on a life of their own. However, I think the parallels between a book and one’s own flesh and blood go even further than that.

An idea for a story can take months, if not longer, growing inside us. Long after a writer gives birth to that first draft (which is an agonizing process!), then comes the even harder part of raising that story and polishing it, getting it to the point it’s ready to face the world on its own. But even once it’s out of the house, we still find ourselves worrying about it. Will people like it? Will it be able to take care of itself?

But as parents, we don’t expect our kids to move out and start making tons of money right away. We don’t expect that they’ll be able to buy us elaborate gifts their first Christmas living on their own. We don’t set a goal that they’ll find someone who loves them and get engaged within three months of moving out. Yet we writers will unfairly expect that of our book babies and then get disappointed when they don’t live up to our expectations.

Books really are like kids. It takes them a while. The oldest one might not settle down and really get established until the last one is out of the house. But eventually, they will get there. And what they accomplish with their lives and the people they touch will be inspiring and make you proud as an author/parent. And it might take years, but eventually they won’t come around asking you for money and having to do laundry at your house. And maybe, just maybe, in your old age, they’ll be able to take care of you.

First Chapter Contest Results!!!

I had the privilege of recently attending Storymakers – a fabulous writing conference with about 750 writers, editors, and more in Utah County, UT.  The friendship and support I gained was awesome, the instruction in the classes was top-notch and in some cases down right bind-blowing, and I even had the opportunity to participate in their first chapter contest with two of my WIPs (Song of the Sapien, and Types, Shadows, and Casseroles: Finding Christ in All Things). The contest deadline was back in the beginning of February, and it cost $20 per entry, but everyone was was a winner because for only $20, you were guaranteed at least three industry professionals would read your chapter and give you feed back on it. What a bargain!

I had to wait three months from the time I submitted until the winners were announced, and I was a little disappointed when Song of the Sapien, didn’t place in the YA Sci-fi/Dystopian category. (Not that I was surprised though. The contest had over 300 entries  spread out over 10 categories.) But I still “won” that feedback, and it revealed some pretty interesting things.

First, there was one judge who in the seven categories scored me as follows:
10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 9, 10.  That’s right. 69 out of 70 possible points.

Now, if you’re like me and that’s the first judge’s marks you see, and there is glowing praise written out next to each score as well, you might be inclined to think: “How the heck did this not place?”

Another judge said: 10, 9, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10.   62 out of 70. Still not too shabby!

Cue the last judge’s page: 10, 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 7.  Only 48 out of 70. That’s a solid D+. Ouch!

Wait. Back it up. You mean to tell me that where the first judge gave me 10s, this other one gave me 5s and 6s? And the one category the first judge marked lower than the others, is the one category this judge scored higher than the others? What the heck does that mean?

It means that in writing, as well as life, we won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. Because while we aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, we will eventually find that we are somebody’s cup of tea. And that’s the only person who matters.

So does the discrepancy bother me? Not at all. It’s life. And it’s an important fact of life to be reminded about because some manuscripts will be rejected by agents and editors over and over again. But it just takes one who likes it. This is why we have genres, this is why there is room for everyone in this industry. Because art isn’t a limited field. Tastes vary from person to person and there is room for every unique flavor.  And the judge that gave me the lower scores? I think they pointed out some very valid things. Once I finish the manuscript and start editing, I think implementing their suggestions will only strengthen the story and quality of my writing.

Now, those of you still paying attention might recall that I entered two chapters. Well, I am happy to report that while Song of the Sapien didn’t place in the YA Sci-fi/Dystopian category,  Types, Shadows, and Casseroles: Finding Christ in All Things took third place in the non-fiction category. Woohoo!

contest

You are officially reading the blog of a contest-winning author. Woohoo! Aside from the obvious fame and glory and the epic certificate you see above, I also won a small cash prize which was just enough to recoup the cost of entering the contest in the first place. Which means I have enough to enter again next year…once I implement the judge’s advice of course!

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Tag, you’re it: A look a dialogue trends

In writing, there are trends. Some people like the trends, others don’t, but knowing the trends and what following them (or not) says about you as a writer can make the difference between getting traditionally published or not.
One trend is in regards to dialogue tags. There used to be a time when people wanted variety, not just “he said” and “she said.” So more authors would use phrases like “she questioned” “he commanded” “she responded” “he replied” “she barked” “he stated”. However, these days professionals look at all those words as signs of amateur writing. The current trend is to only use “said” and “asked” (and maybe an occasional “whisper” or “shout” if the volume they are using is important to note and is otherwise unclear from context.)
The reasoning behind this is that words like “said” and “asked” become invisible to a reader. They are merely there to remind them who is speaking so conversations aren’t confusing. Putting a variety of synonyms in your dialogue tags draws attention to the dialogue tags themselves, which weakens the impact of the actual dialogue. Another reason the industry has trended away is that these synonym words are often considered lazy cheats for the writer, a way of telling how the character was feeling or acting instead of showing it.
Consider the following example.
1- Marge looked across the street, eyeing the empty space in the driveway next to Carol Smith’s van. “He hasn’t been home since Tuesday,” she gossiped.

2 – Marge looked across the street, eyeing the empty space in the driveway next to Carol Smith’s van. She leaned over to me and raised her hand to shield her mouth, but made no effort to lower her voice as if welcoming the world to hear. “He hasn’t been home since Tuesday.”

See the difference? One tells you Marge was gossiping. The other shows it and reveals more about Marge’s character by letting you see the way she gossips.

Which brings me to another point. You’ll notice in the second example above, I didn’t use any dialogue tags at all. I didn’t need to. It was clear from the action description before that Marge was speaking. This is another tip from the pros: get rid of as many dialogue tags as you can through context, action description, etc.
So what do you think of this trend? Do you like variety in your dialogue tags? Are the words “said” and “asked” invisible to you when you read? I’m also curious to know who your favorite author is, when they published, and if they follow this rule or not.

Done is Better Than Perfect

The title of this blog post comes from advice given to a fellow writing friend of mine by his mentor, Kirk Duncan. It is something I have struggled with a lot this last year as I’ve decided to pursue my writing with real intent.  As someone who has always had school come easy, and who has grown up being told I am “smart” and “talented,” it kills me to think I might ever produce something sub-par. I am capable of learning the correct way to write, learning all the tips and techniques upfront, so I should be able to plug all that in as I go, making a scene perfect before moving on, right?

Wrong.

On so many levels.

First of all, there is no one correct way to write. It is an art, as subjective as any other, and while there are general guidelines, there is no one right way to do it. Which means there is no perfect.

As a person of faith, I love the Bible. One of the verses I find most interesting is during the sermon on the mount when we are commanded to “be ye therefore perfect” (Matt 5:48).  I personally don’t believe God would command us to do something impossible, so there has to be more to the commandment than meets the eye. And there is. In the LDS edition of the KJV bible, there is a footnote showing that the word translated as “perfect” comes from the Greek word that also means “complete, finished, or fully developed.” So basically, I am taking that as God’s permission to stop being a perfectionist and just finish the manuscript already! Haha!

Secondly, so many nuances of the art of writing can not be learned just by listening to podcasts and going to critique groups. Yes, you can greatly improve your writing when you edit it, but the most improvement, the most growth as a writer, is going to come by getting more words under your belt. Some lessons can’t be learned until you have a whole manuscript finished and can look back on it in its entirety.  There isn’t much purpose in trying to edit and perfect a scene with a limited perspective. Once a story is finished, you can edit with the whole picture in mind, and those edits will be so much better for it.  I’m not saying editing as you go is wasted time, but it has the potential to be if what you edit is just going to have to be re-edited once you finish the manuscript and have a better idea of pacing and theme and characterization.

That’s all fine and dandy, but knowing I shouldn’t be a perfectionist doesn’t automatically stop all my perfectionist tendencies that are slowing down my writing. They’re habits. Horrible perfectionist habits like reworking a single sentence for twenty minutes so it flows just right or taking a two hour research detour so my character can sound like an expert when they discuss something science-y… for two whole lines.  So how do you get rid of bad habits? By replacing them with good ones.

The habit I have developed over the past two months that has been working well for me is to have a daily word count goal. Personally, I have to write 500 new words each day on my current WIP. I don’t get to go to bed, and I can not go back and do any editing, until those 500 new words are done. Some days, I am falling asleep and having to splash water on my face to crank out the last fifty words. Other days I have gotten so into a scene I finished a 2,000 word chapter. I’ve averaged far more than 500 words a day, but that is m minimum goal and at this point, its a habit. I do still go back and get to edit occasionally as I think of cool things that I can add to prior chapters.  But only after my 500 words are done for the day. Your goal may be more or less than that, but for my life as a mom of three active boys, 500 words a day is what I could handle. And so far, it’s worked. With the exception of a few days with illness or unforeseen family emergencies, I’ve met my goal, and I’m so much further ahead in my novel then I thought I would be at this point.

But what if you realize something while you’re writing that needs to be changed and you don’t want to forget it before your 500 words are done? For me, typing notes of things to edit is fine, I just can’t make the actual edits. So if I am working on my 500 words for the day and realize I need to fix something in previous chapter, I will go back and type something like: <remove references to _____ and replace with ____> or <add explanation about _____> . And that’s it. Then I go back to my spot and keep plugging along to my 500 word count goal.

Other ideas that often help if you are a slow writer plagued with the habit of rereading every line you write and researching the perfect details for your work:

  • Turn off your wi-fi access to prevent distractions from social media or research tangents. If you can’t think of a better word for a particular sentence, highlight your mediocre word in a specific color to come back to it later when you grant yourself access to thesaurus.com again.
  • Try having whatever scene you are working on be in a separate document or window from the rest of your story and have it be the only document or window open. It’s easier to scroll back in a document and get lost in previously written text than it is to deliberately select and open a document from a drop down menu.
  • Shrink the size of your window down to 10%, or some other small percentage, so that you can’t see what you are writing in order to go back and reread it.
  • Do word sprints. This is where you set a timer and try to write as many words in that time frame as possible. You can compete against a friend, or try to set record for a new personal best each time.
  • Track your progress. If your goal is to hit 70,000 words, keep something in your writing space that lets you mark off every 1,000 words you hit, so you can visually see yourself approaching your goal.

Those are some of the tips and tricks I’ve heard of. Do you have any others you recommend for helping slow, perfectionist writers break their bad habits and finish a manuscript in a timely manner?