How Not To Write A Novel

The internet contains endless resources of how to write a novel… but at a certain point, what you really need is for someone to tell you exactly how not to write a novel.

Devote an hour a day to writing, then spend that time on Twitter.

Tell yourself it still counts as writing because at least you’re thinking about writing. Conveniently ignore the fact that your novel has remain stuck to the same word count for weeks.

Read a load of books about writing a book.

Inevitably you’ll run out of time in the day to actually write, but that’s okay because at least now you know the theory of how to write a novel. It doesn’t count as a waste of time even if the book taught you nothing new.

Stare at your Pinterest moodboard.

Similar suggestions: scroll endlessly through Instagram, DeviantArt, even Google Images in the hopes that a muse will grab you by the neck because, let’s face it, that’s the only way you’re going to get any writing done.

Create your characters in Sims.

Get distracted, design an entire house for them, turn them into Vampires, and rejoicing as they celebrate Winterfest together. Yeah, I just downloaded Sims 4 Seasons, why do you ask?

Switch to a new project every two weeks.

I’m just not feeling it this week, you might say, and doom it to die a cold death in the depths of your Scrivener folders.

Send your boyfriend cat memes, then get sad about missing him.

I know I said I was going to write in five minutes, but now I’m three pages deep in a page devoted to cats pulling funny facial expressions, and then I was reminded of how much I miss my boyfriend. I’m sappy. Sue me.

Completely give up.

Accept defeat and decide you’re never going to finish the darn thing. Surrender any and all dreams of ever seeing your treasured work in print.

Most importantly: write a blog post with all the bad habits you’ve developed (and try to beat) over the years, partially for accountability, and partially in the hopes it’ll help someone else.

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NaNoWriMo and Writing Troubles in Tough Times

I took part in this year’s April Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s weird to think how much my perception has shifted in that time. At the beginning of the month, lockdown in the UK had just begun and I’d newly finished my dissertations. I knew I had three weeks of lockdown set before me and I wanted to devote that time to creative writing, as much as possible. In the early days it was a great distraction – but now, over 40 days into lockdown, being creative has started to get difficult… even for someone like me, who lives and breathes creative writing.

I don’t like writing posts with a negative edge. Today’s post isn’t meant to be me whining or losing faith in the future. Today, I’m talking about the importance of acknowledging how tough times are right now. While there is always someone who has it worse than me – I’m lucky to be in a place where I’m financially stable for now, have a roof over my head and a lot of tools to distract myself with. But, regardless of situation, it’s difficult to feel like I’m reaching my creative potential, or meeting any of the goals I’d set myself, when the wider world doesn’t feel safe.

It isn’t that I have a lot of work to do. I have several things I’m working on but none of them are taking priority. I have a final assignment for university that I was thankfully granted an extension for (I don’t want a repeat of how much I burnt out over my dissertation) and then I’m working on my future career: constructing a CV, a portfolio, a professional website and investing in my blog post as a means of looking favourable to employers. The future is uncertain right now so I’m working on doing all the things that are in my control rather than thinking too much about how out of my control the pandemic, and what happens next, is.

There are benefits to the situation we’re all in. I promise. I encourage everyone to really think about the good after acknowledging the bad. For example, I have time to invest in taking care of myself. I’m cooking good, balanced, tasty food for myself. I’m keeping my space and myself clean and practicing getting rid of my dependence on makeup. Some days are better than others but I’m evolving to be my best, emotionally mature self. I find it easier to take a step back and think about my situation when I’m upset, or exhausted, or frustrated. That’s a huge step from a few years ago. Maybe it’s a sign I’m growing up faster and I thought. I like it. It’s a nice change.

Let’s talk about what I am writing, because I am still managing to do little bits and pieces. It might not meet my preconceived notions of “good” productivity but it’s certainly better than nothing. Better than nothing is precisely my motto at the moment. Everything I have going for me is certainly better than it could be. I largely write in on-again-off-again phases. Sometimes I won’t be able to write for days, then I’ll churn out a whole chunk of writing in one go, and then I’ll write a few sentences each day for another week. I like that I have several creative writing projects I can contribute towards: if I’m in the mood to write, I’m consciously allowing myself to do so.

Blogging is a huge positive in my life at the moment, too. I recently redesigned the site and rewrote all of my pages. I have a list of blog spring cleaning tasks to do and I’m about half way through it. I’ll be writing a big blog post about this later and it’ll be linked here when it goes live. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the things I feel I should be doing and I’ve certainly been in a place before where I panic so much about not being productive that I destroy any chance of changing the scenario. Take breaks, reassure yourself that this will end, and break any huge tasks into little tasks. Something is better than nothing: whatever something you get done today, or this week, or this month – it’s great work, and I’m proud of you.

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Are you struggling with being creative right now? Talk to me in the comments. Let’s get through this together.

5 Lockdown Activities For Taking A Break!

In today’s post I’m going to run through five ways I’m spending my time in lockdown quarantine that don’t involve writing… because we all need a break from time to time. This is a companion post to last week’s post about all the ways writers can be subconsciously writing even when they aren’t actively churning out words.

Gaming

Be it video games, board games, or even a work-out (if you’re so inclined), games are a great way to distract yourself from current events, passing time quickly, and exploring your other interests that aren’t writing. Quarantine is teaching me how important it is to have a life outside of writing – because when I go back to my latest project, I’ll be more invigorated not only to write, but to write well.

Cooking

I don’t know about anyone else but quarantine has really given me time to focus on my cooking skills, and making the most of the food and materials I have. Try out new recipes online, share your creations, maybe even blog about it or film a tutorial for someone else to make it. If you have the resources, now might be a great time to start a cooking journal or some other way to document your favourite flavour combinations.

Cleaning

Now is a great time to put some music on, clean up any messy areas of where you’re living, take out the trash and bag up any items you don’t want. You might have items you can donate to charity shops, sell online, or throw out. This is especially useful for those of us expecting to move back from university, or who are struggling with overflowing storage. It’s also a good idea to get into a proper cleaning routine alongside this. Regularly disinfect door handles, personal items and any food preparation areas.

Reading

No matter what you read or how much you’re currently reading, now is the time to read more! Support indie authors especially, either in e-book or paperback format, and independent or small-business bookstores where you can depending on your situation. Your local library might also have online resources for borrowing books, magazines and other materials. Check them out!

Hobbies

Quarantine has a lot of us thinking about our old hobbies, and for good reason. Chances are it’s been a long time since you had this amount of time with reduced responsibilities, and a lot of us are looking for new things to keep ourselves busy. I’m returning to my love for photography in two ways – I’m starting up a DeviantArt account again (details on that soon) and I’ve rewoken my Instagram with new daily content. Maybe you’ve got an old instrument you could dust off, maybe you could learn a programming language, or gardening (if you have access).

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What are you doing to keep yourself occupied during isolation? Is there anything you’d like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Planning for Graduation

In all honesty I’m not yet sure if I will have an in-person graduation, or even any graduation at all, but come this summer I will be finished with my three-year BA in English Literature with Creative Writing. Covid–19 has definitely shaken up how I was expecting this year to go, and has made planning for post-graduation next to impossible this far out. Still, I have a couple of things keeping me focused for the time being. In today’s post I’m talking about how I’m planning for graduation and essentially where my thoughts are at this stage.

Career

I’ve always been interested in blogging and social media, since way before I came to university. I’ve bounced around with the idea of applying to social media assistant positions and while this role is still an option, I’ve recently encountered the idea of copywriting. Essentially, copywriting is writing content  – similar in many ways to blogging, but for clients and their specific purposes. It can range from press releases, to blog posts, to writing descriptions for products in ecommerce.

From the research I’ve done so far, this will likely require me to apply for a (paid) copywriting internship. It’s a shame I haven’t picked up formal copywriting employment before now, but since it’s a career path I’ve only recently discovered may well be the perfect fit for me, I’m making the best of the skills and experience I know I have. This blogging platform has always been dual purpose: a platform for me to express myself, and a way of adding to my employability. After the copywriting internship I would hopefully be given a full time position as a Junior Copywriter. From there it would be a matter of gaining experience and progressing upwards.

Portfolio

The essential thing for copywriting is having a portfolio. I’ve created a website for mine, as well as a downloadable PDF copy, and reached out to authors on Twitter volunteering my copywriting skills for free in exchange for including the work on the portfolio. So far I’ve had a couple of takers and the experience has been very rewarding. I’ll also be adding a selection of posts from this blog to the portfolio.

As well as this, I am in the process of applying for a casual copywriting position that is work from home. If I get selected, it will be a huge help in showing that I already have the skills to be a copywriter. Although I do not yet have experience of working in a formal copywriting setting, I have been using the skills copywriting requires across my academic career and personal life. It’s exciting to find something I am passionate for and have already been doing without even realising it.

LinkedIn

Once I have the portfolio ready to go, which will be any time between now and Easter, I will attach it to my LinkedIn and embed it into my CV. I’ll also be assessing how I use social media and generally sprucing up my online presence. The next step will be solidifying a general CV that I can adapt to each position I apply for. Covid–19 allowing, I’ll also be emailing my careers advice department at my university to see what hints and tips they can give me.

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I won’t be sharing my career in great detail on this blog but I did want to briefly discuss my plan forward. Are you soon to graduate, thinking about graduation, or have any experiences to share from your own first steps into a career? Tell me in the comments below!

If anyone reading this blog would like to make use of my offer of free copywriting in exchange for using it in my portfolio, please do drop me a Twitter DM or email me, lottieiswriting@gmail.com.

Finishing Dissertations During A Pandemic

Covid–19 has affected everyone, but for final-year university students, it has turned a difficult time into an even more challenging one. We’re already thinking about graduation, final assignments, entering the world of work, finding the right career, and finding a new place to live. A pandemic outbreak happening at the same time has created chaos upon chaos.

Covid–19 has affected everyone, but for final-year university students, it has turned a difficult time into an even more challenging one. We’re already thinking about graduation, final assignments, entering the world of work, finding the right career, and finding a new place to live. A pandemic outbreak happening at the same time has created chaos upon chaos.

Today’s blog post is going to be about my experience with being a third year undergraduate and attempting to finish two dissertations during an accelerating global pandemic.

I’ll start with a bit of backstory. I’m in my final year of BA English Literature with Creative Writing, and I’m in what should be week eight of a twelve week term (ten weeks, then a break for Easter, then another two weeks). I had two dissertations due on the 20th March 2020: a dissertation studying women’s bodies in cyberpunk fiction, and a major project in creative writing that was about ghosts and grief.

Like years of dissertation students before me, I was expecting this spring and summer to be full of sitting in parks, pub gardens, and celebrating the hand-in date of my final year dissertations. All those dreams ground to a half just over a week ago when all face-to-face teaching was cancelled, and all work deadlines (other than the dissertations) postponed to April.

I was left with being in a weird limbo state where I wasn’t even sure I was getting a graduation of face-to-face teaching but still had to complete two deadlines without extensions. I understand the university reasoning for not extending the dissertations, and I was fortunately ahead of time with my work, but it was incredibly difficult to work on refining my submissions when I was reluctant to go to campus and found it hard to focus sitting in my room. This all coincided with the first case of Coronavirus being diagnosed on campus, and then a second case a few days later. By that point I knew several people were self-isolating but the UK isn’t testing people unless they end up with severe symptoms in hospital… so at this point, we don’t know accurate figures for how many people are infected in Oxford or the UK as a whole.

I made it, though. If there’s one thing to take from this blog post: even when times are rough, and even when you’re struggling, there is always a light at the end. This is all temporary and, together, we will all get through it. Stay safe and stay home.

I am returning to regular blog posts but it felt right to address the current situation first. Going forwards, I am looking forward to putting together new content across a range of topics, including talking about the reality of studying at university… even if this last term at university is evading how it would “normally” function. Drop any questions about university, or any topics surrounding university that you’d like to see me talk about, in the comments below!

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