[NoNo] Avoiding Burnout and Writing Consistently

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! Happy NaNoWriMo! I can’t believe it’s November already, but here we are, and I have some news and my best tips for healthy consistency today. Let’s dive in!

(Quick note to my followers: thank you so much! You guys brought me to 100 followers and I’m so grateful that even 100 people in this big world read my words. I can’t wait to see where this blog takes me, but it’s already taken me somewhere I’ve never gone before. You guys are the reason I keep posting. Thank you!)

What is Healthy Consistency?

In my opinion, healthy consistency only pushes you to write something each day. Healthy consistency does not demand that you push to write a certain amount that’s hard for you every day. You can either write beyond normal or write every day, and every day helps you expand your capacity more quickly. Trying to do both is setting yourself up for burn out and is not healthy.

How do I Remain Consistent?

Consistency is the habit of doing the same thing in a similar way regularly. For some, that means writing at least two sentences a day. For some, that means writing 200 words a day. For some, that means 1,667 words a day. But it’s not the same for everyone. Consistency also sets a standard but you do not have to meet it constantly. That’s the benefit of being a writer, especially an unpublished one. You have room to take breaks, breathe, and just chill. You have room to slow down. Here are my best consistency tips:

  • Start small. If you demand your brain to write 1,000 words, you’ll give up quickly. But if you set it at 200 and consistently reach that, you’ll feel happier and inspired to try even more. Then you can work to 250, then 300 and so on.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. Remember, no matter how many words you write, they’re meant to be read. If you want readers, it needs to be at least a little fun to write and it needs to be your best work.
  • Find accountability partners! Here on Words, we’re happy to do that for you! Just comment that you want someone to see if you comment each day or respond to someone who’s commented offering to keep them accountable in exchange for accountability for yourself. And if the idea of swapping word counts sounds terrifying, just know it will push you to just write something.
    • Write with others. Sprinting is so helpful because it keeps you accountable! This can also easily turn competitive, which is good for some people but not for others. Make it clear whether or not it’s a competition before you start.
  • Set aside the time. Whether you write at 4 every day or after lunch or for one hour, setting aside some time specifically to write is so helpful in making sure you do it!
    • Set an alarm for writing. Just like the above, setting the time aside with an alarm you can’t ignore is helpful for making sure you don’t forget it.

How do I Avoid Burn Out?

Burn out is a state of exhaustion and lack of inspiration. Though you don’t need inspiration to write, you do need at least some energy and as important as words are, they’re rarely the most important thing. Some days you just won’t be able to write because of life. But sometimes we push ourselves too far. How do we prevent that?

  • Take care of your health. Exercise, drinking water, eating healthy foods, and sleeping enough are great ways to keep yourself at your best.
    • Walks are the best for figuring out plot holes because you’re moving and not having to focus on anything but going forward. Going outside can also help clear your mind.
  • Block YouTube and other distractions. Distractions drain your energy so you don’t feel able to get the words down. If you’re able, block them!
  • Go somewhere inspiring. If you feel most inspired in your back yard or in your bedroom or a certain Starbucks, go there when possible to write. Doing this often also sends the message to your brain that it’s time to write when you go there. Don’t write in your bed or where you eat if possible.
  • Know when to stop. It can be hard to break a promise or stop a challenge you’ve set for yourself, but your readers, friends, and family prefer your best you to your barely-hanging-on you. If you have to take a break, do it.
  • Read and listen to music. The things that get your brain thinking or your heart feeling and not just doing nothing can help you feel motivated to write words!
  • Clean your room. I know it sounds crazy, but cleaning your room and putting on clothes you’d actually go to a job in helps your brain to feel serious and think clearly.

Now, I speak these words to myself. I have a tendency to overbook myself and expect too much from myself… like, for example, posting every day while doing NaNoWriMo and doing high school work. It’s a crazy commitment, but one I still want to keep. So here’s the new and improved plan:

  • I will still do the posts I listed yesterday and link to the page where you can find previous posts, though again, they may take a little while.
  • I will no longer include a schedule.
  • I will not post on Wednesday or Sunday. Those two days are busy days and it’s unrealistic to post on those days every week for a month while doing everything else.
  • I will still share tips, guest posts, playlists, and sprints (the first of those is coming up next week!)
  • Posts may include more lists, which are easier to read and easier to write for me.
  • There may be a few lifestyle posts inspired by NaNoWriMo thrown into the mix of posts.
  • There will still be the Q&A! Remember to comment any Q&A questions for me to answer or to send them through my contact page!

Hopefully this arrangement will help both me and you to not be overwhelmed by The Novelist’s November and hopefully creating content will be easier and more fun again. I don’t do promises well and one thing I’ll be resolving to do in the new year is to make less of them. That’s starting now.

Meanwhile, how did writing go today? Was it fun to start your book? What’s your favorite thing about your book so far? And what tip above what your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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A Limited Teen’s Guide to Limited Time

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today’s post is written upon request by Emma Thrasher (and others!) and it’s meant to answer a lot of questions I had and sometimes still have about time. This post was the hardest post I’ve ever written because time is such a difficult thing to understand. But I think I covered everything I know and taught myself a thing or two, so it’s worth all the writer’s block and it’s length. I hope you’ll take some of your limited time to read it. Here’s what I’ve learned as a limited teen about limited time.

A View of Time

The biggest lie I ever tell myself is “I’ll do it tomorrow.” The second biggest lie is “I don’t have time.” I do, in fact, have time. The question is how I’m using the time I have. Every day we have around 12-17 hours awake. That’s up to 1,020 minutes or 61,200 seconds to spend on everything we need done in a day. Then think about how long things take. So many things take very little time and yet take up a large amount of time in our day. For example, practicing guitar can take as little as five minutes. I choose to spend 45 minutes on it. Making coffee takes five minutes. I choose to stand there, doing nothing during those five minutes and wasting time. Watching a helpful video can take up to 30 minutes. I choose to watch multiple videos, most of them less helpful than the first. A whole conversation can happen in 30 minutes or less. I choose to keep talking and texting for two hours. Is there anything wrong with these choices? No! Not at all. But when you add up the time spent, you get nearly five hours of time cut out of your 17 hour day. That’s just under a third of the day. These things don’t include work, school, transportation, events, and things you really need to do. How are you spending the time and how can you use it better?

Wasting Time vs. Renewal Time

The most important thing I’ve learned is that sometimes what we view as relaxing is actually a waste of time… but likewise we often label time wasted when we’re actually renewing. If you want to use time to your advantage, you need to identify the difference for yourself because there is a big difference. Here’s what I’ve found it to be in my experience:

  • Wasted time drains energy. Renewal time restores it.
  • Wasted time drains or discourages creativity. Renewal time inspires it.
  • Wasted time requires nothing or little of you. Renewal time calms your mind down but doesn’t let it just sit.

If your definitions don’t match all of mine, I won’t be surprised or say they’re wrong because people are different. There are extroverts, ambiverts, and introverts. There are creatives, scientists, and logical imaginers. Everyone is different. But the very first point should apply to everyone: renewal time is time spent refilling the fountain. Wasting time is letting it sit there and leak away. Here are just a few ways to renew yourself:

  • Take a warm bath and just think
  • Listen to a podcast on something you care about
  • Read a book you enjoy
  • Talk to a friend or family member about nothing of importance
  • Take a short nap (dreams are a good thing!)
  • Play or listen to music

(You might also want to check out this post on self-care I wrote on Sketch Scribble Scribe!)

Productive Time

Another thing to consider is that any time not wasted or spent on renewal should be productive time. This means getting things done or doing things that challenge and push your brain and your body to healthier, stronger, and better places. Which means rock climbing and dancing around the room can be productive time too. Often I’ve found myself caught up in the idea that “productive” means math problems, laundry, and writing a thousand words. But sometimes it means reading the Bible, praying with a friend, teaching a sibling to do push-ups, and other less stressful things. Stressful doesn’t mean productive. That mindset keeps you from your check list and from enjoying the limited time we have. Productive means using your time for growth and for expansion. It’s learning, practicing, helping, teaching, working, and taking care of yourself. In a sense, renewal time is productive time too. It’s just a separate subcategory of productive time. As a teenage writer, I’d advise all my teen readers not to do what I’ve done before: drop family life, stress yourself over getting big projects done and maintaining friendships that might not last and will be fine without 24/7 care, and end up wasting time because it’s just too much. Instead, adjust your perspective of productive and start enjoying life even as you get things done.

Priority Mindset

Brett Harris, one of the co-authors of Do Hard Things and the founder of The Young Writer’s Workshop, has told his students something that could change how many look at things: instead of looking at something and saying, “I don’t have time,” you should say “it’s not a priority right now.” This forces you to decide if Bible reading and your morning routine are important to you or just things you sometimes skip to get to things you don’t need to do as much. Instead of telling the Lord I don’t have time to read His Word, I’m learning to say “Lord, I’m going to read Your Word because it’s a priority for me.” This mindset is an incredible tool in choosing how you use your time. By selecting your priorities, you get the important things done and often enjoy life more. When I choose to make writing a priority over reading, that is my choice based on two things: my preference and my goals. When other people are involved, a third thing is added. Then I also have to consider what others want and need from me. By sorting through what needs done most and what matters least, I make the most out of my time.

Replace vs. Cut

If you had a sped-up video of all you did in a week, you’d probably realize at least a few things could use some work. Some of us would take that to mean we should immediately force ourselves away from distractions and things that steal our time. However this can cause a lot of problems. When you only give yourself negative feedback, you tell yourself what not to do and not what to do. I’ve made this mistake and it never leads to more productive time. It leaves me stressed and overwhelmed as well as angry or annoyed at myself for not getting rid of bad habits and addictions (which I’ll talk about in a moment). When I do this, I set myself up for failure. Instead, offer yourself something to replace it with. Say “I’m going to replace this with that.” Instead of getting frustrated when you fail, go do the thing you said you’d do instead. For example, I most get distracted by certain apps on my phone. To fix this I can offload the apps, choose a better habit, and tell myself when cave and reload then to do that, such as reading the New Testament. This way my brain learns to turn to the Lord when it wants to watch YouTube until it stops craving YouTube the same way.

Consistent Problems

You probably noticed that I mentioned addictions along with bad habits and in a paragraph about avoiding distractions. When I say “addictions,” what do I mean? I mean things you intake constantly. To twiddle your thumbs in history class every time the lesson gets boring is a bad habit. To watch YouTube videos or eat a certain food every day is an addiction. An addiction is a hunger for something that affects your health, physical or mental. Most people thing addictions only mean drugs and drinking but sometimes they mean videos and books. When you take in something by watching, reading, or listening to it or by physically eating, drinking, or breathing it, it affects your health in some way. Food, water, and air are essential to life and so are things to look at and listen to, if you have those abilities. Humans were made to take things in. But too much of anything is an addiction and can sometimes harm you. From listening to rap constantly to eating sugar every day, it affects the way you feel and the way you think. Addictions that affect your mental health affect your time a lot, but any addiction can steal your time. If you’re addicted to something you don’t want to be addicted to any more, tell one or two people and ask them to check on you every day. Have them ask you if you’ve taken in that thing and try to hold yourself accountable with reminders asking the same question. If it’s a website, block it. If it’s a book, get rid of it. If it’s music, block the app for a while or delete the songs. Keep yourself away and put something in its place. Change it up or choose a new habit or addiction. Decide to be addicted to reading the Bible, which you can’t get too much of, or to reading books that teach you. Choose to go for a quick walk when you feel tempted or to close your eyes and breath. Addictions aren’t always evil things but are often harmful things. They shouldn’t be taken lightly but can be overcome.

Communicating With Others

Our lives are very much entwined with others lives, and when you decide to take advantage of the time, you still need to double-check your schedule with others’ schedules. I like to think of groups of people as a body, like the Body of Christ. Each member has to cooperate for the body to function properly. Think about it: within you are trillions of cells, each dependent on others. Most will never touch each other, but many still interact. If we want to change our schedule, we need to consider that our actions affect so many people. When we communicate, here are a few pointers:

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you by genuinely considering their time as valuable. Make sure that you prize others because then they’ll be willing to prize you.
  • Ask instead of suggest, if possible. Instead of saying “I’m changing my schedule. I’d like to switch our meetings to 5 instead of 4, does that work?” try asking them what times they have open. By being open, they’ll be open to you.
  • Claim responsibility where possible. As a teen, I often fail to take responsibility for things I need to do outside of the house because my parents drive me everywhere. But in all reality, it’s my responsibility to remember the time and to bring the things with me that I’ll need. 90% of the time it is not their fault if I don’t do something.
  • Remember to prioritize the people who you need most. For me, I depend on my family a lot and would need to talk with them about my schedule before my friends. I also need to talk to my writing teacher before I talk to my writing partner. By working this way, you guarantee time with the most important people in your life.

Creating an Ideal Schedule by the Real Schedule

When you go to change your schedule, don’t try to change it all at once. You can’t entirely transform 24 hours by writing a very different schedule. Start small. Adjust a few key things and do that until it’s habit. Adjust it more. Keep going until you’ve got the schedule you need and want most. And if it takes a long time, don’t worry! You can still make the most of your time even when your schedule isn’t perfect. Remember when you were a kid and found every second of play you could even though your parent chose how much time you really had? Embrace that now. You have time and can use it, if you choose to.

This post wasn’t directly writing centered but I know it can change the amount of time a writer writes and that can change the quality of their writing, so I think it’s well worth it. I hope you all enjoyed this post! See you next month!

(Psst! You might also want to check out this post full of study tips from Sketch Scribble Scribe!)

Snapshot: My Best and Worst Hooks (+ What I’ve Learned)

Hey warriors! This post is the first in what might become a series of snippets from my journey as a writer. This post is on hooks, those first sentences meant to draw you in. A blogger and Ydubber I know, Lydia K, recently posted this post on her blog and it looked like so much fun that I thought I’d give it a go. So here we are today! I’ll be analyzing 10 of my hooks (even from different drafts) from worst to best and explaining why they’re bad or good in my opinion. Then I’ll share some of my favorite hooks from books with what I’ve learned from them! This will be a long post, but I hope it helps you! Let’s dive in!

Note: This is based on my own experience as both a reader and writer. Some things may not match your experience or your audience.


Age 10-12

I began writing when I was about 7, but I really began to treat it as a passion and dream instead of a hobby when I was 12. Not because I knew how or knew what to say but because people began to really enjoy my words and I became more able to write large amounts. Here were some of the hooks of books that encouraged me to think I could:

If, by chance, you read the “Southern Cooking” magazine, you might find a wonderful article.

Cooking Canine, age 10-11


Analysis: This hook is… something. The grammar and arrangement doesn’t present me well because it’s overloaded with comas. The lone adjective I used was nondescript, not drawing much interest.
What I could have done to improve it: If we remove “by chance” we lose two comas that muddy the sentence. We could also replace “wonderful” with a more drawing adjective to make us question what’s within the article.

Maddie Henderson was a student at the prestigious Hailee Quinn academy.

Academy Action, age 11-12


Analysis: We began this one by stating a fact, which is my current favorite way to write a hook. However, this doesn’t leave us with much to question or prove. If I read this sentence now, I wouldn’t want to continue.
What I could have done to improve it: If I had begun with a fact that left room for questioning, the reader would have been forced to continue. “Maddie Henderson wasn’t your average student at your average school,” isn’t perfect either, but by stating something vaguely I make the reader more curious. How do we know this? What does that mean? It encourages them to continue.

“Elizabeth Jackson had always been part of the guardian ponies.”

– The Pony Revenge, age 11-12


Analysis: This one is extremely similar to the previous example and has the same problem. However, I did make it slightly more curious. What are the guardian ponies? Is she a pony? Why has she always been involved?
What I could have done to improve it: This one needs to be vaguer still. “She had always been one of the revenge ponies,” is both clearer and more interesting. Who is she? What are they? We know “she” is a revenge pony, though, which means she is a pony. I prefer it, but that’s a personal preference.

Age 12-14

Once I was 12, I really began typing up my stories. Typing them up instead of writing them by hand was far quicker, meaning I could write much more. I also felt extremely inspired because I could share writing more easily and could get help from new writer friends.

The 13th century scientist Eustace sniggered at the tool before him.

Second Moon, age 12

Analysis: This hook is much better although the subject isn’t vague. Why is he sniggering? What is this tool? What is it for? This hook is one that makes us ask questions by diving straight into the narrative. I enjoy this one.
What I could have done to improve it: It could have done without mentioning that he was a 13th-century scientist in this portion. I could have just said “The scientist Eustace.” I can’t think of any other improvements.

“Intro to Atmosphere’s High School, by Ms. Solar Energy: Welcome to Atmosphere High, home of the Comets!”

-Universe draft 1, age 12

Analysis: This isn’t a good hook at all, at least not in my opinion. It’s full of information we never see again in the story. We never again mention the Comets, so that shouldn’t matter. Ms. Solar Energy never appears again either. Those are about the most fascinating things in this hook. I also repeated “Atmosphere High” twice. It’s wordy and doesn’t have much connection to the plot.
What I could have done to improve it: This sentence really can’t be fixed. It’s the first sentence of a snippet the main character reads from a pamphlet so I could introduce the school. However I didn’t need to introduce it in that way. Always start with the protagonist in a chapter 1. If you do a prologue in third person, you can choose another character, but this strategy can cause us to fall in love with another character first and that can cause problems. The main character is meant to be most important, so starting with them makes it clear who’s priority from the beginning.

The short man with white hair that practically glowed smiled as he stared at the large map in front of him.

Universe draft 2, age 13

Analysis: This is an example of starting a story with a prologue from the perspective of the villain. It works, but it can cause us to start sympathizing with him before we meet the main character. While you do want a villain you can believe in or even feel bad for, they can not be more loved than the main character.
What I could have done to improve it: Why is his hair important? I could easily have made it less central: “The short white-haired man smiled as he stared at the large map in front of him.” I also should have made it clear that he is not the protagonist. I need him to appear sinister or at least a little less likeable. “The short white-haired man smirked at the large map in front of him and gave it a quick nod.” This shows he has a plan and the smirk makes his intentions seem less friendly.

The long braid of periwinkle hair with silver highlights swung back and forth as Foggy Skye walked up the stairs nervously.

Universe draft 3, age 14

Analysis: Again with the hair…. When you start with physical details, the reader is given random information that isn’t relevant to them yet. They haven’t had a reason to care about the character, let alone care what they look like.
What I could have done to improve it: Instead of using the hair for description, it could have set the mood. “The long braid swung back and forth gently across her back as Foggy Skye nervously walked up the stairs,” is a more interesting sentence. Why is she nervous? But it still doesn’t grab me as much. It’s not my favorite.

It was strange, but it was her.

Little Red, age 13-14

Analysis: This is short and sweet, a declaration that we don’t understand unless we read more. This is much better. What’s strange? What does it mean, that it was her? However, the opening scene that followed had little relevance to the plot and did little for character building.
What I could have done to improve it: The sentence itself is good. However, I needed to put more thought into keeping the reader hooked and connecting the scene to the plot. The hook may be the first one or two sentences, but the reader needs to remain hooked throughout the story. Confusion and poorly written scenes don’t help that.

Age 14-15


After I joined The Young Writers’ Workshop my writing greatly improved. I wrote my first novel-length story in less than a year.

As she gazed into the box, Eloise felt a tear fall.

Box of Leaves, age 14

Analysis: This sentence isn’t awful, but it isn’t too drawing either. Yes, we wonder what this box is and why she’s crying, but we don’t care much for her yet. Our first impression of her is that she’s crying over a box.
What I could have done to improve it: This sentence comes across as quite dramatic and unnecessary. It would have been better to write something from just before that moment as the hook. “She hadn’t expected to find the box. But as she gazed into it, Eloise felt a tear fall, frozen in time.” This one is personal preference, though.

“When everyone you love runs from you, you start wondering if anyone will ever stay.”

What Matters Most, age 15

Analysis: This one is the best hook I think I’ve ever written. Why? Because it states a thought as fact that makes you wonder who the character is, why they know this, and how they know this is true. It points us to their past as we dive into the present story. It uses simple language to describe a feeling, meaning it cuts deeper than flowery language. I recently revised this one and currently have no thoughts on how to improve it.

Some Favorite Hooks and Why They Work

These are some of my favorite hooks from best-selling authors.

The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.

The Joy-Luck Club, Amy Tan

Analysis: This one is powerful because it supplies interesting information but leaves us asking questions. Who is she? Why did she buy a swan? What did she buy it for? To find out, we have to keep reading.

“Before you agree to have Joseph come live with you, ” Mrs. Stroud said, “there are one or two things you ought to understand. “

Orbiting Jupiter, Gary D. Schmidt

Analysis: When I read this line, I instantly wonder about many things. Who is Joseph? Who is he coming to live with? Who is Mrs. Stroud? What ought they understand? He also instantly makes Mrs. Stroud seem realistic by using common speech. We also are instantly plummeted into the narrator’s perspective. This is done extremely well.

Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.

Trouble, Gary D. Schmidt

Analysis: Trouble immediately begins with the character and a belief he and his family have that directly affects the plot. This is actually one of the character’s misbeliefs. We also wonder who their father is and why he believes this. I definitely am hooked by a story starting with a fact or opinion that needs to be proved.

When did this fairytale become a nightmare?

Dust, Kara Swanson

Analysis: By asking a vague question, Swanson plants the question and more questions in our minds. When did this fairytale become a nightmare? What fairytale? What happened? Who’s speaking? We are eager to learn more.

Conclusion

When writing a hook, consider these points:

  • The hook is the first impression readers get of your story and your writing, right after the cover.
  • The hook should be clear and express your writer’s voice clearly.
  • If you begin with poor grammar and confusing words, your reader will not enjoy your story as much.
  • The hook should not satisfy the reader. It is meant to pull them in by causing them to have questions that are only answered by reading further.
  • A hook filled with information that doesn’t matter to the reader will not draw a reader.
  • A hook that is irrelevant to the plot will lead the reader to the left when you need them to go right. It is more of a flashy distraction than a hook.
  • Be careful who you use first in your story as they are the first person in the story the reader might get attached to.
  • Short hooks and questions that are written well can cause the reader to ask lots of questions in a few words.
  • Too much emotion in a hook is like switching channels to a death scene halfway through a show. You don’t care enough about the character to really feel the emotion and be affected by it.
  • Facts and opinions make great hooks because a reader wonders how the character knows that or why they believe it. If these facts or opinions are meant to relate to your audience, they instantly attract those people.
  • Using a misbelief or past pain in a hook can plunge us into the plot, although you don’t want to do this too quickly. Jumping into ice water isn’t fun.
  • If you are writing in first person, the hook should instantly establish what the character thinks, hears, or sees.

I hope this post was helpful to you! Which hook was your favorite? What was something you learned? Was there anything you disagreed with? What’s your best hook? Let me know in the comments!