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sylvester-435376_640Writing every day isn’t always easy, especially this time of year. I have to admit, there have been many days this past month when I haven’t jotted down a single word, except maybe on a grocery list. For a writer, that’s bad. That’s my daily brain exercise neglected.  If I kept up that routine, my writing would surely suffer. In fact, I can already feel the effects—I’m getting lazier at my computer, slower to draft that first sentence, and more easily distracted by other duties.

That’s why I’m making my New Year’s resolution early, starting today. Despite the busy holiday season, I will take the time to sit down and write every day, even if it’s just a short session. Writing daily is a must for writers. It’s the only way to keep our creativity alive, flowing, and fresh. The writing doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does it have to be for publication. The point is just to write. Anything.

So, where do you begin when your mind isn’t focused on writing? Start with something easy and fun that won’t take up too much time. Here are some quick, daily writing exercises designed to get you writing. Try one today—and every day.

  • Find a word in the dictionary you’re not familiar with, and write a paragraph around it.
  • Write an essay about something funny or scary your pet did recently.
  • Review a favorite book, movie, or television program.
  • Make a list of writing projects for the New Year. Plan to develop your list in more detail later.
  • Write an old-fashioned letter to a friend or relative.
  • Sharpen your editing skills by reviewing a short, published article for typos, poor grammar, and stylistic problems, then re-write the article with your corrections and in your voice.
  • Finish the sentence, “The year 2014 couldn’t have been more….” Now explain why.

Of course, you could always start a big project today if you feel the motivation. Sometimes writers work best when they have little time in their schedules. The important thing is to make daily writing, even 20 minutes of it, a habit that will carry you into the New Year and beyond.

 

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One of my summer projects is to get started writing a novel. It’s been about eight years since I wrote my last book, so I’ll admit I’m a little rusty. Worse, for me summer isn’t the most ideal time to write, with kids home from school, beautiful days beckoning me outside, and mini-vacations scattered through the months. But I’m determined to at least get started on my book, and so I’ve decided to begin with a notebook.

It’s actually a pretty good-sized notebook, the three-ring kind with lots of tabbed dividers. Putting together this notebook is a project of its own but one I think will pay off in the long run. Here’s what I plan to include in my notebook:

  1. Character profiles, or sketches of my main characters. (For how to write a character profile, check out this article.)
  2. A synopsis, or a short summary of the plot. (Of course, this will likely change, many times.)
  3. A working outline, with a working title.
  4. Early chapter drafts.
  5. Research sources and ideas.
  6. Notes.
  7. A listing of books to read or browse for examples.
  8. A miscellaneous section for extra papers, contacts, etc.
  9. Loose leaf paper.

One thing I’ve learned over the years: Getting started writing a novel (or any book, for that matter) takes time, patience, and focus. A novel notebook is a great way to ease in to the process, especially during the summer months when you may not be ready to plunge into a big project. So far, my notebook has been fun to organize, handy to use, and—above all—motivating. More important, each time I add to my notebook, I feel a sense of accomplishment; I’m one step closer to writing that novel.