Tips for WritersAlways shooting from the hip will not improve your aim, but sometimes you just have to shoot.

Writing a full-length fiction manuscript is a new target for me as a writer. It stretches everything I’ve learned about writing in my freelance and business career. And sometimes it paralyzes my draw.

Feeling paralyzed–as in, not knowing what to do next–can happen to anybody when he or she has stepped outside of what is known. For instance, get me talking about marketing, branding or how to use stories to engage people, and I can flow like a river spilling spring run-off from melting snow. But ask me about the revision process for 70,000 words and I might just shrug.

Thus I’ve found that I’m not even drawing my pistol, let along shooting at my target. If I don’t shoot, I won’t know how bad my current aim is. Even if I miss the target, I can see where I over shot, high or low. So instead of reading about targets and aiming, I decided to just shoot.

So how does this analogy translate to you as a writer? Here are some pointers that I’m learning from the process:

  1. Do something different. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. If you want different results, try a different approach. If you are struggling with character development, stop and work on a different scene or go back to your storyboard (or outline).
  2. Do something. If you aren’t even struggling with your revision, having set it aside and taken an interest in cleaning out the barn, or reorganizing your pen collection, or endlessly reading funny memes, you’ve become distracted or paralyzed. So do something. Sit down and speed-revise for 20 minutes, challenging yourself to read your pages. Or go write flash fiction, something unrelated to your novel (hint, hint, join me in writing flash every Wednesday). Do something that involves your writing, your craft, your voice.
  3. Examine your aim. Missing a shot can tell you much about your aim. First of all, know your target. Define it for you; not for your friends, your spouse, your colleagues. Know what are you aiming at in the first place. Then shoot that direction. When you miss, don’t turn critical because missing can give you valuable information. It can inform and reinvigorate your writing.
  4. Practice. We might hit the target shooting from the hip, but not consistently. Know what you are aiming at and practice. Writing flash can help you craft a creative idea in just a few words. Submitting short stories to publications and contests can help you practice the same elements that go into writing a novel. Commit to something like a writer’s workshop or National Novel Writing Month to practice the craft of noveling.
  5. Hang out with the right posse. Your great-aunt Tilly might love your writing, but think about getting involved with a productive writer’s group. Find one that fits your needs and your time. Or hang out with other social media writers who are also practicing craft or publishing books. If you want to publish independently, build a posse of Indies. If you are revising a mystery novel, build a posse of other mystery writers. Take a look at their shooting techniques. Share and learn from one another how to aim better.

Bottom line is this–if you are going to write, then write. Don’t talk about it, do it. Pay attention along the way and if you feel stuck or need to get to that next level, just shoot.

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