The Biggest Mistake I Made…

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

…when I started writing.

I thought it might be fun to think back over the past six or seven years of my writing career and think about the mistakes I made, especially at the beginning. No one is perfect.

Everyone screws up in one way or another.

I’m no different.

When it comes to writing itself, my biggest mistake, in the beginning, was trying to be a non-autistic author. And by that I mean, I read lots of advice in blogs, books, and online. All of it was geared towards neurotypicals (as is most self-help.)

Much of that advice is great–unless you’re autistic or neurodivergent.

And the mistake I made was trying to make myself fit into that mold. A mold I was never going to be able to fit into. Setting goals and tasks for myself that I was never going to be able to complete.

It led to burn out. Disappointment. And put me into a bad place mentally for a while.

I had to fight my way back to enjoying writing.

The biggest lesson I learned was finding what works for me.

Finding it and accepting that what works for a non-autistic author will likely not work for me. And that’s okay. It’s okay to need a little extra help from my publisher. It’s okay to not be able to do ‘all the must do things to be a successful author.’

It’s okay to just be me.

And to just do what works for me.

Finding a New Voice

It’s been a while since I’ve played with a new set of characters. I’ve been writing series for so long. Just bouncing from one longish series to the next. And I love all those characters, but I’m ready to discover new ones.

One of the first things I always do when creating a new character is find a visual reference. I’m not brilliant an creating an image in my mind. Some people are visual, I am not.

I know it when I see it.

But I have to see it.

So usually, I start by scanning Pinterest or maybe I’ve already seen someone on a TV show or movie or even an AD that has a vibe.

And that’s usually where the character begins to develop.

Nine times out of ten. My characters come face first. Name second. Motts is one of the rare examples of a character whose name came to me first.

I always knew she was going to be Pineapple Mottley.

But aside from Motts, it’s usually face then name.

Once I’ve figured out the face of the character, I begin building out who they are. Their interests. Their personality. I have a list of questions that fill out with a whole host of details about them from what movies they watch to what their favourite curse words are.

The goal for me is to be able to start the first chapter of my WIP fairly confident in who the character is.

My Fave YouTube Channels

Motts and I have something in common. We watch loads of YouTube. I thought I’d share some of my favourite channels.

In no particular order…

The Try Channel:

Emma Thorne

Amal Jama-Williams

JulieJo

Rachel Maksy

Alexandria Ryan

Savannah Mari

Micky Atkins

All of the Welsh brothers channels

Briannah Jewel

What’s above my desk?

So, I have a cork-board or bulletin board, or whatever you want to call it, above my desk. I use it for inspiration and a visual board for whatever book I’m working on. I thought I’d share what’s on the current one.

  1. The top half is almost entirely book inspiration. Character and place references, etc.
  2. My fave Hamilton sticker on the bottom left.
  3. A couple postcards and a card with encouraging notes from friends. Sometimes I need a little lift of my spirits.
  4. Favourite writing quotes that are always on the board.
  5. You can’t see him, but I have a little plague doctor keychain that dangles at the bottom of the board.

Five Things I Can’t Live Without.

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So, I wrote this blog post in 2016. And I thought it would be fascinating to revisit and see if anything has changed.

I thought I’d share a few things I can’t live without in while writing.

2016 List:

  1. Random Name Generator + a baby name book.
  2. Pinterest and my corkboard that rests over my desk.
  3. My Book Bible (see photo).  It contains all my notes about characters, places, etc.  I occasionally keep them in Scrivener as well, but as that’s only useful when I’m at my desk.  I find having a notebook version of it to carry with me is most useful.
  4. Spotify.  I have playlists for each of my stories.
  5. A thumbdrive, for back ups.  It’s ALWAYS a good idea to have a manuscript saved in at least two places for security purposes.

2022 List:

1. A really good pen. (Definitely top of my list, I’ve been writing by hand more lately. I use a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen that I got from Jet Pens. A nice beginner fountain pen that I’ve found is easy to use.)

2. Book Bibles, still on the top of my list. I no longer use Scrivener but exclusively use individual notebooks for each series.

3.Pinterest is definitely something I use for every single book I write.

4. The NaNoWriMo site. They’ve changed it so you can add WIPs and goals outside of November. So it’s a perfect tool to keep track of my progress.

5. My beta readers. They make my writing better and encourage me when self-doubt rears it’s ugly head.

What can’t you live without?

My Favourite Pomodoro Technique Videos

My word for the year in my writing life for 2022 is focus. 2020 and 2021 were definitely years that I struggled to focus.

Struggled so much.

And I don’t think I was the only person struggling.

Focus has always been difficult for me as an autistic but the last few years haven’t done much to help.

In an effort to manage better, i’ve begun using the Pomodoro technique once again. It’s helped me in the past. This time though, I’m using YouTube videos instead of just using a timer.

The Pomodoro Technique is essentially where you work for a certain period of time then take a break for a bit. And repeat. I usually go for 15-30 minutes then take a 5 minute break.

More about the PT here: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

The ones I’ve been using are technically ‘study with me’ videos. But they work great for writing as well. I’ve also been trying to make sure I get up and stretch during the break time. I’m terrible at sitting for long periods without moving around.

My favourite channel for videos is: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheSherryFormula

This is the video in particular I’ve been using this past week for writing:

2021 in Review

In 2020, I decided my word for my writing in 2021 would be have fun.

2019 and 2020 were such rough years that I hoped to try to have fun with my writing.

And for the most of the  year, my brain went:

It wasn’t until I started moving into planning my NaNoWriMo novel that I finally began to enjoy myself.

In any case, I thought it might be fun to do a review of what I’d hoped to accomplish this year.

What did I hope to write/accomplish in 2021?

  • Motts book 3 and 4
  • Podcast book 3 and maybe 4
  • Start book one of a super secret project

What have I managed by December 2021?

  • Podcast 3.
  • Motts 3.
  • And I should finish wrapping up Motts 4 by the end of the year. (I’m writing this in advance lol.)

Over all? Given we are still in a global pandemic (and how badly I did in 2020)?

I’m pleased I did far better than I imagined.

How about 2022? What do I hope to achieve next year?

  • Motts book 5
  • Book 1 in a new series
  • *insert super secret project*

How about you? How did you manage in 2022? And what are you hoping to do next year?