Happy Wednesday writers and welcome to the middle of the week. We have reached a new month in the year and to kick off March we are talking about a little something that can creep in your writing from time to time, especially if you are juggling various deadlines and series on top of all the other responsibilities of job, family, and life heaped on your plate and that is: Keeping Your Writing Fresh
What the heck do I mean by that? Is the writing rotten? No! Keeping your writing fresh pertains both to the mental state of your writing and the writing itself. Beyond the boundless expanse of your imagination, there is also a concentrated effort to continually produce new, unique fiction without burning out as an author.
Style versus Substance
In the Indie writing community, with the ability to push books out at a faster pace via small press or the rapid release style some authors use in the self pub indie market can feel like a grind. When you are setting several releases in a year, words and scenes have a danger of blurring together. It is also important to continue developing your author brand and writing style and all of this can add up to a pressure cocktail.
But there are several key techniques you can practice as an author to keep your stories straight, your writing fresh, and the words flowing.
A story bible, unlike the bible bible, is a foundational key for your book. This is especially great for series, and a life saver if you are juggling more than one series. A story bible can be a few pages of bullet points that keep track of important character details like eye and hair color, height, scar placement etc, and maybe a few key plot points you need to keep track of if the information is revisited at another time down the line. Story Bibles can also be grander in detail and scale, cataloguing back ground characters, location descriptions, common used slang, character preferences and dislikes, and more. The point of a story bible is to have a ready made, individualized index of story notes to help you keep your characters and world building straight without having to search for details with every sequel. A story bible can help you keep a singular story in progress on track as well, with quick reference material that helps you keep the words flowing and the details consistent.
Beta Readers Familiar with Your Work
Now, in publishing, consistent editors familiar with your work are precious, precious flowers that must be nurtured and treated with utmost care and respect. But there are often staff changes whether you are working with a large or small press, or as an indie, your preferred editor might have a large queue to work through that doesn't fit your schedule. If you are lucky enough to work with the same editor for several pieces or a whole series, they will be someone who will recognize your style and point out places where the writing veers into repetition, inconsistencies, and other snags.
Having a team of Beta Readers familiar with your work can also fill an important need in helping your work stay fresh. If you have a long series and a couple scenes seem too similar to a past book, a beta reader familiar with your stories can help catch this, though you should not expect them to have the same critical eye as an editor (some do, but it should not be an expectation as they are giving you feedback from a reader's standpoint).
What do I mean by this? Keep those writing muscles working! Create a pace and a schedule that will keep you productive without burning you out. Do one writing sprint a day, just one, for twenty minutes. It's okay if that is all you managed that day because you gave your writing brain a stretch. Try writing in a different genre. Something a little out of your comfort zone or a genre you've never really tried before. Try writing a twist on a trope you love or a trope you hate. Read in a genre you don't normally read in, read some poetry or a nonfiction piece. We all have our favorite genres and tropes, but it is important to feed your brain information new information. You may be surprised by what inspires you.
This little list wouldn't be complete without the most important technique of all. Don't underestimate the importance of self care. You may find yourself facing burn out and feeling stuck in your writing because you haven't given yourself enough breaks or enough time to breath between deadlines. Now, it doesn't always feel possible to take a real break when you have a pile of deadlines on your plate but even taking an hour to give yourself a small respite can be a huge difference on your level of concentration and your ability to construct differing sentences. Remember, self care is the king of the heap and the key to keeping your writing brain stable and healthy.