I know that many writers are having trouble tapping into their creativity during the pandemic. Thankfully, Allie Pleiter has a book that can help with this problem, and I asked her to share some tips about writing under stress. Read on for some helpful advice from Allie. You’ll also learn more about her valuable book, How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG—A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times.
Allie’s Tips For Writing Under Stress
As the author of How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG—A Practical Guide to Writing Through Tough Times, I’ve been getting a lot of cries for help from writers these days. The crisis we find ourselves in right now can squelch any writer’s creative energy. New words can feel impossible, the focus to revise eludes us, and we’re just plain stressed.
How to write…right now? Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Here are a few of my favorite tips:
#1: Try Small Batches In New Formats.
The trick is to pick a word count that feels doable–even if it must be tiny. One hundred words, for example, can fit on an index card. I suspect even the most traumatized of writers could manage six imperfect sentences that can be edited later. That work, once accomplished, can become the foothold for more. Can you tuck three or four cards into your pocket and set yourself the challenge to fill them? Your smartphone, a small notebook, or even email can help a small task feel small. All you need at first–maybe all you need at all–are baby steps.
#2: Change Locations.
Give yourself time in a different location in order to compartmentalize your brain space. You may not be able to go far—maybe only to the next room—but even that shift can make a difference. Ritualize it if it helps, saying: “At two p.m. I go out on the balcony with a cup of coffee and do my writing,” or “After lunch I make myself a cup of tea and write.” Remind yourself this is your time to work, and you can be fully present to whatever problems are facing you when you are done with your writing.
#3: When You Feel You Can’t Escape Your Situation, Start By Describing It.
Many books—fiction and nonfiction—have been born of personal difficulties. Writing about where you are right now can “prime the pump,” proving to your creative self that writing is possible. As a bonus, you may also discover the seeds of a new project in the process.
Brilliance is likely beyond your reach—even if you discover you work great under pressure. Tell yourself: “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be written.” You can revise and polish your draft at another time once you get through the difficult stage of putting the words down on paper no matter how inelegant they feel. As best-selling author Nora Roberts famously said, “You can’t fix a blank page.”
#5: Set A Timer.
Pick whatever span of time feels possible—even fifteen minutes. Most of us can stand fifteen minutes of almost anything. Once or twice a day, set the timer and have at it. During those minutes, give yourself permission to “be a writer” rather than someone ill, caring, or coping. Starting is often the hardest part, and you may discover you can work longer than you think.
#6: Try Dictation.
Chances are you won’t need any special equipment for dictation because most computers and nearly every smartphone comes preloaded with some form of basic dictation software. If typing feels beyond you—or if you have a physical limitation such as carpal tunnel syndrome, eyesight issues, a bad back, or a broken wrist—close your eyes and dictate a scene, a setting, or even a character description to get you started. Carry on dictating as long as you can. An added benefit of dictation: You can’t edit or see mistakes, so there’s nothing to impede your progress.
Creativity is possible. You are just going to have to go about it in different ways for a while. The gift of writing God has given you hasn’t gone away…it may just be in hiding. I hope these tips will give you help to go find it. The world needs your stories!
As the author of The Chunky Method Handbook, I’m passionate about creative people be more productive. If you’d like to join my Chunky Method mailing list and get many more writing productivity tips, simply text the word CHUNKY to 22828.
Buy The Book
How to Write When Everything is Going Wrong: A Practical Guide to W riting Through Tough Times by Allie Pleiter – Is your muse yelling “SOS”? How do you keep the words pouring onto the page when your real life feels like it’s under attack? Every writer knows how stress and personal crises can strangle your creativity. Help is on the way in this brilliantly practical guide. Inside, you’ll find advice that: – Gets you through the thick of your crisis – Gives you tactics that will energize you to keep writing – Teaches you to use your stress to inspire your writing – And much more! As the author of over 30 books and the creator of The Chunky Method of time management for writers, Pleiter has met deadlines in the midst of some imposing traumas. With candor, insight, and the wisdom of experience, she shares practical and inventive strategies for how to stay afloat and creative amid life’s stormiest seas.
More About Allie
Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four books at a time. She is the bestselling author of over fifty titles with a twenty-year career of over 1.5 million books sold. Allie also coaches on productivity and speaks on the creative process. Visit www.alliepleiter.com.
Below, I’ve listed some resources for writers and readers that I’ve had the time to explore or rediscover during this pandemic. I’m fortunate as my whole family has been able to stay home and social distance. My husband is a high school teacher, so he set up a second desk in my office. The kids are doing remote school work on their Chromebooks. We all have our own separate projects, but have created new family routines also such as playing board games every evening after dinner, baking, and participating in a virtual trivia night hosted Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST by An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Cafe on their Facebook page while the store is closed.
I’m not writing a book at the moment, though I expect that to change by summer as I’ve been jotting down ideas. For now, I’ve focused on creating content to post on my three blogs and YouTube channel, marketing my fiction books and Book Editing Blueprint course for writers, guesting on numerous podcasts, developing a new online course, working with editing clients, and catching up on tasks that have sat on my to-do list for way too long.
The below resources for writers have helped to keep me productive and distracted during this difficult time. I hope you find them helpful. Please feel free to share in the comments what you’ve been doing during this pandemic and any resources for writers that you’ve found useful.
StoryOrigin is a cross-promotional marketing tool designed to help authors work together to build their email lists, increase sales/page reads, and get more reviews. I’ve been meaning to explore this wonderful resource for months, and I’m impressed! Those who follow me know that my motto is: Let’s make editing simple. Well, StoryOrigin’s slogan could be: Let’s make book promotion simple. Created by Evan Gow, this community is currently free.
You can connect with other authors to swap mentions in one another’s upcoming newsletters, team up with multiple authors to promote your books on a single landing page, collect requests to join your review team and automate review tracking for those you’ve given access, and collect subscribers for your mailing list and automate delivery of a free book or sample. The site has great features including a universal book link that sends readers to your book’s purchasing page at their preferred, country-specific store, automated distribution and review tracking for Audible and Findaway promo codes, and easy downloads for newsletter exclusives, welcome gifts, or ARCs.
So far, I’ve joined several group sale events and done newsletter swaps. A couple years ago, I did newsletter swaps all the time, but got burned out. I arranged them via Facebook and email, and it was a hassle exchanging information and keeping track of all the dates and contact information. Worse, many authors never followed through and didn’t share my book.
With StoryOrigin, you can see on your dashboard exactly what you’ve committed to and gather all the details you need, and you know what date your book mention is slated to appear in someone’s newsletter. Many authors share a link to the published newsletter, so you can see the click rate and find out who is reliable. It’s a user-friendly site, well-organized, and amazingly, it’s free right now!
Making trailers for my books has been on my to-do list for YEARS! Now that I have more time on my hands, I’ve finally sat down to create some videos to promote my books. I used Lumen5, a video creation platform that enables anyone without training or experience to easily create engaging video content within minutes. I use the free plan, which gives you five videos per month with a Lumen5 watermark.
The site is amazing as it offers millions of copyright-free stock images and video clips, not to mention an extensive copyright-free music library. I use some of their images, and some that I’ve gathered from other sites. You have full commercial rights to all the videos you create using Lumen5. You can post your videos to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or wherever you’d like. I first learned about this site about a year ago, and although I didn’t do much with it initially, it floored me that Lumen5 offered so much for free.
I even sent an email along the lines of, “Really? Am I understanding this correctly? I can use the music, clips, and images, post the video on YouTube, and don’t have to worry about copyright?” Someone cheerfully responded that yes, I was understanding it correctly. I don’t mind having a watermark at the end of my videos as they deserve the credit! With some of the paid plans, you can have access to even more stock photos and videos, but the free plan has met my needs.
I’ve been adding trailers to my Book Trailer playlist on YouTube. Below, is the trailer for my sweet and sassy chick lit novel, Fooling Around With Cinderella (Storybook Valley #1) so you can see a sample.
If you make a trailer using Lumen5, be sure to tag me on social media!
Publisher Rocket is a simple tool that shows you exactly what Amazon book buyers type into Amazon, as well as how many people search for these things every month. Using Rocket’s Keywords Feature, you will learn: what keywords shoppers type into Amazon; estimated number of times someone types that keyword into Amazon; how much money other books that rank for that keyword are making; and how many books are competing for that keyword.
With the Category Feature, you can quickly find pertinent and niche categories for your books, as well as find out how many books you’d need to sell that day in order to be the new #1 bestseller. You can see your potential competitors, their information, reviews, book cover, and even their daily and monthly earnings. Rocket will also help you find profitable keywords for Amazon’s AMS ads.
This software wasn’t new to me, however, I hadn’t used it in at least a year. Since then, it has undergone updates and gained even more features from when I purchased it. I’ve been using it to freshen up my books’ keywords and categories, as well as to create AMS ads. I also recently became an affiliate of the program, so if you purchase it, I’d appreciate it if you used my affiliate link to help support my blog and YouTube Channel: https://stacyjuba–rocket.thrivecart.com/publisher-rocket/
Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur is the creator of the software and has many free tools on his website including:
All authors should make sure they take time to read. First, it’s relaxing downtime. Second, it will help you to become a better writer. Although I buy lots of books, I also enjoy browsing the shelves at my local library and borrowing titles that catch my eye. Well, until the pandemic.
I recently discovered Libby, a free app where you can borrow e-books and digital audiobooks from your public library. (Libby works with public libraries that use OverDrive.) You can stream books with Wi-Fi or mobile data, or download them for offline use and read anytime, anywhere. All you need to get started is a library card. The Libby app is free to install from your device’s app store, and all the digital content from your library is free to borrow with a valid library card.
I hadn’t borrowed e-books from the library for a couple years as the previous app I used was a bit clunky. I was impressed with how easy Libby is to navigate and amazed at all the books at my fingertips. Some have been available to borrow and download immediately, and for others, I needed to get on a wait list. It’s always a nice surprise to get a notification on my phone that another book is ready to borrow.
So far, I’ve borrowed: When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger, The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell, You Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth, and Picture Perfect, Leaving Time, and Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult. Yes, I’ve been escaping with a lot of books, lately!
Is your muse yelling “SOS”? How do you keep the words pouring onto the page when your real life feels like it’s under attack? Every writer knows how stress and personal crises can strangle your creativity. Help is on the way in this brilliantly practical guide. Inside, you’ll find advice that: – Gets you through the thick of your crisis – Gives you tactics that will energize you to keep writing – Teaches you to use your stress to inspire your writing
As the author of over 30 books and the creator of The Chunky Method of time management for writers, Allie Pleiter has met deadlines in the midst of some imposing traumas. With candor, insight, and the wisdom of experience, she shares practical and inventive strategies for how to stay afloat and creative amid life’s stormiest seas.
You can purchase How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG on Amazon.
Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – This is my self-paced online course for fiction and creative nonfiction writers, and is the resource I wish I’d had available early in my writing career. Most novels need several rounds of editing before they’re ready to submit to agents or to indie publish. Unfortunately, each round with a freelance book editor can cost you hundreds of dollars.
By going through this course, you’ll get the tools to skyrocket your manuscript to the next level without breaking the bank. This course demystifies the editing process, giving beginner and intermediate writers a practical, step-by-step blueprint for evaluating, rewriting, and polishing their manuscript. It’s like having a professional editor standing over your shoulder as you’re editing the novel. The course will give you a solid foundation while also being something you can reasonably finish. It includes examples, practice quizzes, and bite-sized action steps that nudge you closer toward your goal.
By the end of this course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report outlining your book’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to fix the problems, and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions. It’s a proven system that outlines what every fiction and creative nonfiction author should do before approaching an editor. That way when you’re ready to hire a editor, you’ll get much more value for your money and should receive a high level edit rather than one filled with general beginner advice.