Stop calling it a “shitty first draft”

Stop calling it a “shitty first draft”

Thinking about, or worse, calling your rough draft a mean name is a terrible idea. I don’t care that the wonderful Anne Lamott coined the phrase, “Shitty First Draft,” it’s simply not helpful to think of your work-in-progress as anything less than filled with potential. And shitty?

I’m sorry, but we can beat that voice of the oppressor, perfection, another way.

Your challenge is to give your draft romance a nickname that makes you feel all the love for it that it deserves.

Whether you think of it as a rough draft or a first draft or simply a draft, identify that one word that describes your romance sub-genre or your hero or heroine’s most adorable character trait or the way future readers will describe the love story … something, anything, that reminds you that this love story it may be an ugly duckling right now but it is destined to  grow into something beautiful.

Here’s a list of over 200 possible adjectives to get you thinking.

Written by Danika Bloom

Danika Bloom is a USA Today bestselling romance author who writes heroines with all the degrees she wished she could have pursued as a university student.

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Why beliefs about first drafts might be stopping you from writing

Why beliefs about first drafts might be stopping you from writing

I suspect you’ve had the following experience: you’re away from home in an unfamiliar place and you get hungry. You see two restaurants—one is a chain you know well and one is a place you’ve never heard of before. Which one will you eat at?

If you’re like most people, you’ll choose the familiar restaurant even if you know you don’t really like the food.

This psychological phenomenon is called the mere exposure effect and it impacts us in all areas of our life. What it describes is our tendency to develop preferences for things merely because we are familiar with them.

Of course, there are areas of our life where this comes in handy, which any parent of a tantrum-throwing toddler will understand. (For non-parents, I’m suggesting that the mere exposure effect is why parents seem to have a superhuman patience with that inhuman child.)

The mere exposure effect

The mere exposure effect is why product and service advertisers invest so much in making sure what they have to sell is put in front of us as often as possible and why Facebook ads are an investment many authors and online entrepreneurs feel confident spending their money on.

Researchers have shown that the mere exposure effect applies to virtually all areas in our life where we make decisions based on perceptions. This includes everything from choosing to attend a certain school to investing in specific stocks, to both developing strong relationships with people and the opposite, reinforcing our negative feelings about people (or characters in romance novels!) whom we, on first impression, didn’t like.

So, how does this relate to your romantic rough draft?

Think about all the feelings that you have connected to what it means to be a writer and how those feelings are impacting how you feel about your romance novel in progress. Some of those feelings are likely operating from the space of the mere exposure effect.

For instance, everyone knows that “real writers” are created in the likeness of Nora Roberts or Stephen King.

How many times have you read or heard about Mr. Spooky Pants and his writing habit (write every day, write with the metaphorical door closed), and been told that this is the only way to be a writer?

If you’ve read writing craft books and blogs, my guess is dozens of times—enough times to have placed that information in the “it must be true” column of our What We Believe About Writing and Being a Writer part of our brain.

The illusory truth effect

The mere exposure effect is tightly tied to another psychological phenomenon called the illusory truth effect which is our tendency to believe information to be correct after repeated exposure.

Researchers have found that when deciding if something is true or not, people rely on two conditions:

1) whether the information is in line with what they already know, understand and have experienced and

2) whether the information feels familiar.

And, in cases where what you know from experience is in conflict with what’s been repeated ad nauseam, guess which one will override … Familiarity has been shown in many studies to override rationality.

So, back to getting your romantic rough draft written.

You’re very likely facing a double whammy of both having had the experience of it being challenging to sit down and write (which leads your inner critic to nod its head and remind you that it’s been telling you’re not really a writer ever since you had this crazy idea to write a romance novel) and the familiarity of author-after-author saying that any writer worth their words follows a writing schedule that Ebenezer Scrooge would give you full marks for adopting.

Within this context, how can you figure out what the truth is about being a writer and getting your own romantic rough draft written?

The easiest way is to test all the assumptions that you have about writers and writing—assumptions that are very likely false that have been planted in your belief system by mere (over) exposure. Easy as that.

(And, next time you’re out and about and get hungry, remember these psychological phenomena and choose the restaurant you’ve never been to before. You may be delighted with that new experience).

Want to figure out what might be blocking your writing? Try this exercise.

In this exercise you’ll be testing your assumptions about writing, being an author, and how polished your pre-edited writing should be.

You’ll start by answering some questions and writing what you “know” to be true. Then, you’ll analyze those assumptions to see if you can identify where the feeling of the truth of the statement comes from. And finally, for all the beliefs that you decide are truths (for instance, “all writers write”), you’ll try to find one example of a situation where that truth has been proven to be flexible (for instance, some writers dictate their first draft).

Step 1

Give yourself 20 seconds for each question—no more. Set a timer to help you. Leave space beside or below each answer for the Part 2 portion of the exercise.

  1. When you think of the kind of writer you’d like to be, who pops to mind?
  2. What does it takes to be a romance author?
  3. What do you need to do to be a romance author?
  4. What do you believe about authors in general? What words come to mind?
  5. How good should a first draft be?
  6. What do you believe about romance authors who make a living from their writing?
  7. What traits do successful romance authors have in common?

Step 2

Take your time to answer the following question for each of the answers you wrote down in Part 1 (except for the first one about which authors you imagined).

  • Where could that belief have come from?

Step 3

Look at each pair of questions and answers and decide what you choose to believe instead.

  1. First, determine, is your belief a truth?
  2. If not, what do you choose to believe instead?
  3. How can adopting this new belief help you make more steady progress on your romance novel?

Written by Danika Bloom

Danika Bloom is a USA Today bestselling romance author who writes heroines with all the degrees she wished she could have pursued as a university student.

Why it’s important to articulate your ‘why’

Why it’s important to articulate your ‘why’

You’re probably wondering, “Why do I need to articulate my why? And what that heck does that even mean?”

I believe it’s crucial to know why you are writing your book because, if you aren’t clear about what you want to accomplish with your writing, odds are you won’t be satisfied with the work you’re doing. 

Knowing your ‘why’ is about giving you a point on which to focus (kind of like that sweet dimple on your true love’s chin) when you’d rather be doing anything other than slogging through a scene or editing a chapter of your love story.

When the work of writing feels like work, knowing your why, being able to point to the reason you started this crazy adventure, the passion you have for your story, or for connecting with future readers, can give you the push you need to keep at it.

There’s a reason you chose to stop and read this blog post. There’s a reason you’re here on this website, and my guess is that you’re here, now, because the romance book that you want to write has been living with you without the courtesy of declaring it’s exclusive. How rude! 

Odds are that you’ve sat down many times to work on this story. But something’s kept you from fully committing to getting it done. An excuse from a voice, likely inside your own head, that has whispered cautions to keep you from writing.

Well, that voice loses its power right now. Once you know the answer to the most important question you’ll ask yourself thsi week, you’ll have the snappy comeback that that mean girl needs to hear to settle down and let you write!

I’m going to ask you the questions that are on this page, but don’t stop to write them down yet. You’ll get better results with this exercise if you close your eyes and just listen – both to my voice and the answers that you hear in your head. You won’t forget them.

And wait. One tip. Each time you answer, I want you to go deeper into your previous why answer. Don’t  just repeat the same thought since the questions are meant to build on each other.

You ready?

Hit the little play button and then close your eyes.

What is your why?

by Danika and you!

Take a deep breath in and hold it …. Now release.

One more. Deep breath in. Hold… release…

  • Why do you need to write the romance novel you’ve been thinking about?
  • Why do you need to write this specific book?
  • Why are you the best person to tell this love story?
  • Why do you need to write this romance novel now?
  • How will you feel once your book is written?
  • Why do you need to write your  book?

Open your eyes. Spend some time writing down and thinking about your answers.

If more than one of your answers is out of your control (“My contract requires it”) or because of another person (“My partner thinks it’s a great idea”), do the exercise again until all of the answers you hear are personal and within your control.

If you can’t get to that place, of having a personal reason why this book is so important to you, maybe consider that the story you’re focused on telling might not be the one you should be writing, right now… just consider it.

headshot Danika Bloom romance author

Written by Danika Bloom

Danika Bloom is a USA Today bestselling romance author who writes heroines with all the degrees she wished she could have pursued as a university student.

How to set an achievable writing priority

How to set an achievable writing priority

We’re going to start by gaining some focus on what your own personal, happily ever story is right now. Today. In this moment.

This post is specifically for those among us who have more than one hero and heroine’s story (or any number and combination of genders in one story)  bouncing around inside your head. Or in files on your computer, or folders and papers with ideas for lots of different stories.

This is something that many writers face at some point: so many ideas that you just don’t know where to start, where to focus, which book baby to give your love to.

So you stroke this one on Monday and another one on Wednesday and third gorgeous story on Thursday…

And that can be crazy-making!

Confusion is not a lack of motivation or time

People who study the habits of successful people have determined that when we, as creators, don’t have clarity, we stumble and often start to believe that what we’re missing is motivation. And we start to believe we just don’t have enough time, so we become overwhelmed and in that state… nothing. Happens.

I suspect you are highly motivated to finish your romance novel. But the fact that you haven’t yet means that something is getting in the way. There’s a chance that that something is lack of clarity or overwhelm. So that’s what today’s post is about!

I suffer from this myself. And although I’ve gotten better at managing different projects I still find myself pulled around. What saves my bacon are deadlines since most of my writing has to be delivered to someone by a certain date. And, with the writing I do for myself, I’ve created an accountability team to help keep me focused where I need to be focused on any given day or week.

So, today’s challenge is designed to help you see all of the writing projects you have at any and every stage of creation and then to decide which one will get your attention until it reaches a stage of development that it either needs to put aside (to get distance from) or is sitting with critique partners or beta readers (because you can’t be fiddling with it while other people are reviewing it to give you feedback).

Have too many lovers filling your wee head? Try this exercise.

1. Start by writing down all of the heroes, all the stories, all the writing projects or writing-related activities that are flirting with you. Let’s say in the last month or so. 

2. Once you’ve got all of your writing projects listed, label them from A to Z.

3. Now do a little grounding exercise—whatever works for you. If you don’t know what to do, try taking three long, deep breaths, holding for a few seconds, and releasing reallllllly slowly. That works wonders for me.

3. Think about Idea A and Idea B. Between those two writing projects, which one are you most drawn to work on right now? Put a check mark beside that idea. 

4. Take a breath to reground yourself, and now consider Idea A and Idea C. Between those two writing projects, which one are you most drawn to work on right now? Put a check mark beside for that Idea.

5. Do this until you’ve compared each of the possible writing idea pairings.

6. The last part of the exercise is to add up the check marks and see if the most checked writing project really is the one the calling to you. Let your gut tell you the truth on this one! If you’re disappointed or find yourself looking lovingly at a story idea that didn’t have the most check marks… go to bed with the two stories and see who you’re thinking about when you wake up.

Once you commit to a couple (or harem), make a conscious decision to move them toward their happily ever after. That will help you find your own happy place, too!

How to create loving self-talk, affirmations & visualizations

How to create loving self-talk, affirmations & visualizations

How many times have you read a self-help guru suggest that one of the steps to achieving a big goal is to write positive affirmations, to visualize yourself as the person you’re trying to become? Dozens. Hundreds. Uncountable times if you’re in an aspirational mindset stage of life.

And how many times have you dutifully followed the directions and written your affirmations, just like they recommend—

  • I am a writer.
  • The story I’m telling has value.
  • I am the best and only person who can tell this story in this way.
  • I am becoming a better writer every day.
  • I will write today and every day.
  • I am stronger than rejection.
  • I believe in myself and in my story.

—only to fail, fail again and finally decide that positive affirmations and visualizations just don’t work for you? 

Before you cancel your dream of becoming an author and close the door for good on all that ‘woo woo’ affirmation and visualization talk, give me five minutes to share some science with you that might help you write some aspirational statements that actually will help you achieve your audacious writing goals.

1st person vs 2nd person affirmations

Ninety-six percent of adults (and one infamous Hobbit) speak to themselves, something social science researchers call ‘self-talk’. And although most of us use both the first-person (‘I’) and second-person (‘you’) when giving ourselves pep-talks, not until 2014 did a group of researchers decide to differentiate between first-person and second-person self-talk.

Lots of research has been done on the reasons we talk to ourselves and the impact it can have, but until then, the difference between saying, “I am a writer, or “you are a writer” to you yourself hadn’t been studied in much detail. This group of academics did distinguish and study the impact and found that the ‘person’ we choose with our self-talk has an impact on how successful we are using it.

While most of the affirmation exercises I’ve seen recommend writing 1st-person ‘I’ statements, the research clearly shows that in situations that challenge our self-control and self-regulation—like putting your butt in your chair and words on the page—use of the second-person pronoun is much more effective. For instance,

You are committed to your writing.

You need to stay focused. You can do it.

You can make this deadline.

One of the reasons it’s believed this approach works is due to socialization, the fact that we become used to responding to directions from people who have authority over us—parents, teachers, bosses. So, when we call on our inner ‘You,’ that second-person inner voice has more power over us than our inner ‘I.’

1st person vs 3rd person visualizations

The research above focused on people imagining themselves in the first- or second-person. But there’s another way to use ‘you’ when creating motivational statements. The ‘You’ of visualizing an outsider’s perspective to your actions can also have a positive influence on our follow-through with commitments.

In a study done about voter behavior during the 2004 US election, researchers Lisa Libby et all gave research participants one of two visualizations to perform:

One group was told:

You should picture doing the action from a first-person visual perspective. With the first-person visual perspective you see the event from the visual perspective you would have if the event were actually taking place. That is, you are looking out at your surroundings through your own eyes.

A second cohort was told:

You should picture doing the action from a third-person visual perspective. With the third-person visual perspective you see the event from the visual perspective an observer would have if the event were actually taking place. That is, you see yourself in the image, as well as your surroundings.

Participants were also asked to do a series of other tasks related to the visualization. And the results were conclusive:

“Picturing voting from the third-person perspective caused subjects to adopt a stronger pro-voting mind-set correspondent with the imagined behavior. Further, this effect on self-perception carried over to behavior, causing subjects who were instructed to picture voting from the third-person perspective to be significantly more likely to vote in the election.”

This research supports what M.D. Storms found in a 1973 study, “that actions are perceived to be more a function of the actor’s character when viewed from an observer’s perspective than when viewed from the actor’s perspective.”

It would appear that seeing oneself as the type of person who would engage in a desired behavior increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior.

Are you a 1st- or 2nd-person affirmation or a 3rd-person visualization kind of writer?

The answer, like to most questions in life is, “it depends.”

1st-person affirmations work best when:

  • you generally have positive feelings about the activity you’re undertaking or the goal you’re trying to achieve;
  • you’re trying to create emotions and feelings.

2nd-person affirmations work best when: 

  • you need to distance yourself from negative feelings about a task or a goal;
  • you need to strengthen performance, attitudes and behavioural intentions;
  • you’re engaging in an action or a difficult challenge that requires self-regulation and self-control;
  • you need to adopt a broader perspective.

3rd-person visualizations work best when:

  • you need to adjust your self-concept to match a desired behavior.

Not sure what you need right now? Try this exercise.

1. Set your timer for 2 minutes and free-write in the first-person voice (I) exactly what you’re thinking, hearing, feeling, believing about the quality of your writing, your writing habits, etc.

2. Imagine you’re inside your own head looking at yourself. Set your timer for 2 minutes and free-write in the close second-person voice (you) exactly what you need to do to become the writer you aspire to be. Focus on behaviors and actions.

3. Imagine you’re a distant observer of yourself. Set your timer for 2 minutes are free-write in the distant second-person voice (you) about the kind of person who is the kind of writer you aspire to be. Focus on attitudes and values.

4. Review the three exercises. Which affirmation or visualization approach do you intuitively feel or know will be the most useful to you right now?

5. Write down an affirmation or imagine a visualization that matches your need.

Written by Danika Bloom

Danika Bloom is a USA Today bestselling romance author who writes heroines with all the degrees she wished she could have pursued as a university student.