Category: Writing

Take the #30DayStarChallenge with me!

Take the #30DayStarChallenge with me!

If you haven’t seen my post earlier, then please, take a minute to go visit it HERE. On that post, I explain the motivation for doing it, and a little about the details. There’s also a downloadable calendar for you, if you want to use it.

The whole point of this challenge is to help get you (and me) motivated and back to a writing habit. Believe me, when you sit down and make yourself write, even if its total garbage and for only ten minutes a day, it becomes easier and easier to get those words out of your head and onto paper. Writing isn’t about being perfect the first time around. Its a process – you’re going to have the terrible first draft, and then you’re going to edit and polish it into something really awesome. It won’t happen in one draft – I don’t know any writers whose novels didn’t need serious edits. But if you never start, you can never finish, and that’s the goal – to finish!

I’m not saying that you’ll start and finish a novel in these 30 days – this isn’t NaNoWriMo! I just want to help you get writing into your daily routine. And, honestly, I need to get it back into mine!

The Details:

All you have to do to participate in the challenge is pick a word count goal – 200 words a day or 1000, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you pick something that is realistic for you.

Print out the downloadable calendar I’ve made, or use your planner or other calendar, and get a set of small star stickers. I buy mine in Michael’s.

On April 1st, pick a time and sit down to write and meet your goal!

Every Friday, take a picture of your calendar and share it with the hashtag #30daystarchallenge on instagram, twitter, and/or Facebook. Encourage each other!

If you aren’t sure what to write, or you don’t have a novel started but you want to get those writing habits going, then think of participating in the #AprilCreativity posts that I’ll be posting each day of April. Every day will be a different prompt. Take a look, and use it as a warm up, or a way to get some inspiration!


Don’t Be Discouraged!

You are probably going to miss a day. Don’t let it make you stop! There are always times when maybe you aren’t near your computer, or life just got in the way. It happens. Just brush yourself off and try again tomorrow. Seriously. This isn’t about adding more stress to your life.

Don’t compare yourself to others either – take a look at their photos, encourage each other, but NEVER let it get you down. Just because someone writes 2000 words a day doesn’t make them a better writer or more of a writer. They just happened to write more words that day. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are – it matters that you made the attempt!



Writing can be a lonely occupation. Take a few moments and connect with other writers participating using the #30daystarchallenge hashtag. Ask each other questions. Make friends! The writing community (especially the children/YA lit community, though I’m biased) is a really awesome place, with some truly amazing people. Use the opportunity to make connections with other writers!



Will you join me? I hope so! Let me know in the comments or connect on Twitter, FB, or Instagram!

30 Day Motivation Challenge

30 Day Motivation Challenge

I think one of the hardest things to do as a writer is to write. It’s a lonely occupation. Even when you’re in a room full of other writers, working on a project, you are still basically alone with the characters in your head.

Sometimes you sit down to write and notice the dirty dishes in the sink, or the floor that needs vacuumed. You think you’ll just take a couple moments and check your email, or look at a friend’s post on Facebook or Instagram. That one or two minutes turns into an hour, and you’ve suddenly lost all your writing time. Maybe you just don’t feel very inspired to write that day, so you tell yourself you’ll get back into it tomorrow. Except, you don’t.

It’s easy to let life and the internet distract you. But the most important thing you can do if you want to write is to WRITE. I’ve found that if I write a little every day – even if it’s only 200 words – I am more likely to KEEP writing. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? If you can sit down and force yourself to write 200 words every day, no matter what, even if they’re total trash, you’ll find that 200 will soon become 300. Then 400. And then you’ll find yourself writing more and more as you go. There’s something about creating that momentum that really helps to get your creativity flowing.

A while ago, I stumbled across a YouTube video by Victoria Schwab. In it, she talked about how she used a calendar and those gold stars you might remember from elementary school to help keep her motivated. I decided I would try it. I had a calendar, and I had stickers. I set a word count amount for myself. One star = 500 words. And every time I finished a book, I had a set of special, larger stickers. Some people I’ve seen have even got a special sticker for each time they finish a chapter.

It may sound silly, but it’s remarkable how motivating those stars can be. There’s something really satisfying about looking up at my calendar and seeing that visual representation of how much I’ve written… or not.

So before I start my April Creativity prompts, I want to encourage you to create a calendar for yourself. I’ve even made a printable calendar for you to use for the rest of 2018.

But where is the challenge part of this? Well, since I’m telling you all this, I thought it might be good to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. For 30 days, I’m challenging both myself and you to try and write at least 200 words. I’ll post a photo to my instagram, @VanessaBarger, every Friday, with a photo of my calendar. Every star, for me, will mean I’ve written 500 words. You can set your own word count per star. 100 or 1000, it doesn’t matter – the point is to get writing! If you want to participate, I’d love for you to post a photo of your calendar as well, with hashtag #30daystarchallenge. We can help motivate each other, and celebrate the words as they start to pile up! I’ll start on April 1, and end on April 30. (But you don’t have to stop – I don’t intend to!) To help you get those words in, I’ll also be doing my April Creativity posts again, where every day in April I will provide a different writing prompt.

Want to Be a Better Writer? Watch more movies, read more books!

Want to Be a Better Writer? Watch more movies, read more books!

What? I’m telling you to go do something other than write? Well… yes.

The obvious response to how to be a writer is write. And I want to take a moment to remind you that being it doesn’t matter if you are published or not – if you write, and you love to write, you are a writer.

But, getting back to being a better writer – while writing is the biggest and most important thing you can do, I also believe that there is another important thing that people forget. I know I do sometimes.

You have to READ.

Now, most writers I know are also readers at heart. But sometimes you get to where you haven’t read anything in weeks or months. Work, family, writing, and all those other commitments take your time and you just keep that running to read list going, but you never cross anything off. (And I’m guilty. I carry a to read notebook in my purse. I’m WAY past the “list” stage.) The thing you have to remember is that reading is just as important as writing. Its both a way to help your brain take a break, breathe in some new motivation and creativity, and do some “business research.”

You have to expose yourself to other ideas and help stretch your imagination. If you’re very intent on what you’re writing currently, then by all means, finish and then do it. But make sure you do. I once had a critique partner who called it “refilling the word count.” She was right. After I finished LEARNING SPACE, I had a bit of a writing slump. I started a Nano project, but I couldn’t finish. My heart wasn’t in it. I hadn’t taken time to really think it through, and let myself recover from the other book. In doing this, you also need to make sure you are staying aware of what is out there in your genre. You need to be aware of other authors and books. Honestly, making connections with other writers is one of the best perks of the job! Tell them you love their book – you know how great it makes you feel, so make sure you do the same!

At the same time, try a few books outside of your genre. If you write YA novels, try something adult. If you write all horror, try a romance or a realistic fiction. I’m not a huge fan of realistic fiction (I get enough YA drama from the high school students at work), but I’ve tried a few and been pleasantly surprised! (If you haven’t read TEN MILES PAST NORMAL or THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, I highly recommend them!)

Never underestimate the power of the written word. Reading something I didn’t write and having my imagination stimulated by someone else’s words helped to jump start my own.

In addition to reading, I always love a good movie. I always see my books in a visual way – they play a bit like movies in my head. So watching movies really helps me. They transport you, they’re visual, and they’re fun. It doesn’t matter so much if its a “good” or “bad” movie. Some of the ones I watch over and over aren’t exactly high class entertainment. And some of them are. Some are in black and white. (Arsenic and Old Lace? Angel and the Badman?) And if there is a B or C SyFy movie – before we got rid of our cable, I’d have been watching it. They’re so bad sometimes, they’re funny. Except Sharknado. That one makes me feel like I’m leaking brain cells. For serious.

My favorite right now is probably Beauty and the Beast or the live action Cinderella. I love the costuming in those and the visuals. They’re just so pretty to look at!

What movies do you love? What book recommendations do you have for me?

#AprilCreativity – Day 5 – Photo Prompt

#AprilCreativity – Day 5 – Photo Prompt


Okay! Here’s today’s first photo prompt! If you’re art journaling, you can sketch your version of the photo, print it out to use, or do something related or completely unrelated but inspired by the sketch. If you’re writing, then I’d suggest studying the picture, setting your timer, and free writing for five minutes. You could even add to a previous story or prompt if you think it would relate. 

Don’t forget – if you want to share what you’ve come up with, you can do it here in the comments or on social media with the hashtag #AprilCreativity.

#AprilCreativity – Day 4

#AprilCreativity – Day 4

For this prompt, we’re going to do something a little different. Get out a sheet of paper.

Now, go and read this news article.

Now, spend 3-5 minutes making a mind map of some kind about the article and the ideas that it brings to mind. Brainstorm. After you’ve finished, you can either stop there, or you can:

: free write for 5 minutes.

Art Journalers: Think about the emotions you would have in this situation. Create an art journal page about those emotions.

#AprilCreativity – Day 3 – Video Prompt

#AprilCreativity – Day 3 – Video Prompt

Okay! Here’s today’s first video prompt! Here’s some suggestions for using this prompt:

Writers: If you’re writing, then I’d suggest either watching the video and using it as a prompt, or (if you don’t want to be influenced) close your eyes and listen to the song (or mute it and just watch the video). Once it is over, set your timer, and free write for five minutes. You could even add to a previous story or prompt if you think it would relate.

Art Journalers: You can sketch a scene from or inspired by the video, or take one image or series of images and use them in your art journaling page. Or do something related or completely unrelated but inspired by the sketch.

Don’t forget – if you want to share what you’ve come up with, you can do it here in the comments or on social media with the hashtag #AprilCreativity.