The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant quarantine and “stay-at-home” orders have wreaked havoc (both excellent words, by the way) in the lives and routines of many. Writers may be in a better position than some, as we tend to self-quarantine even when there aren’t health reasons to do so. Still, these extraordinary times present challenges—but they also offer opportunities.
What’s a writer to do in such times? I have a few ideas. Ten, actually. Ten writerly things to do in quarantine:
- Start writing something new
Sure, sure, Shakespeare wrote King Lear when theaters were shuttered because of the black plague. But no pressure. Just start something new.
- Finish something old
Pull out that piece of writing you’ve let languish and polish it off. You may discover a new enthusiasm for your story, article, chapter, or book that was missing before.
- Submit something.
Have you been reluctant to get your query, article, story, or book proposal into an editor’s or agent’s hands? This might be the time—especially since the editor’s or agent’s hands are cleaner these days than they’ve been in a good long while.
- Begin or join an online or email critique group
There may be no better time to join or begin an online or email critique group than now. So get crackin’.
- Improve yourself with Christian Writers Institute courses
Sure, some outstanding writer’s conferences have been canceled because of the virus, but The Christian Writers Institute (www.christianwritersinstitute.com) is there for you. It was designed as an at-your-own-pace Writers’ Conference at home. Schedule one a week…or one a day (full disclosure: I’m executive editor of CWI, which is great in spite of my involvement).
- Start a blog, email newsletter list, or podcast
Use some of the time on your well-washed hands to reach out to readers with a well-focused blog, email newsletter, or podcast.
- Address a writing weakness
We all have weaknesses as writers. Yours might be grammar or spelling. Or punctuation. Or sentence fragments like these. Whatever yours is, this is a great time to work on your weakness, perhaps by means of a book, a Christian Writers Institute course, or YouTube videos.
- Write and mail cards
Remember pens? Paper note cards? Mail? Those media still work, and writing actual, physical, handwritten notes to people (such as service providers, nursing home patients, etc.) can be an impactful ministry during these strange times.
- Read a new writing book
Have you read On Writing Well? Or Self-Editing for Fiction Writers? Or Writing Deep Viewpoint? No? Well, what are you waiting for? Why not download a copy and do it now?
- Re-read a great book on writing
Even if you’ve read those books mentioned above (or others, such as Bird by Bird, The Writing Life, or Write Better), they’re just as good the second time—or third or thirtieth—around.
Imagine how one or more (or all!) of the above will help you to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16) during these extraordinary days, and how much improved your writing life will be when the pandemic pandemonium (both excellent words, by the way) subsides.
Lynn MacKaben Brown
I always enjoy your blogs, Bob.
Since I had severe health challenges since we talked, I am using my time to re-emerge as a writer and fine new social media connections. So much to do!
I remind people Shakespeare didn’t have Netflix. That said, I’m trying to quiet my mind and discipline my art in these days. This list will help.
Your suggestions are so helpful. In fact, I used the subject of social isolation as the topic for a blog post earlier this week. It garnered some nice responses, even from non-writers. Thanks for YOUR suggestions.
Just one question: Is it ever right to submit a proposal for a nonfiction work which isn’t completed yet? Thanks!
Generally speaking, Roberta, nonfiction book proposals often pitch books that aren’t complete. For fiction, however, it’s best to have a complete ms before submitting a proposal.
I love your message today. I have some wonderful poems to get out, any suggests who to send them to? I can see them all with pictures even made into a children’s book. Hollycfriesen@gmail.com
Thanks for the ideas! I’m currently working a lot on an editing project for a client and my WIP. Hoping to knock out at least the first quarter in this next month.
Such great suggestions. Because I’m in the high risk group, I’m hunkered down at home and getting more writing done as well as reading from TBR pile. I’m rewriting a novel I wrote close to 30 years ago and laugh at some of the things I did then that I know NOT to do now. Also taking advantage of Jerry Jenkins writing tips. Thanks for your great posts.
I always find “something for me” in your messages. Good suggestions today. Thank you.
I am working on a family resource A-Z book and was curious about what is the best font and size that publishers will accept?
12 pt. Times New Roman is standard for proposals and manuscripts.
Thanks so much!
I love this list, Bob-especially #8. People need us to minister to their hearts right now (no pun intended).
Thanks for the great list of ideas!
Ann L Coker
Have you written a book about humor in writing? If not, now may be the right time. I found one grammar typo corrected above.
As for me, from your last post, I bought Writing Well and reading a chapter a day. Slow, but learning. My main “to do” is a double-check on the proof before the final proof of my husband’s book of sermons. Good progress within the deadlines. And I love to use to pen notes, so I will write some this evening. Thanks for keeping us on task.
All errors are Steve Laube’s fault.
Because editors need editors. heehee
I just printed this to use as a checklist. Thank you for practical advice! You rock. (No surprise.)
As the wild world closes in,
and things get eve-tighter,
I have, come, alas, to begin
to see I’m not a writer.
I can’t address the current days
with a dread that I don’t feel,
and can thereby earn no praise
from those to whom it’s all too real.
It’s not that I am super-brave,
far above my station;
I merely am a rhyming knave
who lacks imagination
to understand the shattered souls
while I still stand, in laughter, whole.
Second line, should be ever-tighter.
I suppose ‘eve-tighter’ has a meaning, but let’s don’t go there.
Great ideas! Thank you! And I enjoyed the recent webinar you and Steve Laube did together. It was very helpful.
Thank you for your enthusiasm Bob. That would be ten more things to add to my to-do list.
Couldn’t be a better time, but it has to be balanced with the trail. especially when the lower parts get numb from sitting at this keyboard.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Great suggestions, Bob! I busy with converting residential classes to online ones (It is a tremendous amount of work!) but have indeed taken some of your suggestions!