Talk the Talk: Making Your Characters Interact Like People

Recently, I chatted with a friend I’ve been out of touch with. We didn’t talk about anything in particular. A favorite actor of ours had recently passed away (R.I.P, Paul Darrow) and we caught up on life. It was a perfectly normal chat between friends.

But midway through the conversation, something struck me: I converse with this person differently from how I talk with literally everyone else. We’ve known each other for so long that we’ve developed a shorthand: certain words and phrases have shared meanings, there are mutually understood cues for segueing into jokes or stories, and to an outsider, easily three-quarters of any conversation would sound incomprehensible.

I’m not unique in this: all long-standing relationships, be they friendly or romantic or business, or hell, even adversarial, have a specific interpersonal dialect.

In writing advice books and blog posts, something I frequently see is: ‘Make sure your characters all have unique voices.’ Basically, make each character’s dialogue different enough so that the reader can keep them all separate. And that’s good advice! People don’t speak alike. We use a variety of words and sentence structures and speech patterns, depending on a wide range of factors (first language, upbringing, past trauma, subject matter, etc.).

What I have not seen as frequently in those same advice books and blogs is how to show characters’ personal and interpersonal dynamics.

The difference between the way one talks with, for example, a spouse, and the way one talks with family members or coworkers, can be used to great effect to deepen the reader's understanding of the various characters involved. The same holds true for how communication flows between friends, and between potential romantic interests, and between the hero and the villain of the piece (if those terms happen to apply).

What words does your main character use when they’re speaking to someone they trust, versus someone they’re not sure of, versus someone they hate? How do their speech patterns change? Do they become quiet when they’re with someone who scares them, or do they become annoyingly chatty?

This shorthand doesn’t have to be limited to the dialogue. Body language is part of this as well; physical tics and body movement, comfort levels regarding clothing and accessories, nicknames, inside jokes – all of these concepts can be part of a character’s personal language.

For example, in the novel Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, the demon Crowley frequently refers to his friend, the angel Aziraphale, as “angel.” It could be derogatory, but it reads more as a fond nickname or a pet name. In the miniseries adaptation of the same novel, Crowley – who prefers to wear sunglasses when he’s in company – willingly removes his glasses when he is drinking with Aziraphale. This is never stated explicitly, but it is notable, and significant, that it only happens once, communicating not only to the audience but to Aziraphale that Crowley feels safe enough in Aziraphale’s presence to remove a symbolic barrier.

The different styles and methods of communication can be put to good use in indicating the breadth and scope of characters’ levels of interpersonal familiarity and intimacy.

Making new characters and learning how they behave can be one of the most exciting facets of storytelling. To me, when trying to show the scope not only of a world but of a cast of people, discovering how they react when they come into contact with other characters and exploring the different styles and methods of communication between them is the most fascinating part of all.

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing for Authors

Editor's Note: Nicole Kimberling, as the editor at Blind Eye Books, discusses how brand-new authors should build out their internet presence. While many of the specific references are targeted at writers (such as Smashwords and Goodreads) within this article, the principals discussed in this article seem applicable to all creators within the speculative arts. A simple yet effective website, social media that dovetails with one's communication styles, and connection to the larger community are all ways of creating an internet presence that can be applied to many emerging creators. 

I decided to write this series because there has been a paradigm shift in the world of writing. Whereas before it was possible for a writer to remain outside the fracas of the online world and still have some sort of career (or even meaningful hobby), now having an active online presence is as much a requirement as wearing business attire to your office job. In other words: for a writer to be taken seriously by readers as well as publishers they must participate in social media and in their own online marketing.

Right now I'm seeing a lot of really good writers who should be in their prime whose voices are beginning to vanish due to a complete lack of understanding of how to promote themselves online. Hopefully, these tips will help at least some drowned-out voices to resurface as well as help completely new authors find and maintain connections to their ideal readers. This is not meant to be some kind of masterclass. In fact, it's a little more like kindergarten.

But by the end of it—with any luck—you too should be able to engage the new digital reality of life as an author.

How To Create An Online Presence

It’s finally happened: you’ve written a piece of fiction. You’ve either sold your masterpiece to a publisher or you’ve decided to go it alone on Smashwords. Either way, the one thing you need to do now is create an online presence.

I do not care who you are, or what you write, or what problems you have—philosophical or existential—with social media. If you hope to have success you need an active online presence. Full stop.


Because this is the way readers will discover you and share their love of your work with each other and with you. And it’s also where you will reassure them that you are still alive and beavering away at your next project. It’s where you will build excitement for your creations and where your readers will share their excitement with others.

Your work will be competing with thousands of other titles. Your active social media presence is what keeps your work from being subsumed by the massive tidal (title?) wave of other works and promotional campaigns.

Social media also allows you to build relationships with other writers. It’s no exaggeration to say that your relationships with other writers will dictate the course of your career. They will inspire you, teach you, introduce you to important industry professionals and, most importantly, introduce you to new readers via cross-promotion.

The First Steps

Before you build a website or attempt to take on Twitter—the Autobahn of the social media world—you need to decide whether you will use your actual name or a pen name. I use my real name. Here’s why: my real name came with existing contacts in the form of my real-life friends. Even if they’ve never read a single word I’ve written, my real-life friends have staunchly supported my career via likes, shares, retweets and general signal-boosting. Plus, I am not the sort of person who is likely to maintain two separate social media presences (one private, one personal). I’m naturally extroverted and impulsive and having to pause to remember who I am supposed to be online vs. in real life would drain all pleasure from the experience of interacting with people.

If you are like me, using your real name—or some variation of your real name, like your initials or your first and middle names—is the way to go.

For example, if your name is Angelica June Hardesty and you decide to publish under A.J. Hardesty you just change your Facebook profile to “Public” and the name listed to A.J. Hardesty and you’re already in business.

But many authors use a pen name. There are many reasons this might be the choice for you. They range from as personal as hiding your hobby from your coworkers to as calculated as the deliberate creation of an auctorial brand identity. So long as you will legitimately post as your online persona, having a pen name is great. But it does burden you with starting from zero in terms of contacts, so you’re going to have to go deliberately court followers.

Whether you use a variation of your real name or a pen name, it’s important to make sure the associated domain name is available for you to purchase: i.e. my name is Nicole Kimberling, so I own If your name is already taken you can either choose another name to write under or you can augment it with an applicable term like, “nicolekimberlingwriter” or “nicolekimberlingauthor.” You can check if your domain is taken by using the search function at sites like GoDaddy.

One note about pen names: be aware that nowadays most assumed identities are eventually discovered, especially if you become popular. Understand from the start that your nom de plume is not an impenetrable shield of anonymity. It’s more like a business name. So remember to use business etiquette when posting.

Build a Website

Take that domain you bought and just build one. There are plenty of platforms out there. Right now I recommend Squarespace, because it’s dead-easy and has a great help section. But probably in a couple of years there will be an even easier platform to build on. If website building is truly impossible for you to understand, find a kid to help you. Like a relative. Or a neighbor. Alternately, most college students will be able to assist. Hire one to sit beside you for a day and help you figure out what you're supposed to be doing. Do not let them build your website for you. They're just there to help you learn because you're going to have to update this thing for yourself eventually, right?

To begin with, all you need are four pages:

  1. A landing page with your author name on it, plus a picture or logo.
  2. A page that lists your publications. (With buy links.)
  3. A biography with links to your social media and contact information
  4. A blog, or news section where you can post announcements or free reads.

And viola! You have built your home base. You have created an exclusive venue to post your news, updates, free reads promotions, cat pictures… whatever. Now that you have a home, it’s time to expand.

Finding Your Social Media Platform

At the time of writing this essay, the three major social media platforms of most use to writers are Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Here is an easy way to figure out which one to start using first:

  1. If you like to write letters or talk on the phone, start with Facebook.
  2. If you prefer to send postcards or texts, join Twitter.
  3. If you send blank postcards with meaningful images, Instagram is the way.

You can set up each of these social media platforms to post to the other automatically, but you need one primary mode of interaction that you can perform easily from your phone.

Why My Phone?

Because you must engage with social media every single day for the month before and one month after your release. It helps to be able to just use dead time—like when you’re in your dentist’s waiting room—to keep engagement up without cutting into your writing time. (Cause you’re already working on your next project right? Of course you are.)

One Last Thing

Set up a profile on Goodreads and link the blog on your website to it. (If you can't figure out how to do this, invite that kid back. Buy her a pizza or something for her trouble.)Now everyone, including prospective editors, agents and publicists, can easily find out about your and your work.

Burnout, Guilt, and “Productivity”

This post is half explanation, half me yelling at myself.

After my book came out at the beginning of April, my
productivity levels plummeted to zero.

I kept trying to tell myself that it was okay, that it was
natural, that I’d been working almost continuously since November 2017 and I
needed a bit of a break. My husband and friends and editor all told me the same

And you know what? They were right. You know what
else? I knew they were right.

But I still felt incredibly guilty.

This is called “burnout,” kids.

And the last several weeks that I’ve been mostly AWOL from
writing have been me trying to work through that guilt for just being tired,
and why it exists.

I’ve identified two major reasons:

1) Recovering gifted child guilt

This particular guilt manifests in different ways for
different people, but for me, it’s the problem of “Well, I didn’t finish this
the first time I tried, so obviously it’s never going to work and I should move
on to something else.” Which is a terrible way of doing anything, but hey, it
worked in grade school, so obviously it should work in my adult life, right???

(No. No, the answer is “no.” And again, “no.”)

2) Capitalist / “gig economy” guilt

Productivity =/= worth as a human being

We’ve all been told the exact opposite by so many for so
long that this has to be repeated over and over and over again until hopefully
we can absorb it.

We’ve been taught to devalue the pursuits we enjoy if we’re
not getting something tangible in return.

But we need intangible things, too.

Doing other things besides earning money is not “a waste of
time.” Hobbies—non-money-producing hobbies—are not only important, they are
vital. They let you rest, and just enjoy things. It’s so important for your
mental health and your emotional well-being.

Writers and artists need rest. We need sleep, and non-creating
time. We need to kill the myth of the starving artist…with food. And we need to
do fun things for fun.

So in addition to identifying the guilt, I’ve also been
working on trying to let all of that guilt go, and instead of beating myself up
for not being superhuman, I’m trying very hard to just be kind to myself.

I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, without worrying
about how many words I’ve written that day.

I spend more time in the kitchen, and pay more attention to
what I’m eating, instead of grabbing whatever’s quickest that I can shovel into
my mouth while I’m hunched over a keyboard. And I keep water around, to lessen
my temptation for caffeine.

When I do sit down to write, I set myself a limit as well as
a goal. I say, “Okay, I want to reach a thousand words tonight, but I’ve got
other things to do, so I’m only going to write for two hours, and then I’m
going to go do something else.” I find I work better with deadlines, so giving
myself a time limit means I have to get the words out—they don’t have to be
good words, but they have to be on the page before two hours are up. And
telling myself, “This time is set aside only for writing,” helps to free up my
brain from worrying about other things.

I do things that aren’t writing: I go bowling with my
husband. We have a weekly board game night where we try games we’ve never
played before. I knit baby blankets and watch Poirot. I stay busy and enjoy myself and get away from my desk for
a few hours. Sometimes the “You Should Be Writing” gremlin starts poking me,
and I have to remind myself, “No, this isn’t Writing Time, and I’m not going to
write until it is.”

And that’s where I am right now. I’ve had about six weeks of
doing more or less nothing except trying to build myself back up to get back to
work, and…it hasn’t exactly been fun, but I’ve learned a few things:

  • Sleep.
  • Eat food.
  • Remember to hydrate.
  • Set limits as well as goals.
  • Do fun things for fun.
  • Be kind to yourself.

You’re the only one of you, and you’re the only one who can make
the things you want to make.

Take care of yourself.

I’m trying to do the same. 

How do you combat burnout? Tell us on the forum post for this blog entry!

Lightning on a dark sky

Flash Fiction - A Primer

(Released under a CC-BY-SA license)

Flash in a Flash

Flash fiction is a form of storytelling in
a very short amount of space.

Ta-da! Now you’re ready to go!

Okay, maybe not:

Structure, or Lack Thereof

Structure is a blessing and a curse. It
can help you stick to word limits, or force your way out of them. If you’re
trying to tell a traditional three-act story it can often help to pare your
structure down to the bare minimum.

Three-act Storytelling

It’s darn hard to tell a story with a
typical beginning, middle, and end in 1,000 words or less, but it can be done!

In my view, the easiest way to conceive this
is that a three-act flash story answers four questions in order:

1) What conflict does your protagonist
want to resolve?

2) What does your protagonist do about it?

3) What happens as a result?

4) What is the resolution?

If you answer each of these in under 250
words, you’ve got a 1,000-word story.

Laurel Amberdine’s "Airship Hope" is a good example. In
fact, it's even more condensed, with Numbers Three and Four smooshed into one
question and answered in a single sentence right at the end of the story! But
all four questions are there, nonetheless.

You can also get away, many times, with
just implying some of the questions.
By telling part of a story, you can show that there’s a world beyond the page,
and engage your readers by letting them figure out what happens next.

Three-act storytelling isn’t the only
traditional narrative structure in town, either. Kawabata Yasunari wrote a
series of “palm of the hand” stories, which tend to follow the Japanese model
of kishoutenketsu. Noh plays follow a contrasting
three-part structure called Jo-ha-kyuu.

Non-Narrative Stories

With flash, it’s also possible to tell an
effective story by breaking out of traditional narrative conventions
altogether. Tell a story as a list of bullet points, as a series of tweets, as
a set of GPS instructions. What’s crucial, though, is that you still need to tell a story, not just
show off a clever list of things.

For example, consider Alex Acks’s “List of Items in Leather Valise found on Welby Crescent.

Even though all we get is a list of items
found in a valise, it’s possible to figure out the story behind those items.

Copying from Patterns

Another flash shortcut is to look for
patterns in nature or other kinds of art, and fit your story into them. Patterns
are literally everywhere, so they can give you a boost if you’re stuck.

This technique works best when the pattern
you choose actually relates to the story you’re telling.

A good example is Takamichi Okubo’s “Shinbu Unit 99,” the form
of which mimics a haiku: five paragraphs, then seven paragraphs, then five
paragraphs. Eleanor R. Wood’s “Fibonacci” uses the
mathematical sequence of the same name.

Description and Detail

In flash, you can’t spend twenty pages
describing the origins and history of a dress (Sorry, Robert Jordan!), but you
can say it was eggshell yellow, ankle-length, and tented. (Although, come to
think of it, “describing the origins and history of a dress” sounds like a
pretty good non-narrative flash fiction story…)

On the other hand, you probably don’t want
to write a story that features talking heads in a white room.

Gustav Flaubert supposedly said, “Three
details are enough to fix a strong picture in the reader's mind—if they are the
right details.”

But how do you find the “right” details? By
focusing on your viewpoint character (if there is one) or the person central to
your story. What are the details that are most important to this character? What
do they notice, and why? The right details will not just describe your setting,
they’ll tell your reader about your character.

Three Signs of Ineffective Flash

In his management book Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick
Lencioni describes how anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurability can be
warning signs for miserable employees. Oddly enough, they can also make a
pretty good benchmark of whether or not a piece of flash fiction is working.

A story evokes some sort of feeling in the
reader (horror, wonder, love, misery) by introducing us to a person (or people)
who are doing something (or things).


In management, employees hate being
unrecognized for their work. In fiction, it’s the reader who’s affected by

A story where the viewpoint character is
referred to throughout as “he” or “she” or “they” risks killing a reader’s
interest, because it’s harder to relate to a shadowy everyperson. Even if you
give us no more information about your character than a name, that’s worlds
better than referring to them as just a pronoun throughout.

Names can carry a surprising amount of
implied information, and as humans our brains like to glom onto detail. Even in
totally fantastical or science fictional settings, they help make your
character seem more real, less of a cipher.


This one is fairly self-explanatory. Nobody
wants to be irrelevant!

In writing flash, if it’s not important to
your story, plot, character, etcetera, why are you including it? This is
especially important to remember in flash fiction, where you don’t have the
space to go on digressions, no matter how interesting.

This doesn’t mean don’t worldbuild. It
means limit your focus to elements of worldbuilding that are directly relevant
to the story you’re telling right now.


In the management world, this refers to
how employees need to know they’re making progress toward some kind of goal.

In flash, effective stories tend to show a
character making progress toward their goal(s). Or they could do the opposite:
show them not making progress and how that affects them.

Some kind of plot arc or character arc
usually makes for a more engaging story than four pages of nothing happening.


To summarize, an effective piece of flash
tells a story about a specific person (or persons!) who have specific goals,
and do something to try and make those goals happen.

Of course (as with the famous advice from
Vonnegut about storytelling), any of these can be deliberately broken to good

Happy writing! :)

Further Reading

Nancy Kress, Beginnings,
Middles, Ends

Randall Brown, A Pocket Guide
to Flash Fiction

David Gaffney, “Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction,” The Guardian

Have you tried writing flash fiction? Do you have questions about the format, or advice to share with others? Join the conversation on our forum to chat more about this subject with other speculative artists!

Learning How to Make Your Own Video Games

If you want to get into game development or design, it might
feel like you need to go back to school or take an expensive online course. The
reality, however, is that there are a ton of resources on the web for free (and
a few more that you would have to pay for) that you can take advantage of to
learn how to make your own games.

Disclaimer: The author of this post is not a game designer. She is, however, married to a software engineer and game developer, and it's impossible not to pick up a few things over more than a decade with someone. Many thanks to @ninjascript for years of love, support, and giving me some pretty good ideas of how all this awesome stuff works.


  1. Ask Reddit. No, seriously—r/gamedev created
    a fabulous wiki on how to get started in game development
    , and it’s
    a great place to start if you’re new.
  2. Get an overview and some tips, from idea to
    marketing, from the Free Code Camp by Medium’s article “From
    Zero to Game Designer
  3. Watch some of the “Free” section of videos from the Game
    Developer Conference
    (or if you prefer, the archive on
    their YouTube channel
  4. Check out Khan Academy’s classes on computer
    and computer
  5. Learn about writing
    for games
    , game
    , monetization,
    and more from Extra Credits.
  6. Take part in a game jam like Ludum Dare, and
    make sure to review other developers’ games and see what feedback your game
    gets from the community.
  7. Take advantage of Ctrlpaint’s free videos on
    digital art or browse through the Technical Art: Game Art Tricks
    in-depth analyses of the digital tricks used by existing games.
  8. Brush
    up on your mythology
    with PBS’s Crash Course series to learn about
    the classic stories that millions of game developers before you (not to mention
    authors, screenwriters, and others) have based their storylines around.
  9. Learn while you commute by adding some of’s
    10 favorite podcasts about game design
    to your rotation.
  10. Find more resources on Medium’s
    list of top online tutorials to learn game development using Unity

Available for Money:

  1. Take courses from Udemy like Unreal
    Engine 4
    , 2D
    Game Graphic Design in Photoshop
    , Android
    Game Development for Beginners
    , and more, or Coursera courses like Principles
    of Game Design
    or Game
    Development for Modern Platforms
  2. Get specific with courses like Learn
    to Code Trading Card Game Battle System with Unity 3D
    or Learn
    to Code by Making a 2D Platformer in Unity
  3. Read up! Check out’s
    list of the 10 best game design books to find a place to start.
    list includes everything from theory to programming and a book of practical
    challenges to help you improve with every project you work on.
  4. Interested in how artificial intelligence is
    used in game development? Go deep with O’Reilly’s AI
    for Game Developers

Do you have any other resource suggestions we should include here? Want to share with our community about your new game, or seek out collaborators to share the process with? Join the conversation on our forum!

Making Descriptive Passages Work for You

Description can bring readers into your world, but if used
incorrectly, it can also slow the pace of your narrative or skew your
characterization. We can all think of writers whose descriptive skill we envy,
but how do you get there?

The first step, I believe, is to understand that everyone’s
experience of the world around them is colored by their past experiences, their
personal knowledge, their mood in that moment, and a million other little
details that we, as writers, need to be able to imagine for our characters.

As writing exercises may have told you at some point, describing the where your character wakes from cryo-sleep is going to be different from describing the room where your character walks in to look for their sister who should be in cryo-sleep but has, through a strange accident, died. By the same token, a tree seen by a botanist on an alien world should sound a lot different when described by one of the people who grew up on that world.

So in order to write good description, keep in mind the

  • Don’t use words that your characters wouldn't use. Be aware of the vocabulary that your character has access to because of their world, their upbringing, their education, their job, and think about the kinds of language and metaphors they would be comfortable with. Is your character poetic, pragmatic, brutally straightforward? Do they have different associations than you do with certain colors? You can have a lot of fun with this, but the first step is to always be aware of it.
  • Think about where your character is emotionally, and use that in your description. If they're sad, even something pretty is probably going to make them feel sad and think sad thoughts, while if they're walking on air even the dreariest setting is likely to seem pleasant to them.
  • Every description -- every time your character encounters a new object or person or location - is an opportunity to show who your POV character is and how they think. You don't want to go too far in this -- don't waste time in the narrative describing things for the sake of describing them -- but if you're deft about it you can get a lot across merely by how a character sees the world around them.
  • Consciously limit yourself to only the things that your character regards as important in that moment. You'll never get lost in painting an overly-detailed word picture that derails your scene or slows down your action if do this. Nothing else gets written down, because the character didn't think it was important enough to notice. If a character is racing to escape the evil sorcerer, they’re probably not going to take the time to think about how lovely the mosaic they’re running over is. Conversely, if they’re waiting for a contact who’s running late, they may spend a lot of time looking at that mosaic and analyzing every detail of it in whatever way suits them best.

Of course, that last item can require some tricky
manipulation, and as you practice you'll learn to manipulate this in order to
make sure your character notices what's important for the reader to see. If you
need a character to notice something that isn't the sort of detail that
character would normally notice, then you need to be clever about drawing their
attention (and therefore the audience's attention) to that thing. For instance,
if the character needs to notice the time but they're an easy-going sort who
doesn't run their life on a schedule, then something needs to draw their eye to
that clock.

Another theory I like comes from author James Alan Gardner. He recommends that writers think of every description as the story of the character's encounter with a place or object. I can't put the reasoning behind this better than he does:

Too often, writers describe things just by making lists of details. For example, when you want to describe a person, you may be tempted to list facial features, body type, clothing, and so on.

But that’s not how we actually experience other people. We don’t encounter people as static lists of characteristics, we encounter them in a temporal sequence of perceptions and resulting reactions: i.e. as a story.
James Alan Gardner, The Skill List Project

When we meet a new person or arrive at a new place in real life, we don't experience that encounter all at once -- we take in the details of it in a particular order, and react to them as a little mini story within ourselves.

Try a few of these hints out the next time you’re writing a description, and let us know on the forum or on Twitter what tricks you use to improve your description writing!

Setting Creative Goals... and Keeping Them

No matter what your art is (writing,
illustration, game design), you’ll often hear that you should work at it every
day. If you don’t do this, some people say, you’re failing as a creator.

Now, that might work for some people, but I’ve
tried writing every day on several occasions and it just doesn’t work for me.
It makes the whole thing a chore that I start to hate very quickly. Instead, I’ve
found that three scheduled sessions of at least a couple of hours keeps my
juices flowing, my motivation up, and my productivity on track.

The most important thing for me is that I have
a plan. Every time I sit down for a creative session, I plan out ahead of time
exactly what I want to achieve that day. And at the end of every session, I figure
out when my next one is booked for. That stops one or two days off from slipping
into more.

Another thing that works for me is to always
have deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed, and to make sure that I’m accountable
to someone else for those deadlines. If the only person I have to answer to is myself,
I will inevitably let things slip. What I would recommend is having a partner
in creation, someone else who also wants to achieve things and may need a nudge
every now and then. If you can arrange to meet up physically and keep each
other focused, then great! If not, maybe keep a chat window or video call open
during creative sessions and check in every half hour or so, to make sure
you’re both still on topic. And, if all else fails, just email each other your
schedule and your plan, and then report back after the session to celebrate
your victories. If you’re a writer who is more motivated by spreadsheets,
streaks, or games than by a creative partner, consider using something like,,
to encourage you to meet those writing goals. Artists might get practice ideas
or the challenges, timed practices, and random poses on
And no matter what your art, if you respond to gamification, something like
might be just the thing to get you making the most of your creative time and
give you a sense of accomplishment as you make progress toward your goals.

That last point is important—make it easy to
celebrate your successes. If you have a big project, then just looking at the
whole thing may make it seem insurmountable. But if you break it down into
small tasks with sensible deadlines, you can have the satisfaction of ticking
off tons of little victories that you should absolutely congratulate yourself
on. If rewards help you (like “I can have a chocolate after I finish this
chapter” or “I can watch an episode of my favorite show once I’ve filled a page
with sketches”), then don’t hesitate to use that.

Most crucial of all is to find a system that works for you and just go for it.

What works for me is a rolling spreadsheet of upcoming submission opportunities (theme, word count, hard deadline, and possible publication all right there), sessions scheduled outside my flat with an accountability partner, and a list of very specific targets for each session. But the thought of all that organization might make you want to curl up and die. So try things out to see what fits, and once something works, don’t ever let anyone tell you it doesn’t make sense. The only person it has to makes sense to is you. And if it keeps you creating, then it’s doing its job and you should stick with it no matter what.