Posted On January 17, 2014 by Print This Post

Working Out Your Writing with Handsome Hansel

With the advent of 2014, many New Years resolutions were made. Handsome Hansel of Dance of Romance not only plans to tone up those biceps, he also plans to put some “No Pain, No Gain” techniques to his writing.

I’m a bit fluffier than I’d like to be right now. Over the last four months life has thrown every obstacle in my path. Because of that, I’ve let myself go a bit. Gained a few pounds, sprouted around a bazillion new gray hairs, and have allowed my overall word count towards writing plummet.

Philosophically it could be argued that if all of this is happening, it must be the path I’m supposed to be on. Well, Socrates has it wrong. I don’t remember him ordering for me at the drive-through. I don’t recall him ever around my hair. And I certainly don’t believe he would have the heart to throw the boulders of obstacles at me I’ve had to deal with.

You see between the funerals I’ve attended, the operations I’ve held others hands through, and even a psycho/stalker situation I’ve had to “open an investigation” into, I still had time to workout and write. Yet I slacked. Big time.

I’m not writing all of the above to go wee-wee-wee all the way home. That would be too easy to do. This isn’t a pity party either. It’s a giant group intervention for all of us. Granted, some of us won’t need this post but I’m willing to bet at some time in the past they did. To those writers…bear with me. (Or is it bare? Can’t be, that makes it sound dirty.) See what I’m talking about?! Both my writing and I are out of shape!

I was frustrated with my writing as well as my lack of motivation for getting myself back to the gym. These were both things I did routinely every day of the week but one. A few months back I looked at the wall of machines at my local Planet Fitness the same way I did at the words “Chapter 1” staring back at me from my iMac. With fearless abandon. I knew I could handle it and hang in there for the long haul. A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t sure I could do either.

At the first of the year, just like the multitudes across the planet, I made a pact with myself to turn things around. (I then behaved as a lot of them did and waited until January 6th to start. Because, well, it was a Monday. And Mondays are the only day you can start things. Honest.) 🙂

So on January 6th I go to the gym and am dying within the first 30 minutes. Not Biggest Loser dying, but dying. After I get home and shower, I head to my ever forgiving iMac. I’ve started on my third book and am only two chapters in, last place I left it back in October.

I read what I’d written to catch myself up…and froze. I couldn’t remember exactly where I was headed with it. (I’m a pantser remember.) Two months ago I would have been immediately frustrated and probably switched to doing some easier writing. Something the rest of the world would never see. Instead, I jumped in. I forced myself to write. It wasn’t pretty but I was writing.

So when it comes to our writing, how do we whip it back in shape? How do we turn it from a desk-potato into a lean, mean, published machine?

Literally the same way we would be getting ourselves in shape. Start slow and gradually increase your intensity. Here’s what has worked for me, I hope it works for you.

I mentioned above that I forced myself to continue my new manuscript. What I mean by that is I went back to Writing 101. Write SOMETHING! Just as if you had a physical trainer, they would tell you to do SOMETHING. Anything. A nice way of saying they don’t care how you move your ass, but move it.

Once you get moving with your writing, you’ll find that over time you’ll automatically write more. Just as you would with a workout routine, the idea is to do a little more each day. It doesn’t matter if it’s one more minute on a treadmill or one more paragraph than you wrote yesterday. Simply do incrementally more.

After a week or so of exercising that writing muscle, it’s time to set goals. I’ve always looked at the first week of getting into a routine as a sort of dusting off. There is no point in goals for the first week as long as you’re doing something to move things in the right direction. After a week or so of clearing the cobwebs and blowing the dust off, it’s time to power up and get serious.

There are a variety of apps, planners, and online resources to help you with your goal setting. I’ll leave that part up to you to find what works best for your needs. Once you’ve found your trusty assistant, commit yourself forward. Set a goal for each and every day for the next month. Is your first day going to be to complete one page? One chapter? Then move on to the second day. And so on.

Since you took a week to get your bearings, you’ll have an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses are. Use that knowledge as your starting point. If after that initial cleansing week you have found you can only hammer out a page and a half, then set a goal of two pages for your first “official” day of getting back on track.

As with any workout routine you begin, you’ll find that over a couple of weeks, you’ll actually desire to do more than your goal even called for in the first place. Especially if you’ve written on a regular basis before. You’ll actually feel it coming back to you…your writing strength increasing. There will be a huge feeling of pride when you’re able to add another five pounds to your writing bench-press when you weren’t expecting to.

What happens if you miss a day? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet…we tend to beat ourselves up over it. We may even over-compensate the next day to make up for the one missed. That’s a mistake. Take it in stride and get yourself back to your writing gym the following day. Shake it off. You didn’t take a step back, you just didn’t take a step forward.

As with all goals, they are meant to bend a little. In the last three days, I have had a total of eight hours sleep. When I went to the gym today, I didn’t hit my goals because my body was like a whiney child at the tail end of a four hour car ride; crying about everything. I had to throw in the towel early and accept there was no way I was going to be able to get my body to do what I wanted. I had exhausted it. Instead of letting it get me down, I patted myself for getting to the gym and doing something at all instead of plopping myself on my office couch and taking a nap.

The same goes for writing. If life throws you a curveball and you think you don’t have the time, write anyhow. Even if it’s a few paragraph curls. If your head still isn’t in the writing game then proofread, edit, strategize a plot line. Do something.

Achieving your writing goals is going to come with a series of ebbs and flows. There will be good days and bad. There will even be great days and the occasional horrific one. With each day that passes you’ll feel yourself getting stronger. You’ll feel your writing calling for you instead of you forcing yourself to go to it.

Whether you’re starting new as a writer or getting back into it after a bit of a layoff, I hope this post has helped. It’s not easy getting back into the writing gym sometimes. But remember why we did it in the first place. Just as getting back into a workout routine helps with our physical health, getting back into a writing routine helps with our mental health. They’ve both always been stress relievers for me, as I’m sure they are for you.

So start your writing routine today! If you began a workout routine six months ago, today friends and family would be handing out compliments right and left as to how great you look; so too will you receive accolades for having your book published and feel the pride of others for having done something rather extraordinary.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the gym to try and get my girlish figure back.



Have you made any New Years resolutions for YOUR writing?

Join us on Monday for A Year in the Life of a Debut Author by Kelsey Browning


Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at

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Handsome Hansel


38 Responses to “Working Out Your Writing with Handsome Hansel”

  1. I’m with you on starting things on Monday except – let’s be honest – how can you start something seriously on a low-note (and if Monday isn’t a low note, I don’t know what is!).

    As to the fluffiness, that’s just depressing. It’s too darn cold to exercise outside, and I have too many other things to aid procrastination when I’m home and relatively warm.

    I feel like you’re talking to me here: “getting back into it after a bit of a layoff,” because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And the layoff isn’t exactly over. I’m babysitting for my amazing and wonderful grandbaby every day, which keeps me occupied for many hours, and leaves me flattened (as much as the fluffy pillowness can be flattened) at the end of the day. Part of the reason is that I’ve simply gotten out of the habit of writing, which is a scary thought. For the past seven years writing occupied the majority of my time, so it’s hard to believe I could fall out of the habit so quickly. I’m hoping the enforced layoff is going to be beneficial because I have made use of the time. I hired a freelance editor, and a lovely author friend critiqued a story that’s in work. I know what needs to be done now – I just need to DO it. Thanks for the encouragement (aka kick-in-the-pants) – I’m taking this to heart!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 17, 2014, 1:23 am
    • Oh, I feel you. I had my grandbaby for six months after years of emtpy nest, and the change in work habits goes with the territory. I’m used to a high word count, but had to settle for something less. As long as I made progress, I counted it good. (Nap time is the golden 90 minutes, lol). Unfortunately, building author platform is important, but doesn’t contribute to word count. I’ll have to immerse in writing soon or go nuts. 🙂

      Posted by Robyn LaRue | January 17, 2014, 9:50 am
    • Becke,

      I am glad you were motivated by the post. As we are all friends here on RU, we need sometimes to listen to each other’s friendly advixce.

      I’ll be leaning on your shoulder sometime this year, I’m sure.



      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 11:40 am
  2. morning HH!

    Believe it or not, I think my writing needs a harder workout than my body does. =) Although I did join a gym recently, and discovered the biking skills I’d earned over the summer were now non-existent.

    My writing has suffered due to some major life changes and stress. And yet, I should keep writing as well as keep exercising right? So why don’t I?

    Mental attitude is something I really need to work on in relation to my writing…it’s got to be just as important as work and working out.

    I really need to have that tattooed somewhere. =)

    Great post HH, here’s hoping all of our stress levels go down!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 17, 2014, 9:05 am
    • Carrie,

      Thanks for the comment. I believe the older we get the more we have coming at us. Therefore we give up our “dream life” in order to deal with reality.

      We should never give up our dreams though!

      Have a great weekend Carrie and thanks for everything. You are the best of the best.


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 11:50 am
  3. Hi HH,

    I work out to clear my mind to be ready to write.

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 17, 2014, 9:18 am
  4. Ah, my friend. I think a lot of us fall into this. Frankly, my biggest obstacle is that i am in my final year of a Journalism degree and added a double major of Political Science. I’m writing papers constantly, so it’s easy to put of everything else. Regardless, it’s getting over it.

    This was perfect to kick me in the you know what. As always, perfect timing!

    Write on!

    Posted by Renee Harper | January 17, 2014, 9:28 am
    • Renee,

      Wow! You have really taken on a lot. I congratulate you! You have a pass. Concentrate on your moment in time.

      Thanks so much for your support and love. If I can help in any way…I will.

      Have a great weekend.


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 12:03 pm
  5. This was perfect timing for me! I’ve been procrastinating like crazy and just when was all coming together. How do you do it?

    Posted by Camille | January 17, 2014, 9:37 am
    • Camille,

      One step at a time. Day by day.

      Sounds like a derivative of a 12 step program but it works. Look at your day when you wake up that you have twelve hours ahead of you. What do you want to accomplish in that twelve hours? Do that. If you do you will inspire yourself.

      If you need my email I’ll send it to you.


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 12:06 pm
  6. I love your approach of treating writing like a workout routine – it makes so much sense! I have a similar process of slowing down in the winter and gearing up in the summer. I have a lot more day work in the winter, so I only tend to work on short writing projects – light routines, if you will. In the summer I write outdoors, usually until sunset, and that’s when I write novels. It’s a tough transition at first, those extra hours – but after a while I don’t even notice it. My mind and body simply adjust to the extra weight and the longer run, and I definitely end up fitter for it. I even start looking forward to the marathons, they make me feel so good!

    Posted by Lori Schafer | January 17, 2014, 9:39 am
    • Lori,

      I love that you commented. Thank you. I thought I was crazy for making the connection between working out and writing but that was all I knew. I am thankful many others feel the same way!

      Have a great weekend!

      All my best,

      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 12:16 pm
  7. Your post is just what I needed, HH. I have been stuck in a rut for the past few months after my mother passed, but lately it seems as though the rut has turned my mind, my writing, and my life into shambles. This post has inspired me to break through the barriers one piece at a time. Thank you!
    P.S. I can’t wait for Monday, I’m going to write again today. My soul needs it 🙂

    Posted by Audrey King | January 17, 2014, 9:40 am
    • Audrey,

      First…Let me express my condolences on your mother’s passing. I am fortunate to still have both my parents living and can only empathize. It must be very hard.

      Turn to writing however. Keep your feelings to yourself but put it on paper. Let it out there. Some people scream, some people cry, some people turn to others. Writers write.

      When you are done writing your thoughts, feelings, and emotional experiences, you’ll decide if you need to share them or keep them to yourself.

      Anytime, day or night, email if you need to. And thank you so much for sharing.


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 12:27 pm
  8. This is just what I needed HH! I have become oh so lazy. It’s winter; my brain doesn’t want to think; I’m tired; my writing is boring… I could come up with a never-ending list of excuses. But you are right. I just need to get up off my butt and get going. Now we are back dancing again, that will definitely get me hopping! Thanks for the motivation.

    Posted by Elizabeth | January 17, 2014, 10:15 am
    • Liz,

      I will dance with you anytime. 🙂

      Winter sucks! Period. I LITERALLY wait for the winter solstice simply so I know the days are getting longer and eventually I’ll be ok. I don’t do well indoors. I feel like a caged Lion needing to run free. (Side note… I refuse to wear a coat, gloves, scarf, etc in the winter out of protest.)

      Thanks….so much…for your love and support. You are certainly in my top 2%. 😉


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 12:33 pm
  9. Did you know the most popular day for starting a diet is not Monday? It’s . . .
    (Drumroll, please.)
    (I think that’s known as procrastination.)

    When my holiday “list” made writing time scarce, my wonderful writing partner suggested I make a one-hour writing appointment with myself. Not “I’ll write an hour tomorrow,” but “Tuesday, 3-4 p.m., and Wednesday, 8-9 a.m.” Not fool proof, but it kept me from having a complete writing white-out. My page production was low, but a number of troubling transitions in my WIP just popped into my head, fully growed.

    BTW, my writing partner refers to himself as a motivational bully. Sometimes we need that. Thanks for this post.

    Posted by Susan in TX | January 17, 2014, 10:29 am
    • Susan,

      Saturday? Really?! 🙂

      Well, whether it is any day of the week…pick it and stick to it. Writing appointments can work but I believe inspiration needs to come first.

      If you could see the writing on the underside of my forearm right now you’d understand. I LOATH when inspiration hits and I’m not in front of a keyboard. Therefor I write notes on my forearm to recall later. Mostly it works, occasionally it doesn’t.

      Don’t take this the wrong way but, never be bullied. There is no motivation in bullying. Close your eyes, find your focus, and write. That’s all you need.


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 12:52 pm
  10. Winter is like tryptopan (if that’s how you spell it). I fight the urge to hibernate! When it’s sunny and warm and I should be outside, THAT’s when I get writing done. Go figure!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 17, 2014, 10:30 am
    • Becky,

      “Winter is like tryptophan”

      I don’t think I’ve witnessed a better line on this forum…ever.

      I am in love and envious at the same time. (Confused, I believe the rest of the world calls it.) 🙂

      I too, write better in the warmer months. Maybe it’s the sunsets. Maybe it the spring blooms. Who knows. I’m genetically and professionally drawn to that time of year.

      YET, I need to be productive 12 months of said year. That’s hard so I had to come up with a strategy. We all do it seems.

      Thanks for your own encouragement in the line I quoted above. Brilliant.


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 1:02 pm
  11. I applaud your dedication! There’s a saying that inspiration will strike, but it has to find you at work. So keep pounding those keys!

    Posted by Willa Blair | January 17, 2014, 11:45 am
    • Willa,

      Thanks for jumping over here from Twitter! @WillaBlair

      I believe so much in inspiration. I can’t “force write” myself into a book. The readers will know. Therefore, anywhere I can find it, I will.

      Have a great weekend!


      Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 1:04 pm
  12. Another post that hits home, Handsome!

    I’m a pantser and a procrastinator and that’s not a great combo. I know when I’m not writing it’s because there’s eomething that isn’t working in whatever scene that has me stumped.

    The great Kate Duffy gave me one of the the best pieces of advice I ever heard and that’s there is no such thing as writer’s block. She said if you’re stuck it’s becuase you’re forcing the characters to do something that isn’t organic to them.

    As far as working out, I have to fool myself into getting exercise. Even though I have a treadmill, I’ve become quite adept at making it invisible. So I had to find something else that works. I found a jumping jacks challenge and that’s what I do. JJs’ don’t feel like exercise to me. But amazingly, things are tightening up and weight is falling off so I’ll keep it up.

    Posted by Tamara | January 17, 2014, 12:41 pm
  13. Tamara,

    All I can say is… You go girl! (For the record: I’m (very) white, middle aged, and prone to thinking I’m somehow relevant. But I tried and the sincerity was there. 🙂

    You were given a genius piece of advice. Yes, let the characters do what they are going to do. No matter the age of your characters, pretend they are all 13 year olds. They will listen, roll their eyes, and do whatever the hell they intended to do in the first place.

    Love your comment T. Thanks.


    Posted by HH | January 17, 2014, 1:09 pm
  14. Great post! Not only do I want to write a little bit right now and workout that writing muscle, I also want to get back in shape now!

    Posted by Lacey Dearie | January 17, 2014, 2:02 pm
  15. Wonderful post HH.

    Generally I never make New Year resolutions because I believe resolutions can and should be made on any day during the year. Of course, I understand the whole ‘new year fresh start’ thing but why wait for a certain time of year to make that fresh start?

    As for a writing routine, that for me continues to be the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel 😉 Finding time to schedule in a writing routine is very tough right now but I continue to write even if it’s for twenty minutes a day. And I’m a great believer too in the ‘just write anything’ mantra when writers block hits. Usually I write short stories to help me focus and this leads me back to the novels, but I always write something.

    Good luck with your writing (and workout) routine!

    Posted by Linzi | January 17, 2014, 4:03 pm
    • Linzi!!

      I’m with you on the Resolution front. If you’re unhappy…change it.

      I believe that when the year end closes in, people wait though. They wait because it’s a convenient excuse. Now that we are here however, it’s time to get busy.

      “Scarlet Pimpernel”??? WT*? is that? Tell me while I buy you a Vodka neat along with my Gentleman Jack. 🙂

      Have a great weekend Linzi,

      Posted by Handsome Hansel | January 17, 2014, 6:32 pm
  16. It saddens me to read that you’ve been through so much the last few weeks/months of 2013. I hope
    2014 treats you better and I hope everything gets sorted out and cleared up. If you need a
    friend, I’m here, you know I love you.

    3 books already, eh? I don’t even own one of your books!

    I get my work out through physical therapy, and I LOVE it!

    Posted by Soraya E. | January 17, 2014, 4:27 pm
    • Lil Sis,

      I can handle it. Trust me. 🙂 It does however wear me down to the point that my writing suffers because I’m just not “present”.

      I am happy to hear you love your physical therapy. So many don’t. But the philosophy is the same: take baby steps until you can do whatever your body is fully capable of doing.

      Love you,

      Posted by Handsome Hansel | January 17, 2014, 6:36 pm
  17. Hey Handsome. Your post could have been written by me. I’ve really let myself go. I’ve put on over 20 pounds and though I know what I need to do to lose it, I’m really not motivated to do it. Also, I’ve also just starting writing my third book. I took December off after the release of my second book. That was a mistake. Like exercise, it’s best not to let more than a few days go before working out, or writing. The kids are out of school Monday and Tuesday, but come Wednesday I plan on sitting down and making myself write. Still not sure how I’ll fix the weight issue. But one problem/resolution at a time. 🙂

    Posted by MaryAnn Kempher | January 19, 2014, 4:31 pm
  18. HH,

    Gosh, I can completely relate to this post. In the past two months I have inherited the care of my grandchildren from sunrise til shortly after sunset when their dad, now a single parent and living with me, gets home. It’s all I can do to keep up with my editing and reviewing, finding time to write seems impossible and all those sorry ideas I had rolling around in my head have simply disappeared due to chronic exhaustion.
    But you’ve reminded me of writing in the early days, when ten extra minutes could at least result in a character sketch our a rudimentary outline (like you I’m mostly a pantser, but find a sketchy outline helps).
    You’ve helped me determine to get back in the swing of things, a few minutes at a time til I can finally enjoy my day off writing something that gives me a sense of accomplishment. Thanks.

    Posted by Tracy Riva | January 20, 2014, 10:24 am
  19. I completely understand and identify with your writing problems (not so much the gym – I have a back problem that means I have to be VERY careful…). You clearly know what you are doing, as is evident by all the excellent advice you’ve given in your article.

    However, I would just add that we are not machines and this time of year, we are not firing on all cylinders, either. If you’ve had a rough time of it emotionally – then some of your vital creativity may be temporarily leached away while you recover. So… while firing yourself up to full writing production, do remember to be kind to yourself, too:)).

    Posted by sjhigbee | January 20, 2014, 6:42 pm
  20. Hello HH,

    I just completed my sixth novel. What’s my secret to “exercising that writing muscle”? I don’t have one. I simply set the time aside, which is usually during the Xmas/New Year break I have from my “freelance bread and butter job”, and I write.

    The early part of the year, I spend fine tuning my novel, and then I usually publish around Feb or March. The rest of the year, I spend thinking of more murder, mayhem or love affairs while I drink loads of coffee, play with my kitten, Mia, and pretend at working on my freelance bread and butter job, which pays the bills 🙂

    Posted by Sylvia Massara | January 24, 2014, 10:03 pm
  21. The ‘wee wee wee’ was my first LOL of the day and believe me it has been a looooong day –

    I have more trouble making myself exercise – would rather sit in front of the screen any time. But I tell myself I need that physical activity to punch up the oxygen content/fuel source to the brain to get the best quality product on the page. And amazingly enough, that is working! Best to all. I feel your pain.

    Posted by Lissa Johnston | February 4, 2014, 4:48 pm


  1. […] Working Out Your Writing Hansel at the Romance University blog about how establishing a writing routine when you are new, or coming back from a break from writing is a lot like establishing an exercise routine. […]

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