What do you love? What do you think a lot about doing? What is your dream? Many people go through their life dreaming about something they want to do/achieve but never do it. Maybe the opportunity never presented itself. Maybe waiting for that opportunity isn’t the answer. Maybe you have to decide to just go for it and stop making excuses. Ultimately, it is your choice.
My dream was to be an author. I achieved that, and I keep on going with it. Yes, there are obstacles that get in the way. That doesn’t mean I don’t stop. That just means I work around those things. When something comes up and I am not able to work on my manuscript, I am thinking about my story. I am plotting in my head. I am writing in my journal. You might think that just thinking about your manuscript/story doesn’t constitute working on your novel. OH, but I think it does. The way I see it, when I get back to the actual writing, I am ready with the words, and I end up typing like a mad woman, HAHAHA. Being consistent is what it’s all about. Stay on task, whether you are working on it in your head or on paper/computer
Here are some must do’s in the world of book writing (some but certainly not least) :
Write everyday. If something gets in your way and all you can do is jot down ideas and thoughts in a journal, do so.
Come up with a target word count to reach everyday and reach it, whether you are writing in your journal or on your computer.
Read other books of authors who have been at it for a long time. Truth be told, they know more than you do because they’ve been at it for a while. Learn from them.
You get better by editing and rewriting. I like to edit after all is said and done because it frees up my mind for sticking to the story and getting it on paper.
Rejection. That nasty word. Nobody likes it, but that makes you better as well. When someone gives you constructive criticism and tells you they didn’t like something in your story, listen to what they’re saying. Think of what they are saying from their point of view. Then fix it, if you think what they are saying holds merit. Remember, it’s your choice. After all, it’s your work. But don’t get upset over rejection. It’s part of the process of writing.
Have fun with your writing, and think of these must do’s as part of the process of making it fun for yourself. You are at the wheel. Where you steer your story and how you achieve that dream is up to you.
How picky are you with your words, when you write? Do you have to choose just the right ones in order for you to move on? Or do you belt them out there onto the page and rework them later? The first way can stop you up and prevent you from making headway at a steady pace. Because what happens is this: a creative idea for your story may have popped into your head, and you might forget it by the time you’re finished making your wording what you ultimately want it to be.
Get the words on paper first along with your ideas and worry about making them just perfectly right later. You can also make notes for yourself along the way about what you want to go back and fix. Your draft will still be there waiting for you.
As a child, did you ever play pretend? It’s the ultimate use of the imagination. At some point along the way many people stop playing pretend and enter into the world of reality. Their focus turns to something else. That’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that. For authors though, the pretending doesn’t stop. We like to play pretend. It’s how our books get written.
When I was a child, I loved to play make believe. I daydreamed a lot (to my teachers’ angst). As I grew older, the thought of writing stories and poems became my focus. I had much to learn about the writing process, but I didn’t let it stand in my way. You shouldn’t let that stand in your way either. Learn it, use it, keep it. Never lose that hunger/passion within you that wants to write. Write for your pleasure and to make others happy. AND, above all else, KEEP PRETENDING.
That moment before you start. Your mind is filled with so many thoughts. How do I begin? I know what I want to say; but how to write it in such a way that hooks the reader? Will what you write be good? Will it hook the reader? Will it inspire them? Will my beginning be as good as the beginning of my last book/story? What if I “sink”? What if it “takes off”? Yes, I can do this.
It’s all so thrilling isn’t it? You may have written many books/stories before and still have these questions going through your mind before you start. You want to make your readers happy, and you want them to have fun. Not to sound pessimistic, but we can’t please everyone. Many will enjoy your stories/books and many won’t. So, relax. Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out. The truth of it is, you have what I call “Your Circle”. These are the people who you trust to give you an honest critique of your writing before you publish your work. If your beginning, middle or end or anything in between doesn’t sound right, they will tell you. Listen to what they’re saying, take it into consideration, and go from there. If you’re new to the writing craft, your self-confidence may need to be built up more. If you are more experienced, you may have more confidence and so on.
Trust yourself. Based on your writing experiences you will come to know what is good and what needs to be scrapped. So…..DIVE IN. Enjoy.
In December 2019 I wrote an article entitled Writing Stability. In that article I mentioned keeping a writing binder for the writing project you’re working on. It really doesn’t matter if you write by the seat of your pants or plan your novel out in advance, a binder to keep all of your information straight can only serve to help you.
Possible Sections to Include in Your Binder
Characters— This section will include everything about each of your characters. Possible types of information include: physical features, likes/dislikes, occupation, their role in the story, fears, character arcs, just to name a few. You could even create subsections for each character if you like.
Settings— Included here can be maps, setting descriptions, list of places and their significance, etc.
Story— I have a section in my binder with this label. What I use it for are ideas for my novel. Sometimes I’ll do a free write or I’ll write a quick plot summary for an idea.
Style Sheet— Here I keep a style sheet to keep the technical details consistent. For example, are you going to write your numbers out or not, make a list of words that MUST be capitalized consistently throughout, names and dates of events (It’s easy to lose track of this information when you’re writing). This is just a small list. What you decide you need to go in this section is up to you. When you’re editing later, this section will be your friend.
Doodling— This would be where you jot down any revision ideas or play around with language (If you’re writing fantasy, making up words can be fun).
You can always add to the above list. It depends on what kind of story you’re writing. I write urban fantasy, so I have additional sections such as, realms, fantasy creatures, photos, and questions. I love my binder because it frees up room in my head (kind of like a memory extension for my brain, LOL). If you don’t want to use a binder, a journal works well too. I’ve used both.
You are up in the mountains hiking with a friend. Along your path you come across a lone pint size milk carton. You’re a fiction writer, and you’re looking for ideas for another story but coming up with zilch. The hike in the mountains you feel will do you some good and perhaps get the wheels of creativity going. The milk carton accomplishes this goal as soon as you see it. It’s as if an electric spark shocked that story center of the right side of your brain. In an instant, your mind has a‘What if ‘ scenario in place.
What if the milk carton had drops of blood on it, and the blood belonged to someone who vanished without a trace 50 years ago? The blood is fairly fresh too.
In reality, the milk carton is just a milk carton and it most likely belonged to another hiker. They finished the milk and didn’t want to take the carton with them, so they left it there. BOOM. That’s it. BUT, what you did with your ‘what if ‘scenario is put a twist on reality. That’s what fiction does. I love to put a creative spin on things. It makes life interesting.
Sometimes we put up barriers when we write. This is different for everyone. Some of us analyze too much, while others plan too much. Yet some may strive for perfection before moving on. My barrier is the analyze thing. I question everything. Not that questioning things is bad to do. We should do that, but when you continue questioning whether what you wrote or in which place a scene/scenes was put, it takes up precious writing time.
Another author I follow and get advice from, told of a first time writer working on his first novel. This young writer asked his advice on his first chapter. So the author read the young writer’s first chapter and ended up being very impressed with it. He asked for more. The young writer didn’t have anymore to show, as he had been working on the first chapter for months trying to get it just right/perfect. The author shook his head and told the young writer to stop striving for perfection. Why? If you do that, you will never get your book written. As long a time it took him to get chapter one finished, he could have had multiple chapters finished had he focused more on getting the story out.
The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to get the story written. When that first draft is finished, THEN go back to square one and change what you don’t like. This may be difficult at first, but with practice of letting go and letting the story unfold as it comes, perfection will take a back seat eventually.
Research is a wonderful thing. Time consuming? Yes, absolutely. In the end it enriches your story because it brings believability to the reading experience. If you don’t want to do the research, then don’t include that researchable element in your story. I say this because readers know when you’re winging it. This is so true when it comes to including information about other cultures in your story. Maybe another culture is essential to the plot. I know what you must be thinking. We all know this already. Well, yes. But some will still skip the research. Does researching mean you have to read everything and take extensive notes? No. Here are some ways you can conduct your research and have fun at the same time.
Watch a documentary/take notes
Interview/record it/and/or take notes
Take a trip to that place: Israel, Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Germany. Whatever place your story incudes.
Pictures: for visual description if you aren’t able to go there.
Print out your material to use it later if you need it again.
I enjoy researching because I love to learn. Sometimes I take too much time with it, and it ends up taking away from my writing time. This is okay. Just think about how much richer your story will be for having done all that work.
You wake up in the morning, shuffle your way into the kitchen, turn on your coffee pot, put in a pod (or scoop of coffee depending on the type of coffee maker you have), and pour yourself a cup of coffee. As you sit and drink, you catch up on anything you may have missed on your phone while you were sleeping. The thought of writing starts scratching at your brain, as you begin to think about what you have to get done that day. Many other activities come to mind, but writing is still scratching at your brain. You know the only way to itch it is to sit down and write. But, you’re too tired, even with one cup of coffee in you. The creative juices aren’t being felt. So, you start to do other items on your list of chores to get done. Writing is now banging and clanging against your brain. The story wants to be written, but you don’t want to write because you’re still too tired. You continue doing other things. It’s now 3:00 in the afternoon and you don’t have anything written. You feel guilty because you promised yourself the day before that you would write at least 1000 words today. Uh oh, what do you do? Can you pop out 1000 words from 3:00 pm on?
YES, YOU CAN. Force yourself to do it. You CAN do it. Yes, even if you’re tired. Something will come. I’ve been caught in the “I’m too tired” trap too (too many times). Don’t let procrastination be your mantra.