How To Finish Revising Your Novel in 30 Days

The other day I told you my 30-day game plan for finishing the first draft of your novel. Except what if you’re revising a novel?

Well, luckily the process isn’t totally different. But there are a few things you’ll want to do before you follow the 30-day-finish-your-draft process.

1. Start Fresh Off A Break

A really important part of being able to revise your story objectively is to get enough distance from it before you come back to do the revisions. If you finish the first draft and then just jump into revisions, you won’t have fresh eyes and won’t properly be able to judge how good or bad it is.

The best way to get into a revision is to start off fresh.

Action Step: take at least 4-6 weeks away from your first draft before you attempt to revise in 30 days. Schedule it into your calendar and actually mark down the ‘start revisions’ date so you’re accountable to it.

2. Make A Plan For What Needs to Be Done

Before you can revise your draft, you have to first:

  • Know what you have to work with
  • Create a plan of attack for working with what you’ve got

You can follow this step-by-step revision prep process here, which will walk you through exactly what to do to create your revision plan.

Be sure to categorize your notes by what you need to work on: plot, characterization, description, conflict, etc. Knowing exactly what to look for as you’re revising will make the whole process go quicker (which is great for when you want to revise the entire draft in 30 days).

Action Step: put together your revision plan by going through the revision prep process and looking at your story as a whole (or you can grab my Story Revision Kit and have checklists and resources to make it all easier on yourself).

3. Create A Schedule Around What You Will Work On and When

Once you’ve got your revision plan ready to go, it’s time to pull out your calendar and figure out when you’ll work on each piece of your revision. Go back through your categorizations of what you need to work on (see step #2) and divide them up across 30 days.

For example, during week 1 of the 30 days, you can focus on plot improvements and then week 2 you can handle characterization and character arc. Week 3 could be for layering in description and then week 4 could be copyediting and proofreading before sending to your developmental editor for notes and feedback.

Action Step: grab your calendar and your revision notes and map out exactly what you’ll work on and when.

4. Follow All of the Steps from the How To Finish Your Novel in 30 Days Article 

Before you officially start revising, be sure to go through the steps listed in the How To Finish Your Novel in 30 Days article and be sure to do all of them. You’ll need everything listed there to successfully finish your revision.

Action Step: go read the How To Finish Your Novel in 30 Days article and do all of the steps listed in it.

That’s how you get your novel revision finished in 30 days. But don’t just read this article, take action on it. Like right now. Today.

Write with a purpose, live with intention,

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. And if you want some kick-ass motivation, inspiration and accountability so you can step up and FINISH your novel revisions, be sure to check out my upcoming workshop, FINISH Your Damn Novel: 30 days of kick-ass motivation, inspiration, accountability and getting-writing-done for writers who’ve started a novel (draft or revision) and want to finish. Doors close TONIGHT at 11:59 p.m. EST so if you want in, now’s the time!! 

>> Details and sign up here

How To Finish Writing Your Novel in 30 Days

Thirty days doesn’t seem like a lot of time when you’re thinking about finishing a project you started and then put off. But 30 days is actually a lot of time! And the thing is, the time’s gonna pass anyhow. So you may as well be doing something you actually care about with that time.
 
Which is why I’ve put together this quick-start guide for how to finish writing your novel in 30 days.
 
Now I will add that this list is for writers who have already started the draft of a novel. If you’re still in the planning and development stages, you need a whole different list. And if you’re revising, you’ll need a different (although similar) list as well (the revise-in-30-days list is coming Friday!).
 

First—why 30 days?

 
Because I have a theory that when you cut down your timeline, you actually motivate yourself and light a fire under your ass that gets you out of your head (see ya later doubt!) and into action. Anytime I’ve cut my timeline down, whether that be 30 days, 10 days or something else, it always gets me moving in the direction I want to go.
 
But when I give myself unlimited time to get something done or I don’t set a specific deadline for finishing it, I end up not working on it consistently, making excuses for why it’s not done yet, and then half a year or more passes and it’s still not done.
 
It’s a vicious cycle.
 
I started the first draft of my second novel in November 2015. But I didn’t finish it until February 2016. And it’s not because it just took me that long. Not at all. I started it in November and then I stopped working on it for almost 2 months.
 
I was only a handful of scenes away from being finished with it when I met a mentor in February 2016 who inspired and motivated me to FINISH.
 
So I did. I wrote the rest of the first draft—as crappy as the writing may have been—and I called it done. (Don’t get me started on how long it’s been taking me for the revision, mostly because I haven’t been being consistent until the last month or so.)
 
And finishing that first draft didn’t take me very long, once I set my mind to the fact that it was DONE and it would be done that month. Yes, I still had to take the actions and do the writing, but by making the decision that it was done, the words flowed a lot easier and I got it done within the 30-day timeframe that I set for myself.
 
How did I do it? Here’s how…
 

1. Decide On A Daily Measurable

 
You don’t have to write based on word count or page count or even scene count. But you can. And you should write based on at least one of those things. Otherwise you’ll have no idea if you’re making progress or not.
 
The feeling of doing the writing is amazing and will definitely motivate you, but seeing actual progress in black-and-white will really, really motivate you.
 
Action Step: what daily measurable will you use to ensure you’re making progress on finishing your first draft?
 

2. Get Yourself Some Accountability

 
This is super important. I wouldn’t get half the stuff I get done every day if it weren’t for all of the accountability I have set up in my life.
 
I’ve got an accountability partner for the things I want to get done each week. I’ve got an accountability partner for things I want to get done each day. And I’ve also got an accountability partner for the things I want to get done each month.
 
And yes, I need this many. I need more! Because self-set deadlines and keeping yourself accountable only goes so far. At some point, you’ll need someone outside yourself to help you out. (Unless you’re someone who is super good at self-accountability. But let’s just be honest—most writers and creators are not.)
 
I see myself as a leader. And a leader doesn’t show up to an accountability session and say that they didn’t do what they said they would. Creating built-in accountability has quadrupled my productivity.
 
Action Step: who can you find in your life to hold you accountable to doing your writing? Choose someone who will actually hold you to doing what you said you would, otherwise it won’t be very useful.
 

3. Find A Writing Sprints Partner

 
Writing sprints are basically timed periods of writing where you try to get as many words written as you can. Usually you do a writing sprint with a partner or a group of people (you could do it alone with a timer if you really wanted to, but it’s not as fun).
 
All you have to do is set a time to meet up virtually (you can check in via Facebook message, email or text message), and then decide on how long you’re sprinting for. Then you’re off and writing until the time is up.
 
For example—you could decide to meet up online at Noon and then do a 15-minute writing sprint and check in. Or you could decide to sprint until 12:30 and then check in.
 
How you do the writing sprints doesn’t really matter. But doing them, and especially with a partner, is major motivation to get out of your head and into action.
 
Action Step: who can you do writing sprints with? Find someone and get some writing sprint sessions set up pronto.
 

4. Use A Timer

 
I don’t care what you’re doing—writing, reading, watching TV—almost everything works better when you have a set time for how long you’re gonna do the activity for. Using a timer for my writing and other projects has seriously changed my life and amped up my productivity in a major way.
 
I like to do things in 15- or 21-minute sessions (sometimes 31-minutes if I really feel like it), and then take a break for a few before starting the next thing. That may not seem like a lot of time to work on your writing or creating or whatever you’re doing, but think of it this way… add 21 minutes a day up over 7 days. Then add it up over 14 days. Then add it up over 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, etc.
 
And 365 days of writing for 21 minutes a day equals 7,665 minutes, or around 128 hours of time. Now imagine if you actually worked on your novel or writing project for 128 hours over the course of a year.
 
What you’ll find is that it’s enough. It’s enough time to actually make progress and get somewhere.
 
I’ve been revising my second novel for 15- to 21-minutes a day for the last month and I’m already more than a quarter of the way through. And I’ll be speeding things up and finishing the rest next month (more details on that below).
 
Action Step: find yourself a timer if you don’t already have one (or use this timer here). Start writing and creating by the timer. Do it daily.
 

5. Give Yourself A Deadline

 
Pretty obvious, but deadlines are a way to motivate yourself to take action. If you know something is due by a certain date, you’ll get it done.
 
But just in case you’re not great at self-set deadlines (as so many writers are not), that’s where the other stuff on this list comes in.
 
Action Step: open your calendar right now and set a deadline for when you will finish your first draft. Then use the other action steps to get it done.
 

6. Create A Distractions Checklist

 
I created a distractions checklist as a way of helping me focus. Here’s what it consists of:
 
> 10 minutes to check Facebook and/or email (set a timer to keep it to exactly 10 minutes)
 
When timer goes off…
 
> Close browser completely
 
> Turn on writing playlist
 
> Flip phone face down on the desk so I can’t see the screen (put it on silent if it’s not already)
 
> Start writing (use timer—15-30 minutes)
 
Having this checklist allows me to wind down the things that distract me so I can focus completely on getting writing done.
 
Action step: create your own distractions checklist that you can use in your writing life.
 

7. Commit to 15 Minutes of Fitness A Day

 
This could be taking a walk, lifting weights, running on a treadmill—whatever feels fun for you. When you’re committing to finish something in 30 days, it’s important that you keep up your energy.
 
Getting in some daily movement, even for just 15 minutes, is enough to do that.
 
Action Step: choose a movement-based activity that you love and do it for 15 minutes. Repeat daily.
 

8. Fill Your Fridge with Snacks that Fuel You

 
Yeah, it’s fine to have some chocolate or other snacks to munch while you’re writing. But don’t overdo it. Otherwise you’ll just feel sluggish and uninspired.
 
If you’re finishing your novel in 30 days, there’s a good chance you’ll eat several meals in front of your laptop. So give yourself an energy boost and actually stock your fridge with some healthy stuff.
 
I like to stock up with chia pudding, homemade chocolate, popcorn, raw veggies with dip and things like that. (Although lately I’ve been trying not to eat high-carb stuff, so popcorn is out for me… except for when I go to the movies 😉 )
 
Action Step: make a list of foods to have on hand when you’re finishing your novel in a 30-day period.
 

9. Join the FINISH Your Damn Novel Workshop

 
Sorry—had to plug this one right here. Because this workshop will seriously change your life if you follow along and do the work.
 
The FINISH Your Damn Novel workshop will help you become a finisher, which is pretty much the most important thing you need to be. At least if you want to be a pro writer.
 
Pro writers finish what they start. And then they take the next step. And eventually they publish. Then they do it all over again.
 
Want to be a pro? Then it’s time to step into the big leagues and finish what you started.
 
 
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
 
 
#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

My #1 Trick For Busting Through Procrastination and Creating Consistency in Writing and Life

It’s been quite a journey for me these last 9 years as I’ve transformed from Queen Procrastinating Writer to the writer and author I am today. It’s been a hell of a ride, and it’s only just getting started!

And I’m constantly thinking about and reflecting on how I do things and what has actually created results or helped me to achieve what I was going for.

I do this mostly because my writing business is about sharing my life and my writing journey with you and the rest of my community. I’m a teach-from-the-trenches leader. I believe that teaching from your journey is one of the most powerful ways to connect with an audience and build a following.

Yesterday I told you about how I transformed from where I was in 2008, the Queen Procrastinating Writer; a woman who HATES cleaning but avoided doing her writing by scrubbing the bathroom floor on her hands and knees with a sponge… to who I am now: the author of 10+ books (and counting), 2 of which have been Amazon Best-Sellers, and having written more than a thousand blog posts, sharing my journey and documenting my life and experiences and all that I’ve learned along the way.

But this morning I was thinking about it and there’s another trick I use to bust through procrastination and get results FAST. I do this all the time and have for most of my life.

Now this trick isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not something most people do successfully, because there’s a lot of BS that comes with it (excuses, Upper Limit Problems, Resistance, etc), and it’s hard to push through and stay committed.

But for those who are willing to do the work and willing to stay the course no matter what kind of life chaos arises, it’s the BEST way I know to bust through procrastination and Resistance and all of the excuses in the world.

Here’s what it is… 

Force yourself into doing the work by raising the stakes big time. 

There are several ways you can do this. Here are three of my favorites:

1. Step Into A Leadership Role

When you’re leading others, you have to show up and walk your talk. Otherwise you’re not gonna have people following you for very long.

Being the leader forces you to take things to a whole new level with your mindset, your actions and your results.

This is by far my favorite way to push myself to raise the stakes, do the work and go all in. I made myself a best-selling author on Amazon, multiple times over, by deciding that 2016 was the year it was going to happen for me, and then making myself massively accountable to it by launching a membership site called the Bestselling Author Mastermind, where I told people they could watch me become a best-selling author.

SCARY! Because what if I failed? Or what if I didn’t get the results?

But here’s the thing about stepping into a leadership role… when you know people are counting on you to do what you said you would, you show up and you do the work.

And when you do the work, you get results. You can only fail if you give up.

By forcing myself to step up as leader of the BAM group, I acted my way into best-selling author status. And I’ve created an awesome community of writers who are actually doing the work and getting results.

Leadership isn’t for everyone. It’s definitely something you need to already have inside you or something you deeply desire to cultivate for yourself.

It’s tough to lead. Because you’re putting yourself out there in a big way. You’re being visible and you’re standing for something. And you’re also opening yourself up potentially for haters and judgement by others.

It comes with the territory. Which is why it’s not for everyone.

But if you feel like you have leadership qualities, stepping up and taking the lead on something that you want to create for yourself (for example, I wanted to be a best-selling author on Amazon so I forced myself into it by starting a group where I told people they could watch me make it happen), can help you overcome procrastination practically overnight.

It’s so rare for me to procrastinate on anything relating to my BAM group (or other workshops and programs) because I know people are counting on me to do what I said I would. That has been a key factor in me being able to push through my procrastinating behaviors.

Now this also may mean you’re starting much before you’re ready. That also comes with the territory. If every transformational leader in the world waited until they felt ready, there would be no Tony Robbins, no Mastin Kipp, no Ghandi, no anyone.

Great leaders are never ready, they just show up and do the work anyways. You can choose to do the same thing.

Journal Prompt: where can you step into a leadership role so you can start to achieve the goals you desire to have? Brainstorm ideas for ways you could use leadership as a way of getting your writing done.

2. Challenge Yourself

This is another one of my favorite ways to raise the stakes and bust through procrastinating writer behaviors. I’m always challenging myself to do things that I want to be doing, but am not currently doing.

Last year I wanted to clean up my writing habits and get them aligned with the success I wanted to create for the year. So I gave myself a 30-day challenge to clean up my mindset, clear out the old and start building writing habits aligned with my goals.

And I, of course, invited my community to join me, because that’s how I bring the leadership role into it for an additional kick in the pants to do the work.

But I’m always creating challenges like this for myself. A month ago, I challenged myself to get off sugar and carbs. And I’m about to step into a 30-day challenge to finish my damn revisions (more details on that below).

When you’ve got a challenge going on, you’re less likely to procrastinate. And it also helps to pre-plan some kind of reward for yourself so when you finish the challenge, you can feel like you really accomplished something and get rewarded for it. (And if you don’t finish, then boo, no reward for you.)

Journal Prompt: how can you give yourself a challenge as a way of raising the stakes for yourself, forcing you to do the work and be consistent?

3. Make It A Game Or Contest With Yourself

This is one other way I raise the stakes and kick procrastination to the curb. This one is similar to challenging yourself, but it’s slightly different because it’s more about seeing how far you can get, not about setting a specific number of days.

When you’re playing a video game, you’re always trying to get as far as you can into the game before you “die” and have to start over (or give up the controller to the next player). You can apply this same principle to whatever you want to achieve in your writing life (or life in general).

Figure out what your goal is or what new habit you want to create, and then make it a game for yourself to see how many days in a row you can do that thing before you “die” by missing a day (if you miss a day, you have to start all over again, sorry!). You can use an app like Don’t Break the Chain to keep track or just mark Xs off on a calendar.

Be sure to have some kind of reward set for yourself along the way, like if you make it 15 days you get something and then you get something better when you make it 30 days and so on.

A few years ago I was growing my hair out because I wanted it to be long for my wedding. But I have a hard time with long hair because it drives me nuts and I always end up cutting it. So to help myself not do that, I decided to make a game with myself (and then a couple of my friends joined in) to see how many different hairstyles I could come up with.

I ended up doing one new hairstyle a day for 30 days and I documented the whole thing on my personal Facebook page (which is how my friends got involved). This helped me to use my creativity to solve a problem I was having, rather than just saying fuck it and cutting the hair off.

This works just as well with procrastination. Because if it’s a game for you do sit down and do your writing every day and you’re keeping track of how many days in a row you do it and you’re rewarding yourself along the way, there’s no reason for you to procrastinate anymore.

Journal Prompt: how can you create a game for yourself around creating new habits or getting your writing done? Brainstorm some potential games you could create.

I hope these three “raise the stakes” actions help you to bust through your procrastinating behaviors so you can create massive results in your writing and life. If you try any of them out, I’d love to hear how it went. 

Write with a purpose, live with intention,

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. The doors are now open to FINISH Your Damn Novel–30 days of kick-ass motivation, inspiration and getting-writing-done for writers who have started a first draft or the revision of a novel and want to FINISH.

>> Full details and sign up here

Process + Strategy = Clarity That Helps You Become A Finisher

In May 2007, I moved from California to Texas. I moved to California after college for an internship at a magazine out there (that then turned into my first full-time job). It was a long way from the place I once called home back in New York.

But I was excited about it. I loved the idea of not doing what I thought I’d do after college (which was move to NYC and get a job at a magazine). Instead, I accepted an internship that was 3,000 miles away from everything and everyone I’d ever known.

It was scary, but I was also really ready for a new adventure.

I ended up loving California. It suites me. It made me feel like I should’ve been living there my entire life. And then I met a guy, and about a year after we started dating, he asked me to move back home to Texas with him.

So I took on a new adventure. And it was that adventure that solidified what I wanted to do with my life.

I was going to be a writer. 

Now this may sound strange, considering I’d already been writing my entire life, went to college for journalism, and then graduated and moved across the country for a job working at a magazine. But all those years, writing felt like something I was dabbling in. It felt like something I hadn’t quite given myself permission to do for real.

So in the fall of 2007, I took a fiction writing class at one of the local community colleges. And I even started reading nonfiction books about how to write (something that was totally foreign to me at that time… I barely cracked a book cover in college).

That got me thinking about writing a novel again.

I tried writing a novel so many times in the past. I’d sit down with what I thought was a brilliant idea and just start writing. But a few thousand words in I’d quit, feeling like the story was going nowhere and that I had no idea what I was doing.

And then for my birthday that year, my good friend who’s also an author, sent me a DVD of The Secret.

I’d heard of it, but I wasn’t super interested. In fact, I put off watching it for almost four months. Until January of 2008 came around and I realized it was time to make my same annual goal: to write my novel.

But that year, I decided to take things on in a whole new way.

So I watched The Secret and it changed everything for me. I finally understood all the stuff that had happened to me in my life and how I’d achieved the success I’d achieved so far (even though the success was mediocre compared to what I really wanted to be achieving).

I was hooked on the Law of Attraction. I knew that I could use it to create anything I wanted in my life. I’d already been doing it subconsciously since I was a kid, but now I had words to explain what I’d been doing, and to better understand how I could use it in my life.

So I set a goal… write the first draft of my first full-length novel by my birthday that year. 

Three months in, I had gotten nowhere. So in March 2008, I started a blog called Procrastinating Writers and I was going to blog about my journey to writing my first novel. I knew that I was a major procrastinator and I needed to overcome this bad habit if I was ever going to be the writer I saw myself being.

The problem was procrastination was all I knew. I’d spent so many years putting off the things that really mattered to me it was damn-near impossible to convince myself to change.

I tried everything. I tried forcing myself into it, I tried tricking myself, I even tried doing everything else that needed to be done first so all I had left to do was write… and I still found ways to wriggle out of it.

So I hired a writing coach to keep me accountable to doing the work. Week after week, I’d write chapters in my novel and send them to her. And two weeks before my birthday, I wrote “the end” and officially finished the first draft of my first full-length novel.

I was SO proud of myself!!

Until I discovered that my story was a total mess and my writing coach didn’t have the skills needed to explain craft to me in a way that actually made sense. So there I was, with a 65,000+ word story that didn’t work.

I was depressed. I’d just spent a year of my life working on something that was a total disaster. And trying to revise it just kept me going in circles. Because no matter how much revising I did, nothing was working.

Fast-forward a decade.

The wannabe writer I used to be is so far from the writer and author I am now, I sometimes have a hard time believing that used to be me (although not that hard, as I’m still a procrastinator in some ways, just not when it comes to my writing). That I used to put everything else in my life ahead of the one thing that really mattered to me… my writing.

Today, I’m a writer and author who shows up to the page, every single day, multiple times a day, and gets shit done. I’ve written and published 10+ books and counting, including that novel I’d been dreaming of publishing for 18 years of my life. (And I’m already working on the revisions of novel #2).

And when I look back at the last decade+ of my life to think about what really changed for me and what really got me to this moment where I am today, there are two things that stand out to me:

1. Process

For such a long time, I had no idea that craft even existed and when I finally found Larry Brooks, that changed everything for me as a storyteller and writer. But even with the knowledge of craft sitting right in front of me, I had no idea how to actually implement it on my own stories.

It wasn’t until I began to create processes around getting my writing done where things started to turn in the other direction.

Having a process to follow, even loosely, is the best way to ensure you go all the way and finish.

2. Strategy

Process is great, but without strategy, process is just a list of steps. But when strategy comes into the mix, that’s when the process is taken to the next level.

Because once I had a strategic process for implementing craft on my own stories, it made things a million times easier and clearer for me. And that removed my need to procrastinate.

It turns out I was mostly procrastinating because I had no clue what I was doing. Creating a strategic process allowed me to remove the overwhelm, to be very clear on what needed to happen in my story when and where, and to have a way of practicing over and over again until I finally got it right.

For me, clarity removes the barriers to getting stuff done. And so by having a process and strategy for planning and developing and then writing a novel, I’m able to stay focused and FINISH. 

Finishing is the most important part. Any writer can start a story or write the draft of a novel. But it takes serious process and strategy to go all the way and finish.

Having a repeatable process that’s clear, simple to follow and easy to implement (well, easier anyhow, as writing a novel is not at all easy) allowed me to become the writer and author I am today.

So now I create processes and strategy around EVERYTHING that I do. I have a process for going from idea to published nonfiction eBook. I have a process for taking a story idea, vetting it, developing it, planning it and turning it into a story roadmap that tells me everything I need to know so I can write my first draft. I even have a process for getting my blog posts written and published each day.

Now these processes and strategies shift as I continue to learn, grow and master the writing projects that I take on. But it’s having process and strategy that has made the biggest difference for me.

It’s easy to procrastinate when you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t have a process for doing it and don’t have a strategic way of implementing what you’re learning into your actual writing project. But it’s hard to procrastinate when you’re clear on what you need to do and how you need to do it.

Having a process and a strategy for getting your writing project DONE is what brings FUN and ENJOYMENT back to being a writer. 

You often hear writers talking about the struggle. They’ll say writing is hard, it’s so much work, and they have a hard time forcing themselves to sit down and put words on the page.

But it SO does not have to be like that!!

You just have to open your mind a little bit and allow yourself to have a process and strategy for getting your writing projects done. Process and strategy isn’t formulaic. Not at all!  

It just provides you with a guideline for how to do whatever it is you’re trying to do. It’s my belief that more writers need process and strategy in their lives, and it’s (part of) my mission to give it to them.

Which is why I’ve created the The Story Revision Kit: Process + Strategy for Revising Your Novel.

This kit contains everything you need to work through the revision of your story, including: 

> Revision Process Overview–this audio will walk you through all the steps in the revision process, so you know exactly what to do and how long it will take you.

> The Revision Checklist–this checklist will help you work through each piece in the overall story revision process, making sure you cover ever step.

> The Craft Checklist–this checklist will help ensure you actually have all the most important pieces of writing a good story in your novel.

> The Writing Voice Checklist–this checklist will help you make sure you read and revise your draft looking for the stuff that makes your prose suck (things like repetitive words, prepositional phrases, bad grammar, etc.).

> Scene Writing–this video overview and cheatsheet will walk you through the scene and sequel sequence that your story needs and how to use it to revise your draft.

> Common Revision Problems–this audio will help you defeat three of the most common problems that plague writers who are revising.

> How To Know When You’re Done Revising–ah, the question that’s on every writer’s mind… how do I know when I’m done? This audio attempts to answer that question.

> Finding An Editor–this resource PDF has contact info for several editors as well as links for additional places to find editors at all different price ranges.

> Recommended Reading–because studying the art of writing stories doesn’t end with a first draft, this list of recommended reading will help you take your revision to a whole new level.

>> Grab you copy for only $7 here

Write with a purpose, live with intention,

 

 

#DailyThinkDifferent #DreamLifeOrBust

P.S. The $7 price on the Story Revision Kit is only good ’til Sunday March 19 at 11:59 p.m. EST. After that it goes up to full price. Don’t delay if you want to get your hands on it! Grab yours here.

4 Ways A Twist Ending Can Ruin Your Story

NOTE FROM JENNIFER: this is a guest post from author and story coach, Devlin Blake. Enjoy!

More so than any other story, horror and suspense endings are not always predictable. Sometimes, the hero loses. Other times, there’s something else at play that changes the story entirely at the last minute.

Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales From The Crypt, Are You Afraid Of The Dark? and the Sixth Sense are all remembered fondly for their great endings. So naturally, a new horror suspense writer wants to build a great twist ending into their story to make it memorable. However, if a twist isn’t done right, it will not only be ineffective, but it will make your story completely unreadable a second or third time.

These kinds of stories also don’t garner fans eager for you next book. (Or movie. Look at M. Night Shyamalan.) So let’s look at the mistakes that come with twists. (Warning, spoilers ahead.)

1. The Twist Is Obvious 

In horror and suspense genres, readers expect a twist. They don’t always get it, but they still expect it more than any other genre. This makes tricking them tough.

They’ve already seen all the twists, so now they’re just trying to figure out which twist your story has. After all, they know its coming.

Example: The Secret Window

This was not one of King’s best works, and as a movie, it was even worse. We see Rainey slowly going insane and getting blackmailed by a neighbor who shows up at all-too-convenient-of-a-time.

Even the neighbor’s name, John Shooter (shoot-her) was a dead giveaway. So there’s no surprise once we realize Rainey is Shooter and he kills his ex and her lover.

2. The Twist Breaks The Rules 

There are ‘rules’ in your story world that you set up and these rules create a contract with your reader. The contract states that this story isn’t a waste of their time. Stories that break these rules will not get a chance with a second book.

The most common way to break the rules is for the reader to discover that nothing your character did mattered. It was all some elaborate ruse, dream, or they got a reset button so they could avoid the whole thing. That makes all the vicarious experience and concern for the main character moot, since they were never in any real danger. The reader feels deflated after that, like a balloon with all its air let out.

Example: Shutter Island

Shutter Island is a great movie, the first time you see it. But after you know that Cobb is mentally ill and the entire thing has been one big show to snap him out of it—and it didn’t even work—the entire movie becomes unwatchable. I’m sure you’ve noticed how no one ever talks about this movie anymore.

3. Too Much Time Is Spent On The Twist 

Writers often spend so much time working on the twist, that they don’t spend enough time on character development, world-building or creating an interesting plot. A story with a ‘meh’ ending still has a chance at greatness if the rest of the story is there.

However, a story with great twist won’t last long if the twist is everything. The story still has to be there; the reader needs to be transported into other worlds and other viewpoints the same as any story.

Example: Alfred Hitchcock Hour

It’s surprising to think that the master of suspense had this problem, but he did. Because his half hour show was so popular, network executives decided to give him a whole hour and see how he did. The answer was, not well.

The suspense was too drawn out, which is basically the same as using short story techniques in a novel. It doesn’t work. Problems that were minor in a half hour, such as a lack of character development, became glaringly obvious in an hour format.

Today, his half hour show is remembered more fondly than his hour show.

4. It Ruins Characters The Reader Is Emotionally Invested In 

This talks about one very specific twist: the good guy who turns out to be a bad guy. While certain stories do this very well (example: The Usual Suspects), other stories get caught in the paradox.

The problem is the character we like and bonded with during the story didn’t just switch sides—he was never there in the first place. That makes our emotional investment in him feel worthless and all the actions a bit silly.

The world just became a colder place with this reveal and we don’t’ like the story as much.

Example: Angels and Demons 

This is another movie that’s only good the first time you see it. We spend the better part of the movie trying to save the Vatican leaders and getting to know the young forward-thinking priest, McKenna. While the movie is exciting and holds our interest, we discover that McKenna is the one responsible for the kidnappings and murders in the first place. Even worse, he’s not forward-thinking at all. He plans to bring back punishments on scale with the Spanish Inquisition. All that time we spent getting to know him was wasted. This makes the movie great the first time, but not the second.

Twists are a hard thing to pull off, particularly for the new writer. For every story with a great twist, there are many more with twists that don’t quite work. One of the problems with twists is that readers can see them coming a mile away.

This expectation can ruin the story if you let it. Yet if the twist is part of a well-thought out, well-written story, you can expect readers to keep re-reading your books, even after they know how it ends.

About the Author: Devlin Blake believes that craft matters and that great stories need structure and rhythm. Learning structure early in her publishing career changed everything for her. And now she coaches emerging horror and suspense writers on everything from craft to pacing to doing away with writers guilt. Devlin is able to write four books a year thanks to the systems she’s created in her writing life. Get free access to her best systems for writing your novel in between work, life and family, here.

The FREE “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks Read and Discuss Event Series

The new year is upon us, and with it a refreshing sense of what’s possible. A whole new 365 days to do with whatever we desire.

And one of the things I like to do every year, is re-read my favorite craft book, Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks.

But this year, I wanted to do something different. This year, I’m inviting you to JOIN ME.

I hosted a 7-day livestream series where we read and then discussed the sections of Story Engineering. (Video replays below) 

Why did I choose this book? Because the information in it changed my life. It took me from writing in circles to writing actual stories that were cohesive and worth publishing. It helped me get my debut novel, SoundCheck, out into the world.

It’s the only craft book that ever spoke to me and that finally made me really understand story structure and how to use it. (I was lucky enough to have found Story Engineering back when it was an eBook on Larry’s site called, Story Structure–Demystified.)

Not to mention it’s a best-seller, and Signature recently named it #3 Best Books on Writing.

And if you are following along, I highly recommend you also do the following:

1. Buy (or borrow) a copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks (it’s available on Kindle and in print)

2. Download the Story Engineering Reading Guide that I created to go with this event

The Story Engineering Read and Discuss Series

Additional trust-building content (will add the rest as I go, since I’m doing it live on my business Facebook page–and then sharing the replay into my free FB group):

Day 1 Livestream: Part 1 and 2 in Story Engineering 

Day 2 Livestream: Part 3 in Story Engineering 

Day 3 Livestream: Part 4 in Story Engineering 

Day 4 Livestream: Part 5 in Story Engineering up to “Foreshadowing”

Day 5 Livestream: The rest of Part 5 in Story Engineering 

Day 6 Livestream: Part 6 in Story Engineering 

Day 7 Livestream: Parts 7 and 8 in Story Engineering 

BONUS Live Call

Larry Brooks and I did a live Q&A call, to wrap up the Story Engineering series (Note: I forgot to hit record for the first few minutes of the call so it starts right into the content with Larry)

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Ready to find your story? Grab my FREE story development training + workbook, ‘From “Eh” to “Awesome!”‘ here

How To Go From Idea to Published Novel: A Timeline

NOTE: This is a guest post from my client, Zara Quentin, who just published her debut novel, Airwoman. Enjoy! –jen

How long does it take to write a novel? Years? Decades? You’ve probably been writing for some time–you may even have more than one ‘bottom-drawer’ novel (AKA: practice novel), right?

That’s how it was for me—years of writing drafts I couldn’t bring myself to revise, because I didn’t think it was worth the time or the energy.

In 2015, all that changed. I decided I was going to publish a book in 2016. I’d been fooling around with my writing dream for years, expecting a published novel to be many more years in the making—if it ever happened at all.

I remember making that decision—it changed the way I thought about writing.

Here is a timeline of how I wrote and published, Airwoman: Book 1:

The First Three Months: Idea to Planning (August to October 2015)

I distinctly remember getting the idea for Airwoman. My main character, Jade Gariq (though I didn’t know her name back then), came to me one dark and stormy night in mid-August 2015. She perched on my windowsill, wings and all. She was running from something, seeking refuge. She intrigued me.

Soon after that, in early September, Story Coach, Jennifer Blanchard, ran a free 7-day story planning challenge in the 1% Writers Facebook Group (which I’m a member of) and I started to flesh out my idea based on the character who had visited me that night. I really enjoyed the challenge and decided I’d try NaNoWriMo, which was a few months away. So when Jennifer opened up her NaNoWriMo 6-week story development course, I decided to get on board.

It was around this time that I made the decision to publish my novel in 2016. Call it a mid-life crisis moment, but I suddenly realized that, after having my third child, life wasn’t going to get any less busy. Not in the short term. If I wanted to pursue my writing, I just had to do it. I had to make time for it.

A few days after I’d made that decision, I got an email from Jennifer, revealing her Novel By Next Year course, which involved having her as a coach and guide through the planning, drafting and publishing stages.

It felt like fate. I was in.

So for the rest of September and October, I planned Airwoman: Book 1 until I had a scene roadmap of the entire novel. I had never planned to this extent before—but instead of being bored by the planning, it made me excited to get started writing.

At the end of October, I moved (somewhat unexpectedly) with my family from New Zealand (where we had been living for two years) back to Australia. With three young children, and a house full of stuff, it was full on. In consultation with Jennifer, I put the roadmap aside for a couple of weeks, let NaNoWriMo pass me by, and focused on the move.

Sometimes, life happens, right?

First Draft – Facing the Blank Page (November 2016 – January 2016)

It was about mid-November before I was able to focus on writing again. I took a week or so to look over my scene roadmap again and tweak it in a few places. Then I took a deep breath and dove into writing the first draft.

The first draft is a daunting time for a writer–facing the blank page. However, with a detailed roadmap, it was easier than ever. I didn’t wonder what to write in the next scene. Instead, I thought about the detail of it. I watched the movie of the scene inside my head, then transcribed it onto the page.

And so I wrote. Every day.

Every single day for about two months. I wrote every evening after the kids had gone to bed, during their nap-time (if they went down). I snatched whatever time I could for writing.

I had a goal of writing 500 words per day at least–a small goal, not too daunting. Usually once 500 words is written, I’ll write a lot more. But on an off-day, I gave myself permission to hit 500 words then stop.

I finished the first draft just after New Year, in early January 2016. The first draft came out to about 80,000 words.

My Manuscript Rested – I Did Not (January – February 216)

Although I already had some ideas about how I could improve my first draft, I was determined to give the manuscript a proper rest so that I could come back to it with fresh eyes. I had a six week break before I read through it again.

But I was not idle during this time.

Instead, I set up my author website, a blog and my social media accounts. I developed my brand and the focus for my blog. I worked on, not just creating the platforms, but being active on those forums regularly.

I announced to the world I was a writer and that I was publishing a book. This took a lot of courage–finally confessing to being a writer and giving myself a public deadline.

Suddenly, my decision back in September 2015 seemed to loom. October wasn’t all that far away and I had to finish a book. A whole book! What was I thinking?

Taking A Deep Breath. And Plunging Into Revisions (March to June 2016)

In March, I dared to read through my first draft. Happily, it wasn’t as bad as I feared, though it definitely needed work.

During the first draft phase, Jennifer had been reading through my draft week by week and sending feedback, which I’d held over for the revision phase as I’d wanted to just get the first draft down on the page. She then read through the whole draft again and provided me with copious notes, which I put together with my own to make my revision schedule.

After a first read through, I read it again and made more notes about what needed to change. Then I made a revision roadmap—listing each scene, the changes that needed to be made and a timeline of events. I also drew up some maps of my story world, which helped me to keep track of the action throughout the story.

I learned a lot from the revision process. Firstly, though I would consider world-building to be one of my strengths, more often than not, it didn’t make its way onto the page. I often had my characters moving through a blank canvas and, though I saw the backdrop in my head, readers wouldn’t have that advantage. During my revisions, I needed to set the scene.

I also had to flesh out characterization and character motivations in some cases. A few events needed to be switched around or fleshed out for greater impact.

I also learned that revision wasn’t a chore of a task, as I had always imagined it would be. I actually enjoyed the opportunity to improve the story. That became my goal—working out how to make the story better.

Once I had completed the revision roadmap, I dove into the redraft (the second draft). During this phase, I went through my manuscript scene by scene, taking what I could from the first draft and altering, rewriting or scrapping things depending on what needed to be done. This took most of March and April.

Once that was finished, I read it through again and fixed some consistency errors, made a few more tweaks.

Then, as luck would have it, at the end of June, my family and I had to move interstate (again, somewhat unexpectedly). That took another couple of weeks out of the writing process as I managed yet another move. Luckily, I was in a position to send what I considered the third draft to a developmental editor and some Beta Readers.

An Outside Opinion: Biting My Fingernails and More Revision (July to September 2016)

It was a nerve-wracking time, sending out my manuscript to people I didn’t know and who hadn’t been with me on this journey so far. When they didn’t immediately get back to me, I feared the worst. What if they hated it and were trying to find a way to phrase it nicely? I had to remind myself that they also had busy schedules.

In the meantime, I started to liaise with to my cover designer. It was an interesting process because-–despite wanting something amazing–I really had no idea of what I wanted on the cover. My cover was in his hands! Thankfully, he came back with a number of ideas, which we then discussed so that he understood what I liked and didn’t like, and where we would go with it.

One-by-one, at the end of July and early August, the editor and Beta Readers came back to me with their comments. Despite my fears, their feedback was encouraging. They’d liked the story, but showed me ways to improve it. I really grew as a writer through this feedback. In pointing out where the manuscript needed improvement, I learned both what I’m good at, and what I need to work on. Their advice helped me to improve Airwoman, but I believe it will also help me to improve my future writing too.

At this point, I set down to revise my manuscript again, and also set a date for publication: October 25th! The date loomed on my calendar as I realized how little time there was left.

I revised through August until I felt the manuscript didn’t need any more tweaking. In early September, I got to proofreading. In September, I also worked with the cover designer to finalize the cover. At the end of September the final manuscript went to the formatter to format it for print and Kindle.

a4-airwoman-coverAll Systems Go for Launch (October 2016)

When I picked October 25 for the publication date, I had hoped to have a month to promote the book before it came out. In the end, I had about three weeks as I waited until the final cover, the pre-order was set up on Amazon (along with relevant links) and a free preview was available on my site.

During this time, I went back and forth with the formatter, making sure the interior was as I wanted it, and correcting those last typos (always some!). I set up my author profile on Amazon and Goodreads. I also started blogging about the inspiration behind my book, sharing photos and contacting book bloggers and reviewers to garner interest in reviewing it.

I set up a Virtual Launch Party on Facebook and did some guest posting, trying to get word out about my novel. The marketing was new for me, but I found I enjoyed it—it was a challenge to think about ways to promote my book.

Finally, the big day came. I held my book in my hands. It went out into the world where other people could read it. It was the height of vulnerability—allowing complete strangers to read and comment on my book which, as every writer would know, is like baring their very soul for others to comment o.

But I did it. In a little over a year, I published my debut novel, Airwoman: Book 1. It felt so good.

That’s Just the Beginning

It was one hell of a year! I’ve grown more in the last year as a writer, than I had in the many years of writing before that. By finally giving myself permission to invest in my dream, I took a big leap in learning—about story craft, about myself as a writer and about the publication process. I’m very lucky that I had Jennifer Blanchard to hold my hand throughout the process. Without her, I doubt I would have come so far so soon. Having someone to bounce ideas off, read my work, encourage and guide me has been invaluable.

I’m pleased to have achieved my goal, but this is not the end. I’m not a one-book writer. Obviously Airwoman: Book 1 is the first in a series. I’ve got a series overview fleshed out and have planned the second book. I’m itching to get started on it.

The writer’s journey is an exciting ride, and I’m only at the beginning.

Share With Us

How far along are you on your writer journey? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

About the Author: Zara Quentin is the author of Airwoman: Book 1. She inherited a love of travel from her parents, who took her and her sister on trips to the United States, Europe, and Asia as children. Zara now resides in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. She is currently working on the next instalment in the Airwoman series. You can read the first three chapters of Airwoman for free here.

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If you want help taking your story from idea to published, just like Zara did, be sure to apply to work with me and my team of self-publishing pros. You can fill out the application here.

Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Start Like This

I work with a lot of fiction writers on their stories, and one of the common things I see is what I call Story Ambition. They’ve got major ideas for the stories they want to tell–for a complex theme, a Concept that kills, and a character every reader can root for.

Problem is, they’ve never written a cohesive, engaging story before, not even a simple one.

And that makes it really difficult. Because you can’t just go from zero to 100 in one day. It takes time to learn how to implement craft and to understand it enough to be able to use it in your own stories.

You wouldn’t attempt to jump 100 feet in the air if you’ve never even jumped 50, right? No, you’d first practice with something simple, like jumping 10 feet in the air, and then 25 feet, and then 35 feet. You’d master the principles of being able to jump high. Once you mastered jumping 50 feet, then you’d go for 75 and eventually 100.

And that’s when you’ll actually hit it. When you’ve practiced enough and attempted enough simple heights, that’s when you’ll be able to do the bigger stuff.

But most writers’ Story Ambition causes them to go big right out of the gate.

Now I’m not gonna say that’s a totally wrong thing to do, because it’s not. But it will make your learning curve a lot steeper, and your story planning process will be that much more frustrating.

And let me just add that a steep learning curve and frustration are a part of the story planning and development process. But doing this process will save you from frustration, headaches and heartache later when you write the first draft. (Whereas not planning pretty much guarantees you frustration, headaches and heartache when you discover your draft is a total mess.)

So if you’ve been working on a story for a long time now, and it just doesn’t seem to be working, or you just can’t seem to make it work no matter how many attempts you make, it may be time to consider that your Story Ambition is bigger than your storytelling capabilities.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you may have bitten more than you can chew. It’s fine, we all do it.

What I’d recommend is setting this story aside, and focusing on planning, developing and then writing one that’s simpler. A story with a straight-forward storyline. One that doesn’t require multiple Antagonists or fifteen characters or a series of books.

Because that’s another thing I see a lot. Writers who have never written a cohesive story are trying to write an entire series of stories, sometimes all at once.

Again, not saying you can’t do it, but the level of skill required to pull off a successful series is more than most new or even emerging writers can handle.

Yeah, you know me, I’m positive and believe in unlimited possibility and being able to achieve anything you set your mind to, and yet I’ll still tell you exactly how it really is. And the reality is most new and emerging writers never actually finish or hit publish.

It’s not because they don’t have what it takes or because they’re just not good storytellers. It’s because their Story Ambition doesn’t match their storytelling capabilities.

Which is why I always recommend starting simple and growing from there. Don’t make your first attempt at writing a novel be a six-book series.

This isn’t because you can’t do it. In theory, you can do it. But if you’ve never created a successful story Premise before, how do you expect to create six of them? You’re jumping in the deep end when you haven’t learned to swim yet.

And that’s why your story isn’t working. That’s why you’re feeling way more frustration than you need to be. That’s why you constantly skip your writing sessions and procrastinate on working on your story.

Because your Story Ambition doesn’t match your storytelling capabilities.

Take a step back and focus on developing a really good simple story. When you can do that, try another one. Once you’ve got two or three under your belt, then try something bigger and more complicated.

But when you start with the complicated, you’re starting at a disadvantage. And that will only cause you to lose your confidence and feel like you can’t do this.

When the truth is, you can do it. You’ve just gotta start small.

If you want to knock it out of the park this month and finish 2016 strong, you have to stop getting in your own way.

There are already enough obstacles in a writer’s way without having to invent your own. So, stop.

Share With Us

Have you ever taken on too much with a story? What did you do? 

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Are you ready to write and publish your book? Myself and my team of self-publishing pros can help you make it happen. Apply to work with us here.

Three Examples to Help Illustrate Opposition In A Story

There’s a very common saying (and misconception) in the storytelling world that goes a little something like this: the definition of story is Conflict.

Maybe you’ve heard this before?

And writers everywhere are being mislead into thinking that as long as they have conflict, they have a story. It’s how well-intentioned writers end up with an episodic narrative and no idea where they went wrong.

“But it has conflict!” they’ll argue. “There’s drama and conflict and all kinds of obstacles going on.”

Fine. That’s what there needs to be. But that’s not all there needs to be.

That’s where writers go off track. Because they’re been told for years that the definition of story is conflict. And it’s not.

The real definition of story, is this: opposition. 

No opposition, no story. Period.

And this is what writers get wrong. Over and over again, this is what I see from the writers I talk to and work with. They’ve got a really cool idea for a story, they have conflict and tension and drama. Sometimes they even have an Antagonist.

But they don’t have true opposition, because what the Protagonist wants has nothing to do with what the Antagonist wants, or there’s no compelling reasons for why the Antagonist is doing what he’s doing, etc.

That doesn’t work. A story needs opposition. Why?

Because opposition creates stakes, it creates a journey, it creates something to be resolved. And that’s what a story needs.

If you don’t have opposition, you don’t have real stakes or a real journey or anything that immediately needs to be resolved. Opposition is the thing that makes it all work.

Here are some examples to help illustrate it for you:

Example #1

Movie: Billy Madison

Protagonist: Billy Madison

Opposition: Eric, his father’s associate who’s getting the company instead of Billy

How Eric opposes Billy: Billy is going back through grades 1-12 and re-graduating to try and prove himself; Eric is sabotaging his efforts along the way so Billy fails

Why Eric opposes Billy: because Eric wants to be the new owner of Madison Hotels and stop Billy from taking over instead

Example #2

Movie: Scream

Protagonist: Sydney Prescott

Opposition: ghost-face killer who wants to kill Sydney

How Killer Opposes Sydney: Sydney is trying to figure out who’s after her and she wants to escape with her life, but the killer is psychologically torturing her and plans on killing her

Why Killer Opposes Sydney: because of a back story that Sydney is unaware of (her mom is the reason the killer’s mom left him and his father a few years ago)

Example #3

Movie: Twilight, Eclipse (movie #3)

Protagonist: Bella Swann

Opposition: Victoria and her minion, Riley, who both want to kill Bella (and Edward, her lover)

How Victoria Opposes Bella: Riley builds an army with the guidance of Victoria so they can travel to Forks and destroy Bella, Edward and his family

Why Victoria Opposes Bella: because Bella is responsible for the death of Victoria’s mate, James (from movie #1)

Get it? Opposition = story. 

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, now’s the perfect time to figure out what the opposition will be in your story. If you do that, you’ll be lightyears ahead of the game come November 1.

Share With Us

Who or what is creating opposition in your story? Share in the comments.