I Did It! What I Learned While Writing My First Novel…and How It Will Help You (Part 2)

In Part One I talked about four lessons I learned while writing my first novel. Here are another three for you:

  • When You Want To Procrastinate, Nothing Will Get You Moving–Picture this: You’re one chapter away from being finished with your first novel. You’ve been waiting for this moment for years. You were starting to think this day would never come.A week later, you’re still one chapter away from being finished with your first novel. You’ve been waiting for this moment for years. You were starting to think this day would never come.A week later, you’re still one chapter away…Ok, are you sensing a pattern here?

    Procrastination is a killer, especially to the novel. Remember, people often fear success because of what might change, so it’s not all that uncommon for someone to be a chapter shy, a few scenes shy, whatever, from finishing their project and then they set it aside and never complete it.

    I thought that was going to be me because I was one chapter away and I had the most delicious bottle of champagne chilling in my fridge, waiting to be cracked the moment I wrote my last word, and it still took me almost three weeks to finish my final chapter.

    Thankfully, I was able to step around my fear (of success, of failure, of my first draft sucking, etc) and finish my novel. And drink that delicious bottle of champagne.

    When this happens to you, lean on your RB. Tell them exactly how you’re feeling and let them reassure you that everything will turn out great. They’re right.

  • “Shitty First Drafts” Are an Urban Legend–Ok, maybe not an urban legend, but they’re definitely a myth. When I finished my novel and sat down to reread the whole thing, I realized that I actually had a pretty damn good first draft on my hands.Sure, it needs editing–what first draft doesn’t? But I feel like I have a complete story that has no major plot holes, no major “bad” writing issues and best of all, it’s actually pretty compelling.So stop being so hard on yourself about writing your first draft. When I think I’m writing my worst, it usually turns out to be some of my best. And you’ll find the same thing with your first draft as well.

    And if you do find some parts that make you want to hurl (ok, so maybe it was a bad idea to use that cliched love scene as the turning point in your book), it’s ok. Take a deep breath and relax. That’s why they call it a first draft!

  • It Goes By So Fast–When I look back on the whole novel-writing process, I realize that, after years and years of talking about writing a novel and sitting around thinking about it, but taking no action, when I finally sat down and wrote my novel, it actually went by so fast I don’t remember most of it.

So don’t let the fear of how many hours or weeks or months you’ll have to spend dedicated to writing this novel stop you from writing. When it comes down to it, if you set yourself tight deadlines (I gave my writing coach two chapters a week, for example) and meet them, you’ll get your book written so quickly you won’t even know how you could’ve procrastinated for so long.

I hope the lessons I learned while writing my first novel help you to finally get your novel written. Remember, negativity is always going to make your writing “bad.” So keep a positive, upbeat attitude and remind yourself that your story is worth writing, so sit down and write it!

I Did It! What I Learned While Writing My First Novel…and How It Will Help You (Part 1)

Well here we are. On March 22, I invited all of you to come with me on a journey to a place I like to call, “the first draft of my novel is complete.” So here we are, on October 1. I’ve finished my first novel and I can’t be anymore stoked about it.

 

So…how did you do?

 

If you’ve gotten to this point in the year and you still haven’t kept your commitment to yourself and to your writing, it’s ok. Or maybe you never made a commitment to start with.

 

Whatever is holding you back, let it go. Just let it go and finally sit down and write your novel (or screenplay or poem, you get the idea…). Trust me, it’s not as hard as you think.

 

And to prove it, I offer you what I learned writing my first novel…and how it will help you:
  • Plot Outlines Work–I used Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot Outline to figure out the basic plot of my novel and it changed everything for me. Not only did I have a pretty good idea about where the story was going, I also was able to stay on track and make sure the story kept moving along.If you’re one of those writers who has a hard time just sitting down with a blank Word document and writing, I highly recommend using an outline. It makes things much simplier. I even wrote mini-outlines for each chapter…which brings me to the next thing I learned…
  • Have “Goals” For Each Chapter–I didn’t write all the details of each chapter down in an outline before I wrote the actual chapter. But I did start with the first chapter and say to myself, “Where does the story need to go from here?” and then I made bullet points for where it needed to go in a notebook.Then I started writing. I tried to follow the list, but I also strayed a little when my characters had a better idea than I did.When I thought the chapter was over, I ended it and moved the events I thought were going to fall in the current chapter to the next chapter.Having goals made it so much easier for me to stay on track with the story and make sure I didn’t have any holes in my plot.
  • Find a “Reliability Buddy”–Find someone you trust, a friend, sibling, parent, significant other, etc., and ask them to be your “reliability buddy” for your novel. Sit down with them and set some writing “deadlines” for yourself. Pick something that’s not too quick, but not to far off either.Choosing a tighter deadline will help you have less time to scrutinize yourself/your book and more time to just get the writing done.Then ask your RB to keep on you to hit your deadlines. Also, it helps if you have a meeting once a week. And this doesn’t need to be a long meeting, even five or ten minutes on the phone to check in and see how you’re doing or to get a quick pep talk if you need one works.Having a person to answer to and set weekly goals with is another good way to stay on track.
  • Embrace Your Support System–When the going gets rough–or you get blocked/feel uninspired/want to throw your computer out the window–it helps to have a person (or group of people) you can turn to for support.I hired a writing coach to be my RB and help me stay on track, but she also ended up being a great support system for me. Whenever I was feeling stuck with the story or wanted to quit writing it altogether, I turned to her for support and she would always talk me away from the delete button. She is most definitely one of the main reasons my book is finished right now.Even though I wrote the book, my coach was a vital part of my success. She not only kept me organized and on track, but she allowed me to see things from other perspectives and make my story the best it could possibly be.

Stay tuned for Part Two of what I learned, coming this weekend.

3 Tools You Need to Write A Novel


There are lots of writers whose dream is to write a novel, but so many of those same writers never follow through with it.

Why, you ask?

Because they don’t know the three tools every writer needs to complete a novel. Here are the three tools that will take you from novel-writing dream to novel complete.

1) A Desire to Write a Novel–Though this seems kind of obvious, you’d be surprised how many writers really have no desire to write a novel, they just dream about doing it because they think “that’s what writers are supposed to want.” Not true. Writers should write whatever it is that makes them happy, whether that be a screenplay, short story or a novel.

Writing a novel takes a lot of hard work and commitment. It’s not something that you can complete by closing your eyes and wishing for it to happen. You have to actually work at it and spend time each day (or as often as you’re able to) writing.

Having a desire to write a novel from start to finish makes the entire process that much easier because when you desire something, and I mean truly desire it, not just desire it because you think you should, it makes the overall process a lot more fun and you’ll be more willing to stick with it.

2) A Deadline–Every writer who wants to complete a novel must have a deadline. Deadlines are extremely important to writing success because it gives you a specific endpoint.

Having a deadline to work towards will help you make better decisions when it comes to “should I write tonight or should I watch that rerun of Pretty Woman on TBS?”

And an in-flexible deadline works better than a deadline that you can change. This being because when you know there is no way of getting out of the deadline, you’ll also be able to think clearer about other activities that aren’t as important as getting your writing done.

3) Support–All writers need support to get their writing done. This is especially important for procrastinating writers. Having someone to answer to will keep you writing.

The support can come from a friend, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, neighbor, writing coach or a combination of them all–anyone who will keep you on track, give you a pep talk when you’re uninspired or stuck, and encourage you along the way.

When I was gearing up to write my novel, I needed to first figure out if I actually did have a desire to write one. After realizing that I did, I hired a writing coach to help me stay on track (since I’m a major procrastinator, I knew self-set deadlines wouldn’t work for me).

Her and I set a deadline that seemed reasonable (Sept. 22, which was my 25th birthday), and we were off and running. I wrote as much as I could each week, and turned in to my coach 2 chapters every Tuesday. Then we had a 30-minute meeting each Thursday to talk about the chapters I turned in and for her to give me a pep talk whenever I needed one (which was pretty often as it turns out).

Knowing that I had a long-term deadline and a weekly deadline to hit made me procrastinate less and made me get my novel finished on time (early, actually. I finished a week and a half before my deadline!).

So tell me…how did you get your novel written? And if you still haven’t written your novel, but you truly desire to, try out my three tools for novel writing success, and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Why You Should Write Every Day, and How To Do It

One of the themes of this blog is writing everyday. And if you want to be a writer, and especially a professional writer, you need to write everyday no exception.

Now what you write is the least important thing. You can write anything you’d like: fiction, poetry, a non-fiction article, etc., just as long as you write!

The blog post, How to Write Everyday and Why You Should, by Daily Writing Tips shares these tips for writing fiction, blogging or journaling everyday:

Fiction

  • end each day in the middle of a scene
  • have a target number of words or pages to aim for everyday
  • count planning, outlining and editing as part of your writing

Journaling

  • you don’t have to write in your journal first thing in the morning
  • pick a time of day that works for you and journal at that time everyday
  • view writing in your journal as a treat or reward

Blogging

  • write several posts at once and publish them throughout the week
  • having a deadline and sense of responsibility to your readers is a great way to stick with writing every day

The reason I bring this post up, is because the comments section is outstanding. So many people shared tips and tricks for what helps them write everyday.

Here are some of the things people shared:

  • There are a couple of things that have kept me going — one is that I know my
  • father reads it at work with his sandwich, so have to post by lunchtime; and the
  • other is that I get the occasional message from a reader who says that Three
  • Beautiful Things is helping them through a dark time — so I’m haunted by the
  • feeling that someone out there might be waiting for a post.–Clare
  • I find that I feel better when I write (is that the definition of an
  • addiction?). Hence, I write every day because I feel better.
  • Journal writing- everyday at 10AM
  • Short stories – written 6-8PM two or three nights a week
  • Blogs- 1PM
  • Having a book in progress is the easiest way to write everyday.

To see more comments from this article, check out DailyWritingTips.com.

Review: Write Is A Verb

This is by far the BEST book I’ve come across on getting writing done (and I’ve read a lot of them)! As a full-time (well, almost) procrastinator, I had been putting off my writing FOREVER!! But after reading Bill’s book, I am happy to say that I am 16 chapters into my novel, and hope to be finished in the next couple weeks!
The difference this book made for me was this–Bill says that it’s ok to work in increments, rather than forcing yourself to spend hours upon hours writing. He suggested starting with 15 minutes of writing time a day and working your way up from there.
The other major thing that made a difference for me was–Bill says that writers should do what works for them, not what works for other writers. Each writer is unique and has a specific way of getting things done. I used to beat myself up because I’d sit down and write something, then I’d find out it was full of holes, and rather than editing it, I just tossed it aside. But not anymore! Bill made me realize that it’s ok to do things how I need to do them.
I was always under the impression that to get writing done you had to do like I was taught in all my creative writing classes–just sit down and start typing away. But that doesn’t work for me. For me, plotting the story out ahead of time works. And not only does it work, but it keeps me from having enormous plot holes and makes the whole writing and editing process a breeze.
If it weren’t for Bill’s book, I may have never realized that it’s ok to do things my way. If you’re looking to get your writing done…pick up Write Is A Verb, by Bill O’Hanlon.

Share: What Inspires You?

According to Wisegeek.com, “Many artists, writers, poets and musicians have said that their creative work has been inspired by an individual whom they refer to as their muse. A muse is someone who has such an influence on another that he or she becomes the focus and inspiration for that person’s creative work.”

Writers often talk about their muse and how it helps them get to work on their creative projects.

Every writer has something that inspires them–a person, a place, a song, etc. And in order to get and stay inspired, you need to figure out exactly what inspires you and channel it.

If it’s music that inspires you, listen to the same CD every time you write. If it’s a place, go there and write as often as you can. Or if it’s a far-off place, get a picture of it and keep it by your computer when you’re writing. If it’s a person, try to have that person around when you write, or at least keep a photo of them with you.

Another way to channel your muse is to sit down for five to ten minutes before you start to write and think about the person/place/etc. Remember times you’ve spent there or fun things you’ve done with the person.

By listening to the music or thinking about the person/place, you’re reminding yourself of why it inspires you and it will help continue to inspire you.

My muse is John Mayer. Even though I don’t know him, his music and his public personality have inspired almost every story I’ve ever written, including the novel I’m currently penning. Whenever I’m writing, I always listen to John Mayer (ok, sometimes I also listen to Seether, but whenever I’m writing my novel, I listen to John). This helps me channel the inspiration and keeps me writing.

Share With Us

So what inspires you? Who/what is you muse?

Take A Break Every Now and Then


Writers are some of the hardest working people I know. Most of my writer friends are writers by day and writers by night. But working at magazines and freelance writing and in marketing and public relations departments all day long sometimes makes it hard to go home and continue working on that novel or screenplay or memoir. I know that happens to me a lot and I wish I could just work full-time from home so I could dedicate my time to my fiction, but you have to make a living somehow, right?

Writing all day long kind of sucks the creativity out of me. So what usually happens is, I end up spending very little time writing my novel and when I am writing it, I get burned out quickly.

Oddly enough, for a project at work, I’ve been researching and learning about job burnout. The symptoms of project burnout include:

  • Inability to concentrate on the task at hand–working on your project
  • General apathy, particularly in issues relating to your project
  • Lack of interest in socializing because you feel like you have to spend all your free time on your project
  • Inability to have fun
  • Feeling like nothing ever happens with the project
  • Feelings of stagnation
  • Feeling that no one cares what’s going on with your project
  • Feeling that everything is wrong or is not working out
  • an overall negative attitude

In order to be a writer for the long-haul, you need to takes breaks every so often in order not to get burned out on a project (especially when you write all day long).

Here are some ways to avoid project burnout:

  • Take a mini-vacation–go away for the weekend with your friends or significant other, take a day trip to the beach, go visit a friend who lives in another city. Anything you can do to take your mind off your project for a little bit is good.
  • Switch off–it’s good to be working on a couple projects at the same time* so if you get blocked on one you can work on the other. This helps me immensely with not burning out, but I also find by working on two or three projects simultaneously that when I’m working on one project, I’ll get ideas for the others.
  • Take a Break–leave the project for ten minutes, an hour, whatever and grab a cup of coffee, or take a walk around your favorite local mall. Getting your mind off your project for even a short period of time can help when you’re blocked. By thinking about something else, I always get ideas for my projects.

*One word of caution–don’t try working on more than three projects at one time or you may risk spreading yourself too thin. Instead, try to dedicate your time evenly to all of your projects. And ignore this caution when a project takes off; when this happens, you’re better off running with it and coming back to the other ones later.

Writers Take Note: Practice Makes Perfect

In the most recent issue of Shape magazine, Venus Williams, a tennis star and winner of numerous titles, talks about her seven ways to get motivated. And her first way involves practicing. She says:

“You have to practice to develop your talents–and learn to enjoy putting the effort in, otherwise you won’t succeed.”

She then explains that she does two hours of training per day in the gym and four hours per day on the court.

 

Procrastinating writers can learn a lot from Williams. She’s motivated, dedicated and, above all, reaches her goals.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time putting in the effort and writing, which is the main reason why I don’t write most of the time. But this is something I, and every other procrastinating writer, needs to move past. If we’re ever going to succeed in our writing goals, we need to practice, practice, practice…and love doing it.

 

The best way to get started with practicing is to write, and write often. No more skipping days, no more “I don’t feel like writing,” no more “but there’s a rerun of Seinfeld on that I’ve never seen before.”

 

And you don’t need to jump into this and make a huge commitment. As Bill O’Hanlon says in his book, Write is a Verb (which I will be discussing in a later post), write for just 15 minutes a day to start. That’s it. Just 15 minutes. Eventually you’ll start to fall in love with writing and want to write for longer.

 

So do you think you can write for 15 minutes a day? Let’s try it together…then come back to let me know how you’re doing.

How To Push Through Blocks On the Road to Success

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” -Thomas A. Edison

That quote really struck home for me recently. I’ve been working on a lot of projects and I’ve been feeling like nothing is happening and I should just give up. But then I recalled this quote and told myself to keep on going. And it worked. A couple of my projects (including my novel!) have finally started to take shape, and I’m really excited about them again!
So I just wanted to share this with you because, as a procrastinator, I know, I understand how hard it can be to follow through on a project, especially when things start looking down. But you have to push through it.
There are always going to be times on the road to success where things get a little bumpy. This should be expected, but instead of allowing these bumps to throw you off course, let them be an opportunity for you to learn something–something about yourself, something about your project, something about writing.
Nothing worth it in life is easy.
And as they say, “A bend in the road isn’t the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.”

Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

By Jennifer Blanchard

I came across the most amazing book (and then found out it was one of four in a series of books!) called Post Secret: Extraordinary confessions from ordinary lives, by Frank Warren.

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.

PostSecret began as an art installation for Artomatic 2004 in Washington, D.C. The simple concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions were (or are) made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams.

Since Frank Warren created the website on January 1, 2005, PostSecret has collected and displayed upwards of 2,500 original pieces of art from people across the United States and around the world.

The site, which started as an experiment on Blogspot, is updated every Sunday with approximately 20 new pieces which share a relatively constant style, giving all “artists” who participate some guidelines on how their secrets should be represented.

from Wikipedia

Not only is this a fantastic idea, but a great place to get story ideas, as well. After reading through my copy of the book, I came up with about 15 new story ideas!

So the point of this post is to get you thinking about–and looking for–places where you can get story ideas. Sometimes it’s the last place you’d think, sometimes it’s the first. But if you’re always on the look-out for ideas, then you’ll never be able to say: “I’ve got nothing to write about.”