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:
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.
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.
Write with a purpose, live with intention,
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.