I taught university classes for five years on a part-time basis – night classes and weekend classes. I love to teach. I stopped teaching after the birth of my second son, when having a full-time job, a baby, a toddler and a household became just too overwhelming. I had to cut back somewhere so it was the part-time job that went. Since then, I’ve been a learner instead of a teacher.
In the past year, I’ve ventured into the world of self-publishing. I figured that my background in teaching might make me a good source of information for others out there who are considering entering this brave new world.
The very first piece of information is this:
WRITE THE DAMN BOOK!
You’ve thought about writing a book now for days, weeks, years, decades — since you read Charlotte’s Web as a child. You’ve daydreamed about it, you’ve imagined characters and a setting and even a plot. You’ve imagined going to a bookstore and seeing your book in print or for sale on a website. You’ve started and not been able to finish several novels, dropping them after a few chapters. But you really want to write a novel and think you have what it takes to finish one.
TIP #1: WRITE THE DAMN BOOK
As Robert Heinlein once wrote, first, you must write. Second, you must finish what you write.
That is the most important bit of advice. You can talk about writing, you can daydream about it, you can fantasize about being the next EL James or Dan Brown. But if you don’t have a finished novel, you’re just a dreamer. A wanna be. You can call yourself a writer, because you write, but you can’t call yourself an author unless you actually have published books. So do whatever it takes to finish your book.
Some good software to use to help you write the damn book is Scrivener. I have a copy of it and it helps organize your work into chapters and scenes and compile your book once you’ve completed it. Take a peek and see if this kind of software appeals to you. Every writer is different so what works for one won’t necessarily work for others.
TIP #2: WRITE EVERY DAY
Seriously. Every successful writer who has opined on the matter has repeated this writer’s rule. The single most important bit of advice to new writers? WRITE! DAILY! TO A QUOTA!
That’s it — set yourself a daily quota of words and then sit your ass down in a chair in front of your computer, typewriter or notebook and write.
TIP #3: WRITE YOUR QUOTA OF WORDS
Don’t stop until you make your quota.
Did you know if you write a singe page a day, you will have a novel in 320 days? Not ten years. Not even two years. I year.
If you write 2 pages a day — a mere 500 words — you will have a novel finished in 160 days. 5 months!
If you write 4 pages a day, you will have a novel in 3 months! Think of that! (this is my daily quota and I stick to it, sometimes even going over it)
TIP #4: START WITH THE END IN MIND
Having problems finishing that book?
Keep getting only part-way in before stalling?
You may be having trouble because you don’t really know what you are writing about. You don’t really know what your story is. There are aways around this problem. I suggest starting with the end in mind. This is a way that businesses strategize to complete projects. They start with the end in mind.
In other words, know what your book’s ending is. If you know this, you can think about how to get to that end. Say you are writing a romance novel. It has a happy ending. How exactly do they get together in the end? Once you know the end, you can work backwards and think of the events that lead from the start of your book to its conclusion. Write three or four major events linked in time. Then, at least when you’re writing, you will know what happens next in the larger sense of things. You will always know where your characters will end up, even if you don’t necessarily know exactly how they get there.
TIP #5: KNOW YOUR STORY
I use the “Snowflake method” of novel writing in order to tell myself what my book is about. This helps you figure out what your novel is about. Then, take that outline / design and start writing. Write until you finish. Do minimal editing.
TIP #6: GAG YOUR INNER EDITOR
Get the damn draft complete. It’s not really until you’ve written 80,000+ words and finished the novel that you really know your story. Take that inner editor and handcuff her or him to the back of your mind each day when you sit down and write your quota of words. Don’t let him or her out again until you have a finished first draft. Yes, a lot of what you write may be pure crap, but you can always revise that crap and turn it into something good or even great.
Ask my first readers. They’ve seen the first draft and know I needed to do a lot of revision to fix things.
TIP #6: END YOUR WRITING SESSION IN THE MIDDLE OF A SCENE
Keep getting writer’s block? Don’t know how to start writing when you sit down to write?
One surefire way to overcome it is to end your writing session in the middle of a scene so when you come back the next day, you will read over your previous day’s work and get right back into the scene, anxious to finish it.
So now you have a finished draft. What do you do now?
TIP #7: GET OTHER PEOPLE TO READ YOUR MASTERPIECE
Seriously. You need other eyes on. You need people to give you honest feedback, preferably several who are not your husband or mother or best friend. Find readers in your genre and ask them for feedback. As for first readers. Then listen to what they say. Nothing a first reader has ever said to me has been bad advice. It has usually always addressed real problems or weaknesses.
Once you have a finished revised novel, you have to think about what to do with it. There are options. You can go the traditional publishing route or you can self-publish.
My next writing post will be about that choice.
In the meantime, keep writing!