Novel Writing

Writing a Book: Overview

I found this article incredibly helpful. Through it I was able to put my writing into perspective. I hope you all enjoy it too.

Empowering Your creativity

I’ve been a book coach for 19 years, working with people all over the world on memoir, novels, self-help books and even film scripts. I began my career as an international journalist (in newsrooms like London’s Financial Times).

People come to my company, Art of Storytelling, wanting to write and publish a book. Few understand the stages involved. I’m creating an outline of the stages here, and expounding upon them on my YouTube Art of Storytelling stream. Subscribe to both blog and stream to keep posted on more on the publication process. We assist people wherever they are at in the book writing process, from rough draft to publication.

Rough draft

Duration: On average, a rough draft takes a new writer one to two years to complete.

Skill sets: In this phase, you’ll be learning to develop characterization, setting, plot and theme.

Biggest Lesson: The greatest lesson you…

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Novel Writing

How to Create a Consistent Writing Habit

Writing seems so easy when we start out, doesn’t it? When an idea hits you square in the forehead, and you are in awe of your imagination. You picture yourself tucked up in the corner of a cosy cafe, latte steaming, and with pages of magnificent prose on the laptop before you.

I wonder how long it takes the average writer to realise their idealistic views will not materialise? We all reach the point where our coffee sits beside us, stone cold, and we despair at the task ahead.

When this happens, it is so easy to let our motivation wane and to put our writing on the back burner. Stopping when writing gets hard is pure folly. Think of writing like building muscle in the gym. If you were to stop exercising the moment you felt a prickle of sweat, there’s no growth, no improvement, and no point even starting. It’s the same with writing. You will never write a novel if you give up when it’s hard. 

So how can we keep our motivation levels high and build a consistent writing habit?

Set aside dedicated time – If you only write when you fancy it, eventually you will stop altogether. Let’s face it, sometimes an hour watching Netflix is preferable to an hour spent writing. You can generally find something else you’d rather do than write (sleeping in for instance), so you need dedicated time which is devoted to writing and nothing else.

Celebrate mini victories – Celebrate when you hit a word count milestone, or when you’ve written every day in a week. Reward your hard work, and don’t let progress go unnoticed.

Push through the wall – When you sit down to write, and everything you attempt to write seems wrong, keep going. Just write the rubbish that comes to mind and keep going, after all, you can fix things later on. If you push through, most of the time the words will start to flow in earnest.

Ensure you have enough fun in your life – If your whole life is writing it might just kill the joy of it. Personally, I have to ensure I spend time with my friends on a regular basis, because I am an extrovert and writing is quite an introverted activity. For others, it may be running, or painting or computer games. Just make sure that you plan in fun time. Not only does it energise you, but it also gives you more ideas about what to write.

Make yourself Accountable – Find someone who will ask you how your writing is going, and then answer them honestly. This could be a spouse, or a writing coach, perhaps even another blogger. Just make sure that someone is keeping you accountable.

Best of luck fiction writers, I hope that this post has helped you. I would like to leave you with some wise words written in a comment on my blog earlier this week by Stephen R Gann

“Consistency builds connection, which leads to a strong, concise completion.”

Novel Writing

The Importance of Empathy when Writing Fiction

You can’t write a book unless you are empathetic. 

I bet some of you adamantly disagree with that statement. Of course, you can write an instruction manual or perhaps Non-fiction, but can you write fiction without empathy? I don’t think so.

The Oxford English dictionary described empathy as –

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

What have feelings got to do with writing fiction? Well, if you think about it, quite a lot.

The old saying goes “write what you know”, but as I’m sure you’ll be relieved to find out, most thriller novelists don’t know what it feels like to murdered in an alley. They haven’t been in a high-speed car chase, and they certainly haven’t lived the life of a serial killer. So how are they able to write about these topics?

They have empathy.

Many people think that this is a wishy-washy, bleeding-heart characteristic that isn’t of any real value unless you are a counsellor or a priest. Empathy is actually incredibly useful in many situations, especially in fiction writing. You can imagine and understand how your characters would feel in a situation you have never been in.

So next time you read a novel about violent murders or abuse, don’t panic, you are only reading the result of the writer’s empathy, not psychopathic tendencies. If you are a writer, I would advise one of the best ways to create authentic characters, is to learn to empathise with as many people as you can. It will transform your prose.

 

Novel Writing

On Writing Novels: The things no one warns you about

Shock horror! How DARE she? What kind of writer does that make her? You mean you don’t LOVE every second of every minute that you are writing? She’ll never make it!

That’s what I imagine people will think when I admit there are things about writing that I hate. I mean hate, not just dislike. However, part of me wonders whether there isn’t something that every aspiring (or even, god forbid it, published!) authors can’t stand about writing. So, I’m going to let brutal honesty flow onto the page, and I’m hoping that it will encourage others who feel the same.

Getting up so damn early

When your alarm sounds and you’re shaken from blissful sleep three whole hours before you start work, just so that you can write. You hate the commitment, you hate the sacrifice, but most of all, you just plain hate being out of your warm, cosy bed. You sit, bleary-eyed in front of a computer screen, yawning, and dislike the practice intensely. Any other early morning writers feel the same?

When the words come faster than your fingers

When you are on a roll, and it seems as if the story is playing out in front of you, without any control on your part. Everything is so much better in your head and ideas are springing up left right and centre. Even though you’re a very fast typist, you still can’t keep up, and little gems of descriptions are lost into the big wide world.

Verbs that should exist, but don’t

You know the moment when you can see an action so clearly in your head, but there just isn’t a verb that you know of to describe it? When your mind is crying out for you to use an adverb, but you know that’s the lazy way, that there must be the perfect verb out there, so you try to find it. You sit for an age staring and tapping your fingers, and then you give up and use the adverb anyway, because, you can’t for the life of you find the perfect verb.

Lack of Confidence

That feeling that pounces when you are midway through a sentence, where your stomach drops and your heart beats faster. The little voice in your head which asks “are you really good enough? Why would anyone want to read what you have to say?”. It’s soul destroying, and it takes a person with real grit to shake off the thought and carry on regardless.

There are many reasons why writing a novel is hard, it’s the equivalent of a Marathon if writing were a sport. It takes training, dedication, and sacrifice, but despite all that, we love it. No matter what we achieve, writing a novel is worth the pain. For all the things we hate about writing, there are abundantly more things to love.

 

 

 

 

Novel Writing

How Not To Write… A Novel

This is a brilliant post about how to write a novel – I found it very encouraging and I hope you do too.

How Not To Writte

They say everyone has a book inside them (and we don’t mean in the ’embarrassing visit to A&E’ sense). We all have a story to tell, a journey to share or an idea that sounds like it could be worked into a passable novel.

But if you’ve just come up with the best idea ever for a chick lit flicker – featuring the forbidden love between a chocolate company owner and his down-at-heel cleaning lady – how do you get this blockbusting idea out of your head and into 100,000 words or tear-enducing literary prose?

Do:

  • Commit to writing, a LOT, and then some, and then some more, again… and wash, and repeat.
  • Learn the basics of editing skills. You don’t need swish software but you DO need patience and – in our opinion – rewards for getting your edits done. Chocolate works well (Ed: there’s a theme emerging here……

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Novel Writing

5 Tips for New Writers

So, you’ve decided to write a novel. You have your story burning a hole in your chest, and you can’t wait to get it down on paper. Setting the pen to the notepad, or the fingers to the keys, you set off with speed and passion. Before long, however, you find that this isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. Shame fills you as you realise that you aren’t nearly as good as you hoped you would be. Don’t worry, it happened to me, and it happens to us all. 

Here are a few tips I have picked up from my first ten months or so of writing, I hope they help. Keep going, you’ve got this.

Read as much as you can

The chances are, that if you want to write a book, you love to read. The temptation to stop reading when you are writing is immense. You may find yourself comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate, or you may even analyse technique so much that you lose the magic of getting lost in a story.

Don’t do this! Read for pleasure and forget about writing. You will absorb technique and form subconsciously so don’t stress about analysing things too deeply. Enjoy reading, and keep doing it. N.B. this is a tip which Stephen King gives in his fantastic book “On Writing”.

Experiment

Don’t panic about getting everything right. You will make mistakes. Big ones. Just write, keep writing, and make mistakes as you go. If you wait until you feel you are getting everything right before beginning your first draft you will NEVER begin.

Have some fun, forget about grammar (until you come to edit), forget what’s good and bad practice and just let the words flow. Let the crazy in your mind come out and run with it.

Change things up

If you start something and halfway through you realise that you’ve written it in the wrong tense, or your main character isn’t working, stop. Just stop and restart. There is no shame in leaving a pile of unfinished drafts behind you or rewriting a story ten times before you actually decide how it ends.

You will learn so much in your first few months writing, as I have done. You will find you’ve been making huge mistakes all the way through. Wisdom says to go back and change things.

Let your imagination go wild

Play with your characters, put them in the most dramatic and unlikely scenarios, just for fun. I’m not saying this will make an excellent book, although perhaps it would, but it will spark a passion in you for pushing boundaries. Who knows? Maybe the next great idea for a novel comes out of letting your imagination run free. Be silly, have fun, and enjoy yourself.

Be bold

Don’t be afraid to write what you mean. The best writing is not timid, it is deliberate. Don’t say “James opened the door angrily and shouted” when you could say “James wrenched the door open and bellowed.” Don’t say “He replied sadly” when you could say “His lip started to tremble as he answered, and a tear slid down his cheek.”. When you are bold, you use forceful verbs instead of adverbs, and you describe the physical traits emotion rather than just telling us it is there. This technique makes for excellent prose.

These are my own, humble, opinions, and I’m sure others will have many more tips and advice. I would love to hear from anyone else who would like to impart some wisdom, I am always on the hunt for it!

 

 

 

Novel Writing

Can you really Write your First Draft in Three Months?

Any of you who have read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” will know that he makes some bold statements in this fascinating book. It’s a cross between an autobiography and advice on how to write well, it’s an entertaining read, and I’d recommend it to anyone, aspiring author or not.

One part of the book which left me opened mouthed was his advice on how long it should take to write the first draft. He advises that it should take no more than three months to write.

 

Three months? That’s impossible!

I’ve been working on my first draft since August, so I’m coming up to the ten month mark, nearly three times over the advice that Steven King gives.

Does this make me a failed author before I have even finished my first draft? I thought so when I first read that advice, but since then, I’ve realised it probably doesn’t. A huge proportion of the last ten months has been spent learning how to write. I don’t mean the basic skill of putting pen to paper, but the ability to weave a, hopefully, interesting story out of words.

So, why would Stephen King give this advice? Here are some the reasons I think this could be a brilliant strategy –

  1. You don’t get bogged down by technique.  It’s easy to forget that you are telling a story when your mind is constantly focused on adverbs, or passive voice, or sentence starters. It’s exhausting! So getting stuck up to your elbows in the story and barreling on without regard to technique could be the key to unlocking a cracking story.
  2. It prevents self-reflection. I often find that partway through a writing session a thought will pop into my head telling me I am a rubbish writer and no one will ever want to read what I have to say. If the purpose of your first draft is to get it down on paper in whatever format it comes in, as quickly as possible, then you don’t have time to worry about whether or not you are good enough. You are simply telling the story to yourself, and hopefully loving the process.
  3. If something doesn’t work, it is easier to say goodbye. I am on the last version of my first book idea. I have written it in so many different tenses, points of view, and orders yet I have never finished it because each time I can see it’s not working. If this current POV and tense structure don’t work, I will have to say goodbye and start on a new fresh idea. If I had been working on this for a month, rather than ten, the process of goodbye would be a whole lot easier.
  4. No more boredom. I think most authors get bored of their books at some point. It’s blinking hard work, and pretty repetitive too. This approach will keep the boredom at bay, at least for the first three months.

What are your opinions on this strategy? Have you written a draft in three months before? If so I would love to hear from you in the comments session.

Novel Writing

How often should a new author write?

As a budding author and newbie writer, one of the most pressing and early questions you ask yourself is how often you should write, and if it’s okay to take breaks. Hopefully, this blog will help you to find the right answer for you.

Try out different schedules

Sometimes the best way to work out when to write is to try different times and see what works. Simple huh? When I first started my novel, I decided to write for an hour each evening. This didn’t work so well, mainly because I kept falling asleep… I am not a late night person. Next up I tried to steal a few minutes here and there and write on my phone. My writing became disjointed, and I lost my flow, I found I needed uninterrupted time to write. Next, I tried my lunch break. Again, this didn’t work, phones were still ringing, and I couldn’t focus. New plan. Mornings. This is working far better. For me as a morning person, I can concentrate so much better. Trial and error is a brilliant way to find your writing zone.

Make a commitment

Don’t just write when you feel like it. Writing is hard, so eventually, you will need to push through your feelings and make it a habit. If you don’t commit to a certain amount of time to write, it just won’t happen. Be dedicated and conscientious. Discipline is critical, nobody has achieved anything great without it.

Keep your space sacred

I wrote without a desk for the first six months or so, and my back didn’t thank me. I don’t like being constrained, and I love variety, so I thought this would work. However, I have found that if you find a comfortable and productive space (desks are, it turns out, perfect for this) and return to it each day, your productivity will increase. Is it psychological? It might be, but whatever the reason it works for me.

Be prepared to sacrifice

Whether it’s time at the pub, late night telly, or a few extra hours in bed, you will need to give something up to make time to write. For me, this means waking up at 5.30am. Ouch. But it’s the only time I know I can give my full attention to writing on a regular basis. Nothing worth having comes easy, and writing is no different.

Be kind to yourself

You will not be able to stick to the rules you have set out for yourself one hundred percent of the time. It’s a fact. We are human after all. Progress, however, takes place in the eighty percent of the time when we do hit our targets. That’s when the magic happens. When you fail, be kind to yourself, it’s ok. Just don’t let the fear of failure stop you from even trying because the eighty percent will never happen.

Take breaks sparingly

There will be days when you don’t feel like writing. Resist giving in to the temptation of skipping a day. Quite often the problem isn’t that you need a break, but that you need to push through a difficult patch in your story. If you write anyway, you’ll probably find that you finish your time energised and excited by your progress. Just keep on keeping on.

 

Novel Writing

A scary-easy way to help you find passive voice!

I found this amazing blog post about Passive Voice on Grammarly’s blog today, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you all. To see the real post, click here.

A scary-easy way to help you find passive voice!

Passive Voice

Odds are high that you have, at some point in your life, had passive voice marked on an essay or piece of writing. Odds are higher that you probably had no idea what in the world that meant. Basically, it is this. Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence. (Active voice is when the noun doing the action is the subject.) Let me explain with an example.

The house was haunted.

“The house” is the noun being acted upon, in other words “house” is the object of the verb “to haunt”. It’s clear here that the house is not doing the haunting. It is not doing the action. It is receiving the action. However, it is the subject of the sentence, which makes this sentence a passive voice sentence. (In an active voice sentence, the noun performing the action should be the subject. In this case, the active voice version would be: “Ghosts haunted the house.”)

Using “by zombies” to help identify passive voice

If you are still having trouble understanding passive voice, here is where Rebecca’s idea can help. Usually (but not always), passive voice can include the actor, usually following the verb. Basically, if you can add “by zombies” after the verb and it makes sense, you probably have passive voice.

The town was attacked (by zombies).

Yes, this makes sense; therefore, it is a passive voice sentence. To make this sentence active, you will need to put the noun doing the action in the subject location of the sentence. That is: “Zombies attacked the town.” Now we can check for passive voice:

Zombies attacked the town (by zombies).

No, this doesn’t make sense; therefore it is active voice.

These are simple examples and not every passive voice sentence will be identifiable with this trick, but it will help for a significant number of examples. If you would like to help others learn how to identify the passive voice, leave your tips, tricks, and exceptions in the comments!