Why would you waste your time writing the wrong story?
On the subject of multiple drafts: drafting and re-drafting should not be confused with EDITING (which is a very valuable and necessary process). I define drafts as rewriting the same story in its entirety over from start to end. I spend a significant portion of time thinking about my story so that when I sit down to write I know what needs to be written and how it needs to be written, where form is as clear in my head as content. I could maybe understand writing a second draft for one or two books in a catalog of a dozen. But I cannot fathom why I would do this for every book.
If you aren’t writing the correct story STOP WASTING YOUR TIME WRITING THAT GARBAGE and go back to the drawing board.
I don’t care that Hemingway said you should write 30 drafts of something. I think that if you NEED to write 30 drafts some something, there is a fundamental problem with your process such that maybe you should spend a little more time thinking about your story before you sit down to write it. But then again, I’m not a fan of wasting my own time.
Have you noticed I’ve been trying to write more regularly here? 😉
Today I want to talk about something I hope will prompt some reader responses. I hang out on a couple author forums (notably Kboards) just to see what other people are trying because I’m curious what has and hasn’t worked for them.
Write A Series
I hear this advice given all the time. I’ve HEARD this advice given since I was a kid. If you want to make some money, write a series. It’s not new advice.
In 2014 Write A Serial
THIS seems to be the new tweak to the above adage. If you want to make money, write a SERIAL, and it seems like everyone is doing it!
Okay, but you’re thinking to yourself, technically serials aren’t a new thing–they’re a pretty old thing. Serials are how ACD, Dickens, Poe and a bunch of other authors were published back in their day. True–but I think we can make a distinction between the sort of serials that Poe was publishing and the sort i’m talking about now. Namely, that Poe’s serials were part of a larger work–e.g. a newspaper–and today’s serials are stand alone ebooks.
So, I see people advising other writers to write a serial–readers love them! they say–but this advice always comes with the caveat that these same serials always attract low-star reviews. Specifically low-star reviews from readers complaining about the length of the work.
This brings me to the DISCONNECT I’m seeing between readers and authors. Authors say serials are great, readers love them, they make them lots of money, etc. But then you have a huge chunk of readers unhappy because of the length of the serial and the fact that it is NOT a full story (obvs, it’s part of a larger body of work, it’s a piece, hence serial).
What’s the break even point here? Do readers actually love serials or are they just buying them because that’s how authors keep breaking up otherwise great stories and thereby deluding authors into thinking the serials are doing great because hey, their sales numbers are still good, even though the whole format is leaving the reader cold?
And on a related note, going back to my first point which is GO WRITE A SERIES, this bit of advice is usually coupled with: be sure and use a cliffhanger so that your readers have something to look forward to in the next book. With this, however, I see some unhappiness cropping up over cliffhangers. Are they good? Are they bad? Are they something readers suffer through because they enjoy the story?
What are your thoughts? Do you like serials? Do you hate them? Do you think serials belong as independent ebook entities or does the format really work best as a larger body of work?
You’ve heard the cliche: everyone thinks that they can be a writer. Or that writing a book can’t be that difficult. But anyone who has tried to write a book will probably disagree.
Writing is hard, except when it’s easy, and even then it’s still pretty hard.
For me, writing this month has been slow but steady. Book 3 is chugging along at 15k words right now (hopefully 16k by the time you read this). Definitely not where I wanted to see my word count but it’s a start. Every book begins with a start. And then you have to keep building and adding onto it, until you finish it. For most of us, myself included, this means writing a book is a marathon and not a sprint. It can be hard to keep that in my head.
I want to be a full time writer now. I want to bang out a novel every month or every other month now, but I’m not there yet. At most, I’m a halftime writer. I write fairly consistently but not 40 hrs a week–which is where I would ultimately like to be.
3 Stages Of Being An Author
- Beginner: you’re working on your first story, or maybe your second story, writing when you can but not overly consistently
- Amatuer: maybe you write consistently but you don’t write a ton, you’re averaging a book a year
- Full time: you write multiple books a year, you put in 40 hours a week, you treat writing as your full time job.
A lot of people spend a long time at stage 1. I spent four years at stage 1 calling myself a “writer” but not managing to finish anything. It took me 18 months to write Duality and about 8 months to write the sequel, The Convergence Theory. I thought by the time I would start Book 3 I would be at stage 3 already but I’ve discovered that I’m really still at stage 2: writing more consistently but not putting in enough hours to call this my full time job.
That’s OK. I don’t have to be at stage 3 right this minute. Maybe I won’t get to stage 3 for a couple more years and a couple more books. That’s fine. The important part is that, just like when I’m writing a book, I add onto my writing habits a little more and a little more.
I’m not going to start busting out 10k words a day this week. Or next month. I’m not going to reach my 85k word draft goal by May 1st but I will make it by June first, which is a huge improvement over TCT’s timeline.
Just some thoughts to chew on if you’re feeling discouraged.
- Set goals and meet them, but if you aren’t going to meet one, don’t become so discouraged that you give up or ignore the deadline altogether
- Have patience, both with your work and yourself
- Increase your time commitment, word goals, and publishing milestones steadily–remember the tortoise
- For 75% of authors, making a living is all about building a backlist (eg 10+ published titles), building a backlist takes time
- Even though this is a marathon, don’t hesitate to do tiny sprints here and there to encourage yourself
- Don’t stop writing.
Do as I advise, not as I do. Trust me, I’m not good at always taking my own advise no matter how good it is. That’s another reason I’m still only at stage 2 😉
I’m opening the floor this week to questions about my books (Duality as well as the unpublished sequels), as well as timestamp requests (something you wanted to see more of from the first story or what came after? Give me a prompt and I’ll write you at least 500 words. This is open to pre-story events, porn, and secondary characters as well). Least a comment below or hit me up with an email 🙂
You may have noticed there was no blogpost last week–my apologies! I fully intended to write a short sum-up of my first couple days of Camp this year but Camp had a bit of a late start in Lia’s world.
- The draft for Blood & Bone Book Two: The Convergence Theory is done!
- Writing has begun on Book Three! I’m a little (see: A LOT) behind on my word count but I’m steadily catching up.
- To everyone who has volunteered to beta read book 2–my editor is about 3/4 finished so the book is still on track to reach you by the middle of the month!
- To anyone interested in reading chapter 1 before release day, I will be sending out a sneak peak of Book 2 to mailing list subscribers 😉
- To everyone else, be sure to check back here May 1st for The Convergence Theory cover reveal!! I’m super excited to share it with you guys, I’ve been sitting on this cover for months.
A Few Words About Camp NaNoWriMo Week 1
My goal was to write 2800 words/day. I started a couple days late and I had a couple slow days. So far my mean word count has been ~1000/day. Not great but not the end of the world. I’ve also been interviewing for a barista job and started a 7 Week Walking Challenge, all of which have no helped me be more focused on writing. Nevertheless, the month and my goal of 85,000 words is not lost!
This weekend I’m planning on doing a bit push to close the gap and get my daily word count back down to 3k/day to finish on time.
Here are my 4 strategies for beefing up my word count:
- Outlines: so far I’ve got an outline for the first 8 chapters of Book 3 and I’ll be adding to that the more I write. I use my daily walks to brainstorm (aloud, since I live in a pretty isolated place and I like to talk to myself :))) and then type up what I’ve worked out into scrivener.
- Timed Writes: these are invaluable! I set the online timer for 30 minutes and start typing in scrivener. I can’t do anything else while I’m on a TW except write (this means discipline, no checking social media, no responding to facebook IMs, no reading, nada) and I try not to check my word count until the timed write is over. I find that as long as I’ve got a general idea what needs to happen in the scene, I can bust out anywhere between 700-1000 words per timed write.
- Take Breaks: I break my timed writes down into 30 minute blocks and I take breaks between each block to read, check-in with my writing partner and check twitter. The key (and I don’t always do this well) is to keep the breaks to a reasonable amount of time–e.g. 20 minute break not a 60 minute break.
- Start Early: The day’s I’ve met my word count goals I started early (by early I mean 2 PM, or early afternoon). The day’s I’ve struggled to meet my goals or failed to meet them, I didn’t start writing until 9 PM or later. You don’t have to wake up at 6 AM and jump right into your story, you just have to give yourself enough time to write comfortably.
That is all for this week. If you have questions or comments leave a comment down below or feel free to email me ( liacooperromance AT gmail DOT com) I always love hearing from you guys! And come hang out on twitter @LiaCooperWrites 😀
Buckle up guys; week two is about to begin!
There are two primary approaches to preparing for a new novel: outlining and discovering. People use many different words to describe these two terms but they all boil down to the same spectrum–and don’t get me wrong, writers definitely fall on a spectrum between these two extremes. I know that I do for sure.
Outline means you create a map or a timeline or maybe a traditional outline or a beat outline just something before you start writing. You make a roadmap for your book before you write. Maybe this is really detailed where you write a paragraph or half a page or a whole page for every chapter. Maybe this is as basic as writing down the Beginning, Middle, and the End of your book in bullet points.
Discover writing is the opposite–big shock, I know. Maybe you start with a character or a place and you just start writing. Maybe you just give yourself some time to freewrite and see what grows out of that freewrite. The point is, pure discovery does not involve outlining. It involves writing your novel and seeing what happens, following rabbit trails without predetermining where they lead.
Most Writers Write On A Spectrum
I generally start all of my books with the protagonists–usually there are 2. I know who the story is about but not what it’s about. I might have an overarching theme, but not the plotty details. I will begin writing, a scene or two, then I’ll stop and outline the plot. I don’t really feel that I discover plots. I have to pull them out of a earth that I’ve discovered but they rarely present themselves. I spend a lot of time throwing plot ideas at my writing partner and asking: does that sound interesting? does this sound plausible? And from our discussions I begin to outline a plot.
Generally, I know the last scene in my book before I know what the plot will be, because to me the most important parts are character and character themes.
The more I write, the more I have to outline, otherwise I tend to have really bad writer’s block. For my own sanity, I cannot discovery write the middle of a book because if I left myself to do that nothing would ever get written.
My outlining methods have changed over the years as I’ve written more and as my writing programs have changed. Back in 2011 when I started writing regularly again I did all of my plotting by hand because I wrote in gdocs. I kept a notebook and I wrote the big plot outline in 1-2 pgs (sometimes with post-it notes overtop when things changed) and then I wrote chapter beats in the margins of the pages where I also hand wrote the story.
Now that I use Scrivener to write all of my stories I use Scrivener’s corkboard feature to lay out the story. I often brainstorm by hand but then I put all of those notes into Chapter and Scene files in Scrivener where I flesh them out, rearrange, and sometimes even re-write them.
Preparing For Camp NaNoWriMo 2014
An important part of NaNoWriMo is to start the event with a new project. Something that you haven’t written anything for yet and I actually think this is a good rule. This does not preclude me from planning for camp.
When I wrote The Duality Paradigm I didn’t have much planned. All I knew was that I wanted to try writing a romance novel, that it would be m/m because I hadn’t written het in a while and I often find het romances very problematic. I wanted to write something that would be quick without an eye for anything “literary,” I just wanted to write something fun. So I went with a few of my favorite trope flavors:
- soulbonding (this link to Tv Tropes is the closest I could find though it’s not 100% what I mean by soulbonding)
I had those tropes in my head but nothing else planned. I had to discovery the characters, the plot, and the emotional arc. Suffice to say, The Duality Paradigm was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written.
Now whether you decide to outline anything before Camp starts is a personal choice. I’ve found–through trial and error–that I write more quickly if I have a goal in mind (e.g. some plot or series of points to hit). So I’ll be doing progressively more outlining as Camp approaches. I suggest trying both methods and then see where you fall between those two methods that makes you most productive.
Do you enjoying outlining or do you find it stifles your creativity? Let me know in the comments.
This week I planned to talk about the process I went through writing my first novel, but I think I’ve covered that particular story—most notably last week during my overview of Camp NaNoWriMo—enough on this blog. Instead I’d like to offer the three most important pieces of advice I learned from writing The Duality Paradigm.
Finish It. You’ll hear this sentiment from a lot of advice columns and that’s because it’s true. A lot of people “aspire” to be writers and in some regards anyone who tries to write a novel can call themselves a writer. But until you actually finish something—a novel, a novella, a short story, a screenplay, whatever—you will only be aspiring. And let me tell you something, you can aspire to something your entire life without ever achieving it. If you want to write a novel, write a novel and finish it.
This is key to writing a novel for NaNoWriMo. The daily word count may be difficult to meet and it’s easy to become discouraged if your word count starts to fall behind. It’s important if you decide to try Camp NaNoWriMo next month that even if you miss a day or a couple of days, you must not give up! You might have to kill yourself and write 5000 words in a single day to make it up, but let me tell you, the feeling you get when you finish your novel is intoxicating and worth it.
Be Disciplined. I think the most important decision you can make if you want to take your writing to the next step (from “aspiring writer” to “writer”) is to be disciplined about it. Something I hear from aspiring writers all too often is the expression: I have to wait to be inspired. Once again, you can spend your entire life waiting for Mistress Muse to stroke you. Writing is like anything else—painting, music, building something, playing a sport, making a scientific breakthrough—if you don’t pursue it, you won’t ever catch it. At one point or another, every writer who ever wrote a book had to sit down and write the damn thing and so do you.
You don’t have to write thousands of words a day right out of the gate, but set yourself a goal. Decide that you’re going to write on X days and aim for X words. Just 100 words a day consistently is enough to get your momentum going. Along this same line of reasoning: no one was born knowing how to write the next great novel. If you want to write a good book, you have to learn how to write good. And the only way you’re going to improve your writing is to—you guessed it—write more!
Let Go. At some point, once you’ve made yourself write your novel and write the end you’ll move onto the revision and editing stages (I’m a big advocate for extensive self-editing. Learn good grammar practices and familiarize yourself with the basics of Chicago Style, but always get a second set of disciplined editor or proofreader eyes on your work! No matter how good you are at self-editing you will miss stuff, probably a lot of stuff. This is something I’ve learned the hard way). The revise-and-edit stage can go on forever. At some point you’re going to have to just release your work either into the wild or into your own archives and move on. If you only want to write 1 novel then fine, stop there. But if you’re serious about writing, storytelling, or making a living from your writing it is key that you keep writing.
I wanted to add to this that if you do self-publish your book it’s important to market but don’t get hung up on marketing to the exclusion of writing your next book. I see a lot of new writers—and don’t get me wrong, I’m a baby writer too—asking on forums like the Kboards what they should do to get their book to sell more copies and they only have one book published. Well, hate to break it to you, but in this market the best thing you can do is write your next book.
This advice really goes for any book whether it’s your first or your fifteenth.
What’s your number one piece of writing advice? Tell me in the comments.
Next week I’m going to talk about outling vs pantsing and how I approach writing a new book as our Countdown to Camp continues. Happy writing!
What Is NaNoWriMo?
I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo so long, it surprises me how many people out there have never heard of it.
The name stands for National Novel Writing Month. It began as a challenge hosted by the Office of Letters and Light to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. The key was, kill your inner editor and just write, and was intended to spur a lot of wannabe novelists into becoming actual novelists. It’s a no holds barred, mad dash take on novel writing. It’s terrifying the first time you do it, sometimes overwhelming and frustrating, but absolutely exhilarating to win at.
A lot of people ask me, so what do you win? And I say, “At the end I have a first draft of a novel; that’s what I win.”
2 Ways Camp NaNoWriMo Is Different From Regular NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNoWriMo happens in April and July and embraces the same breakneck approach to noveling with little more leeway. Here are the two ways Camp differs from November NaNo:
- Pick your project: Camp Nano is open to more than just novels. You can write a script, a picture book, book of poetry, etc
- Variable wordcounts: You can pick the standard 50k or you can set yourself a more personal word goal (from 10k-999k)
Why Should You Try NaNoWriMo?
Back in 2012 I told a friend of mine about Nanowrimo, partially so that she would keep me accountable. At that point I’d been trying to win nano for years without ever succeeding, but this was the first year I tried it during the summer and I hoped that with a less hectic schedule I might succeed.
Anyways, my friend looked at me and said, “I’ve always thought I’d like to write a novel. But I don’t have time.” (She’s a full time teacher and November is a terrible month for adding on extra projects.)
I said to my friend, “Why don’t you just try nano with me? We can keep each other accountable. And then if you win, you’ll have finally written a novel and you can stop saying you want to write one.”
She agreed to my proposal and so in the month of June (this was when they were trying June/July as a camp combo) we met regularly, brainstormed, tossed ideas off one another, nagged each other about our word counts and eventually, finished writing 50,000 words each. Neither of our novels were actually complete but this marked a milestone for both of us. We weren’t just people saying we wanted to write a book, we were two people who had written books (or most of 2 books. I have since finished my original nano novel, which became The Duality Paradigm (available on Amazon), and my friend went on to write another children’s books the next summer.)
Camp NaNoWriMo is a great way to ease yourself into writing, especially if November is a bad month for you like it is for my friend.
I’m a firm believer that you can’t wait for the muse to inspire you. That may work in the ideas stage of writing, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of putting a whole novel on paper, you’ve got to be disciplined enough to sit down at your keyboard every day and write. Nanowrimo is a great way to teach yourself how to do that. If you’re just starting out, 1667 words a day sounds like a lot and, believe me, it is a lot. But the feeling of reaching your goal every day and being able to type The End on a 200 page manuscript—well, that’s the whole reason we say we want to write, isn’t it?
The Road To Camp 2014
In March I’m going to be talking about the preparation that goes into writing a novel and getting ready for camp. Then in April, I’m going to share with you updates about my progress. This year, my April camp goal will be 85,000 words and I’ll be writing the third Blood & Bone novel. I’ll also be editing the second book (The Convergence Theory) in anticipation of releasing it in June.
I hope you decide to stick around and see how my progress goes and I hope that if you’ve ever said “I want to write a novel” you take this chance as the kick in the pants to make good on those words.
Planning to write something for camp? Tell me about it in the comments! Or follow me on twitter to chat and stay up to day.
The first serious author’s blog I tried to write was called The Writing Process. Despite having journaled on Livejournal for a decade I didn’t know anything about good blogging habits—not about SEO, tagging, using keywords, proper format (ie news format or the inverted pyramid), nada. I thought that I could write the same way I had journaled. And what’s more, I didn’t think I had useful writing tips to share in a world where content is key. I’ve still only scratched the surface but I’m learning.
The last two weeks I’ve talked about writing habits and how to make your personal writing style work for you. These articles are based on first hand observation of writers I know, read and listen to. I love to soak up other people’s process. What works for them rarely works for me but it’s always interesting to hear how other authors go about writing a novel.
About The Author
My name is Lia and I was historically a Waiter. Until a couple years ago I only wrote sporadically and if the muse was with me. So it shouldn’t surprise you that I never got anything written.
I might never be Stephen King, writing 2000 words a day, six day a week. But through patience I’ve been able to find a happy medium between low-volume daily writing and my natural inclination as a Waiter. I have about 2-3 high volume writing months every year where the muse is flowing and the words pour out of me—I also like rewards so these heavy writing months tend to fall around NaNoWriMo—and I intersperse these heavy writing months with light daily writing months. I may only set a goal of 300-500 words during the lulls. The point is that this goal is something I know I can meet, so I’m always working on my novel without burning myself out.
Writer’s Block Is Real
Not a popular opinion these days. A lot of people will tell you writer’s block is just a writer being lazy or undisciplined but I’m going to tell you that sometimes you don’t know what happens next. Sometimes you’re afraid to work on your story. Sometimes you write yourself into a corner. When this happens, it may be possible to punch your way through the block.
On the other hand, it may also be wise to take a step back and let your brain mull over the problem for awhile.
Good writing habits don’t mean making yourself miserable or trying to be any other writer than yourself. Good writing habits mean finding what works for you and not letting setbacks discourage you.
What Are Your Authorial Priorities?
I write because I love to share stories with people. When a reader sends me an email or leaves a comment telling me that my story impacted them on an emotional level—that is the best feeling in the world. That is why I write.
Writing is hard for me. Being prolific is really hard. I have a short attention span and I’m naturally pretty lazy. For me to be productive, I’ve had to find a balance of structure and time off that keeps my brain happy and my fingers busy.
When you find the balance that works for you, then you too will find success.
As a writer it’s important to be true to yourself, both in what you write and how you write it. The most successful writing habits you can have are the ones that complement your natural proclivities in a productive manner. Just like exercising, writing requires you to establish routines that you want to engage in.
Last week I talked about the different types of writers. Lets take this one step further and consider how you can turn your personal style into a successful writing habit.
- Identify your style. Are you a Marathoner? A Waiter?
- Outline your writing goals. Do you want to write a book? Start a blog? Sell articles for cash?
- Calculate your resources. How much time do you have to commit to your writing goals? Do you need a certain environment to be productive?
Common Writing Pitfalls
The best piece of advice I can offer is this: set yourself reasonable goals. This is true no matter what style of writer you are.
If you want to write every day start with a modest word goal—I would suggest 500 words per day if you don’t write regularly already—and as you continue to meet that goal, start to raise it to the level that works best for you.
If you are driven to finish a project once you’ve started and ID with the Marathoner style of writing, don’t forget to eat something. Sleep. Walk around or do a sun salutation once an hour to keep the blood flowing. The last thing you want to do is burn yourself out before you can finish your writing project. Don’t forget, your brain runs on calories and your body needs good circulation to keep the creative juices flowing.
If you’ve ever told someone—or yourself—that you have to “wait for the mood to strike,” try challenging yourself. Start with short freewriting sessions, with or without your muse. Set a short timer and start writing, don’t let your fingers stop until the time is up.
If you work better with a clear deadline and would like to make some money with your work, consider freelance writing. There are many places online that post writing jobs—Yahoo’s Contributor Network and Elance.com are two good sources. If you are more interested in creative writing consider a writing challenge with a deadline and a support community, such as National Novel Writing Month.
But what if you already know your own writing style and have an established writing routine, and it’s still not working for you? Routines are good but sometimes they can make you feel like you’re stuck in a rut.
Take a day and try out a new style. Take a day off, don’t write anything and read a book. Spend a week making short writing goals—even if they’re just 100 words per day—and challenge yourself to reach them.
In other words, shake things up! Try working on a non-writing project and give your brain a break. Just be careful that you don’t take a single day off and wake up four months later having not written a single word in the interim.
I think most successful writers will agree that the act of writing is a balancing act. Every author is going to have a different sweet spot. As a newish writer, it’s easy to be overambitious, but setting yourself smaller, achievable goals can help build your confidence as well as your “writing muscles.”