Monday, May 13, 2013

How To Write A Book: 8 Ideas On How To Get It Done

So, first, an apology: I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging because my life became a little crazy for a while. To put it all bluntly, I’m getting a divorce (and life got weird). If you want to read more about that, click here:

People ask me all the time… How did I do it? How did I have enough stamina to write an entire 90k word novel? Well, I’m not an expert. I’ve never been published. I'm not Stephen King. There are probably a million articles with ideas on the same topic. I’m just going to say what worked for me.

1. There will never be enough time to write it, so just get started.

It’s true that, for this novel, I had a few months to dedicate myself to it. However, that isn’t why I finished my novel. To be honest, it’s not my first attempt at a novel. I’ve actually got two unfinished novels that I wrote before it (clocking in at 60k and 45k words, respectively). I wrote both of those with a full time job and school all at once. The reason I didn’t finish those is not because I didn’t have the time, but because those weren’t works worth finishing.

My first two novels weren’t good, but they were very important. By doing two novels before this one, I learned how to write. I learned about how my brain needed to process a long, cohesive document.

However, if you want to actually write a novel, you need to get started and make time. Make time means pushing other things to the side. There’s always an excuse to not write. Always. Too sleepy. Hungry. Ballgame is on. If you want to complete a novel project, you’ve got to make it one of your top priorities and push everything else out.

I quit my bands. I used to play music, write lyrics, pen out guitar riffs, plan shows, etc. My band was time consuming, and I had to give it up to get my novel written. Stuff like that. Kill your darlings. Get rid of things you like and work on your lonesome project. That’s how you do it.

2. Set a deadline.

My deadline was to get my book written by my 26th birthday—I did that. My next goal is to make it shiny and publishable by my 27th. These deadlines give me something important—a fear of failure. Without that fear, you really only have excuses not to write more.

3. Keep a word count, keep it up to date.

I had a section on my Word document just for keeping track of how many words I wrote per day. I planned, by my deadline, to have 80k words written. I divided up the amount of words by the number of week days between when I started and my deadline. That gave me the average number of words I needed to write in a day. Sometimes I surpassed the line, sometimes I did not make it. However, I always could total up where I was supposed to be VS. where I was. If I was slacking, I would force myself to push forward.

4. Buy a coffee pot.

lol, caffeine is useful like that. Seriously, though, make sure you have all the luxuries you need to write ready to go before starting. You don’t want to have an excuse to get up and do something else. You say you’ll just pause writing to start the coffee pot, but you’ll really hit the bathroom, check your mailbox, pet the dog, swab your ear, and get some toast while you’re at it. Excuses snowball down the mountain.

Have your coffee ready. Get your favorite slippers on. Make sure the air conditioner is at the perfect level. Pee. Start Pandora. Check your facebook notifications. THEN write without pausing whatsoever. Don’t leave your facebook open; you’ll just get more pings to draw your attention away. Focus is your ally. Don’t get up and do anything else until you’ve hit your word count for the day.

5. Don’t let anyone read it until you’re done.

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I was eager and excited when I wrote my first two novels. I would send out my half-finished chapters for feedback… and never complete the book. How lame.

Don’t write for other people; write for yourself. Write for yourself until you finish. THEN, when your book is completed, complete a second draft with other people in mind. If you think too much about what others will think while you’re finishing your first draft, then you’ll never get it done.

6. Use Pandora for music. Don’t use music that has lyrics to sing to.

If you’re singing along with the music, then you’re not sinking deep into the worlds you’re creating. That’s my experience. Maybe others can handle this differently, but I could not.

Suggestion: Create a new radiostation using the song “Any Other Name” by Thomas Newman. There you go. Instant mood music with very little lyrics. If you want, I can share with your some of my more refined Pandora writing stations, just email me.

7. Don’t reread your entire novel every day.
Press on. Don’t reedit chapter 1 every single day. You won’t help it much, not until you’ve penned the entire thing anyway. Don’t reread your work too much. That takes a lot of time and stalls you. Many people say write quickly, that’s not my opinion, but I will say to not stop and smell your freshly written roses. The old chapters will still be there when you finish.

This sort of goes for parts that you already know suck. Plow through the difficult parts. If you’re having trouble with chapter 2 because you’re excited to get to chapter 3, then bulldoze through chapter 2. Usually, when you get through to the next few scenes, you’ll end up thinking of a better way of handling that past scene that you really struggled with. You can always go back and fix something, but if you hit a road block and quit, then you’ll never have anything to fix. Plow through!

8. During the worst moments of writer’s block, change directions completely. If you’re stuck, insert a random event that causes some chaos.

I once had a few days of writer’s block, then I decided to write out a random event. In my case, a bird flew down and attacked a boy. He got scratches on his face. That was the entire thing. I wrote that randomly, as opposed to what I was planning, because sometimes you need to inject a little chaos into your work to get it flowing again. Eventually, the sidetrack will find the main road again (and in my case, the bird attack became a major plot device). You can always go back and delete the random event, but that moment of chaos and spontaneity can really make you think differently about a particular scene.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!