It’s not for the faint of heart or the weak of resolve
My father always told me:
To be a success you either need to do something no one else wants to do, or do something everyone else wants to do and do it better than everyone else.
Yikes. Take one look at the picture above and literally everyone gets a fuzzy, heart-happy, nostalgic, dreamers-dream of sitting at a wooden desk at a clickety-click typewriter with a simmering cup of hot coffee sitting next to them, and long leisurely days of plinking out a finely-crafted novel.
OK so not literally everyone, but damned close to it.
Well, as I have just finished plinking out my first draft of my first novel, let me tell you, the nostalgia is malarkey. You may quote me on that.
The nostalgia is malarkey
Let me tell you what it is…
*It is a lot of saying to your family, “I am working.” *It is being harassed 24/7 by the characters living, talking, acting out various scenarios–in your head. *It is late nights and back aches. Neck aches and headaches. *It is stressing over whether or not you can tell the story that will honor the characters. *It is worry that your audience will not love the characters as much as you do.
*It is hoping your readers will be just that–READERS.
*It is a LOT of typing. A LOT. *It is a LOT of research…and sometimes of VERY weird things. God help, I hope my laptop never gets confiscated. *It is a dedication you can only tap from within. *It is a daily commitment, even if you feel tapped out. *It is EXHILARATING. *It can give you quite the God-complex. *It is an honor to tell the story of characters you love. *It is isolating and somewhat lonely. *It is an emotional journey. *It will make you question every aspect of your intelligence, your talent, and your skill. *It will teach you new things *You do it knowing the chances are HIGH that you will never be published.
And it is worth every every second.
When I was a child I knew 2 things: I loved nature and all the awesome things in it. And, I wanted to WRITE SOMETHING. Today: I love nature and all the awesome things in it. And, I want to WRITE SOMETHING.
So to those of you who share my dream of becoming a published author, I encourage you to consider this: are you a creator/collector of ideas but lack the stick-it-to-itiveness to follow through on the very hard work of fleshing out, editing and publishing a novel? Hire a ghost writer. Your ideas may have great merit and are still of value even if you’ve started writing 10 times and just can’t get to the finish line. If you are truly committed to the writing process, and love every step your novel takes, even if that wasn’t the plan,
…then GO FOR IT.
Don’t let the dust settle on your dreams. Brush away the cobwebs and the fear, the insecurities and the excuses, and….. apply hope like a verb.
–Christina Ward (Author of a book that WILL be coming to a store near you.) –stay tuned…
I am not
going to sugar-coat it; that first novel can kick your tail. But it
doesn’t have to be so incredibly daunting that the great idea for a
novel that you dreamed up one foggy afternoon six years ago, can’t be
brought to fruition. The idea is there. Perhaps the characters have been
mingling, getting to know each other, playing out various ways of
interacting…but it’s all between your ears. So how do you get them out
of your head and into print? Don’t they at least deserve that? Here is
some practical, useful advice to get that overwhelming rough draft
as best you can which genre your novel will be, and research how many
words that genre typically would be. This seems obvious, but there are
several sub-genres or your novel could fall within that gray area of “is
this literary or mainstream fiction?” You will want to do this because
A. It will affect the language you use, your target audience, how much
description or what “atmosphere” you choose to develop while writing
your novel. And B. It will give you an idea of how long your novel would
optimally be. Knowing the length of the novel gives you keener sense of
what pace to take your writing, when to add in crucial elements to your
plot, and where the arc of your story should be. It is easier to break
your novel into sections of words than starting and adding to the pile
with each word you type. Make a timeline of word counts and plot the
main parts of your novel…this is an excellent visual of knowing where
you are going. Having a plan you can change is better than no plan at
can do this, just let “one foot in front of the other” aka “one word at
a time” apply to your attitude and mental approach, not to your overall
plan to completion. A race is won, yes by this method…but what if you
don’t have a route?
Choose a program and/or method. Some love Word, some write on napkins, but consider the way you write and your personality. I like a structured program so I go with Scrivener
and could NOT write my novel without it. Research a few different
options and see what will work best for you. Take time to learn the
program, get the “For Dummies,” or like up some favorites of resources
on your browser. Just have the tools you need at the ready. This will
eliminate a huge roadblock that many first time novelists trip so hard
over they can’t hear their characters for the stars in their eyes. Don’t
be distracted by formatting and structure so much that you aren’t able
first draft is a “just get it written” draft. So DO NOT overthink so
much that you take the comma out, put the comma back, take it out again.
This draft is about getting the content out of your head and onto the
screen. You will do several reads-through and edits. Don’t get too tied
up in correcting plot holes or spelling or fleshing out your characters
perfectly because you will be doing this as you go through your edit(s.)
Your goal is plot and making sure the webbing of the book is in place.
That structure is crucial to having a novel that can stand up on it’s
Set a REALISTIC writing goal for yourself.
not pay a single bit of attention to the writing goals of others…set a
goal for yourself that is fairly easily attainable. Writing every day is
best, especially if you have trouble staying motivated. if motivation
is no problem for you, but the obsessive spirit in you makes you write
for six hours straight at a time with complete disregard to your hygiene
and important responsibilities, then perhaps your writing goal is a
reminder to pace yourself, avoid burnout, and avoid the terrible neck
aches or eye strain that accompany your all-nighters. You know yourself
and what you need to stay motivated. Make a plan to stick to, but make
your goals reachable.
the troops. You are going to need supportive people around you to keep
you motivated, but also to pick up the slack in other areas of your life
so that you can stay focused on your writing. If you have planned to
write certain hours of the day, you will need to be able to thwart
potential distractions such as Facebook messages or texts and phone
calls. Is your mom your best cheerleader? Then talk to her about your
plans and use her support as a way to keep motivated. You need to
isolate yourself to a certain degree to finish your work and to do this
you will need people to be understanding. Have a small team of people
you can count on to help you through. These people are not to be
confused with beta readers. These folks are your support staff, your
cheerleaders, your emotional supporters. They are also not your
therapists, but the people that help out with the laundry to give you
more time to work. The people that fix you a coffee or who respect your
need to hole-up for a few hours a day, undisturbed. Perhaps they are the
ones who are willing to kick in more financial support if you are
working fewer hours outside of the home. Prepare your troops because the
battle is a fierce emotional one and you may need back up on the
homefront to make it to the victorious first draft finish line. Let your
support people know what your commitments are so they can honor those.
In my home it is a s simple as “I’m working.” My family has been very
supportive and helpful when they hear me say those powerful words.
go of some things that are distractions. Turn off Netflix. Put your
phone on silent while you work. Opt for simpler dinners or smaller goals
in other areas of your life so that you have the time you need to work.
Facebook and Twitter can wait on a social level while you disengage,
unless, of course, you are researching for your novel. Find a place that
you can work that helps you to stay focused and puts you in the best
headspace for energy flow and creativity.
put — you can do this. Confidence is key. Novel-writing is not your
therapist. While you put your heart into your writing, your writing is
not your therapy. It does not define you as a person, although it is an
extension of you. You exist independently, confidently, wholly as an
individual with or without this novel being finished. It is a personal
goal. A journey you take. Not a way to work out your internal struggles.
Use therapy if you need to do that and let your novel be the story of
your characters. You are their catalyst, not the other way around.
JUST DO IT.
CAN DO IT.
WILL DO IT.
your goals into writing. Write yourself sticky notes of daily goals or
motivations. Map out your plan, share it with your cheerleaders, and get
to work. The finish line awaits. If you have other tips to share with
regards to fleshing out that first draft, I invite you to share them
here with others that may need them. I wish you the best on your