Sitting down to actually write is sometimes the hardest part of the process. Through more trial and error than I would have liked I have found three ways to get around it, and one that I have yet to try.
The method I use the most is the twenty minute sprint. Sit down, set a timer for twenty minutes, start the timer, and write. Don't stop for food, water, Facebook, or research. If something needs to get added later then put it in caps. The first draft of my novel is full of LOOK UP PURPLE PLANT NAME or WHAT COLOR WAS HIS EYES ANYWAYS notes. After the timer goes off set it again, this time, twenty minutes of anything that isn't writing! Some of my writer friends use the time to fill in the capitalized words and research that needs to get done. I will usually watch part of a TV show, read a book, or get up and do some housework. When the timer goes off its time for another twenty minutes of writing. Keep going until the whole novel is done!
The second option is to write at the same time every day. For some it's in the morning with their cup of coffee, for others, it's right after a trip to the gym. Some are only able to find the time to write during their lunch break, and they often make excellent use of that time. Using the same time every day makes the brain anticipate the time. It'll have the story planned to write because it knows that time is coming. There also seems to be less resistance to the idea of writing. Even if there is some writer's block, it's still time to write something, and the brain will fill it in.
Another option is to tie one's writing to an item, food, or drink. If you only write when having a cup of coffee, tea, while eating a banana, or wearing a purple hat your brain will notice and respond by making the writing easier every time to you use the trick. There is a load of scientific research on this, and it sounds silly, but it totally works.
The last one is often talked about by big name writers who have a lot more time than I do to write every day. They sit down and they don't get up until their goal for the day has been completed. Usually, that goal is nice and high, close to the 2000 word mark.
Until I am a full-time writer I won't be using the last trick myself. The first three I use as much as possible to get words on the page, and they definitely help!
You’ve written a story. You think it’s pretty good. You made some edits, so now it’s even better. You’ve even let other people read it, and made some fixes that they suggested. Every time you look at your story you find things to fix, but those things are becoming fewer and sillier. What do you do next?
It is time to push the button.
But which button do you push? How do you find it? Well the first thing to do is look at the length of your story. Is it considered a novel? A short story? A novella? Then you need to figure out what direction you want to go. Do you want a traditional publisher? An indie house? Or maybe you want to self-publish?
All of these come with different trials and tribulations. I myself decided to go two different routes for my two different types of stories.
For my first novel I decided to go the traditional path. I chose this path for many reasons. I personally did not want to have to do the marketing myself, which I would need to do with self-publishing. This meant submitting my query letter and pieces of my story to agents. It took me over a year to get the courage to do this. It is scary to put yourself out there.
Finally, just a few weeks ago, I did it. I researched online and found some agents who publish books like mine. One of the best ways to do this is to look up the agents of your favorite writers. Once I found them I sent each a letter and samples in the formats they asked for. Now I am playing the waiting game. Hoping and praying every day that I will hear from them. I’ll let you all know when I do!
As for my short story, well that was an easy choice. I am submitting that to Pub518! For short stories the best thing to do is to find an anthology that fits what you have written. You may do it the other way round and write a story for a specific anthology you have found that piques your interest. Then make sure you know exactly what the submission guidelines are for that company (see ours under the “submit to us” button above). Finally, the hard part, push submit and wait. With any luck, soon your work will published!
Writers tend to be voracious readers. This is personal experience, not science. But they read for good reason, maybe many good reasons. Beyond what the average reader brings to a book, writers bring something extra, a layer of respect and awe that others don’t, or can’t.
Reading, for writers, can become a distracting fluctuation in the writing process. It may lead us down a lane lined with ego - the ‘I can write better than that’ bug can bite hard. Once bitten, it can be tough to get through a book. Most readers don’t doubt themselves because of how well, or poorly, a book is written. There ensues resentment (how did such shoddy work manage to get published?) and self-criticism (when the books are outstanding). I doubt that happens to orthodontists, or construction workers. It’s a special treat for writers, to periodically lose the wonder and fun of reading. It all depends on the author.
I find myself going back to established favorites; EB White, Marion Zimmer-Bradley, Tolkien, Brooks, and Pratchett. They almost never fail to engage me. Some authors recently added to my bibliotheca are nearly as reliable; Rowling, Mankell, Louise Penny, and Connie Willis. Actually it’s a long list of truly excellent writers, they set a high bar.
There is another, 'other’ category, the untested writer. Oh the joy of finding a new favorite! And oh the crashing disappointment when such a book brings out heavy doses of criticism. The reading experience is altered so profoundly that this once precious moment of entering the vortex of a new world is muddied, sullied, exposed, and debunked.
Writers bring to the reading table a special kind of reading hunger, one built on respect for the work of another writer. There is true empathy with other writers. Books offer writers hope that their own idea will flame as brightly, and remind writers of humility.
For writers, reading is research. New ideas, methods, and techniques for our toolbox. Every author has their own way, as we’ve discussed before on this blog, some eccentric and others as boring as a laptop on a desk facing a blank white wall. But every author brings their ways, their style, into their work, and they offer possibility, and a standard of excellence we strive for, or strive to surpass.
Reading is ambition, fieldwork, respect and - hopefully - escapism, all inside one dusty cover.
Everyone has a dream. For years, I thought about writing but never acted. Ok, maybe I'd get a great idea for a story and do a little plotting in my head. I’d even write a scene or two, but it never went any further.
There were all sorts of excuses. I don’t have a good command of the English language. I don’t have the time. It’s not a full moon, and the planets aren't aligned just right. Does this sound familiar?
Writing is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There is self-doubt, apprehension, and unease. It can take years to complete a story, but just think, nothing is worth anything if there is no sweat behind it. Persistence and self-belief will get you there. Take the jump and give it a try, it’s an incredible feeling when someone reads your story and tells you they liked it.
Schedule your writing by putting it on your calendar. It's amazing how many words you can get down on paper in a 20-minute sprint. The best I've done is about 350 words. I've sprinted during my lunch break, so even if you think you're too busy, there is time.
Another way to keep your writing on track is to join a writer’s group. Remember, misery loves company. A network of writers is a great resource. I meet my writer's group every Sunday night without fail. We write, brainstorm, and have a lot of fun.
The stories I’ve written in my early days are awful. I should be embarrassed, but I’m not. It shows my growth. What helped me develop as a writer was joining a critique group. It was the best thing I did. Yes, I know opening yourself to criticism can feel like a knife slashing your heart, but the constructive analysis has benefits. Another set of eyes will identify plot holes, weaknesses, and strengths in your story.
Many authors use Word. The program will point out misspellings and basic grammar errors, but it doesn't do an in-depth check. I use the app Grammarly. Most people will write the way they talk. Slang is acceptable for dialogue, but not for the written prose. Even if you use the free version of Grammarly, it will improve your writing.
Another app I use is Natural Reader. It’s a text to speech program that helps with the flow. Your sentences should vary in length so the reading isn't flat. A combination of short, long, and compound sentences will give your writing a lyrical read and make it more enjoyable for the reader.
You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t, you’ll miss the chance to attain your dream. It can take years, but you’ll get there. The reality is, you have to push the fears and doubts to the side and think, ‘I’m a writer, this is who I am’. There are readers out there waiting for you to get published.