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#Nanowrimo You need Patience And Self-Discipline To Succeed as a Writer

It takes a long time to write a novel. No matter how fast you are, it takes a while.  In fact, while some things like NANOWRIMO on Twitter which has people writing at furious pace for a month is good to get the writing down, it is also negative in that quantity is not necessarily quality.

The amount of time I spend writing a novel has actually increased the more I learn about the craft.  Rather than making it easier, more knowledge makes it more difficult to write, as I try to make the book the best possible product I can.

Writers are often asked what their daily schedule is.  I think it is important to have the discipline to have a daily schedule and/or goal.  It is too easy to let the writing go and take care of everything else if you don’t force yourself to face that daily goal.

It’s different for many writers but here are some from writers I know:

5 pages a day; 2,000 words a day; 10 pages a day; six hours a day.

I think an external goal that can be measured is the best to go for.  It’s a tangible goal and you know when you’ve accomplished it.  While this might seem to contradict the statement made above about something like NANOWRIMO, the key is that the writing is often going back and layering onto writing already done.

Beyond that tangible writing goal, I work seven days a week, anywhere from eight to fourteen hours a day.  It’s hard for me to say how many hours a day I work because I am almost always ‘working’.  If I’m not sitting in front of my computer, I’m in the library researching or watching the news for interesting facts or simply thinking about my story, playing it out in my mind, watching my characters come alive.  I have many of my best plot ideas when driving or riding my bike.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, which is why I have my iPhone with recorder next to my bed ready for instant use.

My cable bill is very high, with every channel, on-demand, and DVR.  There are writers who say ‘kill your television’ but I disagree with that.  There’s some very good writing in that medium.  I watch movies and shows the same way I read books:  analytically to see what the writers did and also what were the possibilities that weren’t explored.  The #1 thing a writer must do other than write is read and watch movies and shows.  It is work.  It will take away some of your enjoyment of things as you can get good at predicting what will happen next under Chekhov’s rule of ‘don’t have a gun in act one unless you use it by act 3.  But note that I say ‘use it’ not ‘fire it’.  That’s the key to great writing.  To take what is expected and do the unexpected.

Writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.  If you write only when excited or motivated you’ll never finish.  You have to write even when it’s the last thing you want to do.  Just put something down.  You can always edit it later or throw it out (you’ll do a lot of throwing out and it hurts but it’s the sign of a mature writer; also, it’s one reason you don’t edit yourself to death on the first draft).  I eventually average 500 to 550 pages of manuscript to produce 400 good pages in a final draft.  My last manuscript was 126,000 words long and then I cut it back to 90,000 words.  To sweat over that many pages and then “lose” them hurts but not as much as getting the manuscript rejected.  The longer I’ve written, the more I’ve become a fan of rewriting and editing.  I’m a fan of outlining and doing a lot of work before I write the first sentence of my manuscript, including extensive character development.  This is a trend among several authors I’ve talked.  Both Terry Brooks and Elizabeth George got back lengthy editorial letters on the first book they sold.  They determined then and there to make sure that future manuscripts would not require such rewriting.  And they didn’t.  They learned to know what they were doing before they did it.

Overall, I’ve developed an inner “writing clock” that works in terms of weeks and months that lets me know how much I have to produce and how quickly.  It varies its pace depending on the project at hand and it took years of experience to develop this inner clock.  I force myself to put the time and effort in, even when I don’t feel like it.  However, as I discuss in Write It Forward, almost every writer tends to underestimate the time it takes to complete a manuscript.

Experiment and find something that works for you in day-to-day writing.  Maybe it will only be for one hour every morning before everyone else gets up– keep doing it.  You’ll be amazed how much you can get done if you stick with it.

Scott Turow wrote Presumed Innocent on the train to and from work in Chicago.  So don’t let circumstances stand in your way.

All the thinking, talking, going to writer’s conferences, classes, etc. are not going to do you any good if you don’t do one basic thing:  WRITE.

Ultimately, though, as Bryce Courtney says, you need a large dose of ‘bum glue’.  Gluing yourself to that seat and writing.

Do you have a large supply of bum glue?

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

#NaNoWriMo is coming to end…what to do next?

At the end of November many writers will have 50k words, or close too it. Some will have completed a novel. Others will be close to completion. Most will need a long nap. Writing 2k every day can be exhausting, especially when the words are forced or not flowing. Producing that kind output is a full time job when many of those participating in NaNo have other jobs and families, its even more exhausting.

So now that it’s almost over, what do you do next? Most of the advice I see out there is to take a break. While I think that is an excellent idea, I think there is one thing you should do before you set aside your NaNo project. I suggest you make an outline of what you think you just wrote. Your mind has been in constant thought, producing word after word. Its time to see if those words make sense.

When I wrote Rekindled during NaNoWriMo, as soon as I was done, I took out a notebook and started labeling pages. One was for Hero. Another for the Heroine. I had a page for the best friend and ex-girlfriend’s romance. I had a page for the dead father. A page for the hero’s boss and the hero’s mother and their relationship. I had a page for the heroine’s best friend. A page for dead father’s best friend who is holding a lot of the secrets tying all the above people together. I had a page for the bad guys who were tying to kill the Heroine. Finally, I had a page for the plot line. I jotted down what I thought I knew about what I wrote WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE MANUSCRIPT. I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about what I had just written.

Then, I took a break. I didn’t work on that manuscript at all, though I thought about it and I keep a notebook with me, jotting things down.

Next, I printed it out and sat in a big comfy chair with my feet up and just read it. This was the hardest part. I didn’t allow myself a red pen. I forced myself to stay away from the computer. I did however give myself permission to take notes. They were mostly questions, like “why did I write that scene in that point-of-view?” or “who really is Kaylee’s father?” That question really hit me hard because I hadn’t planned for Kaylee to have a different biological dad than the one who raised her and who had been murdered, but it was my subconscious at work, so I had to figure it out. This process was very difficult, but very important in understanding what my brain had done while I was busy tossing words onto the page to meet my word count.

After I had gone through the manuscript, I had to make some difficult decisions. Many of my scenes were written in the wrong point of view. So they had to be changed. I had to delete two point of view characters. Also, the reason Kaylee had come home in the beginning of the book wasn’t the reason I had been working of off halfway through the book.

I honestly was so confused by middle of December I felt like I almost had to start all over again. So, I took a deep breath and went back to basics. I asked myself what the Kernel Idea was for this book. I wrote that down and one sentence gave me a lot of direction, but I still had a lot of rewriting to do, but it went much smoother after that.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

#NANOWRIMO What to Write

Most writing is not a special gift or talent. Writing is a skill that can be taught. It can be likened to bricklaying; you can learn it one brick at a time, and you get better the more bricks you lay.

The key is to always be willing to learn, grow and develop these skills. A writer, in order to master their craft, must be willing to change.

If you talk to those who work in hospices, they’ll tell you what lessons their dying patients bestow upon them.  One word keeps coming up again and again:  regret.

When faced with death, people look back over their lives.  All the missed opportunities, the misplaced priorities, the things that weren’t done.  Only a handful of people focus on what they did do and are content.  These people have negotiated the five emotional steps of change, which are Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of Death & Dying.  The last stage is acceptance.  Kubler-Ross found that only 5% of those who were told they had a terminal illness were able to negotiate those five stages.

That number strikes a chord.  Because in my Write It Forward book and program, I refer to the 5% rule for internally motivated change.  I’ve taught writing for decades and have always been shocked at how few writers actually changed anything in their writing.  I am no longer shocked.  I have acceptance that I cannot change anyone but me.  I can assist others if they desire it.  This is based on my experiences and, more importantly, what I’ve learned from other writers, books, shows, and life.

78% of Americans believe they can write a book.  I’d be willing to bet 77% of them will die regretting they never did.  It’s not about getting published.  It’s about creating and acting instead of reacting, often, too late.

You have only one thing stopping you from writing the best book you are capable of.  You.

I call my book on the craft of writing a Toolkit because no tool is wrong.  If I need to fasten two pieces of wood together and instead of picking up a hammer and nail, but rather pick up a saw, it is not the tool’s fault.  It is mine.

In subsequent blogs, I am going to lay out numerous writing tools that will help you develop your craft as a writer. However, becoming an artist is up to you.

Point of view is the most critical style element in writing.  It is also important in following the way I teach writing.  I’ve been making a living writing for well over two decades and with each year and every new manuscript come new lessons learned.  Over that time period I’ve taught writing novels and getting published at various workshops and for numerous organizations.  I’ve attended many workshops and listened to other authors present.  I’ve read many books and watched many movies and shows, constantly analyzing the writing, to learn new ways of creating.  I’ve seen numerous ideas, stories and manuscripts in the course of teaching, helping other writers, and judging contests.  I’ve been published by six different American publishers, many foreign publishers, worked with over a two-dozen editors, and have had four primary agents.  I’ve been traditionally published by the Big Six in New York, and non-traditionally published through my own imprint.  I’ve had hardcover, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, print on demand, and eBooks across the range of possible platforms published.

Too many people lament the state of publishing and the “crap” that fills the shelves in the local bookstore.  My goal is not to complain but to explain; to tell you about the craft and art of writing so you can accomplish your goals.

The world of writing is a very diverse one and there is a place in it for just about everything and everyone.  Things are changing rapidly, faster than ever, and I think it’s an exciting time to be an author, with more opportunities than ever before.

The bottom line is I write because I enjoy it.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy.  The one commonality I have seen in every successful writer I’ve met is that they work very, very hard.  There is a large degree of craftsmanship required to write a novel.  It’s not magic; it’s hard work combined with the ability to constantly accept being critiqued and to critique one’s self.

Lately, I’ve focused on what it takes to be a successful author, not just in terms of the writing, but in terms of not only surviving, but thriving in the world of publishing.

The bottom line is the book.  I love books.  I love reading them and I love writing them.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

 

“I am always doing that which I cannot do in order to learn how to do it.”  Pablo Picasso.

So why do you write?

Ready, Set, #NaNoWriMo

The first time I heard of NaNoWriMo was back in 2004. I had only been writing for about year, but was struggling with my process. The more I learned, the harder writing became and I thought that maybe if I could go back to the good old days where I didn’t know anything about novel structure, plotting, GMC, character arc, turning points, emotional plot points, yadda, yadda, yadda, things would get “easier”…enter NaNoWriMo.

I had an idea for a book. My first thought (what Bob would call a Kernel idea) What if you’re x-wife returned to town on the same day her father was murdered and you’re job was to arrest her? I had nothing else. No backstory. No setting. Not even a single character name. I knew nothing about the story other than my hero was a cop, the heroine had runaway years ago, came back, and found her father’s body in the front hallway, dead. Normally I’d spend a month or two talking out the plot, the characters, doing research, writing “false starts’ and getting a feel for the story, but NaNoWriMo was about to start. Everyone was doing it and my critique partners at the time challenged the “plotter” of the group to write from the seat of her pants.

RekindledSo I did. I wrote almost 65,000 words in one month. Not bad. I produced a book, Rekindled. This year I’m unofficially participating. I’m finishing up book 3 in the New York State Trooper Series, which will be out by the end of this year, but I’m also starting to plot and write a new book. I’ll be heading down to Write on the River to start work on the new book.

I think NaNoWriMo is great for writers. Check out the #nanowrimo hastag on twitter. It creates an energy that is contagious. Writer’s cheering each other on. Encouraging each other to continue, push forward and write through the blocks. We measure our progress through word count, so it makes sense to set a word count goal each day, and work toward it. But there is more to a book than word count.

When I did NaNoWriMo, I tossed my personal writing playbook out the window. I started off real strong, writing sometimes 4k words in one sitting. I never looked back, keep pushing forward. No matter how hard it was. Not matter how much I felt like not writing, I sat down and typed. I was going to complete NaNoWriMo no matter what. I kept writing. It was draining me, but anyone who knows me well, knows when I’m challenged and determined, there is no stopping me. I’m a finisher. Ever see the movie Turner and Hooch with Tom Hanks? There is a scene in that movie where he goes to the Vet’s house and she had been painting, but was done for the night, with the walls half done! How could she not finish what she started? Tom just picks up the brush and decides the job must be finished. That’s me. I start something, got to finish it. No matter what.

When 01 December rolled around I had written THE END. I was exhausted. My brain had no concept of what I had just written, but I had completed the goal—write at least 50k. I never took my eye off that prize. I made a goal, and I completed the goal.

It took me two weeks before I could even look at a keyboard and a screen. I printed the manuscript out and started reading. I knew I would have some revisions, but what I found out was that my process had changed drastically.

I learned that every writer has to find the writing process that works for them and the only way to do that is to be willing to re-evaluate the way you do things and try something different.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

Write It Forward!

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