Now that I have completed the first draft of my first novel, other writers are asking me how I did it — what I did to go from “just started” to “The End”. Here are five things that I did to go from zero to 70,000 words.
- Consistently scheduled, daily writing segments. I used to think I was a night owl, but really, I’m an early bird. Sure, I can write in the afternoon, or the evening, or even late at night — but my most productive, best copy happens in the morning. In fact, now that I have a first draft down, I can tell that the first third was written during any other time of day. (Basically, it needs work.)
- Go with the flow, and plot only when it’s time, and only as far as it feels right. (Trust me, you’ll know when this is.) When I started writing my story, I just started writing. I had a place, some characters and no real plot–hardly even a vague idea. So, I just started writing, not knowing where the story was headed really. This surprised a lot of my writer friends who always knew whodunnit from the get-go. So, they got me worrying. Too early in the game, the planner in me tried to figure out how it all would end — I wanted to force myself straight to the destination without taking the journey, and the result was something a bit too contrived. Doing that got me so confused I had to put the story aside for nearly a year, before I approached it again. When I looked at what I had written, the ideas started flowing so fast, I started to jot down bullet points of the next few moves/scenes in a clean Word document. (Read my blog post about plantsing here.)
- Don’t think about “The End” until you get to it. With my first novel, I managed to reach an end — but it turns out that it isn’t the end yet. I have tied up some loose threads, but there are others that will have to be addressed in newer stories. As it turns out, this story idea I had a couple years back is not a one-novel wonder. 🙂
- Ask for, and accept, help. Whether it’s talking to friends who like to read stories, watching movies in your genre, finding a book on writing, or taking a class — it’s all good. I’ve done all these things — and, mind you, the activity doesn’t have to address your story, specifically. Sometimes, I would help a friend edit her writing and provide constructive feedback over coffee. In fact, one time when I helped a friend in overcoming her writer’s block, I also stumbled on a solution for my own writing wrinkle. (Win-win!) Another time, I joined a class and learned so much from everybody else’s creative writing exercises.
- Commit to one 30-minute writing segment each day like it’s a religion. In a 30-minute writing segment, I can write an amount ranging from 250 words to 1,200 words. (I think once I even hit around 1,800 words — but I think I also think I lost track of time.) More importantly, 30-minutes is a short-enough time period to fit into a busy schedule. I tried scheduling one-hour into my day, but other priorities managed to take over — and I would postpone my writing for the weekend, or vacation, or whenever. This way, I always get some words on a page.