If you want to write fiction
- You can start by realizing there is no one right answer. This was my biggest hurdle and discovery. Tim Grahl says to writers, “There is no magic pill.” Even fiction author Steven James says sometimes we must, at times, break the rules.
- You need to carve out the time and space to do it. I had to mark it down and make it real, otherwise, I said yes to other things as if my book goal was fake. Having it written on my calendar meant, “I have to go work.” I took it seriously and things progressed.
- Get a playlist that motivates you to write or move in preparation for writing. I began using Spotify a month ago. I have an actual playlist curated just for my current novel, because I can’t handle loud, clangy music. I need ambient folk, and emotional strings for this one. It just helps.
- Use Word, Google Docs, or SOMEthing to start getting your idea down. Save each time you make a chance, and make the title different if you want to see the original. I recommend Reedsy. It is my favorite so far. I have been writing within Word because I was frustrated with the learning curve of Scrivener and wanted to just get down to work. Reedsy is a lot like Medium but lays fiction out nicely. So far, Medium is my favorite place to throw poetry with zero distractions. Reedsy is my new favorite for fiction. Try it!
- Keep reading this post for way more info, including my own journey with novel writing.
Keep the reader turning the page.
Thank God for rewrites, because I’ve gone back in and reworded or chopped out boring pieces already. Less is more. I hope when this is all said and done, my contemporary romance novel with a hint of suspense, riveted with emotion and angst, will keep you until the end.
My favorite mountain to climb: Tension. It keeps the reader turning the page. When something makes me scratch my head or yawn, I redo it. “If it doesn’t work for the writer, it will be 10,000 times worse for the reader.” – Stephen Campbell, The Author Biz podcaster
But there is a difference between tension and conflict.
“Tension is the reader’s need to know what happens next, and the sense that there’s more going on than meets the eye. It’s the anticipation of something about to happen, good and bad. That’s it. Conflict creates tension by putting a character into a situation where the outcome is uncertain, and readers anticipate what will happen or what will be discovered.” – Marcy Kennedy
Best Books For Fiction Writers
These are some of my favorites. I can’t recommend them enough. Sometimes the Kindle versions have deals going. Be sure to check out my links below. If you purchase through my links I may receive a small commission but I confess, I have not yet made enough for them to hand it over. (Insert Emoji face of choice here)
Why I Hang out on Author Blogs
I am an observer by nature. I blog hop but not like you’d hear on some blogs. I find authors who are succeeding and I save their sites into a separate area (Word, Google doc, etc) and come back to it later when I have more time to surf their site. Why?
- Helpful tips from people actually doing it. Most writers are generous and share their experience freely.
- Studying comments is educational. For example, this post about advertising on Google Play was interesting.
- Authors share their books on their site. I like to study how they do this.
- Clicking over to Amazon through their links, allows me to observe if a writer’s personality flows over or not, and if so — why or why not. It has helped me realize the many opportunities to paint a bigger picture with how my blog appears. Example: I have seen plenty of adventure/fantasy authors match their blog to this, letting the reader in on their genre. This won’t be true for some who write multiple genres.
- I like to skim the skeleton of blogs for resources and connections. Many times I find people worth following on Twitter. I don’t collect people for fun. It is strategic.
Learn from Writers Who Are Further Along than You
My Novel Writing Journey
I was writing Moonbrach Cafe, an Adventure/Fantasy with a Christian twist. While writing that, I struggled with believing I had what it took. So I wrote mini books and freebies in between, to help myself and to help my readers. Finishing those short booklets worked. You Are a Writer and Art of Work by Jeff Goins also helped me big time. My confidence skyrocketed. Because I realized we are humans, and all have the power to sharpen our skills.
In the winter/spring timeframe of 2017 I had purchased Ruth’s Elite Blog Academy. Her course mainly helped me tackle my blog one step at a time. I had a vision for it but it took a year of playing around with color schemes and hashing out content before I felt confident in my niche. Mine comes naturally, which is what I wanted. After finishing this course, the practice of making small freebies gave me momentum to write longer. In the back of my head, I knew I would come back to Moonbrach Cafe. They say small goals with small wins are what it takes to move forward. Am I upset I had to pivot away from that first novel? No. Because ultimately, I knew it was missing something and I wanted to make it the best it could be.
I took the story down from Medium and decided to set it aside until it was ready. During this time, I felt led to drop out of any groups or paid-for networks that weren’t getting me anywhere. It wasn’t that I didn’t love Compel Training, I just felt led to make a switch. I didn’t feel led to speak or delve into pitching articles. I did try this, but knew from early on it wasn’t my goal. Sometimes I wish I could go back and just dive into what I wanted, instead of going after what I thought was right.
We all make mistakes. And sometimes what feels like a mistake isn’t. I learned the writers who have books but no blog or email list, mostly regret not working on those things — so really, I guess there is no right order after all. We just learn as we go and make time for both writing, marketing, and living. We all need to experiment. But for sure don’t look at someone else’s path and assume their trail to Z is how yours will look. Shortly after, I joined Hope Writers and purchased their 90-Day Direction package — but before I even got halfway through, I realized I already knew the answer. I am still a member there and love it. I appreciate the way Emily P. Freeman’s visuals help simplify things for me.
I had a hard time taking in Compel’s lengthy forum. A mile-long thread in a forum feels plastic and cold to me, versus the bright square photos of Hope Writers. And their Facebook group where most of the interaction is done helped me not to hate Facebook so much. I also love how the admins are open with their process. If I feel like those I want to learn from are on a self-made pedestal, or they don’t speak my language, I make myself scarce. Hope Writers is not like this. They show the good and the bad.
One book I want to get, after attending a webinar by Tim Grahl, is his new book Running Down a Dream. The email he just sent out, shared almost a full chapter. It was amazing. He talks about his own struggle getting to where he is now. It included some intense topics such as borrowing money from his parents because he thought he may lose his house. This is what I am talking about. If you can see the real side of someone’s life, you know you can trust what they say. They are not sugar-coating it, and you will find not only value in the story, but possibly a lifelong relationship if you are brave enough to reach out.
Next, I stumbled into Jerry Jenkin’s Writer’s Guild. The timing was epic.
He offers a track for fiction and nonfiction. You choose where you are on the path by answering some question, or start fresh from the beginning. He offers advice not just geared toward one aspect, but many: The skill and craft of writing, editing, POV, business, marketing & more. He has a monthly Q&A, and all members get access to the mastermind webinars where he interviews authors with lots of experience.
Clip of Office Hours (just one of the features we get access to). He answers questions of all kinds. How cool is this? And we get access to all the past ones when becoming a member. So there is whole treasure trove waiting to be sifted…
Jerry Jenkins says he devotes 90% to writing his novel, and 10% to everything else (blog, marketing etc).
This may look different for some of us since Jerry traditionally publishes, but I still took his advice and shaved downtime elsewhere to focus on my manuscript. It worked! In less than two months, I outlined my novel and had twenty chapters down. Joining his guild and reading Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Book Faster, were the best moves I have ever made.
It is normal for us to take time to plot, even pre-mull ideas for a period — but I had been downright stuck. I thought I was a pantser, and this is what I was doing with Moonbrach Cafe, but when I read how it is possible to plot just the main points while filling in the spaces free-style, it changed my life. Keep reading to find out how.
How I Fleshed Out My Novel in 2 Days
After finishing Jerry’s fiction track, I got a major story download. A “novel” idea. I sat in my bed for two hours writing it out from beginning to end. It just came and I was not about to let it go. After writing a four-page summary, I felt like I knew more about what I wanted to say with this instant download than I did with Moonbrach Cafe. Now, mind you, that one I got bits of ideas from back in 2016, and didn’t start writing it until fall of 2017, a year later.
I purchased the two books above (photo) after reading Take Off Your Pants, and realized my story already had a few plots, with the one large plot pulling it together. I couldn’t believe it. How did this happen? I can’t take credit for it. God, here you go. So the next day, I typed up a premise and typed out a separate page showing the three stages of my story: 1) Situation 2) Complication 3) Resolution.
I knew for the deadline, I needed to crunch out 2,600 words per day. It didn’t happen. What DID happen, was I listened to The Lazy Genius Genius podcast, and somewhere in there I learned it was okay for writers to set aside 1 or 2 days of specific focused writing time. That sometimes spread out it doesn’t work as well anyways. It varies per person. This method worked better for me since certain days I had more responsibilities on my plate.
In one week, split up by 2 days, I wrote 11 chapters. The next week I wrote 8 more, split up in 2 days. I was at chapter 20 faster than I had ever gotten with any novel. Each time I sat down to write, I made sure to have my premise and summary (stapled) right by me. I could quickly grab these sheets and skim down to make sure I was staying on track. By the time I got to chapter 20, I was ready to have an editor begin working on the first pages so I could make my deadline. Because edits can take 6 – 8 weeks, I learned.
I didn’t want to wait until the last minute. That would only work if I was only self-editing. I have read enough to learn it is worth investing in a professional editor after we self-edit, and slice and dice. If we know we are handing them our best, we won’t feel bad for spending money on this. It is a good thing. I am thankful for my editor already and enjoy the process of taking advice and applying it.
Here at chapter 20, I am contacting a cover artist. It still feels surreal. I heard on The Author Biz podcast we shouldn’t wait until the very end of our novel (if we can help it) before connecting with artists and getting quotes, because it takes time.
This is one of those moments when I almost feel like I am not living my life. Cheesy maybe, but since I was a child I have been stapling pages together, my illustrations and quotes splashed across construction paper. It takes my breath away to do this. To finish something. If you have a hard time finishing a project, read Finish, by Jon Acuff. He was a chronic starter like myself. Thankful for people like him and Jeff Goins who share freely. I have learned so much from them.
Thanks for reading my novel writing journey.
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Writer Resources In This Post:
Jon Acuff’s Email List: 3 Options | Speaker | Writer | Entrepreneur (pick one, or all!)
Extra Resources for Fiction Writers:
(More coming soon…)
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