Focus on writing everyday, no excuses because even five minutes of active writing will increase the word count of a book. This may require rising before the sun, or burning the midnight oil, but if that’s what it takes to get hands on the keyboard or pencil/pen to paper, then commit to it. If it’s too difficult to get in touch with the muse early in the morning or late at night, sketch out the scene (or tell) what’s supposed to happen and use it as a guideline to flesh it out (or show) as much as possible during a lunch break, during the train/taxi ride home, or whenever time is available. If it’s a too busy family life that interrupts writing time, create a writing schedule, bargain if necessary so that each partner gets equal free time, even if it’s only half an hour.
Photo by Frank Selmo (frankselmo on Flickr)
When that free time is available, whether or not the muse is talking, make sure each scene has focus. These are the things I aim to include into each scene:
Conflict. Gotta have it, otherwise why are people reading the book. The main character (MC) has to have a goal from the very first page. Something is bound to stand in the way. I invite Murphy’s Law to stomp all over my characters life. I love when I’m reading a book and the MC gets backed into a corner from which I can see no way out, yet I know they get out cause there’s still 72 more pages left. In each scene, I focus on making my MC work toward her goal, ensuring the things she need don’t happen to fall into her lap, and amping up the conflict.
Character. In order for readers to care about said MC getting out the corner, they need to care about said character(s). I try to fall into my characters. Instead of observing the scene unfold as if watching it on the big screen, I imagine myself in the scene and employ all the senses to make the characters’ reaction to the setting real. I focus on staying in the MC’s POV throughout the scene, and if the POV changes, I add an extra space and stay in the other character’s POV for the remainder of the chapter. Continuous head hopping can be disconcerting.
Setting. Have a clear understanding of when and where the story takes place, but don’t try to include everything. Focus on a few select things which breathe life into the setting. There’s always time to build in more elements of the environment in the next scene.
Focus on the endgame. Figure out the common word expectations for the genre/target audience because it’ll be hard to sell a low word count sci-fi novel or a high word count realistic middle grade novel.
Last, focus on having fun and enjoying your characters and the world you’ve built for them.
What do you focus on when writing? What elements do you try to work into your scenes? How do you find time to write?
For a humorous take on How Not To Write A Novel, check out my crit partner’s post here.
I love paranormal, both adult and young adult. Even when I try to write a story outside this genre, it always finds its way back. There’s just something about the supernatural that draws me to it. Perhaps, the possibility of the impossible. Vampires, werewolves, witches, sorcerers, faerie… I can’t get enough. Even when they fall off the “Hot” list, I still love ’em. I think that’s where my passion for writing paranormal comes from.
What genre lights your fire? Or are you more of a literary person? Or perhaps, a poet?
My recent participation in the WriteOnCon, a free Online Children’s Writer’s Conference, made me re-evaluate the title of the piece I submitted for critique — Journey to Eden. I have actively pursued representation for this work and it even place third in the Lone Star Writing Competition.
Part of the requirements for submitting a piece for critique at WriteOnCon was critiquing at least five other pieces. I found myself selecting pieces based on genre first, then title. If the title didn’t intrigue me, I didn’t click the link. Journey to Eden is a nice enough title, but is it enough to catch someone’s interest? Probably not. So, I revised it.
Dawn, one of my Novel Clique critique partners, she said, “I like Edge of Truth better because this society is balanced on a precipe. Any misstep and all crumbles into a valley of falsehood. You’ve got a great metaphor with Edge of Truth.”
Although editors/publishers will often make changes, there’s a certain joy that comes with finding just the right name for a manuscript, setting, character, paranormal entity.
Has anyone else experienced changes to names/titles in a completed work? How about a work-in-progress (WIP)?
Things I’ve Learned About Writing From Watching TV
Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star
The judges often tell chefs they need to have a point of view. There needs to be something unique about them that appeals to others. A writer, much like a chef has to have a Point of View (POV) too, something they want the readers to take away from their work.
Dance You’re A** Off
A writer, much a dancer, can’t just do the moves, they have to feel them. Neither can rely on technique alone. The moves/words must be infused with passion.
Fashion designers can sometimes get carried away and have too much material on an outfit. It can make the most beautiful model look clunky. Writer’s, like designers, have to edit their work. Sometimes writers/designers have to cut out unnecessary things that look nice but serve no purpose.
Writing is like weight lifting. If you want to get stronger you have to put in the wo(man) hours. You can’t just think about lifting weights. You can’t take shortcuts or only do half of the routine. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can get hurt.
I think the same thing applies to writing. Expect for instead of physically getting hurt, the writer’s ego will suffer from receiving rejection after rejection after rejection. This raises the question “What is most beneficial to writers – writing or participating in workshop or reading books on writing?”
Jennifer Collar McMurrain offers a quote from Sandra Bishop, one of the agents from the OWFI conference. “Read everything, and at least two books totally out of your comfort zone.” Bishop also states, “reading books about writing don’t really help unless our butt is in the chair writing.” Authors must exercise their writing muscle. To see more notes on Bishop’s presentation click here.
People who lift weights put a lot of consideration into their diets. There’s no point in sweating through a work out then going to eat a burger. This is where writing differs. Writers should be gluttons when it comes to the written word. Christine Smith-Jarmola says, “reading any kind of book helps. Even the really badly written ones. They help you see what not to do. I can understand better a concept like point of view from one written wrong than from a bunch written correctly. The incorrect one stands out more and I see how it just doesn’t read right. How it holds up the progression of the story.”
If a writer is interested in reading books on writing, which ones should they read. Dawn Allen suggests, “If you’re going to read a how to book (other than Stephen King’s On Writing) I strongly suggest Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway. The beauty of her book is that she tackles a writing problem and talks about how to tackle that particular issue, and then at the end of that segment, you’ll find 2-3 stories that are excellent examples of that specific skill. Of all the books I read during my two year MFA program, it’s the book that never leaves my writing area because I’m constantly referring back to it.”
Writing, reading, workshops – all three help a writer flesh out their skills when there is a balance between the them. Writers may choose to attend conferences/workshops to learn first-hand from professionals. Writers should read a variety of books to gain a healthy dose of material and information. Most importantly, writers have to sit down, stand or whatever and actually exercise the writing muscle everyday or their writing will grow flabby.
I must admit, in Chapter 3: Build A Framework for Your Novel’s Pieces, when Smith recommended writing the climax first, I felt skeptical. I’ve always been a “write in the order the voices tell you ” kind of writer. Writing the climax first sounded daunting. How on earth was I going to come up with a climax when I haven’t written a single page of manuscript? But like always, Smith provided guidance, including Ten Elements for A Climatic Scene.
A scene came to mind and I filled out the Scene Development sheet that comes with the You Can Write A Novel Kit. I checked my scene against the Ten Elements and found #7 (No new material introduced into the climax) and #8 (Lack of Explanation [exposition]) particularly hard for BLINK. There are things that will happen that Lexi (Master Character) won’t understand, that will be contrary to every thing she believed. Smith recommends foreshadowing to avoid introducing new material during the climax and action/dialogue to avoid slowing the pace of the climax with exposition.
In Step 4 of Chapter 3, I created the opening scene. Again, Smith has a list of things an opening should include. I tore off another Scene Development and completed it as much as I could and much to my surprise, the opening scene and climax have a direct impact on each other just as they should (and despite creating them in opposite order). In the opening scene, Lexi makes a major mistake and in the climax, she has an opportunity to rectify it, but it will costs her. I’m now on Step 6: Write Your Central Story in “Headlines”. This section will help me connect the dots from the opening scene to the climax.