To Prologue or Not To Prologue

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I was asked recently about my thoughts on prologues. Prologues are those pre-chapter chapters in some books that serve as an introduction into the story. The prologue’s purpose is generally to provide a backstory to the main story, and/or to give some insight into one of the characters, or the prologue will give some insight into the plot. In effect, the prologue allows the author to begin their story twice, at two different points in time.

A good example of a well-written prologue is Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity where the inciting Incident is Bourne waking up with amnesia and having to remember the events in the prologue.

Prologues seem most prevalent in crime fiction such as the Bourne books,  and fantasy novels where they describe the other world.

Let’s be clear upfront. I am not a fan of the prologue most of the time. Because prologue is usually backstory that could be spoon fed to the reader in small bites during important moments of the story, I find them unnecessary. I might even be anti-prologue. I reserve the right to change my mind at a later time, but in this moment, I usually find them a waste of time and I don’t want to read them.

Consequently, if you’ve written a prologue, I have some questions for you.

  • Do you genuinely need a prologue in your story?
  • Why?
  • Are you sure?
  • Can you give the reader the information contained in the prologue elsewhere in your novel? Yes? Delete your prologue and add the information elsewhere in your novel.
  • What does your prologue do for your story? This is important. Make sure you can answer this question. If you can’t, you may want to re-think having a prologue.
  • If you genuinely need it, is your prologue written well? No? Re-write it.
  • Is your prologue boring? Revise it.
  • Is your prologue an information dump? Ugh. Delete it. Please.

If you are going to write a prologue, do make sure that it is essential to the story. It must contribute to the plot, and not be a device to inform the reader of some bit of information because you are being a lazy writer.

  • If you leave the prologue out, how does that effect the story? It doesn’t? Delete it.
  • Will anyone notice if it’s not there? No? Delete it.
  • Are you using your prologue to introduce your main character? Delete it. Introduce your main character in your novel.

If you truly need a prologue, make sure you do it well.

  • Grab the reader’s attention with a hook in the first couple of sentences.
  • Make sure the prologue somehow foreshadows events in the novel.
  • If the prologue’s purpose is to showcase the inciting incident, make sure it is pertinent information that piques the reader’s interest.
  • Make it evocative with sensory information, setting, mood, etc.
  • Make the prologue dynamic.
  • Your prologue should be structured like a mini-story with a beginning and middle and a hook ending.
  • Do not drone on with boring backstory, I beg of you.
  • Illustrate useful information that is necessary for the reader to understand the novel.
  • If the prologue is from the protagonist’s past, make sure that it’s important and has an effect on the current protagonist. Think about a movie for a moment. Think of Raider of the Lost Arc. No one knew why Indiana Jones hated snakes and didn’t find that out until two movies later. If that WHY sequence had been in Raiders of the Lost Arc it would have dragged the story down. Don’t drag the story down. The fact that Indy hated snakes was intriguing, but it didn’t take away from the story that the backstory of Indy’s hate was absent.
  • Ensure that your prologue is not too long.

If you are going to write a prologue, study prologues written by master authors. Make sure your prologue is there for a reason. Do your best. Work hard. I’d love you to change my mind about prologues.

The Likability Factor

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I wrote the first chapter of my work in progress and then workshopped it with my critique partner. I wanted feedback on chapter one before I moved on to writing chapter two. I did this for a couple reasons, but the main reason is to make sure that the character is coming across in a way that draws the interest of the reader, in this case, my critique partner.

So, I emailed him my chapter to review, and then we schedule a meeting to discuss my pages (this is a back and forth thing – we send each other pages and meet to discuss). I had some misgivings. This is a new book idea and it’s always nerve-wracking to put new pages out there for the first time, even with a trusted friend and critique partner. Plus, this new character I had created was a bit…negative. My intention was to show the character arc over the course of the novel to show the character moving from negative to positive. At critique time I confirmed that my character was too negative. Too whiney. Too much. So, it’s revision time.

Does it really matter that the character is too negative at the beginning of a novel?

Would you want to read about someone whom you didn’t particularly like? Granted, readers have different tastes but as a rule, we readers don’t want to spend our time reading about people we dislike or find annoying.

The issue was the character was too whiney, too judgmental of other characters, and didn’t have any redeeming qualities to make the reader like her.  In screenwriting terms, the character didn’t have a Save the Cat moment. Granted characters should be complex. They should have good qualities and fatal flaws. But if they are too extreme either direction, they become unlikable.

I revised the structure of who my character is and am completely re-writing the 1st chapter, and it is better. The re-think on the character not only made the character better and gave her some redeeming qualities which was essential to make her likable, but it also forced me to revise my story structure to compensate for the different character concept. Yeah, it’s work, but it’s worth it.

Things to think about when creating your characters:

  • Be careful to make your character have a balance of good qualities and bad.
  • Don’t make them too mean or too negative.
  • Be careful that your character is not too perfect, or too goody two shoes. Just like in real life, too good, too perfect can be annoying.
  • Some snark in your character can be okay but extreme rudeness makes the character unlikable.
  • Give your character some redeeming qualities.
  • Make sure your character is not a doormat. They need to have some sort of a moral compass so they are not easily manipulated by other characters. Give them some backbone as it were.

It might be helpful if you consider character archetypes as a basis for each character you are creating. This may help you consider their fatal flaws, as well as their redeeming qualities. You do need to make sure that your characters are unique and infuse originality into their makeup even if you are basing them on an archetype, so be careful that you don’t create stereotypical characters.

A most important concept in character development is that your character must have the goal that will drive them all the way through the novel. Any wishey-washy goals should be edited. Your character must want something and this something is what ensures that your character will reach the end. It is their driving factor. The goal is why they are in your novel to begin with.

You might also consider giving your character a secret, especially something that they don’t want anyone else to know (except the reader). This tendency to hide the secret from other characters will help you create some interesting interactions with other characters and creates an interesting dynamic for the reader to follow.

Your character should also have some form of vulnerability factor. This vulnerability will draw the reader in and create an emotional bond on some level. Usually, this factor, or emotional wound, will be triggered by something and cause a reaction. If you create this well on the page, your readers will love your character. Again, this creates an interesting dynamic for the reader to follow.

Fill your novel world with characters that feel like real people with all their problems, faults, and joys. Your book will be better for it.

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What you think you wrote is not what you wrote…

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Writing is a solitary activity. It just isn’t possible to have someone else do your writing for you. Sure, you can hire a ghost writer, but then the ghost writer is the actual writer, not you. If YOU are the writer, then you must do that activity all by your lonesome. There is no other way around that.

So, there you are, the solitary writer, sitting at your desk, or in a coffee shop, or library, or bathroom, or kitchen table, or wherever you do your writing. You had an idea that would make a great story, or you dreamed it, or you brainstormed it, or you went through your personal writing process to come up with a story idea. You clearly see the story in your mind’s eye and know exactly what should happen and when, and who your characters are, and what they want. You know exactly how the story should begin in order to hook the reader, and you know exactly how the story should end to give the reader a satisfying experience.

You plotted out your novel if you are a plotter, or if you are a panster (someone who writes by the seat of their pants without a plan) you just started writing. You have written page after page. You have written each scene with care. You are positive that your characters grow and change, and that each scene moves the story forward. There are no lulls, dead spots, or unnecessary sub-plots, or sidelines.

“This is the most amazing novel,” you say as you type THE END. “It’s perfect!” You believe yourself. After all, why would you lie to yourself about your writing? You have doubted your ability in the past, but in this moment, you are a genius.

Immediately, you start to think about finding an agent, and a six-figure contract with a publishing house.

But…

But.

Wait.

Just a moment.

I know this is a difficult thing to ponder.

When you write in isolation, you are writing words on a page based upon the skill level you are currently at. You can’t improve that skill level without input from others. And you can not see your own short comings.

And, because you see the story perfectly in your mind’s eye, your brain doesn’t really interpret what is actually written on the page. It only interprets what you intended to be on the page. Even if you read your own pages, your brain will fill in all the gaps of what is not actually there.

What does that mean?

It means what you think you wrote is not actually what you wrote.

“But I have all the pages right here,” you say. “Four hundred pages. Everything is there. I have read it several times!”

Yeah. Sorry. It’s not all there. I promise you it’s not.

Because we can not see our own limitations, and short comings, and writing faux pas, and our bad dialogue, and vague scene setting, this means that we need other people to read our work.

“I don’t need no stinking people,” you say.

Yeah, you do. You need someone to be gracious enough to read all of your pages in detail with a critical eye. You need someone who writes and knows writing craft. You need someone who can articulate why a particular scene does or does not work on any given page. You need someone who has more skill as a writer than you, so you can learn from them. You need someone who has less skill than you, so you can teach them (one of the best ways to learn a thing is to teach it). You need multiple someones because all of those someones will be good at different things and if you have enough someones they can help you fix all your writing foibles BEFORE you submit your novel to agents and publishing houses who will then reject you with a generic rejection letter and won’t tell you what the issues are in your manuscript because to do that takes a lot of time they don’t have to give to someone they are not contracted with. Yeah, that was a long freakin’ sentence. Take a breath.

Sure, your mom, or your spouse, or your friend can read your story, but are they going to give you an honest reaction? Can they tell you why your character motivations are unclear? Will they know what character motivations are? Or, will they just tell you how fabulous the book is because they don’t want to hurt your feelings? Your mom may be good for your ego, but she’s probably not a good critique partner.

Yes, you need other writer people.

“But where do I find other writing people?” you ask.

You Google writing organizations in your area, or you find an online critique group and join it, or you look for a MeetUp group. If you can find even a tiny pocket of other writers, you can create your own critique group. Or find a writer’s conference and ask them for help.

And then what.

Then you give your new critique partners your pages to read according to the group’s process and ask for honest feedback.

“But—but! My pages are my babies! What if they don’t like what they read? I will be devastated!”

Yeah. That’s normal. Putting your pages out there and asking for feedback can be scary. You will need to grow some thickness to your skin as you sit back silently and listen to other people tell you what needs improvement and why. Remember, this is not personal. These writer people are not criticizing you. They are volunteering hours of their personal time to help you become a better writer. And they are just as terrified to put their pages out there for critique. But all of these someones are doing their best for you.

After some time goes by and you let go of your ego, you will realize that most of their comments are valid. Their ideas really do make your story better. You revise your pages and submit them for critique again. And again, you sit back silently and listen to the commentary. Over time, you become a better writer. You also develop new and lasting friendships. You learn to trust that these writer people who have your best interest at heart, just as you have theirs. You learn craft together. You teach each other. You become better writers together. Eventually you joyfully celebrate the publication of your books together.

It’s scary. It’s time consuming. You will have to swallow your pride. But in the end, what you think you wrote will actually be what you wrote and that is good for everybody.

egg

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!

For my birthday this year, I am raising money for Food Bank of the Rockies. I would be grateful for any donations to this organization. Even $1 can make a difference.

https://www.facebook.com/donate/2198626033693644/?fundraiser_source=external_url

or

https://www.foodbankrockies.org/give/give-funds/

Thank you!

fbr-logo-2018-retina

Happy Holidays!

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Happy Holidays one and all!

I Decided to take December off from posting to give myself a bit of breathing room on my task list.

I wish each of you the lovely libation of your choice, warm socks, time to focus on your well-being, and the joy of working on all of your writing goals.

Cheers!

Person holding hot chocolate

Happy Holidays!

posted in: Writer's Bag of Tricks | 0

Happy Holidays one and all!

I Decided to take December off from posting to give myself a bit of breathing room on my task list.

I wish each of you the lovely libation of your choice, warm socks, time to focus on your well-being, and the joy of working on all of your writing goals.

Cheers!

Person holding hot chocolate

Let’s All Sing!

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Some of us creative types are emotionally affected by music. Some of us like a particular type of music more than other particular types of music. Some of us like many types of music and our preferences depend on what mood we are in. We can’t help it. We love music. We sing in the car, sometimes not caring if other people see us. Sometimes we sing in the car when we think no one is looking. We sing in the shower. We sing at work. We sing along with YouTube videos, and the TV. We sing regardless of our singing abilities and tone deafness.

Those song lyrics are in our head—sometimes as ear worms—and those songs trigger emotional responses. And as writers, we want to trigger emotional responses in our readers.

What do some writers do?

They start their chapters off with song lyrics to evoke the chapter’s mood. Or, maybe, their character sings the chorus of a fabulous song in a really great scene. Yay!

But…

(Dun, dun, dun)

There’s a problem with using song lyrics in your work of fiction.

Here’s the deal. Song lyrics are other people’s property.

That property is copyrighted.

The music industry doesn’t look kindly on stealing their property.

Some claim that it is “fair use” to use the lyrics in fiction because the fiction author is using only a line or two in their work. But, I disagree. Fair use is for commentary and parody. Fiction isn’t either of those.

There are four criteria for determining fair use, and these criteria are open to interpretation, which the courts must decide, but my opinion is for fiction, don’t risk it.

The four criteria are:

  • the purpose and character of your use (Is it for commercial purposes? Like for fiction? It’s probably not fair use)
  • the nature of the copyrighted work (Is it creative? Say for example, song lyrics? It’s probably not fair use)
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken (which has not been determined but regardless for our purposes it’s probably not fair use), and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market (ie. Will your use of the song lyrics deprive the owner of income? This may depend upon how your book sells, but regardless, for our purposes it’s probably not fair use).

There is an exception. If the song is in the public domain and was published before 1923 then it is fair game.

But if the song was written after 1923 you will need to get permission from the copyright holder to use their work in your work, which is a lot of work. It can be done, but it ain’t easy. It can take a long time. It may cost you money.

If you want to get permissions to use those song lyrics in your work of fiction, then by all means do. You can do it through BMI (link below). But do it now so you have the permissions before you publish. You could save yourself $200 to $150,000 (plus court costs) for each copyright infringement.

Or maybe write your own song lyrics?

https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/four-factors/

https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/introduction/getting-permission/

https://www.bmi.com/

 

Outlining

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It’s been a rough week for me to write regularly. What started out as floor repair is now floormageddon. My house has a Gothic horror show’s worth of dust in every nook and cranny as the contractor chips up concrete and repairs the subfloor. I am looking forward to getting back to my routine…all the routines. And sitting at the computer with a grit-free mouse, which I will never take for granted again.

I’ve been continuing (well…not this week) to work on the outline for my work in progress. I have the general 10 chapter structure (opener, point of no return complication, multiple complication chapters, climax, ending) and am now beginning to sketch out scenes in each of these 10 chapters. **Note that this doesn’t mean that this is a 10-chapter book. This is just the 10 chapters that will force the throughline of the novel and will keep the chapters on track from beginning to end.

Each morning (except this week ) I review the scene I am working on and tweak or edit if needed. I have written a paragraph or two (or five) of what I envision to happen in that scene in previous weeks. The next step is to sketch out all the elements and actions that need to be included in the scene. This outline process goes from broad to more and more specific over time.

This step makes sure that each scene has all the necessary elements to ensure that the scene has a beginning, middle, and end, and provides the reader what they need to be oriented in space and time, while the character and events move the story forward. I include:

Scene #

Setting

Objective

Internal Conflict

External Conflict

Ending

For a more detailed explanation of kinds of scenes and elements of scenes you can search the archives.

Usually, I create and write at least three scenes in each chapter because I want to make sure that the story moves forward, is interesting, has twists and turns, things happen on the page that get my character where they need to go, and ensures there is conflict to hold the reader’s interest.

Scene #

The scene number is self-explanatory. It is a place holder so that I can easily find the location in the manuscript or outline which I need to work on (Chapter 3, scene 2 for example) and also includes the brief description of what happens in the scene. I find that if I number my scenes, but discover I’ve changed something elsewhere that will affect other scenes, I can easily locate and adjust the outline or text as needed. I don’t have to waste time by searching and scrolling pages and pages trying to find that place where that thing happened that one time…

Setting

Scene setting orients the reader in space and time. It doesn’t mean that I have a whole paragraph in the beginning or middle of my scene which tells the reader that the murder happened at 6pm on a Sunday in the Library and the murderer used a candlestick. It means that I describe where and when things happen by writing bits of description throughout the scene. I then can incorporate necessary details that help tell the story visually. If you don’t show the reader when or where your character is, most likely they will be confused about where or when your character is.  Reader confusion is not a good thing.

Objective

The objective simply states what my character wants in this scene. The character always MUST want something, and that objective should be clear to the reader, clear to the character, and clear to YOU THE WRITER. If there is no objective to the scene, no purpose, why is the scene in the manuscript? It is probably best to delete that scene and start over in your outline.

Internal Conflict

Internal conflict describes all the emotional baggage that the character must deal with in this scene and will probably have to resolve by the end of the novel. The internal conflict and overcoming of internal conflict will help you arc your character so that by the end of the novel your character has grown and changed. By sketching out the internal conflict, you can flip through your scenes and see the emotional changes.

External Conflict

External conflict is all the external stumbling blocks and hurdles that your character must jump over to obtain their Objective. If there is no external conflict, then the pages, scene, chapter will be static. Static is boring. Boring is bad. Nothing should ever be too easy for your character. Characters must DO things.

Ending

The ending is the cliff hanger idea that will entice the reader to turn the page. Not every chapter needs a cliff hanger, but every scene needs a beginning, middle, and end.

Doing this sketch helps me to find plot holes and other issues and helps me get a firmer grasp on my story premise and purpose. It also forces me to figure out the conflict issues. I am totally looking forward to getting back on my writing schedule to get these things worked out…floormageddon continues.

The Writer's Bag of Tricks 2018-08-01 11:17:34

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I’ve been continuing to work on my outline of my new book each morning for half an hour and am slowly working through each aspect of my story. I have the story idea in my head clearly, but when it gets to the nuts and bolts out outlining there is some work involved to flesh out the characters, the voice and tone, all of the craft elements, and polishing the overall concept. It’s more difficult than you might think. I know how the story begins. I know the climax. I know the ending. I know what it is I want to say (premise). But what happens in between these chapters and how do these other chapters move the story forward in a way that is logical, full of conflict, and reveals important information to the reader? Hence the outline.

This process of outlining BEFORE I write a single word makes sure I have a viable story concept, that the story will meet genre requirements, ensure that my characters are not flat, and ensure that there is tension on every page without wasting valuable time writing without a plan and by the seat of my pants for days, weeks, or months on chapters and scenes that won’t work in the end and would just get edited out of the story.

Ideally, the plot and structure of the novel will be clearly in place before the creation process begins. Makes sense right? But I still have to know the basic details of every scene beforehand.

I’ve structured my document so I know where the major plot points are but I am still working through what happens in each chapter and how those events move the story forward. If not thought out in advance it is easy for me to lose tension on the pages (no tension equates to boring). If not thought out beforehand I might also make things too easy for my characters. Nothing should be too easy for my characters. Ever. Easy is boring.

To circumnavigate the issue of not enough tension I started adding a brainstorming process to each section/chapter/scene

I type out:

WHAT CAN GO WRONG?

What I mean by that is what can happen in the chapter that the character doesn’t expect, is contrary to their plans, or can become a surprise direction they (and hopefully the reader) didn’t expect. Then I brainstorm with bullet points on all the possible things that can go wrong whether they work for the story concept or not. The goal is just to get as many contrary ideas on the page as possible. Wackadoodle (a technical term) is okay. Logical is okay. I just brainstorm.

Below is an example of the process for a funeral scene for the main character’s family member.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG? (Funeral Scene)

  • Someone at the funeral commits public suicide out of guilt or grief
  • It is discovered that it’s the wrong body in the casket
  • The character breaks out in laughter while giving the eulogy
  • No one comes
  • The pastor gives the wrong eulogy (for the wrong person)
  • The video presentation is for somebody else
  • Someone drops the ashes and they scatter everywhere
  • The pallbearers drop the coffin
  • The characters follow the wrong hearse to the funeral site
  • The deceased’s cell phone goes off (in the casket)
  • Two secret girlfriends of the deceased discover each other and fight over the body
  • The church catches on fire
  • The body animates as a zombie and jumps out of the coffin
  • Etc…

Obviously whether the body is cremated or embalmed will direct some of these actions (which forces me to decide if the body will be creamed or embalmed for the funeral…which triggers the idea that the characters could fight over whether the body should be cremated or embalmed before the funeral…So now I have a note in the outline to sketch the scene about the fight over cremation and embalming, and more work for tomorrow morning.

Of course, not all of these ideas are appropriate for the story, nor will they work for the direction things need to go. Since I am not writing a zombie book, it’s not likely that the body would animate as a zombie. But, my character could visualize this happening. My character could also worry that the church catching on fire, and her dead family member runs out of the burning church at their own funeral, for example. Hmmm. Maybe. It would create tension.

The point of this exercise is that the brainstorming process helps me figure out interesting ideas and directions for my story while I am still in the outlining stage. Most likely I wouldn’t even think of these things if I just wrote without an outline. But then I would have to rewrite and revise and workshop ideas when I got stuck because I didn’t know where the story should go (writer’s block).

If you haven’t outlined before, I recommend you try it. Take your time and really think about the overall arc of the story, the plot points, the voice and tone, mood, all of those things. Think about your premise. Think about the potential conflict and trauma you can put your character through. Don’t make it too easy (for them or you). Think about all the possible things that can go wrong. It’ll be worth your time.

Creating a Regular Writing Schedule and Other Stuff

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It’s been a while since I’ve been on a regular blogging schedule and, quite honestly, I can’t even remember what my last topic was. Much has happened in the last few months I’ve been absent. My elderly folks got in a car accident (they are home now and doing much better) which derailed me for a few weeks, I got vertigo (which is so horrible it both sucks and blows and I am hoping it totally goes away any second now), my book came out (with minimal pomp and circumstance due to the vertigo etc.), and lots of work and time has been given for Colorado Gold (The annual writer’s conference for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). And I still run the publishing house which is a never-ending round-robin of submissions even with a couple interns and a solid cohort of editors. I’ve needed a nap on most days! But alas, napping is not my forte.

I’ve finally got myself back on a basic writing schedule. Because, you know, I want to write books and stuff. It’s not much of a schedule, about 30 minutes at 6am, but it’s a start and given physical and emotional dealings of late I’ll take what I can get. I’ve blocked out the time on my calendar and for the last many days have been working on a story idea, because even though my inclination is to just write, I know that I will save time and frustration and end up with a better book by going through the outline process, and the character development process (Oh! That’s what the last blog topic was!), doing all the research, figuring out the ending, the theme, the premise, and all the other steps of planning and outlining before I write a word. I wasn’t so thorough with the pre-planning on the last book, and I definitely learned my lesson.

So how do you create a regular writing schedule?

Everyone is different and will have a different process but this is how I do it.

  1. I create a comfortable writing space. I can’t work in clutter. It’s distracting and makes me tense. Consequently, my desk is clean. I have tasks to do (always) but for me, I can put those aside if they are organized. I know those tasks aren’t going anywhere and when I want or need to work on them I can. But for writing, I need a clean space to write. No little pieces of paper or sticky notes, or stacks of bills, or piles of editing. Just desk, mouse, keyboard, screen. And coffee or libation of choice. That’s a given for me. You probably are different. Do what you need to do to create a comfortable writing space. On the toilet? Sure. Whatever works for you. The main point is that I need to get my ass in a chair in order to write.
  2. I block out some time on the calendar. If I don’t block out writing time, it is the easiest thing in the world to push aside when something pressing barges its way into my schedule. Since I am much more creative in the morning than I am at other times of the day, I block out time before work. Right now, 30 minutes is what I can do if I want to get everything else done too without having to get up at 4am. I am getting up around 5:30am which is as early as I want to get up at the moment. But as it becomes more and more a habit again to write each morning, all the morning tasks will start to flow and the schedule may get adjusted. I’ve been in that place before where I am writing consistently and will get in that place again. It’s the creating the habit that is hard for me. I’d rather sleep in. Maybe you are a night owl and you are most creative at 2am. Fine. Have a glass of warm milk and write at 2am. The main point is to get your ass in a chair and write.
  3. I use Scrivener (and no I don’t get any kickbacks for referrals). It is inexpensive at $45 and is very good for outlining and organizing notes, and character bios, photos, research, and writing. It works similarly to Word. It’s sort of like a digital writing binder that is easy to organize and access information. It has some learning curve to it, but if you can stomach the Youtube videos it might help you out too with outlining and such. You can try it for free for a month or so if you want to. (https://www.literatureandlatte.com) If you prefer Word or Pages then use Word or Pages. Or OpenOffice. Or whatever. Just use whatever you use and write regularly.
  4. I work on whatever I feel like working on for that 30 minutes. If I need to develop a character I do that. If that triggers a plot idea, I sketch that in. As ideas come, I adjust the plot line. If I need to brainstorm an idea to see how that feels I do that. And I don’t stress about anything. I just work for 30 minutes on the story and all that goes with it, and then I am done for the day. My deadline is a 30-minute deadline. Maybe you are more comfortable with an hour. Or two (glutton). Or eight (censored). The point is to block out the time and use that time consistently for writing. Books don’t write themselves.
  5. By writing every day for 30 minutes I create a routine that becomes a habit. Over time I can extend my schedule, or word count or whatever I need to do, but right now I just need a routine that I can follow. Maybe this is the lazy writer’s way by writing in 30-minute blocks, but it works for me. When I get to actual writing I figure I can write at least 250 words in 30 minutes. 250 words is a page. If I do that every day for a year I will have a 365-page book. It’s wonky writer’s math but at the moment I’ll take what I can get. I write much faster than that if I know where I am going, hence the need for outlining.

Here’s the most important thing. The muse comes with consistency. When you are in the habit of writing on a regular schedule, your subconscious brain is always working on stuff because it has the expectation that it needs to work on stuff. The routine matters. If you just write when you feel like it you most likely won’t finish anything in a timely fashion. If you don’t feel like writing but you write anyway, you will write a book.

 

A Trick of the Light - Brooks, Susan