Writing a book is only half of the work. A lot of authors even believe that most of the work starts after the first draft. I am among those authors. See, once I have written my story, (after pleading to my characters, arguing with them, smiling with them etc), I send my manuscript to my editor. She then “shreds” my baby. Aaargh, the horror! The heinous act! Of course, that’s her job. My editor has a critical eye that is absolutely necessary since after writing a book, and having it read a dozen time, I just can’t really “see” the story anymore. I’m simply oblivious to anything in it that doesn’t add up. Also, I believe every single one of my stories became better from the editing process.
I will write another set of posts about editing, but this post is about how to start writing a book.
I have always loved a good story. As a kid, I loved fairytales and basically any story with a hero and villain. I remember on my birthday wearing a pink princes dress with a plastic sword around my waist. See, I didn’t want to be just a princes, I also wanted to be a hero. Sadly I never learned to wield a sword or any martial arts, but luckily I have my fictional heroines to draw from.
In my new urban paranormal series, I have strong female characters, which doesn’t always mean they are bad-ass and kick some ass (though most do) but they are strong-willed. A great source of inspiration to me is world mythology. Though the Mythos series takes place in modern times, the battles are ancient. Especially the war of the gods which is one of the subplots in the series.
If you’ve read The Amazon and the Beast then you know it ended in a happily ever after, but as some readers already pointed out, it’s more of a happy for now. So, what can you expect for the second book in the series?
So, I have these days when I know I have to up my wordcount, but then ‘accidently’ click on some bookmark so I can ‘learn’ more about writing. Ironically enough these writing tips mostly shout to “just start writing!” which also translates into “don’t write a blog post about it, but just finish that first draft”. Well, since I finished the first draft on The Amazon and the Beast I think it is time to share some writing rules with my fellow (aspiring) writers.
The Ten rules for writing fiction was posted in The Guardian, (and inspired by Elmore Leonard). I will just give a highlight of the 10 writing tips.
When I first started writing I didn’t have a plan whatsoever. I knew my story, my main characters and the ending (big yay on that) and just started typing. The more I wrote, the more I got to know my characters. They became ‘alive’. Nowadays I like to work more structured when it comes to characters. There is actually a very simple way to ‘create’ a flesh and bone basic character. I just use a character sheet.
You can find many examples of character sheets but I found 2 that work best for me. One is very detailed, the other not so much. To be honest, I use the less detailed one, because that’s easier.
So, on the first of March the editing of The Amazon and the Beast will start. I’m super excited about my first supernatural romance/urban fantasy novel. It will also be my first indie ebook so a whole new world is opening up for me with (seemingly) endless opportunities. One of the things my editor told me to do before I hand in my first draft is to send it to my beta readers. I had a fixed few beta readers, but I found I needed fresh new eyes. So, who best to ask than book bloggers I like reading reviews from. I specifically searched for bloggers who read my genre and who are good critiques, which of course is essential.
Then I thought about what to ask them?
Ever have those moments when you discover something new and go like “how have I ever lived without this before!!”? Well, I kind of have that with Scrivener. I might actually be one of the last authors on Earth (sometimes I do like to exaggerate) that discovered this writing tool just now. For the last 4 years I was using one main Word document for my manuscript and several sub Word docs for my notes. I also had paper notes all around the house. Well, no more! Thing is, with Scrivener you just need 1 program that does it all.
Since a picture says more than a thousand words I will show some print screens.
One of my goals this year was to up my daily word count. Up until last November, I was writing whenever I was hit by ‘inspiration’. It took me a while to discover there’s no such thing. Writing is, like everything else, just hard work. Sitting my ass behind my laptop and write. Every day. Even if I only write a hundred words and just rewrite the rest of the evening.
So, I took this decision in November, but what did I actually do?
- I stopped watching my (or any new) tv shows and I’m even behind the latest season of Supernatural (the sacrifices we make…). It did provide me with a huge amount of extra spare time, though. It gave me more hours to write besides the weekends and evenings. Just think about it. Following about 5 series a week is almost 5 hours spent not writing.
- I write every day. Yes, every single day. No excuses. There are days I don’t open my laptop, but even then I write on my phone with the WriterP app. I only discovered this app a few months ago, but it’s already my favourite app.
- I stopped putting pressure on my shoulder to write the “perfect” first draft. No, not every sentence I come up with is gold. Nor does it have to be. Liberating my mind like this did wonders for my writing spirit.
- I stopped writing in chronological order per se. Yes, I still want to finish chapter 2 before chapter 6, but when a dialogue pops into my mind that belongs in chapter 6, I simply ditch rewriting chapter 2 and add said dialogue to chapter 6.
- I discovered Scrivener and switched from Word to Scrivener. Best decision I made this year. Thanks again Joanna Penn for introducing me to Scrivener. ps: this is a great site for indie authors, especially if you are a “baby” indie like me.
These 5 simple changes helped me finish my first draft of 50,000 words – which was my goal to begin with – in just two months. Now all I have to do is rewrite, which isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but the huge mountain I was facing before… is no more.
One thing I didn’t change? Reading before going to bed 🙂