The Actual Process of Novel-Writing (told with 10th Doctor gifs)

A lot goes into writing a novel.  Different authors do it different ways, and there’s no “right” method of bringing a book to life.  Today, I thought I’d just lay out the process that I go through to write and edit a novel, from first dream until finished product.  Also, I just finished re-watching seasons 1 through 4 of Doctor Who, so… here’s some David Tennant gifs for your eyeballs to enjoy.

1. The Dream

My novels usually begin with an idea.  I’ll be minding my own business doing something, and BANG!  Out of nowhere, a story idea shows up and is just like, “hello.  I’m your new novel.”

hello 10.gif

My novels seem to start with characters.  Usually a character or two and a scene or two.  It’s a mad bunch of brainstorming and dreaming and going, “this is gonna be AMAZING.

 

2. The First Draft

Usually, there’s a bit of time between the FIRST IDEA and the First Draft.  I gather my strength.  I stockpile caffeine and twizzlers.  (Sometimes, I wait for November and a good old NaNoWriMo.)  Then I buckle down and write, pretty fast and messy and furious and rambly and incredibly fun.  It’s like, ALLONS-Y, THIS IS IT!  ROUGH DRAFT TIME!

ALLONS-Y.gif

 

3. The Second Draft (Aka The Re-Writes)

After another break in time, I’ll buckle down and start on the Second Draft.  I being by reading through the entirety of my messy manuscript, making notes and trying to work out a plot.  Usually, I realize that I need to re-do about a third of the book.  I generally end up writing about five brand new chapters.  So I write new scenes and edit old ones, stitching together the narratives, brainstorming and trying to figure out how the plot points all fit together.

Oh! NO! YES!.gif

 

4. The First Round of Edits

After another little break, I read over the entire novel, focusing on the Big Stuff.  Plot points, character arcs, and overall flow.  I change stuff around if I need to, and fix obvious issues.  Do I focus on sentence structure or passive voice or adverbs yet?  Nope.

10 no.gif

That all comes later.  The First Round of Edits is for BIG fixes only.

 

5. The Second Round of Edits

This edit is for the Smaller Stuff.  Usually I like to print out my manuscript at this point, as it’s a lot easier to see my flaws on paper than on the screen.  This is where I focus on using strong verbs, making sure my dialogue is tight, touching up the setting, and examining things on the paragraph and sentence level.

Oh look at that.gif

 

6.  Getting Critiques/ Reviews/ Beta Readers

At some point, it’s time to get my work critiqued.  For my first novel, I actually got my first critiques a lot earlier (which I highly recommend for your first novel).  But now that I’m an “experienced writer,” this is when I start to let people read my work and get feedback on it.  So I SEND IT OUT!  BETA READERS!  CRITIQUE CIRCLE!  WRITER’S CLUB!  MY MOTHER!  MY BOOKISH FRIENDS!  RANDOMS STRANGERS ON THE STREET!  Everyone who will read it.  I get feedback.  Ask questions.  Take the helpful suggestions and leave the rest.

10 hmm.gif

 

7. Repeat Steps 5 & 6 Indefinitely, Until I Either Hate My Novel or I Get it Published.  Also, Move on and Write New Novels!

I keep editing and getting feedback until I’m ready for submitting to an agent.

10 Oh I'm ready

(And then realize I wasn’t actually ready, and work on it some more, and finally decide to move onto new writing projects instead.)  Also, the process of publishing is something entirely separate from the process of writing and editing a novel, so I’ll save that one for another blog post.

// I’d love to hear if your writing process resembles mine at all!  Also, who’s your favorite Doctor?  What do you think of the 13th being a female?  How’s your writing going?  Leave a comment and let me know!  Also feel free to check out the Guest Book and introduce yourself and leave a link back to your own blog. //

 

Advertisements

Artsy Stuff and Learning Curves

Hello lovely writers!  Today’s post includes fanart, a poorly-drawn graph, and some rambling about learning to be a writer.  Hope you enjoy!

Long before I was a writer, I was an artist.  (Not necessarily a good one lol.)  I’ve been making things since I was a really little kid.  I’ve been drawing horses and dogs for as long as I can remember, and I’ve taken art classes since I was in middle school.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I finish something I’m proud of.  I’ve always enjoyed art for the escape it provides: when I’m working on a piece of art, the rest of the world is entirely gone.

I’ll sometimes still get out the ol’ pencil box and do some fanart or whatever.  (Some examples below because why not?)

And just recently, I picked up the guitar!  My brother has had a guitar just sitting in his closet for the past few years, and I earlier this summer, I had the sudden idea to ask to borrow it.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been teaching myself guitar!  (This is why I love the internet, guys: YouTube tutorials, online tuners, free guitar chords, and pretty much anything else you need.)  And it’s been so much fun.  I love the learning curve that exists for when I first learn something new.  It seems like every day I practice, I learn something new.  I’m constantly making big strides; I’m growing exponentially.

For example, the first day of playing guitar I could barely play a few chords.  On the third day, I could play a simple song really slowly.  By day 5, my fingerstips no longer felt like I was slicing them open.  Within just a few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a capo, I can play chords in quick succession, and I’m able to pick up new chords really quickly.  I’m starting to learn strumming patterns and put everything together to play songs at regular tempo.

I fondly remember my early days of writing, when I’d just started out.  Every chapter I completed was uncharted territory; every blog post I read taught me something new.  I was like a sponge as I discovered found craft books and online blogs.  And then about halfway through my first novel, I found the website Critique Circle.  I used to get so excited when my chapters would come up for critique, because I was always learning.  New terms, new ideas, new things to think about.  Characters, tension, showing vs telling, passive vs active voice, dialogue, setting.  So much to learn about.  Writing was so exciting.  It was new and special and a bit scary.  It was also so exciting, because it was so easy to find resources that broadened my knowledge.

Sometimes, now, I find it difficult to be in love with writing.  I’ve grown so much as a writer.  I know so much more; I have a lot more experience; I know what I’m doing.  Not that I’m an expert or anything LOL – obviously I’m always learning and honing my craft.  I’m just… not a beginner anymore.  And because I’m no longer a beginner, I’m not learning new things about writing at the same rate as I was when I first started writing.  For reference, I’ve made this nifty graph:

skill vs time.png

If you’re thinking that it looks like I made this graph if MS Paint, then you’re correct.  🙂

I’m at the point in my writing journey where the speed at which I’m learning has started to level off a bit.  So it’s easier to get discouraged, because I don’t see my skill improving at the same rate it used to be.

That’s why it was so refreshing for me to start learning guitar.  I’m still in the “beginner” phases, where I’m learning so quickly that it’s exciting and enticing.

So here’s a question for all you experienced writers: how do you keep perusing your dreams and your art when the learning gets slow?

I actually do want your answers (leave a comment below!) but I’d also like to add my own answer.  I do it by reminding myself how far I’ve come.  I don’t take for granted the things I’ve learned.  And I remind myself why I learned them.  I didn’t just learn about writing so I could keep all that knowledge in my head.  I learned about writing so I could be a better writer.  

And I’m in love with writing.  Not with being a writer, or knowing about writing, or being a published author, or anything else.  With the actual writing.  With taking an idea and making it come alive.  With editing a mess of a story into a coherent book.  With making magic happen with words and fingertips on keys.  That’s what I love.  The knowledge is just a tool to help me do that better.  So who cares about learning curves?  Let’s go write stories.

Do a Time-Sprint

Kinda a mini-post today.  Featuring overly excited words, Doctor Who gifs, and not a ton of content.  Enjoy!


GUYS GUYS GUYS!  Y’all know how much I love NaNoWriMo, right?  Well, here’s a reason to love them even more.

10 winks.gif

They just launched a new feature on their website called Goal Trackers.  You know how in November, there’s this shiny graph and tracker that tells you your stats for the novel you’re writing? Well, now there’s a tool that you can use year-round: the Goal Tracker.  You can set your goal to be in either words or hours, and your goal doesn’t have to be just for one month – it can be anything from a day to three months!  Here’s what mine looks like:

nano tracker

So, since my current project is a re-write – and since it’s super messy to measure the word count on a re-write – I love the fact that I can have my goal be in hours instead of words.

Here’s the thing: If I only track words, that doesn’t count my brainstorming or plotting or editing or whatever else.  I like that the method of tracking hours give me credit for all my work – not just for the number of words I’ve written.  You feel me?

So.  The last several writing days, I’ve pulled out my phone, set my stopwatch, and started noveling!  Who knew logging hours could be so fun?

There’s just something really rewarding about getting to put in numbers for things you’ve accomplished.  Since novels are such big projects, it’s hard to quantify how much progress you’ve made in a day or a week or a month.  And this is especially true with re-writes.  But if I can log hours spent, that’s definitive progress and it feels like a little victory each day.

Also, I’ve overall just found that some way of keeping track of my writing is always helpful.  It keeps me more mindful of when I’m writing a lot and when I’m really not.  And I like it a lot better when I’m writing more.

So, if you can squeeze in 5 or 10 minutes today, set your stopwatch and get to work.  Say, “I’m taking 15 minutes to do nothing but novel.”  It’s a lot of fun.  The clock is ticking.

the clock is ticking.gif

Anyways!  Do you lovely folks use anything to track your writing goals or progress?  Do you find that it helps?  Let me know in the comments!  Also, let me know if you’ve checked out NaNo’s Goal Tracker, and what you thought of it.

P.S. I’m not actually sure how new this feature is.  It might be like 6 months old.  But it’s the first time I’ve seen it, and I really really like it.

P.P.S. Sorry for the Doctor Who gifs?  Sorry not sorry.

 

Caring for the Writer Outside – Part 2

Last post, I talked about caring for your inner writerly-self by consuming good art, and finding inspiration in the things you see and listen to and read.  The second part of this Writerly Care discussion is on Self Care – that is, taking care of the Outer You, the shell you walk around in every day.  We as human beings – and especially as writers – tend to forget to take care of ourselves sometimes.

Here’s the thing: I feel like it’s so much easier to access that creative side of my brain when my body is well taken care of.

I’ve found some pretty straightforward self-care methods that help me feel like a better, more energized person – so therefore also a better writer.  Here’s my top 5 tips for caring for the Outside of the Writer:

1.  Drink Water

*Whispers* okay I know this one is a bit cliche, and writers hate cliche things.  But really, folks.  Drink water instead of soda.  Drink water when you feel hungry.  Drink water as you write.  Drink ice water when you want something to make you feel better.  Drink water.

2.  Exercise (or at least go outside!)

I can feel your reactions.  You’re all doing this:

cas head tilt

“Hmmm, exercise?  No thanks.  I’d rather shoot myself in the foot.  Then I’d have a valid excuse to sit in my comfy chair all day.”

But listen.  I’m not saying you have to run a marathon.  I’m saying get up from your laptop and do 20 Jumping Jacks.  I’m saying take your dog on a walk.  Who knows? Maybe you’ll find some plot bunnies while you’re out walking around.  I know that for me, personally, I feel a lot better after exercising.  My mind is clear, my body is tired-in-a-good-way, and I feel energized and ready to face the day.  And when I do sit down to write, it’s that much easier to focus, sink into my world, and let the words flow from my fingertips.  A small writer’s block is often cured by some sunshine and fresh air.

And if the outdoors is too much for you, get up and put on some music, and dance around like a drunk giraffe (as demonstrated by the 11th Doctor in the gif below).  It will get your blood flowing and your ideas churning.

drunk giraffe

 

3.  Eat (something) Healthy

I like to munch a lot as I write, so it’s important that I have some healthy snacks in my house.  If I consume chips and chocolate all day long, my body and mind feel yucky.  That’s not to say that you can’t eat chocolate.  Please, eat chocolate.  But also find some fruits or veggies that you enjoy.  Writing is hard, you guys, so why not fuel your physical self with good things instead of yucky things?

Also, I’ve heard some of you lovely writerly folk say that on a particularly intense writing day, you simply forget about meals.  I get it: there have been times when I’m mid-chapter and forget about eating lunch or something.  So, I recommend you stock your refrigerator (or, if you’re a college kid, your lil’ mini-fridge) full of healthy snacks like yogurt and fruit before a big writing day.  Then you can grab something nourishing and get right back to it.

eat you'll feel better lupin.gif

 

4.  Get Enough Sleep (at least occasionally)

I know we have this idea of the Brilliant Writer being up at 2am, madly pounding away at their keyboard.  But that doesn’t have to be true.  *Checks time* 1:58 am.  Hehehe.

Sure, if inspiration rears its ugly head at midnight, get up and type for a while.  But also, try to give yourself enough rest.  Don’t be afraid to take a night off to go to bed early and recharge your body.  You’re not going to be your best writerly self when you’re brain’s got a Tiredness Cloud hovering about.

Yes, coffee is a writer’s best friend.  But sometimes sleep is a good pal, too.

coffee

 

5.  Forgive Yourself

Okay, this last one is a more about your inner writer than your outer one.  But this one is an important thing for me to remember: writing begins with forgiveness.  I grabbed this idea from this blog post, but let put it this way: don’t let yesterday’s failure affect today’s success.  Forgive yourself for not writing yesterday, or at all the past week, or the past month.  And then sit down and write today.

Look, right now I’m a busy college student, and writing isn’t my job.  It’s my hobby.  Being a full-time student is my job, and as much as I want writing to be my profession, it’s not right now.  So, if I’ve spent the last three days studying for exams instead of writing, I’m not going to beat myself up.  Sitting down to write today is wonderful and delightful, and if it’s the first time in a while I’ve done so, that’s okay.  I’m going to enjoy it anyways.

Which of these do you struggle with?  Do you relate to this advice at all?  Do you have any more writerly wisdom to share on the subject of self-care?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul (or was it the election?)

Just kidding.  I don’t have a soul.

Hahahaha…

See, this is the type of dark humor I’ve been reduced to.  Thanks, NaNo.

In the first 7 days of November, I wrote over 11,000 words.  I’m surprised my fingers aren’t bleeding yet.

In the first week of NaNo, some stuff happened.

  1. Before November, I plotted and planned for the story that I have mentally named The NightOwl Bookstore, which I have blogged about and bragged about here and here.  But THEN.  A few days before November 1st, I decided it was a great idea to start working on a story I have mentally named THE SEQUEL.  In other words, the sequel to The Sound of Color, the high-fantasy novel that got me started on this whole “writer” thing to begin with.  The one I’m trying to get published.  The one that is my precious child and I love dearly.
  2. So I’m writing THE SEQUEL and suddenly it’s November 1st, and I tell my brain that it’s time to leave my high fantasy world and come write the Contemporary about the bookstore that I’ve been plotting and planning.  To which my brain replies: um… no.
  3. So now I’m writing a sequel.  HOW DOES ONE SEQUEL?  HOW DOES ONE WRITE A SERIES?  HOW DOES ONE -?  How did I manage to write 10,ooo words in 6 days? Impressive.

And then it was November 8th.  The day the world kinda imploded.  You see, I live in the United States.  So I kinda spent the entire day focused on the election and not really on my writing.  And then the next day, I kinda spent the entire day on trying not to cry and not really working on my writing.

So.  If I was to “catch up” today, I would have to write 5,000 words.  Note to self: if you wanna win NaNo, don’t schedule an election skip two days of writing.

I’m not sure if I’m going to try to catch up with NaNo.  I’m also not really sure how to respond to the results of the election.  But here’s the thing: being a writer is about having good days and bad days, and learning to not let your bad days ruin your good ones.  It reminds me of one of my favorite Doctor Who quotes:

11.jpg

I’m going to be wholly frank: I was disappointed with the results of the election.  But having a future president that I strongly dislike does not negate the beauty of the rest of my country.  There are still a million leaves around my university campus, each a different shade of red or orange or yellow or speckled with brown.  There is still poetry and music.  We are getting two more songs from the Hamilton Mixtape released this week.  Moana comes out in two weeks.  God is still good, and life will carry on.  (And if you’re excited about the outcome of the election, you are fully entitled to have your own opinion.)

Likewise, my two days of not-writing do not negate the victory of having written 11,000 words in the first week of NaNo.  Whether I catch up or not is irrelevant.  The important thing is that I don’t let my bad writing days ruin my good ones.

Wherever you are, election- or writing-wise, keep on.  Set your heart on the good.  Write like you’re running out of time.  And if you need some encouragement, put on some Hamilton.

Alright.  Gotta go do some noveling.

Unstuck! (Some thoughts on Writer’s Block)

A short story, by me:

Today, after many, many days of not-writing, I made myself sit down and work on my WIP.  But like the last few times I’d done this, I had absolutely nothing to say.

Nothing to add.  No idea where to take this story.

ARRRG.

I tried to write.  Typed a few sentences, erased them, sighed deeply, figuratively banged my head against the wall, and then gave up.  It was like trying to start a car that’s out of gas.

So I gave up and pulled out my sketchbook.

Then I was struck with the impulse to try something new.  What if I drew this scene instead?  So, pretending that I was writing a graphic novel instead of a novel-novel, I sketched out the people, the place, the facial expressions.  My drawings were horrible, incomplete.  But you know what?

It worked.

My brain suddenly went what if —- ?

A new idea emerged.  A tiny alteration to a scene I’d been in stuck on for a week.  That led to something else; a new idea about how my characters relate to each other.  Soon I had a whole ‘nother scene spinning in my head, waiting to escape onto paper.

Very tentatively, I pulled out my laptop again and opened my WIP.  I lay my fingers softly on the keyboard.  I hit a few keys, holding my breath.

I typed one sentence, then another, picking up speed, and then the computer screen faded before my eyes and I found myself in a brand-new bookstore, staring into the faces of my characters, hearing them talk to each other and laugh and –

And 700 words later I’d written two scenes that I was really proud of.

that was dramatic.gif

Anywho.

Writer’s Block comes in many shapes and sizes.

Sometimes it’s lack of motivation because you just don’t feel like writing.

Sometimes you want to write but just can’t because you’re stuck; your story literally will not go right no matter how hard you try.

Sometimes it’s a mix, one leads to the other which leads back to the first, a vicious cycle.

So here are four things to remember when you’re facing writer’s block:

  1. It’s okay to take a break.  Writer’s block happens to (pretty much) all writers, and it’s a natural part of the process.  Sometimes you need to take a break for half an hour and walk the dog; sometimes you need to take a break for two months and read a bunch of books and chill.  Here’s a great blog post that talks about this.
  2. Don’t give up; don’t let your “break” become a goodbye.  Sometimes you’ll sit down at your WIP and get nothing.  But the act of sitting down to try to write is good enough.  If you keep coming back, your subconscious will keep thinking about this story.  Be persistent, because determination and discipline are huge parts of beating writer’s block.
  3. I’ve found the best way to break free of writer’s block is to change things up.  Sometimes it’s writing in a different place, or at a different time, or on paper instead of on the computer.  Sometimes it’s writing something else for a while.  Sometimes it’s drawing a scene out instead of writing it.  Sometimes it’s just doing something new in your normal life that hits you with a moment of inspiration and suddenly you’re back to writing again.
  4. It will pass.  I was a bit concerned when I didn’t write much of anything for week after week after week.  But if your facing writer’s block, give yourself room to breathe.  Then once you’ve taken a breath, come back and try to write again.  It won’t last forever; it will get better.  I promise.

cross my hearts.gif

 

Queries and Quests

This week was a momentous occasion for me as a writer.

I sent out my first query letter to a real-live, actual agent.

It’s an incredible feeling, having a novel that I feel ready to share with a professional.  Having a query letter that explains what happens.  Having taken that first baby step out into the world of actually publishing.

I soon found myself getting really excited.  The more query letters I send out, the better chance I have of getting an email someday asking for a partial- or full- manuscript.  Someday I might actually get PAID for all the hard work I’ve put into this novel.  Wow.

Now, to be realistic, this probably won’t happen for a while.  One blogger buddy I follow has an outstanding MS, a delightful query letter, has been submitting for many months, and has come up empty (even after several full-MS requests).  So obviously I’m not trying to get my hopes up too much.  But it’s fun to dream.  To speculate.  To hope.  To reference Doctor Who:

optimist.jpg

I think that far-flung hopes and improbable dreams are beautiful things, and that they are part of what motivate us to try harder, to push ourselves, and to achieve success.

But on the other hand, I can hear Albus Dumbledore echoing through my mind:

dwell

So even though I’m really, truly excited for the slight possibility that today could be the day I hear back from an agent, I’m not consumed by that.  I’m trying to balance.

Because honestly, my first three pages of my novel could be a little tighter.  My query could be a little more captivating.  Oh, and I have another book that’s in my heart, burning to be set free onto the page.  So my goal is to dream my improbable dreams and let them be my guide, but not lose sight of the work in front of me.

And that, my friends, is something that every writer – every person who wants to accomplish great things – must learn.


 

Part of this blog is about the sharing of information.  The writing community is all about looking out for each other and helping each other out, so while I’m on the subject of querying, I’d like to share two amazing resources I came across this week:

1. Query Letter Critiques by an Actual Legit Agent

While I was looking around for more agents and agencies, I discovered this agent who posts critiques of query letters that people submit to her for suggestions.  Yes, you heard right.  An actual, legit agent reviews of actual query letters.  Link here.

2.  A Beautiful Catalog of Agents

I’ve run across several catalogs of agents (basically where you can search by agent by genre or other criteria).  My favorite thus far is http://www.aaronline.org/ because it’s clean, easy, and fast.

CREDIT for these sources is at least partially due to this video (posted on the vlogbrothers channel on Youtube)

Whether you’re writing a first draft, editing, or querying like I now am, don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  Keep dreaming, keep working hard.  Being a writer isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.