Category Archives: Writing techniques

5 Tips To Help You To Write A Book Despite Your Inner Critic

 5 Tips To Help You To Write A Book Despite Your Inner Critic

You want to write a book, but you gave up after one page, or one chapter. Maybe you’ve written a book, but hate it, so it’s on your hard drive, a symbol of your failure.

Would you believe me if I said that there’s no such thing as failure, and you CAN write your book, starting today? All you need to do is become familiar with your inner critic, and expose him for the illusion that he is.

The big reason you can’t write a book

I work with writers every day. A huge part of that work is separating a writer from his killer “musts” and “shoulds.” These faux strictures and rules stem from the writer’s inner critic, and they’re immensely harmful until the writer recognizes them.

Once you recognize the lies your inner critic is telling you, and recognize the source, you can go ahead and write happily. Unfortunately, this recognition is hard, because the words your inner critic whispers activate your sympathetic nervous system: this is your fight or flight response.

Fight or flight shuts down your thinking processes. The only way to counter this is to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, so that your body calms and you can think again.

You can’t rid yourself of your inner critic, but you can stop giving him attention. Vital: never argue with your inner critic. That way lies disaster. Remember that he’s an illusion, he’s not real. 🙂

Let’s look at some tips which will help you to ignore your inner critic.

1. Practice gratitude daily: list 5 wonderful things

Although you might think that gratitude (of all things!) can’t help you to write a book, guess what — it can. It’s not only free, it’s a way to turbocharge your creativity.

Gratitude floods your body with chemicals from your parasympathetic nervous system. These chemicals are completely natural, they make you feel good, and they put you into a “writing” mind state.

Keep a gratitude journal for a few weeks; it can change your life.

2. Fool your inner critic: “I’m just practicing …” — and smile

Uh-oh… You’re happily writing, and your inner critic chirps in your ear: “how could you write that? You can’t write that…”

Remember: he’s an illusion. You can’t argue with an illusion and win. Mentally say to yourself. “I’m not writing anything serious. I’m just practicing and having fun.”

And smile: just a little Mona Lisa smile. Smile slightly with your eyes and tilt your lips upward at the corners. According to The Atlantic, a full research study,“Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response,” was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Smiling is a psychological thing. Just do it. 🙂

3. Create a routine for your writing: do the same thing, every day

Every writer who writes commercially has a routine. Without a routine, you can’t get anything done. Routine includes:

  • Where you write: desk in your home office, or coffee shop, or…?
  • How you write: computer, iPad, longhand on a legal pad…
  • When you write: early morning, lunchtime at work, on your commute…
  • How long you write (research, outlining, and editing don’t count)…

It takes around four days to establish a routine. Eventually, if you keep following your routine, your inner critic fades. You’ve established a habit, and your inner critic is powerless against habits.

4. Say “thank you” to your inner critic, and write

Remembering that your inner critic is an illusion, when something he says catches your attention, say: “inner critic”, or “thank you”. You’re labelling the thought, rather than engaging it. This prevents you following the thought down a rabbit hole of endless discursive thought.

Mentally label the thought, and start writing immediately.

5. Meditate (breathe) for ten minutes a day

The voices in your head, including your inner critic, are not real. Your biggest challenge in dealing with them is realizing that you’re being baited by an illusion. Meditation can help you to recognize your inner critic as easy-to-ignore background noise.

Eventually, meditation helps you to recognize your thoughts as thoughts. Thoughts are not real. Meditation can’t eliminate thoughts — your mind chatter continues, but meditation slows it down. Meditation also prevents the constant triggering of your sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response. You’ll find that on days when you meditate for ten minutes, you’re much calmer — your inner critic is either missing, or if present, is ignored. Not bad for just ten minutes out of your day.

While there are endless ways to meditate, the simplest way is to breathe and count your breaths, because your breath is always with you. 🙂

Your inner critic is a toothless tiger, so write a book

We’ve focused on your inner critic’s role in preventing you from writing a book. However, he appears in many guises in all areas of your life. You’ll discover that when you follow the tips above, your entire life improves. 🙂

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy

New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy

“I’ve done everything I can think of — bought advertising, did a blog tour, gave away free copies… Why aren’t my novels selling?” My coaching student was in despair, and that’s understandable. If you do everything “right” it’s devastating when a novel doesn’t sell.

Today, every novelist faces huge competition. In 2011, a novelist who could string together 60,000 words could make a great income. Not so in 2017. Authors who quit their day jobs to write are going back to those jobs because their incomes have dropped.

“My beta readers love my novel — I’ve got five star reviews. But no sales…”

My student sent me copies of his novels. I opened the first one and spotted the warning signs of a fatal problem right on the first page. I speed-read through the novel — and yes, the novel was dead on arrival.

Which brings us to…

New novelist: your simple strategy to write a selling novel

Here’s the strategy. Your novel must have a point. All the screaming excitement of your novel can’t and won’t make up for it if there’s no point.

The point of a novel is often referred to as the “story question”, or “dramatic question.” Although the story question might not be stated overtly, it must exist for your novel to be satisfying to readers. In many genres, the genre itself offers insight to the story question:

  • In mysteries — will the sleuth find the killer?
  • In romances — will the boy get the girl?
  • In thrillers — will the hero save the world?

Oddly enough, when a novelist writes a novel which has no point, it’s often sadly plain right from the first page. I call these novel openings “much ado about nothing.”

My student’s novel started with his hero in bed, waking up. OK — a fine opening, as long as the room explodes, or there’s a dead body beside him. There wasn’t an explosion, or a dead body. Nothing, except a whole heap of excitement about… waking up in the morning.

Readers are smart. When they buy a novel, they want a story that’s a real story. In other words, they want novels which have a point. When a novelist generates false excitement about waking up in the morning, readers are turned off. No matter how gorgeous your book’s cover, nothing makes up for nothing happening in your novel.

3 vital tips you need to write a selling novel, starting today

Let’s look at some tips to help you to write a selling novel.

1. What’s your point? Who wants what? Why can’t he get it?

Your novel must have a story question, and your story question must be concrete — something you can kick. 🙂 It shouldn’t be: “love conquers all” or similar. That can be your theme, if you want one.

The easiest way to decide on a story question (even for pantsers) is: who wants what, and why can’t he get it? Think about your favorite novels. You can identify the story question easily. In Pride and Prejudice, for example, it’s who gets the “young man of large fortune from the north of England.”

You’ll usually find the story question in the blurb (book description) — here’s the story question from the blurb of the bestselling novel, The Night Manager:

At the start of it all, Jonathan Pine is merely the night manager at a luxury hotel. But when a single attempt to pass on information … backfires terribly, and people close to Pine begin to die, he commits himself to a battle against powerful forces he cannot begin to imagine.

2. Write in scenes, and include the important elements of a scene to maintain suspense

In Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction, we said:

Scenes are the building blocks of your fiction

In the 21st century, every reader understands drama.

TV and movie stories are delivered in scenes. If you want lots of readers, you need to learn to deliver your stories in scenes too.

Readers are impatient. They just want the story. Deliver. Show, rather than tell. “Showing” means writing in scenes.

Want to write great fiction? Devote time to learning how to write scenes. Include these elements in your scenes to maintain suspense:

  • Setting;
  • Character development;
  • Sensory details — sight, sound, and more;
  • Plotting — movement on the story question.

3. STOP IT! Stop with the backstory junk already — readers don’t care about the past

In Writing Fiction Made Easier: Get Out Of Backstory Hell we discussed the pitfalls of backstory (that is, the history of your characters, before the story starts.) We said:

Important… Don’t worry about backstory in your first draft. Just write.

Remove ALL backstory when you’re editing.

You can add backstory into your novel/ novella/ short story, very carefully after your “slash and burn” editing fury. Restrain yourself. Only a sentence or two at a time. And only if you must add it for the story to make sense.

Backstory stops your story dead. Readers DO NOT CARE about what happened before the story starts. Occasionally backstory is necessary, because it makes character motivations clearer, and reveals something that readers must know. At those times, drop in your backstory in a sentence or two… please.

“Does it make sense? Is it important/ exciting/ fun to know?”

One of the definitions of “novel” is interestingly new or unusual.

This particular definition is a good guide to knowing what to write about in a novel. Keep it interesting, above all. For a new novelist, a big challenge is “writing” their novel. Bestselling novelist Elmore Leonard said:

My most important rule (for writers) is … if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

A very good rule. Be wary of anything you think is “good writing.” New novelists tend to fall in love with words, and that leads to horrors like writing about their characters waking up in the morning. There’s nothing interestingly new or unusual about that.

Keep your wits about you. When you’ve written a scene, or are about to write a scene, ask yourself if your idea for the scene makes sense. Logic counts.

Wondering about my coaching student? He’s fine. He’s happily rewriting, after we developed story questions for each of his novels. He tells me that he feels a lot more confident, and knows that his revised novels will sell.

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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3 Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Build Your Characters

3 Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Build Your Characters

In fiction writing, there’s an old argument among authors. Some authors believe that the plot is everything; while others believe that the plot is immaterial — fiction begins and ends with fictional characters.

If you’re unhappy with your fiction — your characters haven’t “come alive” — chances are that you’ve been pushing them around. You’re too focused on your plot.

Let’s look at some fiction writing tips which will help you to build great characters, and a wonderful plot.

Characters in fiction writing: two essentials for each character

New authors imagine that to create a character, you need to know everything about him: his shoe size, for example. Or whether or not he likes anchovies on his pizza.

To create a character who has the potential to be wonderful, you only need to know two things:

  • What he wants. What’s his heart’s desire — what will he sacrifice for?
  • What internal obstacle stops him getting what he wants?

Now let’s look at three tips to help you to build great characters who will grow your plot for you.

1. To create a character, start with an attribute to create an internal obstacle

In Craft Fictional Characters For NaNoWriMo: 3 Tips, we said:

I know some authors like to create page upon page of character bios, and that’s fine — although it’s never worked for me. I like to start with the basics, a fictional character’s name, his age, his profession, and his primary attribute.

Let’s say that we’re writing a cozy mystery, and we want to create a quirky sleuth. Without bending our brain, we decide on:

* Name: Mara Mason, age 26

* Profession: widow, who works from home, as a virtual assistant;

* Primary attribute: intense curiosity.

You can create a character within moments, as you can see. Mara’s primary attribute is curiosity, an essential for a sleuth. It’s also a double-edged sword, and this attribute helps you to create external obstacles for Mara.

Recall however that we also need Mara’s heart’s desire, and an internal obstacle which stops her getting what she wants.

Let’s say that Mara’s heart’s desire is a family of her own. Her parents died when she was young, and she lived in a long succession of foster homes. She wants what she never had. What’s the internal obstacle? It’s a lack of trust. Mara can’t trust anyone enough to reveal herself and build close relationships.

Vital: your character will usually be totally unaware that he has an internal obstacle which stops him getting what he wants. He may also be unaware of what he mostly deeply desires.

Although Mara may be unaware that she has problems with trust, and unaware that she longs for a family, you as the author are completely aware. You use this knowledge to build your plot.

Similarly with other major characters in your novel. You need to know what they most want, and what stops them getting that.

2. Once you know the internal obstacle, build your character’s backstory to explain it

Our backstory explanation of Mara’s trust issues is: orphan, foster homes.

However, if you want to write a novel which is a page-turner, keep 95% of the backstory out of your novel.

As we said in: Fiction Tips: Kill Your Backstory,

Your explanations are backstory. You need to know the backstory, but your reader doesn’t. You may have heard that you should start slotting backstory into your novel after the setup, somewhere after the first few chapters. This can work, but honestly? It still bogs down the story. You want readers to keep reading, so only tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Backstory is a killer, especially for new novelists. I’m currently reading The Night Manager, by John Le Carré. He’s amazing. I love the way he handles backstory, but he’s an expert. Until you have Le Carré’s skill, avoid dumping backstory into your novel.

Instead, hint at the backstory. For example, perhaps Mara has a garden rock on her desk. She took the rock from the garden of the one foster home in which she was completely happy.

You can keep readers wondering: why is that simple rock so important to Mara? Keep them wondering, until you reveal its importance to Mara.

When you limit your revelations of backstory like this, you’ll write a more exciting novel, because you’re involving readers.

3. Develop your plot: your plot is the resolution of your main characters’ internal and external obstacles, in SCENES

You need to know the heart’s desire of all your main characters, as well as their internal obstacles. You SHOW the desires, and the external and internal obstacles in scenes.

We covered how to set a scene in Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips:

Character goals lead to: action, conflict, suspense… DRAMA

It’s often easier to study scenes while watching a movie. There’s less chance you’ll get lost in the words. So watch a movie, with a pen and paper. Pause the action when a scene ends, and replay the scene. Analyze it.

When you focus on your characters’ internal and external obstacles, you’ll automatically build a good plot, scene by scene, because you’re focused on your characters.

In fiction writing, you build characters: remember the desire, and the internal obstacle

If you remember these things, you’ll write good fiction. Not only will your readers enjoy it, you’ll enjoy writing it too. Have fun with it. 🙂

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out our ebooks for writers.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle