Tag Archives: author

How To Write A Book Without Trying

How To Write A Book Without Trying

You want to write a book but you have challenges. Maybe you have no idea how to start your book. Perhaps you can’t decide what to write about. Alternatively, you’re in the middle of writing a book, and say that “I can’t finish my book.”

Here’s the solution to each and every one of your challenges: stop trying.

Write a book the easy way: just write

Several times each week I suggest to a writing student:

  • “You’re over-thinking this…”; or
  • “You’re getting in your own own way…”; or
  • “Just start…”

Nothing happens until you stop thinking, and start writing.

It’s a lesson I learned many years ago, but here’s the thing: you (and I) need to learn this lesson over and over again.

The only way to get out of procrastination hell is to DO: right now, this minute

Procrastination masks itself so it takes time to wake up to what’s happening.

For example, I was happily procrastinating on a book I’m ghostwriting for a client. I kidded myself that I was doing research. It took the danger of the imminent deadline to metaphorically slap my face and wake me up. I was forced to realize that my so-called research was just over-thinking and procrastinating.

Let’s look at three ways to break free of deadly over-thinking and procrastination and write a book the easy way.

1. Break out a stack of index cards: one card equals one thought

This is my favorite method of getting out of my own way; it primes the pump for writing.

This method works well if you’re not sure what you want to write about, or if you’ve stalled out on a book.

Grab a stack of index cards; the 3 x 5 size.

Without thinking about it, write five thoughts, one per card.

Put those five cards away, and put 20 blank cards in your pocket, or in your purse. During the day, and before you go to sleep, write another thought on each of those 20 cards.

First thing in the morning, grab your stack of 25 cards and read them.

Today, you write.

Before you start writing, read the 25 cards again, and then just start writing. Chances are that a sliver of inspiration has managed to break through, and you’ll write easily for an hour or two. (Or whatever time you have: ten minutes, half an hour — the time you have isn’t as important as sitting down and writing.)

Keep using the index cards if you find them useful. If you don’t, just write.

Write nonsense if you like, but write. Within a couple of days, you’ll be inspired to write your book, or complete your book if you’ve already started.

2. Write the final scene (fiction) or final chapter (nonfiction)

I love this method.

Oddly enough, when you want to write a book but can’t get started, writing the end before you write the beginning helps. I have no idea why it works, it just does.

Sit down at your computer, and without thinking about it write the ending of your book. Accept whatever comes.

One of my students had been contracted to write a photography book for her client. She wrote the final chapter, and was shocked when it was the final chapter of a memoir. Not quite what she expected, but it was OK. Once she’d got that off her mind (she wrote an outline of the memoir in an hour after completing the final chapter) she started on the client’s photography book.

She told me: “I wrote my client’s book quickly — it just flowed. The client’s thrilled. She’s recommended me to a friend, and I’ve just committed to writing an ebook for the friend.”

Occasionally when your creative self needs to get in touch with you, the only way is to block you. With this method, you’ll unblock, and all your writing will flow.

3. “Today I finished my book — here’s what it’s about”

This method is quick and simple.

Set a timer for 20 minutes, and start the timer.

Write “Today I finished my book — here’s what it’s about”, and keep writing, without lifting your pen from the paper, or fingers from the keyboard, until the timer sounds.

Then start writing your book, or keep writing if you’ve already started.

Which method will you use? Use your intuition

Which of the above methods to write a book should you use?

Use whichever method appeals to you. Which method seems easiest, or most fun?

You’ll notice that none of the above ways of writing your book call for you to grit your teeth with determination, or force anything. They unlock your creativity and inspiration. Remember them, and use them.

Have fun. 🙂

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.

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing
You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day? More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

How To Write Fiction When You “Don’t Know How”

How To Write Fiction When You “Don’t Know How”

You want to write fiction, but you don’t know how. That’s OK. No one else knows either, because fiction flows from your imagination. Unlike nonfiction, which is grounded in facts, and depends on logic, your fiction wilts and dies if you try to use the same mind state in writing it that you use for writing nonfiction.

Consider that essentially: fiction is daydreaming and igniting experiences in your readers.

Want to write fiction? Get out of your mind

Children are good at daydreaming. If you listened to your schoolteachers when they said “pay attention” you might think that daydreaming is wrong. However, fiction writers know that they daydream their stories to life.

Big tip: it’s not about the words.

In my fiction writing classes, new fiction writers focus on the words. That’s natural, because you’re getting used to writing. However, as we suggest in step 4, below, there are no perfect words. More to the point, if you focus on the words, your imagination will sit in a corner and sulk.

Your basic fiction writing mindset is: dream first — and start with an emotion.

Here are some simple steps to help you to write fiction when you “don’t know how.”

1. Start with an emotion: emotions trigger memory and images

I like this list of emotions from Byron Katie; download the PDF.

If you’re a newbie fiction writer, try spending five minutes a day feeling emotions.

Here’s an example. Feel apprehensive.

Hard, right? You need a situation. Imagine that your boss asked you to take the company’s biggest client out to dinner. The client made a lewd remark to your wife. You hit him. The police have been called.

How do you feel? Do you feel apprehensive?

Just for a moment, imagine yourself in that scenario. How does it feel to be apprehensive? What thoughts go through your mind?

As an exercise, come up with a little scenario of your own in which someone feels apprehensive.

If you spend five minutes a day on this little exercise, you’ll make your imagination stronger, and that’s a good thing for fiction writers.

2. Grab a person, anyone will do

I talked about my favorite character-creation method in Plot Fiction: Fill-In-The-Blanks Plotting For Pantsers:

All you need to create a basic character is an adjective, combined with a noun. The noun is usually the character’s job. Some examples:

  •  Naive model;
  •  Bedazzled lottery winner;
  •  Hardworking hairdresser;
  •  Jealous chef.

You can come up with any number of these thumbnail “characters” in a minute or two.

Choose an adjective and a noun, and create your character.

Now go back to your list of emotions, and choose one. Let’s say you chose impatient.

Create a little scenario in which your jealous chef (or whoever) feels impatient. Let’s say that the restaurant owner is complaining to the jealous chef that someone left a negative review for the restaurant on a social media website.

Your next step is to keep asking WHY.

3. Keep asking: “why?”

Grab a pen and a sheet of paper, or open a new computer file, and talk to the character you’ve just created. Keep asking him: WHY — you can add “who?” and “how?” too, if you like. 🙂

Write it down, don’t try to do this in your head.

You daydream your fiction, but you also need to write stuff down, otherwise you won’t remember it, sadly. Day dreams are just like night dreams. They can be hugely involving, but the moment they’re over, they start to fade. So get into the habit of dreaming first, then writing what you dreamed.

Keep going, until the story becomes clearer.

Congratulations: you’ve just experienced plotting. Easy, right?

4. Assure yourself that there are no “perfect” words, just emotion

Many authors find that their biggest challenge in writing fiction is getting out of their own way. Avoid thinking too much. Just daydream, and write down the first words which come to you. You can tinker with your words in revision, but not when you’re writing.

When you catch yourself wondering whether “temper” is preferable to “rage” you’ll know that you’ve just jolted yourself out of the fictive dream, in which:

the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it…

(If you get the chance, read John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. It’s a wonderful book.)

You DO know how to write fiction: just day dream, and write down your dreams

That’s pretty much all there is to writing fiction.

You can now write a bestseller and get your revenge on all those teachers who called you a dreamer. Have fun. 🙂

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 our 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 →

The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction: Two Story Lines (Plots)

The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction: Two Story Lines (Plots)

You’re writing a novel. Are you tearing your hair out yet? (Grin.) Plotting fiction can be a challenge, but it’s made easier when you learn the big secret. Here it is: you have two plots, rather than one.

Plotting fiction: your two plots

I discussed this on Facebook — Today’s writing tip for fiction: realize you have TWO story lines (plots) in your novel. Since Facebook posts tend to vanish quickly, and Facebook’s search function is woeful, here’s the gist.

When you work with two story lines/ plots, it will make plotting a novel (or a short story, for that matter) easier and more fun. Readers will enjoy your fiction more, and that translates to sales.

In fiction, you have (at least) two major story lines: external, and internal

Consider these two plots-in-one; your novel or short story/ novella needs both:

  • The external plot is what happens.
  • The internal plot is what your main character, or characters, think(s) about what happens.

In some genres, the external plot is primary — thrillers, for example. However, in other genres, the internal plot is primary — women’s fiction and any form of romance, for example.

That said, ALL genres, without exception need both. It’s common for beginning writers to “plot”, focusing on the external story line. That’s fine, in a first draft. However, as soon as possible, you need to pay attention to the internal plot/ story line too.

For easier writing, look on the “character arc” as a story line

The internal story line is often referred to as the “character arc”, but I’ve never thought that that was a particularly useful construct.

For example, in the novel that I’m currently working on, a romance, I realized this morning that something wasn’t right. The main character’s internal story line wasn’t working. I could get it to work, but that would require an extra 20,000 words, and it would throw off the pacing. Or instead, I could start the story earlier, and revise what I’d written to reflect that.

So, I decided to revise. Luckily, the revisions will be minor, because the major character isn’t aware of the importance of what happened earlier; it was formerly backstory. All I need to do is write a single scene to start the novel, bringing that part of the backstory alive. In addition, I’ll need to revise the internal story line (character arc) to reflect that. Since I’m halfway through the novel, that means a week of work, but it will make the story more entertaining. And it will be fun to write, which is always a good thing. 🙂

Although I’m not a fan of doing revisions in the middle of a first draft, I decided to do it anyway. It’s the only way I can get the internal plot to work — and the novel to work, for that matter.

You need two plots in one, for an engrossing (and salable) story

Think about the books you’ve loved — the Harry Potter series, for example. Do you remember the plot of each of the books in the series, or do you remember the characters?

Novelist and academic E.M Forster offered this famous definition of plot:

The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot.’

The reason the king died — “of grief”, combined with events, gives you a plot.

Simply recounting events, which newbie fiction authors tend to consider a “plot”, is unsatisfying to readers, because you’re only telling half of the story. You end up with cardboard characters. Readers complain, give your novel low ratings, and they won’t buy your next book.

Chances are that while you’re writing, you’re aware that your plot isn’t working, but you don’t know how to fix it. The solution is to look at your main character’s internal story line.

You’ll find that your plotting becomes easier, once you start thinking of your plot as two strands, intertwined.

Of course, sometimes you have three strands to braid together.

What happens when you have three plots/ story lines?

Some genres have more than two strands to the plot. Mysteries and thrillers for example have three. The crime, or disaster, is a storyline of its own. Your murderer, or evil antagonist, has his own internal and external story line.

Is this starting to sound way too complicated? 🙂

Relax. When you’re writing, just write. Later, when you’ve finished your writing session for the day, think about your story, and ask yourself whether you’ve included an internal story line, as well as the events of your plot.

You’ll find that if you do this, writing fiction becomes more satisfying for you, and reading your fiction is more satisfying for your readers.

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our 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