Tag Archives: writing process

Writing A Book? Create A Writing Habit With These 3 Tips

Writing A Book? Create A Writing Habit With These 3 Tips

In Team Up I’ve been working with a writer who’s started writing a book more times than she can count. She says that she has a dozen false starts on her computer. Those books never went anywhere.

“I start out great,” she said. “Then something comes up. I realize that I need another idea, or that what I have isn’t strong enough. I’ve made up my mind that this time I’m am writing a book — I’m finally finishing a book. No matter what.”

She’s got the right attitude.

However, she needs more than that. She needs to turn writing a book into a habit.

Make writing a book a habit

Writing a book is intimidating, if you allow it to be. Your biggest ally is the disposition we all have to create habits.

Currently I’m reading Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. He reveals that we form habits, both consciously and unconsciously. Those habits, once formed, can be cued at any time; we don’t realize it’s happening. This is great when you form habits for writing a book. Not so great with habits like procrastinating, and eating junk food.

It turns out that creating a habit is easy.

Researchers have discovered how habits work. When a habit is cued, we follow the habit’s routine in expectation of a reward. When rewards occur, over time the cue, routine and reward process becomes a habit fueled by craving. This is an unconscious process.

Writing a book has long been habitual with me. I don’t think about it. Over 30 years, it’s just become a habit. Although I developed the habit unconsciously, I can see that I followed the cue, routine and reward process.

You can do it too. Here’s how.

1. Cue yourself to get words onto your computer screen

Start by lowering your expectations. Your goal isn’t to write a book. It’s to get words onto your computer screen which will, in time, become a book.

You need a cue to sit down at your computer every day. Your cue can be simple. For example, many runners cue their exercise habit by setting out their running shoes beside their bed. When they wake up, they lace on the shoes, and they’re out the door. It’s a habit. The cue enables them to follow their routine for a run. Their reward is runner’s high: the endorphins which their body creates.

What would cue you to sit at your computer each day?

My cue is simple. It’s coffee. I wake up, make coffee, sit down at my computer and start writing. One of my friends has a crossword puzzle cue: he opens his crossword puzzle app, does a crossword, then opens Scrivener and starts writing.

Keep your cue simple.

2. Form a routine: meet a daily word count goal

I love Scrivener for many reasons, especially because it allows you to set word count goals. Let’s say you’re aiming for 60,000 words for a novel. If you wrote 1,000 words a day, you’d complete the novel in two months. Or, if your goal was 500 words a day, in four months.

Set any word count goal you like — just 50 or 100 words, initially.

When you’re cued, sit down at your computer and write those words. You’ll find that if you start at 100 words, on some days you’ll go over that. Extend your daily word count goal only when you’re regularly going over your current goal.

3. Reward yourself every day for following your routine

Completed your routine for the day? Excellent. Reward yourself. Essential: keep your reward simple. Save the champagne for your book’s publication day. Small daily rewards are enough.

For most authors the satisfaction of being done with their word count for the day is sufficient, but you might like to reward yourself with a little treat.

Once you’ve created a habit for writing a book, you’re set

The beauty of habits is that they become unconscious: cue, routine, and reward. Form a habit, and soon you’re writing a book automatically, without any will power at all.

Have fun. 🙂

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
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Writing Fiction And Mindset: 3 Easy Tips To Tell Great Stories

Writing Fiction And Mindset: 3 Easy Tips To Tell Great Stories

Are you new to writing fiction? It can be a challenging process. Last week, I created a class for my students to demystify fiction. They’d managed to become so involved with techniques, genres, and marketing that they were writing little. They definitely weren’t enjoying their writing.

A couple of new authors said that they struggled to complete their novels. They ended up with thousands of words which went nowhere.

Here are some tips from the class; the class focused on mindset and imagination.

Writing fiction is a state of mind: free your imagination

The biggest challenge for new authors is finding a way to free their imagination. In today’s entertainment world, we allow others to guide our imagination via TV shows and movies.

We forget how to release our own imagination. My theory is that this accounts for the popularity of fan fiction. Writers kickstart their imagination with other authors’ characters and plots.

While there’s nothing wrong with that — E.L. James parlayed her love of Twilight into the uber-successful 50 Shades of Grey series — using your own imagination is more fun. And usually, more profitable. If you manage to create a memorable character, like Harry Potter, you’ve made your fortune.

Let’s look at some tips to help you to tell great stories.

1. Remember that fiction is stories which have a plot, and meaning

To outline or not to outline?

Much as I love pantsing short stories and novels, there are challenges if you’re new to writing fiction. You can end up with a story which isn’t a story at all. Or, you can end up with a mishmash: trying to cram three or five stories into one.

Neither is satisfying.

The biggest clue that you don’t have a story is that you can’t create a blurb (description). FWIW, here’s a definition of STORY: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. However, a story needs a plot: it has to mean something. Stringing meaningless events together irritates readers: they want meaning.

We need meaning in our fictional worlds. Unlike daily life, fiction needs to make sense.

Here’s an example of a “story” which isn’t a story. It has no plot and no decipherable meaning. An author sets out to write a mystery novel. He has a sleuth, and a dead body. The sleuth gets sidetracked into another crime. And another. His teenage daughter’s romantic challenges take up five chapters, and then… By this time, the readers that get that far (still hoping against hope that there’s a plot, coming real soon now) give up.

Not sure about plot? In your novel, or short story, something happens to a character. He has a problem, preferably one of life or death. The story’s plot is your character resolving the problem. Once the problem’s resolved (boy gets girl, sleuth gets criminal, spy saves the world) your story is OVER.

I occasionally suggest to my students that their fiction’s story is ONE thing, basically, not endless things which are never resolved.

2. Follow the emotion: what scares you? What do you love?

Have you ever had a nightmare? You wake up, suddenly wide awake as if you’re still in the dream… It takes a while for you to reassure yourself that you’re OK.

Powerful dreams have one thing in common with fiction: emotion.

Readers read for emotion.

There are many ways you can inspire emotion in your readers. Few have anything to do with events, such as serial killers’ blood and gore (thrillers, fantasy), or bodies doing things to each other in romance fiction.

You can use tone, word choice, characters’ thoughts…

Consider the opening paragraphs of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. The first sentence is:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

(You can read the paragraphs via Amazon’s Look Inside feature.)

Consider the words du Maurier uses in those first paragraphs: padlock and chain; forlorn; supernatural powers; (nature’s) stealthy insidious way…

Those first paragraphs are a masterclass in using words to evoke emotion. With those evocative words, du Maurier sets the tone for the book — and she maintains it. Nothing much happens in Rebecca, but the emotions keep you turning pages.

Read du Maurier’s paragraphs, and if you haven’t read Rebecca, read that too, it’s a classic novel for a reason. Your local library will have it.

All competent authors know how to evoke emotion in readers. It’s a skill you can develop quite easily with a little study and practice.

3. Forget the words, tell the story

Which brings us to another challenge.

Words are important in fiction, definitely… BUT you need a story. Something needs to happen, and that something needs to have meaning.

Your story (what happens, to whom, how it happens, and why it happens) is more important than anything else in commercial fiction.

In your first draft, forget the words. Just tell the story. Tell yourself what happens. In later drafts, once you know what your story is, and what your story means, you’ll know what emotions you want to inspire in your readers. Then you can play with words as much as you like, because you know the effect you want to have on readers.

In fiction, your story (with its plot) is what counts

Get comfortable with your imagination.

Look on your imagination as waking dreams. Write the stories — and the emotions — your imagination presents to you — and have fun. 🙂

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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How To Write A Novel: You Need Lots Of Bad Ideas

How To Write A Novel: You Need Lots Of Bad Ideas

Recently an aspiring author in Team Up couldn’t settle on an idea for her mystery novel. “I can’t write a novel,” she told me. “I wish I could, but I can’t come up with any original ideas. Everything I want to write has been done before.”

I asked her to send me a couple of her “unoriginal” ideas. One of them was great. A reality TV show, with six everyday people, shut up in a mansion. The group would perform scenes from famous plays. Each week a performer would be voted out, and someone new would arrive. Then someone in the group is murdered.

“Sounds good to me,” I told my student. “You’ve got lots to work with. Develop your characters, and outline it.”

Here’s the thing. Every idea you think of has probably been done before. So what? You’ve never done it before, and if ten authors wrote the reality-TV idea, they’d come up with ten completely different novels.

Want to write a novel? Get lots of bad ideas

Ideas are everywhere, and of themselves, ideas aren’t worth much. It’s what you do with them that counts.

I love marketing guru Seth Godin’s advice:

“If you generate enough bad ideas a few good ones tend to show up… So the goal isn’t to get good ideas, the goal is to get bad ideas.”

What to do when you can’t get a “good” idea

As Seth suggested, get lots of bad ideas. Then start writing.

If you’re convinced that you can’t get good ideas, try some of these tricks.

1. Try keeping an idea bank

Many writers keep an idea bank. Chances are that you won’t use any of the ideas in your idea bank, but having a cache of ideas will give you confidence on bad days, when you’re convinced that you couldn’t come up with an idea with a gun to your head.

Years ago I formed a habit of carrying index cards with me everywhere. I have stacks of blank cards in my office, in my bedside drawer, in my car, and of course, in my bag. I buy them in bulk.

Every few weeks, I sort through the pile of cards I’ve tossed into a box on my desk. One or two cards get transcribed into Evernote.

2. Good ideas are the ideas which won’t leave you alone

Would I get good ideas if I didn’t have my index card habit?

Maybe, maybe not. Jotting down ideas keeps my mind working even when I’m not writing, so carrying index cards everywhere is useful. When I sit down at my computer to write a couple of thousand words of my novel, I’ve always got a card or two which kickstarts my writing for the day.

You’ll find that when you review an idea card a day or a month later, you’ll know if an idea is a good idea for you — you remember it. Your brain wants to play around with it.

3. “Bad” ideas can become good ideas

I’m always amazed (and so are my students who know this trick) of how ideas can collide and spark something new — something you know you need to write.

You can see this process at work in authors’ novels when you’re reading. For example, I’ve just read The Switch, by bestselling author Joseph Finder. The main character, Tanner, is at an airport when he picks up someone else’s MacBook Air by mistake. The laptop turns out to belong to a senator, who doesn’t want anyone to know that she has classified information on the computer.

I read the novel in a couple of sittings. The two ideas: picking up someone else’s computer by mistake, and the computer has deadly material on it, are simple ideas. You wouldn’t call either of the ideas brilliant. On the other hand, what Finder does with those pedestrian ideas is brilliant.

So, use Seth’s insight. Be happy when you get bad ideas. Before you know it, one or two will combine, and they’ll create a magical idea which inspires you so much that you know that you MUST write it.

Have fun. 🙂

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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 →
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