Tag Archives: writing process

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

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
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Writing Motivation: How To Manage Failure

Writing Motivation: How To Manage Failure

Want some writing motivation? If you do, consider this: you can’t fail. It’s true. It’s also true that your book may not sell, but that’s not something you can control. You definitely CAN control your motivation, provided that you build it into your writing process.

Let’s look at how to do that.

Writing motivation is a process — learn it, or rejection and failure may become permanent

Back in the day, before the self-publishing revolution, authors asked me how to “avoid rejection.” My favorite answer to that was: “never send your work anywhere.”

Rejection is a fact of life. You may fail. It happens.

Rejection looks different today if you’re a self-publisher. Instead of a literary agent or an editor telling you: “not for us at this time,” readers get to tell you that when they don’t buy your book. 🙂

Reality: you CANNOT control the marketplace. Any publishing career involves luck.

But you can control yourself, so that failures just become speed humps on your route to success.

I’ve seen many wonderful authors who allowed failure to crush them into depression; some never wrote another word, as far as I know.

Failure isn’t forever, unless you allow it to be. Failure can be like a punch in the face. You need to punch back.

Everyone fails: punch back

From Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations:

(You may say) “It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’

No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present not fearful of the future.’

Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it without pain. So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?”

Built-in writing motivation: develop your own process

In any writing venture, whether you’re writing books, or blogging, or copywriting, you’ll experience failure in one form or another. In your early years, you’ll experience more failure than successes. You need to learn how to manage both. Failure needn’t crush you, and success needn’t distract you, as long as you create a process which guarantees your writing motivation.

I first developed my “motivation” process some 30 years ago. In those days, there were few markets for writing, and even fewer paying markets. Once I discovered copywriting, I experienced much less failure, because I was choosing my own clients.

Little failures can crush you just as big failures can. When I was writing my first novel, I sent the manuscript winging to London via airmail. Then my editor’s response arrived. Some four pages of notes and editorial queries. In short order I was angry, then depressed. I didn’t write. From memory, I sulked for a couple of weeks.

That was a waste of time — and in response to something that wasn’t even “failure”. It took time to motivate myself again. All I had to do was spend a couple of days tinkering with the manuscript, so why the drama?

In a word: ego. I lost perspective.

Confidence builds over time. Sooner or later, you’ll become much more confident, and it will take much more to crush you.

A few years later, I realized that I didn’t have to worry about things I couldn’t control, as long as I had a process. I could control my process, and my process built my motivation.

Experience success, every day

My process was simple. Today, it’s pretty much what it was then: write a thousand salable words a day. Even on my worst day, when everything goes wrong, I can manage 1,000 words. In practice, I write more than that each day, but with my thousand words done, as early in the day as possible, my day is a success.

When something goes wrong: a client’s website goes down, or a book makes fewer sales than expected, or something else happens, my writing motivation is still strong. My 1,000 words give me a little reward each day, and put everything else into perspective.

Create your own process, and build your writing motivation each day.

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Just Write It: Write More, Sell More, Starting Today

Just Write It: Write More, Sell More, Starting Today

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Bestselling Fiction: 5 Tips To Turn A Wonderful Mess Into A Novel

Bestselling Fiction: 5 Tips To Turn A Wonderful Mess Into A Novel

You’ve completed your novel. It’s so horrible that you’re ashamed. What on earth gave you the idea that you could write a novel, much less write bestselling fiction? Calm down. If you’ve got a mess, that’s AMAZING. It’s exactly what you’re supposed to have at the first draft stage.

Seriously. Never, ever worry about your first draft. You’ve got a NOVEL — even in potential, and that’s a huge achievement. Celebrate that.

(Please be aware that your novel may still be at the first draft stage, even if you’ve written several drafts… Many new authors fiddle with sentence structure and word choice, and imagine that they’re writing a draft. You’re not. You’re copyediting.)

All bestselling fiction goes through a chaotic stage

Let’s look at what a “draft” is. Creating a second draft/ rewriting isn’t recreating your novel from the beginning. (That said, it can be, if you feel that you’ve missed the mark completely and want a do-over.) If anything, rewriting is more akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle, while creating some new pieces to fit.

Let’s look at some tips to help.

1. What are you writing? What’s the genre and story question?

Before you do anything else, reread what you’ve written.

Makes notes on the emotional highpoints — what makes you feel? Fiction is all about emotion, so you need to know what works, and what doesn’t, at this stage.

Then decide on your genre, if you haven’t done it already. Also, check to see whether you have a story question — this is the one essential which turns a mess into a potential bestselling novel.

2. Rewrite your major scenes: these are the BIG scenes in your novel

If you’re not sure about scenes, this article will help, Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips:

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.

You’ll have two or three major scenes. Rewrite these, without focusing on what you’ve written. You know your story, your aim now is to deliver emotion in all your scenes, but most especially in the big scenes of your novel.

3. Check for holes in your plot: create new scenes

All plots have holes. You can ask someone else to find them for you, but try to do it yourself. Read through your novel again, and check the characters’ behavior and thoughts. Do they make sense, logically? If any character’s behavior doesn’t make sense, that’s fine — you’ll need to foreshadow the weird behavior.

While you’re checking, write new scenes where you need them.

4. Characters: introducing a character, and showing character changes

Next, focus on your characters. Check how you introduce your main characters. Your main characters will change in your novel, as they grow from their experiences. Make sure you’re showing the changes.

5. Check (or create) your timeline

Timelines can be tricky. You can have someone’s mother marrying at five years old, and a character in London when he’s supposed to be on a ship somewhere in the Pacific.

And your draft is done… now comes editing. 🙂

Want to write a bestseller? Check out: How To Write In Scenes… The Magical Secret To Writing Well And Selling More

Fiction: How To Write In Scenes
Fiction: How To Write In Scenes

Want to write wonderful stories readers love… fiction which SELLS? Our new program guides you in developing an amazing (and fun) fiction writing career: you’ll write better novels faster. You’ll also win fans who love your novels and are eager to buy them.

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

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