Tag Archives: writing tips

Writing A Book: 3 Tips To Help When You Have No Time

Writing A Book: 3 Tips To Help When You Have No Time

If I only had a dollar for every writer who’s ever said to me: “I know writing a book makes sense, but I have no time. I have kids/ two jobs/ a chronic illness/ (fill in the blank) ”.

Let’s assume that no matter how busy we are, we can find ten to 20 minutes a day, somehow. If all else fails, we may need cut back on sleep, but we can do it.

You need more than time, however. While managing your hours can be done easily enough, managing yourself isn’t as simple. You need to deal with fear.

Writing a book can be scary

When I started writing, I’d sit at my green Olivetti typewriter, and later at my IBM Selectric, with tears rolling down my face. This misery went on for a couple of years, but I sat anyway.

The sitting was key. It never occurred to me to leave my desk. I sat at my typewriter and wrote. The tears stopped eventually. I didn’t face my fears; I out-sat them.

You can do this too. No matter how anxious you are, stay at your desk.

Now let’s look at some tips.

1. Start by estimating the hours needed (guess!)

How long does it take to write the first draft of a book?

That depends on many things, but all you need is a rough guess for this book. If you’ve been writing for a while, you know that a thousand words takes you an hour or two, for example.

Guess how long your novel or nonfiction book will take. Let’s say that you’re writing a 60,000 word novel. A thousand words takes you two hours, so the novel will take 180 hours. Please remember it’s only a guess. You don’t need to know precisely.

Why estimate? So that you can create a self-imposed deadline. You need a deadline (feel free to alter it when you must), because open-ended projects never end well. Projects expand. When you have forever, because there’s no deadline, it will take forever.

2. You can’t avoid distractions, so schedule your writing time

This video, Indistractable: How to Master the Skill of the Century, is worth the time you spend watching it. Nir Eyal makes the point that if you don’t schedule your day, someone else will.

A schedule sounds… uncreative, I know. Aren’t writers supposed to be creative? Just as you need a self-imposed deadline, you also need a schedule.

It’s not enough to decide that: “I’ll work on my book every night after dinner.” With such a loose schedule, you’re leaving yourself open to 1001 distractions.

You’ll become distracted, by:

  • A phone call;
  • A discussion with your child, or your partner;
  • Email or social media…

3. Avoid judging your book while you’re writing it

This is a challenge. You’re writing a book. You want your book to be good. It’s hard to avoid judging what you’re writing, and what you’ve written.

Do it anyway. Commit to writing without judgment. Here’s why. Everyone has moods, which change daily; sometimes hourly.

Sometimes you’ll finish a chapter, and think: drivel. Nothing can save this… A day later, you’ll read that chapter and you’ll think, hey, it’s not so bad. It might be good, and I can make it better…

When you judge your book while you’re writing it, you’ll get into tangled messes, which waste time. Trust yourself. You’re better at writing than you think.

So — what are you waiting for? Start writing a book. 🙂

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3 Quick NaNoWriMo Writing Tips To Boost Your Inspiration

3 Quick NaNoWriMo Writing Tips To Boost Your Inspiration

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If you are, you’re around a week into your novel, and your inspiration is flagging.

Professional novelists know that after a week or two of writing, or at around 10,000 words, they’ll hit “the wall.”

The wall is the point at which you think you’re writing the wrong novel.

You CAN complete a NaNoWriMo (or any novel) when your inspiration flags

Amazingly, the wall can seem like fresh inspiration.

A charmingly seductive voice whispers: your novel is boring. You made a mistake. Here’s a MUCH better idea… It’s a guaranteed bestseller. Drop the dreck, and write THIS NOW…

Dismiss the voice, please.

ALL novels hit the wall sooner or later. A “better idea” isn’t. You’ll hit the wall with that idea too.

Here are some tips to give your inspiration a swift kick up the derriere, so that you can complete your novel (whether it’s NaNoWriMo or not) in style.

1. Power through by outlining fresh scenes (even if you don’t know where they’ll fit)

Although the voice intends to derail you, it sometimes has a point about the “better idea.”

Thank the voice, and make a note of the idea it brought you. Tell it that you’ll work on its “idea” next, after you complete this novel.

Now, ask the voice, because it’s the part of your creative self which specializes in ideas, for fresh ideas for wonderful scenes for this novel. Tell the voice that the scenes can be for the setup, the middle portion, or the final quarter of your novel. You don’t care.

Ideas for new scenes will come to you.

Add the ideas where they fit. If you’re not sure, put the ideas into a “unplaced scenes” folder. Scrivener, if you’re using the app, makes creating folders easy.

2. Create differently: dictate, handwrite, or sketch-write to generate words

You can often break through the wall by changing the way you write.

You can:

  • Write in a coffee shop, or write on your phone;
  • Dictate the next few scenes;
  • Write several scenes by hand; or
  • “Sketch-write” the scenes.

When you “sketch write” you write your scenes in all dialogue, or jot notes for them. Tell yourself you’re just playing around, you’re not really writing anything at all.

Oddly enough, when you tell yourself that you’re not writing, you’re playing, your resistance dissolves. It’s a trick, and it works.

3. Rethink: what do you REALLY want to write? (A subplot may help)

The wall gifts you with clarity on all the holes in your plot, as well as insights into problems with your characters.

Don’t panic. Although the voice can be brutal, it’s helpful too, as long as you don’t dissolve into a puddle of tears and despair.

Since the voice tends to toss ideas at you, ask for an idea for a subplot.

Subplots are fun to write. They also make your novel richer.

In Writing Fiction: 3 Easy Tips For Subplots, we suggested some ideas for subplots:

… whatever your genre and main plot, a subplot can add a needed change of pace. Shakespeare often added humorous scenes to his tragedies. When there’s too much gloom and doom, you need a contrast so that readers appreciate the next horror scene.

Whatever your genre, humor is always welcome. Try creating a character or two for comic relief.

Consider adding a romantic subplot, if you’re writing in a genre (science fiction, thrillers, mysteries) which doesn’t need romance. In these genres, a romantic subplot not only aids character development, it also provides a useful change of pace.

NaNoWriMo: onward, ever onward. Keep writing

If you refuse to stop writing when you hit the wall, you’ll discover that you’ll tap into fresh inspiration and will power through your novel.

Use the above tips to regain your enthusiasm.

Have fun. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

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Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

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Writing Fiction: How Much Dialogue?

Writing Fiction: How Much Dialogue?

When you’re writing fiction, how much dialogue do you need? a student in a recent class asked.

Great question.

Dialogue happens in scenes, so pacing might be your first consideration. Scenes heavy in dialogue read quickly, so you might avoid writing three or more chatty scenes in a row.

(On the other hand, you might not — “how much dialogue?” is a stylistic choice. Your choice.)

Next, consider your genre.

A psychological thriller might have less dialogue than a romance novel, or a mystery, for example, because the psychological thriller is concerned with characters’ state of mind: their thoughts.

Most importantly however, think about your readers’ entertainment.

Entertainment trumps all other considerations.

When you’re writing fiction, you’re creating an entertaining experience

In revision, look at each scene of your novel. Is the scene entertaining? (Ask your beta readers.)

All scenes can be improved, so check:

  • Your transitions, into and out of each scene;
  • Scene setting: is it clear who the viewpoint character is, and why he’s there?
  • Have you given a nod to time and place? (Check your timeline for continuity);
  • Who “wins” the scene (does every character in the scene have a goal?)

I like writing dialogue, so if a scene’s flagging, I’ll kick it along by adding dialogue, or spicing up the dialogue — anything to add entertainment value.

In revision, look at each scene of your novel. Is the scene entertaining?

What’s your style?

How much dialogue? is always a matter of style. You’re the boss; it’s your style for that novel.

The first time I read Robert B. Parker’s Western novel Appaloosa, I was struck by the amount of dialogue: that’s Robert B. Parker’s style.

As we’ve said, novels with lots of dialogue read more quickly than novels with extensive narrative. Done well, these novels are page-turners. Unfortunately, if the dialogue’s done badly, readers won’t finish the novel.

Tips for better dialogue

Let’s look at some tips to help you to write better dialogue.

1. Focus solely on your dialogue for a scene first (this helps you to write more dramatically)

As I said in this article:

When I write scenes, I write the first sentence, and the last sentence of the scene. I also write down what effect I want from the scene.

When you write “business” — the action part of the scene, description and other narrative — with the dialogue, your dialogue can fade into the background. You pay less attention to it.

Try writing your dialogue first: your readers will pay more attention to it than to anything else in the scene, so you should too.

2. Avoid repetition: it waters down your dialogue

As I suggested in 3 Fiction Writing Tips: Editing For Story Flow:

…when you’re lightly editing for flow, look for any “as you know” constructions, such as: “As you know Bob, my wife Tiffany is an accountant.”

Basically, avoid repetition. Nuke repetitions when you find them.

If you’ve spent three paragraphs describing the sun setting when you open the scene, avoid the sunset as a topic in your dialogue.

3. Keep your dialogue in character

Not easy, but necessary.

From John Sandford’s Silken Prey:

After a couple minutes of silence, Virgil said to Lucas, “At least we know he’s not lying to us now.”

“How’s that?” Lucas asked.

“His lips aren’t moving…”

From Philippa Gregory’s The Queen’s Fool:

I showed him a sulky face. ‘I am commanded by the king, I am commanded by the Duke of Northumberland, I am commanded by his son Lord Robert Dudley, I am commanded by my father; you might as well join in. Every other man in London seems to think he can order me.’

In summary…

Generally speaking, novels today feature more dialogue than novels written even a decade ago. Always however, the amount of dialogue is up to you. Have fun. 🙂

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
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