So You Want to Be a Writer

Aha!  You have a great idea for a book – novel or nonfiction.  You KNOW it will be a best seller.  How do you get started?

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The really short and somewhat snarky answer to this question is write!  That doesn’t really help.  You can search any bookseller to find how to books.  The reality is put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and start writing.

If you go to a writer’s group – online or in person – there will be all sorts of options people will throw at you. 

I think the most common question is are you a pantser or a plotter?  Your response like mine is probably – huh?  Plotter is a writer who plots out their books.  This could be as easy as creating a general outline or as complicated as details to the minutest level for each chapter and scene. 

A pantser – which is what I am mostly – comes from the saying – fly by the seat of your pants.  Meaning – you write as you go.  There isn’t a lot of outlining or planning.  You sit down and put your story on paper / computer.  Every time I try to outline anything, I get sidetracked.  I’ve outlined and then written.  It never ends up like the outline.  My characters don’t like to play inside the box any more than I do. 

Ultimately, only you can decide how you write best.  If you sit down to write and stare at the blank page and end up with a blank mind – maybe you need to do an outline.  If you have so many ideas but no direction, maybe an outline would help.  Only YOU can make that decision. 

This leads to the next question – are you writing in sequence?  Or are you writing scenes and putting them in order later?  I’m very much a linear writer.  When I have to add or rearrange scenes it throws me for a loop.  However, it is again up to you.

One author I know has scenes written for several books.  He gets ideas for his plot and gets the scenes down on paper.  Then he goes back and connects the dots from scene to scene. 

This is again a decision only you as the author can make.  If the opening scene intimidates you, skip to write a scene you do see in your head.  Eventually you’ll have to write the opening scene but if you aren’t finding it to start, move forward and write other scenes. 

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Here are some other things to consider:

  • Don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure, spelling, or any of the other dos and don’ts people throw out in books, blogs, and writer’s groups. 

The reality is you are creating a rough draft.  The only thing you need to worry about is getting the story written.  Get words on the page and move on.  Rough drafts suck and are usually not readable.

  • Don’t worry about word counts.  Some authors set goals of writing 500 words a day or 1000 / 100 / 300 / 279 or some other random number. 

If that works for them – fabulous.  If it work for you – fabulous.  If it doesn’t work, you are creating a barrier between you and the story.  In reality you likely are working a day job.  If you set a goal of 1000 words a day and have a crappy day, you aren’t going to meet that goal.  Then the next day you’re behind so you feel like you have to write both day’s goals.  It can be counterproductive.  For me, I write when I feel it.  I’ve written a novel in four days.  It was ROUGH, needed more scenes and a lot of refining and editing but the general book was done in four days.  Novels start around 45 – 50K depending on the genre.  If I divide those 50K by 4 days I wrote something like 12.5K a day.  Possible – I remember being really tired and really driven by the story. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are times it’s taken me years to write a novel.  I’d write a little 100 word scene and be stumped.  I put it away and come back to it when the next scene came to me.  I’m not a goal oriented person.  If you are, set realistic goals and be flexible.  Otherwise you end up with barriers to writing. 

  • Tense / POV – some genres are typically written in a particular tense / POV.  For example contemporary paranormal is typically written in first person present tense.  If you’re going to market your book in this genre, typically you should write the way the readers expect the genre to be written.

Having said this, if you hate that – write it your way.  I am not a big fan of first person and almost always write in third person.  I’ve not written a contemporary paranormal novel.  If I decide to write in that genre, I’d have to consider writing in a POV I’m not fond of and a tense I don’t normally write in. 

You’re the author, the creator of the whole world in the book.  Tell your story your way.  The rest can be figured in editing.  The most important thing is to write.  It doesn’t matter if you set up a work space with a lucky bobble head (creepy but okay) or use your phone to do the rough draft (talk to text can be really helpful) or write it out long hand in a spiral or pad of paper.  Find your groove, write, write, write, write, write…. Did I mention you should WRITE?  How you do it is all up to you. 

Write your words, your way and tell a good story.  Everything else can be worked out in editing.

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