Breaking the Rules

I broke my own rule and read over some of what I had written.  This turned out to be a really bad idea, because before I knew it, I was thinking “this is garbage,” and totally rewriting my most recent three chapters.  This wouldn’t be so bad if I had only corrected spelling and grammar and left it at that, but I took the story in an entirely different direction than I had planned, and now I’m left wondering which direction I should continue.  Either way, it’s going to make a whole lot of extra work for me.  Why didn’t I just resist the urge to peep?

Anyway, the last couple of days have been very slow in the writing department because of my breakdown, and my creativity doesn’t seem willing to allow me to write anything more in this story until I’ve chosen which path I’m going down.  After all, it would be pointless to finish both, wouldn’t it?

We Did It!

Hi everyone! I’m just writing to announce that the Three Hundred Pages writing challenge has ended. I am happy to have slid by with just over 300 pages – 302 to be exact. However, I am nowhere near the end of my novel. If any of you have encountered this same problem don’t worry. I’ve read that many first drafts are much longer than their final outcome. Just keep plugging away and soon we’ll be at the editing stage, which, I fear, is going to be much much more difficult than the fun, creative stage we’re in right now.

I’m allowing myself a short break from writing, mostly because I’m in Colorado visiting my sister and it’s difficult to lock myself away for several hours to write after driving over 1,000 miles to come and see her. The view is lovely, and is a great source of inspiration.  I’ll post again soon when I get back.

Until then, stay strong! If you’re finished, great! Give yourself a well-deserved break and come back to it in two weeks for editing. It’s always good to let things like this “soak” for a bit before ripping them apart. It will also give you a chance to live for awhile and allow you to think more objectively about your work when you return.

Happy writing!

Roadblocks

So, fellow writers, after plugging away faithfully for over two months, we’re nearing the end of our challenge.  I have to confess I’ve allowed myself to get distracted over the last few weeks, and I’ve become quite a procrastinator.  One of the reasons this has happened is the weather.  It’s next to impossible to stay inside when the weather is as gorgeous as it’s been the last few weeks.  Two, I moved, and I’ve been unpacking like crazy.  I can’t stand to look at boxes and misplaced items everywhere, so I’ve been dedicating a lot of my free time to this task.  Three, my husband, who has been working 6 pm – 6 am for the last four years of our lives has finally been transferred to day shift, and we’ve been enjoying long, leisurely dinners together and marathons of watching the TV show LOST on Hulu.  Good for our marriage, bad for the writing.

So, with less than three weeks left in the challenge, I still have about a hundred pages left to write.  Not so good.  I’m forcing myself to dedicate this afternoon as well as my entire day off tomorrow to working on my novel, with the hope that I will get caught up.

I hope all of you are having better luck.  I’m at the point in my story where I have to make a decision about how I want it to end.  I’m still a bit undecided about this, so I think I’m just going to have to commit to something and hope for the best.  I can always change it during the editing stage.

Fun fact – did you know that the average novel goes through 10 drafts before being published?  So while we’re nearly finished with our first draft (which I believe is truly half the battle), we still have a ways to go before we begin contacting publishers.

Anyway, I’m off to attempt to write about 25 pages in two days.  Wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Writing Challenge – Halfway Done!

Hi guys,

The 300 pages in 3 months is half over, which means that we should have about 150 pages so far.  How is it going for you all?  Is there anything you’re having a hard time with?  Is there anything you’ve discovered along the way that you’d like to share with the rest of us?  Please leave a comment and let us know.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with my dialogue.  A couple  of the characters in my novel are partially based on people I actually know, so for me, it’s fun to close my eyes and imagine what that person would say in that particular situation.  Often, it comes to me so quickly and unexpectedly that I feel like I’m actually having a conversation with that person.  It can work the same way with entirely fictional characters.  By now, you probably have a good understanding of who each character is and how they’ll react in certain situations.  This makes your job as a writer so much easier.  All you have to do is listen to your characters and write down what they say.

I am having a very hard time stopping myself from going back over what I’ve already written and making changes.  It’s fun for me to reread what I’ve written.  But it always ends disastrously.  I go back and notice something that isn’t quite right, and then I try to rework the section or reword things, or change what happens, and that just makes more work for me, because then I have to go back through the entire thing and make it all fit.  I’d probably be nearly done by now if it wasn’t for my perfectionism.

I hope you’re all having better luck.

Happy Writing!

What To Do When You’re Stuck

Sometimes you’ll get to a point in your novel when you don’t know what comes next. We’ve all been in this situation, and it can be frustrating. This is the point when many aspiring authors will be tempted to quit, or just put it down for a while until inspiration strikes. Don’t allow yourself to stop. Inspiration is much more likely to strike you while you are writing. It’s best to work through the block. The easiest way to do that is to write with the end in mind. Figure out how you want your story to end, and work towards that.

The twelve-scene diagram is a tool that is very helpful in determining what needs to happen next in your story. The best part about it is that you can do it yourself. Here’s how it works. Get out a piece of paper and number it from one to twelve. Number one will be your opening scene. Number twelve will be your closing scene. All of the numbers in between are what will get you from point 1 to point 12. As you write, fill in the scenes that you’ve already written. This will help you figure out what comes next. For most novels, you’ll want to use something close to the following format:

1. Hero at home living every day life

2. Hero’s belief system changes due to some outside influence

3. Hero consults friends/family/mentor

4. Hero wrestles with choices

5. Hero attempts to make a fresh start or implement a new way new way of thinking

6. Hero is tested

7. Hero is tested again

8. Hero suffers a major setback

9. Hero recovers and improves

10. Hero is on the brink of accomplishment

11. Hero confronts the antagonist

12. Hero succeeds

If you don’t know quite know all of the specifics about how your story is going to end, that’s fine. But if you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, maybe it’s time to start thinking about that. You don’t have to stick with that ending, but at least it will get you writing in a certain direction. Sometimes characters surprise you and maybe things will turn out differently than you anticipated. That’s fine. Nothing is set in stone until your novel is published and on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

The point of this exercise is to get you writing towards something. This will help to advance your plot at a more exciting pace. It will also create a sense of purpose and excitement in your writing. Another reason to use this method? It allows you to throw in some foreshadowing, something you wouldn’t be able to do if you didn’t know what was going to happen. Your readers will love that.

Happy Writing!

Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the biggest reasons first drafts don’t get finished. I know this first hand. I can’t even tell you how many stories I’ve started and then never finished. I think the reason for this is simple – I would begin to think of it as work, rather than entertainment.

The minute writing stops being fun, it becomes a chore, and therefore, you’ll be less likely to do it. The way I’ve gotten past this is just as simple – look at writing as entertainment. Once you get into your story and the characters become real to you, you’ll begin to look forward to sitting down every day to your writing. To me, it’s like watching my favorite TV show, only I get to decide what happens and how it ends. To me, this is more fun than any other thing.

Sure, it’s easy to get sidetracked making dinner, or playing with your kids, or going out with friends, or even watching the latest episode of Lost. There will always be distractions. That is unavoidable. What you can avoid is letting these distractions ruin your chances of becoming a writer. Don’t let them take away from your writing time. If your writing time is every evening at 7, but you end up getting distracted and watching American Idol, maybe it would help to change your writing time. At which point during your day do you feel least distracted? Maybe it’s first thing in the morning before you do anything else. Maybe it’s sitting down for an hour before bed and getting a few pages finished. Any time is better than no time. Maybe you can only afford to spend 20 minutes a day on writing. That’s okay, too, as long as you get in the habit of doing it every day.

What works best for me is writing right before bed. Usually I’ll go to bed an hour or two early, and bring my laptop. I seem to do my best writing at this time of day. Maybe it’s because I’ve had all day to think about what I’m going to write. By the time 9 o clock rolls around, I can’t wait to climb into bed with my laptop and write for a couple of hours.

Another thing to consider – how exciting is your story? If you’re having a hard time getting into your story, perhaps the reader will, too. You might want to consider adding an element of excitement to it. Every story can benefit from a little action, or a little romance, or a little mystery. If you’re excited to write about it, your readers will be excited to read it, too.

Happy writing!

Writing Challenge – Day 5 – Writing the Truth

Today is day 5 of the Three Hundred Pages Novel Writing Challenge, and today, I want to talk about truth in your writing.

Even if you’re writing a fiction novel, you’ll want to make sure that there is truth to what you’re writing. Are your characters believable? Are you consistent with their dialogue and personality traits? Like we’ve talked about before, you wouldn’t have a girl that’s afraid of the dark running outside in the middle of the night to check out a strange noise she heard. It’s important to avoid discrepancies like this in your novel.

At the beginning stages of your writing, you might still be changing and making adjustments to your story or your characters. Remember if you change something now, you should also be changing it in the rest of your novel. If a character starts out with blonde hair, but ends up having dark brown hair, unless you have a scene in which she goes to the hair salon, you need to make the hair color the same throughout. Your readers will pick up on this if you don’t. Likewise, if you change a character’s name, it’s very easy to hit Control R on your keyboard and replace the name in every instance in which it occurs.

It’s very important to stay in the writing mode while working on your rough draft, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make changes as you go. After all, that’s what writing is all about! And if you find that what you’re writing doesn’t sound real, or believable, by all means, change it! The most important thing about writing is to create the best experience you can for your readers. If it doesn’t sound right to you, it’s definitely not going to sound right to them.

Also, try to be as specific as you can with your details. Specific details are of utmost importance to the truth of your novel. If you’re talking about a bus, include a few describing details. What color is it? Is it a school bus, a greyhound bus, a city bus? If you go from “he got on the bus” to “he got on the blue school bus,” you create a scene your reader can picture, which will make all the difference in your novel.

Another tip I’ve learned that will help you always write the truth is to consider your five senses. Every scene you’re writing, try to put yourself into it. Pretend you’re there. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you taste? Obviously, not all five will apply to every scenario, but chose the relevant ones, and use them. The more the readers know about your story, the more they will allow themselves to get lost in it.

Happy Writing!

Writing Challenge – Day 3

Today is Day 3 of the Novel Writing Challenge. How is everybody doing? So far, I have 13 pages finished. This is proving to be easier than I thought.

Today, I want to talk about first drafts.

The first draft is probably the hardest and most nerve-wracking part of writing a novel. I know in my experience, especially when beginning a novel, I start to have various self-sabotaging thoughts about my work. Is it any good? Who’s going to want to read it, anyway? What if my writing sucks? What if everyone hates it? Is it believable?

If you’re a perfectionist – and even if you’re not, these kind of thoughts can completely put a stop to your efforts. You may be tempted to go back and read what you’ve written and make changes. This is not the time for that. This is the rough draft stage, which means that you need to write and write and not think about what you’re writing. When you’ve completed your novel, then you’re allowed to go back and make your changes.

The reason it’s important to keep going is that if you allow yourself to stop and read what you’ve written, you take yourself out of the action. You put yourself in the mindset of an editor instead of the mindset of a writer. There’s time to be an editor later. Right now, you need to be a writer. You need to be thinking about what happens next, rather than wondering how you can make it better.

The first draft is going to be terrible and full of flaws. Nobody expects you to get it right the first time. But the important part is to finish the first draft. Keep plugging away. Keep focusing on the end result. Remember that nobody is going to read the first draft but you.

A professor once told me that first drafts are meant to be written as quickly and as mindlessly as possible. Don’t think about it. Just write. Worry about spelling later. Worry about how you’re going to word things later. You can always go back and add descriptions and take out adverbs and make things sound better. That’s where your perfectionism will come in handy.

Right now, focus on the magic of the story. Let your imagination run wild. Ignore the words, ignore the flaws, and definitely ignore that annoying little voice in the back of your head that’s telling you it’s no good or that other people might think it’s stupid. This is your chance to be creative. Give the world something they’ve never had before – a story by you. You can do it!

Happy writing!

Writing Challenge – Day 2

Hello writers!

Today is day 2 of the first Three Hundred Pages Writing Challenge. I hope you’ve all gotten a good start on your novel!

I did the math yesterday, and to write 300 pages in 92 days, that’s only 3.26 pages a day. I think we can all handle that. And if you take a break for a day, that’s still only six and a half pages to do the next day.

I’m the kind of writer that once I get going, I don’t want to stop, so I was a little over-ambitious and got 10 pages done yesterday.

How much have all of you done so far?