Most everyone writes according to a process, even if we sometimes don’t realise it! There are a few who seem to write by the seats of their pants (Pantsers), but most of us need a novel writing process to guide us long the way to a successful novel.
Probably one of the most valuable novel writing tips for beginners is to follow a structure for outlining and writing. There are many out there, such as the Snowflake Method, and others that have been adapted by writers of all levels to suit their own particular needs and writing style.
The first video presents a quite detailed plan for writing a structured novel or book, with useful tips for much-needed discipline. The second addresses the problem of motivation – something which affects us all. The presentation is refreshing because it offers various ideas for overcoming writer’s block and the dreaded feeling of ‘I am not a writer!’
A Working Novel Writing Process – Advice For Beginners
Heya, book nerds! I’m Meg LaTorre, and on this episode of iWriterly, I thought we’d do something a little different. A lot of you have been asking about the adult fantasy manuscript I’m currently querying and my writing process. So I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my brain’s hard-wiring.
It’s also rather timely, as I’m about to launch into a new project. Keep in mind, every writer has their own unique process. This is just what I’ve found works for me.
Step 1: The idea Usually an idea will crop up during everyday life, and I’ll mull it over in my mind for a few days or weeks and jot down notes as I think of them.
Eventually, the idea either blossoms into a full-fledged story or withers and dies a painful death. … Not really.
Step 2: The plot outline If a story makes it past the idea phase, I’ll then write a plot outline. I really like Vivien Reis’ outline video, which I’ve referenced before in my past videos. To learn more about plot outlining, be sure to check that out. I’ll leave a link in the description below.
Step 3: The character outline I’ll usually write an outline for the main cast of characters, including their physical description, the desire(s) that drive them throughout the story, weaknesses or shortcomings of their characters, and their role in the plot.
This is how I get to know the characters, and it’s extremely helpful for me to reference this outline as I’m writing the story.
Step 4: The chapter-by-chapter outline In case you’re not starting to sense a theme, I love outlines.
At this point, I’ll do the math for my target word count. If I’m aiming for 90,000 words–and there’s an average of 250 words per page and 10-15 pages per chapter–I’ll approximate how many chapters I’ll have in the book.
I’ll write out what’s going to happen in every chapter and try to plan the inciting incident, plot arc, character development, resolution, and so on.
Step 5: Drafting + editing + outside feedback Unlike most writers, I like to get outside feedback on my work as I’m writing and edit as I go. This way, if there are any structural or plot issues, I’ll hopefully discover them early-on. I’ll usually write the first fourth of my book before I start sharing with critique partners.
Step 6: Re-write the chapter-by-chapter outline In this step, I will try to incorporate any changes I made from the original outline.
In the outline, I’ll write not just what happened during that chapter, but what world-building and character development took place. During this rewrite, I’ll usually notice parts of the story where there are plot holes or scenes that need to be added or removed. I’ll also note if there is too much or not enough world-building.
Step 7: Self-editing Once I’ve drafted the entire manuscript and rewritten the chapter-by-chapter outline with the changes I want to make, I will edit the entire novel on my own.
Step 8: Get feedback from critique partners and beta readers. At this point, I’ll start sharing my manuscript with people in bulk–either the full manuscript or chunks of the book (depending on that person’s personality/editing style). On average, I work with 10-20 critique partners and beta readers per manuscript.
Step 9: Edit + get more feedback. Once I’ve received feedback from my critique partners and beta readers, I’ll assess if there are any themes on people’s feedback, what feedback I agree will improve the story, if I need to make any big structural changes, and edit the whole manuscript again. *Note that I don’t incorporate every piece of feedback I get.
Once I’ve made changes, I’ll share my manuscript with critique partners and beta readers and the process will start all over again.
Step 10: Write a synopsis and query. Once I feel my manuscript is as good as I can possibly make it on my own, I’ll write a two-page synopsis and one-page query letter. For this part, I not only share both documents with critique partners and beta readers, but I’ll also hire freelance editors to make sure I have objectively summarized my story and nailed my pitch.
Thanks for tuning into this episode on iWriterly on my writing process. If you liked what you saw, give the video a thumbs up. It lets me know you like this type of content and want more. If you’re new here, welcome!
Consider subscribing. I post writing-related videos every Wednesday. If you have questions about anything we covered today, leave those in the comments below. As always, KEEP WRITING!
Novel Writing Methods That Work – Motivational Tips For Beginners
You may have heard some variation on this quote before: “Write a million words— the absolute best you can write, then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.”
All writers want to attain that level of mastery, but reaching the million-word mark seems like a daunting task, especially if you have problems with motivation. Maybe you have countless ideas floating around in your head, yet feel paralyzed when trying to put your imaginings into words. The root of the problem is perfectionism.
Sometimes we’re so in love with our stories that we want them to be born into the world as perfect beings. But that’s what prevents writers from moving from the imagining stage to the creating stage. You have to get used to ugly babies.
Give yourself permission to write CRAP. But this brings us to another problem: We all know we’re supposed to write every day, but we don’t do it! We waste time watching TV or daydreaming instead. So how do we FORCE ourselves to write? Here are six tips on how to do just that.
Number one: Establish a Routine. Writing at the same time and in the same place every day will help you develop good habits. Maybe you write in bed when you first wake up, or at the café you visit during your lunch hour, or at the library between classes.
As much as night owls hate to hear it, the morning is the best time to write. Why? Because humans love to procrastinate. Waiting until the evening leaves more room for excuses. Don’t fall into that trap.
Try gradually setting your alarm earlier each day until you’re waking up an hour earlier than usual, then use that time to WRITE first thing in the morning. Avoid checking your email or thinking about what else you have to do later that day.
In addition, don’t research while you’re writing. This time is for pure word-count generation only. Here’s another productivity trick: Write everywhere. On the bus, standing in line, or waiting for dinner to come out of the oven.
If you like the feel of old-fashioned pencil and paper, start carrying around a small notebook. Use note-taking apps to jot down ideas or short descriptions. There are so many short stretches of time that we waste in a day by checking Facebook or browsing Reddit.
By making writing as integral to your daily routine as sleeping or eating, you will develop good habits, and your future self will thank you.
Number two: Eliminate distractions, such as the Internet. You may be tempted to find the perfect synonym or Google pressing questions. What you need is Self-Control. Self-Control is a free app for Mac that allows you to block certain websites for a set amount of time.
StayFocusd and Leechblock are similar services that are extensions for web browsers. There are plenty of others out there as well. Sometimes our loved ones can also interrupt our writing time without knowing it.
However, if you establish a writing routine, you can tell your family, roommates, or significant other that you’re setting aside certain times of the day just for writing. It will be easier for them to respect your schedule if you follow a predictable pattern.
Music can also further delay your writing time, as you might waste time trying to find the perfect song to inspire you. Instead, give your full attention to the task at hand— putting words on the page. Save the headphones for times when you’re brainstorming ideas or plotting.
Number three: Set daily writing goals for yourself. Writing a novel is a huge task, but if you break it down into smaller chunks, it can feel more achievable. Choose what type of quota you’d like to reach. Maybe you’d like to aim for a thousand words per day, or perhaps you’d rather write an hour a day, regardless of the resulting word count.
You can also aim to complete one scene per day, whether it be the first time the protagonist meets a love interest or the final epic battle sequence. Write chronologically or start with the scene you’re most excited to put on paper.
Here’s another trick to keep in mind: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.”
If you get behind on your daily targets, don’t despair. Cut yourself some slack, but really try to avoid putting off your daily writing. If you skip one day, you’re more likely to skip the next one…and the next…and the next.
In addition, people often underestimate the time it takes us to complete a project, so give yourself plenty of leeway when setting goals. The Pomodoro Technique can be another great time management tool.
Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on your project until it rings. When you’re done, checkmark a piece of paper, and take a five-minute break. Then start the timer again and repeat the cycle.
Once you have completed four of these sessions, or “pomodoros” as they’re called, you can take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. These rest intervals will give your brain time to relax and digest stray thoughts.
If you want to visualize your success, try the Don’t Break the Chain method. It’s very simple: Set your daily writing goal, then take a calendar, and cross off each day that you complete that goal. Your goal is to not “break the chain” or leave any boxes without an X.
If you’re a more extrinsically motivated person, you can try rewarding yourself after each writing session. It could be your favorite kind of chocolate or an episode of some guilty-pleasure TV show. Make sure you only get this reward after writing and not at any other time. You want your mind to associate writing with that reward.
Number Four: Try Alternative Forms of Writing. Writing anything is better than writing nothing at all, so if you don’t have the motivation to slug through your main work-in-progress, try something different. How about a writing prompt?
You can put your current cast of characters into the prompt situation, or you can branch out and explore new worlds. Think of these as flash fiction exercises, and try to keep your responses under a thousand words.
Writer’s Digest posts some great weekly prompts and also features a discussion section, where you can share your work and see how others interpreted the prompt. Sometimes it’s easier to write about your own life experiences and opinions rather than pull imaginary ones from thin air.
Think about how you can tap into your own emotions to convey your characters’ feelings more vividly. Write about your first love or a time you felt true fear. Meditate on how it feels to have siblings or to be an only child.
Imagine how different you would be if you grew up with a different religion, in a country on the other side of the world, or as the opposite gender. Start keeping a journal of your daily thoughts.
Fanfiction can be another great way to boost your daily writing, as you’re already working with an established world and familiar characters—but the plot and writing style are entirely your own. How about switching the perspective of the story to a minor character?
Play around with first and third-person. Do some genre-bending by adding fantasy elements to a story set in modern times or switch to an entirely different time period. Although I don’t recommend basing your own novel off of your fanfiction, this can help you find your voice and provide more storytelling practice.
Feedback from reviewers can also be beneficial for identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Sometimes you need to take your writing a little less seriously and just goof off, and that’s where roleplaying can be really effective.
Roleplaying involves writing a story with someone else, piece by piece. You’re not playing Dungeons & Dragons; you’re exchanging messages. You team up with another person to create a story and then your characters interact.
Depending on your partner, the responses can be anywhere from two sentences to a thousand words. Roleplayers either use instant messaging services like Kik or Skype for real-time conversations or long-form methods like email.
You can explore different genres, from slice-of-life and historical fiction to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. It may seem a bit geeky at first, but you’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to pop out a thousand words when you’re responding to what someone else has written.
Plus, roleplaying can help you brainstorm new plot ideas, flesh out new types of characters, and produce more completed stories.
Number Five: Enter writing contests. Writing contests and magazines force you to adhere to specific deadlines, and that can push you to finish projects. There are also certain word count and subject you need to follow, and having that kind of box to work in can make it easier to start writing.
Say the contest is looking for a sci-fi story with romantic elements and it must be less than seven thousand words. Oh, and the topic for this month’s magazine is artificial intelligence, and the deadline is in a month.
So, over the course of a month, you can aim to finish one submission with a little writing and revising each day. The thrill of actually completing a project, even it’s just a short story, can be a great motivator, as it tells you that you’re capable of finishing things you’ve started.
Start small and look at contests posted on blogs rather than huge international competitions. Many contests and magazines don’t have entry fees. Others have small entry fees but oftentimes provide a year’s subscription to the online publication with your entry.
With any contest, there are some best practices you should follow: always read past winners to see what the judges are looking for. You should also make a checklist of the submission guidelines you need to follow, read the FAQ page, and double check the formatting requirements before you submit.
Number Six: Take classes and join groups. Creative writing classes mainly focus on short stories, but the lessons you learn can be applied to larger projects. In addition, classes give you an imposed deadline and expose you to new writing styles.
College courses can be expensive, but many community centers, libraries, local art organizations, and online communities offer inexpensive or free classes that you can join. You could also join a writing group, whether it’s a local one that meets in person or an online group.
Grab a writing buddy and use each other to stay committed to your writing goals by sharing your successes and failures, bouncing off ideas and questions, and exchanging pieces for critique.
Feedback is how you grow as a writer, and receiving constructive criticism from professionals in the writing field and from your peers is of vital importance. It’s one thing to write every day, but in order to truly become a better writer, you need to be actively revising and improving upon your work, and that involves critically analyzing your own stories and prose.
Here is one final anecdote to motivate you to write every single day of your life. Imagine two painters. The first painter has been working on his masterpiece for the past three years, meticulously choosing each color and ensuring that every line is perfect.
In that same time period, the second painter has churned out dozens of paintings, experimenting with different types of brushstrokes and color combinations and even adding other mediums.
Sure, some of them are pretty bad—awful, actually. But there a few that are quite GOOD, as if the artist has discovered his own unique style. Now apply the idea of the two painters to the writing process.
The quality of your writing is obviously important, but producing a large quantity of art can provide valuable insight. Both aspects are important, but don’t become too obsessed with one or the other.
With all this information in mind, go try the 30-day challenge. Pick one or two of the methods listed here, and stick to a routine for a full month. Maybe you’d like to write for an hour every day and mark an X on your calendar, or experiment with a daily writing prompt each morning, or even start an elaborate role-play set in feudal Japan.
Whatever you do, keep writing.