I’m always amazed when websites for writers offer How do I get started? as a first question for beginning writers and novelists. I’m not even sure whether I believe in ‘beginning writers’. We’re emerging writers, certainly, but many of us began when we were about eight. If we want to write a novel, we’ve probably been thinking about it for quite some time, and have made at the very least a stab or two at it.
Writers Getting Organized
Perhaps a better question might be, How do I get organized to write a novel? But that’s as individual as our kitchen and garage organizations. There’s no one right way. I remember reading that Danielle Steele’s writing room was walled with bulletin boards. Apparently she would write several books at once (which sounds daunting, except that she also had nine kids, which puts the whole thing into perspective) and had index cards pinned up everywhere with details from each of her heroine’s arcs.
Writers, Motivation and Blank Pages
Or it might be, How do I embolden and motivate myself to get words down on a blank page? By which we mean, is it going to be good enough? To answer that worry, let me say that I listened to best-selling author Bernard Cornwell talk about starting out writing his historical novels, inspired by the classic Hornblower stories, starring his own Captain Sharpe. Cornwell thought his own work was terrible, so he copied out Hornblower, replacing Hornblower’s name with Sharpe’s, and said it still looked terrible. Yet, Cornwell’s work is superb. So there you go. And since we’re here with Cornwell, pen in hand, in a blog beginning with How do I get started? it may be worth mentioning that copying out well-loved and admired stories or poems, as he did, is a great how-to for warming up with the major players.
I hope you’ll have another great week in your writing career. Cheers Mel
If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might try her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.
From Pulp Literature Press
Editorial revisions will almost certainly be necessary for every story, but we’ll be wise to approach editorial, whether paid or unpaid, from a position of storytelling power. Stories that are not tightly revised for narrative structure before they’re sent to editors risk such broad-stroke suggestions as “You have too many characters, take most of them out.” Or, impossibly narrow editorial desires such as “Give me a beginning like the first ten pages of MacDonald’s Lillith.” Editors work hard to keep sharp and insightful, but when a book’s structure is very loose and tangled, we’ll look for any loose end to pull. Just trying to help.
“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”― HG Wells
All readers, of all ages, want and expect a resonant, flawed hero with whom to identify; an authoritative start, incluing time, place, tone, setting, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict; exchanges of power and non-linear, original adventures; a teeter on the edge of real or metaphorical death; transformation; and a final face-off and a satisfying resolution. If we can keep our solid narrative structure outlines to hand — I like to call this, doing previsions — rather than simply drafting what comes next, then we give editors solid storytelling to edit. Our second-round revisions will be simpler, and our readers will want more of our work.
I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel
Suprisingly gripping reads about editors: F Scott Berg’s ‘ Max Perkins, Man of Genius’ and James Thurber’s ‘The Years With Ross’
This week from @yourwritingmuse: Each of your supporting characters forces the hero to learn and grow towards the final conflict. Kudos from your Writing Muse
I believe that there has never been a better time to publish an excellent book.
Not too long ago, if you attended a writing conference, you would have been taking notes in a crowd of people all of whom had been writing on their own. Many of us were pale as pasta princes and princesses, working away, waiting to be rescued by a galloping agent or editors.
Dear heaven, the shy, dedicated writer’s dearest dream might come true! A gallant publishing company would take our book, market it with all the gathered experts making certain we succeeded, and all we had to do was keep thundering at the keyboard while our agent negotiated the European rights.
And it happened. Still does happen. We all know writers who land bigtime agents and publishers, and it happens more often than, say, we get the opportunity to marry royalty.
But whether our goals are to succeed in traditional publishing, indie, or a combination of the two, the great thing about this time in the life of the writing world is that we don’t have to wait to be rescued. We don’t need to be magically changed into successful writers by outside forces. We can hire editors, find beta readers, mentor others and gradually, or suddenly, become a successful writer through practices we control with intelligent time management that brings us a great attitude and a truly excellent book.
Hope it’s another brilliant writing day for you. Cheers, Mel.
If you want to lead a full-time writing career in your full-time life, consider the happy mathematics of writing books.
Writers talk about books taking six months or a year. Or indeed years. And of course any profession will fill the entire time you give it, including every hour of the day, if you allow it to schedule you instead of the other way around.
If you step back and look at the time it takes you to write, rather than the time it takes a book to get itself written, you find that you can probably write about a thousand to fifteen hundred words an hour or two, so long as you know what you’re going to write.
You’re going to be outlining, revising, polishing and planning your marketing strategies during the week, but unlike drafting, these can easily be done in smaller time frames.
Posit that those fifteen hundred words are based on a good outline, then they will become part of your book. If you write twice a week for an hour or two, then, you have three thousand words. (Mind you, if you are happy to take five hours to compose a perfect paragraph, then carry on and don’t mind me.) If you have three thousand words a week, and you use the best part of those words, then you have two short novels or one long novel a year.
There’s more to a writing career than writing your story, of course, but that is a necessary basic: having fantastic books to build your career upon.
Have another brilliant writing day. Want more time management and writing tips? See our archives and melanastasiou.wordpress.com