The Best Advice I Have Ever Been Given

When I wrote stories, back when I was a young teenager, I wrote because I loved it. I never thought about publishing, editing, cover art and everything else in between. All I would do is sit and write away. Most of the time my stories never made sense, but it didn’t matter. I was doing what I loved to do. And that is always the most important part.

As I got older, I really started to think what it would be like to have something published. Of course, every writer wants to write that one story that sells faster than ice cream on a hot day, but that rarely happens. But what I wanted, was to write stories that people could fall in love with. I wanted to make sure the characters I created weren’t perfect because no one is. And perfect makes for a boring story. A lot of romance novels today are the same. Bad boy meets good girl. Billionaire playboy goes after the sexy intern, you get the point.  It takes a creative mind and a good story to write something just a little different. And those are the stories that will set you apart from other writers.

As I was writing my first novel, the one I wanted to self-publish, I was so focused on just writing the story and creating the characters I wanted to create, that I didn’t stop to think about everything else that came along with it. And that was my biggest mistake. You see before you write your first novel, you should ask yourself one question.

What kind of writer do I want to be?

I never asked myself that question. Instead I wrote a book, did some editing and sent it out to the world. But I never stopped to think, what kind of author I wanted people to think I was.  Joining Facebook groups online, has changed my life. (I strongly recommend joining groups of your interest to meet like-minded individuals). I couldn’t believe the overwhelming support and response I have received from other authors, some of who have sold thousands of books and have created a wonderful name for themselves in the book world. But after talking to some authors and getting their tips and tricks of being successful in this business, they all ask the same question.

What kind of writer did I want to be?

So, you’re probably thinking to yourself what I mean by that. Essentially there are two kinds of writers in the self-publishing world. The writer that just writes to sell books and the writer that writes the best story they can. You see, if you pull up what kinds of stories are hot right now in romance, they are the above-mentioned ones (billionaire playboy, bad boy rock star) but most of these books don’t have any substance to them. It is the same story written 100 different ways, and it doesn’t give the reader anything new to discover in the world of literature. Now most romances have the same formula. Two people fall in love and have a happily ever after, but everything in between should be different. The characters you create should have some depth to them. However, there are those authors out there that don’t do this. And guess what, some of them sell A LOT of books. If you want to be known as the writer that writes the same things as everyone else and sells a lot of books then go for it. You might make money and that would be great (we all want to make money doing what we love) but what if you want to be the kind of writer that not only makes money but has the respect of other authors in your genre? I don’t know about you, but personally for me that is more important than selling a bunch of books that are poorly written or do not have any complexity to them whatsoever.

Before you sit down and write your novel you need to ask yourself what you want from it. If you’re looking to just make money, then pump out those novels and just do it. But if you want respect, then get creative and come up with a story that is different, meaningful, and don’t by pass all the small stuff (I.e. editing, cover work, formatting).

I tell you this, because that folks, is the best piece of advice I have ever be given.

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The Writing Process

It all starts with a good idea.

I have a book. Okay, well it’s actually a notebook. One of those really cheap ones that can fit in your purse. Yeah those. I carry it around with me everywhere I go because an idea for a book can strike at any time. Once, I was sitting at the dentist with my three kids (yeah I know I’m a little nuts) between my one-year-old screaming on the top of her lungs and my six-year-old who continuously kept dropping her tablet, an idea struck for a book. Sounds crazy, huh? You see that’s just part of being a writer. You never know when a good idea for a book, no matter what genre you write in, will suddenly pop into your mind. That’s why it is so important to have a pen and paper handy, at all times, to write down those ideas.

Everyone has a different writing process. I have seriously heard it all. Some of the authors I have talked to seclude themselves in a little room (or cabin) and don’t come out until they have a solid foundation for their book. Well, I’m sure they have to leave for things that are of necessity (I.e. bathroom breaks, eating, maybe even a little shut eye) but nonetheless, it works for them. I have also talked to authors who give themselves a strict deadline and they stick to it, no matter what. I on the other hand, don’t have time to seclude myself into a little room or have strict deadlines. As a mother to three and a wife (of ten years. YIKES), I need a little more flexibility in my life. So, between meal times, homework, baths, and everything else in between I write. I will sit down at my laptop, put my fingers on the keyboard and just type away. Sometimes, it’s only a couple paragraphs or if I’m lucky, I can knock out a couple chapters. The point it is you have to find what works for you.

So, what the heck is the point of this blog post you ask? Well, what I want is to create a list of what I have found works for ME when creating a novel. I by no means am an expert. Heck, I just published my first novel a couple weeks ago. But I have had several people ask me what I did and how I did it. So I want to share the writing process that works for me.

Step 1. Have an idea. Pretty straight forward. It DOES NOT matter if that idea changes 10 times before you begin writing. But you have to start somewhere, so come up with an idea and write it down. Step 1 complete!

Step 2. Create an outline. I cannot stress enough how important it is to create an outline for your story. The first few times I tried writing a book I became so stuck that I simply never finished it. Writer’s block is a true thing. Your outline should contain a basic understanding of your characters (your characters traits can change throughout your writing, but just be sure to go back and edit your outline). It should also contain the plot. Now you don’t need to include every detail of your story in your outline. But at least highlight the most important pieces. Again, as you write a new idea could pop up in your mind and that’s fine. Just go back and edit.

Step 3. Now, this is where it could differ for everyone but I suggest to have a FLEXIBLE deadline. Unless you are one of those people who has to write their entire day out every day, before even getting out of bed, I suggest you give yourself some flexibility. However, it is so important that you don’t lose momentum with your story. For writers, some of the most well written and most creative parts to their books happen when they are in the mist of writing. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you gave yourself two hours to write a chapter, but you end up staying up to the wee hours of the morning writing four chapters. It’s a good thing. On the flip side though, sometimes all we have is an hour. So put some words to the paper and get as much out as you can. Okay, so here is where I am going to contradict myself a little bit. Many of the authors I have talked to do give themselves a deadline for completing their first draft. And I would have to agree with them. It is so easy to constantly push back your deadline for completing your first draft until its perfect. But by golly a first draft is just that, a FIRST draft. It isn’t a completed manuscript. And sometimes your first draft doesn’t even make sense, or it is so far from what you originally intended, but that’s okay. At least you can say you completed your story and then you can move on to the most extensive and time consuming part of it all.

Step 4. Editing. Ugh, that dreadful word I as an author hate. I will save what I have learned about editing for a different post, but once you have your first draft, you will get into the editing process and this can sometimes take MONTHS to complete. So don’t get discouraged. Editing is always tedious, but it is an essentially part of the writing process. Just stay tune for another blog post about it. It is a beast of its own.

Step 5. The last step of my writing process. Letting Go. It’s the hardest step. Trust me. Once the story is written, and you have lived and breathed your characters for months (sometimes years in some cases) and it is edited to the best of your ability, it’s time to let go. You just have to put it out there for the world to see. Some will love it. Some will hate it. But it’s yours and it is one of the most precious things you have, aside from friends and family of course. Putting your story out into the public for people to read will be very hard, but it is an essential part of the writing process. After all, if you don’t share it will people then what was the point of it all?

So folks, as stated earlier this is just simply one authors (an incredibly new author at that) opinion on the writing process and what worked for me. I do encourage anyone who wants to write a book that you find your own way of doing things. But as a first time author, it was so helpful to read how other writers created their amazing stories.

You can do this. If you have a passion, a little discipline, and just a little time on your hands, you can write a book.

But remember one thing.

It all starts with an idea.