So, I’m quickly closing in on my first ever publication date. (That’s crazy!) I started my first novel on December 9th, 2012 and finished it January 21st, 2013. It would have been sooner, but I am notoriously procrastinate-y. And easily distracted. And sidetracked.
Either way, there have been some rude awakenings and not so rude awakenings on my journey to self publication. I’m going to share some here, so maybe you lot can avoid them in the future.
6 Things I’ve Learned as a Newbie Writer
1. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would – Granted I took a little while to eck out my overall plot and stuff, the actual process of writing 70k words only took a little under two months. It would have been faster had I not piddled away my time on other stuff. Before I started this whole thing (the decision to write a book at all), I was under the impression it took years to write a novel. Years! Apparently, with some application, it can be done in months. In some cases, even weeks. However, it should be noted I (basically) had a month off because work was slow, and the semester was over. But still. If you’re thinking about writing a novel, just know you can do it in a timely manner with some application and dedication. It doesn’t have to take years. It doesn’t even have to take months.
2. Turn off the freakin’ internet – I can’t stress enough how easy it is to get distracted. If you’re serious about this writing thing and want to get this thing done in a timely manner, turn everything off. For seriously. Even your people. Send your hubby/wifey away with something entertaining, shut off the wifi/internet, turn your phone off, everything. If it’s there, you’re gonna use it. I simple thought like, “Oh, let me just check my author page likes, just out of curiosity” ends up as “I really should buy a new washer. I wonder what deals home depot has. *opens new tab*” NO! BAD WRITER! STOP IT!
3. Music is invaluable – I think I’ve mentioned this somewhere before, but I’ll re-iterate. Music is awesome, and you should use it to write. Picture your scene like a scene in a movie. What would play in the background? Orchestral tension scary music? Some kind kick-ass rock anthem while your MC beats up the villain? Something sultry for that love scene? It totally works. I swear to jeebus. (This point is invalid if you’re the kind of writer that requires silence. Which is fine too. Silence is golden.)
4. You need other people – Don’t write your novel by yourself. I’m not saying you need someone to read every single word of your first draft, but at one point or another, you’ll need somebody. Make connections early on, especially with other writers. Engage in social media and forums. There are a ton of people who’ve done this before you, and they often have incredibly helpful things to say about whatever you’re doing. You’ll need to ask for feedback sometime before publication date anyway, so it helps if you already know some people. Plus, it’s just fun to make friends. Everybody likes making friends. :D I wrote my first novel along side my best friend Maegan, who was writing her novel at the same time. It’s pretty nifty to be able to pick someone’s writerly-type brain as you go along, but be sure you don’t let it distract you. (Thats happened.. >_> )
5. You’ll probably get the writer blahs. This is normal. There WILL be days when you want to quit. Don’t. There will be days when you want to scrap your entire plot and start over. Don’t. There will be days when you wont want to write at all. Write anyway. Some might say, on this last part, if you write during your writer-blahs, your quality will suffer. Yeah, probably, but it’s also likely you’ll discover what you
don’t like about whatever part your writing. You may not be able to write the bad part into a good part, but you can make a note of it and come back during edits with a fresh brain. Speaking of edits, you’ll probably wanna quit during those too. You’ve been staring at this folder of chapters for 84578449435 days, and your brain is starting to melt out of your ears. That’s okay. Take a break for a little while, but don’t quit altogether. Push past the blahs.
6. (This is the big one) Writing a book costs money. – The old saying, “It costs money to make money” is unfortunately true. A decent cover costs money. Some forms of advertising costs money. Software to help you along the way costs money. Copy editors (sometimes) cost money. If you don’t want to do it yourself, formatters cost money. Beta readers (sometimes) cost money. Unless you have 8569454 friends in various fields that will do it for you for free, you’re probably gonna spend some money on something related to your book along the way. I spent $180 on my covers (ebook and print). I probably spent $50 or so on various how-to books for formatting and marketing. I probably spent more on various other things. I’m debating spending $75 to have someone format this bitch for me. You can spend money to have a smoother ride to publication date, or you can buckle up and take the bumpies for free. I can tell you already that this formatting this is a bitch. I’m starting to think that if I can just power through this first one and get everything right via trial and error, then the next ones’ll be easy and I’ll have taught myself a valuable skill, but… still. In most cases, you’ll spend money on something. Especially if you plan to make this a career. Hopefully it’ll start paying off when the sales come in, but one can only hope.
I haven’t written in large volume, consistently, for a very long time. I’m just starting out, actually. I’m writing my very first novel. But like with some new adventures, there are things you learn right off the bat; things that become glaringly obvious in the first few steps. Don’t stick your arm out of the shark cage. Fasten your seat belt on a roller coaster. (Seriously). Make sure the car is in reverse if you want to go in reverse. (Don’t ask.)
I’ve turned a new chapter in my life, and I’m pursuing a writing career. Whether I make it or not is still up in the hair, but with a lot of hard work, I think I’ll get there. I’ve only been at this for a short while, but I’ve already learned some key things.
Take it with a grain of salt, as this is just my personal experience, but here’s 6 things I’ve learned as a new writer:
- Outlines change. – Even if you don’t outline, things change. Even if your plot is ironed out in your head, it’ll probably still change. That cool plot you thought you had? It will totally shift and change and become practically unrecognizable toward the end. New ideas will sprout as you write, and it’s okay to change stuff. Keep a record, and/or write down your ideas. Play mix and match. Find out what you like and what you don’t. Everything can be changed. (Well, most things can be changed… the important stuff kinda has to stick.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed chapter 7. If you’ve spoken with me in the last week or so, you know how much I hate chapter 7.
- Listen to your characters – They, at some point, WILL speak to you. It may sound a little creepy, but they will – you’re basically playing god with people you’ve created. You know their inner most thoughts and motivations, and you hold their destiny in your hands. Listen to them! If someone or something seems off, re-write it. Get in their heads, and theirs shoes, and let them write themselves. Do some character exploration if you have to.
- There will be days you’ll hate writing – I call these ‘burn out days’. It’s okay to take a break once in a while, but be careful that a break doesn’t become infinite. Clear your mind if you’re getting frustrated, but always come back and write some more. Some days that’ll be really hard. Some days it won’t. Keep going, no matter what.
- If you’re doing this as a potential career, treat it as such – Set a schedule; you have no idea how much they’ve helped me. Go ‘to work’ at no later than x time, and schedule breaks and a lunch. Decide when you want to be done for the day. If you don’t get a whole day off very often, give yourself ‘split shifts’. Basically, carve out a set time to write, and stick to it. If you don’t ‘show up for work’, your book will ‘fire you’. For me, I usually get up sometime between when my fiance leaves for work (6:30am) and when it’s too late for me and I feel guilty about sleeping in (9am). It’s not a concrete wake up time, but I ‘get into work’ no later than 9:30 no matter what. I write until noon, and then break for lunch. Then I write until 4pm when my fiance comes home. Sometimes I write into the evening, but I like to spend time with my loved ones, so I don’t feel quite that guilty. Just do whatever works best for you, but again, keep going, no matter what.
- Having a writing buddy is INVALUABLE – This is just my opinion, and it may not work for everyone, but I absolutely ADORE having someone to pick at ideas with. My best friend Maegan is also writing her book, and we spend more time than we probably should on Skype, tossing ideas back and forth, and helping each other when we get stuck. My fiance Kevin is also a valuable ally as I tackle the monster named ‘Novelzilla’. He’s my muse. Find your muse! Find someone who’s creative brain inspires you. Check out the author’s section of Kindleboards. Maybe a professor? If you’re stuck on something pitch some ideas to them as a reader; see how they react. One or two extra brains are nifty.
- Never, EVER even THINK about giving up – At some point, and I can attest to this, you’ll have the ‘big moment of self doubt’. You might have more than one. You’re entire process might be riddled with them. You might even go straight to publishing with one. These moments of doubt are basically just moments when you beat yourself up. You think your writing isn’t good enough, or your idea is stupid and no one would ever want to read it. You think, well, if I suck so bad, maybe I should just quit. DON’T. DON’T. NO. STOP IT. DON’T MAKE ME SMACK YOU. If you love writing, even on the worst days, and it’s all you want to do, persue that bitch! Write like there’s no tomorrow! Write like you mean it! Write because it’s inside you and you want to get it out! Don’t stop writing, if it’s something you genuinely enjoy. You have the next big thing in there somewhere. You won’t know until you try.
This might change in the future. I’m still at the beginning of things. I’m still new! This is just what I’ve taken away from my experiences so far. This is whats working for me. I’m not claiming to have all the answers and suddenly be some writing guru, but this is just what I know so far.
Take with a grain of salt. Hopefully, that grain of salt is on a margarita glass sitting on a coaster next to your laptop as you clickity clack away on your book. That’s where mine was, anyway.
For so long I put off actually writing it, because I was so afraid of having to go through the ordeal of queries, and agents, and submissions, and formatting, and the inevitable tidal wave of rejections. I didn’t want it enough (which I am atleast partially ashamed to admit.) But then I heard about e-publishing, and after some digging, I decided to jump in head first. Or feet first. I’m actually not sure which direction is appropriate, but I’m jumping nonetheless.
I hope someday this blog can be my official ‘author site’. I hope someday people read my stories and like them. I hope to someday have discussions with people who’ve read my stories and care enough to drop me a line. I hope I write my books, and they end up on people’s shelves.
I know it sounds terribly corny, but it’s kind of my dream. I keep hearing all these things about e-publishing and all these people who have lives that I’ve only dreamed about, and it makes that dream much more tangible. Sooo… I’m going for it. And I’m going to stick to it, and I’m not gonna stop.
This blog, (for the moment), while be a sort of chronicle of events leading up to what (I hope) will be a publishing day. I might put up some FAQ type stuff, or some background lore or something. I dunno. Mostly, I need to write, but I think part of writing is exploring your own world. So we’ll see, I suppose.
For the moment, everything is new. I’m at the beginning of my journey, and whether or not people actually read it, I’ll still have a timeline of posts to look back on at some point.
My current goal is to write 3k words a day, with a total word count goal of around 80,000 words for the first book of my first series (Redhaven). I am currently on Chapter 2.
I can do eeeeeet!
*waves tiny flag of optimism*