For me, the hardest part of writing a book is getting starting. Thinking about cranking out over 50,000 golden words of terrific prose is daunting. There’s the fear of “How can I top my last book?” and “Can I come up with an original idea?”
The trick is to break down the novel to pieces. Start with one word, then two, then three . . . Work on one chapter at a time before worrying about the next.
I start with an outline. I tried writing one book as “pantster” and by page 50, I was in trouble. The story didn’t interest me and, I’m sure, would bore the reader as well. I threw out of what I’d written and started over—with an outline.
The outline is flexible. I add to it and shift elements around as I progress. But, like a road trip, I have a destination in mind and can plan the most direct route with a minute of delays. As a “pantster,” I’d be taking too many scenic detours and ending up miles away from my goal.
An advantage of outline is that once that’s in place, the actual writing is easy. With an outline, I don’t have to think hard about what should be in the scene. Once I start writing, it begins to flow and gets easier. When I start building the characters and watching how the scene plays out and adding comic bits, I’m motivated to keep going. Like swimming, the initial plunge into the pool takes the most effort.
I’ve heard the phrase that a writer needs to “show up at the page.” That is, the author must sit, pick up the pen or turn on the computer, and actually write. Simply thinking or talking about writing, or saying “it’s all in my head,” or going to endless meetings or conferences or classes without writing will never produce a book.
The first months of this year, for me, had many distractions, including house repairs and cat health and working on a big teaching project. Now that’s all out of the way—for now—and I have no more excuses. I finally picked up the clipboard (my first drafts are in longhand) and began the second book in the Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series. After all, one can’t have a series with only one book.
The first night I only wrote four pages. But that’s four more pages than I had the night before. If an author only composes one page a day, by the end of the year she’ll have a 365-page novel.
Now that I’ve started one project, I’m ending another. This is my last regular post on Ladies of Mystery. I’ve enjoyed being part of the blog, but my writing time is limited. Along with my day job and housework, I also write a newspaper column and contribute to my parish. I need more time to focus on my books. After the new book is finished I want to write another Sandy Fairfax book along with a non-mystery novel that’s been kicking around in my head for years. So many ideas, so little time.
I hope to return periodically to LOM with guest posts whenever I have a new book to share. In the meantime, you can keep in touch with me on Facebook or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned . . .
12 thoughts on “Keep moving forward”
Sally, I will miss you, but I understand about the time crunch. I run into that problem a lot. I want you to know that I’ve always enjoyed your posts.
Thanks, glad you liked my posts, Marilyn. When one sends words out into cyberspace, it’s hard to know what kind of audience is out there. I hope I won’t be away too long from this blog
I too use to be “pantser” and I have to admit. It’s a pain in the ass. I never lost my interest but I keep hitting the wall. My need to write is there but the words are gone from my head. Outlining don’t work too but a combi of both work best for me. They call it “Plantser” 😄
Blogging, daytime job and writing a book isn’t easy. I wish you luck with writing the next book.
Hi Jessica, there’s no perfect method to writing. I’m still revising my outline and adding to it. Someone asked me to describe my writing process and I said I had no idea. Somehow all the pieces eventually fit together.
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Interesting post, thank you. Best wishes in all you do- you are a busy woman. God bless.
HI MaryAnn, thanks for your nice comments. Glad you could stop by.
We’re sorry to have you leave, Sally, but I understand trying to find the balance to get books written. Good luck with the next book and all those that shall come. You are always welcome to be a guest here. You picked a great topic for your last post!
Thanks Paty, nice to leave on a high note. Hope it won’t be too long before I have some news to crow about.
Thanks for sharing your method of writing, and your future hopes. I wish you success and fun in the process. I’m curious now as to your non-mystery novel. Hmmm. And I hope you do drop by for a guest post now and then. We want to keep track of you… make sure you ARE doing that one-page-per-day… at least.
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Thanks for your comments. I admit I slacked on the one-page-per-day this weekend (had to write my newspaper column) but last week I wrote a rough draft of chapter one. Still needs description and character names, but the basic action and dialogue are there.
Well done! Thanks for sharing your experience, it was helpful.
Thanks, Karen. It’s easier to writer knowing there’s a community of support out there.
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