For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at an excerpt from a previous post titled How to be a First-Time Novelist (without Going Insane) by Jenny Bravo.
When I first decided to tackle English as a major, I was starry-eyed and hopeful, thinking to myself, “I’m going to write a novel; I just know it.” I loved my classes, adored my teachers, and lived in a collegiate bubble where everyone had potential. For every bad critique, a good one followed close behind. No writer was left behind.
Now, almost a year out of graduation, I’m living in a new, less structured writer bubble. It’s called “The First Time Novelist” bubble. There are days when I feel I have it all together, when the writing flows and I think to myself, “This is too easy.” Then there are days when I sit in front of the computer screen, staring at the keyboard with nothing in my brain but a recap of last night’s New Girl.
With writing, there is always more to learn, always more to experience, and always more rejection to endure. So why do we do this to ourselves? Are we gluttons for punishment? No, not at all. We write because we feel. We write because we have no choice. It’s as simple as that.
Being a writer is a learning experience, and with each new step, I develop more and more tricks to getting things done. So I would like to share . . .
My Five Insane-Proof Strategies
- Get Help. In college, we have teachers. Their job requires them to read and edit our work. In the real world, writing can be lonely, so we need to reach out to be heard. Recently, I started a blog, along with joining Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Through social media, you can connect with others who are going through the exact same experience as you or have already been through it. You can also find a range of wonderful articles that help improve your writing, prepare you for the next steps, and train you to craft your novel. Use your resources. Get a writing buddy! Having a second or third pair of eyes to read your work never hurts. We’re all in this together.
- Set a Schedule. Knowing yourself as a writer helps you get words on the page. Maybe you are like me, and you work well with a word count goal for the day. Perhaps you could work better with a timer, aiming to write as many words as possible within a set time period. Either way, it’s beneficial to have writing goals for the day, week, or month. It will keep you consistent and productive. Consider making a writing calendar on which you track your words for the day, so that you have a nice visual of your progress.
- Outline, Re-Outline, and Outline Again. There are both planners and pantsers when it comes to writing. The planners prefer to outline an entire book from start to finish, while the pantsers wing it, simply writing to see where it goes. There are also those who practice a blend of these methods. In any case, you will probably need to outline to some extent. I’ve made about three outlines for my novel so far. You have to take the time to reorganize and reevaluate in order to fill in those pesky plot holes. Make outlining your friend!
- Read Your Genre. Can we all just agree that reading rocks? As writers, we need to be readers. With each new book, new standards are set, and by staying up to date, we know where our readers spend their time. Think of it as spying but in a less creepy way. Plus, reading work from authors we admire triggers inspiration . Now, of course, I am not suggesting you copy other writers, but you can mirror a writing style or tone. I even suggest reaching out to some authors you like. Check out their websites, send them an e-mail or letter, and utilize their knowledge. I’ve done this once or twice and have received wonderful feedback.
- Don’t Sweat It. If you love to write, then nothing will stop you. Always remember to have fun with it. When in the writing process, you should avoid thoughts of publishing or literary agents because that will only overwhelm you and stunt your progress. While it is nice to dream of publication and having books on the Barnes & Noble shelf, it only adds pressure. Save those thoughts for later. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.” Don’t think about the editors; think about the readers. If you love what you’re writing, chances are others will too.
I could sit here and list a million lessons I have learned in these very early stages of writing, but that’s another post for another time. Overall, the most important writing technique is to make your ideas a reality. Just sit down and write. Should be easy enough, right?
What valuable lessons have you learned while in the throes of your writing journey? Share in the comments.