Hello! I am a writer that is fairly new to the game. I realized I wanted to write full time a few ago. Since then, I’ve been working on a book, that I consider to be my baby; the masterpiece that will create my overall brand. However, I struggle with the discipline of it all. I have such a hard time getting myself to just sit down and finish! I’m currently working on my 23rd chapter but I know I still have so much to go. Working 40 hours a week isn’t necessarily helping either. Advice?
[asked by Anonomous]
What you’re experiencing is what a lot of aspiring/newbie writers go through–you need to sit yourself down and come up with a plan of action. And because it’s my style, here’s a list to help with that plan of action:
1. Find your motivation. What inspires you? Why do you want to finish your book? Why do you want to write? Once you find your motivation, surround yourself with it. Realizing that you will never be a career writer unless you write your book is a good kick in the ass.
2. Make writing a habit. The way to form habits is to do them daily. Put aside an hour every day to focus on your manuscript—you can even set an alert in your phone. Be very clear to everyone that if they interrupt you during this time that their deaths are on their hands. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it becomes natural (the writing, not the interruption murders).
3. Set goals. Find what works for you. A page a day? 700 words? Set you goals as your phone’s lock screen. Put sticky notes on your mirror. Do a goal thermometer and scribble out a notch for each chapter/page you complete. Hang it somewhere where you’ll see it every day.
4. Create a ritual. What I’ve always done is play some music, open my document, and read what I last wrote. By now, when the music comes on, I know it’s time to get to business. Combined with my habit of listening to the same song on repeat for days, I once accidently conditioned myself to open my doc when I heard a certain song. Find whatever works for you.
5. Consider your future. How serious are you about being a writer? For any sort of dream, there are risks/stresses/extra work required for them to come into fruition. If you can’t find time to write, you need to think about what that means for the future. In five years where will you be if you continue down this path? Where do you want to be? What are sacrifices (time/energy/money) you might need to get there?
According to Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five), the following are eight basics of creative writing.
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that they will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just on person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Now, I’m not saying that every single piece of writing you every create has to follow these basics…in fact, nothing you write has to follow these. Break the rules if you want.
BECOME A READER
I am a strong believer in the idea that to be a writer, you must also be a reader.
Read everything, classics, romance, children’s books, fiction & nonfiction anything you can get your hands on.
I know you’re saying something along the lines of “If I only want to write Young Adult books, then I only have to read Young Adult books, right?”
Yes, you want to ready YA, and probably 60%-70% of what you’re reading should be YA, but you want to read other things to exercise your brain and to get your writer juices flowing.
In order to write, you must also read.
For any more advice, check out my YouTube video on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5BYafaKBmo&t=24s
As I’m sitting here, reading what was supposed to be read last week, I’ve come across an amazing quote that I feel represents me very well.
“[L]et’s not forget the dogs, the dogs in their pen who will surely hurtle and snarl their way out if you ever stop writing, because writing is, for some of us, the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those crazy ravenous dogs contained.”
Anne Lamott, Shitty First Drafts
I very much understand where Lamott is coming from and this quote really just hit me in the face like a brick wall. I could never really quite put it into words what it was like, but Lamott did a really good job.
I found this quote in Downs and Wardle’s book Writing About Writing, and even though it is not usually like the books that I post about on here, I would really recromend reading it, it’s pretty good and has a lot of different perspective. Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts can be found on page 527.