The three tips below are things that I wish I'd been told while working on my first novel. And please keep in mind that these three tips are only the beginning of the Writing Guidance series. Sessions One through ten will offer advice on character development, world building, and other aspects of fiction writing!
So, here we go! Session One is posted just below (and if you don't feel like reading, feel free to watch a youtube video explaining the three tips below- click here to watch!)
From Daydreaming to Actual Writing
How? By just writing. So, what gets in the way of writing? We do. We criticize ourselves. We type sentences, hate the way they sound and then delete said sentences. As we then stare at the white space on our computer screen, doubting that J.K. Rowling ever has this problem, we decide to go get some cookies, call a friend, and then maybe clean the entire house and watch Man of Steel for the fifteenth billion time.
Or, at least that's what happens to me during a first draft. I get in my own way because I'm scared. I'm terrified that what I write isn't going to be perfect and that in itself stops me from writing.
So, how do we get over that fear? By writing. Every stinking day. We set our alarm's for 6 AM so we can have fifteen extra minutes in the morning and then we write either two new sentences, or two new paragraphs, or two new chapters and we've written for the day. We do that every day for two months or two years and then we have a completed first draft.
The key is to take your writing one day at a time, one sentence at a time.
How to Make Yourself Write Every Day
- As soon as you have an idea for a story, type a basic outline of where you'd like said story to go. Usually, this initial outline is not overly detailed. But it provides a basic summary of what needs to happen in each chapter. Once I've outlined Chapter 1 to "The End," I feel like I have an actual story to write. Sure there are still some holes in the plot and one or two or eight of the characters seem kind of like rip off's of Batman because for some reason I'm obsessed with Batman at the moment- but that's okay. I have a story to write! (As a quick note, another thing I like to do when I'm outlining is set up a YouTube playlist to preset songs that match the pace of each section of my outline. So, that during action-packed parts of my story I can listen to some crazy Hans Zimmer scores and during the kissey-kissey scenes I can listen to romantic John Williams-like music. So, if you like to write to music, this may be a great time to set up a playlist that corresponds to your story )
- Once your outline is complete, create a personality profile for your protagonist and antagonist. To accomplish this, what I'll typically do is start with a complete visual of their physical features. In my head, I may know that I want them to be handsome, Vietnamese, and male. But to make this more real to me I'll Google "handsome Vietnamese actors" and find a picture similar to the one in my head. And after appropriately feeling like a bit of a creep, I'll illegally cut and paste said picture into the story outline I've created. Then, I'll make a little personality profile for him, detailing his full name, place of birth, his hobbies, and his ultimate goal in life. I'll then do the same for the story's antagonist. What's the point of completing a personality profile? Well, what's the point of dating? We date people to find out if we're compatible enough to continue hanging out. Writing a story about two people is like choosing to hang out with two people for up to six months or a year (or ten years sometimes). You need to find out if you can "like" these guys you're going to write about. Even the antagonist of the story, you'll need to be fascinated enough by her to be able to continue writing about her for a while. So, really this personality profile is just to whet your appetite and inspire you to want to get these two people even more by writing their story.
- Set your alarm. I'm, unfortunately for my roommate, a morning person. I like to get up at 5 or 6 AM and do my writing before anyone else is awake. For other writers- night time is perfect. That's cool too. Whatever time of day that you prefer to write- the point is to set an alarm. Make yourself STOP whatever it is you want to do- even if that thing is sleep- and get your butt to your laptop or your notebook or the wall onto which you're spray-painting your novel (that would be kinda cool...) and write.
The point of the above techniques is to get you excited about your story and to make the world that you're about to dive in as real as possible! If it's real to you, then you'll want to go there every morning (or evening) and write about it for an hour or two!
As you're working on your outlines and character profiles, it's important to keep in mind that COMPLETION IS THE GOAL. Sometimes, we incorrectly assume that perfection is the goal- it isn't! In a first draft of a novel, perfection should be the furthest thing from our minds! We want our outlines to be messy and unreadable to basically anyone other than ourselves. The outline should be like your dog's favorite chew toy- it looks disgusting and untouchable but your dog keeps going back to it and snuggling up with it biting the heck out of it because the crazy dog is for some reason obsessed with it. That's the way these outlines and personality profiles need to be- they're our imperfect yet lovable chew toys, the keys that allow us into the world where our main characters live!
For those who don't feel like reading, a brief video detailing the three writing tips is just below : )