10 Things to Consider When Writing a Novel

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Writing a book is incredibly hard. There is no magic formula or secret weapon you can use that will miraculously create a best-selling novel. Writing a book takes time. It requires initiative, discipline, and the ability to accept the fact that not everything you write is going to be beautiful.

“Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.” ―Ray Bradbury

But if you seriously want to write a book, nothing will stand in your way. Get out your pen, your laptop, or whatever writing tool you choose and start writing.

But before you do, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Start small. Give yourself short assignments you can easily complete, like a character sketch, drawing a map, or writing 500 words. Take one step at a time. “Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” -E.L. Doctorow.
  2.  First drafts. Your first draft is going to be awful. Deal with it. The whole point of a draft is to get your thoughts on paper. You can clean it up later. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” -Anne Lamott.
  3. Character. Characters can make or break a story. Know your characters, develop them, see them as they are. Dig into their heads and know what motivates them, what scares them, and what their weaknesses are. Make them believable, and make them come alive.
  4. Dialogue. Dialogue reveals more about your characters than pages of detailed description does. Each character should be easily identified by the way they talk. Reveal your character’s voice and let their personalities shine. Include actions and mannerisms.
  5. Plot. Characters drive the plot. Listen to your characters, and your plot will fall into place. Watch your characters move and stay with them. Things will happen to them; they will create their own tension and drama. Push them harder and load them up with problems they have to solve. Give them something to work for.
  6. Setting. Readers what to know about the character’s lives. Every piece of the setting offers a view into their lives. Setting helps the reader see beyond the surface. It reveals personality and values. Let your characters’ lives pour through the setting. Imagine the scene and add as much detail as possible.
  7. Breathe. Self-doubt will creep up on you, but you have to learn not to stress over small things. It’s ok if the story goes in a different direction than you planned. Let the characters take over and go with the flow.
  8. Prepare yourself for failure. Not only will you doubt yourself, others will doubt you too. Not everyone is going to like what you write. Stephen King said, “If you write, someone will try to make you feel lousy about it.” Don’t waste your time trying to please people.Image result for writing a book is incredibly hard
  9. Support. Seek help and support along the way. Fellow writers can give you pointers if you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask. Read books about writing, use reference materials, and take notes. Find a support system to cheer you on. Your spouse, your best friend, or members of your local writing group can be invaluable resources to keep you motivated and get you back on track.
  10. Voice. There are millions of stories out there, and you might be “worried that it’s all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you.” -Asha Dornfest. Find your voice, and tell your story your way.

What are you waiting for? Sit down and write. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank one.” -Jodi Picoult.

The nine main stereotypes of writers – with cats

Ha ha ha. Yup. This is pretty accurate.

The Cat's Write

There are so many writing stereotypes out there. For example, when most people picture a writer they imagine a poor-coffee-loving-intelligent-but-crazy-bohemian-hermit who spends their days dreaming up fantastical worlds and despicable murders. It may shock some people to learn that some writers love the sun, prefer to be outdoors, and actually, NO, they don’t know a single thing about how a computer works, but if you need help with anything Microsoft word related – well you’re in luck! (Another stereotype?? Whoops).

Here are what I think are the nine main stereotypes of writers:

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Author Confessions Round 27

 Usually, I write from the comfort of my own home. I’m comfortable there and every resource I could possible need is within my grasp. I have access to tea, a recliner, my laptop, internet for research, an external hard drive, snacks, and itunes. Should I need inspiration, there’s a nature trail nearby where I can walk and get some fresh air. I generate ideas in my head no matter where I go, which is why I always carry a notebook and pen around. If inspiration strikes, I write down the idea, later transferring it over to an appropriate scene.  Home is where my heart is, and home is my writing spot.

Author Confessions Round 26

Because of my job, I write at night, usually between 8 and 10:00 P.M. My weekends are also dedicated to writing, Friday and Saturday nights in particular.  Those are the nights I’m up ’til 2:00 A.M. The house is quiet during that time and it’s easier for me to stay focused because I don’t have the kids, the TV, or my pets bothering me and constantly demanding my attention. I accomplish more and tend to be more creative during the wee hours of the morning.

Author Confessions Round 19

 Exposure. Plain and simple.

Throwing myself out there is difficult. I’m an introvert who is uncomfortable in social situations. I don’t always show it, but when I get home after being around people, I need several hours to myself to destress and unwind. As an author, you have to interact with people and make connections. This has always been a challenge for me.

Releasing my books to the general population is nerve wracking and scary. I’ve always been an overachiever and am super critical of myself. I’ll never be satisfied with my work. I ALWAYS find something wrong with it no matter how many times I read over it. My characters speak to me, and I tell their stories. But these stories won’t please every reader. In fact, I can almost guarantee there are haters out there. Some people just don’t get the way my brain works. Others will totally relate to my work and enjoy the stories I write.

I don’t write to please the masses. To me that’s not what writing is all about. I write for myself, to tell my character’s story. Hopefully, I’ll gain a few readers along the way, readers who understand the way I think and relate to these characters in my head.

Author Confessions Round 13

How long have I been writing?

Forever.

I don’t remember I time in my life when I wasn’t writing. As a child, I loved creating stories and making up characters. I wrote short stories, kept a journal full of song lyrics I liked, and wrote daily diary entries to reflect on my thoughts and feelings from the day.  When my family would go on vacation or day trips, I brought a journal with me and kept track of the activities we did and the cool things I saw. It was rare to see me without a pencil or some other writing utensil in my hand.

In Junior High, my love for writing branched out beyond short stories and personal reflection. I was introduced to the research paper and began a love affair with poetry. I received awards for some of the papers I wrote and explored the various elements of poetry writing.

My freshman year of high school, I had several poems published in my high school’s literary magazine. I even earned a college scholarship for a poem I wrote that was later published in a national poetry collection. During this time, I began playing around with writing full-blown fiction stories. I started off just jotting down ideas in notebooks, most of which I don’t even have anymore. By the time I graduated, I had several notebooks full of ideas and stories I had created.

I started the Scrubs series in college, as a hobby more than anything. Back then I wrote only for myself and didn’t want anyone else to read my writing, so the entire story was kept locked away from anyone else’s eyes. Over the years, I added to it, changed it, and deleted unnecessary scenes and characters. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I mustered up the nerve to let a dear friend of mine read the entire series. She, and several others, finally convinced me to publish it.

Since that time, I continue to write in other genres, occasionally write poetry, and have written guests posts on a few blogs. As a teacher, writing is a part of my life, with lesson plans, rubrics, project ideas, and teaching my students all about the writing process, hoping to inspire a few of them along the way.

When Words Won’t Come — Lit World Interviews

We’ve all shared tips on how to write every day and how to fight that devil, procrastination. Or in other words, how to nip our laziness in the bud. Laziness is indeed a real thing, but often when we think that that’s exactly what our problem is, it isn’t. It’s overwhelm. Beating ourselves up with […]

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Deborah Ratliff: The Lonely Writer

Writers Unite!

Writing is lonely work. At least, that is the opinion of friends of mine who are not writers. They ask, how can you sit at a computer all day and not talk to anyone? Somehow, telling them, I’m never alone, that I talk to my characters would likely not reassure them being alone is good for me.

The fact is that despite the witty or testy or romantic conversation we have with our creations, writing is lonely work.

My career provided a writing outlet. I wrote research papers, training, operations, and policy manuals, newsletters, print and broadcast advertising copy.  While necessary within the scope of my work, and writing advertising was certainly challenging, I never felt fulfilled. When time to write presented itself after a corporate downsizing resulting in a layoff, I took the plunge. I started writing fiction.

As an only child, the solitude of writing was never a…

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