Hi everyone! :]
Not that I have a ton of followers yet. In fact, I only have five right now and – ummm – one of them is me. O_o How I became a follower of myself, I have no idea. But it makes me look pretty pathetic.
Oh, well. Anyway … In order to make this blog useful, I thought I’d share some of my writing advice for all you young and/or aspiring writers out there. And I thought I’d start out by answering one of the most frequently asked questions that people ask me:
HOW DO YOU WRITE A BOOK, ANYWAY?
Well, there is no “right” way to write a book. Every writer will give you a different answer. However, I have never met a writer who said that writing a book is easy – because, well, it’s not.
I can tell you right now: Writing a book takes a lot of time, dedication, and determination. You have to be willing to put your heart and soul into your work, to hold back nothing, and to stick with your story NO MATTER WHAT. Otherwise, don’t bother to try to write a book. Anyone can write a few good first chapters, but it takes a real writer to finish an entire novel.
Now, I’m here to help you – not to call you a failure. If you’ve never written a book, I’m not saying that there’s no hope for you. It’s a matter of learning how to fill in gaps in your story, and – as corny as it sounds – believing in yourself.
So, there are many reasons why you might be having trouble finishing your book. I’m going to pinpoint five of the most common problems, and give my advice on how to get past them. :)
1. YOU BELIEVE IN “WRITER’S BLOCK”.
Okay, I’m going to tell you a little secret: Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.
*GASP!* Brigid, are you crazy???!!! Of course there’s such a thing as Writer’s Block!
I know, I know. This might be a hard idea to get used to … but it’s true. I used to believe in this so-called “Writer’s Block”, too. In fact, I only stopped believing in it pretty recently.
Writer’s Block is simply when you’re stuck on ideas, so you tell yourself that there’s no hope. You think there’s nothing left to write. So … you should give up, right?
WRONG! Yes, there may be points when you get stuck, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop writing. Writer’s Block is an excuse. It’s your way of blaming something for your lack of motivation.
Writing is not a magic ability that comes and goes. If you’re a writer: YOU CAN WRITE. Nothing can take your talent away. If you blame Writer’s Block for your problems, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The truth is, if you’re stuck, it’s your fault – as harsh as it sounds. But you have to accept that YOU are the one who got yourself stuck. Then you’ll realize that it’s your responsibility to fix your own problems.
Now you ask, “But how do I do that?”
Well, that’s why I’m here. I hope to answer that question with the following advice. :)
But for starters, stop believing in Writer’s Block right now! The first step is telling yourself that you have the power to get through the tricky parts of your book. You can do it!!!!
2. YOU CAN ONLY THINK ABOUT GETTING TO THE END … OR AT LEAST TO THE “GOOD PARTS”.
A lot of first-time writers make the mistake of being impatient. They just want to write a book for the sake of writing a book, not for the experience. So they jump right into the story without planning or outlining. If you do this, there is a greater possibility that you will get stuck.
I strongly advise making an outline – at least a partial one. I'm not saying that you have to make one, but without an outline, your story will probably lack good pace and structure.
Here’s the thing: Writing a book is not a race. It’s not about getting to the finish line. You can't just run, in a straight line, through the whole thing. Writing a good story is more like taking a long journey over a winding path: there are twists and turns, there are landmarks along the way, and yes, there are some parts that can be uneventful.
A lot of writers meet their downfall at those uneventful parts. You might have the most important plot points figured out, but you don't know what happens in between them. These "gaps" are definitely the hardest part of writing a book. I struggle with them too. But they're no excuse to stop writing! There's always something you can do to fill up those tricky spaces.
The best thing to do is to add some character development. Dialogues are always good. Get a few characters talking with each other, and see what happens. You might find out something about your characters that you didn't know before. Plus, it will help to develop interesting character relationships.
Or you can just let your main character think for a page or two. You can learn a lot about a character through what they think about situations and other characters.
DO NOT kill off characters just because you have no ideas. Personally, I believe that you should kill off characters sparingly and only when it is absolutely essential to the plot and to the message you are trying to convey. If you're killing off characters left and right for no particular reason, the deaths probably won't seem as powerful to the reader.
Outlines are a good idea, because they allow you to plot out your story in advance and to avoid plot holes/contradictions. It doesn't have to be too detailed, but I would suggest having a rough idea of the beginning, some parts of the middle, and the end. That way, while you're writing, you'll have an idea of where your story is headed. Like I said, writing a book is like taking a journey. And if you don't want to get lost, you should have a map, right? :)
3. YOU TOOK A WRONG TURN SOMEWHERE.
Continuing with the "journey" metaphor – there are times in your story when you might wander off the path by accident. If you find yourself stuck, it could be because you took a wrong turn. Maybe you made something happen that eliminated a lot of possibilities. Or maybe you've lost track of something important like a) what the plot of the book is about or b) what your main characters' objectives are. All parts of the book should be connected somehow. If you started off writing about one thing, and now you're writing something entirely different, you probably did something wrong.
Well, here's what you have to do: go back. Rewrite or eliminate irrelevant parts. Make sure that your book has a focus: there should be a clear plot and your characters should have distinct objectives. Otherwise, you need to start rewriting. Or maybe your outline needs some revising. Make character outlines too, so that you know what each character really wants.
4. YOU KEEP PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN.
Sometimes you might get stuck because of a lack of self-confidence. This is one problem that I often struggle with. I've been there before. I'll be sitting in front of my laptop, staring at the words on the screen, and I'll have this panic attack. "OH. MY. GOD. This .... SUCKS." And then I'll fall into this state of mind where I am absolutely convinced that my writing is terrible and that my story isn't going to go anywhere and that I fail at life ... You get the idea. And I know a lot of authors have this self-confidence issue. They'll say things like, "Oh yeah, I write, but none of it is any good" or "Nooo! You can't read my writing! It's terrible!"
All right, so every writer has flaws. No author in the entire world could write a perfect book. It's impossible. So, don't let your flaws drag you down. What you have to do is accept them, and keep writing. Just get it all out; write it down, get it on paper. It might be full of grammar/spelling issues and gaping plot holes, but hey – that's what editing is for, my friend. :) Once you have a rough draft, you can go back and work on anything that needs fixing.
And I strongly recommend that you let someone else read your work; in fact, let lots of people read it. Other people will see mistakes that you may have missed. Ask your friends, family, people over the internet, whatever. Beg for feedback. It might be awkward, and some of it may be hard to hear. But if you really care about the quality of your book, that's a sacrifice you have to make. After all, if you plan on getting published, millions of strangers could be reading your book someday. People will judge your work; that's the way it is.
So keep writing, without thinking too hard about how "good" your book is. And don't hide your work, even if you're not exactly proud of it; if you want to improve, you have to be willing to take feedback.
5. YOU'RE CENSORING YOURSELF AND/OR YOU'RE AFRAID OF WHAT PEOPLE WILL THINK.
This is another common one ... one that writers don't always admit to, but it is an issue. Sometimes you can't write, just because you're afraid of what your friends or family will think of you, if they ever happen to read your book.
Happens to me ALL the time. I'll be writing something really morbid, or some really awkward make-out scene, or some gag-worthy scene where characters are confessing their love for each other, or the characters will be swearing like sailors ... and all I'll be able to think is, "Oh. No. My friends will want to read this. My younger siblings will want to read this. My parents will want to read this. My grandparents will want to read this."
I wish I had some great solution to this problem, but really – there isn't one. The truth is, if you write a book, people in your life are going to want to read it. That's a good thing. It's because they care about you, and they're interested in your work. So your book has … adult moments, or just some *awkward turtle* parts. Oh, well. You gotta do what you gotta do in order to keep the story going. Maybe you'll shock your grandma. Maybe your friends will be weirded out. Maybe your mom will make fun of you for eternity after you accidentally tell her about that implied sex scene you wrote (errrm not that I speak from experience O_o). But in the end, YOU know what's best for your story. Don't let the fear of what others will think get in your way.
So, those are what I consider some of the most common problems when it comes to getting stuck. If you have any other problems, let me know. Leave comments! I'll be happy to help. ^_^