It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s very windy/snowy/rainy/* (*delete as appropriate). It’s 9am and you’re staring at a blank screen and wishing that pesky little cursor would stop hopefully winking at you and write your book all by itself.
Maybe I’ll just make another pot of coffee before I start, you say. Perhaps I’ll just write a blog post and then I’ll get back to the novel, you say. Maybe. Perhaps. Whenever. Tomorrow …..
Well, yes, we all feel like that, but there comes a moment/day/month/year when you’ve got to stop thinking about starting and, well, START. It’s not easy (it wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy). It’s not always enjoyable (30,000 word self-doubt anyone?). It’s not even always that clear why you are writing this book at all.
But then there’s that nag, nag, nagging voice in your head, like a dripping tap, whispering brilliant characters and plots to you while you try and sleep or drive the kids to school or have a shower and the only way to do anything about it is to start writing. Now. Today. Yes, today.
But, as I said, it’s not easy.
So, here are a few tips for getting the words down, which I hope will help and since you are supposed to be writing and not reading blog posts (tut tut!), you have ten minutes to read this – ten – and then, dear writer, you must BEGIN!
Clock’s ticking …
- Turn off Facebook and Twitter. WHAT? Yup. TURN. THEM. OFF. Not forever (shudders at the thought) – just for a few hours a day. I’ve made a personal pledge that my new writing routine for 2014 (‘routine’ – laughs and falls off swivel chair) will involve a strict social media embargo between the hours of 10am to 3pm. That’s five whole hours (FIVE) of uninterrupted writing/editing time. Not a bad place to start.
- Go to your favourite coffee shop (see, this really isn’t that tough after all) or find a new favourite coffee shop (just don’t access their WiFi as soon as you get there). Find a seat by the window, order a large mug of your favourite brew and get writing. There’s nothing like writing in public to help get the words down. None of your ‘staring vacuously into empty space’. None of your ‘nipping into the kitchen the put the kettle on’. None of your ‘being distracted by the cat meowing to be let in/out’. Just time, space and the gentle background hubbub of the real world to help you write. I also think there’s something slightly romantic about writing in a coffee shop – or perhaps I’ve just been reading too much about how JK Rowling did it.
- Turn off the laptop. WHAT? Yup. Try writing with a notebook for an hour or two. Sketch out some character traits or plot ideas, chapter notes or story arc. Scribble notes. Doodle. Draw maps of the places your characters live. Be creative. It’s very liberating.
- Write out of synch. If you’re struggling with chapter four, jump ahead and write that scene you just can’t get out of your head, but isn’t going to feature in the book until page 300. Let your creative spark leap across the chasm of unwritten words and write the piece that really excites you. Of course, it will need editing when you finish the first draft, but it’s all going to need editing anyway when you finish the first draft. The thing is, you have to get that first draft down, by hook or by crook or by some meandering, non-synchronous route if necessary.
- Interview your main characters or write a bio for them. Find out who they really are. What do they want? Why? How are they going to get it? What is their favourite colour, song, place, food, drink? What and who has influenced them? What scents, sights, sounds, tastes and sensations do they have strong reactions to? This may not be writing the actual words of the book, but it is all developing your sense of character and place and will make the writing easier. Think of it as getting the ingredients ready for making a cake. So much easier to have everything to hand before you start than to be wobbling around on a precarious kitchen stool as you try and reach for the flour with egg-and-sugar-coated fingers.
- Give yourself small goals and rewards. Don’t always think of the entire book (which, let’s face it, is massively overwhelming). Focus on this scene or this part or this chapter or paragraph. Aim for a specific word count per day if that works for you, or write until a specific time of day, regardless of word count (we do all have to eat at some stage, remember). Otherwise, set yourself a different goal – tackling a specific plot issue. Rewriting the opening chapter. Writing the synopsis. Plotting out key chapter points. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge when you’ve worked hard and achieved something. Even if you only tell the cat how brilliant you are, it’s better than letting the moment pass.
- Ask someone to read your work and give you their honest opinion. Although I’m aware that this may result in you never writing another word in your life, it is an essential – if hideously frightening and potentially soul-crushing – part of the writing process. Feedback and critique can be excellent motivators (once you’ve dried your tears) and more often than not (in fact, pretty much always) your early readers’ comments will prove to be totally valid and will help you write a better book.
- Read. Read novels in your genre. Read novels outside your genre. Read opening and closing chapters of classics, or books you’ve loved. Think about why you love those books so much. Fantasise about writing a book which is equally brilliant and adored. Plan your award acceptance speech. Visualise your walk down the red carpet when the movie rights to your book are sold to a Hollywood studio – and then go and write the absolute best book you can write. If they did it, why not you?
- Tell everyone you are writing a novel. There is no better motivation than your friends and family constantly asking you how the writing is going. And while you attempt to distract them from the awful truth (erm, it’s not really ‘going’ at all) by shoving great swathes of Christmas cake and endless pots of tea at them, you will eventually have to resign yourself to the fact that you’d better do something about this book you are supposedly writing and go and write it.
- Keep writing. Even when you’re not sure where a scene is going or what the words you have written actually mean or what the point of the whole thing is anymore, just keep writing. Within a jumble of 1000 redundant words, there may just be a small gem of something brilliant which makes the entire writing day completely worthwhile. Just keep putting one word after another and slowly, very slowly, but quite magically, those words will form sentences, paragraphs, pages and entire chapters of a book. Your book. Your very own book. And what better reason to get writing than that?
OK. Time’s up.
So, what are you waiting for?
Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the UK. In addition to writing historical fiction, Hazel writes a popular guest blog, Carry on Writing, for national Irish writing website writing.ie. Her author interviews for the site have included Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Daisy Waugh and Mary Beth Keane, among others.
In October 2012, Hazel was awarded the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers. Her debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, originally self-published in 2012, will be re-released in the US in paperback and ebook by William Morrow (HarperCollins) on April 1st. The title will also be published in the UK/Ireland on April 24th, by HarperCollins360.
Originally from North Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children and an accident-prone cat. Find out more about Hazel on her website www.hazelgaynor.com
Sites That Link to this Post
- Periodically! #8 – Too Cold to Snow? and In Memoriam | Occasional News from JLHuspek | February 15, 2016
- Rachel Lichtenstein’s Tips for the Aspirant Writer | A CREATIVE CUP OF TEA | February 9, 2016
- Ten ways to get writing – Beijing Writers' Network | February 7, 2016
- Planning A Novel | poiseonarrows | February 26, 2014
- Ten Ways to Get Writing : Women Writers, Women ... | February 9, 2014