I have tried again and again to pick a storyline that I know I will follow through with until the very end. Over and over again, I succumbed to the same bad habits that prevented me from completing any of my stories. Until now.
Every since I participated in the Nanowrimo event, it seems like that huge wall that had always been standing in my way became nothing more than a mere stone pebble that I can easily kick aside. It was a great learning experience, and I felt that perhaps others who have struggled as I have could benefit from what I learned.
Steps to Write a Book to the Very End
1. Write down ALL of your ideas
Before you even start to write your book, you need to come up with a topic and a basic storyline. I used to spend hours sitting in a chair, staring into space as I searched through the recesses of my mind for that perfect idea that I knew would be a hit with the readers. That’s one way to do it I suppose, but what I found to be a better way is to just write down every single idea that comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. Sometimes, it is the most ridiculous ideas that become the most memorable tales. Also, if you start writing one story and decide that you really don’t like it, then you have an entire list at the ready for you to choose from.
2. Leave the title alone
I know many people who will come up with the title of their book, and then write the story based around that. Again, I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea, but I have found through trial and error that it is best to write the story first, and then come up with a title that encompasses the essence of everything you have written. Also, keep in mind that you may end up changing a lot of what you have written during the editing process, potentially making your initial title absolutely useless.
Once you have your idea, the best thing to do is just start writing. Many people tend to spend months planning out their story, perfecting every intricate detail and ensuring that everything connects back to the plot. Again, during the editing process, you are highly likely to end up changing the majority of what you write, making your outline all but useless. It does help to at least of some idea of where you are going, but sometimes the best way to do that is to just start writing, and let the words show you where it’s going to go. This is the main thing I took away from Nanowrimo, because what they try to encourage people to do is actually finishing that story, and then concerning themselves with the more intricate details afterwards. In other words, once you start writing, don’t stop for anything else; just keep going until the end, and then go through it can take it apart.
4. Mix it up
There are certain places where I feel more comfortable writing, but every once and a while I like to mix things up a bit. A change in surroundings can really help with the flow of ideas. I’m sure there is some kind of scientific explanation behind it, but all I know is that when I sit down with my laptop in a room I have never been in before, the idea’s seem to flow out much more smoothly. It can also sometimes help to write with other people, whether it be just for their company, or maybe even to bounce idea’s off of one another.
5. Keeping a positive attitude
It’s so easy to get discouraged when writing a book, especially when you have read so many other books that have been so successful, and seem to be on a completely different level than anything you could ever hope to write. When self doubt creeps up on you, just remember why you wanted to write in the first place. I write stories because when I read, I feel like I am walking in someone elses shoes, seeing the world through their eyes. It is such an amazing experience, and I want to give others a chance to experience that same sensation through my writing, showing them the things I see behind my eyes. Choose your reason, and perhaps stick a post-it note or something nearby so that you can keep reminding yourself that your writing has a purpose.
6. Avoid comparing
It’s hard not to compare your writing to that of others, especially when there are so many literary geniuses in the world. Just keep in mind that nobody writes in the same way, and it’s the variety in writing styles that makes reading so much fun! No two books are alike because no two authors are alike, and that’s what makes each and every book written something special.
The idea of editing always seems like such a daunting task. I myself have always cringed at the thought of reading my own work and finding error in it. It feels like you’re punishing yourself, a form of self criticism where you purposefully try to find fault in everything. It can be a grueling process, but it can also be the most rewarding. You can edit a story for years without ever being fully satisfied with it, but every time you edit it, you know that it is that much closer to your desired outcome. Just think of editing as taking what you have done, and making it better!
8. Take a breather
We all get to a point in our writing where our minds are stuck in a kind of feedback loop, where we keep going over the same idea over and over again, until we realize that we have no idea what to write next to keep the story going. Before you start tearing up papers, pulling out your hair or chucking your stress ball out the window, just stop. Stop writing, walk away, and go find something to do that is completely unrelated to what you are doing. I like to take a long walk through downtown Ottawa, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and maybe even stopping for a hot chocolate and apple fritter from a nearby Tim Hortons.
9. Keep a thesaurus on hand
Be prepared for when word block strikes, because it will happen. Not only do I keep a thesaurus on hand, but whenever I hear a term that I have never heard of before, I jot it down along with a brief definition, just in case. It’s amazing what strange words will end up coming in handy when you’re writing. There are also lots of websites that are dedicated to providing a vast cache of synonyms, so you should make sure to bookmark those pages.
10. Enjoy Yourself!
If writing feels like a chore, like something you feel obligated to do, then you are missing the point of it. People write because they love to write, not because something or someone is forcing them to. You should look at writing as an extension of our consciousness, an expression of the inner workings of our minds laid out before us so that we can see it with our own eyes. It is an incredible experience that is different for everyone, but the one thing they share in common is the fact that they are enjoying it.
I don’t know if this has been helpful for anyone else, but this is what has kept me going through all of my writing endeavors. If you have some useful tips of your own that you would like to share, feel free to do so in the comments below. The next time you will be hearing me is from the inside of a train, on my way back to Ottawa. Until then, keep those pencils and/or fingers going, and as always, happy reading!