It all starts with desire --I want to write a novel, or a short story, or poetry-- whatever the case is, desire is a requirement. Once you possess the desire the next step is to treat writing like a career:
Find something to write about/topic/idea
Make a schedule
Set daily limits (minimums)
Follow a pattern
Stick with it even if you have difficult days
Plan your writing
Just write (Don’t sweat it)
Find something to write about/topic/idea:
Some writers have no problem coming up with topics or ideas and seem to possess a plethora of creative ones. If you are having trouble discovering a topic/theme just pick up a newspaper, you will find dozens of stories worth exploring. There are plenty of topics for any genre if you know where to look. For Science fiction writers The New York Times has an entire section dedicated to science on Tuesdays, sometimes reading one article will inspire different ideas. Other ideas include reading other authors and thinking how you could do that story different or tell the antagonists story in your own way.
Make a schedule:
There is no excuse that there isn’t enough time. When something is important you find a way to make time. This was one of the most difficult parts of my writing process; finding time. Between the hours at my regular job, going to the gym, cooking dinner, going out with friends, and watching my favorite television shows, I found it difficult to schedule writing time. I would try and write at night, but I was inundated with Facebook messages, posting status updates, watching TV, lying on the couch, and pretty much anything but writing because I thought I was too tired. I soon discovered that didn’t work. If I kept that schedule I was never going to write anything. So I decided to put the batteries in, (that phrase works better in Spanish), and on the days I had to work I woke up an extra hour and a half earlier, sat at my desk, put on my iTunes Game of Thrones soundtrack and started writing. On my days off I changed my location to sitting by the pool to write or having a coffee at Starbucks and writing like I imagined other writers were doing. My advice to you is to make a schedule, put it in a calendar and make sure you set up reminders.
Set Daily Limits (word minimum):
Setting a daily limit made me feel like I accomplished something. The limit doesn’t have to be incredibly high, you just need to write at your own pace. Some days you will write much more than you expect, others won’t be so great, but in the end it all balances out. I set a limit of 800-1,000 words each time I sat down to write. If the word count doesn’t work for you, I suggest writing by scene. When you finish a certain scene (interaction between characters) then stop writing and if you have the energy to write more then write more. Do what you feel comfortable with, but whatever you do, stick to your schedule. It takes discipline but you can do it.
Follow a pattern:
This definitely worked for me since I can be a creature of habit. My pattern of choice was to listen to the same music while I wrote. Somehow it put me in the same mind-set to write. It also gave me a sense of relaxation where the ‘inspiration’ just flowed. Sometimes I changed the scenery but I still listened to the same music.
Stick with it:
No matter how difficult it gets or how frustrated you feel, don’t give up on your writing project. If you believe in it and know your story is worth telling, then write. Stick with it also applies to every section of this blog; follow your schedule, daily limits, patterns and plans. It will all work out in the end if you just stick with it.
Plan your writing:
It’s always important to plan your writing. Some writers make detailed outlines designed to facilitate the writing process. I created my own outline and thought of it like a movie, but also like real life. Much like Stephen King wrote in his memoir On Writing, I think having a plan is definitely helpful, but much like how things occur in real life, sometimes things just happen and you have to deal with it. Think of your characters as real people, then create situations for them and see how they achieve a resolution. This, in essence, will lead to a plot. To make your characters “real” they have to make plans and then have those plans ruined, because for most of us, ruined plans are a reality. In my writing I like to plan a situation for the characters and as I’m writing I see where their actions lead me.
Just write (Don’t sweat it):
Just write, don’t focus on grammar or spelling, just get the words on the page. The time to check for spelling and grammar errors is during the revision process. Take notes on your work and think about what you’re writing. For example, do the situations your characters experience demonstrate how they truly are or is there something more they need to experience? Asking questions similar to this one while you’re writing will help you figure out if you need to write a little more.
Even when you’re writing you need to make time to read. Read books by your favorite authors and read new authors. Reading is one of the best ways you can learn about your craft. However, you can’t just read for entertainment, you need to focus on how the story is crafted. Questions you should ask include: What kind of narrator is used? How is the story crafted/separated/divided? How does the sentence structure vary? Is there mostly narration or dialogue? How are the narration and dialogue used to move the story? Did the author use literary techniques effectively? How could I do things differently? There are many questions one may ask but you’ll never learn if you don’t read and especially if you don’t write.
This will probably be the most time consuming part of your writing process as well as the most unpredictable. JK Rowling once commented that she revised the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone fifteen times, so I say when you think you’ve revised your writing revise one more time. First omit needless repetition and then increase suspense, think of your writing like a musical composition or a movie, all of the good ones keep you wanting more. Once you have that down, go through each sentence with a fine-tooth-comb to check for grammar and spelling errors. This is the only way.