Beginners Guide To Writing (Even if You Work Full-Time)
What is the barrier to starting something you want to do? Something new and daunting, say like sitting down to write a novel, or maybe a blog post?
Is it fear holding you back? Self-doubt? Maybe you just feel overwhelmed by everything you've read so far and you don't know where to start.
Well, keep reading on my friends because I'm going to help you overcome those nagging thoughts in your head telling you that you'll never do it. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax (yes, even if the kids are playing loudly in the background) as you read over the guide.
Decide What You Want to Write
First things first, you have to decide what it is you want to write about. Maybe it's a novel idea about witches and magic and stolen lands. Or maybe you want to create a world with vampires who are more human than those who glitter in the sunlight.
Or maybe you have a blog post idea you've been wanting to write. You have the perfect, easy, and quick recipe for chocolate chip muffins, or the best workout for abs after having a baby. Or maybe time saving tips for new mom and dads.
But what if you don't already have an exact thing in mind you want to write about? What if you dont have an exact novel or blog post idea?
You should try scanning blogs in the area you're interested in writing about and see what they write about. Just make sure not to copy exactly what they have to say and be original and creative in your own way.
The world needs a new and fresh viewpoint and you, yes you, are the one to give it to us.
Set Aside Time
Time, like they say is precious to all. If this, writing, is something you're passionate about, then you need to find the time to do it. Like for me, if I don't find time, carve out that hour or so I need everyday to write what's in my heart and in my head, I get anxiety.
Yes, that's what I said, anxiety. A feeling like I need to get it done, I need to get my ideas written down before the day takes them away and then poof, their gone.
Sometimes life can all to easily get in the way of something you are passionate about. Motherhood, work and chores all to often gets in the way. But hear me now, you can make time for it. If it's important to you.
Here's what I suggest. Make a calendar. Either a weekly one or monthly one, whichever is easier for you to stick to and set a daily writing goal.
I know I'm pretty competitive, even if it's only with myself. Like when I write for NaNoWriMo (the national novel writing month) I love the word count update box they have and the corresponding graph. It helps me to hit my word count for the day and to see that day by day I'm progressing.
Now in a calendar, pick on up here I've created for you, you can write in a daily word count goal. For example, if you're just starting out, which is why I assume you're reading this, then start with a manageable goal like 300 words per day.
If that seems daunting, don't let it fool you, it's really not. The number looks like a lot, but it's really only a few short paragraphs and could probably be done in as little as 30 minutes.
You can do that right? 30 min per day of writing? I think you can.
Then as you get faster and when the juices are flowing and you're brains firing all neurons, you can increase the word count, say 500 words/day to even 1000 or more.
But make sure to keep it manageable because with your busy life, you don't want to set a too far reaching goal you'll never accomplish. Humans like and crave the sense of accomplishment, of reaching goals, and I know you will too when you can check off another day done with 300 words.
Outline Your Book (Or Not)
Okay, I know what you must be thinking. She just contradicted herself in her own heading, but just wait, don't give up on me yet.
There are two types of writers in this world, those who outline, and those who fly by the seat of their pants, or pantsers. (I'm sure there's more but this seems to be the predominant ones).
Do you like to start writing something without sitting down and thinking long and hard about it? Does the idea of writing an outline sound like a four letter word to you?
Then you might be a panster. I know I am.
If you feel you fall under this category, pull up your pants and take off.
What I mean is when you have decided what you want to write about, just start doing it. Pick up a pen and paper, grab a journal or pull out your computer and start up your favorite writing software. My favorite is google sheets, a document I can pull up from anywhere since it's saved in the cloud. (Not an affliate, I just love the product)
The idea is that your idea will take off once you start writing. Your imaginary world and characters will flow into place as the juices command your fingers to type.
This is helpful in the begining when you're just starting out to get ideas down on paper. Of course, revision is a must when you're a panster to make sure the ideas flow and the plot stays on course. Or that you're not rambling away on your blog with no purpose.
On the other hand,
There are those out there, and you might be one that loves to outline. Well, love might be to intense of a word. But you might be someone who thrives on planning, knowing exactly what you want to say next and can reference your outline.
The benefits to outlining are:
You have your ideas written down on paper in an orderly fashion to look over while you fill in the meaty sections.
You’ve thought through your ideas in entirety and have a good flow and know what you’ll write next and won’t be floundering for an idea when you’re brain decides to check out, but you’re still on a deadline.
Those two things are the most important aspects of outlining. Of course, there are more benefits.
When you have an outline it can help you to write faster. Again, going back to the flow of things, you’ve already planned what you want to say and have a road map of how to get there so you’re not thinking of ideas midway through your post, or novel.
Have you ever read something, a novel, or story and loved all the foreshadowing and how it all comes together in the end and you’re just so blown away. Like it takes your breath away with how awesome it is?
I can think of no better example than in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. J.K. Rowling seems the master of this. She’s dropping hints about something (a horcrux), which you find out is so important, but she’s placed it in between items which seem entirely more interesting than what is actually the most important item they found.
It’s so subtle at the time you didn’t even realize you were reading it until it clicks later and you’re floored.
Outlining can help you achieve this because you know what will happen at the end of your story and you can add in those juicy bits and pieces that burrow into your reader’s mind which will pop out later in your story, and then you’ll be the one everyone is talking about with your masterful writing.
But again, there’s no one correct way to write. It all depends on what type of person you are. In my opinion, many of us are both. I know I write better when I just sit down and do it, but I know I’m probably missing some good opportunities to add to my writing if I would just sit down and outline.
Its up to you to decide. Play around with both, integrate them and you’ll find out what works better and how you can be most productive.
Write First Edit Later
If you want to sit down and write, you’re going to have the urge to edit yourself as you go. Now, I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad, but it will slow your progress down and for some people, halt it altogether.
What I mean by write first, edit later is exactly that.
Get your thoughts together if you’re a pantser
Put words on paper
Lastly, after all is done-Edit
You’ve got your outline, or if you’re a pantser an idea in your head of what you want to write and you’ve sat down to write.
But have you ever noticed how annoying those red or blue squiggly lines under your misspelled words, or grammar mistakes? Yeah, I’m sure you have.
The important thing when you see those is to keep going and not do a spelling or grammar check until either you’ve written your post, or novel or short story in it’s entirety, or at least have hit your word count goal you’ve made for yourself and have the time to do it.
Many times the words we have flow so fast, the picture of your story in your head flying by, and unfortunately your fingers can’t type as fast as your brain goes. Certainly not without spelling errors. (Please let me know if you can type perfectly every time, I’d love to meet you and get your secret)
If you pause in the middle of your session, when your neurons are firing full force and the words are flowing so well from you, then you risk losing the creative flow.
When you’ve got a word count to hit or deadline, you want the ideas to make it on paper without losing your train of thought. If you stop to correct all the spelling or grammar areas at the time, you might lose all your ideas.
Also, you should write without editing in the sense of rethinking what you just wrote, or wanting to word it better. It’s best to get your thoughts all down on paper first, even if your wording isn’t perfect, or you think you could've written a scene better.
First drafts are exactly that, firsts.
What you’ve written might be total crap, but hey, you’ve gotten your ideas down, your scenes written and later when it’s time to revise, that’s when you go and spell check and check your scenes flow and that your plots don't have holes.
Trust me, it’ll save you heartache and frustration if you wait to edit until later.
Decide What Time Of Day You Will Write (And Stick To It!)
There’s nothing worse for people who like to plan than not having a set time to sit down and write. I know I’m a planner when it comes to things like that and I like having a set time I sit down each day to write.
What time of the day do you feel most creative? Or maybe most alert and when all the juices are flowing and you can get your word count in?
For you in might be early in the morning (if your working full-time, then set aside a small chunk of time before you go into work. Yes that does mean waking up a little earlier, but it will be worth it in the end when you’ve accomplished your goal)
Maybe you’re not a morning person and detest the idea of having to wake up even one minute earlier than you’ve been doing. You’re just not going to do it. Well, that’s completely fine. Just make sure to set aside time each day to do it. Maybe after dinner per say? Or after you’ve put the kids to bed and it’s your time now.
Then, stick to this plan, this chunk of time you’ve set every day to accomplish your writing goals.
If you need help sticking to your plan, let’s say you decide to wake up early, then enlist the help of your friends, your significant other, your Facebook friends.
Enlist whoever can help you, make you accountable, to hitting your writing time everyday and doing what you committed to yourself to do, because after all, it’s what you wanted.
Find Someone Who Will Give You Honest Feedback
Say you’ve poured your heart and soul out into the new blog post you’ve written or the short story or novel. You think it’s the greatest thing ever and can’t wait to show people.
But wait, you haven’t even gone back and reread the whole thing yourself, let alone finished the edits or revisions. What do you do?
You should definitely find someone you trust who will give you honest feedback about your writing.
You don’t want to finish an entire work and realize you changed the character’s name midway through or their hair color, or even their accent and you didn’t realize it because you’re too close to your work.
There is some fear which goes along with this part though and I am totally right there with you. Nothing hurts more than trying your best, putting energy and tears and time into something you love and have people not like it.
But it’s better to allow yourself to let others read it so they can help you.
You want to find someone, like a family member or even a person you don’t know, like in an online writing group, scribophile or even wattpad, who can tell you what you should work on, whether in be grammar edits, or plot holes.
Now, the person should critique you honestly without being harsh or mean about it and this is the hard part. This is where you thank them for their help and read what they have to say, no matter how scary or hard it is to do.
When you open yourself up to have others read your work, it helps you grow as a writer. No one is perfect and no one can bang out a novel the first time without having to revise and get help from others, so don’t feel bad.
Instead, allow yourself to learn from the mistakes you’ve made that other’s are helping you see so maybe one day you can get to the point where you have very few mistakes or plot holes or whatever it was you at one time struggled with in your writing.
Commit to Finishing (Publishing Your Work)
The worst thing you could do now, after you’ve put in the work of setting aside your time for writing is quit.
You’ve worked through, gotten your end word count, or finished blog post. You’ve gotten your feedback and revised your work. But then, you don’t hit post, or for instance you don’t upload it to Amazon to self publish.
Why did you go through all the hard work of doing it in the first place if you don’t finish?
Maybe you’re thinking it won't be good enough, or you can’t take the possibility that everyone might not like it.
Well, first of all, not everyone likes everything so there’s a pretty good chance there’s someone out there who won't like what you’ve written, but you know what? That’s okay. Just tell yourself that now.
Be proud of what you did, because while it seems like everyone is writing books these days or blogging, it’s not the reality. I come across many people everyday who tell me that they don’t have the patience or even the want to sit down and blog or write a novel.
It’s impressive that you’ve done it and now you need to click submit, upload it, post it, send it to a publisher, because you’re awesome for what you’ve done.
Don’t shove it in a drawer, or save it for later. DO IT. Tell yourself you’re awesome because you’ve done something most people never commit to doing.
Now It’s Your Time To Write
The sad truth is that most people decide not to write the book that’s in their head, or that blog post they’ve been meaning to write.
I hope that these few steps can help you on your path to doing what you dreamed about and making it to the finish line---your published book or blog post.
To learn more about writing or publishing, look forward to my blog series which will dive deeper into the above headings. Sign up here to make sure you receive it (make a link to email series about writing steps and write those emails).
What’s the best advice about writing you’ve heard? Or do you have a book or blog post you’re dying to write?
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