Advice for the Aspiring Novel Writer

Ancilla hasn’t released yet, and it surprised me the other day when someone already asked about my process. A friend said to me as well, “You finished! That’s awesome. A lot of people say they’ll write a book and they never do.”

Here’s the thing: writing a novel is not easy. When I first got started five years ago, all I knew was that I loved to read. After taking creative novel writing classes in college, I quickly found out that writing can SUCK. Forcing myself to sit down at the computer daily was a chore I couldn’t have expected. I didn’t realize how much my body loves to move, and it became more and more difficult to concentrate (I will write another article about staying healthy while being a writer).

All of that aside, finishing my novel has also given me so much excitement and joy; it’s hard to explain unless you feel it yourself. Writing is indeed torture and fun rolled into one. On any given day, I can doubt myself then the next day I feel inspired; you have to roll with it.

(Not sure who owns this image)

One of my biggest fears when I first began was I’m not that great with grammar. I’m not efficient with spelling either (a lifetime of autocorrect has messed me up). Let me tell you that there are ways to improve on this, too. Grammarly is an online program, and there are editors for hire. Don’t worry so much about it as I did; it wasted my time and gave me even more doubt.

My advice? KEEP GOING. You will suck at first. Accept it. The only way to get past that is write, edit, write. Know your weaknesses and work on them. Also, if something doesn’t work for you, strive for something else. I’m talking about trying EVERYTHING ELSE from moving writing spots to writing naked (or you can even pray to your muse to visit you more often. Hey, whatever works!). Everyone is different; find your niche. Make sure to learn the basics of storytelling and the three-act structure ( provided by this website). Also, there are programs out there that can help you finish your manuscript. I will talk about that in a minute.

The next thing is to think about is your story idea over and over and over again. Think about a character or characters, plan him/her, dream about a scenario you can put them in. Start mentally going down the rabbit hole and don’t stop- it will surprise you what you can come up with. Keep asking “WHAT IF…this happened…or this….” Start bringing a journal with you to jot down ideas or type it in your phone. You get the picture. Don’t forget to read if you get stuck, feel drained of creativity, or just plain lazy. After that, sit your ass down and start typing. I wrote the first ~20,000 words without plotting anything on paper yet- to get a feel and practice a little. Then when I felt it was time, I went to the drawing board and used J.K. Rowling’s grid (Link at the end of paragraph talks more about this) to get my brain working overtime to take my plot further. By the time I finished the manuscript, I hadn’t stayed to my outline, but it steered me in the right direction and made me think.

Of course, there were bumps in the road, and a huge one for me was I re-wrote my first chapters about fifteen times (blah). Then one day, randomly scrolling through Pinterest, I came across an article, and it gave me good advice, “when you know your ending, you can write your beginning.” This info forced me to plot my conclusion, then after that, I was driving one day listening to a song that I thought would inspire my work and the whole plot came together in my head in perfect order. I’m not saying this will happen to you, but think hard about how you want your story to end.

Okay, so you have all these great ideas then whatever stopping those ideas from getting on the paper and completed is frustrating the hell out of you. Around this time is where discipline comes in. I had NONE. I let all kinds of things get in the way. So, I got an email one day from a man named Joe Bunting, and his website provides a “100 Day Book Program”. I am not sure how much it costs now, but it wasn’t much. This program gave me strict accountability and workshopping with other writers. I had a set amount of words I had to turn into my group every week. I already had plotted so much, and I pushed myself. Before I knew it, my first draft was complete!

These are most of the things that helped me get a rough draft completed. Always remember to dump your story onto the paper, don’t overthink about correcting anything, you will be editing the hell out of it later. JUST GET IT WRITTEN!

I still worry that my writing isn’t good enough (syntax too simple, not enough description, etc.), and I’ll find out what readers think about it soon, but I must remember that I’m a storyteller, not just a writer. My writing will improve with each new book. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys reading Ancilla!


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