Recently someone asked what advice I’d give to a fledgling fantasy author. My immediate thoughts were: read and write. But there’s a bit more to it. So I thought I’d break it down for you in today’s post:
Get familiar with the craft of writing
Start reading. If you’re a brand new writer, the first thing you want to do is get familiar with the craft. The best way to do this is to immerse yourself in stories. It’s easier to write a good story when you can recognize the elements that make an enjoyable story. Head over to Amazon Bestsellers and review some top books in that genre. As you read, pay attention to what the author does. How do they use action, dialogue, characterization and description?
Choose your genre. Some of the most popular genres right now are romance, fantasy and mystery/thriller. However, there are many genres and depending on what you want to create, it’s good to know what genre your book will fit into. If you’re curious about finding a market for your book, check out the data from K-Lytics.
Practice by free-writing
Free-writing is a technique I use to get my creative juices flowing. I started a journal when I was 8 or 9 years old and the daily practice of writing helps me organize my thoughts. Now, you don’t have to journal daily but I recommend taking time to write about anything and everything.
Try to capture the five senses when you write to give yourself a broad grasp. Remember, this is just a practice. No judgement, editing or deleting allowed.
Here are some idea:
- Write about the couple chatting at your local coffee shop and pay attention to their body language.
- Write about the way the leaves change to red and gold in the fall.
- Write about the way your favorite dinner or drink tastes and go beyond taste to your emotional response.
- Write about the people or objects that trigger happy and sad memories.
Read books about the craft of writing
This is a big one for me. As an avid reader, I instinctively know the art of storytelling. However, there’s no harm in reading books to help you take your skills to the next level.
Some major errors I made with my first book included: head hopping, overuse of adverbs, and use of passive words and phrases. Since then, I’ve focused on continual improving of my writing with each book I publish.
There are many elements to storytelling and here are some of my favorite blog posts that help break it down:
I personally recommend these books:
Establish your writing routine
As a new author, you are already familiar with “writer’s block.” It’s not a myth and I’ve certainly been there when I was writing my second book, The Blended Ones. One way you can combat writer’s block is by setting up a writing routine. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. When people ask me how I write so fast, it’s because I’ve spent hours practicing, studying and repeating. You don’t have to write every single day, but it helps you keep the writer’s flow if you do.
My writing routine consists of writing five days a week for up to ten hours. Here are my three must haves for a good writing session:
Brainstorm ahead of time. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, however, while I often know where the story is going, I don’t always know what the characters will do in a particular scene. Before I start writing, I usually brainstorm what I want to happen which gives me a place to begin when I sit down to write. This also alleviates staring at a blank page for an hour.
Turn on music. When I sit down to write, I usually turn on a playlist to help me get in the mood. Since I write fantasy, listening to epic fantasy soundtracks helps me dive into the vibe of the book I’m working on.
Turn off all notifications and other distractions. When you focus on one thing at a time instead of multi-tasking, you can get more done. I turn off all notifications on my laptop and put my phone on silent (not vibrate, silent.) From there I can dive into the world of writing, much like diving into a virtual reality.
Make friends with authors
While it helps to have a mentor it also helps to create friendships with authors who will encourage and uplift you. You can do this both online and in person. When I wrote my first novel, The Five Warriors, I had an accountability partner I’d check in with every week. She wrote nonfiction, but it was helpful to have someone check in with me. If you’re looking for an accountability partner or just want to connect with authors, I recommend using Meetups.
Recommended reading: How to Start a Local Writing Group
Familiarize yourself with the basics of book marketing
Regardless of whether you plan to self-publish or go the traditional publishing route, you have to be familiar with marketing basics. Even publishers want their authors to have a website, grow an email list and establish a presence online.
As a new authors it’s important to start building your tribe. It can be as simple as creating your social media profiles and a landing page where readers can learn more about your upcoming work and join your email list.
That’s it. What advice do you have for new authors? What do you wish you’d known when you began writing?
Today’s post is a guest blog by Author and Infopreneur: Stephanie BwaBwa.
It’s no mystery most people view writing a novel as a daunting task. But what if today you were given a novel writing blueprint that would obliterate all your fears? The main question every writer who wants to go to the next level asks is: “How do I write a novel?”
Man! How I love answering this question now. I’ll admit, I too fell into this category. Not knowing how to accomplish the one task which seems to be the most grueling of all for writers, yet the greatest desire of us all. To be book parents.
I always wondered just how on earth writers would dish out a full fledged novel full of entertainment and underlying lessons which can reach all age levels. The craft was a mystery to me, until I did it myself. Having gone through the process for 2 books now, I realize, the task isn’t as overwhelming as we make it out to be. Yes, I’m serious, writing a novel isn’t hard at all. It just requires a writer who is willing to do the work.
If you wanted, you could have your novel done within 90 days or less. That’s right, 90 days or less. It all comes down to strategy, organization, and execution. If you’re willing to work, you will write your novel in no time. When it comes to the actual execution, I now follow a 6 part process that makes the work a breeze. If you follow them, in their rightful order, you’ll be making words happen in no time.
Let’s dive into the novel writing blueprint and let’s get writing!
Don’t have time to read this now? Grab the free download: Novel Writing Blueprint for Fiction Authors
Part 1: Create a Timeline
This is essential. Nothing is worse than finishing a book and having no idea where to go next. This also applies to starting your first book, especially if you plan on writing a series. May I also remind you, nothing, and I mean nothing, is scarier than the blank page that is staring back at you. Having a timeline makes the blank page that less intimidating.
You need to know exactly what you plan on creating. Your timeline is not only for the present moment. Your timeline will help you write prequels, continuous sequels, stand alone novels belonging to the same worlds, and more. Your timeline is also the golden path. It will keep you from straying away from the actual, overall storyline itself.
Without a timeline, it can be easy to go off into stories and ideas that have nothing to do with the series and storyline you’re writing. You want to make sure your timeline is the first thing you tackle so squirrel syndrome doesn’t blindside you.
In your timeline, you will want to include dates, time periods, worlds and lands, the significance of occurrences in certain eras, where in their journey your characters should be, and anything else that will add to the overall plot and thread that flows through every book you write.
Part 2: Pre-Write Your Novel
Now we get to the work. You cannot skip this part or else you will end up pantsing your novel and running around in circles for months. Or even years. And all your drafts will end up burned at the bottom of a garbage bin somewhere. Avoid the overwhelm and do the work. With pre-writing, there are many steps to having thorough and adequate information so you can begin to outline your novel and then move on to actually making words happen. When pre-writing, to be as thorough as possible, you’ll want to do the following:
- Organize and make sure you are able to access all your writing materials, necessities, and extras in one place. The less disorder there is the easier it will be for you to write your book baby!
- You’ll want to make sure you have an easy way to keep your ideas flowing so you don’t lose anything good that will end up adding to your story.
- It’s time to pick a genre… and stick to it! Think of your target, know what story is in your heart and pick a genre accordingly.
- Know your priorities and do not get distracted. This simply means, do NOT start writing your novel yet. You’re almost ready… but not quite. Keep calm and keep pre-writing.
- Decide the theme of your novel. Based on your target audience and the story you have inside, it shouldn’t be difficult. I dare challenge you to have an overall theme for your series and then break down the themes you want to tackle in each book that will ultimately lead to the overall theme.
- Mind mapping! Chart out where every ever lovin’ thing EVER in your story will occur. You may think right now the little details don’t matter… they do! Map out everything that is relevant.
- Move on to world mapping. It’s imperative you know with certainty what lands belong where, what worlds will be traveled to, what the significance of each world is, where each world is located, how they are accessed and so on. This is key! Do not skip this.
- After mapping, you want to work on your setting. Please note, if you aren’t specific now, it will come back to bite you when you start writing. Whether you choose a real location or decide to whip everything out of your derriere, make sure you make note of it so your story remains consistent and where everything is happening is easy to follow.
- Your characters need to be written down. Not every single character must be known at this time, but all of your protagonists, antagonists, and on, must be written down at this time. These characters will be the driving force behind your story.
- With characters come character arcs. It’s time to start writing every single thing about your characters. Be as thorough as possible so little details don’t catch you off guard as you write and you’re not chasing down details.
- You will want to refer to your timeline one more time before continuing on to make sure the information you’ve gathered so far is lining up with how your stories will go.
- It’s time for conflict!! Start to chart out exactly what your characters will face. How hard will it be. How much they will be affected. What it will take for them to conquer their conflicts.
- Braindump. Everything you can think of pertaining to the book and what will add to your story, write it all down. It may seem silly or out of place. That doesn’t matter right now. It will come in handy later on. Write it all down.
- Brainstorm. Let the fun begin! Begin to add and takeaway. Add to your characters and strip them of unnecessary details. Do the same for the setting and the overall plot.
- Ask yourself “what if”. Pull back from your plot and ask yourself, what if something was added? What if something was different? What if something changed? How would that better the plot?
- You’re ready to update. Start updating the setting, the characters, the worlds, the theme, and the overall plot. Thicken your plot, expand your timeline, add to your arcs and refine everything you have thus far.
- Dig deep now. What more does this story need to be spectacular? Another antagonist? Do you need to cut out a protagonist? Do you need to expound on your world? What isn’t clear and needs more? Take this time in the process to look beyond the surface of your present content and make it excellent. Getting this part right will make the writing a breeze.
- Revisit your themes and ideas. Make sure everything is lining up as you would have wished. Look deep into what you have and see if the theme you want to get across could be stronger. What is missing that needs to be added? Remember, if you don’t feel it, neither will your readers. Your readers will only be as engaged and in tune with your story as you are.
Part 3: Outline the Novel
Woo! I bet you’re ready to be past pre-writing huh? Well, guess what? The work is still not over. There’s still one more process to go through before your eager pen hits the page. My friend, it’s outlining time!
You want to start off by deciding your stories arc. Will your story be centered around its characters or its plot? Here’s a visual for you. When thinking of character arcs, think of The Hunger Games. When thinking of plot arcs, think of The Lord of the Rings. One revolves around the characters while the other revolves around the plot. This is very important as it will set up how your novel(s) will go.
Once you’ve decided on the arcs, I suggest you choose how you plan to outline your entire novel. Granted, outlining is not for everyone. Some people are diabolical pantsers who publish phenomenal novels. Then there are those like me who live, move, and breathe according to the outline. If you’re not certain which outline format to choose from, here are the different formats to get you started:
Roman Numeral Outline
This is always the best and the most in depth. With a Roman Numeral outline you can have your chapters and titles, what each chapter is meant to be about, specific details for the chapter, and exactly what should be taking place. The Roman Numeral outline is very clear and contains the most detail if you don’t plan to pants any part of your novel. You are at liberty to jot every small detail related from your prologue through your epilogue.
Bulleted List of Character Arcs
This outline is more straightforward. All you need to do is write down your characters, all of their arcs and expound on the details pertaining to each one. From there, orchestrate them into an outline chapter wise and what should be happening with the characters in each chapter that is relevant to them.
Mini Summaries of the Overall Story and Each Setting
This is one of the more vague outlines you can do. This is great for writers who are more pantsers than plotters. This outline is essentially multiple blurbs, strung out in a sequence to help you make your way through the storyline as you write. There is no right or wrong with this outline approach but your imagination must be present at all times. For it to be the most efficient it can be, you will want to make sure you write many different blurbs and summaries tailored to each part of the book with moving parts. This will make filling in your pages much easier.
Mind Mapping the Story
Visuals are always a beautiful thing, including when it comes to mind mapping. You can either write down where everything will take place, with who, and how doing what, when and where. Or, you can go retro style and physically draw it out like a diagram. Create bubbles with characters, the setting, the different lands and all the moving parts of your story. Once they are charted out, use different colors to help you identify which parts follow the other and how they move fluidly for a solid storyline and intriguing plot.
Part 4: Write the Novel
It’s time to write!! If you did all of the work upfront as far as your timeline, pre-writing and your outline, the writing portion of the process will be an absolute breeze for you. Now your greatest concern is making words happen and drawing elements from the story through happenstance. After all, you still want there to be an element of mystery as your readers go along. Though you spend much time planning, you don’t want your story to feel planned.
My advice to you when you begin to write is to be strategic with the order in which you write your novel. I find the following order makes the writing process much smoother:
Write the End First
It’s much easier to “go” with your novel once you actually know where you are going. Once you have a landing point and know exactly where your plane needs to go, all you have to do now is direct the novel to go into that direction.
Write the Beginning
Beginnings are hard. I understand this. It can be tough to know how to start. Do you come out of the gate with dialogue? Do you start by building the scenery? Oftentimes the first word can be the hardest to write. This is why it’s best to just get it out of the way. Know how you want to start, be confident in how you choose to start then go.
Write the Epilogue
Again, it’s back to writing the ending before the beginning. If this is not a standalone book, where are you taking the readers? What will be coming next? You want to write a cliffhanger for the end of your book that will drive readers to want more. It’s best to have where you plan on taking readers through your next book written first. Epilogues aren’t necessary but they sure do drive curiosity!
Write the Prologue
Prologues are not necessary either. However, prologues do trigger intrigue for the story that is about to unfold. You want to do everything you can to make every part of your novel as mysterious and appealing as possible. Your prologue is there simply to pull people in. You don’t have to write a prologue, but I would advise writing a prologue for your novel.
Now you have a free for all. Write your chapters as they come. Don’t feel any pressure to write your chapters in order. You can write the ending chapters. You can write the beginning chapters. If you so please, you can also start from the middle, head to the end and then go back to the beginning.
You can write in whatever way and order you feel. Don’t allow the writing process to overwhelm you. Remember, you’re not editing YET. You’re simply writing. So write! Write your heart out and write until the story is DONE. Then, you can go back and start refining. Which leads me to the next part of the writing process.
Part 5: Edit and Revise
This part is simple but time-consuming. Now that your novel is done being written (WOO!! TREAT YO SELF!!) it’s time for you to edit. This is going to be tough and you are going to have to be brutal with yourself. But, it’s for the sake of the novel and the sake of your readers. Go through your manuscript and start refining.
As you read, ask yourself if the storyline makes sense. As you go through scenes, nitpick like crazy. Did what you write add to the scene? Is it necessary? Will it make the story better? Is it relevant? Or should you cut it? You will find, during the editing process, you will cut a lot from the novel. And that is normal. This is where you begin to make your novel the best it can be.
Take this time to go back to your timeline, your research and everything you charted when it was pre-written. Line up your research to your novel. Does it line up? Was your theme strongly developed? Did you build strong character arcs throughout the novel? What doesn’t line up, cut out. If it adds to the story, expound on it so it can become stronger and be well developed.
Part 6: Hand it to A Professional
You’re done! Now it’s time to let a pro step in and break it down. You can always choose to format your novel on your own or allow a professional to do it. However, you certainly need a professional to review your novel before you can remotely think it’s done!
Make sure to vet the editor you choose to go with. Don’t just choose someone with degrees or a lot of talk about what they can do. Do NOT let your novel be the guinea pig for their portfolio. Find a credible and well-experienced editor to make your book baby perfect. Then, you’re ready to prepare your novel to hit bookshelves. Woo!
I will not fool you into thinking writing a novel is an easy task. Friend, it is NOT. However, it is neither impossible nor daunting. Writing a novel is like any challenge, it comes with obstacles, but they’re all the more motivating for you to succeed. With the right planning, you can have your novel done in no time. It merely requires strategy and discipline.
Want to keep this information close? I’ve got you. Download the Novel Writing Blueprint for Fiction Authors now.
Let’s talk about it! Are you ready to write your novel or are you still stumped with a part of the process?
Stephanie BwaBwa is an Author and Infopreneur. She’s passionate about helping budding writers become successful novelists with their stories. Her heart is full with running The Storytelling Creative community for writers. When she’s not writing, you can catch her watching Disney or nose deep in a fantasy novel.
From my viewpoint, I can hear the hum of the crickets, the chirp of the birds as they fight over the food and the incessant beating of a hummingbird’s’ wings. I’m waiting for the moment when the sky turns pink and the sun sets upon this land as the world turns. Quiet evenings when I close to nature inspire me to mull over words and epic scenes as I write.
Recently I had a long conversation with a fellow writer (and future author) about themes in writing. It’s been subconscious but there’s an intentional tilt towards hope and beauty in my books, and also for redemption.
Some shall be lost yet the world can be saved.
Evil may rise yet the balance will be restored.
It’s not always easy to distinguish between good and evil. When you look at both sides of the story, instead of your own bias point of view, things change once you understand motives.
There’s a deeper philosophical theme in books which is why the next two books in my fantasy series contain more adult content. This is partly because I enjoy writing my books and there are certain scenes I wanted for my personal reading pleasure, and partly because I like to spark deeper conversations in readers.
When I was young, I thought I knew everything. I knew the answers to all the questions. I knew my own values and beliefs and was firm enough in my thinking to want to force my opinion on everyone. The biggest life lessons I learned were in college during my freshman and sophomore years.
- Actions speak louder than words.
- The older I become the more I realize I know nothing.
#2 alone keeps me humble.
I had many friends when I was in college ranging from deep relationships to light acquaintances. Brought up as a Christian with both parents being pastors, there were many religious views that were passed on to me. It took a while before I was able to distinguish between religious values and viewpoints and how to incorporate them into my life. I discovered the place where many Christians fall short (at least the ones I bumped into), is when it comes to action.
In my experience, Christians talk a good talk, and they put on a great face in church, but when it comes to living out their beliefs, I’ve often found myself disappointed. In fact, I find myself having deeper relationships and more meaningful conversations with people who don’t “claim” to be “Christians” and it’s for one simple fact. Those people accept me as I am. They don’t have a hidden agenda. They aren’t trying to force their beliefs on me and wait for the opportune moment to “save” me. They are who they are, no excuses, no shame, no fear.
Note: This is not a post to pick on Christians, it’s just an observation from my life experience. I do have a handful of genuine Christian friends who make my heart happy.
When I first went to college, I had an agenda, I wanted to save people. As time passed, I learned that all people are looking for is love and acceptance. I had many friends who were hurting or broken. They didn’t want me to save them. They just wanted me to listen, to love them, to be there for them, (sometimes at 3 am in the morning). When I changed my viewpoint and opened up my mind to understand how they liked to be related to, I was able to have a broader impact.
How does this relate to writing books? I am sharing a message in my books, in all of my books. There’s one thing I want you to get out of them as you read. I want you to start asking questions. Ask yourself, ask others, ask why? And don’t simply judge situations or people or reactions to things based on your limited knowledge. Always remember, there are two sides to every story.
Recently I had a candle giveaway, in order to enter, participants had to ask me a question on Facebook. This question was one of my favorites because the reader understood exactly what I was getting at in my books. Here’s what she asked:
“How did you come up with the groups of people and how they lived when writing your book The Five Warriors? Like the Trazames, that always stayed away from others. And do you feel that this would make the world more functional and peaceful if societies were separated similar to how things were before we starting interacting with the world after the internet became so popular?”
Whew! It gets deep right there. I won’t answer the question here, but I like how the book inspired her thinking, especially from a philosophical point of view.
As a final note, social media gives us a platform, and it can be used to rip people apart with our strong minded viewpoints or bring people together. At the end of the day, actions speak much louder than words, but words are all we “see” on social media. I can’t even tell you how many times I bite my tongue and tell myself not to get in the middle of intense conversations. Yes, I have thoughts and views, but my focus is building people up and bringing them together. Click here to read more of my work.
What do you hope others will gain from your words? Share in the comments below!
What does your writing process look like?
The more authors I talk to, the more I’m finding the writing process vastly differs from writer to writer. Honestly, I don’t believe there is a wrong way or right way to write your book. The key is, writing.
As an extrovert, my writing process is varied, unusual and at times downright hilarious. Here’s a look at how I write my books and find inspiration throughout the day:
Riding in the Car
During the 4th of July weekend, I had an 8-hour road to the outskirts of Cleveland, OH. I spent the majority of the time chilling in the back seat, sometimes with the puppy as my writing buddy. My friends and I were listening to the podcast: True Crime Garage. While it’s odd that I found time to write while listening to a podcast, it tends to work from me. Apparently, my brain is good at gathering facts and tuning out external noises.
Coffee House Writing Sessions
One place I find inspiration is at my local coffee shop. Yep, I’m one of those people who goes out to Starbucks because it’s convenient. I’m not going to lie, the local coffee shops in Nashville either have terrible parking, are too far away, or have overpriced drinks. People watching at coffee shops is one of my favorite ways to gather inspiration for writing. Whether it’s observing the mannerisms of the couple sitting across from me, the way they touch each other’s hands or listening to college kids stress out about an upcoming exam, I always find something to put into my tales.
Listening to Conversation
At times it’s easy to become stumped when determining mannerisms or the inflection of voices, listening to the ways others interact is a powerful way to add life to my characters. Make a note to watch couples talk to each other, or eat a meal together, they give off subconscious vibes about their relationship, from the way they position their bodies to the expression of their faces. Siblings act different, even complete strangers meeting and feeling each other out are fun to watch.
Hanging out in a public place
Some days I like to go downtown and sit outside. People who are new to the city, particularly tourists, are fascinating to watch. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they walk down the street, and for some reason, the babble of outside life inspires me. Currently, there is none stop construction going on around me, it provides a nice hum while I write.
Writing on the porch
The writing tends to flow without ceasing when I’m outdoors. It might be because most of my books take place outdoors. My characters are free-spirited and enjoy traveling, much like I do, whether it’s forced upon them or not. Basking in sun rays and listening to the wind blow the leaves off the trees reminds me of what my characters are experiencing as they travel. Most of the time, I can be found out back on the porch listening to the song of the birds and imagining a world of possibilities opening before me. These are quieter writing sessions, and allow me to dig deep into scenes and developing the relationships between characters. As of late, I’ve started to weave the threads of romance through my epic fantasy tales and I’m enjoying it…far too much…
Most of the time I try to have my laptop with me, however, when walking through the grocery store, sitting in the movie theater, or hiking through hills, it’s hard to always have my laptop. Thankfully, I use the Notes app on my iPhone for inspired writing. Sometimes a scene will leap into my imagination and I mull it over while writing the highlights and details. Other times it’s a snarky line I have to capture or a plot twist which will seal the rest of the story together like glue. Most of the time it’s a delightful conversation with characters revealing more than they intended. Since Notes sync with my MacBook, it’s an easy way to have my work saved without worrying about losing a journal.
I don’t write every day, sometimes I can get 50 words in, sometimes I get 1500. I’m finding most of my power hour writing takes place in the evenings, generally between 9pm until midnight. When I was a teenager I used to sit on my bed and write, now, I like to return to those moments, curling up with a glass of wine and writing until the wee hours of the morning. It’s during those times the words flow, the story comes together and I feel as if a muse is whispering the words in my ear, telling me the tale of another.
I am a storyteller and it is writing time.
Now, it’s your turn. Remember, when it comes to writing you don’t have to lump yourself into a box. While it’s true there are certain themes and storylines that tend to sell better than others, you don’t have to settle for status quo. I’m a huge fan of writing the book you’re meant to write, and in my case, writing a tale I’ll be proud to read over and over again.
Share in the comments below. What does your writing process look like? How do you find inspiration for your writing session?