A while ago I wrote about how to start writing a book. I figured it was time to write about the rest of the process. I’m sure this looks a little different for everyone, but I think the same elements are necessary for success. Here’s my take:
- Perseverance. It makes sense to start here I think. Once you get yourself started, you really need to force yourself to write. That sounds painful, and sometimes it is, but from my experience, once I make a habit of writing everyday, I begin to look forward to it. In fact, when I don’t write consistently, I feel frustrated. Maybe the best comparison is exercise or running with a goal in mind. Writing is very much that way.
- Patience. You can’t rush something creative if you want it to be really good. Rushed writing often equals bad writing. Usually the first time through is a bit rough, and that’s ok. I wrote my first novel once and then went back and rewrote the whole thing until I was satisfied with the story. It took a lot of patience.
- Optimism. If you’re hypercritical of your work (like I am), you need this to keep you motivated. I’ve learned not to tell myself “I’m writing a bestseller,” but instead to say to myself “I’m writing a good story.” “I want to finish that story. The characters needs to see it through and someone will enjoy this book!”
- Objectivity. This one sort of balances the optimism for me. I don’t think anyone can be completely objective with their writing because it’s very personal. However, I do try to look at my project and imagine what it would be like to be the reader. This is also why it’s important to have other people read for you. They can help identify things that don’t work and highlight things that do.
However you get yourself to write, be sure to enjoy the process. I’m amazed at how my stories will unfold themselves while I’m writing. It’s almost like watching a movie for the first time. And the feeling of accomplishment that follows finishing a book is certainly worth the time spent.
How do you finish writing books?
Step 1: Buy a laptop.
Step 2: Open laptop and start writing your masterpiece.
Step 3: Boom. Novel finished.
I wish it were that easy! The truth is, most writers will tell you book writing can be a painful and sometimes very tedious process. Admittedly, I’ve entertained delusions of grandeur at various times, but the reality of writing is that if you’re not doing it primarily because you enjoy it, you’ll be disappointed, and probably end up frustrated.
But back to the whole starting a book thing. I know many people out there have great ideas for novels that never actually materialize. For a long time I only ever dreamed about having a book published. I used to get a cool idea for a story, write a paragraph, or maybe even a page, and then get bored and quit. Pretty pathetic, I know. Everything changed once I started taking graduate courses and realized I could actually write well. Which brings me to my first point:
- Become a GOOD writer. Not perfect, mind you, but good enough to properly punctuate and structure sentences. You also want to vary your sentences so they don’t all sound the same. This takes practice and you may want to actually pay attention in English classes. Reading aloud after you’ve written something is a good idea so you can make sure it flows.
- Summarize your story. It helps to know what you’re actually planning to write about! Years ago, I would get story ideas based on existing books or movies. Now my inspiration comes primarily from dreams I have at night. I have vivid dreams and I tend to remember them well the next day. Lots of writers out there outline their whole book before getting started, but I’m usually too eager to begin writing to do this. I find that once I have a main idea, as long as I know the direction the story will take, I just want to get to the fun part.
- Get to know your characters. This is what did it for me. I got through steps one and two, but still found that I was having difficulty with the story. I stopped and wrote character bios for each person in my story and suddenly I felt like I knew them. I could actually imagine them interacting with each other and responding to events in the plot. It was almost like they were telling the story for me. That’s when writing really took off for me.
- Stay consistent. You really have to make time to write. I hear people say all the time there is never a “right” time (no pun intended). I’ve taken breaks with writing over the years, but find that I’m the most productive when I write even a little each day (my goal is at least 1,000 words). Figure out what works for you. Are you a night owl or early bird? You may want to consider skipping that Netflix show and using that time to write instead!
Now that you’ve gotten started, finishing is the key…but we’ll save that for another time!
What’s your writing process? Comment below!