Welcome to Jennifer On Writing!
I hope to make this a teaching blog for aspiring and newly published authors, as well as a place for multi-published authors to share their experience.
I want to reach all writers in all genres, so please bookmark the page and feel free to forward the blog entries or the link to any aspiring authors you know. All I ask is that you credit the author who writes the post.
Next week I’ll post a guest blog by a brand new author, Farrah Rochon, whose first novel debuts in March.
This week let me kick things off by
1. Introducing myself and
2. Posting a short article about how to get the &()*) manuscript written.
1. Who are you and why are you doing this blog?
I sold my first novel in 2002 (got The Call). After that followed a whirlwind of sales: a contract for a mystery series at Berkley, another contract for romances at Dorchester, a contract for a mainstream historical novel, and then more contracts. In all, I’ve sold and written 23 books and six novellas. Six of these works are forthcoming in 2007; the rest have been published.
With all that crammed into five years, I’ve learned a lot very fast about the publishing business, marketing, readers, booksellers, and what people buy and don’t buy and why.
I am agented, have been since 2002, though this is my second agent. I’ve also learned a lot about agents, what they will and won’t do, and how a good agent can really help you (and a bad agent can hurt you).
If you want to know what books I’ve published see: www.jennifersromances.com, www.gardnermysteries.com, and www.allysonjames.com or look me up on Amazon or B&N.
2. Get It Done
I’m going to kick things off with something innocuous, but a problem area for many aspiring authors: How to get the darn ms. done.
You have an idea, you’re excited about it, it keeps you awake at night, you write notes on scrap paper at work and email yourself with thoughts about the book. And then you get a couple hours free time on the weekend and you try to start or continue working you’ve already done.
And you can’t.
Why not? What happened to the enthusiasm?
Thinking about writing, the burn of creativity, is a completely different thing from sitting down and typing sentences. Typing the sentences (400+ double-spaced pages of them) is Work.
It’s physical labor that stresses the joints and strains the eyes. It’s tiring, the words never come out right, and you face a million distractions.
I’ve written 23 books and 6 novellas. And still there are plenty of days I sit down and think, crap, I’m never going to get to page 200.
Here are some tricks I’ve learned to keep writing:
1. Don’t edit as you go along.
Your sentence isn’t going to be perfect the first time. Probably not even the second time. Just keep typing and don’t look.
My rule is No one gets to see my first draft. Not even my critique partner. It’s complete crud. I write the first draft without looking, then I go back through and fix it before I allow anyone to look at it. Get the story figured out first, then polish.
2. Set a fixed time and place to write.
Pick a time of day (early morning, late at night, lunch hour, whatever), and set aside that time to write. Once you get into the habit of always writing at that time, your brain will kick into writing gear (usually) when you sit down to start.
3. Get an Alpha Smart
An Alpha Smart (www.alphasmart.com) is a writer’s dream. It’s a lightweight text-only computer in which you type (on a regular sized keyboard) your rough draft. It saves each keystroke automatically and then you upload what you’ve done into your computer.
Bonus, it’s very difficult to edit what you’ve written on it. You’re forced to stick to typing out your rough draft (see #1).
4. Set a word count goal, not a time goal.
If you set a goal of writing for two hours, you could sit and stare out the window for two hours and write one sentence. If you set a goal of 1000 words in your writing session, you sit on your butt until you have those 1000 words done.
A word goal is better than a page goal because pages vary depending on how much short dialogue you write vs. long description. 1000 words is always 1000 words.
5. Trick yourself
I’m sorry to say I have to do this often. Go out to a coffee house or library or someplace by yourself, taking alphasmart or your laptop without Internet access.
Do not allow yourself to leave that place or look at anything else (no newspapers or books) until you’ve written a set number of words. When writing my story becomes the only entertainment available, you do it.
6. No Internet!
The Internet is a fun place. Gobs of news, pictures, movies, entertainment, not to mention all those chat loops and blogs where you can express your brilliant opinions to the masses.
Very distracting for the writer.
I’m an Internet junkie. But for me, checking the Internet or my email takes me out of the story, and I lose my momentum. I’ve forced myself to not allow myself Internet or email until after I’ve reached a certain number of words.
7. Reward yourself for success
If you make your daily word count goal for a week or get past page 300, reward yourself with dinner out, or buying something you’ve always wanted, or just taking a day off! (Or, if you’re me, getting on the Internet.)
I know I have not addressed issues such as family and friends. But each person knows their own personal situation best. You need to decide how to ask your friends and family to understand that this is important to you.
I got published just by writing books and submitting them. I didn’t know anyone in the business, I had no connections, no networks, no breaks, and I wasn’t a celebrity or prominent political figure.
I just wrote and wrote and finally I sold a book. People gave me the “what makes you think you can be a writer?” looks, but I ignored them and kept on plugging.
It’s not an impossible dream. It’s reachable reality.