Happy almost New Year! Hope your holidays were magical, everything you wanted them to be, the most wonderful time of the year, etc.
Every year around this time, I look back at how my life has changed, and if I've achieved any of the goals I set out to accomplish. This year, I find myself thinking back on my goals I set for myself after I graduated college, particularly about my writing. I was always coming up with book ideas, some of them good, some of them bad, and I promised myself that one day I would complete a novel; that I would hold a book I wrote in my hands, and possibly see it in a bookstore.
I'm proud to say I'm very close to achieving that goal.
However, I have several extremely creative and intelligent friends who haven't been able to complete this goal, due to time constraints, responsibilities, writer's block, etc. So to get started on my new and shiny website, I decided to answer a question a lot of people have asked me: "what is your writing process?", and "how does one go about writing a novel?" So here are my answers:
My short answer: just freaking do it (insert video of Shia LaBeouf yelling here).
I guess my long answer should be a tad bit more nuanced, otherwise this would be a very short blog post. The fact of the matter is, no time is a good time to write a book. There will always be something that takes precedence. Writing a book means you have to MAKE the time: you have to say "no" to social engagements, you have to stay up until two in the morning, you have to drown yourself in coffee to make yourself functional and you have to text relatives to let them know that no, you are not dead, you have just been in your room writing for two days nonstop. In order to write my first draft of Master of Storms (affectionately known as MoS) I spent 6 months coming home from work and writing 1,000 words, no matter how long it took. It wasn't pretty and I wasn't pretty after spending 6 months being a hermit for all intents and purposes, but it was a novel and it was finished. Well, the first draft anyway.
To make it easier on yourself, outline your story first. Make a timeline, write out character's names and physical descriptions, and plot out the voice of your book; noting that if you make it first person or third person omniscient, you have to write in a manner that stays true to your character. As my main character in MoS happens to be a 20-something male, I have had my head space for the past year on what a 25-year-old male would say, how he would react to a certain situation, and so forth. God help me.
If I ever got stuck, I would read a novel in a different genre than mine. I read Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible while writing MoS, and her descriptive language and ability to make me feel as though I were in the Congo with the Price family inspired me to add more describers to my world. Her ability to capture someone's entire personality in one dialogue made me rethink my characters and how they react to one another. Reading other authors will help you write better and reading from a different genre will help you get a new perspective and will ensure that other author's ideas don't sneak into your work (it happens more than you think).
Writing is a lot like acting. You have to feel what your characters feel in order to describe what they are going through accurately, which is why I make playlists for different moods and scenes. When a character is going through a battle scene, nothing works better than epic Lord of the Rings or Star Wars soundtracks. When they are experiencing something beautiful, try soft electronic music like Kaskade or Muse (Coldplay works as well). And each character has their own playlist for me. When I need to get into my main character Terran's head, I usually listen to classic rock so that he comes across free-spirited and Americana. Trust me, music is the quickest way to your feelings. If you need further proof, listen to Adele and try not to feel sad and somehow betrayed. I dare you.
If you need any writing/editing help, there are several apps that can help (yay age of technology). My favorite is Hemingway Editor, which helps you cut the fluffy stuff out of your writing to make it crisp and clear. Honestly though, you really can't do any better than a writing group. I was lucky enough to have an amazing group that helped me take my writing to the next level, and helped me ease into the editing process (trust me, professional editors are brutal, but necessarily so). Writer's groups, especially for novices, are sounding boards for better writing and they may even give you ideas about your story or character that you've never had before. They are also amazing at keeping you on track with your writing schedule (again, insert Shia here).
Just add beer and there you have my writing process. Leave a comment below if you have a question or concern. Happy writing. And no seriously, beer helps the creative process, scout's honor. If it worked for Fitzgerald, Kerouc and Hemingway...