When I wrote my first book, I had never written anything that long before, not by a long shot. For young adult novels I have a general guideline of around 80 000 words. It helps keep me on track and make sure my pacing is good. Are the right kinds of things happening in roughly the right places?
My first couple of books usually had me getting close, and wondering what scenes or details to add to flesh out the story and really let the characters grow. Well, book 4 of the Forest Guardians is my fifth book between two pen names, and now I've reached a new stage in my writing.
I'm nearing the end of the first draft. My first drafts should be around 70 000 words if I don't want to go too far over 80 000 words in the finished book, because I don't include descriptors and scene details in the first draft to any richness. Here I sit, with about 8 000 words to go, and I know I'm going to be a little over my goal. I've reached that "how am I supposed to tie all that together in that little space" stage of writing.
This time, even the side scenes directly tie into the main plot, so I'm not planning on cutting anything yet. As long as I stay under 90 000 words, I'm happy. As some of my readers could be on the younger end of Young Adult, I keep them in mind. Still, it's a bit of a change, going from adding scenes to set up the series and characters verses having just enough space to let her adventure unfold.
We grow as writers and get better at writing, at least if we work at it we do. I look forward to seeing what other stages of growth I go through as a writer. it was only last March when I decided to become a published author, so my journey so far has been one year long. I've gone from trying my first book and feeling uncertain to sitting down nearly every morning and letting my characters tell me what they want to experience. Now it tends to flow, more often than not. I let my stories come to me and am usually pleasantly surprised at what they bring.
How has your journey as a writer progressed? What changes have you noticed?
I know, I’ve been a little absent on my blog lately. February wasn’t easy this year. It usually isn’t, I already know that, so I half expected things to get quiet for me on social media and my blog.
However, I’m feeling better, the weather is warmer, and I’m back to being present online. I never stopped writing, though my writing slowed a lot during February. My writing has picked up again and I’m happy with my progress. Book 4 is coming along nicely, the first draft is coming close to done, and Book 5 is forming in the outline stage.
I’m also working on another book under my other pen name. I seldom write only one book at a time. It helps keep my brain busy and my creativity flowing. I still have the martial arts book in progress, but I’m not actively working on it right now.
The last few weeks also gave me a chance to organize some other parts of my life, too. Martial arts is a big part of my life. I’ve missed training with others a lot. Now that I’m feeling good again, I’ve found a community and am training again. Online for now, but it’s really effective, and I’m enjoying it.
My learning new skills for a new second career is also going well. I study regularly and enjoy what I’m doing. One day I’ll only be writing, but for now that’s not the case.
I’m also getting back at riding the horses more, now that the weather is nicer. It’s not fun trying to ride when everything’s frozen. When the air hurts my face, I’m not inspired to be out there unnecessarily. For a couple of weeks we weren’t going outside without full protection for the full body, face included. We’re even experiencing temperatures above freezing, and it’s only March!
Anyways, I’m back. Things are good here. Writing is coming along well and I’m pleased. Now I’ll ease back into my social media and reconnect with friends and fans. As seasons change, our schedules and needs change as well. Once you know how you respond to the year, you can allow for that in your writing schedule. Do what you need and look after yourself. Happy writing!
It’s February here, our coldest month, usually. I have yet to experience a winter where the temperature doesn’t dip to -30 at least once. So far this winter we have been spoiled with how mild things have been. It was pretty nice...
Anyways, we’re having our cold week now. It started yesterday, and will continue to the weekend. What could this possibly have to do with writing? Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, where lifestyle and weather don’t impact our productivity. I love writing. However, I have a rich and fulfilling life outside of writing, too.
One thing I do is keep horses. My previous occupation was riding instructor, and I trained horses, too. I still have my fluffy companions living here at home with me. It’s a mixed blessing, to be sure, but I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It also means I’m out in the cold no matter what, making sure they’re okay. I can take them into a heated barn, but that adds hours to my day in chores, so we leave that for the worst weather. As long as they’re wearing the right blankets, they’re good as low as -40, as long as there’s no wind.
Still, it can be stressful living on an acreage or small farm when the temperatures drop low. Will the waterlines freeze? Will the furnaces keep running, and keep the buildings warm enough?
With the added stress, it can be harder to sit and write. Instead of adding to my stress, I decided to sit and write as much as I could normally, without aiming for my usual word counts each day. I’ll sit and write whatever scene(s) I want and only for as long as I feel focused and good. If it’s a few thousand words, excellent. If it’s a few hundred words, I’m okay with that this week.
I’ve reached the awkward stage in writing for the fourth forest guardians book, too. It’s between 35 000 and 50 000 words, I find that’s the hardest stage of the book to write. The necessary scenes are usually done, and now I’m adding in the fun and the challenges. Having this stage during a stressful life event (the cold snap) simply means I’ll keep my focus on the fun of writing, and not concern myself with productivity.
Sometimes things happen. People get sick (or animals), weather changes, sometimes world events change things for us, or other unforeseen events occur. Sometimes we push through. Other times it’s better to relax and give ourselves a little slack. This week for me is a slack week, for sure!
Oh, and the ever expanding flock of sparrows we feed has been hungrier than normal. They make it through these cold snaps just fine, with the additional seed we give them and the doves and the flicker and woodpecker.
Having a holiday was lovely. Okay, I didn’t go anywhere, but I did what I wanted when I wanted, and didn’t do anything writing work related. Mostly...
Anyways, yesterday was my first day back at writing. The week off gave me some mental rest. The last few weeks before publishing can be mentally intense, making sure the cover is ready and the editing is done. Formatting, getting the manuscript into the system, and more, every step needs to be accounted for.
Now the writing is flowing easily again and I feel less stress. As modern writers, we need to watch for things like burnout, since there’s so much more we need to know. If we self-publish, we have even more to keep an eye on. It’s important to never lose sight of why we write. I write because I love it.
All my current projects are in the first draft stage right now. There’s something almost magical about the first draft stage, where anything could happen. My first draft looks almost like a stage play booklet, with dialogue and general directions, and maybe rough descriptions about what will happen. The detail comes in future drafts. No, the first draft is all about picking a plot and story elements I can’t wait to read/write about in more detail later. I don’t know who first said it, but it’s my mantra now - “write the book you want to read.”
The one hard thing about coming back from my vacation is catching up on things like social media and getting the rest of my life back in something like a schedule. There’s no need to jump into things. I can ease myself in slowly. That’s the advantage of writing being my main focus, is my schedule is flexible.
So: -remember why you write, -keep an eye on your energy levels, -eat well and prioritize sleep so you have the best shot at writing well. Now go write something fun that you enjoy!
Sometimes, it feels like the story almost writes itself. Sometimes it takes more effort. The third book is almost through the editing stage, and should be published before the end of the month. Book three has taken a little more effort to get the story how I wanted it.
Not book four, though. Book four was outlined in about twenty minutes. I didn’t expect that, as I had only a vague idea what the story was, no details at all. No, I started writing, putting in the various stages of the story, and before I knew it, the book was outlined. I was surprised by a few plot points, actually, but when they just appeared on the “paper,” I knew it was what I wanted.
Seriously, as the story appeared before me, I was delighted and surprised. Now I’ve had a chance to write the story for a few days. It’s again working out almost as if the story exists, and I’m just releasing it to the world.
This is also in direct contrast to the martial arts book I’m writing. That story outlined easily, but my outlines are fairly vague. No, book four is already forming details, but the martial arts book is proving to be a harder write. I’m almost halfway through my first draft on the martial arts book, but I have a better feel for the fourth Forest Guardians book.
How can some stories just appear before us, while others take effort and time to materialize? Why do we sometimes have a book flow, while other books feel like effort? Part of it is passion and enthusiasm. Part of it might be that some stories touch our hearts in ways other stories do not.
Now, my first few books didn’t flow, though there were times when writing them was done from the flow state. I was too busy learning how to write a book to have the whole book come from a flow state. That’s okay. It takes time to learn to be an author. As I get more experience, I find it easier to tap into that flow state for more steps in the writing process.
The flow state is when ideas pour from us and appear as if they were already there. Athletes can experience the flow state, where their body responds perfectly, and their movements are easy. Anyone can experience the flow state. Concentration comes easily and we’re more productive than normal.
Now that the holidays are over, my life is settling down, and I’m finding my way back into my normal routine. That means I’m working on more fun books to share with readers, and more stories I’m passionate about. I get to write more books I love and improve my skills. Here’s to many more years writing!
I have a fond childhood memory of sitting in my father’s office and playing with the typewriter. I never actually wrote anything important, I just loved pressing the keys and making noise. Seeing the letters appear was like magic to me. Needless to say, I was pretty young at the time. Okay, very young.
Just last month, I asked mom if she still had the typewriter. She didn’t have the one I played with all those decades ago, but she had one my grandfather used. I have it now. It’s much newer than that one I tapped away at as a child. It’s also significantly lighter. I can even still buy cartridges for it, including correction tape.
I played with it, exploring the functions and seeing if it still worked. It did. I also learned a lot in the few minutes I typed, like how spoiled I am as a writer with a modern computer and my word processor. I also learned how slowly I would have to type if I didn’t want to constantly use the correction tape...
It made me reflect on writers in the “olden days.” I can write and edit a novel in a few months with my computer. If I’m having a productive day and really going for it, I can write over 2000 words in an hour. Autocorrect means I don’t have to fix most of my speed typing errors. Most importantly for me, as an author who does not write my book in order, I can jump around and write whatever scene I want at any point.
What was it like for the writers back then, using typewriters, or even writing by hand? We have a copy of a bible that was recently done, written out by scribes on vellum using quills. It took years instead of months. Even the typewriter is an improvement for writers over quill pens, but my speed on a typewriter is only a fraction of what I can do with a computer.
What would it be like having to use a typewriter? How many pages would my draft be, knowing I write by scene instead of chapter or in one continuous narrative? How often would I be making corrections because my fingers move faster than the typewriter can handle. I remember being able to cause jams on the old typewriter.
I appreciate my modern tools as a writer. I won’t forget how much easier things are for me, with spellchecker, grammar checkers, the ability to easily delete typing, and I can jump around as I want in my story. Those writers back before computers were tough and persistent. Would I be a writer without my tools? Yes, I’d probably still write, but not as an author. I’d probably still be writing short stories for myself instead.
Here’s to computers, word processors, formatting programs, and an easier time as an author. And thanks to the typewriter, my reminder of how good I have it as a writer!
Once again, I’m experiencing an interesting phenomenon as I write. As I approach the end of my final draft, I start feeling tired. I felt this before will all my other books. It’s simply part of writing for me, and something I’m learning to work with.
The tricky thing about the fatigue is it’s a little worse this time. With the Christmas season and me having a cold, the fatigue is more noticeable than normal. Since the fatigue is simply something I’ve learned is part of my writing, I’ve learned some ways to deal with it.
I still love getting up every morning and writing. That hasn’t changed. My enthusiasm for the story hasn’t changed, either, though the fatigue has brought some doubts. This is one of the reasons I have a beta reader I trust. He and I discussed my doubts and how to deal with it. We decided I was best to stick to my story as it was and let him read it. If there was a pacing problem, he’d feel it and let me know.
Today I wrote the scene I initially had doubts about. I stuck to my plan and feel good about it again. I’m pretty sure the doubts really were just the tiredness I always seem to experience at this point in my writing. I don’t know any writer who doesn’t occasionally have doubts. What matters is how we deal with them.
How do I deal with it? Step one is stick to my plan. I liked my first draft(s) and felt the story was ready for final form, so if I have doubts, I stick to my plan. Step two is to take more or longer breaks. Since writing is my primary occupation, I set aside my entire mornings to write in. That’s a privilege I have, so I take advantage of it. Some days I can do 5000 words in just over two hours, and other mornings I may only write 3500 words and it’ll take all morning, including breaks.
Another important thing I watch for is making sure I eat and sleep well. If I make sure I look after myself, any fatigue I do experience is less than it might otherwise be. Writing can be mentally tiring. Fuelling my body and brain properly keeps me at my best.
As you write, you’ll find your own methods and rhythms. New book excitement might help you speed through the early parts, when ideas are new and fresh. Maybe the middle part will be slower to write, and maybe it won’t. You might feel a fresh surge of energy as the book nears completion. Or you may find your personal patterns are something else entirely.
Keep an eye on how your writing goes and what each stage is like. I found my writing was consistent. Maybe yours will be, and maybe it won’t. If you know what becomes normal for you, it’ll help you when doubts kick in or you just feel off. There are days where I only manage 1000 words or so, though those days are rare now that I know what’s normal for me. By knowing my normal, I’m becoming even more productive as a writer.
How about you? Have you noticed things that are consistent with your writing process? What helps, and what doesn’t? How do you deal with the doubties?
Now that I realize I haven’t blogged in a while, it made me reflect on the natural rhythm of writing I go through. This shows in how often I blog, now that I look back. My writing and my blogging are connected. I’ll explain...
When I’m starting a new book project, I have a lot more time and energy to blog. I have more focus to spread on all my projects, blogging included. Right now, though, I’m nearing the end of book 3, finishing the final draft and about to enter editing. My focus is almost completely on finishing the book. That’s how I can go a week and realize I forgot to come and blog, sharing my progress and process.
Now that I’ve written a few books, I’m noticing general trends on where my focus is. I do love doing the monthly newsletter and enjoy writing the bonus stories. This time around, I prepared it in a shorter time period. My energy and inspiration just worked that way.
I am loving writing the short bonus scenes for the newsletter. It’s a chance to share scenes and short stories from other characters’ perspectives. I love them because I can sit and write one in under an hour, or take longer if I want. It’s a chance to explore the world and Aili’s life outside the books. What was little Aili like? What happened during the fire?
Hang in there, aspiring authors. I’ll be blogging more regularly again soon. Book 3 is nearly done. My short story and newsletter are done and ready to go out in a couple of days. Christmas is here and the season will soon be over. Wow, has December been crazy this year. Sometimes I blog more, other times I am busier and my focus is elsewhere. That’s okay. Writing is a joy, not a chore. If I’m not actively blogging as much, it’s because I have other fun writing I’m working on. Soon I’ll be back.
That time has come once again. I’m ready to take my rough draft and put it into final format. My story is about to gain the richness of descriptors and sensory information, and not just be a rough draft. Sure, the rough draft does contain all kinds of descriptors and more, but not in final form.
The best advice I ever got was to work with two files, my rough draft as it is, and a brand new file. I look at what’s in my rough draft, and completely rewrite it into my new draft. I keep the ideas the same, and often the dialog doesn’t change at all, it stays word for word. However, while it means extra work for me, rewriting has one distinct advantage for me.
When I’m not editing something already there, I can word my final draft in the most effective way I want, freely with no boundaries. When I’m editing something already down, I’m less likely to change my sentences. When I’m rewriting, I spend more time making the sentences the best I can make them.
It also means I don’t get writers block. See, I know I just need ideas and conversations and basic details in my rough draft. It doesn’t matter how bad the writing is, because it’s not in its final form. I can get stuff down, change it as I need or want to make the story flow, and even leave notes to myself to flesh out things before my final draft. I can write whatever scenes I want and make them better later.
Also, by the time I get to my final draft, the ideas are already down, so all I have to do is make them pretty, give my words life, and make my world and characters feel real. Since I don’t have to come up with the ideas, there’s nothing to block. I can rewrite a sentence as many times as I want, though it seldom takes more than a single rewriting.
It does slow down how long it takes to write each book, as I write it twice, but I feel it gives me a much better book to share with the world. It also means I don’t sit there with writers block for days or weeks. Every writer will find a method that works for them, and sometimes trying a new method is a good thing. However, once you find what works, hone the technique and make the most of it. Routine can also help writers, as it stimulates the brain in certain ways. For me, the routine of a new file for my final draft helps me clearly separate my idea writing from my polished book.
What routines work for you?
Before I became an author, I had never heard of NaNoWriMo. The gist of it is that you sit down and write 50 000 words throughout the month of November, working on a novel. A few well known novels got their start this way. The non-profit has a webpage - www.nanowrimo.org
I have a regular writing routine, so I chose not to participate this year, but I did decide to keep track of my productivity more closely, keeping track of how many words I wrote each day on book 3 of the Forest Guardians series. I did not include any writing on my other novels or personal stories.
As of this weekend, had I been participating, I would have achieved my 50 000 words this month. I keep in touch with other authors, and one thing we like to talk about is productivity. Successful authors who write a lot of books tend to average over 2000 words a day. Sometimes authors who have a main career outside of writing manage as few as 300-400 a day, on breaks and while commuting, and so on. Those are dedicated authors, to be sure!
I tend to average over 2000 words a day. Some days more than 6000 flow from me easily, like if I'm writing a major scene that the whole story hinges on. If I'm tired, it may be as little as 1000 words. That's just me, though. Still, it made NaNoWriMo possible for me, had I chosen to participate.
I chose not to, solely so I could see how my own writing was doing, and because I do have a routine that works. My books tend to be around 80 000 words long, which is pretty standard for a Young Adult Fantasy book. By having a word count, I can make sure my plotting works and that scenes happen where they need to. While it's more of a guideline, knowing where to build and where to ease off, where a major point is, and when to move along, all that helps make a gripping novel.
I did visit the NaNoWriMo page today, out of curiosity. They do appear to have some good resources for young writers. I think anything that helps people get creative and write is a good thing. If you want to be a writer, learn and read and study the craft. It'll improve your writing so much. Each novel you write will make you a better writer. What are you waiting for? Get writing!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.