I’ve had to put writing aside for a while. I really hate it when that happens. Life can be kinda sucky at times. Sometimes we’re forced to do things we don’t really want to do, and in the process the activities we do enjoy fade into the background.
In January, after another round of layoffs at the company I work for, I decided to go back to school. The course I’m enrolled in is for another job in healthcare, a medical records type job like the one I have now. A job I may not like, but one that pays better. For almost three months, I’ve done nothing but work and study, study and work. Burnout is setting in and it’s making me cranky and stressed out.
Over the weekend, I realized that it’s been a really long time since I’ve written anything. Then I remembered the “estranged sister” story I’d been working on last year. I hadn’t gotten very far, just some brainstorming and figuring out some of the characters. I read over all of my notes and feel re-energized about this story. Blowing off this course and spending all of my spare time writing is a very tempting thought, but writing doesn’t pay the bills…yet. So instead, I blew off school tonight and worked for two solid hours on my outline, and guess what? I’m not cranky anymore.
Making time for writing needs to become a priority again. For me, it’s an escape from my troubles and definitely a cure for crankiness.
That’s how a novel gets written.
It’s as simple as that.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it. For most people, myself included, writing is the hardest part of the whole process. I’ve only written short stories. Writing a novel is overwhelming, and that’s one reason why I’ve never come close to completing a novel. Self-doubt is the other reason my goal has yet to be reached.
What if I suck? What if my novel is the biggest piece of crap ever written?
In all likelihood, I will suck and, I hate to say it, you probably will, too. The first draft of anything almost always sucks. Accepting this fact is the key to pushing forward on those days where the words aren’t flowing or every sentence that you’ve written sounds like garbage.
What if it takes years to finish my novel?
If you really want to write a novel, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. If you have a story in you, get it down on paper. No matter how bad your writing sounds, it’s only a draft and it can be fixed later. Stop reading about writing. Stop thinking about writing. Stop talking about writing and just sit down and write. Set aside time every day, even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes. No matter how you do it, get that story out of your system and keep going until you reach the end.
As for me, I think it’s time I take my own advice and just write.
I’m a planner. My house is littered with five million notebooks filled with lists and snippets of ideas – weekly menus, shopping lists, to do lists, story ideas. I jot things down as a way to organize my thoughts, as well as to help guide me in a particular direction.
When it comes to writing stories, I’m a person who prefers to know where the story is going before I begin writing.
There are plenty of ways to go about outlining a novel. If you’re a minimalist, a simple one-page bullet list of key scenes might be enough to get you started. There are some writers who create complex, detail-oriented outlines that are fifty or more pages long. Personally, I’m looking for an outlining method somewhere in between. It’s very easy for me to linger far too long in the planning stages of a story. I think it’s just my way of avoiding the inevitable – writing the draft.
Here are a few articles I’ve found explaining different ways you can outline your next novel:
For me, the outlining process is a way of fleshing out the original idea and figuring out if I can form that idea into a full-fledged story. I think it’s where I’m the most creative in the whole writing process because the ideas just seem to continually flow.
Knowing ahead of time where the story is going gives me a much needed boost of confidence that moves me from the plotting phase to writing that first draft.