My beautiful little boy turns 10 years old today. Double digits. Quite a milestone.
I can’t believe how time has flown by. It was almost exactly ten years ago that I penned (or typed) my first novel. My son was in his cot, gurgling away and I sat down at my laptop, with an idea that had been brewing for sometime and began to write. It wasn’t a seamless process. How could it be with a newborn? It took a lot of stopping and starting, revising and re-writing, but finally, by his first birthday, I had a rough draft. (Yes, it took a year!)
After that it simmered for a long time until I finally got round to re-writing it again, properly and in one sitting. I had gone back to work by that stage, so I took two weeks off and rewrote the entire rough draft, elevating it to another level entirely. It was my first completed novel, Antarctic Affair.
Since then I’ve written two more contemporary romances, one non-fiction book and two novellas. Not a great track record for ten years. But with a young child, a day job, and an international move, it’s all that I could manage. So I’ve stopped beating myself up about it.
What have I learned from the last 10 years?
1. That writing is a journey. It’s not something you can master quickly. Rather, it’s a constant learning curve. With every page you write, you get better at it. Practice is the key.
2. Write everyday when writing a novel. If you’ve started a book, the best thing to do is to write every day so you don’t lose momentum. If you can’t write every day, then at least read through what you’ve written the day before so the story stays fresh in your mind. If it’s left alone, you lose your train of thought and the story fizzles out. It’s much harder trying to resurrect an old story, than to keep going with a new one.
3. Planning. It’s important that you plan your novel. You don’t have to outline every chapter but you must know all the key turning points in the story. I recommend creating a “Beat Sheet” to steer you in the right direction and to keep you on track.
4. Join on-line writing communities for support. You’re going to need it. There are many questions that you’ll need answering and research that you will need to do, and writing forums, Facebook groups and local chapters provide a wealth of information and support. The same goes for writing associations such as RWA (Romance Writers of America) or RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) in Britain. You will meet lots of other authors, who have valuable advise to offer, attend social functions, Christmas parties and luncheons. And make lots of new friends.
5. Don’t ever quit. Writing is hard work, time consuming and creatively draining. You sacrifice a lot of family and social time along the way, and sometimes for nothing but a big fat rejection letter. Don’t take it personally. Keep at it and keep going. You will get there.
6. Enter writing competitions. It’s motivating and inspiring and gives you something to work towards. Plus, you often get great feedback from other authors/judges.
7. Enter Nanowrimo (www.nanowrimo.com) – National Novel Writing Month (November). It’s really does get you going and help you hone your craft. You can almost knock out a rough draft of 50,000 words in a month. Plus you get to enjoy the social side of writing, and join meet ups and write-ins with fellow authors in your area.
8. To be a writer you have to be disciplined. There are a lot of distractions out there, including Facebook, Pinterest (my worst!) and group interaction. While they’re all very useful, stick to your writing schedule and don’t procrastinate. If you want to finish that book, you have to put in the time.
9. Plan what you’re going to write that day before you start writing. That way you don’t have to stop to ponder things and work out plot points. If you’re scene is mapped out in your head, or on paper first, then you can just put your head down and write. That’s how I clock up the most word counts in a day.
10. Enjoy your craft. Writing is a lonely endeavour so you have to love it, to keep at it, despite numerous rejections and distractions. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. That simple.