Let’s talk about writing habits. So, the one thing you’ll hear about writing time and time again is that it’s subjective. And that’s not just a saying; it’s absolutely true. What one person prefers to read, another doesn’t. One writer may outline to within an inch of his or her life, while the other just goes for it and lets the story unfold as it will.
Over the years, I’ve found what works best for me and my own way of doing things. Though I wouldn’t recommend taking a leaf out of my book simply because I post it here, I hope that whomever reads this can take away a few good tips. So, from start to finish, here are some things I do when writing novels:
- Write an Outline (1-3 pages).
- Write a separate Chapter Outline (What happens in each chapter (about 100 words long each).
- Brainstorm on important details: Ages, Dates, Happenstances, Timelines. Put these somewhere visible (I have Post-It Note FlipChart Pads that I write things on and put all over one whole wall in my office for reference. Whiteboards work well too).
- Write a Synopsis. Knowing your project before you begin it helps you stay focused and on track, and delve further into your world since the finer points have already been hashed out.
- Listen to music that makes you think of the book, watch movies with the same types of themes as your novel, and don’t always write in the same location. If possible, go to a coffee shop or library. Inspiration is all around.
- Cast it. If you have a visual of characters to go off of, it makes descriptions easier, and if you’re a big fan of an actor that fits the bill for one of your characters, you’ll be surprised what things your imagination comes up with.
- Write It. In the novel, start from the beginning and work your way to the end, but if little things crop up like dialogue or ideas for bits later in the book, write them out as soon as they come – keep a pen and paper or a memo app in your phone handy. Don’t ignore important promptings, and put them in a separate file to incorporate later on. Set deadlines for yourself. Treat it like a job you love, and you’ll be rewarded.
- Don’t go back and edit until everything is completely done. This is important, because when you’re allowing your creative juices to flow freely, you can interrupt the process by giving in to self-doubt, which is something all authors struggle with in one way or another. Just write it and worry about editing later. Rework certain things, but if you continually edit before you’ve finished, you’ll find yourself getting stuck. Take a cooling off period of at least a week before starting the garrulous process of editing. Stick to your guns, and set aside 1-2 months after the book’s finished to edit it and rewrite.
- Get a beta reader, when you feel comfortable enough. This person should either be an avid reader of the genre you’re writing, a good writer themselves, or both. Do not show your unfinished manuscript to a thousand friends. You’ll find yourself getting discouraged if one of them happens to have a chip on their shoulder or acts funny about it. People react differently to those pursuing their dreams, so safeguard yours.
- Go to the library and request a sequestered study room to write in, take a day off of work, and just write. Research is your friend.