Are you ready to get serious with your writing? Are you tired of being an aspiring or wannabe writer? If you answered yes, these nine writing tips for the serious fiction writer are for you. These tips will tell you how to get started on your fiction, increase your productivity, eliminate your distractions and start the process of learning how to edit your own work.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Skip Around
How do you start your novels? How do you get your ideas? Do you see the opening scene first? Does the theme and major plot appear in your brain before everything else, or do you see scenes from the middle of your novel? Whatever you see first is what you should write down. This means that you may be writing down a scene slated to go into chapter nine or 10 before you write the beginning, and that’s okay. When you start a novel, the only goal is to start it.
As you write, you may also get ideas for scenes that are much later in the book. It’s okay to stop what you are doing and skip ahead. In fact, I just had this happen with AVIA III, which is slated to be released early in 2020. I was working on a hospital scene when I realized a massive argument between my characters would occur many chapters later. This scene did not dissipate from my mind as I worked on the earlier scene. Eventually, in order to stop thinking about that argument, I skipped from chapter six to chapter 13 and wrote it down. This allowed me to move the idea from my brain to the page then go back to the scene I was previously working on.
The bottom line, don’t be afraid to skip ahead and write a scene that you cannot get out of your head or that keeps coming back to you. It doesn’t matter if you eventually alter or completely delete that scene. It matters that you write it down so that you can maintain your forward momentum on your current book.
2. Write Down All Your Ideas and Start Them
As writers, we frequently get random ideas for books. These ideas can occur while we’re at work or at home cleaning or cooking. While you may be tempted to ignore the thought, a good rule of thumb is to write them all down. This means temporarily stopping what you are doing to tapping a few lines into your phone, tablet or computer then resuming your task. I recommend writing down a sentence about the theme of your book and one or two paragraphs so that you can come back later and finish filling out the idea.
The benefit to this approach is that you will have more than one book started at any given time, and you can swap between your books in order to maintain your productivity. In practice, this means that you may not always have an idea for your current book, but you may have a thought for one of your other books. It’s okay to spend a day working on a novel or short story idea that isn’t your primary novel or the one you want to finish next. This can actually give your brain a break from your current project and allow your subconscious to work on your primary book while your conscious brain works on your next book. With that being said, you do want to keep your primary book in focus. If you swap between books too often, you may find that it takes you longer to finish and publish a book.
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3. Learn How to Edit
If you’ve never thought about editing your work, you may want to start thinking about it. Serious writers can write and edit their own manuscripts, which will save time and money. It can cost anywhere from $800 to $6,000 to have your work professionally edited, and if there are a lot of mistakes in it, it will take your professional editor longer to complete the job. In order to save time and money and prevent needless revisions based on editor notes, take the time to learn how to edit your own work. This often means performing several drafts of your fiction novel in order to clarify the plots, add character development and correct technical problems with your grammar, spelling and punctuation as well as to perfect the way the text flows and the timing of the novel. The good news is that there are books you can purchase to help you self-edit your work. A few of my favorites include Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction), Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Harper Collins, and The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile. With the help of a few good self-editing books and some patience and perseverance, you can get your book finished and ready for publication.
4. Seek Out Other Authors
A second set of eyes is great for finding large and small errors with your work. One of the ways to get a second set of eyes on your current manuscript is to ask other authors and even beta readers to read your current draft and provide you with a few notes. It’s important to understand that other authors and beta readers won’t provide you with the level of detail of a professional editor, but they will tell you where the large problems are and offer their ideas on what needs to happen to correct them. This may be enough information for you to see your book in a new light and correct the mistakes. While you are waiting on the critiques, you can work on a different novel so that you’re maximizing your productivity.
5. Do Your Social Media Once a Day and Eliminate Productivity Destroying Distractions
In order to focus on your writing, you will need to eliminate your distractions, and one of the biggest distractions today is social media and the Internet. Ask yourself how many hours a day you spend on social media and surfing the web. Is that time that would be better spent writing? Most authors would say yes. However, it’s still important for you to build your author brand and your platform. For this reason, I recommend spending an hour a day on social media. This includes posting new content, seeking out new followers and replying to any comments. Once you finish your social media obligations, it’s time to get back to writing. If you need help limiting the time you spend online and on social media, you can set a timer. There are also applications that you can download to help you stay focused by eliminating your ability to surf the web and visit certain websites during certain hours.
If you use Chrome, you can go to More Tools->Extensions→Find More Extensions and type in Productivity. This will pull up search results that can help you improve your productivity and track your time. All you have to do is add the extension to your Chrome browser.
If you use an Android device, you can search Productivity in Google Play. Since there are hundreds of apps available, you’ll simply have to look through the available options to find the one that is right for you.
Of course, none of this takes care of the wasted time created by the human condition. This includes eating, drinking, bathrooming, sleeping, cleaning, cooking and showering. For me, these things are the ultimate time wasters. Nothing aggravates me more than nearly being finished with a chapter and the ole bladder screaming that it’s full or the stomach screaming about lack of food.
Unfortunately, until science develops excrement laser blasters, there’s nothing that can be done about bathrooming. However, there are ways to reduce cooking, cleaning, shopping and showering.
For the grocery shopping, you can choose to have your groceries delivered to you via Shipt, or you can order your groceries online and pick them up from your favorite grocery store. This will eliminate the wasted time spent shopping for food. If you really want to go hardcore, you’ll buy mostly frozen food and food that you can just stick in the oven so that you can set the temperature and the oven timer and write while the food cooks. You can also order out. Though, that can get pricey, even if you live alone.
For the showering, consider showering at night so that you can write in the morning. I suspect that most people are like me when I worked outside my home. I took a shower in the morning and a shower after work. If you can eliminate the morning shower, you may be able to save time. However, if you workout in the morning or have a condition that causes you to have excess body odor, don’t skip your morning shower! No one wants to smell you.
For house cleaning, employ the other people in your household. Someone else can do dishes, take the trash out and clean and dust the various rooms and do laundry. If they refuse, stick to your guns. Eventually, the house will get so bad, they’ll be forced to clean it. When they run out of clothes, they’ll be motivated to do laundry. If you have disposable income available, you can hire a house cleaner once every couple weeks. If you live alone, pick a day to clean your house and do laundry. If no one ever visits, the only person who has to look at the filth is you, and after you get a few novels finished and published, maybe you’ll be able to afford that house cleaner so that you can further increase your productivity.
6. Create a Dedicated Workspace
When you make the decision to become a serious writer, you should also make the decision to create a dedicated work space. This work space can be a bedroom that you’ve repurposed as an office or a nook or simply a wall of your house or apartment where you’ve created the ultimate writing and reading space.
What your dedicated space shouldn’t be is your kitchen table or the couch in front of your TV. Why shouldn’t it be these spaces? Because your kitchen table is likely where your other family members will walk up to you and ask you for something or to pay attention to them or to cook dinner or any other random bit of distracting conversation. You’ll also be able to hear everything in your house, which is primarily due to today’s open floor plans. When you choose your couch, you’ll be distracted by the same things as if you were sitting at your kitchen table, and you’ll be tempted to turn on your television and watch a show rather than write.
Instead of writing in the public spaces of your home or apartment, consider creating a dedicated work space. If you have an extra bedroom, turn it into an office with a writing desk, your laptop or computer and your writing books. Extra bedrooms are great for this purpose because you can close the door.
If you don’t have an extra bedroom or a home office, you can dedicate a wall for writing. In this scenario, you’d purchase a small desk and office chair and a bookshelf to store your writing books, paper, pens and other assorted writing items. If you want to provide separation, you can buy a screen or rearrange the furniture to create the illusion of dedicated space. This will help your brain focus on your writing because once you are in your office or seated at your desk, you will think – It’s time to write.
7. Read Good and Bad Writing
In order to hone your craft and stay up to date on the industry, it’s important to pay attention to the books that are being released by traditional publishers, independent publishers and self-publishers, and it’s important to read some of those books. However, it’s not necessary to strictly hold to the cliche’d advice that writers and authors must be avid readers. You don’t need to read every day. You don’t even need to read on a weekly basis, but you do need to read and keep up-to-date on the current book market.
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This means that you should seek out good and bad writing. At this point, you may be wondering why I said bad writing. You should read bad writing because it still good lessons. If all you ever read are bestsellers that have been edited to hell and back, you’ll start comparing yourself and your writing to those books and potentially thinking that you’ll never measure up. You also may not learn as much because all of the obvious and subtle mistakes have been removed. What a bestseller can tell you is what a good book looks like and reads like. It’ll show you what a good beginning, middle and end looks like, which is valuable, but a bad book can teach you more.
When you read bad writing, you will notice it immediately, but what you need to do with these books is dissect them. What made it bad? How would you correct those mistakes? Have you made these mistakes in your current book? Was there anything good in the book? What made those sections good? Can you emulate sections like that in your book? By dissecting a bad book, you will learn what types of mistakes that turn you off and potential readers, and you will start thinking about how to correct and eliminate those mistakes in your own writing.
8. Set a Schedule
As a member of the writing community, you’ve probably read profiles that state X job by day and writer by night. This is true for the vast majority of aspiring, new and existing authors. In order to pay the bills, they must work a day job and work on their writing at night. Sometimes, that can mean very late at night, like after ten and even after midnight. I find that most writers and novelists write between the hours of midnight and 2:AM after everyone else in their household had eaten their midnight snacks and gone to bed.
The trick to being able to write every day is finding a time to write every day. In order to do this, you must thoroughly examine your schedule and your family obligations. If you work a job from nine to five, can you write early in the morning or after work? Can you cram in an hour of writing after work? Do you have to write after everyone goes to bed?
You can also think about this like an exercise schedule. Most people get up an hour or two before they have to be at work. They hit the gym or jump on their at-home exercise bike or treadmill and workout for 30 to 45 minutes before showering. Then, they get dressed, eat breakfast and head to work. If you have a tablet or another portable device, you might be able to cram a few lines of writing between your workout and your breakfast. If your family won’t be home for a few hours after you get home from work, that might be the opportune time to write. No matter what time you choose, you need to add it into your schedule just like everything else in your day. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done.
9. Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Regardless of how you feel about your writing, your talent as a writer and your ability to sell books, keep your eye on the prize. Every day you write is an improvement in your ability and a day where you are learning more about your craft while honing your writing. No writer started out with perfect prose or the ability to create complex characters, plots and subplots. They honed their ability to write good fiction with three key traits, including:
Patience – Your writing will not instantly become perfect. Your first drafts will be shit. You will find plot holes and underdeveloped characters. Be patient. Good and great works of fiction take time. Be willing to perform multiple drafts and even complete rewrites. Be prepared to perform numerous edits, and don’t e afraid to seek out help from professional authors and editors.
Perseverance – You will not always feel like the sharpest pencil in the bag. Brain fry and brain drain are real. If you are having difficulty writing today, take a break. Try again tomorrow, but the key is to try again tomorrow. Authors that exercise perseverance finish their books, and they publish them.
Purpose – Don’t forget why you write. For most authors, they are compelled to write. It’s a calling, but you won’t always feel like you’re making progress. Just remember your end goal – to be a published author. To create great stories. To bring people into your world. If you keep your eye on the prize, you will meet your goals. You may even exceed your expectations.
By utilizing these tips, you will find time to write, hone your craft and finish your first or next novel.
Read More on Editing
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- Should I Hire an Editor for My Novel Before Submitting It to an Agent?
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