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The Big Damn Writer Advice Column

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It’s that time of the week when I answer your anonymous questions about writing and all that stuff connected to it. Every Thursday, I’ll be answering two questions from the Big Damn Writer Question Box.

Q: I know now being an author is your job, but before that how did you set aside time to write and feel good about it? Unless it’s NaNoWriMo I constantly feel guilty, because there’s always other work to do and part of me feels that that’s more important than writing.

A: So, when I started seriously writing, my son was four months old. He needed to be held all the time. Literally, he would not sleep unless I was sitting up in a chair, holding him just so. The only time I got to write was if he was napping in his swing, which wasn’t often. I was always exhausted because I wasn’t sleeping when he was (like everyone advises, but that’s such stupid and unpractical advice because when the hell else are you supposed to get anything done, anyway), and I had no brain power whatsoever. When I wrote, it was after the house was clean, the dinner was made, the errands were run, etc. It was the absolute last thing of importance on the list.

I would like to tell you that I had a flash of inspiration and realized that I should make writing more important. But more important than what? Feeding my kid? Not living in trash? Showering? That’s not the kind of stuff that people can skip, right? I barely wrote anything at all. But eventually, I did finish–and sell–my first novel, after like two years of struggling to get a couple hundred words a week. So, I say, rather than worrying that you’re not writing enough, concentrate instead on feeling good about the writing you do get done, rather than focusing on the writing you’re not getting done. This will hopefully make you feel more positive about your writing and therefore less guilty when you do work on it.

One other thing that might help is looking into the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management plan that concentrates on breaking work into small chunks of time. I use it to control my ADHD symptoms and keep me focused. You could easily break things down into “Okay, I’ve worked on this other stuff for twenty-five minutes, now I’m going to write on the break.” You’ve already done some of the work, so you’re not writing instead of doing the other work. You’re writing while you’re taking a break.

Also, I would advise that you not leave writing for the very last thing to do during the day. It’s easy to go, “I’m too tired. I’ll have less to do tomorrow, so I’ll work on it then.”

 

Q: Hi! What are your first steps when beginning to create a new novel and in what order do you usually do those steps? Such as creating all the characters, world building, plot outlines etc. English is not my first language so I’m very sorry if I made any grammatical mistakes.

A: So, for me (and this is just my process, everyone is a little different), if I’m starting a new book from scratch, I usually have an idea or a concept for what I want the book to be, already. Then, the first thing I start with is the characters. I have to know a general idea of who they are. They might not have names at that point, they might just be [hero] and [heroine] throughout my brainstorming, but I have to know that they’re, for example, a young woman who works at a fashion magazine. Important, broad details at that very beginning point. So, if my original concept was “office romance”, and I know my heroine is a young woman who works in a fashion magazine, I extrapolate that out to, “It’s in New York…she’s an assistant to the editor…” Is the hero her editor? I don’t know. Do I want them to already know each other? No, they need to meet for the first time, somehow…or maybe they knew each other in the past and having seen each other for a while…and then it snowballs from there while I jot down notes. I brainstorm the main story line, and supporting characters pop up as I’m thinking it through. Obviously, the heroine needs a wacky best friend, and the hero needs people around him, too. Maybe a glamorous ex and a best friend of his own. All of that goes into a chapter by chapter outline for me to loosely follow as I get started, but which I can deviate from when necessary.

Now, in the past I’ve written paranormal books, so imagine all of that, but along the way I’m also thinking up rules for magic creatures. “Okay, would this work better if vampires had two hearts? What problem could that cause along the way? What opportunities will I have to work with later?”

And that’s really all there is to it when I’m writing!

 

No bonus question this week while I’m swamped in prep for the upcoming release of The Sister!

Wanna see your questions get answered (or just wanna air a grievance?) Put it in the box!

 

2 Comments

  1. Mel
    Mel

    Just leaving a note to say thank you for this advice column. It’s given me a lot of tips and ideas for my own writing. I really appreciate this.

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply
  2. fluffy
    fluffy

    The pomodoro technique is pretty much the only way I get things done without/in spite of hyperfocus. There were a bunch of different time on/off pairs in whatever I read about it; 52/17 works for me. With 25/5 and 50/10 I would ignore the alarm for break time to be over and then two hours later… >_<

    August 11, 2017
    |Reply

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