How to Write, Revise & Finish Your Novel in 2017, Really: Part I

help writing fiction

It’s that time of year when many of us are looking forward to 2017, evaluating what matters to us, and making our resolutions. If writing and finishing your novel tops your list, here are some tips to help you write your best book. I use these steps to write my own fiction and I’ve just finished the 1st draft of my newest novel, working title, The Book of Riddles. Write your 1st draft quickly, ideally within 3 to 6 months. Key to this process of drafting is to refrain from editing your 1st draft! I know that makes some writers howl with …

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#NaNoWriMo2015-Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #25)

Yesterday I wrote about approaching the end of writing the first draft of your novel and the various emotions that will inevitably be stirred up inside of you. In a previous post I wrote about the fact that the fears that arise around writing your book must, in their deepest nature, be connected to the fears of your primary characters. This is simply so. So, now, as you near the end of this draft, do remember to find the way from your fears–their deepest, most primal nature–to the fears of your protagonist. They will be heightened by the approach of …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #24)

Five days to go for 2015’s National Novel Writing Month! I was conversing with a writer today about what it means to finish a first draft. We went over the nuts and bolts of what happens after you write the last line of the first draft of your story. I told him I always put aside my manuscript for several weeks or more. When I am ready to pick up my manuscript and read from cover to cover over the course of a day or two or three, I know that my goal is to read like a reader. I …

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#NaNoWriMo2015-Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #22)

If you started writing your novel on November 1st, you are fast approaching your final week!  Kudos for those of you who pushed the edge of the envelope (and filled the pages) this month. If fear kept you from beginning, continuing, completing your first draft, acknowledge your fear and sit with the feelings. Take a few minutes to free write to see if you can focus in on the nature of your fears: Are you afraid of failure? Afraid of writing total crap? Afraid of actually finishing? Afraid of success? Afraid of attention? Afraid of being seen? Afraid of not …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #17)

I listened to a lecture last night by one of my favorite writing teachers, Al Watt. One of his exercises is for each writer to free write about his/her fears when it comes to writing a particular novel or screenplay. Common fears include fear of failing, fear of writing dreck, fear of forcing the story instead of letting the characters guide the writing, fear of dying, fear of hurting others. Then Al asks writers to think about the protagonist of the story and to connect the primal essence of the writer’s fears to the character’s fears. At deep core, they …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #10)

Over the course of writing seven novels on deadline, I’ve found that there are times I need to get closer to my characters, and there are times I need distance, at least temporarily. If you’re struggling with either of these issues, take these tips to heart: More Intimacy: I need to get inside my character’s skin! If you’re feeling some distance between yourself and your novel, here is a simple way to write your way to more intimacy: 1) Pick one of your upcoming scenes, an interaction between your hero and at least one other character. Your hero is the viewpoint …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #8)

Hey, it’s NaNoWriMo day #8 so let everything go to hell! We’ve all had those days when things keep going wrong–and wrong–and more damn wrong! The events might be big (getting fired from your job) or small (someone cutting in front of you when it’s your turn to order your latte). At some point we feel so cornered we explode and let loose our rant! Maybe we’re alone and maybe we’re not. Maybe we’re ranting in someone’s face. Hopefully we’re not threatening anyone with bodily harm. Confession: I’ve pulled over in my car so I could rant without censoring myself …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #7)

When you’re writing fast, tapping out your shitty first draft, you need to have several markers on your imagination’s roadmap. You want an X on your starting point (this marks your hero’s life at your story’s opening and her “want”). You also need an X for the inciting incident that pulls your hero out of her ordinary life and changes or intensifies her “want” (and at this point that X will also mark your antagonist’s intentions, whether your antagonist is a middle school bully or a mafia assassin). It’s good to have an X in the general vicinity of your …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #4)

When I’m drafting my novels I think in threes: first draft is fast and lean and messy (remember Anne Lamott and shitty first drafts); second draft (aka revision) comes after I’ve had the chance to take a breather and then give my book a focused read so I can sense what needs expanding, cutting, honing, deepening, this time moving at a slower pace–remember that revision is seeing again with fresh eyes; if all goes well my third draft is about “housekeeping”–tidying up, freshening up, tossing out, and adding the final touches. When I speak with writers, some new to the …

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#NaNoWriMo2015 — Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #2)

Don’t get stuck believing you must draft your novel by a) rigidly outlining OR b) driving your story through the dark blindly with no gas can and no sense of destination. Writing a novel is not an either/or process. Try creating a loose outline with some idea of beginning, middle, end–and fill in the major turning points as you write. Let your hero’s “want” drive the story. Ditto your antagonist’s “want”. Free-write scenes, be a voyeur and watch your protagonist interact with people who are most important in her life. Those moments are vital even if they do not end up …

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