Planning to prepare to begin…

keep-calm-and-do-it-tomorrow-38I am writing two books just now. Well, no I’m not, I am brewing two books just now. They are percolating, as it were. Not actually writing them, ever, would be fine if I hadn’t started calling myself a writer but the trouble is, well the trouble is Indies Unlimited.

When I first started reading this pesky blog I had one book to my name, written way back in the mists of time when Author Solutions was the brilliant new alternative to ‘real publishers’. It languished way down at the bottom of the Amazon sales figures and my Mum kinda liked it. I thought of myself as a bit of a diarist, life amused me and I wrote little tales of derring do for entertainment. When blogging was invented I was cock-a-hoop…the interwebs had made a thing just for me. I posted tales here and there with ambitions, nay pretentions to a spot of website writing and ghost blogging.

Then this bloke called Hise put out a call for guest posts in some Facebook group I’d stumbled into. That was the start of the trouble. Three guest posts later and The Big Email came. Would I like to be an IU staff writer? Would I? You bet! That made me a real writer.

But then I started to take notice of the stuff everybody else said on here, specifically the relatively insistent refrain that to be a writer, one had to, um, write stuff. I started the easy way, I already had a load of bloggy tales from my most recent mad enterprise, pretty much a bookful, so I learned all I could from the other Indies about real writing — story arcs, points of view, conflict, hanging off cliffs — and cheated my way to a second book by editing the bits into a tolerable whole.

It’s doing ok. With all the other advice from the rest of our indies, I now know a bit about formatting, getting things in to Amazon and Smashwords, marketing and the like, but now I have this huge issue hanging over my head. Some reviews mention wanting to read more. I owe my readers more books.

They have titles, and stories and characters, these next two. But what they don’t have is any ready-made content. They are about things I haven’t already written, and this is the big confession, I have never sat in front of a blank screen and written Chapter One in my life. Even as an academic, I cheated. My essays and dissertations were constructed on index cards. I’d put a juicy quote from an impressive text book on each card (not a well-known quote, an obscure bit that made it look like you’d actually read the thing) and then shuffle the cards until the quotes made some kind of logical progression. Then I’d join them up with some ands, buts and notwithstandings, and hey presto, piece of writing.

My first two books weren’t entirely dissimilar.

But now I’m a writer, not a cheat. I have a trilogy of adventures to finish and a novel bursting out of my head…and this is the winter when one or other or both of them should be under way. I think it’s a bit like stopping smoking. I can imagine it, I can plan setting a date to do it, I can consider all the ways to create an environment in which it might happen, but it doesn’t. Happen. Maybe if I’d ever been a smoker and had had to stop I’d have the self-trickery I need to start writing but I didn’t. And I haven’t.

I did try ‘beginning’ by downloading Scrivener. Now I have to learn to use it and I did try, but the best way seemed to be to plan some chapters and round out some characters. And that was a bit too close to writing, I wasn’t ready for it, I had to learn Scrivener first.

My new year’s resolution was to start. But it’s February now. I am, of course, clearing my desk of other things in readiness. That’s important, so I can concentrate. By the end of Feb I might have decided which book to begin in March.

Help me. How did you stop smoking? I mean start writing? All tips and tricks will not only be gratefully received, they will be printed off and stuck to my office wall. That should take me into April.

Author: Carolyn Steele

Carolyn writes websites, copy and nonsense about emigrating. She also occasionally ambles off to do something daft in case it’s interesting enough to write about. Her latest book grew from the blog Trucking in English, and you can learn more at her blog and her Amazon author page.

22 thoughts on “Planning to prepare to begin…”

  1. You’re singing my song, Carolyn. lol Sort of brings to mind the old Nike ad, “Just Do It”. Only it’s so much harder than that. But we WILL both “Do It”. I have faith in us. Now sit your behind in front of that keyboard and type in “Chapter One”.

    1. Thank you for the good wishes, the nice thing about public confession is that you kinda have to do it eh? Like telling people you’re on a diet. I will check out the project target gizmo.

  2. It isn’t easy, but you just have to start. Get a chunk of words on paper/computer screen, then start editing. Once the words are there, you’re better off than before.

    You might try speed writing. Set a timer for 30 or 40 minutes and just punch out words. Don’t worry about spelling, etc. Just get something down. A working first draft is key.

  3. Learning new software is a delaying tactic, as you’ve rightly figured out. Don’t type “Chapter 1” — that’s too intimidating. Instead, write an outline — a really, really, really detailed outline. Or if you’d rather, write your scenes on 3×5 cards and shuffle them into order, the way you used to do with quotes. (In the dark days before computers, this is exactly how some authors used to plot their books — or so I’ve heard, anyway.) Then just insert the ands, buts, and notwithstandings, and poof! The first draft is done. 🙂

  4. Oh! This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Half the time I don’t know what I’m doing. What usually gets me going is a snippet of dialogue pops into my brain. I start wondering: Who said that? Who is he or she talking to? Right this minute I’m hard into edits of a romance. The bit of dialogue that started the whole blamed thing: “Are you still pretty, Mama?” If I can get to characters talking…I might have a story. If not, the mountain may be majestic, the sunset spectacular, the ocean deep, yet to make it alive instead of static, a character has to climb the mountain, be blinded by the sun or burned and perhaps sailing atop the ocean or fishing or swimming or drowning. So. I seldom start composing a book until the characters are talking to me or someone else. Then this happens: I feel guilty if I put a pair of characters on page and then don’t let them tell their story.

  5. I’ve had good luck with National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done it twice and produced first drafts both times. I divided the required 50,000 words by 30, the days in November, and kept a calendar with my word count to make sure I was meeting each day’s requirement. Of course it took me a year to edit and expand each book, but I was surprised, pleasantly, but what I produced in those two Novembers.

  6. Do not open any internet files until you have written for a couple of hours. Then, look at the clock and give yourself a set amount of time to do anything that is different from writing. When that time is up, sit back down and write for another specified amount of time.
    That seems to work for me. I have two novellas started, a file bursting for murder mystery number three, and the book launch on Friday. We Indies are a busy lot.
    I know you can do it. 🙂

  7. If you like writing on paper, maybe try what I do at the beginning of each novel: draw a line across the top of a piece of paper (landscape) and put ‘inciting incident’ or, ‘Call to action’ at the start of that line. The inciting incident will be the engine driving your book. Divide the rest of the line into sections, including the midpoint and end. Then start brainstorming scenes and play around with where you want to put them on the line, keeping in mind the flow of the story (the line represents your entire novel: beginning, first turning point, midpoint, second turning point, end–or however you want to structure your book) Pretty soon, you’ll have several scenes to write and you can start.

  8. When an idea pops into my head (and of course I’m working on something else), I make up a Word doc, write up a little synopsis (and maybe some character names) and file it away. I put an icon on my desktop so that every time I go there, I see that file which is patiently waiting for me to do something with it. Currently I have 10 of those such folders staring at me. Eventually I get around to them, and once they become books, I slide that file over to my “completed” section of the desktop. And then I pick another one to work on. The bad part: I keep adding files!
    Chin up, dig in your heels, and get to work. Books don’t usually write themselves.

  9. I have fallen into this same trap, so I feel for you. While I cannot tell you specifically what to do (because you’re going to do what you want OR not do what you want), I can give you another suggestion that may help you: write the old-fashioned way: use a pen and paper.

    As someone who has lived 99% of her life without technology in it, I can say that I write a lot faster when I am writing on paper. I wrote all my university essays and term papers this way, and I take more pleasure when using these “tools” – if pen and paper are considered as such. LOL

    A suggestion for describing scenes is to pretend you are describing them for a blind person.

    Yet another suggestion is to type while wearing a blindfold.

    Hope these help.

    You might also try using some time management techniques and/or a free planner. Here is one you can have: http://lorrainemariereguly.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/posting-planning-publishing-productivity-and-a-pdf-planner-for-free-for-you/

    I wish you luck!

  10. Commiserations. 🙁 I’ve been dry, off and on, for over six months now, but I think I can help with Scrivener.

    I actually use a different writing app. called StoryBox, but it’s very similar in style to Scrivener. Now the best thing about StoryBox is that you can do something similar to those cards you mentioned. Instead of writing consecutive chapters and scenes, just start with an idea and put it into the scene of a chapter. Then ignore it and write another unconnected idea in another scene of another chapter.

    Rinse and repeat until you have a whole lot of bits and pieces. Then use the Storyboard function to shuffle those bits around. Once you see a pattern or theme or whatever emerging, you should be able to fill in with the ‘ands’ and ‘notwithstandings’.

    Honestly, once you realise you don’t have to start at the beginning, writing will become MUCH easier.

    Good luck. 🙂

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