Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Self Publish Part 1: Writing

I'm not going to go into depth on how to write a novel. There are thousands of guides, manuals, books, seminars, software, and trained lemurs out there that can offer you advice on this. I don't think I can do more than they have. In fact, I think less is better.

The problem with telling someone how to write is that everyone writes differently. Some people need a rigid structure with spreadsheets, timelines, and charts. Some would rather just write, surrounded with noise and discarded soda bottles. Some create elaborate webs of yarn that string each idea and character together.

I fall somewhere in the middle of these.

I like to start out writing from the chaos in my head, with little planning. Then, as the novel grows, I have to map it out more and I create an outline. Then I allow my mind to wander, playing with the scaffolding I've made, tinkering it into new shapes. I'll rewrite my outline six or seven times as I continue writing. My characters grow, change, develop, and pop in and out of existence.

I can't tell you how to write, because you may not be able to write this way. But, I still have some universal things I can share, no matter how you write.

1. Find out how you write.

Develop what works best for you. Play with a few different writing styles and locations until you find what works for you. Listen to music. Don't listen to music. Try writing in a quiet room, sealed off from the world, in a library where you can people watch, in a cafe, in the great outdoors. Try making an outline, going without one, making a chart, or any other idea that comes to you. Then, apply what works.

2. Put your butt in a chair and write.

Novels aren't easy. You can't take that wonderful kernel of an idea that you have rolling around your head and turn into a novel overnight. Sorry. This is going to be a long gruelling process. It will be painful at times. You will shed tears over the keyboard as characters die, don't work, and take paths you didn't expect. You will have days where you won't want to write. Do it anyway.

Sit down and write. Nothing gets the words flowing better than writing. Yes, the first few paragraphs may be garbage, but then you warm up and things click together. DO NOT allow discouragement to keep you from writing, EVER! It is a writer's darkest enemy. Ignore it and write. Stick to a schedule where you write every day. Roll the scene you plan to write around in your brain until you are excited to write it. Don't let anything keep you from writing.

3. Allow yourself to suck.

I didn't use the first ten to twelve pages of my novel in the finished product. I also cut another twenty some odd pages from the overall book. There is nothing wrong with this. You can't expect everything to flow as golden drops of awesomeness onto the page every time you sit down. It isn't realistic.

You also can't let yourself edit every sentence or paragraph you just wrote until it is perfect. This will lead to frustration and discouragement as you see very little progress made on your word-count. Ignore that voice in your head that says you need to fix what you just wrote.

You can do that later. Keep writing and allow yourself to write things you are unhappy with. It is the only way you will make it through without pulling your hair out.

That's my advice. The next part will deal with revisions and should be fun. You can go ahead and bookmark this page. I'll add a link to each part as I write them at the top so you can easily flip through the entire series on self publishing.


Michelle said...

The evil blue butterfly of death is swooping in to eat that puppy!! Very disturbing artwork you have in your office.

Martin Willoughby said...

'Allow yourself to suck'. That is a superb piece of advice.

DB Stewart said...

Yarn? Really?
My new mantra: This is crap, oh well.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Everyone writes. Very few of us write well. That's just the way it is.

Candice said...

This is some good, common sense advice, Charlie. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. :)

Charlie Pulsipher said...

@Michelle- You are odd. My art is amazing! :)

@Martin- Best thing I ever learned and the only way I finished my novel.

@dbs- Sounds like a great mantra to me.

@Michael- True, but crap writing can be improved and good writing can be squeaked into great writing with practice and work.

@Candice- Thanks. The rest should be good. I've got some fun stuff to share.

Mike said...

hey guys:) i'm looking for decent zombie books bazed on Zombie Apocalypse Games (no drama) any1 wanna help me out ?:)

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