How Long Should Writing A Book Take?

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As you all know, I have been working on my novel for over four years now. I started this blog in 2018 during the second draft. I intend to self-publish in the first half of 2020. Since the time to send my baby out into the world is drawing close, it has me thinking (among a million other things) about how long it took, and asking a question: how long should writing a novel take from beginning to end?

This is a question not easily answered. Writing a book is certainly fun but no cake walk. There’s the first draft where you become hopelessly enamored of your story and write on pure passion, the second draft where you see the myriad flaws in your romance, and usually a third or, you know, sixteenth draft in which you reconcile the first two states and make peace with them. Then, there’s the designing and marketing phase, which isn’t writing, but is every bit as serious and important as the actual writing.

How long is all this supposed to take? There’s no real answer to that. Everyone has their opinions, of course, and everyone works at a different pace. If you have to do any significant research for your book, as I have had to, that can also slow you down. So can procrastination, perfectionism, and all the other tiny incidents that make up the game of life.

As I aim for publication in early to mid 2020, that makes five years of work for this project. I personally feel that is too long and for my next novel, I will aim to complete all drafts and publish within three years or less. The story is percolating within me now, and I intend to start outlining soon, to avoid any sort of writer’s block. Taking several years on end also heightens the possibility of burnout, another notorious writer’s enemy we all should strive to avoid.

If you are a writer, nail down exactly how long you wish to spend with your book and try to stick to your deadline. Your audience will thank you. 🙂

 

Write On!

 

 

 

What To Do When You Doubt Your Writing

Feeling down about your work? Read this.

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*** Originally written for The Odyssey Online in 2017 .***

Every writer doubts their work at some point or another. Maybe you received feedback from someone that was overly harsh or downright rude. Or your inspiration dried up, leaving you feeling desperate and defeated, or maybe you just can’t see the value in your own words. Whatever the reason, all writers encounter these things at some point in their writing careers.

We all fall prey to negativity sometimes and feel discouraged. But, you cannot allow that to stop you from being a writer.

Say that aloud: I cannot allow doubt to stop me from being a writer.

I am guessing that you did not start writing to please other people. I am guessing that you started writing because you felt an uncontrollable urge to translate your daydreams onto paper, that you had a love affair with words since you were a child, that writing gave you a joy unlike any other. If I am right, then you have no valid reason to quit.

It’s no secret that first drafts generally suck and that any piece of writing needs to be reworked at least once to make it the best it can be. Sometimes you will get rough criticism and other times it will be accurate. (It is possible to have haters of course and those sorts you should just ignore.) This is all part of the game. But you have to believe in what you are doing. You have to write for writing’s sake. That’s an essential part of becoming a successful writer, or really a successful anything in this world.

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If you are feeling epic doubt, pinpoint exactly why. If it was due to negative criticism, be honest and ask yourself if the person who gave it to you has a point. Maybe your character really is one-dimensional or the ending does seem contrived. If you can see the flaw, you can fix it and move on. If you determine the reader either misunderstood or just doesn’t like you or your work for some reason, disregard it.

If you feel like your writing is garbage no matter what, you have to ask some different questions. Do you feel this way because you feel inferior across the board in your life? Did you never learn how to receive compliments or believe in yourself? These are things that frequently are not taught to us and can leave us floundering as adults.

Do you perhaps need to stop comparing yourself to authors who won Nobel prizes for literature? Comparing yourself constantly to others is a surefire way to inhibit your growth and make you feel bad about yourself. Don’t even compare yourself to writer friends you have. They are not you.

Bottom line: The road to success is not an easy one, but not an unnavigable one either. Keep at it. Others have done it and you can too.

 

Write on!

 

Images by Pixabay.

How Poetry Made Me A Better Writer

Poetry is the gift that keeps on giving.

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***Originally written for The Odyssey Online in 2017***

Poetry is a curious beast, to say the least. (Hey look, it rhymes! LOL.) It can be beautiful and intriguing, but devilishly hard to understand, and even harder to write, or at least write well. I have loved poetry since I was a child, and filled up several notebooks over the years with my own poems, or, more accurately, my “efforts at poetry.” Though I have never considered poetry my “main writing gig,” I do admire the genre and feel I am beginning to get a grasp on writing it. A kinda, sorta, infant-like grasp.
***UPDATE: I have since had several poems published so I am officially out of pre-school. 😀 ***

But what I really want to share here, is the great influence poetry had and still has upon my fiction. Some of you might be wondering how that could be so. Poetry, especially modern poetry, is short, and often highly personal and not as clear-cut as straight prose or fiction writing. But poetry has taught me two valuable lessons that have helped me tell better stories:

1. Notice the small details

Poems focus to a great extent on small details and subtle nuances. The way light glimmers off of broken glass. The smell of autumn leaves. The way a person removes their gloves or holds their coffee cup. Yes, this is found in fiction too and plenty of books on how to write fiction, but I have to say that poetry has been my greatest teacher when it comes to observing tiny details and learning how to bring those details to life on the page, which is the essence of writing. That brings me to my second point.

2. Unique Descriptions

Poems are nothing if not unique. Reading them or listening to others read them, you will encounter similes and metaphors that you have never heard before, that capture the image or feeling of the subject so well that you remember them for days or years to come. Reading poetry or attending a poetry reading are kindling for my writing fire, and sometimes the whole ton of logs. I really credit my love of description to all of the poetry, both classical and modern, that I have enjoyed over the years.

My advice to all writers: explore some poetry. Even if you don’t particularly like it, you may learn some valuable lessons and others too. You might also find that you love it, and the things we love often become our creative inspiration.

 

Write on!

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

Three Assumptions People Make When You Write About Love

Let’s do some myth busting, shall we?

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***  This was the third article I originally wrote for The Odyssey Online in 2017, prior to my decision to self-publish. ***

If you have read my prior posts, you may recall that I am working on the second draft of a novel. It is the story of an unlikely couple trying to survive the unique social challenges and tumultuous events of the historical time period they live in. Now that sounds like what would qualify as a romance. (By romance, I am referring to defined genre stories which usually follow a formula of sorts.) Technically though, I do not think my WIP qualifies as a romance and I am not saying that to be a pretentious, literary snob. If it did qualify as a romance it would make my life a bit easier as I would then know exactly what agents and publishers to submit to. According to my own research, it seems the format would not satisfy the standard model and the time period and country are not popular with romance publishers and, I assume, their fan bases. I think that leaves me out of the game, so I will just refer to it as a love story or romantic historical fiction.
Be that as it may, there is an undeniable stigma attached to writers of romantic fiction. Maybe we are all just squeamish when it comes to emotion. Maybe it’s because it has become trendy to denounce any sort of feelings in literature (the inevitable backlash against over-the-top sentimentality). And because there are unfortunately romances out there that have earned their bad reputations. The criticisms and stereotypes of these stories also extend to the writers of them. Knowing this, I was (and still am) reluctant to admit I was writing a love story. Reluctant to share it with my family and friends and even with the devoted members of my critique group, many of whom I have had the pleasure of working with for years. While all of these people have been supportive and helpful, harsh criticisms and stereotypes abound in other corners of the world and I decided to debunk the ones that bother me the most, at least regarding me and my work. (I am not speaking for all other writers here, FYI.)

1. You Must Be An Unabashed Creator of Smut
Naturally if you are writing a romance or something closely related to it, there must be graphic sex scenes on every other page. The story is set in a distant time so that the characters will have sumptuous clothes to tear off of each other’s perfectly sculpted bodies! There’s no real love going on, just a lot of hot hanky-panky!
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 No and no. Sure, there are books like that out there, but that is not what I am doing. While physical relations are a part of it (duh), the true focus is on the building of a real partnership– affection, devotion, honesty, fidelity, trust, you know, all those particulars that make relationships work and sustain them through difficult times. The historical backdrop is integral to the plot because if I move it to modern times, the story falls apart. Move it to a peaceful time in the past, it loses the urgency and the happenings that push the characters to behave as they do, especially in the second half of the book. Assumption #1 debunked.

2. You Have Delusions of Grandeur about Relationships
Apparently, writers of romantic fiction are delusional– or so a lot of people believe. It is assumed that these individuals are hopeless twits incapable of deciphering fantasy from reality, expecting their love lives to be Disney movie knock-offs. I must spend my non-writing time waiting for some gorgeous man to speed up to my house in a new Corvette. We will fall in love on sight and he will whisk me off to his McMansion, filled with roses and chocolate-covered strawberries, where we will enjoy a life of uninterrupted passion and bliss! No arguments and no dirty laundry to do! (You can hear the snark in my tone, right?) I must also be a total diva, driving men away with my unrealistic demands for open displays of affection, expensive gifts and tearful meltdowns.              

                                                                                  dis castle
Survey says: Not. At. All. I am certainly old enough to realize that perfection is an unattainable ideal for neurotics, in relationships or out of them. Do I want a happy, committed relationship? Of course, who doesn’t? Do I expect to fall hopelessly in love at first sight? No, my characters don’t even do that. Do I expect a man to solve all of my problems, fulfill all of my needs, be able to read my mind and agree with me on everything? No, that is not possible and is actually kind of unattractive. I am far from perfect and I wouldn’t expect any man to be perfect either. This all makes it difficult to seek advice when you’re having a relationship issue. People will automatically assume that YOU, crowned Queen of All That is Cheesy, are the problem and instead of a helpful opinion, you will come away with a lecture on not expecting too much or a reminder that real life is not a “story”.  Result? You take a vow of silence regarding your love life. (Actually, that might be smart to do even if you are not a writer. Too many cooks spoil the soup if you get my drift.)

3. You Can’t Really Write At All
This one might be the most insulting yet.  Real writers don’t write about things as ridiculous as feelings, especially any positive ones! It’s all too obvious, too concrete, too mundane.  Thus, you must be disguising your pathetic lack of skill behind a subject as frivolous, silly, and unnecessary as love. The characters are cardboard cutouts, the conflicts are plastic, and you have no talent.
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Please get off your literati high horse. Love in all forms — romantic, platonic, filial, even agape — is an integral part of the human experience. Why shouldn’t it be brought to the page? I do not like poorly-developed characters and do my best to create ones that seem like real people and give them real conflicts to deal with. The essentials of storytelling should always be upheld and I strive to do so.

Is any of this going to deter me from writing? Not in the least. I firmly believe writers should write the sort of stories they want to read, regardless of what anyone else thinks. So if love is the focus of your work, forge ahead. Some people will adore it, some people will despise it and that’s fine. That’s the way life works. People are not obligated to like you or the art you create. Just write in the unique voice you were gifted with. Refusing to do so would be too great a loss to the literary world.

Write on!

What Writing Taught Me About Discipline and Perseverance

No one becomes a successful writer by giving up.

*** I originally wrote this article for The Odyssey Online in 2017. ***

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In mid-March of 2015, the random scenes I had kept in a notebook for two years finally came together, and I began to work on my third novel. This novel was much different than my first two though. Not only did it lack the paranormal element the others had contained, but I felt a seriousness about it, an absolute dedication to it, and a determination to work on it every day.

Though I had read plenty of articles extolling the benefits of daily writing, it was a practice I had never assumed. Keeping schedules and deadlines has never been my strong suit, but this time I set myself the task.

 

Armed with a pretty journal I could easily tuck into my purse and an abundance of pens, I began the journey. Seven days a week, I wrote anywhere, anytime I could. I wrote before work in the living room, after work at the nearest Panera, in my bed before turning out the light, and as the weather warmed, out on my sundeck. I made scene cards that I tacked to a fabric story board hanging in my bedroom, created a Pinterest where I posted pictures of period clothing and furniture, and made two different novel playlists to listen to as I typed the final product and even as I drove my car.

I was seized. I completed the first draft right around my March deadline. I had planned to give myself a week’s rest before embarking on the all-important rewrite. But there was an issue that I hesitated to confess even to myself; my passion had begun to wane.

I first noticed it around the end of January, but I was able to feed the fire long enough to type “The End” by my deadline. During my week off, I tinkered with words here and there, fearful that if I stopped entirely, I would not go back to it at all.

Over the next two months, I grappled with the frustration of the fire burning so low. It dimmed until it almost seemed hopeless. Nevertheless, I continued writing. On the days I could not muster the enthusiasm for my novel, I worked on poetry or just random “rants,” anything to keep my pen in hand.

After 14 months of faithful duty, the bubble burst at last. I had to give myself a break. My focus and motivation fizzled and I passed the next several months — much to my chagrin– writing in intermittent spurts when inspiration struck, something I had sought to get away from. Other distractions in my personal life sucked away my brain power on top of that.

Now, it is August, 17 months after the first draft was completed. I am about half-way through the rewrite and, to my delight, feeling the embers of my fascination reigniting. I have set myself a new deadline and am trying my best to work a little bit every day. Bottom line: I refuse to give up.

In the past, I was all too quick to concede defeat. I backed away from far too many challenges, sabotaging myself by flitting from unfinished project to unfinished project. The old cliché “jack of all trades, master of none” is true. No one becomes a successful writer without enforcing discipline, nor by giving up. Inspiration and skill, while essential to an accomplished writer’s repertoire, are only two pieces of a complex puzzle. It is discipline and perseverance that separate the apprentices from the masters, and that goes for everything in life, not just writing.

So if you stumbled upon this article and are considering giving up on your writing, I ask you, from one writer to another, to please have faith in yourself. I don’t care if you are 18 or 108, refuse to take no for an answer. Batten down the hatches, park your rump in a chair, and write. Ask your loved ones to cheer you on. Reward yourself with something awesome when you meet your goal. Even if you never make a dime off of what you write, do it because you love it, do it because you have to. The world needs stories and it needs people who don’t understand the meaning of quitting. It needs disciplined people who persevere.

Write on!

 

*** Update: I am nearing the end of the second draft at this time. Yes, it seems I was more turtle-like this last year and a half than I like to admit. 🙂 ***

 

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

Writer’s Block? Try This.

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Finding yourself afflicted with writer’s block? Feeling uninspired? My advice: try your hand at another hobby.

About a month ago at this time, I was trapped in a maze of overthinking and worrying about every detail of mundane life. I was also spending far too much time on social media. Naturally, this was squashing my creativity at a time when I had already hit a brick wall near the end of my second draft. I felt burnt out and knew I could not keep doing this. So, I decided to take a break from it all by picking up a new hobby.

I have always loved needlework. For a long time, I had been meaning to learn cross stitch, something I had tried and failed at years ago. With an easy kit and a little bit of help from a co-worker, I was soon off and running. I picked it up quickly and within a week completed three small projects. I moved on to another slightly more difficult kit which I am wrapping up now. I also saw some beautiful yarn in a craft store and decided to crochet a lap blanket out of it, another needle hobby I have loved for a few years now. That project is now also almost done.

It seemed my time outs from writing and everything else offered the muses the perfect opportunity to sneak back into my brain and do some housecleaning — and then throw a wild party chock full of poetry and new story ideas. Even the part of my book I was having such trouble with seemed less intimidating and finally came clear. It was seriously magical.

I cannot recommend enough the benefits of having a second or third hobby outside of writing. Whether it’s sewing, gardening, cooking, woodworking, painting, etc, get away from your keyboard and do something fun and productive. Also, watch the amount of time and energy you pour into social media. I am a little ashamed to admit just how many hours of my life have been lost to mindless scrolling on Facebook. Social media can be a blessing for networking and promotion, but it needs to be checked.

So, if any of you have been fighting with the monster of writer’s block, I invite you to step back and walk away from the struggle for a bit. You might find the monster turns into a tiny puppy that was never really scary after all.

Write on!

Writers, Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

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On the heels of a snow storm, we are being treated to a full moon eclipse tonight. It’s too frigid to observe outdoors here in New Jersey, but I am taking periodic breaks from this post to check its progress from the kitchen window.

The Super Blood Wolf Moon eclipse has been generating quite a stir online for the past few weeks. Everyone from astronomers to neo-Pagans are soaking up the excitement. In a day and age in which electronic entertainment occupies a great deal of our time, it’s refreshing to see people looking forward to a natural phenomenon.

Watching the sky, or any part of Nature, is such a simple yet utterly gratifying and even spiritual feeling activity. It makes you remember how large the Universe truly is, as well as the fact that we are all part of Life’s intricate, mysterious design. It helps us to recapture the wonder at existence that we felt as children.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. The demands of everyday life can take a brutal toll on our bodies, our hearts, and our creativity. Writers often cite stress and lack of time as enemies of their crafts, but falling out of love with life itself can be the number one cause of abandoned dreams. How can your words enchant others when you yourself have forgotten that magic exists? Outside the incessant demands of our ringing phones and frantic scurrying, exists a world that is always accessible and willing to whisper inspiration in our ears — if we are willing to listen.

Tonight, have a look at the moon if you are still awake. If you can’t see it, observe the ice etching patterns onto your windows, listen to the wind howling through the frozen tree branches. Let yourself be amazed with this beautiful, amazing planet we inhabit and infuse your writing with that passion.

Write on!

 

 

 

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