Writing Advice

5 Stages of Becoming a Fiction Writer – (A bit of Humor mixed with Truth)

Every aspiring writer sets out to write the great novel that will make him or her famous. You
may be on this journey yourself so let us prepare you with a review of the five stages you will go through on this journey.

Stage 1 – Being the Invincible Writer with the most fabulous story.

You begin the journey knowing that you have the best idea for a story ever to be told. You tell everyone about this book. Your phone calls go unanswered as your friends avoid listening to you tell them about your great book idea. In this stage you are euphoric, happy, and spend hours writing the outline and smirking about the plot twists and turns you are devising. You can already imagine the royalties, movie offers, and red carpet treatment you will receive once your book is published. Hold onto this feeling for as long as you can, because the next stage gets a
bit rough.

Stage 2 – Paranoia that your characters are out to get you.

As you enter Stage 2, you find that the plot has a few holes. You begin having your characters help fix the plot and then all of a sudden you find out that one is mortally injured. How did that happen? What are you going to do know? You begin to look back and try to figure out how your character misled you. At this stage you begin speaking to your characters (some authors go so far as to yell at these fictional people). You imagine that your characters are plotting against you and have no idea the level of greatness you will achieve as a writer. In some cases, you go back and delete that character completely or you find ways to bring her back from the brink of death and the best part – you expect her to be thankful to you for the rest of the book. Characters are characters. The darn book would be easy to write if all the characters behaved.

Stage 3 – I just want to finish this story.

At this stage in writing your first book, you are exhausted. Maybe you are still working the day job to pay your bills and all you want is one more weekend to finish this book. You are losing sleep, spend all the weekend in sweat pants, and your friends wonder if you are still alive. At this point, you throw the plot out the window and write rapidly to make it to the end. You have now become the speedwriter with one goal in mind: writing the words “THE END.”
Stage 4- I hate my Editor.

The book is finally complete and you realize it might be good to have an editor look this over. You have poured your heart and soul into this book and re-written sentences and used the grammar lessons from Ms. Clark, your fourth grade teacher. You email the book to your editor who turns it around in 48 hours and you open the edited file…and begin to cry. Eight hundred and twenty-seven changes and 47 comments later you realize now that you hate your editor more than your characters. The editor asked questions about the plot and how a character made it back from near death, not to mention changing all your punctuation.

Stage 5 – Please Mom just buy a copy and I will never ask you again for anything.

Finally, after making it through the edits and getting the final book in perfect form, it is
published. Maybe you have chosen traditional publishing or gone out on your own and used
self-publishing. Either way you sit back and get ready for all the good feelings you dreamed of in Stage 1. Eight days later, with no sales reported just yet, you call your mom and have the following conversation.
Author “Hi Mom…do you have a minute or two?”
Mom “Of course dear.”
Author “Mom, I promise to never ask for anything again and you will be the best mom in the world if you do me this one favor.”
Mom “What do you need dear?”
Author “Would you please purchase a copy of my book?”
Mom “You wrote a book?”
end conversation
For all you aspiring authors, this is just a bit of humor to help you through the process. Many of us have walked this path already. We know you will succeed. Keep smiling, keep writing, and know that you are not alone on the journey. In the end, the joy is in becoming a writer with a published book…welcome to the club.

Writing a Novel vs. That Movie in Your Head

Does this sound familiar to you?

You watch a lot of movies and TV. You have a great imagination. For fun, you close your eyes and make up your own stories, seeing them play out. You might even listen to some music for a soundtrack. You grab your favorite actors for the roles of the heroes and villains. You make up big action scenes in slo-mo. You use fighting moves from your favorite video games.

At some point, you realize the movie you’re making in your mind is actually pretty good. You’ve got some original stuff in there that other people might like. You’ve got some twists and turns. And so you think, “Hey, I’ll start writing this stuff down.” Finally, you think, “This is going to make a great novel.” You might even think, “I’ll make a fortune selling the movie rights.”

There’s only one problem. (Well, there are hundreds of problems when you’re writing, but there’s only one I’m going to talk about right now).

Writing a novel is more than transcribing that movie in your head.

We Have More Senses than Seeing and Hearing

When people read a book, they want to feel they are “there,” living the story. A sure sign a writer’s got a movie playing in her head is that all the imagery in the novel is visual and auditory.

We smell, taste, have a sense of balance, feel, experience pain, get thirsty, itch, and a lot more of the same in our lives. While visual and auditory information take up a lot of our attention, we are easily distracted by a toothache or growling stomach. A room can look like heaven and smell like hell (especially when I haven’t cleaned the cat box).

Writing that only uses two senses can never feel like life.

You Cannot Recreate Movie Effects in a Novel

gaston beauty and the beast reading book

The movie in your head might look fantastic. It might run like a video and be exquisitely detailed. But you must remember that your ultimate product is a bunch of words on a page. Watching something explode and reading that something exploded will not produce the same effect in an audience.

Moreover, you are writing a novel, not a movie script. Slo-mo, distorted sound effects, lens flares, rack focus, and other such techniques are made to produce a super-heightened reality for a story told in two hours on a huge screen in Dolby stereo while the audience downs oversized buckets of popcorn.

The words on the page are the only tools through which the reader experiences the story. They should not be tools to remind us of movies we’ve seen.

Too Much Detail Kills

The experiences of reading and watching a movie are different. While a busy and well-filled screen can make for an immersive experience, it is a strange quality of writing that often less is more. Writing should fuel the reader’s own imagination by providing just enough detail and imagery. A single phrase on the page can build a universe in the reader’s mind.

And I’m not just talking about literary classics like Hemingway’s “The Killers,” which is a masterpiece of using tight writing with specific detail to tell a story of great emotional impact.

I also mean something like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. The scenes where the dinosaurs attack people have short, direct sentences, quick and vivid descriptions of action, and terse dialogue.

Giving too much film-like detail and direction, no matter how beautiful it is in your head, actually stifles your reader’s ability to make your story their own.

A Novel Has No Soundtrack

A pet peeve of mine: stories that use lyrics to popular songs in an attempt to simulate a soundtrack. A couple is dancing in the rain, and the radio is playing, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. But I look around me and I see it isn’t so.”

Blech.

More to the point, music is used in movies to set mood and drive pace. Good soundtracks do this well because, most of the time, we don’t notice. Movie scores work best when the audience takes it in unconsciously, helping their heart to race or their tears to swell.

Reading takes conscious effort. When a novel mentions music, readers don’t start playing the music in their heads, set the tune to “unconscious,” and then keep reading. They think about the music and wonder what it’s about. Then they stop thinking about the music and think about the next words on the page.

It’s All About the Words

Let’s take an example of great writing.

Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

(“The Dead,” James Joyce)

At first, yes, this could play out as a movie in your head: see the snow falling, see the bog and the water, see the churchyard.

But the passage does so much more, and what it does a movie can’t. The repetition of the words and the soft sounds of “f” and “s” mimic the sound of falling snow, not like music but like thoughts. Look at how well we are put inside the character’s head here. We experience the wandering of his mind across Ireland to Furey’s grave. Look at how the reader is invited to get more meaning from the “barren thorns” than just an image of thorns covered with snow. Look at the grace notes. It reads like a poem.

Words and words alone make novels. That’s what makes them so great and, for better or worse—depending upon which art form you favor—so unlike movies.

8 Great Reasons to Journal

In our fast-paced high-tech world, journaling may be one of the best ways to gain perspective and peace of mind. Whether you write in a beautiful leather-bound notebook or on the latest tablet, expressing your thoughts can lead to insights that you might not discover otherwise—or, at least, not as quickly.

1. Journaling allows us to reflect.

The fast pace of our society often prevents us from taking time to think and to see exactly where we fit in to what is going on around us. Journaling helps us slow down to consider who we are, what we’ve done, and where we want to go.

2. Journaling allows us to discover who we are.

We are far more complex than most of us allow anyone to see. We often don’t even know ourselves very well. Journaling lets us see the thoughts and ideas locked in our subconscious minds. The body-mind connection required to write helps us express those inner thoughts.

3. Have a problem? Journal.

Writing can help us sort through possible solutions to the sticky problems in our lives, the ones that don’t have neat answers immediately identifiable. We can develop a variety of possible solutions, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and then choose the one most likely to resolve the situation.

4. Journaling lets us say whatever we want to say.

Sometimes we just have to vent. But venting publically can create more problems than it resolves. Journaling helps us acknowledge those feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt us or other people. We can always tear out the page or delete the words from the screen (just don’t save first). Once out of our systems, we can look at the situation more calmly and move on.

5. Journaling releases tension and stress.

The act of writing slows us down, which helps us relax and breathe. We get the things that are bugging us out in the open, even if only for our eyes, and that helps us deal with them. Writing also helps us put things into perspective, which reduces stress and anxiety as well.

6. Journaling unlocks our creativity.

Feeling blocked? Not sure what to do next? Write. Just put pen to paper or fingers on keyboards and write. No editing, no proofreading, no second thoughts. Just get whatever is in your head out. Make it visible and see where it leads. What seems whacky is often the seed of genius; but if you never express it, the seed can’t grow.

7. Journaling helps us express gratitude.

Keeping a journal of blessings is an easy way to see all the good that is happening in our lives. It allows us to focus on the little things that we overlook in the organized chaos of our world. The smell of wood smoke on a crisp fall evening, the sweet taste of a the first strawberry of spring, the sight of a puppy trying to pick up the paper to bring to his owner—recalling and recording these little events of the day can let us see that even in the middle of the worst day possible, rays of hope exit.

8. Journaling is a way to capture and preserve who we are.

By journaling, we create a first-person narrative of our lives, a narrative both we and our families will find interesting and enlightening in years to come. Journals have always been a source of information, a way of seeing how people who lived during various historical periods actually felt and what their daily lives were really like. Our journals can do the same. Journals also allow us to relive periods of our lives, to see how we have grown and changed, to reflect on the impact of decisions made long ago.

So start journaling! You will be amazed at what you will discover about you, your life, and the world around you.

  1. Tell your story for posterity

  2. Measure progress

  3. Get organized

Types of Journals

  1. Diary

  2. Blessings

  3. Prayer

  4. Plans

  5. Character sketches

  6. Life story

  7. Wishes and Dreams