A friend recently told me (with pure exasperation) that this year she’s going to write her book. She’s not the first person I’ve heard the words from. It’s not a typical New Year’s resolution, but we writers are not a typical bunch, are we?
One of the things I’ve found to help me write my books is to use resources from other writers who are successful. There are endless articles online, in writing magazines, and on blogs that can offer inspiration. And there are a zillion writing books out there to help us as well. But how do you know which book is for you?
First, let me reassure you that I’ve been in your shoes. I know how daunting it feels to want to write that book, but to have no idea how to start. Here are the books that helped me at different stages of my writing process. Try one out – I promise you won’t be disappointed.
- You haven’t written a word, or at least nothing that resembles a book. Start with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones or Wild Mind to get you going. Goldberg introduces you to writing practice, offers fun writing prompts, and helps get those creative juices flowing. Remember that it can take weeks or months (or years, like Goldberg found for herself) to find your voice and your story, so be patient.
- You’ve been writing for a little while but only have the basics down. You know your book’s perfect beginning, you know how it should end, and you know some of the scenes… but not much else. Character work and outlining can go a long way in solidifying your story. Try 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet to kick start your book. You’ll come up with a strong outline and characters that will carry your story, even if you don’t stick to the 90 day schedule.
- You’re halfway finished writing your book… and stuck. Writer’s block, anyone? Middles can be a painful slog. But don’t give up! Check out James Scott Bell’s new book Just Write. You’ll find useful tips on everything from creating a strong premise to building memorable characters. Bell even wrote a section on writer’s block in the chapter titled “Brave the Writing Life.” This book not only inspires writers to strengthen their stories, but to pay attention to the rewards of a writing life.
- You finished your rough draft. Now what? First of all, treat yourself to a nice meal, a glass of wine, a massage – whatever makes you happy. Read something fun. Do the things you put off while you were busy writing. And be proud of yourself, because completing a first draft is a huge deal! Then, get back to work. It’s time to pull that manuscript out of the drawer and find a marking pen. Hone your editing skills with the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Brown & King, where you’ll learn how to use professional editing techniques to perfect your manuscript.
Feeling a little more motivated? Good! Now remember, there’s one fundamental act that will see you through to a finished book. It’s not inspiration or time or talent… it’s actually writing. Like William Faulkner said, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.”
Well, it’s 9:00 a.m. I’m off to my writing desk. Are you?