Sat waiting for my class to start this morning I began pondering why I had chosen to write as my second career. My first career choice is as a Deputy Head Teacher for young people, excluded from school. The first thing that strikes me is that writing is the extreme opposite of what I do every day. Writing is a very solitary process. In contrast, working in a school means I am surrounded by people and voices. Makes for some great material to use in my writing as well.
I can’t remember when exactly I got the idea I wanted to write a book. It seems to have been an ambition of mine for as long as I can remember. From early teens I wrote a diary, a practice I have continued throughout my life. I now call it a journal to sound more mature. Whilst I was qualifying, my writing ignored, put on the shelf for many years. Now it is dusted off and is an activity which takes up as many hours as I can every week.
Here are the 10 reasons that I write:
- I write because I enjoy it, whether I am published or not, I love sharing my views with others.
- I write to improve my craft. It is true the more you write the better you get.
- A small egotistical part of me wants to leave something in this world when I am gone. A published book will stay available after you leave the planet, for a while at least.
- I like to share my ideas with others. The teacher in me wants to help people, wherever I can. If similar people are not making the mistakes I have, then I know I have accomplished something.
- I need to transfer the hundreds of ideas I have had in my head for ages to paper.
- As an avid reader, I gain a great deal of enjoyment and relaxation from reading. I would like others to gain this from something I have written.
- I want to master the process of transferring the ideas from my head onto paper in a structure I am happy with. Stories always sound much better in my head than on paper.
- I want to build a network of people that I can share ideas with and ask advice from.
- I would like to supplement my income to allow me to spend more time at home with my little girl.
- I need to challenge myself to see if I can succeed at writing.
What is your motivation for writing?
When I was very young, 10 years old I was lucky enough to have a school visit from Michael Rosen. He said something which stuck with me for the rest of my life. To be able to write fiction of any type you need to imagine the story in your head like a movie and then write what you see. This has stuck with me since then. It was the first time I realised that I could write a novel. I could see the characters and action in stories as clear as if I was watching it on a TV screen. J.K. Rowling shared a train ride home with a imaginary Harry Potter and at that point knew she had to write his story. For this reason, my first piece of advice would always be.
1) Have a clear story in your mind. – Imagine the characters personalities, back stories and appearance. You will not include all these details in your novel but, know your character. Successful authors have back stories and facts about their characters that never make the final draft.
2) Start with tension. – Action despite what some readers say is not always the best way to start a novel. Action which is out of context can bore some readers. This is why I would say start your novel with tension. A character dilemma or problem is a good way to introduce your characters. It also starts the book with a punch that makes the reader want to read further. Whatever tension you decide to start the book with make sure your first sentence and chapter is the best in the book. This will keep the reader engaged. There is also important to ensure the first line of every chapter is engaging and sets the scene for what is to come.
3) End each chapter on a cliffhanger. – As much as you want to start every chapter with a killer line you also want to end every chapter on a slight cliffhanger. Again, this is an excellent way to keep the reader progressing through the book. I know many a long night where I have read way longer than I should have with the mentality ‘oh just one more chapter.’
4) Give your characters obstacles to overcome. – As the book progresses allow your characters to face obstacles and problems. Allow your characters to develop their personality and grow as the book continues. It is not true to think that all your lead characters should be perfect. Some of the best novels I have read have a flawed lead character. Someone who isn’t perfect, makes mistakes and deals with problems. It is far more realistic to have a flawed main character than a perfect one.
5) Understand your audience. – Are you writing a fantasy novel? A crime novel? Erotica? Genres are all different. These should be told in different ways. Audiences of each have different expectations that you need to cover. This is why it is important to write for a genre that you enjoy reading. You are your best audience and know what the expectations are for this.
Finally whatever path you travel to write your fiction enjoy the process. A book that has been a labour of love with resonate with the readers far more than one which was a drag to write.
Let me start by saying I love technology. I have had many of the latest gadgets as they are released and always have my iPad in my bag for those few snatched minutes to write. However, that has not changed my opinion on notebooks. As much as I love technology I love stationery. Not just notebooks but, post-it notes, pens and stickers. My family know this love, so every year at Christmas and birthdays I normally receive a beautiful notebook or two.
Although, I do all my typing on laptops and tablets my note taking and ideas are all in paper form. I like the physical feeling of writing ideas down on paper. I have tried Evernote and other packages but I just can’t get on with them compared to an actual notebook. There are just too many positives for me to give them up.
The physical look and feel of a notebook are important. Whether you prefer lines or plain paper is personal preference. You just can’t beat a nice moleskin notebook. Here is the biggest advantage of any notebook you can set it up as you want. Whether it’s for recording the books you have read, writing shopping lists or journaling you have the complete freedom to set the notebook up in exactly the way you want. Not to mention the smell you get from notebooks that can never be replicated on a computer. If you are a book person you are now nodding your head there is nothing like the smell of a fresh new book or notebook.
I have four main notebooks which I use for my writing. The first is a small A5 pink moleskin book which is battered and bumped as it spends most of its time in my bag this is my ideas book. An idea can come from anywhere, places I visit, people I observe or conversations at work. These are all scribbled down for use later. Some as a list, some as mind maps, this is the beauty of notebooks every page can have a different setup and theme. My second notebook is again a moleskin and contains all the current projects I am writing. This is lined and contains more rough drafts of my work. My third is a much bigger book and is where I write hints and tips I have discovered about writing as well as quotes that interest me and ideas that are so vague they need much more exploration later. My last notebook is my journal a leather cover this time with lines. This is my book not for anyone’s eyes it is a conscious stream of my thoughts, fears and ambitions.
Easy and Cheap
There are other everyday practicalities of a notebook. You can take it wherever you want no one looks strangely at you when you produce a notebook from your bag during a meal. It might, however, ruin the romantic moment if you pulled out a laptop and started typing away. Notebooks generally are cheaper and you can find one that fits most budgets. You need very little specialist knowledge to use a notebook, however, using a laptop requires a basic computer knowledge. I also like the fact that my notebooks provide me with a permanent journey of my writing path. They do take up a lot of space but it is worth every shelf. I have notebooks from when I was a teenager showing my progression. It is not so easy to see this on a computer.
Although there are several problems with using a notebook such as if you lose them they are gone forever. The amount of storage space can also be vast especially if your writing career has stretched over several years. I believe that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
How do you keep your notes? Let me see some of your favourite notebooks.
Thinking back I simply can not remember how I stumbled upon Medium. Like many users for the first couple of months, I drifted in and out of it. Recently I have truly fallen in love with it. Like a girl who suddenly realises her best friend is hunky. Medium is my new obsession and commands more of my social media time than Facebook and my old favourite Twitter. I have become so enthralled with it I recently became a member, a better way to spend my money I can’t find. As I devour more and more content becoming a member opened up a whole new world for me. With this Medium has really started working for me as well. Not that this is an article for members only. Most of these tips I came across when I was a non-fee paying user. For all those starting in this world here are a few tips I have discovered along the way to enhance my Medium experience.
If it doesn’t work for you change it
First I used to use Medium as a store for articles which had been rejected from magazines and didn’t fit into my other two websites. My quality of work was rubbish no wonder they got rejected from magazines. By putting them on Medium they worked their magic and I gain about 2 followers. If a magazine rejected the work I was foolish to think the reaction on Medium would be any better. Now I use Medium as one of three posting platforms. Medium is home to most of my articles from a range of subjects. I hit publish more times than I ever did and I have set a goal of posting at least twice a week. Rather than thinking of Medium as a portfolio of my work I am using it as a publishing platform to cultivate followers.
Comment, comment, comment
I have lost count of how many articles I have read saying commenting on other people’s work gets you noticed and helps build followers. This is not just true for Medium but for all blogging/writing platforms. Before this month I had never committed the time to this. This month I have really started connecting with other writers and commenting on their articles. I don’t comment on everything I read but, I do on articles that offer content I feel I could add to. Through this, I have built some genuine friendships and support networks. People are genuinely supportive. I have never been trolled on Medium. I have always been offered excellent supportive advice. I am not going to preach the same as everyone else and say you must comment to increase your followers. I will, however, say since doing this my followers have increased considerably.
Clapping is like marking
It is without a doubt I use claps on articles different from most. It is essential to clap good articles, I understand this boosts an article up the ranks. However, personally, I use claps like a marking system. I’m sure no one can tell that my other job is a teacher. So as with the essays, I read from my young people I use a clap like I would use a tick. If a point in the articles strikes a chord with me, entertains me or is thought-provoking, I give it a clap like I would tick the margin on a young person essay. This isn’t for everyone but for me this system works.
I don’t know everything
If anyone tells you they know everything about any program or social media platform they are lying. There is still so much I need to learn and tips I need to master. I have a type of articles that I read and topics that interest me. Is there a whole new room to Medium I haven’t discovered. For example, is there a community where people teach you how to repair farming equipment. The biggest part of Medium I find completely baffling is tagging comments. Do you tag comments or don’t you?
If you would like to look at my other blogs they are:
https://bookwormsanctuaryreviews.wordpress.com – A site dedicated to book reviews
Read advice from any established author and they speak about the importance of an established writing routine. Most authors have a set place to write and a set routine for writing. Now I hear you cry it is alright for them, all they do is write as a career. They are not like us starting on our journey. Juggling a career, family and writing. I long for the day that I can write everyday and make a living out of it. This is why it has been hard for me to establish a routine. Every time I get close, the rest of my life pushes back to interfere with it.
I started planning three sessions in a week, where I could write. As my little girl got older this got pushed aside as I needed to put her to bed. Writing is important to me but never more important than my daughter. I have beat myself mental for a year about not having a routine. The more I beat myself up the less likely I am to write. Experience has taught me don’t beat yourself up it is rubbish for your creative process.
As I have relaxed, my writing routine has wiggled and squirmed into position and found its own space. It is simple really, when I have put my little girl to bed I go into my office, luckily the room is beside her’s. Whilst I wait for her to fall asleep I write. Most times she is snoring before I finish. I used to spend this time on social media. I am here to tell you this part of your life can always be pushing back. The world does not stop turning if you don’t check Facebook every ten minutes, it goes on quite well without you. If I write for ten minutes and then have the urge to go and see my partner, I stop and leave it for the day. No pressure. I have found on a good day I can write over 1000 words in ten minutes.
I have also started writing in my journal every evening which is a lovely place to chill my brain and write down ideas and everyday worries and concerns. Journal writing I understand is not for everyone but there are many different ways to write a journal so finding one that works for you is important. I just let my brain unload onto the page. Almost like my sub conscious mind controls the pen. This the one true place I don’t worry about spelling and grammar. The journal is mine and only for me so why bother.
With all of these little writing routines I do not beat myself up if they don’t work. If you spend all your time mentally slapping yourself for missed opportunities, you will never write. For example last night I was simply too tired from work to write. I didn’t worry about it I just gave myself a holiday and thought tomorrow is a new day and here I am writing again. I have also decided that I would publish two articles a week; one to medium; one to my blog. Wednesday and Sunday being my preferred posting days. It is now Thursday and I am just finishing this post. Again I do not beat myself up about it. It is getting done and will be published.
It is important to remember sometimes life gets in the way of writing. Don’t be too hard on yourself and the writing routine will squeeze itself back in. Most of all have fun. Writing is for the writer primarily, the audience and followers come next.