We have all felt disheartened as writers. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Lack of impetus, illness, stress, unrealistic comparisons, self expectations or stumbling over a particular section in a writing project. Some call it writers block. In truth it is just life.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up, you are not alone. Every writer, whether novice or any of the top 100 authors, have doubts about what they are writing. We question ourselves – is it good enough, over and over. This can only spiral us downward into self-doubt. There are ways to give yourself a pick you up. I hope these help.
1. Focus on enjoying telling your stories. Do it to the best of your ability.
2. Remember you are building an inventory of your writing but also learning your craft.
3. Lessen your expectations, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, we all want a certain quality to our work, but with patience it will come. There is no quick fix.
4. Don’t compare another writer’s finished work against your in process drafts. You have no idea how many changes they made.
5. Remember you get to rule over your own creative process. You choose, shape, mold, and create whatever you want.
6, Your words will, in time, sway minds, move hearts, and touch the lives of dozens of people you will never meet in person.
7. Your words, your stories are your legacy.
8. Do not take rejection personally. Think of it as a learning tool.
9. Take a long-term view of your writing career – no-one is ever an overnight success.
10. Participate in supportive writer groups. Share your work with encouraging friends.
What have you found works for you when you are feeling disheartened?
A lot of us are in the midst of writing new (or completing old) projects for the challenging NaNoWriMo month. Some find it too challenging, others a great way to write to a deadline, while others utilize the month for beginning or finishing a project. No matter why you participate, the structure gives us all a commitment to write at least 1667 words a day.
Obviously, there are other commitments – work, home & family – but making time to write is a bonus. We have the ‘excuse’ that we must write in order to achieve the goal of 50,000 words. Once our family understands your need for this writing time, why not carry it on after November?
With a full month of specified ‘writing time’ becoming the ‘norm’ for those around you, why drop it after November. If the family can accommodate you for one month, why not twelve?
Writing is our passion. We need to write. So make the time to do it. Wake up earlier, go to bed later, write while waiting for children’s activities to finish or write a scene in a small notebook in your purse waiting at appointments. There are always opportunities to allow your Muse to create. You may have to be creative in how we work it out, but it is worth investing in your writing time. It is a writing commitment.
This particular subject is close to my heart as I begin a detective series. As a free flow/panster writer, I always let the characters take charge. However, now, I have to plan a plot arc across three books. So let’s see what is required for a book series.
Firstly, know what makes writing a series different. A series has a multi-novel continuity with longer-term, series wide developments. The ending of one book should also be the hook for the following book and there should be a central conflict and tense that sustains interest. Create a compelling title for the series and each book in the series.
Secondly, there should be subplots that propel each book forward to the larger or main conflict. These subplots create smaller rises and falls in the story tension. This allows each book to have its own self-contained struggle and opportunity for growth of the characters.
You need to create a compelling central conflict for the series but also have secondary obstacles to the main characters path, with additional complications that delay the main resolution. Also move your characters through multiple settings with distinctive interests, surprises and challenges. In short, create a fictional world readers want to return to.
To aid your series ensure you outline the series in advance, enabling you to understand how each book relates to another. Establish your central characters early, however reveal their backstories gradually so your readers become engaged in their lives. Give them faults, show how their environment affects them and decide how they will change from book to book. You can also change the cast of your characters as the series continues.
Make sure you give each book in the series a strong central event. Remember that each book should stand on its own to a degree. A reader should be able to start with book four and not find the story so bewildering that they’re completely lost. To make each novel in your series work well as a standalone work – have a strong central event and image for each book and create a secondary conflict and partial resolution for each novel. This can be by your characters acquiring a skill, conviction or strategy. With the introduction of tension with uncertainty and unknowns the reader will want to know what comes next.
Plan in advance.
Provide a resolution of part of the narrative at the end of each story but carry elements over to the next book.
Maintain an overarching plot and character arcs. Give your characters time to develop over the series.
Maintain consistency with backstories, attributes, settings and plot from the previous books. Keep a record of details and timelines so you can reference it as you write.
Weave reminders into each novel to a lesser degree.
Do you have any tips you can share in regard to writing a book series?
When I was struggling to find a concept for NaNoWriMo this year, out of the blue an idea came to mind. Now this, in itself, is not unusual because we all know it happens. However, it was not only the genre that surprised me but the fact the idea formulated as a three book series!
The genre is a detective/crime, something I have not tackled before. Although, I have written in various genres, it is normal for the story to come first and then the genre becomes apparent as I write. This is the complete opposite and makes it an exciting prospect. The idea formulated around three main characters and a common adversary across three books.
The other surprise was that I easily began planning each book – another first for me the self proclaimed free flow writer. I am not sure why this change in technique came about but it will certainly play a big part in this new project.
Whether we plan in detail or go with the flow, there is no right or wrong way to write – we all do it differently, which results in the uniqueness of our narratives.
Whether you spend time intricately plotting and creating your story line or let the story flow unbidden, one facet of all stories that must be created and created well are its characters. Your protagonist, antagonist and all the supporting characters have a ‘job’ to do. They must give our readers an insight into their personalities, their struggles, ambitions and fears. Characters build the ‘world’ you have set your characters within by showing it through their eyes, their thoughts and actions.
Every writer has his or her own methods, when it comes to the creation of a character.
For example, Setting: an alien being trapped in a spacecraft, a monster hunting its prey or specific behavior traits for period pieces.
Physical features: This primarily gives our readers an image but more importantly an idea of their personality. A thin, acne-faced teenager will not automatically give our readers the idea of a ‘superman’ kind of personality but a muscle bound, athletic type could.
Name: a good starting point for our creation, but it is also a minefield. Research into real persons, living or dead should be foremost, unless of course you are writing about that particular person.
Accent: a character’s voice says a lot about their location and background.
Real people or not: We can base characters on people we know or a combination of several or from people watching – an author’s favorite pastime. As writers situations, overheard conversation and life in general is a constant source of inspiration.
There are numerous ‘character development work sheets’ available on the Internet and it can be useful to fill them in for your main characters, if you have no clear ‘picture’ of them to begin with.
I tend to write the story letting my characters dictate how their story will unfold. In so doing the characters develop creating their own story. This tends to change the narrative from my initial perception. In this way they may develop characteristics I had not considered or react quite differently to a situation from my preconceived idea. This method may seem harder than having a detailed description of each pivotal character, their backstory and emotional compass, but it is my method.
We ‘live’ with our characters for a long time and they become ‘real’ to us. This enables us to write the story with ‘insider knowledge’ of our characters backstory, their emotional compass and their ultimate goal. This knowledge becomes paramount during the subsequent drafts and editing process, giving us a well-rounded character and a believable one for our readers. In truth, the initial draft is the testing ground for our characters, and revisions make them well rounded and ‘believable’.
How do you create your characters?
Recognize these characters? Remember how irate poor Wile E Coyote would become with Road Runner? No matter what he did he never succeeded in catching his ‘dinner’. Beep, beep would ring out as yet another ACME kit damaged the coyote instead of the bird. It was truly a lesson in perseverance. No matter how many times the speedy bird escaped the coyote he would try, try, try again. I actually went past a road sign to Acme on my way to Canmore one time and wished I could have made a detour just for the fun of it.
The art of creating such lovable and memorable characters is what every author strives for. We hope our creations will stay in our readers minds long after the last page has turned. Character profiles and back story play a large part in ensuring our characters are well rounded and believable. We delve into their personality type seeking out traits and habits to make them react to their crisis situations in an authentic way.
Do you make up scenarios for people you observe? Have any made it in to a manuscript?
Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.
With such a guideline our characters become clearer. A lot of the details will never reach the pages of our manuscript but knowing our characters well makes for a more believable personality as they struggle through the trials and tribulations, we subject them to. As most of you know I am a ‘free flow’ writer so everything is by the seat of my pants until the editing starts. This is where I find character flaws or great character traits that I can correct or build upon. My characters live with me during the writing process and usually lead me in directions I had never considered – I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As these personalities gain strength they become more ‘real’ and that is the moment their true selves appear.
When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters. For example this sheet.