Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tools Needed to Write a Book

Is it Doable to Write a Book?
We all have dreams (I hope. If not, get to work!). Mine was to write a book. As I wrote, I noticed something rather cool happening to me. Call it confidence or self-assurance, not sure. But my dream kept growing and growing into this wild adventure. Soon I wanted to be published. Then I decided I wanted to write full time as a career. Then I wanted my book to end up on the New York Times Best Seller List...oh, and I wanted to appear on Oprah, of course. Before you roll your eyes, this is what makes dreaming fun. We're allowed to let our minds take us places we've never been because we're kind of accustomed to taking life a little too seriously. Along this adventure I discovered dreaming is what living is about. 

My Focus Wheel. My mom made me design this last year. There are no boundaries. Nothing too stupid or ridiculous sounding (ha!). Keeps me writing (and dreaming)!



1. Set a Goal
Most of you know my story. I took a college course back in the day (UW-Whitewater) and the teacher asked us to write out our dreams and goals. One of mine was to become a writer. I had to put my dreams in a cardboard box, with a candle, noise maker and balloon and uncover the box years later to see if I met the dream. When I found the box several years later, I realized none of my dreams came true and the time had expired. Sad. From that day on, I was determined to make them happen. But life is so busy. There are a million distractions. When my family and I were sitting around a table in South Africa on New Year's Eve, I asked everyone what their goals/resolutions were for the year. When it came to my turn, I smiled and said, "This is the year I'll write my book." It sounded a bit silly coming out, but nobody laughed. And I realized the cat was out of the bag. The scary part? If I didn't do it, they would know. I might look weak. The great part? They could hold me accountable. Ask yourself what is it you want? What will make you happy?


My family in Cape Town, South Africa...moments before we discussed our New Year's Resolutions!


2. Take a Writing Class
When we returned from South Africa, it took awhile to get my focus back (hello...trip of a lifetime). I started to let life take over (again), until our community activity booklet came in the mail and I saw a writer was teaching a four-week writing class. I could handle that! It was all I needed to get started. Though she wasn't a published author (yet), she'd been in the business for several years and knew the ins and outs. She gave us plenty of advice and material to help us along. Plus, I met some great people who live in my community - one who gladly (or so I think) critiques my stuff and I get a man's perspective!

3. Make Time to Write
It's kind of like when you want to lose 15 pounds but in order to get there you have to workout and eat healthy. You know what you need to do to make it happen; yet, you let excuses take over. No more. You need to make writing a priority. Yes, I have a full-time job (8-5), not to mention three/four freelance jobs, volleyball, working out with a trainer, a husband, a house that needs cleaning, etc. But like with everything in life, we learn how to balance and fit everything in. I think back to when I was 12, reading The Babysitters Club books. I woke up, did a few chores, maybe watched some cartoons...sat in my room and read. Ahh, the life. But back then - to me - my life was crazy. Newsflash: every year gets busier and crazier and more insane than the last. You will manage. At least this is what I tell myself. So the minute 5:00 p.m. hit (okay...4:30) I was out the door and on my way to Panera where I'd write until volleyball started. Sometimes I woke up at 4 a.m. (does once count?). Sometimes I spent 10-12 hours on a Saturday AND then again on Sunday writing, editing, rewriting. Yes, I think I need glasses now. Yes, I had a lot of headaches. Yes, I had to miss out on fun nights out with friends and all the other cool stuff going on. But I want this. More than anything. Ask yourself how badly you want it.

4. Join a Critique Group
Gabi, my awesome Brazilian friend who heads up our critique group, and I were discussing this week how our group started. I guess I responded to a post on her blog. And before I knew it, our group was formed. Without them, my manuscript would be a chaotic mess written in passive voice with way too much back story and adverbs. I don't know how I will ever thank them, but we have something special going on! They've been most helpful and not only offer writing support but have become some phenomenal therapists too:)

5. Write Your Story's Synopsis First
The synopsis will more than likely change as you write. However, the last thing you want is to get to Chapter 15 (or any chapter) and get stuck because you're not sure the direction of your story anymore. Or how it's going to end. You get lost. And this is when giving up feels like the only option. I had three or four different synopsis. Thankfully a friend came across my post on Facebook about writing a book and asked to read my synopsis. And thankfully for me, he's a Hollywood screenwriter. He knows how these things work. We went back and forth many times and every time my story grew stronger. It made more sense to me. So thanks to him, I had my synopsis polished before I started writing...even if it was 10-pages single spaced. I can't say I ever got super stuck because I always had the synopsis staring at me in the face, guiding me through. 

6. Write What You Know!
Trust me, it shows and it's so much easier to write when you're passionate about the storyline and your characters. It makes for a great story when your heart is in it. Readers are smart people. They will know.

7. Do NOT Give Up!
If this is what you really want and really love doing, keep going! Our world is full of negativity. You can't let what you read or hear get you down. Everyone has a story to share, but make this adventure YOUR story. Choose how YOU want it to end. I understand how easy it is to throw in the towel. This is probably why only some 10% of people who claim they are "writing a book" have actually finished a manuscript. FINISH it. Your life will change once you write 'THE END'. You will grow a little inside too.

8. Start a Blog
Blogs are loaded with information for writers. There are contests, new agents looking for new writers, writers who are in the same boat as you, writers who have finally gotten published, agents with secrets to share, and so much more. Also, it's fun to track your own journey and to go back and see the mountains you've faced head on and climbed. Some you never thought possible.

9. Keep Adding to Your Goal List and Keep Dreaming!
So my goal was to write a book. I did it. Am I done? Not even close. Like I wrote above, as I started one dream, another one came to me. And another. The amazing part is what happens when we let ourselves dream. And how we grow as people. So get a pen and paper...or start your blog and start jotting down what it is you feel in your heart. Things you want to do with your life. And go after them!

What's your writing journey been like?

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