Smugness won’t reach you very far|Writing Fiction

So, I thought long and hard if I should even address this but I think it’s important to express humbleness when you are a beginner writer. This morning I responded to a post in a writing group. The poster asked what should they do when they have lost all faith and motivation in writing? I commented by letting them know a thing or two how to combat creative blocks and I also reassured the poster that self-doubt lives in all of us. Well, I was strongly advised by another member of the group to refrain saying all of us struggle with self-doubt because they don’t doubt any of their stories.

Now I commented on that saying, “I apologize.” What I wanted to say is, “I apologize for my ignorance in this matter, Oh experienced one.” I didn’t want to get into a mindless social media war, so I just apologized and moved on. But it got me to thinking, and it isn’t the first time that I’ve wanted to touch on this subject.

I am in no way, shape or form bashing “my adviser” just to be clear. But I want to take you in-depth into the craft of writing and all that comes with it. Similarly to essay writing when your teacher marks your paper and they insert red ink corrections, so too does your manuscript need to be edited. And not just for grammatical errors. Many stories aren’t told very well and this is something people wanting to get into the writing field need to be mindful of. Your words need to have purpose to the story. It needs to be constructed well to paint a picture in the mind of your reader. It needs to read well on paper. I personally, have written like I’m writing a play in the past so it was challenging trying to get into novels.

There is no correct formula into writing your own story as well. Criticism and feedback are your friends, who help you improve on your craft. Self-doubt is your shadow. I get that we are all proud of our finished manuscript and hope that it will be received well, but the truth of the matter is, it won’t be by everyone. When best-selling authors have many negative reviews, and express their own self-doubt during their writing process, why would a newbie writer not learn from this? That the art of writing takes work, dedication and lots of thick skin. I was merely trying to express support for the original poster by saying we all go through a time when we doubt the story, or ourselves. Despite having finished a few books, I refuse to call myself an author. I call myself a writer because I don’t quite feel like I’ve written my best yet.

As readers, we’ve admired authors who made their marks on the world for many years, and we know of their struggles taking years to write a book, or writing stories that were controversial in their time. It doesn’t matter where you are in your craft, we do feel a little doubt. That self-doubt isn’t necessarily a lack of confidence, it stems from always wanting to best ourselves. Always wanting the next story to be better written.

Despite having written most of my life, I don’t always feel like I have a satisfying enough story to be published. At some level you have to question your own work and make sure that you’re telling your story in a way that you want, but in a way that’s also readable.

My point is, you can’t be smug in this business. Yes, be proud of yourself and your achievements. You’ve written an entire book. But don’t walk around with a swollen head thinking you already know everything you need to know. This is setting yourself up for failure. When you have nothing to show, you should take time to understand the business of writing. And yes, it is a business whether you self publish or traditionally publish. In today’s world, if you have a large following you are more likely to be successful than somebody in some corner of the world with a great book but no readers. So you should want to produce the best you can by taking constructive advice from READERS aka YOUR AUDIENCE.

Perception. Humility. Attention. Diligence. Knowledge.

To people who are entering this field, it is okay to be disorganized in your head. It’s okay to doubt yourself. It’s okay to take a long time. The key is finding techniques that work for you and your story.

I wish all of you aspiring writers the best in your endeavors. I hope we all do what we set out to do.

xo Kat

 

How I Outline My Novel

There are a few different effective and straightforward methods to outline a novel, however, I do it in my own way. Recently I’ve seen some questions pop up about outlining novels so I thought I’d break down the way I do it since it seems simpler to me, and in another post, I will discuss the other methods thoroughly.

I think my way of doing it is very close to the snowflake method but as you learn more about it, you’ll see that I don’t stick to it fully. I just want to let you know that even though there are actual methods and names for them, there is no wrong way you can do this. Whatever works for you will be best for you. As writers of fiction, things are almost always jumbled and coming to us rapidly and out of nowhere so we tend to note this down all over. From notepads, to phones, to different apps and software. You name it, we’ve written on it.

So without further ado, let’s get into it….

STEP 1

I would call this your idea phase. You know that moment when an idea hits you but it’s only a sentence long? This is just step one. Fun fact about Kat: I used to begin writing with just that first idea and it was horrible. I found myself being stuck more than usual. This is where you’re going to brainstorm. Write down all of the ideas, thoughts, characters, names, whatever contribution you have to bring to this novel, just write them down. It doesn’t have to be in specific order. It doesn’t even have to make sense at this point.

STEP 2

Now that you have all of your ideas down it’s time to really think about the main plot of your story. An idea can go anywhere whether it’s romance, suspense, thriller or a mixture of genres. Try writing a summary of what you’d like your story to be about.

STEP 3

Create character profiles. I’ll briefly explain here how I do this as I plan to create an entire post to help with character profiling. This takes some work, some critical thinking. Not only are you going to name your characters, you’re going to create a description of their physical attributes as well as what they do and what they stand for. For example, if your character’s name is Sophia and Sophia has long blonde hair, green eyes etc etc Then you’ll need to add to Sophia before you start writing. What does Sophia do? How does Sophia think or react? Does Sophia have a shy persona or is she outgoing? What are her likes, dislikes, boundaries.

STEP 4

I’d recommend naming and explaining as much characters as you can at this point. The main ones, their family members(if they have a part in the story). While writing you’ll most likely add characters or omit characters. Have no fear, these changes are doable and nothing is set in stone. Having a base of characters gives you ammo to write with so along with your main plot and setting, you can write something without having to stop every few paragraphs.

STEP 5

I should have mentioned setting earlier but here’s why I left it out until now. During your summary stage, you would have most likely mentioned the location or setting in which your book takes place. Let’s call stage five, research. Whatever you want to put into your novel and you feel like you need to know more about it, get on google and research the heck out of it. Look for pictures of places, houses etc You can save them for later use, or you can just makes notes as your description comes to life in your head. Another thing you want to research is jobs functions, weather of a particular location etc. Anything that you feel you need help with in creating a better summary.

STEP 6

Summary number two! So now that you have all of this information, write a complete summary with the added details of your characters and settings.

STEP 7

What you’ll do from here is expand your summary. Don’t get rid of any of your earlier work by the way. Expand your current summary. Add your sub plots or scenes as I call them. Any specific quote or line you need to place somewhere, add it all in. You can redo this as much as you need to in order to create your desired outline.

STEP 8

When you feel like everything makes sense, start writing. Having this guide will help you to write on days that you’re uninspired or lost because you’ll know what’s going to take place. Even if you get stuck take a time out and then get back into it. Remember this is only the first draft and another fun fact: My first drafts are often horrible and written very poorly with a few brilliant things in between. Patience is virtue when it comes to writing. Take your time, try to finish that first draft even if you’re not completely satisfied. Anything can be corrected, omitted and modified later on.

I hope this made any sense at all and I hope it helps you in your writing process. Good luck!

xo Kat

 

Outlining Your Story Helps You Write Better

Last year, I’d managed to finish two novellas without a particular process or schedule and since then I have been struggling with planning and completing stories. Every time I’d sit down and try to write complete mayhem broke out. In between normal life and daily duties, I could not utilize whatever spare time I had to write something of significance. I’m still struggling but I took time out to really study the writing process before jumping back into writing. So far, it’s been effective. I’m happy for myself, that I’ve recently started writing again, something that I just need to do.

I was under the impression that to be an author you had to be beyond intelligent and just know everything, that one can just sit down and write a perfect novel in one shot. When I started experiencing writer’s block despite knowing where I wanted my stories to go I realized that I needed to halt and revamp the way I approached writing. Dialogues are easy for me as I’ve always wanted to be a screenwriter since my tween days but it’s the details, descriptions and making my characters emote that I have the most trouble with. As my research progressed I learned that extensive research and planning goes into a story. At least for me, it was a new and different approach and one I decided to try out.

I did plan before but there were always holes in my story. I had the core idea, knew who my characters were and what was going to happen but it’s the how that hindered my progress. After trying to outline my story, I realized why I should’ve done this a long time ago. I consider myself very novice at writing but it’s something I love and I want to pursue so I had to get it right. I am still trying to get it right. So instead of just writing based on small notes I’ve made, I outlined an entire story from beginning to end and it felt almost as satisfying as completing a book. Bear in mind this is just the beginning. After completing a first draft, there’s lots of edits, formatting and modifying that needs to be done but I’ll elaborate on that more in another post.

Here’s how I outlined the story that I’m currently working on…

  1. OneNote. I came across this program, that’s free on all platforms by the way, called OneNote. It doesn’t save like a word document, it syncs and you’ll be able to access your work on multiple devices. Sometimes a thought might hit you and all you have is your phone on hand so I find this very useful if I quickly need to make a note or addition to anything. (I will create an entire post how I use OneNote for outlining and writing with pictures.)
  2. Writing Chapter Summaries. I used to write one entire synopsis and a few details here and there about scenes and dialogues that I already know I want in my story. I’ve started writing one liners about each chapter and it didn’t start in order. By the time I kept adding paragraphs to the one liners, I noticed my story tying together to make sense. (Note: If at this point your story sounds chaotic, worry not. It will tie together. Remember that this is just the beginning of it and your work will always be tweaked as fast as your ideas come along.) This is one thing I like about chapter summaries, if you feel like adding something different, it gives you room to work. Unlike just writing your book and half way through you realize that you need to redo the entire thing. So outlining your sub plots save you all of that. Once you’re satisfied with the outline, you can then begin to write.
  3. Character Profiles. Previously I would make a brief description of my characters such as dark hair, green eyes, tall, short…whatever their job was, who their family was. Sometimes I’d add new characters as I wrote and sometimes I’d want to take out a character that wasn’t making sense anymore but I couldn’t. So planning out my characters well and outlining the entire story, helps me know from the beginning which characters should be omitted as well as if I need to add a character somewhere down the line. I also ran into problems when I called my characters doctor or accountant and in the middle of the story I had to research details of their job descriptions. My advice is to research these details and any information about their jobs…note their likes, dislikes, behavior, families previous to writing. It has helped me in a big way so far.
  4. General Research. As much as us fiction writers make up a lot of details we still need extensive knowledge on how things in our stories function. For example a hospital…if a lot of our story is set in a hospital revolving around the people that work there, we’d have to know what goes there, who is in charge, their responsibilities, what equipment is placed in what department…things like that. You get the idea.
  5. Don’t leave holes. One of my biggest mistakes when planning a story, I’d leave out a lot of details thinking I’d polish it during the editing process. This causes more chaos that you’d think. Plan your scenes, and elaborate as much as you can before even beginning to write. It helps you write with a flow as you have noted exactly what you want to convey in that chapter.
  6. Sketch your Plot and Climax well. All stories have some sort of issue that needs to be dealt with which can either break or make your story. Make sure it’s a convincing and sensible one as well as your climax. I’ve read many books where the entire build up was brilliant only to have a rushed ending with an unconvincing plot. I’ve also written stories like this, sadly. So that’s why I feel it’s important to pay attention to your plots and sub plots along with the climax.

Thanks for reading! xo Coffee Doll