Posts Tagged With: writers

The One Thing You Must Do to Get Published

As a writing coach, it’s my job to help people get a little perspective on their story problems.  Recently, a client asked me to help him out with his first novel.  He’d gotten halfway through and stalled out.  I put together a laundry list of ways to fix his various story problems — and then I told him to ignore my advice.  “For a little while, at least,” I said.  “First, finish your novel.  Later, you can go back and fix these things.”

That’s really the best advice I can give to anyone working on a first novel: forge ahead and finish it.  Get all the way to “The End” before you go back and start making changes to the story.  The rough draft of your first novel always seems like an insurmountable challenge.  Why?  Because you’ve never done it before.  But don’t let that stop you.

Once you finally finish your novel — once you reach the very last page — you pass a milestone that most would-be authors never see: you’ve actually written a novel.  How cool is that?

I’ve done some highly unscientific research at the local bookstore and discovered that 100% of all published books are finished.  I’ve never heard an editor say, “Well, this author only wrote the first couple hundred pages — but it was so perfect, we decided to publish half a book!” 

Doesn’t happen.

But you’re beset by fears.  What if the second half of my book is no good?  Then you’ll make it good.  What if I don’t know how to end it?  Then you’ll make it up.  Remember, you’re the creative type.  Improvise!

The first draft of anything is just that: a first draft.  You’ll make it better in the second, and in the third, and so on.  It’s like a sculpture: once you have the basic form worked out, you can keep chipping and polishing until it’s beautiful.

Plus, there’s a hidden bonus.  The more you write, the better you get.  As the pages pile up, you get more skilled at the craft.  The learning curve for your first novel is usually so steep that by the time you get halfway through, you think to yourself, “Wait, now I know how to do this better!  I should go back and fix all of that stuff I wrote earlier!”  It sounds reasonable, but it’s a trap. 

Instead, write yourself a note and keep going.  You’ll need every last bit of creative strength to reach the end of the novel.  Don’t squander your energy on perfecting things that you might delete later.  It won’t be flawless, especially not in the first draft.  So for now, just concentrate on finishing your novel. 

First, get it written — then later you can get it right!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Do I Finish My Novel?

Q:  Hi, I’m trying to write a novel about two people who meet by accident and then discover that they share an element of their two dark pasts.  I have a few general story ideas, but nothing concrete.  I know where I want to start my novel and where I want it to end, but it’s the middle that’s stumping me.  How do I figure out what to put in the middle of the book?

A:  It sounds to me like these two people want to get together, but story-wise there isn’t enough keeping them apart.  What you need is a little old-fashioned brainstorming.

At times like this, I like to break out a pack of 3×5 cards (actually, I’ll take any excuse to break out the cards, really).  Set a kitchen timer to 10 minutes and just start writing down ideas, one idea per card.  Don’t edit as you go; no matter how insipid or ridiculous anything sounds, write it down.  Force yourself to keep going until the timer goes off, and then keep going until you run out of steam. 

Now, here’s the critical part: stack up your cards and put them away without looking at them.  In fact, don’t even take them out again until the next day.  Then, go through them with an open mind and pick out your favorites.  Even the ideas that didn’t seem so hot when you wrote them might turn out to the the seed of something great.  Go with it!  Use these as the inspiration for another round of brainstorming, if you like.  Then, start writing!

Bonus tip:  You can read an article about brainstorming plot ideas here, written by yours truly:

How to Explode With Plot Ideas:

How about you?  Do you have a writing question?  Send me an email and I just might publish your answer here!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Is Copyright, Exactly?

What is copyright?

Want to protect your work against copyright infringement without convincing literary agents and publishers that you’re a complete amateur? (Or worse, a paranoid loon?)  Here are a few simple points to remember.

Basically, copyright protects the embodiment of an idea in a tangible form.  That can mean a published book (or movie, or song, etc.), but it can also be something you’ve typed on your computer or even scrawled out in less-than-perfect handwriting.  The important distinction is that it’s tangible; I can print it out or point to it and say, “There it is.”

Copyright doesn’t protect ideas, however.  Let’s take this admittedly historically inaccurate situation between two writers:

CHARLOTTE:  I believe I shall endeavor to write a book about pride — and also about prejudice.

JANE:  Hold fast, you insipid cow!  I have already written such a book.  I shall sue the petticoats off of you! 

Despite Jane’s protestations, Charlotte is actually free to write about pride (and also prejudice) to her heart’s content.  Why?  Because she’s working from an idea, not a tangible piece of writing.

What Charlotte cannot do, however, is copy and paste any actual passages from Jane’s book or unpublished manuscript.  That would be plagiarism, also known as stealing, which would indicate that Charlotte has gone over to the Dark Side and must be dealt a suitably swift and period-specific punishment.

So what does all of this mean to you?  First, remember that the moment you start writing a book, it’s protected under copyright law.  You don’t need to stamp the copyright symbol all over it.  (In fact, I recommend you don’t.  It just looks tacky.)  Second, if you’re really concerned about protecting your work, you can register it with the copyright office.  It’s relatively cheap and easy, and it gives you much more robust legal protection.  Here’s the link:

By the way, the term trademark refers to something else entirely.  A trademark is something that you use to identify a product or service.  It could be a name, a title, a slogan, that sort of thing, e.g. Coca Cola.  And a patent applies to an invention or a method of doing something.  Neither term is related to copyright, so as long as you’re writing a novel and not inventing the next trendy soft drink, you don’t really need to worry about those.

The insidious Charlotte, however, might be in for a world of hurt.

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How To Write a Book from One Image

Got writing questions?  Get answers!

Q:  I have this singular, compelling image that keeps getting stuck in my mind, and it has inspired me to write my novel.  But it’s just one scene, really.  Is there any way I can develop a story from that?  Can you give me any idea how to write a novel from just this one image?  

A:  Writers get inspired by the oddest things, don’t we?  First, write out that idea as completely as you can.  Don’t edit yourself.  Don’t try to plan it out or structure it.  Just write whatever comes to mind.  Not only what you see and hear, but the feelings that surround it.  What is this scene saying to you?  What does it mean?  What about it is something that everyone can relate to?  Keep going until you’ve exhausted the idea, or you run out of steam. 

Got it?  Good.  Now, here comes the fun part of the writing process: creating new ideas.

Grab a stack of index cards.  On each card, write one thing that could lead TO this scene or one thing that could develop FROM it.  How does this scene change someone’s life?  Who else could be affected by it?  What could this scene ultimately lead to?  What would have to happen beforehand in order to make this scene happen?  Don’t stop until you’ve written for at least 10 minutes and jotted down at least 10 cards.

Now, you’re allowed to take a break here and come back refreshed later.  When you do, sort through your cards and pick out your favorite ones.  Lay them out in front of you.  If you look hard enough, they’ll tell you whether your initial scene idea should occur in the beginning, middle or end of your story.

Once you’ve settled on a particular point in time, you can build forward and backward to it, using the creative writing prompts from your cards.  What comes before this point and brings it about?  What happens afterward as a result of it?  Keep writing, and before you know it, your single image will explode into dozens of writing ideas!

Do you have a writing question?  Send me an email!

Categories: how to write a book, writing a book | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Free Writing Websites

Learn how to write a novel the right way.

Wait, don’t tell me, let me guess — you, dear reader, want to learn how to write a novel!  (Well, the fact that you’re on a web site called “You Can Write A Novel” conveniently gives it away.)  I’ve always believed that when you want to learn how to publish a book, you ask the literary agents, publishers and authors who already work in the business. 

So for your benefit, I’ve put together a few helpful writing links.  These top-notch writing websites are all chock full of the wisdom you need to achieve your dream of learning how to write a book.  Check ’em out!

Literary Agent Kristin Nelson’s Blog

Writer’s Digest

Science Fiction Writers of America

Mystery Writers of America

Romance Writers of America

Preditors & Editors

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

P.S.  Got any suggestions for more writing websites?  Send me an email!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your 3 Writing Personalities: the Surprising Truth

Can the E-Myth show you how to write a novel?

In The E-Myth Revisited, bestselling author Michael Gerber doesn’t breathe one word about how to write a novel.  But the priceless wisdom in these pages might change how you think of yourself and your writing process.

In a nutshell, the E-Myth puts forth the idea that most businesses are not, in fact, started by entrepreneurs, but by skilled workers (Gerber calls them Technicians).  Here’s the quick and dirty version.  Ready?  You have three personalities inside you: the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician.

The Entrepreneur is the visionary, always looking ahead to the future.  This part of you is all about coming up with new concepts and ideas.

The Manager is all about control.  Organizing, putting things into place, keeping things tidy, etc.

The Technician is the one who wants to get things done and just do the work.  Most small businesses are started by natural Technicians who are good at what they do and simply want to do it on their own, without “the boss” breathing down their necks.

The problem is, you need a boss, even an internal one.  All three of these personalities are constantly duking it out inside you, and you have to somehow keep a balance between them if you want to operate at your best.  In other words, if you ignore your inner Entrepreneur, you won’t plan ahead; if you ignore your Manager, you won’t stay on top of things; and if you ignore your Technician, you won’t get any work done.

Pretty neat theory.  But what does this have to do with learning how to write a novel?  Plenty.

As a writer, your inner Entrepreneur is the one who dreams up the concepts that eventually turn into your stories.  Because your ideas are so important, you have to constantly nurture and listen to your Entrepreneur.  If you shut him (or her) down too early in the writing process, you’ll just grab the first story concept that comes to mind instead developing a bunch of good ideas and choosing the best ones. 

Likewise, your inner Manager helps you plan out how to write a novel, ensuring that you have a clear beginning, middle and end. 

And your inner Technician is the one who does the actual day-to-day writing.  Because it’s natural to love writing more than brainstorming or planning, we often just sit down and start pounding the keys without a second thought.

But that’s dangerous.  It’s too easy to jump right into writing the first big idea that comes along, without taking the time to let our inner Entrepreneur brainstorm a bunch of other, possibly better, ideas.  Or without giving our Manager permission to plan things out, so that the story is properly structured.  Instead, we let our Technician rule us, going to work day in and day out, working harder and harder without necessarily getting anywhere.  Just like a lot of business owners.

But there’s a way to beat that trap.  Listen to all three of your writing personalities.  Plan ahead, stay organized and get the work done, all in due time.  Want to learn more?  Check out the E-Myth books in the business section of your local bookstore.  Who knows, you might even be tempted to start your own writing business while you’re at it!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Make A Disastrous Booksigning Event A Success by J.A. Konrath

Author J.A. Konrath

I happened across this writing article by J.A. Konrath recently at  Backspace, The Writer’s Place.  I remember reading it years ago, probably in Writer’s Digest somewhere.  Joe really knows his stuff when it comes to literary agents, publishers and how to write a book.  So check this out; it’s a great piece from a guy who is no stranger to the slings and arrows of self-promotion.  And whether you already have a book out or you’re just learning how to write a novel, this article has some excellent tips for any kind of meet-the-customer situation.  Read Joe Konrath’s article here.

I especially like the part about bringing pizza and donuts for the bookstore staff.  Which reminds me, when Joe came to my store, he didn’t bring pizza — but he did give me an autographed bottle of Jack Daniels, so I’d say that makes up for it.

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Want to Teach You How to Write a Novel

Over the last few years, I’ve met and interviewed a bunch of authors at different stages in their career, from the very beginning to the very top.  In one case, I had the privilege of hanging out with a debut author the same day he discovered he’d hit the New York Times bestseller list.  As a full time writer, I like to “talk shop” wherever and whenever I can, because I firmly believe that the keys to success in any field include meeting new people and learning new things. 

I love doing both.  But this year, I challenged myself to reach out beyond just the people I know to share the writing advice I’ve learned with an even wider audience.  And so this website came about.  I’ve put a lot of planning into what’s going to appear on this page.  Look, I even wrote a mission statement: provides common sense advice, tips and encouragement to all writers, from enthusiasts to experienced professionals, who want to write a novel.

That just about says it all.  Can I live up to that?  Can I come up with novel writing tips and insights that actually improve the lives of other writers?  We’ll find out.  I know I can’t do it alone, since no single human being has all of the answers to everything.  That’s why, coming up soon, you’ll see interviews with award-winning and best-selling authors, along with guest blogs telling tales from the publishing trenches, all with one goal: helping you learn to write a book.

This is your website as much as it is mine.  It’s all about how to become a writer and achieve your dream of writing a novel.  I’ve got a ton of writing tips, know-how and writing advice I’m just itching to tell you about, and this is the perfect platform for me to do that.  This website is about you, it’s for you, and if you follow along, it will show you proof that You Can Write a Novel!

Thanks for joining in!  What are your writing goals for 2011?  I want to hear them!

Categories: how to write a book, how to write a novel, writing, writing a book, writing a novel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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