When I announced that I had finished writing my first draft of my first novel, I heard from several friends who either asked, “How did you do it?” or something along the lines of “I’ve always wanted to write a book, too, any tips?” Today I wanted to share with those friends, and anyone else who’s interested, what my process was for getting this draft complete in a two-part post. Obviously I’m not an expert, and my way is certainly not THE way, but I think whenever we have goals of our own it helps to know exactly how someone else got it done. You don’t need an inspirational quote at this point, you need the nitty-gritty details of the actual process for getting it done. So here it is. Nothing glamorous – just the basic steps I took that made writing my book a priority and made it possible to write within a year while raising two babies.
- I decided I was going to do it. The whole reason I even considered writing a book was because I realized I needed a hobby. I couldn’t update a friend on what was new with me – I could only tell him what was new with my kids or my husband and I discovered I had no creative outlet. I didn’t know what to do with that, so I picked up the Hunger Games for the second time and read them, thinking that reading would be better than scanning Facebook at least. When I put down the last book, an idea fell into my head – the same idea, I realized, that I had the first time I read the Hunger Games books. I didn’t want to let the idea get away, so I basically just said to myself, “I’m going to write a book.” It would fill the need for a creative outlet, and if it ended up being good? Then maybe I’d bring in a little cash for our family. So once I knew that this idea was worth pursuing, I made sure that…
- I wrote it down. Every little idea I had for this book, I jotted it down on my phone. At first it was very vague – just one character and his role. Then over the course of a few weeks, I was waking up in the middle of the night, thinking of something new I needed to write down. And so I wrote it down, at 2AM or 4PM – whenever inspiration hit. Every minor little thing. Looking back at this list, not everything made it into my book. But these notes designed a world in my mind that I wouldn’t have been able to describe if I hadn’t been “studying” it the weeks prior to actually drafting.
- I researched. My book covers a topic I’m not personally familiar with, so I sent out a Facebook message asking my friends if there was anyone willing to share with me their personal experiences on the subject matter. The response was incredibly encouraging, and the few people I did end up talking with revealed a new perspective to me that I may have been able to guess at, but having their faces in mind as I wrote the story made it feel that much more meaningful and personal of a project. And that much more authentic when I wrote lines pertaining to the subject.
- I got a writing friend. Early on I made a status on Facebook about writing a book, and an acquaintance of mine sent me a message saying, “You’re writing a book?!” She had been working on a novel of her own, and turns out – it’s hard to write a book by yourself! Early on in the process, we met up a couple times where I just explained my plot out loud (which is really hard to do, I felt so vulnerable!) and she helped me see the potential plot holes and helped me work through different challenges as they came up in my writing. It was nice having somebody to talk to who understood the unique challenge of writing your first novel.
- I took myself seriously, and went to a conference. I decided in June or July of 2016 that I would write the book. In February of 2017 there was a writing conference that my writer friend and I went to together. (PS, her name is Shannon and she’s got a blog, too!) It felt a little strange – I felt like an imposter. What right did I have calling myself a writer? I only had four chapters written! But I went, believing I would learn some valuable information while I was there. I was right! But not only did I learn some practical information on writing and publishing, but I was SO encouraged by the community of writers that were all around me. There were people just like me there – unpublished, inexperienced – and there were others who had robust careers who cheered for the amateurs, encouraging us to keep writing what we love.
- I signed up for Twitter. One thing they wouldn’t let go at the conference was that you need a platform. Now, it’s actually more important for folks writing nonfiction, but it won’t hurt a fiction writer. So I made a Twitter account and started following other writers and authors. I studied it for awhile, then started participating, joining in hashtag games and sharing little snippets of my #WIP (work in progress). The response has been finding an online community of authors who are right there with me – understanding the struggle it takes to build a book from scratch. Feeling comfortable with Twitter, I branched out and started this blog and a YouTube channel with my friend from #4. I wanted to continue building my platform, for one thing, but I also found it important that time to time I had a different way to channel the creativity I had successfully released from its cage after years of dormancy.
Apparently I’m having more fun with this particular outlet than I had planned, so I’m going to hold off on sharing the ACTUAL writing process with you until the next post. For now – start psyching yourself up for YOUR book! You know, the one you’ve been thinking about for years. That one you started but gave up on part way through… it’s never too late to start! Get those creative juices flowing again, no one can tell this story but YOU!