So you have your idea and you’re ready to get started. When I’m beginning a new book, I usually give myself three months to plot/write and then another month for editing before release, but every author is different! If it’s your first novel, don’t set a deadline or release date yet.
But you DO want to set a wordcount goal for every day. I like 2,000 words a day.
You also want to outline your plot and character arcs. Even a pantser like me uses a beat sheet. I like this one, which was the brilliant brainchild of writer Jami Gold, and I’m forever grateful to her. You can find it here–do take the time to read her entire post. She has very helpful things to say.
Take some time to fill out the beat sheet as completely as you can, but don’t worry–this will change as you go! If you’re not sure how many words your book will be, consider that mine are all between 60,000 and 70,000 words (except Some Sort of Happy, which was closer to 80,000). Then get writing!
Some reader questions from my fan group (find us here!) related to this topic:
Do I need to take a writing class?
Nope. Assuming you have a good grasp of writing mechanics and grammar, I think the best education for a writer is being a good reader. Read a lot of books–all kinds of books, but especially in the genre you want to write in. Then take your favorite books and analyze them using the romance beat sheet above…what’s the inciting incident? How many pages in did it happen? Can you find the pinch points? The crisis? The climax? (Not THOSE types of climaxes, you dirty Harlot). Can you see the overall structure?
Another resource that I LOVE MADLY is this presentation by Sarah McLean that accompanied her talk on balancing conflict in romance at an RWA conference. It is brilliant!!!
How do you keep track and concentration on your projects? I tend to be distracted by new characters and stories in my head.
Ah, the evil plot bunny. If he won’t leave you alone, you must give him ten minutes. Write down absolutely everything he has to say, and then stick it in a folder and FORGET IT FOR NOW. It’s there when you’re done with your current WIP. If you indulge the craving to start a new project, you will end up with 25 chapter ones and zero completed novels. If you’re stuck in your WIP, it’s because something went wrong–it’s NOT because you need to start another book. (I’ll deal with writer’s block in another post.)
Are you a plotter or a pantser? What does your typical outline look like?
I am a panster that uses a beat sheet! It looks just like the one above. Recently I have started to write out longer synopses…but I still use the beat sheet.
Do you get mid-book panic where you worry everyone will hate your work?
Every. Single. Time.
How do you deal with it?
It’s hard. I fret a lot. I roll around on the ground. I drink and wallow. But in the end I have to trust my critique partners and beta readers (more about them in the next post). If everything is working for them and they’re clamoring for the next chapter, I trust that it’s just my nerves that are the problem. If I have a specific issue, I ask them about it: “Are you sure this scene isn’t totally stupid? I feel like everyone will hate it.” And they say, “We’re sure. Shut up and write, you neurotic asshole.” Or they say, “We like it, but let’s think it through. What other ways could it go?” And they help me brainstorm a little–I usually stick with what I had as long as they like it.
In short, every writer deals with insecurity. Somehow it feels like my subconscious is working against me–it doesn’t REALLY want me to finish the book because once it’s done it has to go Out There in the Big Scary Book Forest and my baby will be cold and wet and feeble and sickly and IT’S PROBABLY GOING TO DIE SO WHY AM I EVEN BOTHERING WITH IT IN THE FIRST PLACE I SHOULD JUST GO DRINK BECAUSE IT’S FIVE O’CLOCK ANYWAY.
Tell your nerves to back off. Power through. Make your workcount goal for the day.
You can do it.