What is Essential?

It has been a while since my last post, but to say that I have been busy is an understatement. After making the finishing touches to “27 Revelations” I started working on my marketing strategy, which has not been easy, and on top of that I have been working crazy hours at my day job. In the midst of all this, I also felt that it was time that I started taking life seriously and give myself even more responsibility, so I got a puppy, which at this time was the wrong choice. At times I think she is the spawn of Satan; wherever she goes destruction follows, but I do love her. With all of this I haven’t had any time to myself to think or even write. As I look back on these hectic past two months I ask myself, why did I make my life so complicated?

Why can’t I seem to create any personal space? Even in this moment of writing I can’t seem to shut out the world. A lot of the time I feel that I have little choice in the matter and that the universe is conspiring against me. However, the ugly truth is that I made my life this way.

Before I started writing again I questioned my life and where I was heading. After I finished undergrad my life as an independent adult began and it wasn’t at all what I expected  or wanted it to be. I had separated from my boyfriend of five years and as a single young adult I felt that my life would be a party, full of nights out with friends and traveling across the world. But the harsh reality was that was not my life. I had debt and made little money and I couldn’t do those things. The saddest part for me was that the people in my life didn’t want to do those things. People had jobs, they were planning weddings, and having babies.  I felt more isolated than ever and honestly, disappointed. Not at the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend or that those things weren’t happening in my life, but I didn’t like that I was losing the people around me to the busyness of life and how I was forced to figure out what my life would be like  without them.

During this period, I spent a lot of time alone trying to figure out who I was and what made me happy. Then one day I saw the journal that my friend had given me on my birthday when we were in college and I remembered how much I loved writing., I also remembered how I forgot about writing  once I entered college and the demands of a challenging major and personal relationships took up most of my time. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. When I finally sat down to write I felt like all of the weight I had been carrying, all of my hurt, anger, and frustration had finally left me. There was a peaceful place within me that had been hidden to myself, outshined by being too busy, or feeling too sorry for myself. In that moment, I made the decision that writing would never again take a backseat to the imposing demands that people and things place on my life, it would be at the forefront. Writing gives me peace. It brings me excitement. It fills a void and it gives me clarity of mind. It has shown me parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. And now as I write this post I can feel the veil of demands lifting.

What is essential? Writing is essential, at least for me. And when I write I’m not busy, I’m productive because I am finding ways to live a better life, ways to live a less complicated life, in the words.

If you’re like me and you feel that writing illuminates, reveals, grants peace, and purpose to your life then writing is essential.

Why You Should Share Your Writing

I use to be terrified of sharing my writing. Even now, the closer I get to publishing my book the more nervous I become. I already know that there will be people that love my writing and people that loathe it, but even with my expectations in check there are times where I still find myself anxious about the whole thing. When I started writing my novel a couple of years back I wasn’t sure what my intentions were. Like most writers, the writing simply started because it was a passion of mine, a hidden part of myself that I needed to express by putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. Then it developed into something much more. I had an overwhelming need to create, write and share my work. In the past, sharing my work was not an option at all. Just ask my mom. She received a proper scolding when I caught her reading some of my work without my permission. To this date, I am still upset with her about it, but as I developed as I writer I realized that other people reading my work wasn’t the end of the world; I had to ease into it.

I started sharing my writing with people in high school. Instead of listening to the teacher and taking notes I would sit and write stories. When I was finished, my notebook would be passed around to a couple of friends in class. My stories were liked by most and I slowly began to feel my confidence build.  Once in college, writing took a back seat to everything else. It wasn’t until a friend gave me a journal for my birthday that I got excited about writing again and started slowly getting back into the habit.

After I determined that I was going to get serious about writing I started writing short stories, only letting the occasional friend read them, then finally some family members. That is when I realized that it meant something to me to have other people to read my work. It wasn’t about how it made me feel, but it was amazing to see how my writing made others feel.  My writing made my readers sad, it made them think, it made them laugh, and it excited them. That is the beauty of writing. You can take a few words, put them together, and in a matter of minutes someone will, cry, be angered or overjoyed. Words can turn a bad day into a good day or vice versa.

I have realized that when we write we are not only creating stories, but we are sharing lessons, lesson  about love, hate, happiness, hope, sorrow, the lessons of life.  I believe it is important that these lessons are available for consumption by readers in order to educate, heal, change hearts, and ultimately change the world. If you have been on the fence about whether or not you want to share your writing with the world I am here to peer pressure you into sharing it. The world has too much of the same and there needs to be more unique voices out there. Besides, what is the worst that can happen if you share your writing? I’ll tell you. Someone won’t like it, and so what. You might get a nasty email or review, but there will be no lynch mob with pitchforks hunting you down because they hate your work. Write and share and let your voice be heard.

How To Write Your First Novel

Becoming a writer is the dream of many, but most don’t actually follow through and write. I know this because I was that person for many years, the constant dreamer that spent my days imagining what it would be like to have my novel on book shelves and in the hands of millions of readers. I can’t say that I have accomplished all of my goals yet, but I certainly intend to and I want everyone else that has ever dared to dream about something to accomplish their goals too and that I why am writing this post.

So, many of you may be asking, what makes you such an expert on writing your first novel? The truth is that I am no expert, but I have just finished writing my first novel and I am in the process of preparing it for publication. When I first started on this journey, I was bombarded by so many different ideas about what it meant to be a writer I almost let all of the information deter me from what it was I was trying to accomplish. This post will discuss what I found to be true while I was writing and to debunk any myths about the practice that may be holding you back from taking the next step towards your dreams. First let’s address some myths.

Myth: You need to spend your time writing short stories and try to get them published in literary magazines to get your name out there.

I have read stuff like this in blog posts and magazines and I call it rubbish. I started writing short stories and one day I had to ask myself, what the hell am I doing? I don’t want to write short stories, I want to be a novelist. When I realized that I was wasting valuable time I said to hell with the short stories and started working on my novel. Then there was the idea of publishing in a literary magazine idea. Trying to do that was also a waste of time considering I wanted everyone reading my words. Think about it, how many people go to the store to buy a literary magazine? Not many. For some the lit mags might be the thing that they need to feel validated as a writer, but I don’t believe that. In the age of self-publishing and blogging there are a million other ways to reach readers that don’t include submitting your work to a magazine that may or may not accept your work. Spend your precious time developing your platform and writing good stories. That is how you reach readers.

So the take home point here is to write what you want and determine what applies to you because there is a sea of information and a lot of it isn’t helpful. Determine YOUR goals and focus on them.

Myth: You have to have a degree in English or creative writing to be a writer.

This is complete bull. There are many people out there that are writers that have degrees in other things or no degrees at all. Not having a degree in writing should not determine whether or not you can be a writer. Besides, there are hundreds of ways to educate yourself on the craft of writing such as blogs, books, and good old fashioned writing practice. If you are interested in more of an educational environment, seek out writing conferences and local writing groups. You’ll gain writing knowledge and it will be more affordable than applying to an undergraduate or master’s program at a university. Your wallet will thank you.

Myth: You have to write every day to be a writer.

This is the biggest load of crap I have heard about writing period. If you look up any big time author and read their “advice for writers” section, the first thing they say is that you need to write every day. Let me make this very clear. I do not write every day and I don’t think I ever will. When I started working on my novel I was working a full time job and enrolled in graduate school full time so focused writing time for my novel every day was not going to work. Now that I am finished with graduate school I only work full time, but I honestly don’t want to write every day.  I enjoy filling my time with other things like engaging with friends or having days that I dedicate to reading books instead of writing them. Now, let me make it clear, you cannot be a writer if you don’t write at all, that is impossible. The key is consistency.

When I am in novel writing mode I’ll sometimes write every day and take a few days off here and there to catch up on reading or to connect with friends after being solitary for so long. It all comes down to incorporating writing into your life when it works for you and your schedule, which for you may be first thing in the morning when you get out of bed, on your lunch break, or in the car during those free ten minutes you have before you punch the clock.

Alright. Now that we have gotten through the myths that bother me let’s discuss how you write your first novel.

Decide what kind of story you want to write and study the craft.

Before beginning, it is important to have a basic understanding of the craft of writing, so study it and continue to study it because there is always something new to learn. It is also important to understand what genre your story falls into because there are certain structural elements that need to be understood in different genres, such as historical fiction, steam punk, erotica vs romance, women’s fiction versus chick lit, and I could go on. There are many writers whose work isn’t easily classified because they blend so many different elements which is perfectly fine, but at the end of the day basic story structure must be respected, beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, and end. You get the idea.

Find a way to organize your story.

This was the most difficult thing for me because I had no idea where to start. There are many books out there that teach you how to outline your novel so you can write it in 30 or 90 days, but I tried and failed at that because the outline and daily writing quotas were too restrictive so I had to implement something else. For me, traditional outlines were also too restrictive so I separated everything by scene and included the characters, location, and a description of what was going on in the scene. That was it. No dialogue. I went through each scene in a linear fashion and just wrote.

Now, this may not work for you so the key is finding what works best for you. Some may want to write organically and forego the outline all together. I’m currently working on my second novel and I don’t have an outline. I only have a list of scenes that I know I want to put in the story and I write them in no particular order. However, I do have Scrivener, a writing software that allows me to easily order and organize things when I’m finished.  If you are using Microsoft Word, compiling everything at the end might be very tedious.

I cannot say it more passionately. Write. Write your story and do it with intense focus and get your story down. I know when I first started writing I wanted to go back immediately and edit everything, but what I have noticed is that this disrupts me. However, when I am finished I’ll go back and correct any mistakes. In the famous words of Anne Lamott, “write shitty first drafts.”

For me the first draft was just the bones of my story, and when I went back subsequent times I added the meat. After four drafts I finally felt good about sending my work to my editor.

Lastly and most importantly, don’t be afraid.

I will not lie. I have had the most fear and anxiety writing this book because I felt like a fraud.  I was plagued with self-doubt, but when those feelings pop up tell them to kick rocks with opened toed shoes. Fear limits so many of us, but we will never see our dreams through if we let it paralyze us.

This concludes Harlow Hayes’ tips on how to write your first novel. Below are some book recommendations that will provide you with more detail in how to get started. I hope reading this was the kick in the butt  you needed to get started. Now get to it my fellow dream chasers. Happy writing!

 

Book Recommendations

  1. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by The Editors of Writer’s Digest.
  2. Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Lehane.
  3. From First draft to Finished Novel by Karen S. Wiesner.
  4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  5. 90 Days to your Novel by Sarah Domet
  6. On Writing by Stephen King
  7. You’ve Got a Book in You by Elizabeth Sims