The Power of Positive Thinking in Your Writing

Power of Positive Thinking In Writing

As much as we all love to write, there can be times when it feels like a chore. I think we’ve all had days when nothing in your writing seems to be working well together or times when everything else in life is a little nuts and it’s difficult to fit writing into your day.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that on off-days like these–when writing is hard, or when all I can find is fifteen minutes–writing starts to feel like a task I “have” to do, instead of a task I “want” to do. The biggest thing that has helped me in situations like these is a conscious effort to change my perspective.

Today, I’m going to tell you all about the perspective shift I use, how it helps, and handful of other perspectives that might help you see your writing in a more positive light. You can save these for days when writing is tough or use them every day as needed.

“I get to” vs. “I have to”

This was the big game changer for me. We talk a lot on this blog about creating a writing schedule, committing to your writing, and building a writing habit. And all of this is true and important in the long run, but some days are harder than others. There are days where your head is simply not in the game and honoring your commitment is a real struggle. On days like those, I often find myself thinking that I “have” to write. And what I realized is that thinking about writing this way makes it an obligation. I then realized that when I think of writing like this, it’s even harder to actually get the work in.

So instead, I change my perspective. It isn’t that I “have” to write. It’s that I GET to write. Time spent writing–even writing badly, and even writing for a limited time–is a gift. It’s something I GET to do. And I’ve found, when I take just three minutes to think about this perspective and make it my reality, it’s a lot easier to psych myself up, get something done, and actually enjoy doing it. It doesn’t matter if what I wrote is trash, or if I didn’t meet my goals. I got to write. And I will get to write tomorrow (or the next scheduled writing day). That’s the win!

This phrase alone is usually enough to get me in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t make my writing any better or fix any other issues in my life, but it makes me feel better about writing. And when I feel better I write better–even if I’m not writing “good” yet.

But if this phrase doesn’t do it for you, here are a few others to consider:

“I’ll fix it later”

When writing is rough, it can be really easy to get caught up in what isn’t working and to feel like you can’t move on until the scene/chapter/problem you’re working on is significantly improved. If you find yourself obsessing over what isn’t working, take a time out and remind yourself that (unless this is the very last problem in your book) this can be a problem for *future* you. Current you can decide that you’ve given this problem your all, and it’s time to move on.

My favorite part about his phrase is how freeing it is. I always find it very easy to get caught up in what isn’t working and then it hits me; I can fix it later! This immediately lifts my mood because it lets me give myself permission to move on to something that’s (hopefully) less of a problem. I’ve often found that time away helps refresh me and when I come back to the problem, it’s a lot easier to solve.

“X is working really well.”

Another good way to shift your perspective is to take a moment to celebrate what is working. There is a gem to be found in even the muddiest of scenes and I challenge you to find it. Maybe it’s a character who is really coming through. Maybe it’s a newly discovered plot point. Or maybe it’s the realization that the book would be working really well (or at least better) if you just cut the whole problematic scene altogether. This might not seem like a good thing, but trust me when I say, a serious weight is lifted when you realize you’ve eliminated an unnecessary problem from your to-do list.

But overall, if you’re keeping the scene, there’s likely a good reason for it. Find and celebrate that reason, and let that success carry you forward.

“I moved my story forward.”

Like we covered, some days are rough. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, focus on what you did. Even if you only wrote a sentence, you moved your story forward. That means you’re one step closer to finishing. This may not seem like much, but books get written one sentence at a time. One sentence written is one less you have to write. You may not want every day to look like this, but it’s still progress. That’s success! Let that perspective carry you into the next writing day.

“I love this.”

If you show up to write on a regular basis there can only one reason: you have to love it. I really can’t imagine showing up everyday if I didn’t. And yes, it’s not always fun and easy, but I think the feeling of a good writing day is worth all the bad ones combined. So if you catch yourself in the middle of a bad stretch, take a time out and remember what a good writing day feels like. Know that will come back to you–it always does. You just have to keep writing. I’ve found it’s easier to push through the bad days if I remember what’s waiting for me at the other end. I remind myself that I love this and I love that feeling and if I keep going, I’ll find my way back.

I hope this helps you stay postitive as you write!

Now it’s your turn: What helps you stay positive as you write? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Write Strong Female Characters | 15 Writing Tips

how to write strong female characters

Every book I’ve written has had a strong female lead, so it seems like high time I write a post about it! These are things I personally like to see in a female lead, so this is the list I pull from when I write. In my experience, these tips create characters that people really connect with.

So, here are fifteen tips for writing strong female characters! They’ll help you avoid stereotypes and cliches and create real people for your stories. It may not make sense for every character to have all of these traits, but it might help your character to work in as many of these as you can.

1) Write a strong person

Honestly, this is the most important point. If you only apply one tip, apply this one. The key to writing a quality strong female lead character is to create a quality human being, then layer her female identity on top of that. If you focus on creating a whole and well-rounded character who happens to be female, you’re going to be in good shape.

2) Make her smart

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so it may not make sense for your character to be smart in every aspect of her life or in a traditional academic sense. But it’s usually a good idea to give her one area that she really excels in. It’s very common to insult someone by calling them stupid, but I’ve met very few people who truly had nothing going on upstairs. Give your character an area where she gets to be the smart person in the room.

3) Make her mentally strong

As in, give her the ability to bounce back when life knocks them down. She may not bounce back right away, but most women I know are very hard to defeat. They don’t stay down for very long because most can’t afford to. This doesn’t mean your character shouldn’t have mental struggles, just do what you can to help them overcome or manage them.

4) Make her physically strong

Let her be the protector of the story. Let her be the one no one wants to fight. Again, this is an area that may not make sense for every female character. There are plenty of ways to be strong without physically kicking ass, but if it makes sense for your character, you should absolutely go there! Physical strength is always a plus.

5) Make her vulnerable

Alternatively, it’s okay for your character to be physically and/or mentally strong, but still express vulnerability from time to time. In the early days of the “strong female character” I think it became popular to create female characters that were unaffected by some events that happened to them and the things they did. But vulnerability is human, and there are few things stronger than expressing it.

6) Give her strong opinions

It’s always awesome when you have a woman who knows what she wants, what she thinks, and who isn’t afraid to say so. Throughout history, women have been told to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves, so the more we can all work to counteract that, the better. Creating characters who are vocal about their opinions helps us all.

7) Give her strong beliefs

Similarly, establishing a female character who has her own belief and value system, and who isn’t afraid to share and defend it can give your readers a character to aspire to.

8) Give her struggles

Some people might think that “strong” means someone who handles everything easily, but that’s not true! Your character can (and should) have struggles. What will make her strong is overcoming those struggles and never giving up.

9) Give her support

Being “strong” also doesn’t mean having to handle everything on your own. Giving your character a support system will make her even stronger. It will give her people to open up to, and people who can push her and challenge her, which can only make her stronger.

10) Let her help and be helped

I once heard a writer say that he never has his female characters get rescued. They either save themselves, or if there’s no way around the rescue, they throw a punch on the way out. And while I can absolutely appreciate the sentiment behind this idea, I disagree with it in practice. I think everyone needs help sometimes. To me, the key is the help go both ways.

I say, it’s okay, and even good, for your strong female character to be rescued–even by a guy! Just be sure to give her the opportunity to rescue him down the line. This way, you avoid the helpless woman caricature, while creating a balance and an equilibrium. I think there’s strength in accepting help just as much as there is in giving it, and it’s important that your character be able to do both. (But everyone once in a while, let your strong ladies save themselves because that’s pretty badass too!)

11) Give her power (or make her take it)

Give your character a position of power, or put her in a position to take that power. Few things will make your character stronger than being in charge. This can mean your character is officially the head or point person of an organization, or it can mean she’s the person people look to by default.

It’s especially fierce if your character steps up and takes control. Maybe she’s the best person to be in charge but is being ignored. Or maybe no one is stepping up, so your character gets the job done. Making your character a leader is a sure sign of strength. If it doesn’t make sense for your character to be a permanent leader, it’s enough to give her a situation or two for her to take control of.

12) Make her decisive

Not every decision is an easy one, but the more your character can definitively make a decision, the stronger she will become. She may not make the right call all the time, but decisiveness is a sign of confidence. If your character lives her life from a place of confidence, she’ll be living her life from a place of strength.

Side note, confidence is not the same thing as arrogance, which can be more of a weakness.

13) Make her firm

Strong people respect themselves. They can’t be talked into doing anything they don’t want to. This is true when it comes to deciding what’s best for themselves and when it comes to deciding what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s fine to be open-minded, but don’t let your strong female be someone who can be talked into or out of anything. If that’s the case, then they aren’t thinking for themselves, which makes them a little weak.

14) Give her a history to overcome

Character histories are one of my favorite things to explore. Giving your character a tough history gives her an opportunity to highlight her strength. Weak characters let the things that happen to them bring the down. Strong characters find a why to succeed and overcome despite their history.

15) Make her care about more than a relationship

Lastly, give your character more to care about than her love life. I’m not saying she shouldn’t care at all–relationships are a part of life. But the ins and outs of their jobs, communities, families, passions, hobbies, the fate of the world, etc, should take up just as much as her time and attention, if not more. Strong, realistic characters are multidimensional and have more going on than a single romantic relationship.

I hope this helps you create some strong female characters!

Now it’s your turn: Who are some of your favorite female leads? What are your favorite qualities in a female lead? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Rising Actions | Elements of a Novel – Part 6

Elements of a Novel: Rising Action

Welcome to Part Six of the Elements of a Novel Series! Today we’re talking about Rising Actions! (ICYMI, here are the links to Part One: Creating Characters, Part Two: Choosing a Plot Structure, Part Three: Setting and World Building, Part Four: The Beginning, and Part Five: The Inciting Incident.)

Rising actions are how you keep your story interesting, your readers engaged, and your plot and character development moving forward. That’s a lot to ask of one novel element! This post aims to break down exactly what rising actions are, and how to make them work for you in the least intimidating way possible.

Let’s take a look at what rising actions are, how many you need, and how to manage them in your novel!

What are rising actions?

Rising actions are the pivotal points in your novel that lead to the climactic moment. In a plot structure like the one below, they are the crisis points on the chart. (For more on this plot structure, check out this post!)

Rising actions are designed to continually push the plot and challenge your character. If they’re executed effectively, they will lead you to a natural climactic moment. This may be a showdown between your protagonist and villain, a crucial revelation for your main character, or something similar.

The main role rising actions play in your plot is to ensure your climax doesn’t come out of nowhere. If you know you want your book to end with a major confrontation between your protagonist and antagonist, your readers need to see that conflict build in order to become appropriately invested in the outcome. Rising actions will help you get there gradually. They will help your reader understand and care about the confrontation just as much as your characters do.

Additionally, they can help your character progressively grow. If you want your character to evolve and change by the end of your book, then that growth shouldn’t come out of nowhere either. Readers need to see the tiny steps your character makes throughout the book that gets them from Point A to Point B.

How many rising actions do you need?

There’s no concrete rule on how many rising actions you need. Ultimately, it will depend on the story you’re writing and the plot structure you’re following. Longer books will likely have more rising actions tha shorter ones, and some plot structures suggest more than others. (For more on plot structures, check out part two of this series!) I like to use the plot structure pictured in the previous point, so I usually go with four rising actions. I would suggest considering between three and six, depending on what makes the most sense for your story.

There truly is no right answer here. The more rising actions you have, the more of a build to the climax there will be. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your book. If you pick too few, you run the risk of not paying enough attention to the build and the climax may feel a little random to your readers. However, if you pick too many, it may draw your plot out too much.

When in doubt, go with the middle ground (so, in this case, four or five) for your first draft, then see how your book looks in revision. If the plot feels too drawn out, you can cut or combine rising actions. If it feels too abrupt, you can add some. Be mindful, but don’t let this decision hold you up. You can always fix your book later!

How do you lead into rising actions?

I find it easiest to think of each rising action as mini climactic moments in their own right. It’s typically best to build up to each rising action like you’re doing with the climax itself. Take another look at the plot structure above. Do you notice how the shape of the graph gently slopes up to each rising action? They’re not shown as sharp upward spikes. That’s because it’s usually most effective to progress into the rising action.

For example, let’s say one of your rising actions is that your character has to break out of somewhere. That typically takes preparation. So instead of your character just deciding to break out and making an attempt, you can have events in the chapter or two prior where your character prepares to break out. Maybe in one chapter, they get supplies, then in the next, they watch the guards and choose the best moment. Then in the following chapter, they actually execute the breakout.

This will help your reader anticipate and become invested in the rising action while giving you an event that helps them become equally as invested in the climax.

What should each rising action include?

Ideally, each rising action should include an event that gets your character closer to the climactic plot point and gets your character closer to who you want them to be at the end of the book.

When it comes to plot, each rising action should give your character something that will either help them in the climax, or help them get to the climax. This could mean that one of your rising actions forces your character to uncover a skill they didn’t know they had, which they can then develop and use at your story’s pivotal moment. Or maybe your character learns crucial information that helps them learn or understand something important about their enemy.

Additionally, you can really take your rising actions to the next level if you tie some character development to each rising action. For example, let’s say you want your character to learn to be more trusting. In your first rising action, they can be forced to work with and trust someone they’re uncomfortable with to retrieve information that’s pivotal to the plot. Then the next plot point should build on that trust. Maybe after being forced to work together, they come to a truce of sorts. Then the trust will build from there in the next few rising actions.

For more on how to make plot and character work together, check out this post!

How do you come out of a rising action?

Once you reach the peak of your rising action and get your characters out of their situation/back to safety, it’s usually a good idea to give them a moment to breathe and regroup from whatever they went through. Maybe they nearly got caught by their enemy, or maybe another character died. Whatever happened, they’ll likely need time to process, evaluate their situation, and recover.

These recovery periods can make for some particularly good character moments. As we’ve said, the rising actions themselves should push and challenge your characters. This may put them in emotionally or physically vulnerable situations that they will have to deal with during these recovery periods.

Something else to keep in mind: if you want to keep building tension, it’s a good idea for your rising actions to get more intense and for your characters to suffer more consequences after the rising actions as your book progresses. This may result in stronger and more interesting character moments as you move through your book.

How do you plot rising actions?

Before you can plot your rising actions, you have to choose a plot structure. (See Part Two!) Once you pick your plot structure, you can choose to plot forward or backward, depending on what seems easier.

No matter what you pick, I would suggest having some idea what you climax is from the start, even if it’s only a vague idea. It’s a lot easier to plot your rising actions if you know what you’re rising to.

If you’re plotting from the start of your book and moving forward, look at where your character is starting, and refer to your plot structure. Then figure out what the first step they need to take on their journey to get them one step closer to the climax. Then have them take another step, then another. Keep taking steps forward until your plot structure is filled in or you reach the climax.

In this method, you build tension and momentum in the same chronological way you want your reader to experience it. It’s best for writers who have an idea of how to get their character from the beginning to the end, but just need to fill in some blanks.

If you’re plotting backward, start at your climax and consider your plot structure. Then, figure out the step that needs to happen right before the climax to bring it about. Then you take another step backward and figure out what needs to happen to bring that plot point about. After that, you take another step back, then another until you reach the start of the book.

This method can be best for writers who feel like they have no idea how their character is going to get from the beginning to the end. It helps prevent you from focusing too much on the (possibly) overwhelming big picture. Instead, it encourages you to zero in on the events that need to happen prior, in order for the climax to occur.

I hope this helps you create some awesome rising actions for your novel!

Now it’s your turn: What are your tips and tricks for creating rising actions? How do you keep your rising actions interesting? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Satisfy Your Reader: 6 Writing Tips

How to Satisfy Your readers

If you want readers to truly love your story, it’s important to ensure they are satisfied. This isn’t the same as making them happy, and it’s doesn’t necessarily mean giving them what they want. To satisfy your reader, you need to tell a complete story that makes logical sense, and gives your readers what you’ve promised them.

Let’s take a look at what it means to satisfy your readers and how to go about it!

Happy vs satisfied

Readers are often happy when they get what the want in a story. This can be an event, a character development, a relationship, or an outcome. Equally, they are unhappy if one of their favorite characters dies, a couple they wanted together gets torn apart, or if there is an outcome they didn’t like.

However, it’s possible for a reader to be unhappy with events that unfold but still love a story because it leaves them satisfied. It’s possible to give readers what they want and have them not like a story because it’s too neat and tidy, which made it unrealistic and unsatisfying.

Satisfaction happens when events occur in a way that makes sense and could believably occur in real life. If your reader is satisfied, they are far more likely to enjoy what they are reading, regardless of how happy they are about what’s taking place.

For example, let’s look at Harry Potter for a moment. (I use Harry Potter a lot for examples on this blog because it’s such a widely read book. But if you haven’t read it and are planning to, skip the rest of this paragraph because I’m about to give a serious spoiler.) When the last book came out, most people seemed to love the book itself, but they took issue with the epilogue. This was largely because it seemed unrealistic that all of the characters would end up happily coupled with their first real significant other, which made it a touch unsatisfying. Many people were rooting for those characters throughout the story and wanted them to end up happy. But seeing everyone end up happy didn’t ring true to many.

How to satisfy your reader

Build storylines that pays off

If you’re going to spend time building a storyline, it’s important that readers get to see it pay off. There is nothing more frustrating as a reader than investing in a storyline only to have it take an unrealistic turn. For example, if you’re building a romantic relationship between two of your characters, it’s okay to draw it out and have a handful on minor setbacks. That much can easily happen in real life. However, it’s incredibly unsatisfying if you never let your characters get together, or if they get together and separate quickly.

If you’re asking your readers to invest in a storyline, give them the payoff. If you don’t, you’re breaking a promise to your readers. A well-executed story is one that satisfies readers and creates new realistic problems. Going back to the example in the last paragraph, if you’re building a romantic relationship between characters, let them get together instead of breaking them up immediately to “keep things interesting.” Couples still have conflicts, issues, and sweet moments after they’re in a relationship. Write the relationship you’ve asked people to invest in. It will satisfy your readers and may prove to be a fun writing challenge.

Focus on the characters not the reader

This may be a post about satisfying readers, but ironically, one of the best ways to satisfy them is not to focus on them while you’re writing. Consider them, sure, and you can absolutely prioritize them while you’re editing and revising. But they shouldn’t be your focus when you’re writing.

It can be easy to get caught up in the idea of surprising the reader or keeping them invested by denying them what they want. But if you play that game for too long, the reader may start to feel like they’ve been played or lead on and walk away. Additionally, if you’re focusing on the reader, it means your not focusing on the story and on what would make the most believable, logical, sense.

Paying attention to the reader can serve as a distraction when you’re writing. Instead, pay attention to your characters. If you hone in on what makes the most sense for them, it will likely result in reader satisfaction because it will read realistically. Don’t go for the shock factor. Go for the believability factor.

Focus on the characters, not yourself

Similarly, it can be easy to get caught up in your own fantasy of what you want for your characters just because you want it–even if it doesn’t make sense based on the rest of the story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cut scenes I’d written just because I wanted the events in them to happen.

But if the scene is rushing a storyline or doesn’t fit in the story at all, it’ll lead to an unsatisfying and frustrating reader experience.

However, it’s okay to draft scenes like this! If you’re anything like me, part of the reason I write is that I can make anything I want to happen on the page. That’s part of the joy of writing. But in the end, you have to step up and put your characters first, which may mean cutting scenes that you really enjoyed writing.

Focus on realistic, consistant character behaviors

The last two points talked about focusing on your characters. This one talks about what exactly you should be paying attention to when you do. It really comes down to believability and character consistency. If you have your character acting in a way that readers would find unbelievable or in a way that they have never acted before, you’re setting yourself up for a string of unsatisfying events.

For example, if your characters are preparing for a major battle, it would not be believable for the typically thorough chief planner to overlook an obvious possible error just so the story can have a complication. This wouldn’t be consistent with the character’s established thoroughness, which would lead to an unsatisfied reader.

Don’t rely on cliches

Lastly, don’t rely on cliches. Sure, in some cases, you might be able to make the argument that it’s a cliche for a reason, but for the most part, cliches are so overdone that they’ve become predictable. That predictability can read as inauthentic, which can leave your reader unsatisfied.

Additionally, if you rely too much on a cliche, you may end up stuffing your characters into boxes and roles they don’t belong in, in order to get your character to fill a cliched role. This would again mean that you end up having your characters behave in an unrealistic, inconsistent way in order to do so.

However, if you think you have a great idea on how to twist a cliche and make it something new, you should absolutely go for it! This can be a great way to refresh an overused concept. If you execute it well, readers will likely be satisfied by your ability to give them a new take on a familiar idea. And because you’re taking a new approach, it’s unlikely that you’ll box your characters into unsatisfying roles.

I hope this helps you create stories that satisfy your readers!

Now it’s your turn: What stories have left you the most satisfied? What do you think about when you try to satisfy your readers? Tell me about it in the comments!

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6 Conflicts to Use in Your Novel | Writing Tips

Six types of conflict for your novel

Let’s talk about conflict! It probably isn’t news to you that conflict is essential to writing an effective story. (And if it is news to you, now you know! 😉 But including conflict consistently isn’t always as easy as it sounds. There may be times where you know a scene is lacking conflict, but aren’t sure what to add. Other times, you may find yourself struggling with what the bigger, overarching conflicts should be.

In order to work conflict into your story, you first have to have a good understanding of your options. To help with that, here are six types of conflicts you might find useful in your story.

Character vs. Self

I think most of us can point to a time that we’ve been at war with ourselves about what to do in a given situation. You can let your characters experience the same feelings. This conflict is particularly handy if it doesn’t make sense for your character to be in conflict with someone else or if they’re on their own for some reason.

This conflict can be as big or as small as you need it to be, depending on what’s going on in your story. If you want to include a book-length arc, your character can be struggling with something life-changing or character-defining. Maybe they’re struggling with doing the right thing versus doing something for personal gain. Or maybe they’ve found themselves in a situation with an impossible choice to make–one that will take the whole book to work out.

If the conflict only needs to last a scene or a few chapters, you can consider similar situations to the ones mentioned above, but on a smaller scale. Your character can also struggle with when to keep and share information, the right and wrong thing to do in any given situation, and who to trust and guard against.

Character vs. Character

This is perhaps the easiest and most common type of conflict to include. All you need is two people who want different things in any given moment. This is where majority of the conflicts in our lives come from. Everyone has their own goals and interests. Sometimes they line up, but a lot of the time, they don’t. Any time our wants differ from someone else, it lends itself to a natural conflict. Your characters should operate in a similar fashion.

On a larger, book-length scale, you could have two characters in competition with each other or at odds over something big. Maybe one character wants to take over the world and the other doesn’t want that to happen. Or maybe your protagonist and antagonist are running against each other in an election.

On a smaller scale, the conflict could be as simple as two characters disagreeing over the best course of action to take, or maybe one character is a bit of a bully to another. It can be particularly interesting if two characters who usually get along have a reason to argue.

The key with this type of conflict is to be sure that it makes sense for both characters involved. If it doesn’t make sense for your characters to be on opposite ends of the argument, your conflict will fall flat.

Character vs. Environment/Society

This conflict comes up whenever a character has an issue with their immediate surroundings or society. Any time you’ve had an issue or disagreement with a rule or reality placed on your by an outside source, you’ve likely had a conflict with your environment or society.

On a smaller scale, it can mean that your character doesn’t fit in at school/work or their community. It may be a source of discomfort for your character, but it doesn’t dominate their every thought or overall goal. There can be areas in the story where this is more of an issue than others, but it isn’t the driving force behind the story.

On a larger scale, it can mean that your character is attacked for who they are or what they believe. It could also mean that they are at odds with a controlling government. Dystopian book or books with a rebellion/uprising often have a character vs. environment/society conflicts at the heart of their plot.

Character vs. Nature

Character vs. Nature occurs anytime the natural order of the world threatens your character. This can mean weather, a natural disaster, or any kind of predatory situation or animal encounter. This type of conflict can be particularly useful because you don’t always have to justify why this natural occurrence is happening. As long as it’s feasible for the occurrence to happen in your story’s setting, you can probably get away with it.

And again, these natural occurrences can be as big or as small as you need them to be. If you need a small conflict, maybe your character finds themselves face to face with a hungry wolf they have to escape from. Or if you want to force two characters together, they can be snowed in somewhere.

If you need a bigger conflict, maybe there’s a hurricane headed your character’s way. The countdown before a natural disaster can also lead to a great source of tension.

Character vs. Machine

This conflict is growing in popularity with the growth of technology. The problems we encounter with technology can range from the mild inconveniences to the more serious, life-threatening issues.

If you need a smaller problem, consider technical malfunctions. This can include a GPS that proves to be less-than-accurate, a cell phone that’s dead or lacking reception, or a computer that won’t connect to the internet. For a contained mid-sized problem, something along the lines of a car crushing someone after an accident or any kind of large machine malfunction will get the job done. A gunfight could also fall into this category.

On a larger scale, bombs and missiles about to go off and level entire towns, or any machine that your character has to stop, or alter is worth considering.

Character vs. Fate/Supernatural

And lastly, we have fate and the supernatural. This is the one conflict that may not have a place in your story, depending on what you’re writing. On the other hand, if you’re writing a supernatural story, it may be your biggest conflict.

On a small scale, your character may find themselves with a brief ghostly encounter. It’s also possible that your character might have an encounter with a psychic or a ouija board. On a larger scale, your character may be handed a destiny they’re trying to outrun or be haunted by some kind of ghost, curse, or other supernatural creature.

Paranormal and supernatural books will shape their primary plot around a conflict of this nature, but even books that aren’t centered around this theme may include some supernatural conflicts if you have a character who believes or if it’s relevant to the story.

I hope this helps you add some killer conflicts to your novel!

These are just some possibilities! What your specific story will need may vary, but hopefully, this gives you a good idea of each type of conflict and how to use it in your story.

Now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite type of conflict to write? What’s your favorite conflict to read? Tell me about it in the comments!

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The Inciting Incident | Elements of a Novel – Part 5

Inciting Incident: Elements of a Novel

Welcome to Part Five of the Elements of a Novel Series! Today is all about the Inciting Incident! (ICYMI, here are the links to Part One: Creating Characters, Part Two: Choosing a Plot Structure, Part Three: Setting and World Building, and Part Four: The Beginning.)

The inciting incident is one of the most important elements of the plot structure. It’s responsible for hooking your readers into the story and kick-starting your plot. This post aims to break down what an inciting incident is, what makes for a good one, when it should happen, and some tips to help you with your own!

What is it?

The inciting incident is when you’re character’s life starts to change. This change can come as a result of a choice your character makes or as a result of something that happens to them, such as the death of a family member or a change in their circumstances. The inciting incident is what will make your character rise to the occasion, leave their normal life, and move to the main story arc of your plot.

What makes for a good inciting incident?

A good inciting incident should have a personal connection with your protagonist and (by extension) your reader. It should tug at something your character strongly believes in and/or wants to change. Because this element propels the plot, it has to be big and meaningful enough for your character to sign up for the rest of the story. Otherwise, your readers may not find your story to be belivable from the start.

There are two ways you can appeal to your character. First, is in a positive way. In this instance, you give your character a change that is seemingly positive. This will be something that your character will want to leave their normal life for.

One example is from Harry Potter. In this case, the inciting incident is when Harry gets his Hogwarts letter and learns he’s a wizard. At the time, this was a positive change for him. It got him away from his terrible aunt and uncle and into a world of magic. Harry finding his way into the magic world is what set the entire seven-book series into motion.

The second way you can appeal to your character is in a negative way. This can mean killing or endangering a family member, or forcing them to take a risk for their own or someone else’s safety. In this case, your character may not actually want to leave their world, but they’ll do it for the greater good.

A good example of this type of appeal is The Hunger Games. In this case, the inciting incident is when Katniss volunteers as tribute to save her sister. She doesn’t actually want to be in the Hunger Games, but she’s motivated to do so in order to keep her sister out of danger.

When should it happen?

When your inciting incident should happen can vary depending on the story, but generally speaking, you’re going to want it pretty close to the beginning. If you’re using a three-act structure, it generally falls towards the end of act one.

Because your inciting incident is responsible for both pulling your reader in and kicking you plot into gear, it’s typically better to introduce your inciting incident as soon as possible. However, it’s important to establish what “normal” is for your character. Some stories need more time than others to do this. Looking at the two examples above, The Hunger Games had its inciting incident at the end of chapter one, while Harry Potter took several chapters.

Sooner is always better, but don’t cut corners. If your characters are in a fantasy world, you may need to take a chapter or two establishing the world before you dive into your inciting incident. You’re better off taking a little more time to get to your inciting incident and ensure your reader isn’t confused.

And of course, you can always fix it later! On your first draft, you should absolutely take all the time you need. Maybe you have a lot of “normal” to establish and it takes you ten chapters to get to the inciting incident. If it feels like you story is dragging when you read over it, you can always tighten it up. That’s what revision is for!

Tips for an effective inciting incident

Focus on believability

It might be tempting to start your story off with a bang, but if you go too big, too fast, you run the risk or loosing your reader out of the gate. They’re not invested in your story yet, so if they are’t buying what you’re selling at this point, they’re much more likely to walk away now than the might be at chapter twenty. If your story seems too far fetched this early, your reader may see that as a sign of things to come and bounce before they get invested.

On the other hand, if your inciting incident is underwhelming or unrealistic, it might not seem like enough of a reason for your character to abandon their reality for your plot. This may cause your reader to walk away in a similar fashion. For instance, if in The Hunger Games, Katniss chose to volunteer to save someone who wasn’t her sister, it might not ring true to your readers. It simply doesn’t seem believable enough that an average person would sentence themselves to almost certain death for a stranger–especially if they hadn’t done so in the past.

This leads me to the tip.

Make it personal

One easy way to aid the believability of an inciting incident is to make it personal. In Katniss’s case, it’s because her sister was in danger that we so easily believed she would take such a risk. You can use this to your advantage in any number of situations. If you want a character to care about a mystery, it could be that someone they care about was hurt. Or it could be that the person responsible is still out there and could hurt your character or someone else.

However, how personal you need to make an inciting incident can often depend on the stakes of the story and the role of your character. If you’re writing about a detective catching a serial killer, the inciting incident may not have to be all that personal because the stakes are life and death, and it’s the detective’s job to catch such a person. But if the stakes are lower or your character is typically more removed from the plot arc you’re writing, giving them a personal connection is a solid, believable way to get them into the story.

Show clear advantages

It also helps to show clear advantages to your character making the kind of change the inciting incident is asking them to make. Jumping back to our Harry Potter example, not every eleven-year-old would see leaving home, their friends, and their current school to go to a boarding school as a good thing. But in Harry’s case, there were clear advantages. His family didn’t treat him well, he didn’t have any friends as a result, and he was going to a school that would teach him magic. Who wouldn’t say yes to something like that?

Even if you can’t put your character in a situation like Harry’s where they would want to leave their normal world, if you can put them in a situation where the advantages believably outweigh the disadvantages, it will likely be enough to convince your readers to buy into your inciting incident and get your plot off and running!

I hope this helps you create an awesome inciting incident for your novel!

Now it’s your turn: What are some of your favorite inciting incidents? What are some techniques you’ve used in your books? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Build a Writing Life: 12 Writing Tips

How to Build a Writing Life

This post is for anyone looking to prioritize living a writing life above all else. Maybe you want to be published, or maybe you’ve just realized that you’re a happier, better person when you’re writing. Whatever your reasons, if you want to build a life that prioritizes writing, I’m here to help!

First, a quick personal note. I knew I was serious about being a published author in high school. But after grad school, I decided that writing made me so happy and fulfilled, that I wanted it to be a priority for me even of the only people who ever read my books were my family and friends. With that in mind, I set out to build a life around writing. There were a lot of factors in my journey to publication that I couldn’t control, but building a life that made me happy–one centered around writing–that was something I could control.

This post includes things that helped me create a life I loved. Ultimately, they did lead me to a book deal, but I would have been okay even if they didn’t. Because approaching writing and life this way made me happier than I ever anticipated.

With that said, not everything in this post will work for every writer. There are some trade-offs, and I can’t tell you what will work for you and your life. But if you’re serious about making writing a priority, here are some tips that helped me–and they just might help you too!

1) Make “enough” money

This is the first and biggest sacrifice. Figure out the bare minimum you need to make to get by and take a job that pays you that amount (or a little more to be safe). This might mean taking fewer hours at a job you’re currently working or finding a new job entirely. Making less money, generally means you’re working less, which means you have more time to write. (If you found that you’re already at your minimum, then consider some of the other tips instead.)

2) Get a low-stress job that saves your brain

If you have a high stress or mentally draining job, it will likely take most, if not all, of your mental energy. This means you won’t have the energy or time to write. Instead, consider jobs that don’t take too much brain power, stress, or off-the-clock attention. Like data entry, reception, or tutoring (like me).

I decided that I would rather have a “real world” job than a “real world” career in favor of prioritizing writing. To me, this meant being happy with a job that was not too demanding and that I didn’t have to take home with me, but had no real growth opportunity.

I have had a job as a college writing tutor for five years. So for four hours a day, I help students with their papers. I don’t make a lot of money at this job, but I make “enough.” I also don’t have to make lesson plans, grade anything, or do any work when I’m off the clock. I get to control my schedule. But the job itself will always be the same and I’ll never be in a position for any kind of promotion or real pay raise. This is perfectly fine for me because I have plenty of time to write, which is what fulfills me.

3) Schedule writing time daily

The first two items may require big life changes, so here’s one that doesn’t. Work writing into your schedule daily–or at least as much as you can. No one is going to prioritize writing for you. If you want to have a life that puts writing first, you have to make sure you actually write! This is something you can start ASAP. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day. There has to be something you can ditch in your day and drop writing in instead.

Do you have a half-hour lunch break? Start bringing a lunch you can eat quickly, that doesn’t need to be heated (like a sandwich). Give yourself fifteen minutes to eat, then write for fifteen minutes. Or get up just fifteen minutes earlier. If you need some tips on how to commit to your writing, check out this post.

4) Take courses

If you want to be a better and more serious writer, consider taking classes. Colleges, libraries, and community centers may have some info on inexpensive classes that could be more accessible than you think. This may be a particularly good idea if you’re struggling to write regularly. Putting money out to take a class may help put you in a writing mindset. It will give you deadlines, and force you to find time to write, which is a habit you can carry long after the class ends.

5) Read craft books

If courses aren’t your thing, consider some craft books or guides. Writers and writing teachers put out craft books on a regular basis. The resources page has some of my favorites. You can also check out your local library and see what they have on the shelves. And of course, you can read blogs like this one!

6) Read books like the ones you hope to write

If you know you want to write a supernatural thriller, read supernatural thrillers and study how the author executes the story. Then see how much of their techniques you can use in your own work.

7) Treat writing like a job

If you’re serious about making time for your writing, prioritize it as you would any other job. This approach was a game changer for me. So much so, that I gave it it’s own post, which you can find here.

8) Find a like-minded or supportive people

Finding and talking with other writers can go a long way in prioritizing writing. This can give you people to check in with, or people who will hold you accountable to your writing goals. If you don’t know any writers, supportive people who appreciate stories and the creative process can be just as helpful. I talk a little bit about how to find these people in this post on find early readers for your writing. The same methods apply in this situation.

9) Create or join a writer’s group

Alternatively, you can join a writer’s group or form one of your own. In this case, I’m not just talking about finding support for your writing, I’m talking about finding people who will critique and help you improve. There’s likely to be an active group in your community–your local library may have some info! If you can’t find one that works for you, consider forming your own. That’s what I did! My writer’s group formed from like-minded friends from high school. We meet once a month. It helps to make writing a priority when you know people will be expecting to read something or see some progress on a regular basis.

If you can’t find a group in real life, check out the internet! Facebook or other social media may prove to be a good resource.

10) Get an MFA (if you’re considering a degree)

I am by no means suggesting that you shell out a ton of money for a degree if you can’t afford it, but if you’re thinking about going back to school or getting a master’s degree, you might want to consider an MFA. I believe I would have gotten published without my degree, but I think it would have taken me so much longer. So if getting a master’s degree is something you’re planning, choosing an MFA would go a long way in prioritizing your writing. For more on the Pros and Cons of MFAs, check out this post!

11) Ask for help

This applies to things around the house, in life, and with your writing. If you want your writing to be a priority, it may mean downgrading some current priorities to make room. This can mean someone else in your house takes on the vacuuming or dinner prep a few nights a week. It may also mean asking a friend you trust to read and discuss a draft. If you have supportive people in your life, don’t feel like you have to navigate this change alone. And if you don’t have supportive people in your life, jump back to points 8 and 9 and get yourself some!

12) Accept and embrace uncertainty

One trade-off I made to prioritize my writing was a stable career with a clear future. Instead, I prioritize writing and the foreseeable future. I do what I can to ensure that I’m secure enough for now. At times, not knowing what’s going to happen next can be a little nerve-wracking, but on most days, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that anything can happen next!

If you can learn to keep your head down and focus on what you can control, the uncertainty of a creative life is not only manageable but exciting. After all, no one else really knows what’s going to happen next either. The downside of a stable career is that you owe a lot of your time and energy to someone else. And in the end, a company can still go bankrupt or fire people and leave them just as uncertain. Expecting uncertainty means giving up that obligation, which can be incredibly exciting and freeing.

I hope this helps you find you build an awesome writing life!

Now it’s your turn: What’s helped you created a happy, sustainable writing life? What’s been a struggle? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Find Character Motivation: 7 Writing Tips

How to find Character motivation

Character motivation is the driving force behind a story. If your character doesn’t have a reason to take a step forward, your entire story comes to a grinding halt. But it’s important to develop motivation that is both believable and realistic to the character.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the four main areas to consider when developing your character’s motivation and why it’s so important to both your character and the story.

How to discover character motivation

What does your character want?

The first thing you have to figure out is what exactly your character wants. This can be either very easy or very challenging depending on how well you know your character and the trajectory of your story.

Everyone wants something in life. Depending on the nature of your story, what your main character wants can vary greatly. If you’re writing a mystery, your main character is likely going to want to solve the mystery. If you’re writing a fantasy, your main character will likely want to stop a threat of some kind. Your character can want anything as long as it makes sense for the character and the story.

Why do they want it?

This is the heart of character motivation. The ‘why’ is what will push your character to keep moving forward at all costs. The ‘why’ needs to be strong enough to keep your character after their goal throughout the book. If there is not a deep reason behind the desire, readers will not buy into your story and won’t be willing to follow your character to the end.

There are two main areas to look to find your ‘why’: Internally and externally. If you look internally, you’re considering your character’s basic personality and makeup. For example, a stubborn character might be determined to reach their goal simply because this personality trait will not allow them to give up easily. If this is a consistent character trait, it may be enough to push your character.

If you look externally, you may want to consider what event or person may have had an influence on your character. For instance, if a family member was kidnapped, this external factor would dictate your character’s desire. You also might want to look at your character’s past. Did something major happen to them or someone they care about that might shed some light on what they’re after and why?

You’ll likely need a combination of internal and external factors to explain your ‘why’ but one should be the most dominate.

Why can’t they have it?

Once you know what your character wants and why, it’s time to consider what is standing in their way. This could be a person, or it could be a situation or set of circumstances holding them back.

If you’re dealing with a person, consider why this person is in the way. Are they intentionally trying to hinder your character, or is this person simply after the same thing as your character (like a job)? If they’re trying to hinder your character, why? (And if they are actively trying to hurt your character, that likely means you have a villain. If you want some tips on creating awesome villains, check out this post!)

If you’re dealing with a situation or set of circumstances, consider how your character came to be in this situation and how much of a struggle it would be to overcome. For example, if your character is on the verge of losing their house and wants to save it, you’d first want to think about what happened to their finances that put them in this situation, what the time constraints are, and how much money they’d have to raise to keep their house. Understanding what they have to overcome is important because you need to be sure to give your character enough motivation to overcome whatever you’re throwing at them.

What will they risk to get it?

This is where we start to look at the stakes of your story. What is your character willing to risk and/or lose to get what they want? If your character wants to save their friend’s job, are they willing to risk their own to speak out? If they want to save their world from an evil sorcerer, are they willing to risk the life to do so?

Figuring out how much your character is willing to risk serves two purposes. First, it adds an element of stress, tension, and conflict to your story, which is sure to make your book more interesting and your readers more invested. Second, it shows your readers just how much their desire means to your character. This aids in deepening your character’s motivation and emphasizing the importances of that desire to your readers.

Why character motivation is important

It pushes character growth

The first reason character motivation is so important to your story is that it pushes your character to grow. In order to get the things we want, we often have to step out of our comfort zones. This should be true for your character as well. They may have to speak out when they’re afraid, fight when they’re not sure they’ll win, use a skill they’re not sure they have full command of, or confront a person or situation they’ve been avoiding.

Walking away from any of these situations is an easy thing to do. In most cases, it’s preferable. The only reason we don’t walk away in real life is because our desire and motivation is stronger than any fear and discomfort we may face. And because of that, we do the things that scare us and often grow as a result. Your characters will have the same experiences. This will make your character relatable, which builds a connection with your reader.

It gives the plot direction

Additionally, the character’s desires and motivations are what gives your plot a direction. Without character motivation, there is no step forward for your character to take. It won’t matter that the evil sorcerer wants to destroy the world if your character doesn’t feel motivated to stop them. Without your character’s motivation and drive, there is no story.

However, it’s important that your character’s motivation be believable. Otherwise, you may have a hard time getting readers to buy into your book. If you have a character who is driven by a stubborn desire to succeed, they need to be stubborn in other areas of their life too, not just with regard to the plot-driving motivation. Human behavior and character consistantcy are at the heart of believable character motivation, which in turn, is the backbone of an engaging and belivable story.

What about more minor characters?

Most of what we talked about so far applies primarily to the protagonist. After all, they’re the ones who are driving the story, so it makes sense that they’re motivation would be the priority to uncover. But it’s important not to forget the more minor characters.

Everyone in your book should want something. Sometimes those wants will line up with what your character wants, but sometimes they might not. Take the time to figure out the main motivation for each of your main characters and important supporting characters. This will lead to more dynamic and realistic situations and conflicts, which can only strengthen your story.

I hope this helps you find your character’s motivation!

Now it’s your turn: What do you think about when you look at your character’s motivation? Is there something I missed? Tell me about it in the comments!

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The Beginning | Elements of a Novel – Part 4

Elements of a Novel: The Beginning

Welcome to Part Four of the Elements of a Novel Series! It’s time to finally dig into the novel itself and explore the beginning! (ICYMI, here are the links to Part One: Creating Characters, Part Two: Choosing a Plot Structure, and Part Three: Setting and World Building.)

The main goal for the beginning of a novel is to introduce your readers to your world, character, and story. Ideally, you want to do this in a fun and interesting way. Let’s take a look at the specifics of what you should aim to introduce and how to keep your audience engaged while you do it!

Introduce the main character

The first priority at the beginning of your story is to introduce your main character. If you want your readers to connect with your story, they need to be anchored and connected to your protagonist as soon as possible.

However, it’s a bit of a balancing act. If you give your readers too much information about your character too fast, you could overwhelm them. Instead, try to stick to the very basics of what your readers need to know about your character to be willing to follow them through the story. Establishing their voice, attitude, and general personality is far more important than establishing their appearance.

If you feel like you’re struggling to create a connection for your readers, consider putting your character in some kind of heightened emotional state. If they’re worried, or stressed, or afraid of something, your reader will likely be able to latch on and relate to those emotions. This is by no means the only way to start a story, but if you’re having a hard time, it might help!

Introduce related characters

Depending on the events you decide to include in your opening scene, you may need to introduce other characters along with your main character. If you’re going to have a handful of characters in your opening scene, it might be ideal to limit additional characters to supporting characters. This will allow you to keep the focus on your protagonist, while allowing them to have company in the scene.

Alternatively, if you want to include two main characters in the opening scene, you might want to think about limiting the scene to just the two of them. This will help readers get to know the characters and emphasize their importance without pulling focus to less important characters.

But keep in mind, these are not hard and fast rules. They’re guidelines that I have found make for a successful character introduction. You should absolutely be open to modifying as it makes sense for the beginning of your story.

Introduce the setting and/or world

In addition to your character, readers need to know where exactly this story is taking place. Similar to when you introduce your character, you don’t want to give your readers too much too fast. This is especially a concern if you’re setting your story in a completely different world.

There are a handful of ways you can introduce your setting/world successfully, but here are my two biggest tips:

Limit the information you share

Like with your character introduction, consider limiting the information you share about your setting to only what your readers NEED to know to get into your story. This is particularly relevant if you need to introduce a whole new world to your audience. New characters and a completely new world can be a lot for the reader to take in. Limiting information can help your reader ease into your world, while quickly engaging with your story.

For example, if you’re writing a fantasy, you may have magic in your book. It might be important to introduce that magic up front, so by all means, include it in your opening scene. However, the details behind how the magic works and who gets to use it can be discussed later.

Start up close, then widen the lens

This technique is another great way to ease your readers into your setting, regardless of if your story is set on this world or another. When you first introduce your character, only introduce their immediate surroundings at first. So, if your character is at work, just tell us about their work setting. If they’re at home, tell us about their home.

Then as the scene or chapter moves on, widen the lens and tell us where their work or home is located. If there’s something unique about the location you want to mention, go for it! Otherwise, consider leaving the inner-workings of the setting and world until your readers need the information.

Introduce “normal”

Now that you’ve introduced who your main character is, and where the story is set, it’s time to focus on “normal.” What’s normal for your character is going to be relative. For example, if your main character is an assassin, their normal is likely going to be killing someone. This may not be what most, if not all, of your readers consider to be “normal,” but it’s what’s normal to your character.

Why “normal” needs to come first

One piece of writing advice that I come across a lot with regard to beginnings is to start your story “in the middle of the action.” However, that doesn’t mean you should catapult into your story’s inciting incident right out of the gate. While this approach will definitely get you into the story quickly, it’s also likely to confuse your reader. Taking the time to introduce your character, world, and your character’s normal will allow your reader to orient themselves. It also allows readers to see the life your character is used to, and who they are at the start of the book. This will provide a solid basis of how the inciting incident (which we’ll cover in the next post) disrupts their normal, and how the events to come will push your character to grow and change.

How to keep it interesting

Just because the focus of the beginning of the book is an introduction doesn’t mean it should be boring. One of the best ways to establish “normal” and introduce the important information is to put your character in an uncomfortable or tense situation. If you have a character who has a different sense of normal, like our assassin from earlier, your job might be easier than others. Opening with the character completing a hit would be both tense and attention-getting.

If you don’t have a character with an unusual lifestyle, you can still lean on tension and discomfort to create your opening. One book that does this well is The Hunger Games. This book may be dystopian, but the characters themselves are average people. The book opens on the day of the “reaping,” which is when people are chosen to participate in the hunger games. The reaping may not be a daily event, but it’s a normal annual event for the people in this book. It’s also an event that leads to a heightened emotional state for the characters.

You can use any kind of emotionally hightened “normal” situation to pull your readers in.

I hope this helps you with the beginning of your novel!

Now it’s your turn: What are some of your favorite ways to introduce readers to your story at the beginning? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Write a First Draft: 15 Writing Tips

How to Write a First Draft

Every stage of the writing process is challenging for different reasons. But in a lot of ways, first drafts are the most challenging.  This is when your story goes from an idea in your head, to becoming an actual book. It’s the first major hurdle to clear if you have a goal of publication. Because of that, it can be the hardest. 

To help you clear this first hurdle, I put together fifteen tips to help you write your first draft:

1) Tune out doubters 

There will always be people who say you “can’t.”  There will always be people who point out how hard your task is or how unlikely the chances of success are. This is especially true if you’re writing your first first draft. Learn to tune the doubters out from the very start. These people are not you. They don’t know what writing and your story means to you. They don’t know what you’re capable of.

However, if it’s difficult for you to tune these people out, then consider keeping your circle very small and only telling people you can trust to be supportive.

2) Don’t try to be “good”

First drafts are by nature, a hot mess. Ideas that seemed good in your head may not work on paper. Additionally, it can be hard to think about the story and write the story in polished, easily understood language all at the same time. Because of this, being a “good” writer should be the least of your concerns when you’re at this stage. The only think you need to worry about is making it to the end with a completed draft. It doesn’t matter if your language is repetitive, choppy, or unclear. Just get to The End.

For more on why your writing doesn’t have to be “good,” check out this post!

3) Do You

It’s not a bad thing to read about how other writers approach first drafts, but ultimately, you have to do what works for you. If you’re someone who does well with a plan, then take the time to brainstorm and/or outline before you start. If you’re someone who does better figuring it out as you go, just dive right in and get working.

Try techniques that appeal to you, but don’t feel like there’s any “right” way to approach a first draft. The right way is the way that gets you a finished novel as quickly and painlessly as possible. Do whatever works for you to make that happen. 

4) Try different techniques if it gets “hard”

If you find yourself truly struggling, it’s very possible that you’re following a technique that just isn’t working for you. I’m a firm believer in the idea that writing can be challenging, but it shouldn’t be “hard.” If showing up to your book to write becomes something you’re dreading, consider trying a different approach. If you’re a planner, try abandoning your plan and either making a new one, or diving into your story without any idea what’s coming next. If you’re someone who always gave yourself plenty of time to write, consider writing on the clock to keep yourself moving. 

I’ve got a whole post that talks about why writing doesn’t have to be hard, so if you want more on this topic, be sure to check it out!

5) Set manageable goals

Set goals that you know you can meet on a regular basis. When you first decide you want to write a book and tackle a first draft, it can be easy to get swept up in your story and in the idea of writing your book. You may look at the calendar and decide if you can write a chapter a day, every day, you’ll have a completed book in about a month. And while that math may work out, reaching that goal on a day-to-day basis may quickly become unsustainable.

If you set a goal you can’t keep up with, you’ll likely find yourself falling behind. And once that happens, you may start to get discouraged and think you can’t do this. But you can! You just have to make sure you create goals that fit into your life–even if your book takes a little longer to complete than you’d like. 

For more on setting manageable writing goals, check out this post

6) Set quantitative goals

Additionally, when it comes time to set goals, focus on setting quantitative goals, not qualitative ones for a first draft. Like we talked about earlier, the main goal of a first draft is simply to finish. Don’t let yourself get caught up in getting a specific scene right or nailing a chapter. Worrying about quality at this stage holds you back. Instead, set a goal you can measure numerically. I’m a fan of word count goals, but if you’d rather do page count or something else, that’s fine too! When you hit your numeric goal, let that be your win for the day, even if what you wrote is terrible. 

7) Commit to your goals and plans 

Now that you have your plans and goals, it’s important to commit to them! If you don’t commit, your book will never be more than an idea in your head. It will always be something you wished you could write. Committing is what will make your goals a reality. For more on how to commit to your writing, check out this post

8) Write when you don’t feel like it

If you’ve committed to your plans, that means showing up when you don’t feel like it. That means turning down fun things so you can get your writing in. It means putting the time in even when you know your story isn’t working and you’re probably going to have to rewrite and revise. Your goal is to get to the end. If you planned to write, show up and do something that gets you closer to that goal, even if you don’t feel like it.

9) But take time off when you need it

I know, I know. I just said to make sure you don’t slack off. But if you genuinely need a break, it’s okay to take one. Burn out is no joke and if you feel like you’re well and truly fried, you’re better off taking a day or two away, even if you planned to be writing. This is the difference between taking a genuine sick day and playing hooky. It’s important to take care of yourself. You will not reach the end if you’re brain is too fried to put a sentence together.

For more on this, check out these tips on taking care of your writing brain, and things you can do when you’re too drained to write.

10) Get a support system, but be selective

It’s a good idea to have people who can encourage and support you throughout this process. They can be other writers, but they don’t have to be. You really want people who love stories, creating, and believe you can do this. However, be selective about who you trust. There’s a reason the first point in this post is about ignoring doubters. Be sure you’re entrusting your dreams and goals with people who will build you up. You don’t have time for negativity.

For more on how to find these people, check out the post on finding the right early readers for you book. You can apply a similar principle here.

11) Leave placeholders for revision

As you draft, you may come across details that you didn’t think to develop or whole scenes that you know need to happen, but just can’t figure out how to execute. Don’t let those things hold you up. The goal of a first draft is to have a complete book–as in, you want to have a beginning, middle, and end. There’s nothing that says every scene and element needs to be in place. If you’re really struggling with a transition scene, it’s okay to write [ADD TRANSITION SCENE HERE!!!] and move on. 

Similarly, don’t let the fact that you forgot to come up with a character’s last name or some other small detail slow you down. You can just write LASTNAME for now and drop the details in later.

12) Don’t rewrite as you draft

You may write some scenes that you know are terrible as you’re writing them. Or you may figure out a key plot point halfway through the book that will mean a handful of scenes you already wrote don’t work anymore. I would advise against going back and rewriting before you finish the draft. There will always be things that needs to be fixed in a first draft. If you stop moving forward to fix every problem that reveals itself, it will take you forever to finish (if you ever finish at all). Instead, keep a notebook or a blank word document open on your computer and make note of the changes you want to make. This way, you’ll be sure you won’t forget the change, but you won’t stop your progress.

13) Celebrate small victories

Writing a book is a long process and, like we’ve covered, first drafts are typically a hot mess. That means you need to find your wins wherever you can. Celebrate every day you show up and meet your goals. Celebrate every week. And celebrate every milestone–making it to 10,000 words is a big deal. Making it to 100 pages is a big deal. Do something to appreciate and reward yourself. Then get back to work and start aiming for the next goal and milestone. This will help keep you going.

14) Remember why you started

If you find yourself struggling to stay motivated, remember why you started this. Remember the excitement you felt that brought you down this path. Remember how it feels when your story is really fun to write. If you felt those things once, you will feel them again. But that will only happen if you keep writing.

Which brings us to the last point:

15) Don’t. Give. Up!

If a completed and/or published book is something you really want, don’t let yourself get discouraged by the time it takes, the quality of your first draft, or the people who say you can’t do this. I promise you, every published author has been in the same place. They persevered. You can too.

I hope these tips help you get your first draft down!

Now it’s your turn: What do you struggle with when you write your first drafts? What helps you power through? Tell me about it in the comments!

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