The Right Way to Write

So many blogs, books, and classes these days tell you how to write. Some offer craft of writing education, others (like mine), offer tips and ideas for genre-specific works. For example, I’ve offered advice from my own learning and writing experience about inventing fantasy words for your epic fantasy or sci-fi story, or researching for and writing historical fiction.

But a bigger, and perhaps more important, question is this: is there a right (and thusly, wrong) way to write? My answer is both yes and no.

First of all, in fiction writing, there are some basics that yes, you need to get right if you’re going to have a marketable (or even readable) book. Stuff like coherent plot, characters, and basic grammar and spelling really do matter. Studying writing crafts books, taking seminars from established writers, and just plain old reading well-written books are great ways to learn how to write right.

But what about the more abstract elements of writing “right”? Does that even mean? Continue reading


What to Do if You’re not doing NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo? In case you didn’t know, it’s National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands of crazy eager folks decide to crank out an entire novel in just one month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

It’s a fun challenge, and gets people excited about writing. Even if you don’t “win” it by hitting the 50,000 word mark, it’s still worthwhile to participate to challenge yourself, team up with accountability partners, meet other writers, and try something new.

But what if you’ve decided not to participate? Believe it or not, there are a lot of writers out there who don’t do NaNoWriMo – or at least don’t do it every year. So what can you do this November if you’re not trying to crank out a NaNoWriMo novel? Continue reading

5 Things You Should Know about Writing a Novel

Even though I have not yet published a novel, I’ve written several full first drafts of novels. For the fantasy trilogy that is my current main project, I’m working on the third draft of the first book. Since I’ve completed more than a few full first drafts, I do feel qualified to talk about the work that is entailed in writing a novel from beginning to end.

So if you’ve started a novel, are thinking about writing a novel, or are wondering what the difference is between a novel and a short story, then I believe these five tips can help you:

Your NaNoWriMo novel is not ready for publication in December. Nor is any first draft ready for public consumption. See the first paragraph of this post for reference. Notice that I mention that I’m on my third draft of a novel. Even the best writer in the world goes through several drafts and rewrites. Also please note that tidying up a few spelling errors and run-on sentences does not qualify as a rewrite or second draft. If you want your finished novel to be publication-ready, then get feedback from some good critique partners or beta readers, go through several full rewrites, and then send it off to an editor. 

A novel is more than just a long short story. If you’re a master at writing short stories, then be prepared for an entirely different experience with writing a novel. Even if the core of an idea could work for either a short story or a novel, there’s a lot more to it than just padding out the word count of a 20,000 word short story to make it into a 80,000 word novel. In a novel, a plot can be much more complex, there are usually one or more subplots, more characters can be used, and there needs to be a greater variety of pacing. Also, even if you’re a pantser, writing a novel usually requires a bit more planning and outlining ahead of time than a short story might.

Know Your Genre. Yes, there are some wonderful cross-genre stories out there, and everybody wants to invent a new concept or spearhead a new trend. But if your book doesn’t have a clearly defined genre, you’ll have trouble finding your ideal readers, and book stores and ebook sites will have a hard time listing the book properly. Your genre can be something broad – fantasy, mystery, literary – or something very specific, like YA urban paranormal, historical cozy mystery, or women’s fiction. But pick a category, so that both you and your potential readers know what you’re writing.

There’s no “one right way” to do it. No, I’m not contradicting my previous three points. Some people outline out every scene before they get started, some just have a loose kernel of an idea and discover the story as they go along. Some write every scene in order, some jump around during the first draft stage. Some people use Word, some use Scrivener, some use pen and paper. Find what’s comfortable for you. If you’re not enjoying the process of novel writing, it will be that much harder to finish.

It’s a big commitment. This is perhaps the most important point of all. Whether you’re a NaNoWriMo winner who’s pounded out a full first draft in 30 days, or it’s taken you years to finish a draft, writing a novel takes commitment and dedication. Always remember that if you want to write a novel, no matter what your writing technique is or how long it takes, your goal should be to finish. Finishing takes guts, no doubt about it – but it’s something that anyone can do.

Would you add anything to this list?

Why I’m not Doing NaNoWriMo

If you hang around the creative writing world at all, then you know that October is NaNoWriMo prep month – that is, the time to prepare for November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I’ve done NaNo before (let’s not talk about my pathetic word count). Earlier this year I was looking forward to doing NaNo again and at least bettering my word count for the month, if not actually “winning” (that is, writing 50,000 words in a month). But as the fall approached, I realized that perhaps I’d be better off not doing it.

My writing load has greatly increased over the last few months. Here’s a brief rundown of what I’m currently working on:

     Editing/rewriting novel #1 of a trilogy

     Writing first draft of novel #2 of same trilogy

     Writing weekly posts for my blog

     Writing 10-15 posts a month for my job

     Working on three short stories that I hope to have published by the end of the year

I’m not saying all this to brag about my writing endeavors (though I am excited about and thankful for the paid writing opportunities that have come my way recently).

I’m also aware that this laundry list of activities could sound like nothing more than excuses. Hey, we’re all busy: jobs, families, holidays, general life. Nobody has extra time lying around in November to devote to NaNoWriMo. If you want to do it, you have to make the time to do it.

I could make the time to do NaNo. I even have a story idea that just needs a little thought and outlining, and it would be ready to go for November. Even though I have a busy schedule, (and two other jobs besides the job I write for), I know I could make the time. I’m just not sure my brain could handle it.

My focus is spread thinner than I’d like right now. I’ve developed a weekly writing schedule for myself, so that I don’t try to write for everything every day. Switching between so many different subjects and styles of writing on a regular basis can easily sap my creativity and mental energy. I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who manage the constant switching just fine, but since this is all rather new to me, I don’t want to put any unnecessary stress on my poor amateur brain.

I look forward to participating next year. I don’t know what my personal and professional writing life will be like in a year, but I want to be able to fit NaNoWriMo into my schedule and my mind by then. In the meantime, I will enjoy the writing that I’m currently doing, and will use this experience to become more disciplined with my mind and my schedule.

I love NaNoWriMo and everything it represents: getting people excited about writing, creating a sense of community for an otherwise solitary activity, a great platform for setting and tracking goals. Whether you’re a published author or you’ve never written a thing since your last essay in high school, I think participating in NaNoWriMo is a fun and inspiring thing to do.

So to all you WriMos for 2014 – go write!


NaNoWriMo is two weeks away. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? If you’ve been around the writing scene for any length of time, you probably know that it’s National Novel Writing Month.

Every November, writers from all walks of life sit down to write 50,000 words (basically a short novel). The idea is not to have a polished masterpiece ready for publication, but to just simply write.

As much as I’ve written over the course of my life, I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo before. I’ve seen it all over Twitter and Facebook every fall, and my writer friends talk about how fantastic it is.

So this year, I’ve decided to do it. I’ve signed up on the NaNoWriMo site. I’m reading all the blogs and Twitter tips about how to get organized before I start, how to prepare my mind and my desk for this month-long writing blast.

Will this help me to manage my time and my writing throughout November? I don’t know. Can I come even close to pounding out 50,000 words in 30 days? No idea. Will it be challenging? I’m sure. Fun? I hope so.

If you’d like to join me in this endeavor, you can go to the NaNoWriMo website to check it out. If you’d rather just watch my progress (while either cheering me or shaking your head in disgust), stayed tuned to my Twitter feed during November. If you’d rather just ignore the whole big mess, feel free to do that too!

By November 30th, I might join with those who have been shaking their heads in disgust! Or, I might have the rough draft of book two of my fantasy trilogy finished. Time will tell!

Any veteran NaNos out there? Any newbies? Are you excited about the idea of writing a novel in 30 days, or scared stiff by it? Please share!