How to Finally Write that Book this Summer, Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer, Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

 

In this summer of COVID, many of us may find ourselves with additional free time on our hands from fewer barbecues, farmers markets, or fairs. However, some would-be authors might overwhelmed by the size of a book-length project. 

How can you use this time to finally write your book? 

 

Here are some of my top tips from my writing coach archives: 

Write down your end goal. 

We’ve heard this one a million times. However,  if you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you’ll never get it done.

As Lewis Carroll famously wrote “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” 

 

Know what you want to accomplish. If you’re like most writers, when you start to untangle this “what I want” knot,  you’ll find it’s far more complicated than you first thought. 

For example, maybe your dream isn’t just a book, it’s a series, movie rights, and a worldwide book tour. Those are all great ideas, but one step at a time.

If you can hone in on the first step toward your dream, then you can break it down into actual action steps, moving it from nebulous dream to achievable goal. 

 

Choose a deadline

Choose a day you are going to have this project done. This step cannot be overlooked. 

While deadlines are a huge motivator, here’s a pro tip: Post your deadline out on social media.

Tell your friends, parents, and especially someone who intimidates you a little bit. Let these people hold you accountable and keep you motivated.

Once you set that deadline for yourself, you’re going to work backwards from that date to create your work plan. How much writing do you have to do each day to reach your goal, and how can you carve out the time to make it happen?

Remember that Creativity is Wonky.

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men (Thank you, Steinbeck and Burns) to write 5,000 words a day or a chapter an hour, creativity is not always a linear process. 

You may want to finish that chapter today, but your book and your brain have other ideas.

When our characters (or ideas) misbehave, they’re often right.

You may feel like you want the piece to take a certain shape or go in a certain direction. The brain is sending us a caution flag, though. When your creativity takes the lead, following it always bears fruit. I promise. 

Now, the piece you create today may not make the final cut for your book, but the information you garnered from the experience of following your creativity will always bring a benefit to the piece as a whole.

Find your best writer and be that writer 

All kinds of would-be mentors want to tell you that you have to do it one way in order to be a real writer. However, there are some rules, especially if you want to traditionally publish. 

That said, in the creative phase the most important consideration is finding your creative flow. 

Write with a pencil or a tablet, outdoors or in your bed, use an outline, or allow the natural flow of ideas. None of this fluff matters, but here’s what does:

 Find the place where you can be at your creative best to get that draft out of you. 

After all, you can’t publish until you have a book. And you can’t have a book until you get it done.

The biggest key to success I have seen in writers who finish and publish is that they find and embrace the writer they are, so they can write book after book with creative ease. 

Show up every day like it’s your job. 

My writing mentor, Julia Alvarez, wasn’t the first one to say it, but she was the first one to say it to me: Being a writer is 90% applying butt to chair. 

Write at the beach. Write in a hammock. Write on your lunch break. Whatever you do, make writing a habit, and you’ll see the results. 

You don’t get a dream body by going to the gym once, or even once a week. The same is true of writing a book. Show up. Do the work. Even when it stings. 

Remember that writing is art, and art takes time

Many writers get lost in the rabbit hole: Why is it taking me so long to finish my manuscript? This trap turns into self doubt. “I must not be a good writer.” “I’m never going to get it done.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all, and I’ve seen self-doubt and fear stymy project after project. 

What if you reframe this fear?  What if instead you say, “Writing is art and art takes time.” 

Consider the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. It took four and a half years for him to complete that masterpiece, which–frankly, if you’ve seen the level of detail–you know it’s astonishing he completed it so quickly. 

What else?

The Washington Monument took thirty years to construct; thirty full years.

Let’s think about more writing-related references. 

It took Victor Hugo twelve years to write Les Miserables and Harper Lee spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird.

Writing is art, and art takes time.  Completing your manuscript is not going to happen overnight, not because there’s something wrong with you, but because you are an artist.  Allow yourself to get into creative flow, and creativity will reward you with a cornucopia of ideas and finished pages.

Promise. I’ve watched it with my own eyes hundreds of times. 

Pace yourself. 

Working with the creative process and the brain’s natural function means you must be really honest with yourself about how much you can get done. It’s very admirable and ambitious if you say you’re going to get everything done today, but you also might be setting yourself up for failure. When you set yourself up for failure, you’ll feel yucky about yourself. You don’t want to come back to the project feeling like you failed. So, make reasonable goals for yourself and pace your project in a reasonable way.

 

If you’re ready to take the next step and follow these steps above, give us a call or book an appointment.

Annalisa Parent is a writing coach who has helped hundreds of authors to finish and publish well. She used neuroscientific principles to guide the writing process through her programs in the Writing Gym. To find out more, and to download her free e-book The Six Steps to Go from Struggling Writer to Published Author, visit www.datewiththemuse.com. 

How to Optimize Neuroscience to Get Helpful Writing Feedback

How to Optimize Neuroscience to Get Helpful Writing Feedback

How to Optimize Neuroscience to Get Helpful Writing Feedback

 

If you know me at all, you know that neuroscience plays a big role in how I work with writers over in the Writing Gym.

 

If you don’t know me, you might be wondering, “What does neuroscience have to do with writing?”

 

The way that we give feedback during our writing sessions together is based on neuroscientific principles of how we learn and create in optimal ways. We use neuroscience to break down the various phases in the brain of creation and critique.

Creation and critique. They are two separate processes.

Many programs inadvertently mix up those two processes, and the result is writers end up really frustrated. When that happens, writers stop writing, sometimes for months, years, or forever.

 

The work I do optimizes how we learn and create best so that writers can get into creative flow, not just in a gut-feeling way, but literally in the synaptic movement between the two hemispheres of the brain.

And we get results.

 

I’d love to chat with you to see if you’re the right fit for our community, talk about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there. You can book yourself directly into my calendar, and we can chat about your writing dream.

Until next time, Happy Writing

The Curtain Pulled Back: What Publishing House Editors Say about Your Next Book

The Curtain Pulled Back: What Publishing House Editors Say about Your Next Book

The Curtain Pulled Back: What Publishing House Editors Say about Your Next Book

 

Every November is National Novel Writing Month. Tens of thousands of writers bang out a novel in a month and think, “Great! I’m done! Now, I can get it published!”

 

But even if you’ve managed to crank out a great story in just thirty days, getting published is far from a done deal.

 

Publishers are looking for work that meets a certain standard. They are looking at books on multiple levels, with an eye toward how it can be successful and how they can move a book out into the marketplace. There are lots of quality issues to deal with, so publishers and editors can get a little persnickety.

Here’s what New York Times bestselling author Mike Bender has to say about the subject:

“They’re seeing the bigger picture,” Mike says. “They know exactly what’s out there, and they know what the trends are. They know the books in their own library that are being published.”

When Mike finished his second manuscript, his editor thought it was a great story, but she also remembered what made Mike’s first book so successful.

“She took me back to the first book and said, ‘Well, what I really loved in that book is that there was an educational aspect to it. Like, you were teaching the kids about this concept’,” Mike says.

“I had to rethink the way I was writing the book,” he says, “and the manuscript we ended up writing was (geared more toward) teaching it to the kids. There had to be an educational aspect to this book for libraries to want to pick it up in schools. And that’s not something, as a writer, I was thinking about. I was just thinking about story.”

That’s the kind of thing we’re doing over in the Writing Gym.

We take good writing and not only help you make it better, but we work with you to make sure your novel meets industry standards.

If you’re serious about getting your work published, I’d love to chat with you. You can book yourself into my calendar, and we can talk about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there.

Until next time, Happy Writing!

How We Support Writers to Confidence in the Writing Gym: “The Writing Gym has made believe that I am a writer.” 

How We Support Writers to Confidence in the Writing Gym: “The Writing Gym has made believe that I am a writer.” 

andHow We Support Writers to Confidence in the Writing Gym: “The Writing Gym has made believe that I am a writer.”

 

Due to COVID-19, all our lives have been disrupted in some meaningful way over the past weeks and months.

The Writing Gym community has been very important to us for a long time, and it has become even more so.

When people talk about the community that we have over in the Writing Gym, they talk about it being life-changing, the positivity, the support that they get, and how it’s different from anything they’ve experienced before–now, more than ever.

In times of uncertainty, in times of crisis, community becomes even more important. The Writing Gym is an even bigger deal to its members.

If you know me, you know my mission: to build a supportive writing community where people are getting real results and having a dang good time doing it.

I’m happy to see the vision I had years ago come to fruition–a beautiful place where writers can be nourished, have a good time, and enjoy each other’s company.

That’s what the Writing Gym is.

 

And writers are getting great result

So, what have we been doing since COVID came around and disrupted all our lives?

Well, we’ve been doing some special sessions over in the Writing Gym to bring us together on a more regular basis. I think it’s important now more than ever to have those points of contact, to laugh with each other, and to get into the writing craft together.

Last month, we did a ton of bonus sessions. We had an online Writing Retreat that turned out to be spectacular!

We continued that trend this month with a bonus session on Spec Fiction. We’re seeing a lot of requests for that when we look at agent descriptions. They’re looking for Spec Fiction.

A lot of folks have been wondering, “What is Spec Fiction? What does that mean?” Stephen Oliver broke it down for us in a terrific session.

We had one of our ever-popular sprints. We have those on a regular basis. Our Gym rats enjoy them, and a lot of work gets done.

We also did a special bonus session on how to create tension in your writing.

This is something we talk about a whole lot during the Revision period. So we did a deep dive into the craft and into creating tension — not just on the scene level, but also on a global level–in your novel.

 

So, those are just some of the things that I’ve been working on to make things happen for writers over the Writing Gym.

It’s a really special place, full of special people–people like our Mary Murry. Mary has been a big part of our community for a while now, and we’re glad to have her with us.

The Gym has meant a lot to Mary. She says, “The Writing Gym has made me believe that I’m a writer.”

Mary, you are a writer — an incredible writer – and I’m so glad to have you in our community. Thank you for sharing that with us.

 

I can’t stress enough that it truly is a special place, and that’s why membership is by invitation only.

Not because we’re snobs – we are absolutely not snobs! It’s invitation-only because we want to be sure we have the right folks with us, people who take the writing craft seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Because, like I said, we have a good time over there, and we get things done.

If you’re a writer, this is what you want for your life. You want a great place to hang out with great people, like Mary, who want to come to believe that they are writers, and to build their confidence and to get that book written–which she did.

I’d love to chat with you to see if you’re the right fit for our community, talk about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there. You can book yourself directly into my calendar, and we can chat about your writing dream.

Until next time, Happy Writing

Finish your Novel in 8 Weeks… Or Less (1)

Finish your Novel in 8 Weeks… Or Less (1)

Finish your Novel in 8 Weeks…or Less

 

I’m super excited to celebrate Writing Gym member–or Gym rat as we say lovingly over in the Writing Gym–Hannah Johnson.

Hannah is writing a fantasy novel, which is no small feat. As some of you may know, fantasy novels are among the longest in the publishing industry; they’re usually around 120,000 words.

Hannah has been writing on and off since junior high school, when her talent caught the eye of a teacher. Later in college, she began to develop a love for writing.

“I discovered I was spending the most time with my writing courses, rather than my other courses,” she says.

Soon, she found herself writing for her own pleasure and recreation, rather than for coursework.

“I wrote a few shot stories, but those never went anywhere,” Hannah says.

Things began to change when Hannah read Storytelling for Pantsers: How to Write and Revise Your Novel Without an Outline. The book resonated with her, and she decided to contact me. I invited her to join our VIP Program, and she did. While in the program, she completed 95,000 words of a fantasy novel in six-and-a-half weeks!

“I didn’t even think I’d be able to do it in eight weeks. But I managed,” she says, modestly. “It was a relief; I had actually finished something I was proud of.”

From there, Hannah moved to the Publishing Mastermind, where she is revising her novel into publishable shape. She said she enjoys the company of her fellow Gym Rats, and that she has benefitted from being part of a community of people who want a writing career, like she does. People who “get it.”

“I don’t really have a lot of writer friends,” Hannah said. “Being together with a bunch of like-minded people – writers – has been beneficial for me.”

A community can be a powerful thing, and Hannah says it has helped her discovered talents she didn’t know she had.

“I didn’t really know what I was good at (before the Writing Gym),” Hannah says. “I discovered that I have some pretty decent dialogue, and I never really noticed that.”

(Side note: Hannah sells herself short here. She routinely impresses fellow Gym Rats with her fantastic ear for dialogue.)

Hannah recommends the Writing Gym to anyone who is serious about a writing career.

“If you’re interested in becoming a published author, this is definitely the right track,” she says. “It’s been a great experience.”

It’s been a great experience working with you, Hannah. We’re so glad to have you in the Writing Gym!

If you want to see results like Hannah’s, give us a call or book an appointment.

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

 

Today, I am ready to feature Barbara Pattee, who has an amazing message about never giving up. Barbara is writing a romance novel, but one that dabbles a little in crime.

“I like romance that is a little more than ‘boy meets girl,’ or ‘girl meets boy,’ where everything ends happily ever after,” Barbara said.

Barbara joined the Writing Gym after years of writing on her own. For as long as she can remember, she felt compelled to express herself through her writing.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she said. “I used to write in secret, because it wasn’t considered an important career. I even learned how to do shorthand.”

Her writing has taken many forms over the years. She has done short stories, poetry, and memoir pieces–including one she put together from stories her father told her when he had fallen ill.

“He started talking about his childhood, I started writing notes, and I wrote a memoir based on what he said,” Barbara said. “I read it to him, and he loved it.”

 

As much as Barbara enjoyed writing, there was something about it that left her unfulfilled.

“I wasn’t happy,” she said. “I knew that I wanted more. I’ve wanted to write something full-length.”

Barbara knew she wanted to write a novel. However, when she sought feedback–professional writers, writing groups, etc.–she encountered a lot of resistance.

Yet Barbara wouldn’t allow this to deter her from her dream.

“I said I would never give up,” she said. “And I didn’t.”

Like many writers, Barbara has her share of horror stories about what can happen when you look for feedback in the wrong places. One professor, a professional writer herself, read one of Barbara’s stories and drowned her in a torrent of negative criticism.

“She hated it,” Barbara said. “But classmates came to me, some in tears, saying they loved what I wrote. So I was getting a mixed messages.”

The feedback wasn’t helping at all; if anything, it hurt. Then, at a writers’ conference, Barbara saw Storytelling for Pantsers. She felt as if the book had been written just for her.

“I started reading it, and I thought, ‘She’s talking to me. She’s saying what I’m feeling,'” Barbara said.

“I have dozens and dozens of books (about writing) that did not move me. But Storytelling for Pantsers spoke to me.”

The book spoke to Barbara’s aversion to outlining her stories. Finally, she had confirmation of what she believed:

She didn’t need an outline to write a good story.

“I’m a pantser,” she said. “I can’t do outlines. I had to do it in school and I hated it from the beginning.”

Reading the book inspired Barbara to get on a call with me.

“The call was very encouraging,” she said. “I liked that you don’t tell us we have to do something. What you do is you make suggestions, give us ideas, and ask us questions to answer.”

I invited Barbara to join the Writing Gym, and she accepted. Since then, we have been working together on her novel. Barbara enjoys the information and encouragement she get from the video modules on the Writing Gym website. She also loves the Salons, in which writers get together, write for 20 minutes based on a prompt, and share their writing with each other.

“There’s no negativity in Salon,” Barbara said. “And you also get feedback on what other writers hear in your story. Some things you may not think are that important wind up being extremely important and that encourages me as a writer.”

During one of the early Salons, Barbara wrote a piece that involved slavery, similar to the one her college professor had treated with disdain. As she shared it with the other writers, she braced herself for another barrage of negative feedback.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get slammed again?’” Barbara remembers. “But I wasn’t. I was encouraged, and that was beautiful.”

Barbara said she has grown a great deal as a writer since joining the Gym.

Barbara’s writing is thriving. She credits her encouragement from me, and from her fellow “Gym Rats,” for helping her summon the courage to be vulnerable in her storytelling.

I have added a lot more emotion in my stories, which, as a child growing up I was taught that I had to hold back. But, as a writer, I have to look inside myself, think about what I am feeling.

In the Writing Gym, we talk a lot about the inner critic.

Listening to your inner critic can hold you back in your writing, and you have to learn to silence it in order to maximize your storytelling potential.

Barbara has wrestled with her inner critic for years. But now, she’s winning!

“My inner critic is upset, because she doesn’t have much to say now,” she said. “I’m smiling a lot more. Even my husband has noticed that.”

Barbara has been an amazing advocate of the Writing Gym; she recommends it to whoever will listen.

“I tell them about what it’s like being in the Writing Gym, and I’ve tried to encourage them to join,” she said. “I’m hoping that they will join even before my book is published. But after it’s published, I know they’re going to want to join.”

Barbara realizes that the Writing Gym isn’t for everyone. She knows it’s not a place for hobbyists.

“I think it’s really about deciding how serious you are,” she said about joining the Gym. “How much do you want to be a writer? Is it a hobby, or is it something you want as a career?”

Barbara has made her choice; she wants a writing career, and she’s willing to put in the work to get there. The more progress she makes, the more resolute she becomes.

“I will not give up. I’m going to continue.”

Thank you so much, Barbara! We love having you in the Writing Gym!

If you’re serious about your writing career, we’d love to chat with you. 

 

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