Okay, I want to start this one off with a disclaimer: I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on the subject. I am not a published author, and I don’t even have much of a following. But I have written consistently for the last year and a half and produced three novellas, a number of short stories, and about a third of a 250,000 word book. I wanted to share my method with any aspiring writers out there because it has proven very effective for me despite me having a full-time job and a wife/small baby at home.
How did authors like Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King become some of the most famous writers in the world? The answer is that they consistently write good stories that people want to read. The sad truth is that most authors fail before they can ever be “discovered” because they write in infrequent, sporadic bursts. They have a story that they have been developing in their head for years, and they go weeks or even months in between writing sessions, where they would sit down at the keyboard and pump out 1,000 – 10,000 words in a single sitting. Could you imagine if a bodybuilder did that when it came to weightlifting? They would never see any progress! I’ve compiled a little list of things I have discovered for myself that may help any writers who have found themselves in a similar sort of situation.
You Have To Love What You Write
This one may seem a little obvious, but you would be surprised the number of writers I have spoken to who actually find little enjoyment in writing their stories. I was one of them, once. The fact of the matter is that loving what you are writing makes the whole process much, much easier. If you find yourself dreading sitting down and writing your story, maybe it is time to move on to something else and experiment with something new. Try writing a different genre. Try switching the POV, or changing the gender of your main character. If you can find yourself getting excited about your world and your plot, then that’s the best possible situation, because you will find that you are always thinking about your story, even when you are not writing it.
A Good Outline Is An Absolute Necessity
This is something that a lot of new writers have a hard time with, and for good reason: outlining can be bloody difficult. The truth is that this is going to require some experimentation. For me, I needed to put my thoughts on paper. I needed sticky notes and highlighters and notes about who my characters were and why they were doing the things that they were doing. This helped me visualize the plot and the things I wanted to happen in my story, and eventually I was able to map out chapter by chapter exactly what I wanted to happen in my book. Here is a picture of my crazy method of outlining:
I’m not going to lie to you, creating the outline for “The Edge of Light and Shadows” took me 20+ hours to complete, and I still find myself adding to it or taking things away every week, but it was well worth the late nights and constant deliberation. Now, every time I sit down to write, I know EXACTLY what I will be writing, where the story is going, and what the characters need to do to move the plot forward.
Start With Baby Steps, Then Push Yourself
Writing consistently is hard, so do not overdo it in the beginning. Take baby steps. My goal initially: 500 words per day. That made it easy for me to carve out 30-45 minutes at the end of the day before bed to write. And here is a little fun fact – the more you write, the fast (and more importantly, the better) you become. If you are consistently pumping out 500 words per day, then you are getting 3,500 words per week. That’s not an insane amount, but it is enough. Eventually you will find that your writing is getting faster, and if you push yourself you can quickly get up to 6, 7, 8 hundred words in that same little time slop you allotted yourself every night.
Remember, I have a wife, a baby, and a full-time job in corporate America that takes up the majority of my time. But like I said earlier, I have been writing consistently for well over a year, and now I am producing between 1,000 and 2,000 words every day. Let’s do the math, that’s an average of 10,500 words per week, 42,000 words per month, and over 500,000 words per year! If I stay consistent, I could be pumping out a book equivalent to “The Way of Kings” and “Mistborn”, all within one year. How’s that for motivation?
Change Up The Way You Write
This one took a little experimentation on my part, but it absolutely changed the way I write. I keep all my writing in a cloud, but I do not do most of my writing on my computer. I do it on my smartphone. I got the idea when I heard that Peter V. Brett, author of “The Warded Man”, wrote the entire novel on his iPhone while he was on the subway to work each morning. Now, I do a majority of my writing on my smartphone and it is amazing. Suddenly I was not tied down to one place. I could write while my car was at Jiffy Lube, while my wife was trying on clothes at the mall, and while I was sitting on the toilet. It opened a whole new world of possibilities for me, and it also made it easier to hit my WPD (words per day) goal, each and every day. Heck, sometimes I will even write a chapter by hand in a notebook, just to keep things fresh. Anything that helps you hit your WPD goal is a very, very good thing.
Write Always, Even When You’re Not Writing
This should go without saying, but I still think that it is worth mentioning. Always be writing. Now, I don’t mean physically write down words during every second of the day; what I mean is constantly be thinking about your story, and think of ways that it can be improved. Sometimes I find myself thinking about my book in the shower, or when I am driving into work. It’s all good, because what it is doing is keeping your aspiring writing career top of mind. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have come up with a great idea for a scene or a great plot device while I am laying in bed trying to fall asleep, or while I am binge watching The Office for the tenth time in a row. Try to always keep your writing in the back of your head, and becoming a consistent writer will naturally follow.
Find A Way To Be Accountable
The final step is perhaps the most important, and it is to find someone to whom you can be accountable. It is so easy to slip up and not write, especially when you have a lot of things going on. Take me for example. Recently I graduated from college and packed up all of our things and moved across the country (not an easy feat with a 10 month old baby crying in the back seat), and at the end of a long day of driving, the last thing that I wanted to do was delve into my fictional world and scribble down a few paragraphs. It was my wife, bless her heart, who pushed me and reminded me to write when I did not want to. In fact, she is constantly asking me, “Blake, did you write today?” Which is something that I appreciate very much.
Accountability will keep you consistent when you get in your own way, which is bound to happen considering that we are all infallible, imperfect beings. As an old boss once told me, “We are building this ship as we are sailing it.” I hope that my little blog post has been able to give you a few ideas on how you can become a more consistent writer yourself.
Until next time,