Just write that book already!

That is really the one and only advise that is true for every aspiring writer, just write. It might sound easier said than done, but that is what worked for me; I sat down and wrote.

I have been writing short stories and doing one creative writing course after the other for years, but I kept pushing off writing a book. I knew I wanted to, I have always wanted to be a writer, but I was waiting for inspiration to come to me. I felt as if I had to have to complete outline of the story, plots, characters, everything outlined before I could start writing. That never happened.

New Year 2016 I then made a resolution to myself: just write the book already…or at least try. I promised myself I would sit down in front of the computer every single day, even if I had to just stare at a blank screen, until the book was written. I did stare at that screen, a lot. I had a very vague outline of what I wanted to write: thriller, a protagonist who wants to write a book, something goes bang in the night. That was all I had thought off when I sat down January 1st, and I surprised myself how quickly the story took off from there.

Outside of writing, I’m a very organized person. I like list, love them. Schedules, colour coordinating  and time tables, that is all me. That is why I had this idea that the whole book had to be planned out before I put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard. Turns out, when I comes to writing, and unorganized, lasses-faire approach was what worked for me. I only did an outline when I was more than half way through the book! The characters kept doing things that surprised me, and the plot took me places I had never imagined. So this is my most important piece of advice, just sit down and write, something will come out of it… and there is always editing to straighten out the plot.

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The Actual Writing

I do all my creative writing in a program called OmmWriter, it is a writing software developed specifically to help your brain be more creative. I’m sure some people can write in Words or something similar, but for me the “blank” screen in the OmmWriter program helps me to keep my attention on the writing for longer. When I finish a writing session, I copy my work to Words, to use the spell and grammar check there and to edit the layout. When I write the words just come tumbling out and I pay very little attention to my spelling, there are time where I haven’t edited the writing straight away, and when I come back to it a few days later, I have a hard time figuring out what some of the words are supposed to be. So do a first edit at the end of each writing session, take the time to read through it, you will catch some mistakes for sure.

I would go back and read older chapters a few weeks after I had written them, to look at them with fresh eyes. That lead to a lot of editing, when the writing is fresh in your mind, you just read what you know it is supposed to say, not what it really says. I also didn’t have a storyline plotted out, so I would sometimes find things that no longer matched where the story had taken me, so I probably did more editing than someone with the whole story planned out in advance.

I see so many different articles with conflicting messages about what you should write: Write what you know. Write for the market. Write with a specific reader in mind. I can’t tell you which one is right, or if any of them are. My advise would be to write whatever you feel like or write what you can. I would have loved to write the next great literary work, to publish a Crime and Punishment or The Old Man And The Sea. But this was the first novel I ever attempted to write, so I wanted it to be a “beginner” book. For me, a thriller fit that. First, I read a lot of thriller and horror myself. I love Stephen King and Mark Edwards in this genre, I read everything they publish. Second, you can get away with a shorter novel in the thriller genre, and you can write it in simple English. No one expect a thriller to be written in prosaic language, people want a more realistic language. For someone like myself, who is writing in my second language, that is a big deal. My English is not prosaic, I don’t use a lot of long words, I don’t use a lot of synonyms. With all that in mind, I knew a thriller would suit me best. For me, I wrote what I could write. I wrote to become a better writer and to work on my skills. You have to find out why you want to write, that will tell you what you should write.

Time Management

I know that everyone has a busy life, some people even have a hectic life, so finding time to write can seem daunting. For a large part though, it does come down to priorities. I had set myself the goal to write every day, and I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I wanted it to be my goal so that I would strive for that. My job can be very demanding, and at times I work 18-20 hours a day, on my feet, busy. For the few hours I have off, I just want to eat, sleep and maybe shower. There was no way to write those days, I knew that, and I didn’t feel guilty, but I did tell myself to make up for those days when things quieted down. There was also a couple of days were I had the time, but just didn’t have it in my to write. I allowed myself to take those days off as well, but only if they met a certain criteria: Was it because there was something else I would rather do? Then no, I had to choose writing. Was it because I was tired or had a head ache? Then no, I would let myself write a shorter amount than usual, but I still had to do something. Was it because I hated the book and everything in it and wanted to hurl my laptop in to the sea just so I would never have to deal with it again? Then yes, I was allowed to take a day off. I didn’t want to come to a point where I hated writing, or hated the book. The times I did take a day off from it, I did return with much more energy and enthusiasm the following day, and would usually get a lot of words written.

I wrote the book in four month, while holding down a demanding full time job. The book is on the shorter side, so if you are contemplating writing a saga, give yourself longer. But set strict goals, it will motivate you. My goals was to write 500 words a day, some days that was easy and I would write 1200 without breaking a sweat. Other days it would take hours of grueling work to write 350. I wanted to keep the average of 500 though, and I managed. It wasn’t always fun, and you will have to give up some of your social life. The people I lived with thought I was a hermit, and always tried to tell me to come out with them. I said I would join them, once I had my 500 words. Usually I would be too tired after writing, and would go to bed. It is draining to write, it was for me at least, I would feel exhausted at times. But I would feel good that I got something achieved, I would feel that I day I had written 800 words, I could go to bed feeling proud about myself.

I made the book a priority, again and again. Turned down invites to go out, stop watching TV almost completely – Netflix can be a time drainer, and even stopped reading as much as I would like to do. For me it was worth it, you have to make the decision, is your desire to write this book strong enough that you can give up your free time?