Have you ever seen those segments on daytime television where they feature someone who’s lost an amazing amount of weight? Most of these stories come from months of hard work and commitment. True weight loss isn’t an overnight thing. It’s a commitment you make and this commitment takes a certain amount of discipline. This is the analogy I will be using for the rest of this part of the workshop.
Writing is no easy task. The veterans (insert name of your favorite author here) make it seem like the process is easy, but I’m sure they are plagued by the same insecurities you and I struggle with on a daily basis. They may bounce back quicker, or they have years of experience, but that doesn’t mean they are any different from all of us. Perfect example? J.K. Rowling. But I’m not getting into the nitty gritty of what happened to her here. I’m just sighting an example.
To write a novel in 30 days takes a certain amount of discipline. It will push you towards places you thought you never thought possible. It forces you to set aside your doubts and insecurities in favor of focusing on the writing process, the creation of a scene, and the completion of a chapter.
A novel in 30 days is intense.
For this part, we will tackle several points of encouragement in the hopes of helping you achieve the goals you have set for yourself. First and foremost, writing is a mindset. If you believe you are producing crap, it will certainly show in your writing. This is one of the insecurities we need to get over while pounding out a chapter a day.
First: Write a chapter a day.
As I have mentioned in Part 1 of this workshop, you must start your novel at the beginning of the month. The first day is chapter one, so on and so forth until you reach chapter thirty on the last day of the month.
Exception: What if you finish your novel on chapter 27 on the 27th day? Celebrate. You have achieved your goal of writing a novel in a month. Just because there are 30 to 31 days in a year on average doesn’t mean your novel has to be 30 to 31 chapters.
Example: I just got off writing Savor, the companion novel for Taste. I started it on September 1 and ended on October 6 because the story called for 36 chapters. But for our purposes, let’s stick to the 30 days = 30 chapters.
Quick tip: It helps to have a calendar with big blank squares for each day. Every time you finish writing a chapter, write on the square on the corresponding day something like: Wrote chapter 1 of Savor today. You’ll be surprised how this little action gives you a certain amount of fulfillment, and will actually help you keep track of your progress.
If you find yourself staring at a blank screen not knowing how to start, try imagining what your character is doing at that moment. Is he sitting down? Is she asleep and just about to wake up? Is he with someone? Where are they?
Set up the scene by describing the location and then go into the dialogue. You can even start your scene with an action sequence or a strand of dialogue. The most important lesson here is to actually start the chapter, get the fingers moving over the letters on your keyboard.
Once you’ve finished the chapter, click on your spell check just to get all those annoying red and green lines out of the way. Then save. Take a deep breath. And rest. You’ve accomplished your goal.
Quick Tip: End your chapter on a cliffhanger. It’s one of the recipes of a page-turner.
I’m sure you’ve heard of taking things a day at a time. Well, that’s what writing a novel in 30 days forces you to do. Just one chapter a day. No matter the length. Focus on getting the chapter out. Once it’s done, give your mind and body a rest. You’ll be surprised at how good it feels to step out of your writing cave afterwards.
Some more advanced writers can stretch the process to 2 chapters a day, but I don’t recommend this on the first try. Even to all of you overachievers out there. Start slow. Writing one chapter a day is nerve-wracking enough.
Second: Let the story flow.
So, the first day is done and you’ve finished chapter 1. Give yourself a pat on the back. Starting a novel is actually one of the hardest parts. Now it’s time to build momentum.
On the second day, start thinking about chapter two. What happens next in your story?
Don’t go back to chapter one. You’re wasting time by doing this. Actually, it’s the beginnings of procrastination and distraction. I will discuss this more during the third point of this section.
Open a new blank page and start the process all over again. Where is your character now? Where is the story headed? Are we switching character points of view? (No matter if your story is in first or third person, you can certainly write each chapter in a different character’s point of view. This allows your readers a peek into someone else’s mindset)
Whether you have an outline or not, let the story flow out of you. At some point, you may hear the voice of doubt telling you “It’s crap.” This is one of the voices you should be ignoring while you are writing because no one writes a perfect first draft. The real work is in the editing process.
Remember: Your goal is to get the story out.
And to get the story out, you have to let it flow, which brings me to my third point.
Third: Don’t worry about editing.
I mentioned in the second point that you shouldn’t go back to chapter one. The reason for this is your mind will move from writing mode to editing mode, and we don’t want that during our 30 days of writing.
Most likely, you are already pressed for time, which is why rereading chapter one or any other previous chapters is a waste of your time.
Remember: When you’re editing, you will be rereading your story until you’re sick of it.
There’s lots of time for editing. Right now, stick to your goal. With each day that passes, write the next chapter. Like someone losing weight by exercising, you will begin to notice that the story is flowing out easier, each chapter looks clearer. This is because you’re gaining momentum, and this is important because it’s what will take you to the end.
Remember: You can do it!