Asalamu Alaikum Warahmatulahi Wa Barakatu,
I hope you are doing well !
I am currently working on two books. It is extremely overwhelming when you make your first intention on writing a book. There are many reasons for this and the main one is the fact that there are not any real known strategies to you. A first time writer at times, doesn’t know where to start or how to begin. This is called, writers block. I think it is a phenomenon that every first time writer experiences. Writers block can also happen to experienced writers, but the overwhelming sense of ideas and goals in the mind of a first time writer makes writers block all the more difficult to overcome. In this blog post, I will attempt to summarize exactly how I have overcome writers block, and techniques that I have used, on the days that I did not feel like writing.
- You Need to Have a Good Writing App
When I was first looking for a perfect app to start writing, my main requirement was that the app has a built in word count system, and in book format so that I have a visual of how the pages will look as I type. It was so hard finding the perfect app on the apple store, that I decided to just start writing (in order to not waste time) on Microsoft. After a very long search I have narrowed down my search to one particular app that I love until this day. It is called EverNote. EverNote is an app that you can download on your cell phone (android, or apple), and on all your apple or google computers from the store.
Evernote is a cross-platform app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving. It is developed by the Evernote Corporation, a private company headquartered in Redwood City, California.
The way the app is designed is by separate files that you can save different projects on. Each file is a small box to a left corner, and once you click on it, it opens up to a bigger page where you can write endlessly. The app has a built in searching system, so you don’t loose any of your files. It works as an organizer, a planner, a platform to write your books, articles, and any essays you want for school. What sealed the deal for me on this app, is that it has an emailing system, that you can use to log into it from other computers. This means, everything that you save on this app will never risk being lost or destroyed. It is always conveniently stored inside the system and the moment you begin writing it saves your every letter.
2. You need to set a good writing schedule and stick to it
Writing is not a joke, it takes a committed, and organized.
Schedule writing time and make it manageable
To win NaNoWriMo you must write 1667 words per day (on average). This will let you reach 50, 000 words within November. A lot to write in one sitting, especially if you’re juggling writing fiction with work, studies or other responsibilities.
Yet if you write approximately 417 words, four times a day, you will reach your target. A realistic writing schedule is an essential foundation for finishing your book.
3. Choose your best story idea
Before you start writing a novel, it’s important to find a book that will sustain your interest. A strong idea will be a creative inspiration right to the final page of your book. If you don’t like what you are writing, you will never be able to find the urge to finish yout book.
Of course, I would advise to write on anything pertaining to spirituality, and journey that people can learn from you and relate to; especially ss Muslims we need to tell our own story, if not then other people will do so for us.
A great story idea generally includes:
- A sense of direction and purpose (what are your primary characters’ goals and how do they set about reaching them?)
- Tension and conflict (conflict doesn’t have to be combative – in a romance this could be the tension you create by placing obstacles between your romantic duo)
- Questions that create intrigue (for example, in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, this would be the question ‘who is Pip’s mystery benefactor?’)
- Memorable characters, settings and dialogue
Once you have an idea, write it down in two to three lines. Print it out and stick it above your writing space so that you don’t wander too far off track when you draft.
4. Be methodical and structured when writing your first novel
Although you could try writing your first novel without an outline, plot outlines help. Especially if you haven’t written long-format novel or book before.
The beauty of plot outlines is that there are many ways to create them. Find a plot outlining method that suits your working style (and patience level). When I was first writing my book, since it wasn’t a story book, I made my first plot outline my table of content. Every time I needed a structure to follow, I looked back at my table of content for the order and organization, I needed to create a good flow or narrative.
And if you get to a point where you’re not sure where your story should head next, write a short, one-paragraph summaries for each chapter so far. This will help you condense the overarching story so you can see where it’s going (and perhaps where it’s gone wrong).
5. It helps to have a writing partner, an editor, or even a mentor who can challenge you on what you write, and make you think outside the box, and give you different perspectives…
When writing your first book, there are several things you need. An idea you’re excited to work on, a plan, motivation, focus, and something holding you to your goal. This last necessity is key to motivation – accountability.
A partner or writing coach will give you insightful feedback and cheer you on. Partnering up relieves the inherent loneliness of the writing process and yields useful insights. In addition, your partner will hold you accountable to your goal.
Structure your writing relationship so that it is immediately useful to you. Discuss how you’d like to work with your partner. You might want to send sections for feedback chapter by chapter or only share outlines or scenes in isolation.
Get your writing resources in order
When you’re writing your first novel, it helps to have all the resources you’ll need in an accessible place. If you’re writing a novel about a doctor, for example, create a folder for this character. Keep any medical facts or other details you will need for specific scenes in your story.
Here is how the Evernote app looks. You can use Evernote to ‘clip’ or save online articles in part or full to notebooks within the app. Create a notebook called ‘Characters’ and another called ‘Settings’. Do this for each element of your novel. You’ll create a resource for every element that offers useful research and/or inspiration.
Don’t be too much of a perfectionist, accept that first drafts are often messy and imperfect
Before you launch into writing your first draft, remind yourself it won’t be perfect. The best first draft is a finished first draft. If the cutting critic in you won’t keep quiet, try methods for avoiding editing as you go. You can:
- Make the text colour in your word processing program white so you can’t see what you’ve just written until you choose to reveal it
- Approach your drafting as free-writing: Don’t allow yourself to go back to change anything, even a typo or grammatical muddle. Decide to leave it for revision
Identify your writing goals at the start of every writing session
Outlining your aims for every writing session at the start will keep you focused. Write down what you want to achieve in a chapter or scene. For example:
‘Emma finds a dropped letter while out walking in her neighbourhood. She notes the name of the addressee and resolves to find them. She doesn’t imagine the meeting will be as upsetting as it turns out.’
Remember, also, to give yourself elbow room. Depart from your scene summary if you feel the story should go in a different direction. The main point of pre-scene writing is to maintain a clear sense of purpose for each scene in relation to your story arc.
Plan breaks and fun around your writing targets
It’s crucial, while writing your first book, to give yourself breaks and time to process story ideas. As part of your writing schedule, include breaks and fun activities you’ll enjoy to reward yourself for persisting. This will help to break up your routine and add some variety.
Find creative solutions for days you can’t write
If you have a busy day at work or can’t sit down to write for another reason, find another creative solution.
If you have a phone that has a voice recorder feature, dictate ideas for your story in spare moments. Take days of missed word count targets and divide the number of words you meant to write up between upcoming writing sessions. This is an important strategy during a deadline-driven process such as NaNoWriMo. You’ll make up for lost time easily.
Actively increase your productivity
To truly make strides, write your novel in stolen moments. For example, while waiting in line or on hold during a phone call, you could write part of a scene in an email to yourself on your phone, then cut and paste this into your manuscript. Find ways to be productive and not let other obligations and duties get in the way of reaching your writing goals. It takes time, commitment, and effort. And all of these abilities are within your potential.
So, I hope this helps in sha Allah <3 Keep going, don’t give up, and always remember that your story matters, your ideas deserve respect, and the only way you can achieve your dreams is by consistency and persistence. You got this.
- Amal Maow