The Pre-JuNoWriMo Character Development Series, Part 3: Personality Tests

In the previous instalments of this series, we looked at tools to help you create characters. This week, I want to shift gears and discuss how to develop characters that have already sparked. This exercise is ideal for when you know a few things about a character, or maybe you just have their vibe, and you’re looking for ways to bring them into a story.

This week, we’re all about personality…and more specifically, testing that personality. There are tons of personality tests out there, such as Myers-Briggs, IQ, and EQ tests. Some have image-based questions, where you choose your favorite image, and this reveals something innate about who you are. Others ask you questions that you answer on a sliding scale, for example.

For the purposes of this week’s discussion, I’m going to use 16 Personalities. When it comes to personality tests for characters, this is my personal favorite. I’m going to guide you through how I took this test for my protagonist, and what was revealed about him. It’ll be a treat for us all to see if the results match up with what I wrote for his character profile/study.

I’ve not used this tool for him yet. Let’s see what happens!

For questions that aren’t historically appropriate to a 17th-century fella, I either chose the neutral position or imagined the historically-accurate version of the question if possible.

As you can see, I filled out every page of the 16 Personalities test. I tried to free James from my input and go with my first instinct for him. I didn’t want to shape the results of the test at all, especially as this is a character I have already developed.

The Results

James came out with an ISTJ-T personality type. According to 16 Personalities, he is:

  • Introverted
  • Observant
  • Thinking
  • Judging
  • Turbulent

I’m not sure if I’d consider him turbulent over assertive, but he was pretty close to a 50/50 on that. As for the other key traits, I’d say they’re spot on with how I’ve already developed him.

What follows this result is eight pages of in-detail reading. I’m only going to show and discuss two of those pages. Mostly, this is because this blog post would be about thirty pages long if I got into some of the other results pages—but if you use 16 Personalities for your character (or yourself), I recommend reading each results page because there’s plenty of insightful information available there.

I’d say of these strengths, the only one I’m not so sure my character has in spades is calmness. He’s not a total loose cannon but he does have a short fuse.

16 Personalities really hit the mark with James’s weaknesses. These aren’t his only weaknesses, but they certainly encompass the most important ones—especially his stubbornness early in the book and his insensitivity later in the book.

Final Thoughts

The nice thing about having these tests available on the internet for free is that I don’t have to hunt down my old college psychology textbook. I hope you’ll take the chance to poke through some of the tests available out there and see which ones can help you develop your characters.

Also, sometimes I get ideas for ways I can challenge my characters just from reading through the results.

Check in next week for one more character development exercise to help you prepare for next month’s challenge!

Margaret McNellis has been volunteering with JuNoWriMo for years. She holds an MA in English & Creative Writing and is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction. Her WIP is a historical novel set in the 17th century. Margaret’s short fiction has appeared in Fictitious Magazine, See Spot Run, The Penman Review, The Copperfield Review, and Dual Coast Magazine. To check out some of her fiction and poetry, visit her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter

The Pre-JuNoWriMo Character Development Series, Part 2: Character Resumés

Last week, I walked you through creating character profiles designed to help you get to know your character. But not everyone has the time or desire to write a 10-page profile, so this week I have another suggestion for how you can get to know your characters (and their story).

Write their resumés.

I know writing a resumé can sound like a drag, but I promise I have more fun writing them for my characters than myself, with all the satisfaction that accompanies finishing this task.

The only tricky part is for authors who are writing stories that don’t exist in our modern, contemporary, tangible Earth sort of world. Being that my own novel is historical fiction, I’m going to show you that it’s possible. I’ll write James’s from the start of the Pequot War, the main external conflict of my novel.

My Protagonist’s Resumé

James Stanworth

Fort Saybrooke

Connecticut

SUMMARY

James is skilled in negotiations and foreign languages. Skills include reading, writing, diplomacy, animal husbandry with an affinity for horses, carpentry, swimming, and archery. With experience as a trapper, trader, and interpreter, James is a natural leader and possesses a growth mindset. He’s an intrepid traveler, having crossed the Atlantic on the Bonaventurein 1633.

OBJECTIVE

To become an interpreter for the colonies of New England, to continue developing deeper knowledge of both the languages and cultures of First Nations within those colonies and foster a mutually beneficial relationship between settlers and First Nations. To own and run a trading post.

EMPLOYMENT EXPERIENCE

Assistant Trapper and Trader to Jasper Peterson, The New World, 1633-1635

  • Learned Iroquois and Algonquin tongues
  • Hunted both deer and beaver
  • Carved a canoe out of a cedar trunk
  • Traded with First Nations and other settlers

Contract Negotiator, Colony of Connecticut, 1635-1637

  • Negotiated land deals between Governor John Winthrop Jr. of Connecticut and First Nations
  • Translated contract documents from English into Algonquin languages

Interpreter, Fort Saybrooke, 1637-Present

  • Negotiates on behalf of Lieutenant Lionel Abner
  • Reports regularly to Governor John Winthrop Jr. about progress in preventing war between First Nations and settlers
  • Liaises with Dutch military allies and trade competitors

Discussion

James was not formally educated for reasons that will be revealed in my book, even though he comes from a wealthy family. But his father did impart him with the skills to read and write, which serve him well throughout the book and become some of his most relied-upon abilities. However, because he didn’t go away to school, I chose to omit an “EDUCATION” section.

But you can see how I’ve brought this 17th-century character into the modern world. I kept the dates of his employment honest to his time, but obviously he wouldn’t fill out a resumé. If I truly wanted to be as close to accurate as possible, he might have a referral letter from a previous employer—maybe Jasper Peterson (this name might change, by the way—I haven’t decided yet).

There are also some areas where I brought James’s personality through. He prefers hanging out with horses to hanging out with people, and he doesn’t like the Dutch all that much—but then, as a tradesman from England at a time when England will soon be at war with the Dutch, that’s not that hard to imagine. My point though is that you can bring your character to life through your choices in wording elements of their resume.

By the way, this exercise only took me about twenty minutes, which makes it a great pre-writing exercise.

As a bonus exercise, you can write a scene with your character interviewing for a job!

Margaret McNellis has been volunteering with JuNoWriMo for years. She holds an MA in English & Creative Writing and is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction. Her WIP is a historical novel set in the 17th century. Margaret’s short fiction has appeared in Fictitious Magazine, See Spot Run, The Penman Review, The Copperfield Review, and Dual Coast Magazine. To check out some of her fiction and poetry, visit her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter

The Pre-JuNoWriMo Character Development Series, Part 1: Character Profiles

You’ve decided to write a novel…now what? Whether or not you intend to do some planning this month before JuNoWriMo kicks off, I’m going to help you start to think about ways to develop characters. It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or seasoned writer—thinking about characters in new or different ways can energize the development task and get you revved up to bring them to life come June.

For the next four weeks, I’ll guide you through four different approaches to character development. Hopefully one of them will strike a chord with you. I hope too that if you have any questions, you’ll comment on these posts.

This week, I’m going to start off with writing your character’s profile. If you want to write with authorial authority, you need to know as much about your character as possible. I’m going to encourage you not to write backstory.

You’re probably thinking, “What? No backstory? Did my character just hatch out of the ground fully formed?”

Well, maybe—maybe not. That’s really your call. But the main reason I’m going to encourage you to steer clear of backstories is they’re often arbitrarily created when they’re used as a starting point.

The Backstory Dilemma

Say you have a character who is a cop. You decide, based on that career, that the character’s father was a cop, too. Maybe, because when the father was alive, he was always working and never around, your character has issues trusting people.

It’s not terrible. But I think it’s going about things the wrong way. What if, instead, you decided that your character has trouble trusting people first? What if that leads you—when thinking of the father—to his having a second, secret family? Maybe halfway through the story, one of your character’s secret half-siblings commits a crime. Your cop character is blackmailed into making the charges go away in order to keep the secret and avoid embarrassment (for self, for the character’s mother, etc…).

Can you see how the second option—developed from a flaw and not a backstory—created both the backstory and some kind of struggle for the character?

If you start with backstory, you risk developing backwards and missing opportunities for conflict.

Character Profiles

What is a character profile, and how do you write one?

Let’s start with what a character profile isn’t. It’s not a listing of your character’s 100 favorites. It’s not a set of prompts to determine what your character looks like. All of that is superficial.

Rather, a character profile is an in-depth examination of what makes your character tick. When I wrote a profile for my protagonist, it came out at ten pages long. To be fair, one of the reasons it was ten pages was that I was doing it as a writing exercise, with the length dictated by my MFA mentor. But the freedom to take up that space allowed me to work out the less tangible qualities of my protagonist.

Character Profile Sections

For those writers who want a little more guidance, don’t worry; I won’t leave you high and dry. I’m going to break down for you how I approach character profiles, in hopes that it gives you a starting place. You don’t have to hold to it exactly if you don’t want to.

Also, for the sake of not worrying over differences in document formatting, let’s presume that you’re going to write a 3,000-word character profile (that’s 10 pages at about 300 words each). This is how I suggest breaking it down:

  • Character’s fears – 500 words
  • Character’s goals – 500 words
  • Character’s strengths – 500 words
  • Character’s weaknesses – 500 words
  • How the character will grow by the end of the book – 500 words
  • What/who hinders the character and how – 250 words
  • What/who helps the character and how – 250 words

Three thousand words in a character profile really isn’t all that much, when you break it down into parts. Take each part one at a time. You don’t have to write them in this order, either. I tend to, but I also believe in letting inspiration guide your energy output.

Using the Character Profile

When June 1 arrives and you’re about to start writing, are you going to take out this 10-page document and comb through it for quick facts? Probably not. That’s why I’m going to suggest just one more step:

After you write a character’s profile, make a list of the basic elements you determined in each section.

For example, if you write 500 words about why your character fears relying on others, his own mortality, and heights, you don’t want to comb through those pages to find those fears. Make a list of them for quick reference.

Final Thoughts

Do you have to create 10,000-word profiles for every major character in your novel? It’d be really nice to do that, if you have the time. But if not, start with your protagonist. I’ve found, when pressed for time, that just having my main character fleshed out like this can be enough for me to decide how other characters should be developed on the fly.

For example, if my character has trust issues, I know I’m going to put another in my protagonist’s path who either is or seems untrustworthy.

Give it a shot—write a character profile in the next week. Then, come back to try another way to develop your character pre-JuNoWriMo!

Margaret McNellis has been volunteering with JuNoWriMo for years. She holds an MA in English & Creative Writing and is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction. Her WIP is a historical novel set in the 17th century. Margaret’s short fiction has appeared in Fictitious Magazine, See Spot Run, The Penman Review, The Copperfield Review, and Dual Coast Magazine. To check out some of her fiction and poetry, visit her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter

Jump-Start Your Novel Writing Month… Without Cheating by Larry Brooks

Mapping out your novel can help you avoid lulls in production. Check out tips from Larry Brooks on how to plan ahead and give your novel a “jump-start.”

According to the “rules” of National Novel Writing Month – no matter what month you undertake the work – there is nothing that prevents you from planning your novel out in advance.  Doing so – solidifying your concept and premise, and laying out the narrative expositional sequence itself – is perhaps the most useful and functional NaNoWriMo tip you can find.

Continue reading “Jump-Start Your Novel Writing Month… Without Cheating by Larry Brooks”

Writing a Premise

At some point, someone is going to ask you, “What’s your novel about?” If not in those exact words, you’re sure to field the question in some form. Do you have an answer? Sure, your novel is complex, full of characters, intricacies, histories, motivations, breakups, and makeups, but what would you write on the back cover of your published novel? What could you say in under 60 seconds to sell your story?

You need a premise. It’s key to staying on task, reminding yourself what you’re doing all month long, and letting others know what’s got you so focused/frazzled/frenzied.

What is a premise?

A premise is a one or two sentence (25-35 word) introduction to your character, his/her conflict, and the hook. It’s the foundation of your story. It works double time. You can use it to keep you on track, or as an elevator pitch to sell your completed novel.

Two ways to write your premise:

1. A present-tense statement. <— Best for planners

2. A “what-if”question. <— Best for pantsers

Whether you use the first or the second is completely up to you. The first option gives a much clearer guideline to follow while the second raises a question, but offers no answers. How open-ended would you like it to be? How much wiggle room would you like to have as you work on your novel? That will determine the best premise style for you.

What are the benefits of writing a premise?

1. A clear idea of what your novel is about. It forces you to break your idea down to its basic components, and ensures that you have the ever-important element that sets your novel apart from any other – the hook.
2. A guideline to refer to at any time during your novel writing process. As you write, many scenes will come to mind, and you will probably fall in love with most of them. Are they all relevant? Probably not. How will you know which ones are worth using? Your premise will make it painfully (or delightfully) obvious which scenes are necessary and which scenes can hit the road.
3. Takes less time and knowledge of the details than writing a summary. To write a summary, you need to know exactly what happens in your story. For a premise, you only need the bones. No meat necessary.
4. Less strict than a summary, leaving lots of room to move around. If you write your novel based on a summary, you will probably feel locked into some ideas and scenes that are present in the summary. There are specific occurrences that you’ll allude to in a summary. In a premise, again, it’s just the bones. You can dress it up however you want.
5. Having an elevator pitch ready. There’s no faster way to say what your novel is about. This is what agents, publishers, and readers are interested in. What is the purpose of your story?

Here are examples of premises using The Hunger Games:

1. Katniss takes her younger sister’s place as tribute in a fight-to-the-death reality television show. She not only fights her competitors, but herself, to win sponsor support, and stay alive.

2. What if 24 children are forced to leave their families to participate in a fight-to-the-death reality television show, only one coming out alive, to entertain the people of their world?

With a few planning days left before the 30 days of writing begin, it’s a great time to write your premise. Remember, you only need to know three things to do it. They are:
1. Your main character
2. Your character’s conflict.
3. The hook – What makes it different.

If you’re not quite ready to write your own premise, I highly recommend writing premises for your favourite books and movies. This will give you great practice in breaking hundred of pages or 2 hours down to their bare bones. For each premise your write, include the character, conflict, and hook, and stay between 25 and 35 words. Once you’ve done this for four or five books/movies, you should be ready to do it for your JuNoWriMo novel.

~

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Pre-JuNoWriMo Checklist

JuNoWriMo is just around the corner! Wow. April really flew right by us, and May is for all the planning, excitement, and preparation we like. Hopefully, you’re ready and feeling good about getting prepared. Here’s what you should get in place this month:

  • Premise – Who is your main character? What does he/she want? What stands in the way? Boil your entire novel down to one sentence.
  • Milestones – Know the turning points in your story.
  • Get to know your characters – You can search the internet for their faces, role play and take personality quizzes as them, and interview them. Be sure to figure out what they want, what they like and dislike, where they spend most of their time, where they live, how they react to various things, who they like and dislike, and what they look like.
  • Writing space – Choose nice, comfortable places where you are likely to feel inspired and be productive. Now is a good time to stake out those coffee shops, delis, libraries, and bookstores in your neighborhood to see which have the right noise-quiet balance, availability of writing fuel, and comfort.
  • Schedule – Some people have to juggle things around and/or squeeze in writing time here and there, 15 minutes at a time. That’s fine, but if possible, it’s nice to set a time to write every day. Routine is good!
  • Develop a plan for the worst – You may decide you don’t like your novel any more. You may get bogged down at work. You may question your ability to write a novel. You may get off track and end up writing something that’s not quite what you planned. You may not hit the daily goals you set for yourself. What would you do? All of those things can be scary/discouraging when they happen, but they can all be overcome with [cue dun-dun-dunnn] a plan! Make a list of your three worst JuNoWriMo nightmares, and decide how you’d deal with them. They won’t be so scary after that!
  • Research – If there’s anything you’re not sure of, look into it. If some parts of your novel absolutely must be factual, do the work now. Research can be quite the time-suck, especially when you’re just looking for a way to procrastinate. Protect your writing time. Keep June research-free by getting the facts in May.
  • Writing tools – Computer, netbook, Alphasmart, notebooks, binders, pens, pencils… Make sure they’re there and ready with lots of space/ink/storage for your word avalanche.
  • Support system – You need people in your corner! Tell people what you’re doing, but only the people who will encourage you and be positive about the challenge you’ve chosen to take on.
  • Meal planning – We highly recommend cooking lots of freezable meals or cutting deals with spouses. You probably won’t have much time for meal preparations, and when you have some, you’ll want to spend it writing, or in the forums.

Well, that about covers it! If you manage to get those things all sorted this month, you’ll be well on your way to a successful JuNoWriMo season. Be sure to look out for more blog posts which will help you out with accomplish some of the tasks mentioned here.

3 Keys to a Writer’s Block Free Life

To get you motivated and ready for JuNoWriMo, here’s a post on how to avoid writer’s block by Kevin Kaiser of 1K True Fans. Hold these keys close to you and you’ll sail through June.

~

I’ve never met a prolific author who believed in the existence of writer’s block. Not one. And even if it does exist, some have told me, they simply choose not to participate in it.

I was shocked the first time an author said this to me. “Really?” I said.  “You don’t believe in writer’s block? Surely every writer experiences a block at some point. It’s almost a rite of passage for all wordsmiths, a badge of honor that we can commiserate with your friends over a nice latte, right?”

Wrong.

Tell me, why is it that some authors are completely hamstrung by writer’s block while others seem unnaturally prolific and unhampered by the creative equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits?

The difference is in the choices they make, not the traits they possess. It’s in the perceptions they have and how those perceptions shape their actions. I went on a fact finding search among some of the best writers I know and this is what I found.

Want to live a writer’s block-free life? Here’s all you need to know.

 1. Realize that writer’s block is about fear.

Understand this point and you’ll discover that the dragon has no teeth. Think about all of those times when you stared at the blank page or screen, paralyzed. For years this happened to me. And, honestly, it still does sometimes. It’s the closest feeling I’ve ever had to a panic attack.

My revelation came when an author pointed out the cause: All of that stress stems from not knowing what comes next. We’re afraid of choosing the wrong word or writing a cardboard character or fretting over whether or not an Oxford comma is better. Or whether we really aren’t writers…at all. What if I’m a fraud.

Getting on with creativity starts with getting over fear. I’m not telling you it’s easy. It’s not. Far from it. But that’s the start of it.

 2. Write when you’re uninspired.

Writing is like marriage in some ways. If you base your commitment to it on whether or not you feel like sticking it out, you won’t last very long.  And the most important actions, the ones that have the most meaning and impact, are the ones you take when you least feel like it.

“I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” -Peter DeVries

Ever noticed that no one has “worker’s block”? You can’t phone it in because you’re feeling uninspired. That would never last. It’s the same with writing. No one finds time to do it. They make time. No one who’s successful waits around for the muse to show up. They simply get started.

 3. Get words on the page…even if they’re shitty at first.

Writers are notorious tinkerers. We like pristine words, pristine paragraphs, and pristine pages. I’ve spent hours sometimes tweaking sentences until they’d been completely ruined. We’re (many of us) perfectionists.

There’s a wonderful chapter in Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life entitled “Shitty First Drafts.” I found it on the web and it’s worth taking time to read. That essay singlehandedly freed me (mostly) from my obsession to get it right the first time. It’s too much pressure. I don’t have to and neither do you.

Let me take the pressure off you. You have permission to just get words on the page, even if what you’re putting down is shitty. No one cares. Play. Experiment. Just get words on the page.

I can’t imagine how many stories never saw the light of day because their creators got so hung up on perfection that they quit. I know there’s an idea graveyard full of my stuff, all because I wouldn’t just. Get. It. Down. You can wipe the page clean later, but first just it down.

~

Kevin KaiserKevin Kaiser writes and dishes out professional creative wisdom at 1K True Fans. Check out his Facebook page here.

 

 

 

 

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Art by Norvz Austria

Pinterest.

It’s the latest craze on the internet. It can be extremely addictive. Being a visually-oriented person (maybe more than most), I was immediately drawn to join the masses and start creating my own pin boards. Fortunately, unlike many people, I’ve been able to [mostly] keep a rein on myself and pretty strictly regulate my time spent on the site. But it wasn’t until lately that I realized just how valuable a tool Pinterest could be for a writer.
Continue reading “Pinterest for Writers”

Can Distraction Work For You?

As writers we’re always told to make time for writing and to avoid distractions, important advice especially when writing under a deadline–and for JuNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days is one huge looming deadline. But, taking the time to find inspiration is equally important.

Everyone finds inspiration differently.

I think we can agree that most original ideas aren’t developed by locking ourselves in an office, sitting at our computers looking at a blinking cursor. We develop ideas by getting out of our own heads, getting away from the computer and living our lives. Some of us feel we get enough of the outside world with jobs, family obligations, shopping, and the activities of our day to day routines–they certainly do enough to cut into writing time.

live to writeBut does the thought of watching that movie you’ve been dying to see, or just sprawling out on the couch with your favorite drink for mindless TV antics make you cringe in guilt? Your conscience screams, “No distractions when there’s a book to write!” But. . .

Is watching an old Hitchcock movie a distraction from what you’re supposed to be writing, or does it have inspirational merit? For me Hitchcock movies and his TV series have a great way of making me think about things differently. What if I throw in a little taste of the feeling that Hitchcock inspires into my next story? What if, after getting lost in that half hour of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I suddenly have a new insight into my own character’s motivation? Then, the distraction was well worth the time.

There’s a connection between distraction and inspiration.

The best writing tool you have is your brain, and it has its own stubborn and cockamamie way of doing things. How often do you have brilliant ideas while doing mindless tasks–taking a shower or doing the dishes? Or during family time–playing with the kids or watching a movie? Even in the moments that seem like a distraction, our minds continue working in the background, putting the pieces of our fictional worlds together. We may not realize that the process is going on or have any control over it, but that’s when the brilliant ideas develop.

Maybe we shouldn’t think so critically about distractions–we all need a moment to unwind. The important thing is balance. Successful writers need the determination and discipline to know when it’s best to have your butt in the chair writing, and the instinct to know when it’s time to take a break. As you’re trying to rack up those word counts next month, remember to give yourself a moment every now and then to indulge in a distraction without feeling guilty, your mind, body (and story!) will thank you for it.

~

Fel WetzigFel Wetzig is a paranormal writer, book blogger, and lover of folklore. After completing an MA in History, she’d had enough of the real world and armed with a fountain pen, she started writing fiction and building a blog, with the Peasants who live in her head. When not wrapped up in fantasy worlds, she’s usually at the day job designing publications, or relaxing with her husband and two erratic ferrets. You can find her at The Peasants Revolt.

 

 

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So You Want To Be A Writer

If you’re thinking of writing your first novel in June but are a little daunted by the prospect, don’t be afraid! Susan Kaye Quinn has some excellent advice for new writers. Keep reading for some great tips on how to be a writer. (Originally posted here.)

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So You Want To Be A Writer …

I often have people ask how to get started in writing. Or perhaps they’ve started a novel, but aren’t sure where to go from there. Or even finished their novel and want to explore publishing. This post is a general guide to help my friends explore writing to see if it’s right for them.

If You’ve Always Wanted to Write A Novel …

…but you haven’t started yet, this section is for you. The most important thing for a beginning writer to do is simply write. Invariably, beginning writers do not believe me. Shouldn’t they take a class? Or read a book on writing? Or possibly make an outline first? After all, they have no idea where to start. The hard answer is that no one knows where to start. They just do it. This is hard to hear, because it’s like wandering out into the dark without a flashlight or a map, much less a GPS. Who on earth would do that? There’s one person that does: a writer. Every time she stares at the blank page, or he takes a leap into an unknown plot twist, the writer forges out into the dark with no idea where they will end up but willing to take the dangerous journey anyway. DO THIS. Take the leap into putting words on the page without caution. It’s the quickest way to find out if you’ve got the mettle to take on such a risky undertaking. A less frightening analogy: suppose you decided that you wanted to run a marathon. You shouldn’t start out by reading about marathons, or signing up for a marathon trainer, or even watching marathons on TV. The first thing you should do is run. Every day. When you’ve built up some stamina, you can start worrying about things like interval training and carbo-loading and even reading books about marathons. But for now, just write.

If You’ve Started a Novel, But Don’t Know How to Finish …

…don’t panic. Writing a novel is a tremendously large undertaking. It’s not something you’ll whip out in a weekend, and the first several novels will likely all be steep learning curves where you start to understand things like voicecraft, and storytelling. There’s a famous saying that you have to write a million bad words before you start writing the good ones. Ira Glass has a delightful video on beginning artists (which includes writers) needing to fight through a large body of work before they can bridge the gap between what they can imagine and what they can produce. So, you have a long road ahead of you: don’t be impatient. But the first (and very important) step is to finish that first novel. I highly encourage writers still working on their first novel to finish it, as in write it all the way to The End. It may be crap. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to be crap (with tidbits of awesome). Here’s a secret for you: all first drafts are crap. It’s learning how to get the words on the page, then going back and reworking them into something that SHINES that separates the beginners from the less-beginners (because I swear we’re all still learning along the way).

If You’ve Finished a Novel, But Don’t Know What To Do Now …

…you’re not done. Finishing the first draft is a wonderful accomplishment, especially the first time! Pat yourself on the back, have a glass of wine, and decide if that (writing a novel) is something you ever, ever, in your life, want to do again. The answer may be “no” and that’s perfectly acceptable. But if you want to produce something you can be proud to share with others (even possibly beyond your family and friends), you will need to revise. And by revision, I don’t mean checking your punctuation or sentence structure (always good to do as well). I mean, this is where you decide, Am I serious about learning this craft and art of writing, knowing how much work it is? If the answer is “yes” congratulations! You’re a writer! Also, condolences, as you have just picked a life of misery and suffering, I mean, great artistic fulfillment! See my For Writers page with links to all kinds of posts on writerly craft. Seek out other writers in your genre and offer to swap critiques with them (first chapters in the beginning, then progress to swapping whole manuscripts). Listen hard to criticism and treat it as the gift that it is. Begin the slow, unending journey toward improving your craft and your storytelling. Find your Voice. Discover what makes you unique as a writer. And remember this is a journey of discovery of yourself as much as your story. And most importantly: write another novel. Your first novel, no matter how many drafts you put into it, is unlikely to be one you want to publish. Many writers have several novels under their belts before they have something ready to show the world.

If You Think You Want to Publish Your Novel, But Don’t Know Where to Start …

…stop. Do not leap immediately into self-publishing. Ask yourself these Seven Questions before self-publishing and evaluate your Writer’s Mission Statement (don’t have one? Make one). You need to know what your goals are before you publish, in order to have any hope of it being a fulfilling experience for you. See my For Writerspage for links to posts about publishing. There has never been a greater time to be a writer, because of all the choices that writers have, from self-publishing to small publishers to Big Six Publishers. The choices are yours, but it pays to know what you’re after and be well informed before taking the leap into publishing. If you thought being a writer was hard, trust me that being a published writer just makes everything more complicated. And rewarding and awesome, but only if you’ve got realistic and attainable goals in your sights.

Welcome to the wild and wonderful life of being a writer! I hope this post helps, and I’m always open to questions. Paying forward the many, many times that other writers have helped me … well, that’s part of my Writer’s Mission Statement. 🙂

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Susan Kaye QuinnSusan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA SF Mindjack series. Her new Debt Collector serial is her more grown-up SF, which she likes to call future-noir. Susan has a lot of degrees in engineering, which come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mind powers, future dystopias, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. Mostly she plays on Facebook, in awe that she gets make up stuff full-time. You can find her at www.susankayequinn.com.