New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year again, give or take a couple of days.  It’s the time when everyone makes the resolution to lose weight…and I’m sure a smattering of other things.  I don’t believe in resolutions so much as setting goals.  The problem a lot of people have seems to be with the name.  You see, they’re the same thing.  However, a goal to some may equally be labeled a ‘pipe dream.’  So let’s talk about goals.

Goals are nothing without a plan of attack.  For me, I make time to write 1,000 words every day, even if it’s a blog post rather than a few pages in my latest novel.  I’m an avid user of to-do lists and if I miss a day of writing I don’t get that satisfying check.  On the rare occasion that happens, I let it carry over to the next day, where I’ll double my normal productivity out of guilt.  I’ve been following this pattern for about 6 months now and have written and published 2 novels to show for it.

The problem with a lot of people’s goals is that they take a long time to achieve for a person completely dedicated to the task.  Someone might go in and give it a half-baked effort for a month or two and then stop.  Maybe it’s too hard or you’re not getting the results you want.  Any task, if repeated enough times, can get boring.  The people who succeed find the bright spots and continue on even if they don’t feel like it, if they aren’t getting the results they want, or if their goal seems unreachable.  It can take decades to gain any real following as an author, musician, or other type of artist.  During that time, just about everyone will hit a wall at some point.  What matters is how you deal with those setbacks.

I have goals for 2015, goals for the next three years, five years, ten years, and so on.  I realize that forecasting that far out might seem pointless to some people, but I stand by it.  Every year I reevaluate where I am and where I want to be.  I don’t make some arbitrary resolution per se, but I do adjust my goals to be somewhere between realistic and optimistic.  And so here it is: in 2015 I will publish four novels and the quality of each will meet or exceed the previous novel.  I’m already on track to hit that goal, and it’s a good feeling that I know all I need to do is continue on the way I’ve been going.

I want to hear about your resolutions!  Post a comment in the space below with your 2015 resolution.

How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Staring at a blank page can put a real damper on completing your Great American Novel, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  All you need is a little planning and forethought and you can fly through those pages.  Let me explain.

When I wrote my first novel I too stared at a screen for countless hours waiting for inspiration to strike.  Too often, it didn’t.  Because of this, I developed a method that helped me know exactly what I was going to write when I sat down each day.

First, I write a one page synopsis of the book.  It doesn’t have to be perfect because no one but you will ever see it.  Above all else, this one page should answer the “so what” question; or, why the reader should care about your characters and your book.  It should have a fairly clear beginning, middle, and end.

Second, I decide how long the book is going to be.  Generally, I’m not one of those authors that let stories get away from me.  I know what I’m going to say, I know what the story will accomplish, and I deliver it to the reader with a neat bow on top.  That said, tangents do happen and I give every novel about a 5,000 word cushion.  I keep all of my novels around a 50,000 to 55,000 word count for several reasons, none of them monetary related.  First and foremost, a work of that length would translate perfectly to a feature film, which is often how I envision the story as I’m writing.

Third, I make a word file and plot out thirty chapters worth of action.  Thirty is the perfect number for me based on my expected word count and ten pages per chapter (in Courier New).  I use Courier New because the pages add up faster and it provides me with a sense that the book is growing faster than it is.  It makes it just a little bit more fun for me.  It’s also easily changed back to Times New Roman when I’m finished.  Now, while I write out all thirty chapters, I know somewhere along the line I’ll have a stroke of brilliance and the plot will vector.  It’s important for me to go back and alter my outline when that happens to reflect the changes.  That way, I open up my outline each day and I can say, “Oh right, I’m writing this scene today,” and I already have the vision in my head.

Because of these three steps, I’ve been able to cut down the time it takes me to write a novel from about 5-6 months to 2-3.  Also, it gives me more time to go back and edit, and edit, and edit again without taking forever to do it.  Please bear in mind your results may vary as I’m slightly hyperactive and my mind refuses to rest.  Everyone is going to have their own method of writing, but this is mine.  If you’re struggling with finding your own method or want to try something new and different, I suggest you give mine a whirl.

Do any other authors out there have advice for those just starting out?  I’d be interested to hear if anyone has any similar quirks and how it works out for them.  Sound off in the comments below!

Also, if you have a moment, please check out my newest release: The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key.  The Azure Key is the first in a series I hope to be producing for quite some time.  The second installment, Nightstalkers, is coming in March 2015.  Stay tuned for updates!