16 Quick character exercises

16 Quick CharacterDevelopmentExercisesI(and many of the writers I follow) subscribe to the theory that character is the most important part of your novel. The most memorable part of a good book is almost always the characters, but it’s more than that. Your characters, their emotions, actions and reactions are the driving force behind the story, even in story with a highly external plot. It’s why our books so often change dramatically from the outline during the first or second draft–because we’ve gotten to know our characters and realized they wouldn’t act the way we originally imagined.

So how do you get to know your characters? There are almost as many different methods as there are writers. Hell, I’d go so far as to say there are as many ways to develop characters as there are characters in our fiction–I’ve developed almost all my main characters in very different ways. Sure, the starting exercises are the same, but there are a whole fleet of other exercises I’ve used to get to know my characters(and occasionally other people’s) over the years.

Today I’d like to give you the tools to develop your own characters. I’m pretty confident you already know what a good character looks like, so we’re going to jump straight into a collection of the best character exercises I’ve tried(some are linked to the articles where I found them, some no longer exist):

1. Describe your character in three words.

2. Write an internal monologue from the POV of your main character about their first big crush or first love.

3. Write one page or paragraph about your character’s worst memory, using their first person perspective.

4. Follow a supporting character after they leave the protagonist’s presence.

5. Interview your character about a specific part of their past.

6. Write a diary entry about your character having an ordinary day.

7. Write a letter from one supporting character to another.

8. Get your character to confess their most shameful secret.

9. Ask your character to describe their favourite place. 

10. Send your character(s) to Disney World and watch their reactions.

11. Get them to tell you about their education in one paragraph, then expand it to a page.

12. Write a description of your character from the POV of the person they’ve hurt the most.

13. Write one page describing your character’s family from their POV.

14. List what’s in your characters pockets/purse/briefcase/car on an ordinary day. 

15. Write a scene from a support character’s POV about them meeting your character for the first time. Pay close attention to how they describe your character at first glimpse.

16. Create a factsheet listing everything you’ve learned about your character so far.

All of these character exercises were chosen because they can be completed within an hour(usually less for many of the exercises) but I’ve often found that once I get my characters talking about something one paragraph or even one page is rarely enough. If you have the time to keep going, let your characters ramble–it’s in these moments that you often learn the most.

What is your favourite character development exercise? Let me know in the comments section below!

19 Resources to help you edit that novel

EditingI originally started blogging because I wanted to share my journey towards writing success, but now I also blog because I’m dedicated to helping others build their own writing careers. I want to help you not only explore different writing methods, but to master as many aspects of the craft as you can.

One thing crucial to your success as a writer is the ability to edit. This is true for writers of all kinds, and especially true for novelists.

Now that it’s been a couple weeks since you finished your novel, it’s time to start thinking about editing. Starting before the holidays are over is probably a bad idea, but brushing up on your editing skills is always a good idea—and if you’ve been at this a while, you probably have a couple other projects that could use a serious edit(or three).

So I’ve compiled a list of editing resources to help you turn your first draft into a novel worth publishing, mostly focused on content instead of grammar. With any luck, these resources will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Editing and the Writing Craft: Tips From an Editor – This interview over on the Creative Penn blog gives you advice directly from Joanna Penn’s fiction editor.

How to Karate Your Novel and Edit that Motherfucker Hard: A No-Fooling Fix That Shit Editing Plan to Finish the Goddamn Job – I’m not sure he could have made the title any longer, but Chuck Wendig is a fantastic writer and a really funny blogger with practical advice written in a funny way. I suggest subscribing to his blog while you’re there. It’s worth it, trust me.

The 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes (& How to Fix Them) – A helpful article from Writer’s Digest.

Tips on Self-Editing Fiction Books – Not the most comprehensive resource, but certainly a useful article.

How to Revise a Novel – Rather successful author Holly Lisle offers up her revision method and offers some practical advice for any novel writer.

Creating Emotion in the Reader – Not specifically focused on editing, but creating emotions in your readers is the end goal, right? Learning how to do so will certainly make your next draft stronger.

Top 10 Book Self-Editing Tips – Yet another useful article with good advice for editing your novel.

Writing a Novel? 6 Visual Storytelling Techniques to Borrow from Film and TV – Rewriting might be different from writing, especially if your first draft wasn’t particularly awful, but some scenes will certainly need to be rewritten entirely and might just be better if you use these techniques.

How to Edit Your Book Until It’s Finished – This blogger will tell you that writing is revision, and give you some concrete advice on how to do that revision.

How to Edit A Novel: Bringing Your Manuscript to Perfection – I would argue that no book can ever be perfect, but this is still a valuable article with actual examples.

7 Deadly Myths About Editing And 3 Inspired Truths – A little bit less instructional than most of the other articles, but very true.

Marcela Landres on Editing Fiction – An interview with former Simon & Schuster editor discussing how novelists can get their work ready for submission.

Tips for Editing Your Nanowrimo Novel – From Lifehacker, this article is focused on those of you who are editing a first draft from Nanowrimo, and also has a section on apps that can help you get your editing done. Yes, there really is an app for everything these days.

Editing Your Novel As You Read It – And one final article I hope you’ll find helpful.

How To Find a Beta Reader – This is a pretty thorough article that should help you find a beta reader in no time. Beta readers are critical to your success, so make sure you don’t stop until you find a good one!

What I’ve Got To Say About Editing

Here are some of the articles I’ve written over the years that can help you edit your novel:

Create Your Editing Watch List – An Editing Watch List can help you stay on track so you don’t find yourself editing for the same things three times.

On Overwriting and More On Overwriting – Two articles I wrote about something I see all the time, even in books published by large presses, but mostly from indie authors.

Preparing To Edit A Novel – There are a few things you should do before you start editing a novel, and I’ve summed them all up nicely here.

Editing definitely isn’t my favourite part of the writing process, but it’s an essential one. Often times a novel needs to go through a dozen edits before it’s fit to see the light of day, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is believing your novel is good to go the moment you’ve typed “The End”.

Do your career and editors everywhere a favour by choosing to edit your novel at least three times before you send it anywhere except to a couple trusted beta readers.

By the way, last week I released a short ebook of 110 Novel Planning Resources, available to my subscribers only. If you’re not already signed up, sign up for the newsletter here to claim your  free resource guide today! I only send out emails once a month, so you won’t have to worry about me cluttering your inbox.

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

pencils-447480_640Week three of Nanowrimo is already here and if you’re anything like me, you’re filled with a combination of excitement and fear. Can you actually reach the lofty goal you’ve set for yourself? Is your novel garbage? Will you ever actually want to look at it again? Are you going to cross  the finish line?

It’s completely normal to doubt yourself at this point, and it’s completely normal to think you’ll have to throw away your novel. In fact, I’d go so far as to say throwing away your novel is fairly standard among Nanowrimo participants. I’m certainly not trying to salvage every single novel I’ve written during Nanowrimo.

Whatever your feelings are about your novel, you can overcome them and you can write a novel in a month. All you need to do is believe in yourself and keep writing.

Here’s some advice and inspiration to keep you going:

A Tip

EMBRACE THE CRAZINESS!!!! ~ LadyofPangaea

A Trick

If you really feel like you absolutely must edit more than a couple sentences, add any deleted scenes to a separate file. You might end up wanting them later and either way it’s fiction written during Nanowrimo, so it can be counted to your word count(this is part of how I get such a high word count every year).

Some Inspiration

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.”
– Sidney Sheldon

What’s your word count like? Do you hate your novel? Love it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

workstation-336369_640Can you believe we’re already in the second week of Nanowrimo? It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun–or when you’re freaking out about an upcoming deadline…

With any luck you haven’t actually started freaking out yet and your word count is soaring well above where it’s supposed to be at this point in the month.

Either way, I’ve got a tip, a trick and a quote that should help see you through to the other side of this crazy novel writing adventure:

A Tip

If you keep stopping to edit, maybe it’s time to turn your monitor off while you write–or at least tape a piece of paper over it so you can’t see most of what you’ve written. This will help your words flow more freely and prevent you from editing too much.

A Trick

Join the word wars/sprints and just have FUN. ~ Hedgymama

Some Inspiration

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”
– C. J. Cherryh

How’s your Nanowrimo novel coming along?

The Ultimate Plot Creation Resource List

quill-175980_640Once you’ve figured out the basics of your world and gotten to know your characters pretty well, it’s time to start thinking seriously about the plot. If your novel planning process is moving along at the proper pace, you should already have an idea what your plot looks like.

Now it’s time to figure out all the details. Well, not all the details. At least a few details should be figured out as you go along, because the best stories grow organically.

But you do need to know the basic structure of your plot before you start writing the first draft of your novel, at least if you want to write a first draft you might actually be able to salvage someday. So I’ve compiled a pretty large collection of resources designed to help you plot a novel.

Remember: there is no right or wrong way to plot a novel. Try as many as you need to until you find the one that works best for you.

Plotting Resources

1. The 4 Story Structures That Dominate Novels – This is an article on Writer’s Digest that details different story structures commonly used in novels. If you have only a very basic idea—or no idea at all—how your story will be structured, this is a really good place to start.

2. How to Structure a Story: The Eight-Point Arc – An explanation of one way you can structure your story. It’s a fairly detailed article that should give you lots of food for thought.

3. Nanowrimo Prep: The Ultimate Plot Development Guide – I haven’t actually read through this whole thing yet, but there’s an interesting article and a downloadable guide that comes with a plot building worksheet. This seems like just as good a place as any to go when you’re prepared to start fleshing out your plot.

4. The Snowflake Method – One method for planning a novel that lots and lots of writers absolutely love. I find this kind of outlining to be way too rigid for my tastes, but to each their own, right?

5. The Best Approach to Story Structure: From Aristotle to Dramatica – This is a pretty interesting article with a lot of food for thought on the subject of story structure/plotting. Some good reading to do before you start nailing down the details of your plot.

6. How to Create Story Structure to Die For – A fairly detailed article about creating excellent story structure on the Write to Done blog.

7. 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure – Although I’ve only read one of his books I can tell you Chuck Wendig is a great author. He’s also a great blogger and seems to me to be an all around great guy. If you found Limyaael’s rants entertaining, you’ll love this—and find it useful to boot.

8. Novel Plotting Worksheets – If you really prefer to use worksheets to plot your novels, or you’re simply interested in trying a different approach, you can find a couple novel plotting worksheets here. You’ll also find a handy character chart and a link to a resource with more worksheets.

9. How to Create a Book that will Keep Readers Reading – Plot Worksheet – This is a pretty detailed plot worksheet that should help you create an engaging story you’ll actually be able to edit into a publishable novel.

10. Writing a Young Adult Series – An article that, despite its focus on one genre, can be helpful to anyone planning a series. You might not be writing every book in your series during November, but you should have an idea what they’re all going to look like, and what the overall story is. This article has some useful thoughts on how you can do just that.

11. Plot Structures for Books in a Series – More thoughts on how to structure novels within a series.

12. The Challenges of Writing a Series – And one more post on the challenges of writing a series because frankly, it’s challenging. After all, you want to set things up in the first book so that there’s appropriate foreshadowing for things in later books, which means you need to outline the whole thing before writing the first book.

13. Michael Crichton’s Method for Plotting out a Story – I think the title really says it all for this one.

14. How to Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps – If you don’t want to use a worksheet but you still want to create a solid outline before you start your first draft, this article can help you do so.

15. Plot Development – A pretty detailed article about plot development that should help you create something worthwhile, especially when combined with one of the outlining methods linked to in this article.

16. Golden Rules for a Good Plot – Five rules and a couple useful links that will help you write a novel worth reading.

17. 6 Writing Outline Templates and 3 Reasons to Use Them – An article about the importance of outlines, with links to outline worksheets you can download.

18. Plotting a Romance Novel – If you’re considering writing a romance novel—or you’ve already decided it’s a good idea—this article is for you. It might also be helpful if you’re trying to write a book where romance is a major component, but not actually the main storyline.

19. Outlining Your Novel: Why and How – Another great article about the purpose of outlines, along with a guide to creating them.

20. First Steps in Plotting a Novel – A brief article that will help you plan the beginning of your novel.

21. Plotting a Novel – This article details the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. There’s actual software for this available if you’re interested in using the method yourself. From my understanding there’s also a book, if you prefer to learn that way.

22. How J.K. Rowling Plotted Harry Potter with a Hand-Drawn Spreadsheet – Admit it. Every time you finish reading a book that leaves an impression, you want to know how it was planned. Well, J.K. Rowling’s actually enlightened the public to a fair bit of her writing process. Enjoy!

23. Famous Authors’ Hand-Written Outlines for Great Works of Literature – On this site you can actually see the hand-written outlines several famous authors have created. I don’t know how much it will help you plot your own novel, but it is really cool to see these famous novels planned out like this.

24. 7 Ways to Add Great Subplots to Your Novel – This is another article from Writer’s Digest, this time discussing how to add interesting subplots to your novel. After all, the best novels always have more than one thing going on.

25. 5 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist – Everybody loves a good plot twist done right. This article will help you get it right every time.

26. What is Plot – How to Write a Story from Beginning to End – A fairly detailed article that will help you think your plot through properly and make sure you write a story actually worth reading. After all, you don’t want to spend an entire month on something that isn’t worthwhile, do you?

27. Special Fiction Writing Week: Creating a Plot – You’ll find some great information on plot creation in this article and you’ll also find a couple useful links. Realistically, Men with Pens is a blog you should probably be following anyway. Just thought I’d throw the idea out there.

28. Thoughts on Plot by Famous Writers – This is a great collection of quotes which will hopefully help you plan a better novel and stay inspired when the plotting gets tough.

29. Before You Can Write a Good Plot, You Need to Write a Good Place – An article discussing the importance of your setting to creating a great story.

30. The Best Advice on Plotting I’ve Ever Heard – A pretty useful article that happens to be located on a writing blog you might want to spend some time exploring before moving on to the next resource.

31. Plots and Stories – An article that outlines the differences between plots and stories, discusses how they work together, and how stories without strong plots can still work on occasion. There’s some pretty interesting stuff here.

32. Constructing Plot – This article goes through the various elements of plot and shows how you can use them to construct a worthwhile novel.

33. 5 Major Plotholes in Otherwise Great Movies – Okay, I’ll be fair, this isn’t really a writing resource. At the same time, everything is a writing resource. Movies, just like books, consist of characters, setting, plot and story. And knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what to do.

34. How to Write a Good Game Story – Again, this article isn’t focused on books, but it is focused on story and plot. And studying any kind of story is worthwhile, so it’s on the list.

35, It’s Just a Phase – This article walks you through the creation of a phase outline, which is a pretty intensive form of outlining I find way too extreme that might just work for you anyway. There are also a lot of useful articles on the Forward Motion website.

36. 25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story – Another great article written by Chuck Wendig. If you go through all 25 you’ll probably end up with a pretty solid plot. I’ve never worked through them all in order from this list, so if you do, I’d love to hear about it and the results you get.

37. Choosing the Best Outline Method for You – One last article from Writer’s Digest which will help you decide which of these many different outlining methods you can actually use.

Outlining a novel might seem tedious, but it’s essential to creating a worthwhile first draft. Even with an outline you might find your first draft too messy to be salvageable, but I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to tell your story is still worthwhile.

Outlining your novel before you begin also helps you decide whether or not you actually want to spend a month or more on this novel. After all, you can’t really know if an idea is worthwhile until you’ve spent some time examining it and discovering more about it.

If you know of any plotting resources that really should be on this list, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at diannalgunn @ gmail.com .

10 Reasons why I love Nanowrimo

10 Reasons Why I love Nanowrimo (1)Chances are you already know what Nanowrimo is–if you don’t, it’s explained quite well here–and you’re here because you’re considering participating. Or because you’ve already decided you’re going to do it.

I’ve been participating in Nanowrimo for nine years–this will be my tenth–and blogging about the experience for four. Most years around this time I write up a post about why you should try Nanowrimo.

This year I’ve decided to take a different approach. I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. I’m just going to tell you why Nanowrimo is awesome. Maybe it will convince you to take on the challenge this year, maybe it won’t. Either way, your decision doesn’t bother me.

But if you do sign up, you should know what you’re in for. So here goes:

1. The competitive aspect of Nanowrimo inspires me to test my limits. Every year the city I’m in does a word war, usually against another city. Occasionally I race against an individual, though people rarely challenge me now that everyone knows I once wrote 300K in November.

Nanowrimo has inspired me to push myself farther than I ever thought imaginable. In the last few years I’ve focused more on telling coherent stories than creating massive word counts, but I’ve still written over 100K every year since my third year. I’ve written a mixture of things interesting and awful, and learned a lot about writing–and myself–over the years.

This year someone’s actually challenged me to a word count race, and since it happens to be my tenth year, I’m going to aim for the largest word count possible. I’ve already started planning, in the hopes that having more detailed outlines will make my Nanowrimo drafts a little less hideous than some of the early ones, despite my desire to maximize word count.

2. Nanowrimo makes you feel good about a crappy first draft. A lot of would-be writers stall at some point during the writing process because part of them believes they’re terrible writers.

You can tell yourself all you like that “The best books aren’t written, they’re rewritten”(I have no idea who said that first; enlighten me if you do) but eventually it stops soothing the mental pain of an awfully written first draft. But when thousands of other writers are writing awful first drafts with you and you’re receiving pep talks week after week, you’re constantly reminded that everybody else feels the same way.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

3. The Nanowrimo boards are a treasure trove of inspiration. Still trying to decide on various aspects of your Nanowrimo novel? Need some help creating characters? Hop on over to the Adoptables forum, where you can find characters, names, subplots and entire, sometimes incredibly well developed plots waiting for some frustrated writer to pick them up and breath some life into them.

I actually have a file with a handful of characters I at some point hope to adopt. It’s never quite worked out that way, but often reading through the threads inspires characters made up of bits and pieces from different posts. It’s a great way to build a side character quickly so you can move on.

Oh, and you can always go to the dares threads if you need more inspiration, but a lot of those are just ridiculous. Which may or may not work for your novel.

2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner4. You can learn about pretty much anything you ever wanted to study. The “reference desk” forum on the Nanowrimo boards is usually the first place I check when I need a few quick facts about something historical… Or anything that involves someone dying.

Writers tend to be morbid, but aside from that, one of the great things about Nanowrimo is that people gather there from all different walks of life. Which means there are experts on all kinds of things who will answer your questions. If you can’t find a helpful thread, ask a question.

The best part? The “Reference Desk” is one of the few forums that seems to stay active throughout most of the off season.

5. Want to write a book a year? Do Nanowrimo every year. At one point I pretty much spent half a year doing intense Nanowrimo-based writing challenges and very, very slowly editing old projects. Eventually I had a pile of first drafts and a few second drafts staring at me every time I opened my documents.

This year I decided I’m only going to work on first drafts during Nanowrimo. Sure, that might mean a few books for me this year, but next year I may only work on one. And either way, it means that when I do sign a publishing contract, I’ll have different novels in different stages of editing. That’s a pretty good position to be in.

It also just feels awesome to say “I write a book every year”.

6. There are well over a dozen published Nanowrimo authors. Whether they’re published with big houses or indie presses, these authors have all reached some level of success with their novels. There are also quite a few self published Nanowrimo authors doing fairly well for themselves.

I love watching the numbers grow every year because it reminds me that I can also be successful, even if I have to edit each of my novels a dozen times.

I’ve also met a few of these authors through the forums–and will be introducing a couple of them to you in the couple weeks–and had some wonderful conversations with them.

7. Nanowrimo participants are the friendliest people ever. Of course, there are some bad apples in every bunch, but for the most part Nanowrimo participants are super friendly and extremely supportive. You’ll rarely find a more supportive place than the Nanowrimo forums during November. I’d be surprised to find one myself.

Some of the friends I’ve made through Nanowrimo are my oldest friends. They’re good people, good company, and good friends. I’ve known some of them for as long as nine, ten, even eleven years. I suspect I’ll continue to know them for a long time.

I’ve never really had strong connections like that in school, so Nanowrimo’s been an essential part of my life–and my favourite time of year to socialize.

nano_2006_winner_small.336172353_std8. There’s built in opportunities to find critique partners. There’s an entire novel swap forum, not to mention that being a member gives you access to thousands upon thousands of writers. A lot of them will be looking for critiques at the end of the month, even throughout the off season.

Some of my Nanowrimo friends have turned into critique partners, and every critique partner I’ve had–wherever I met them, whatever part of the world they lived in–has at some point participated in Nanowrimo.

Finding solid critique partners is hard–most of mine have only lasted one or two projects–but it’s a lot easier when you know several other aspiring novelists. Or several dozen.

9. Nanowrimo keeps me–and other folks in the northern hemisphere–busy through some seriously depressing weather. November isn’t usually the nicest month here in Canada, but I don’t complain. In fact, I would argue that November is the one month I really love, because I always have something to look forward to.

Part of it is that I get to see friends I hardly see throughout the rest of the year. We go out, have fun, laugh a lot, and occasionally get some writing done.

Nanowrimo also helps me really focus on writing new fiction for an entire month, which is often difficult. I have a lot more trouble keeping my schedule rigid the rest of the year. During Nanowrimo, I’m all business. I’m working hard to see what I can accomplish this year, along with everyone else. And I certainly don’t care that the weather’s bad when I’m cooped up inside on my computer.

10. Free books! And cute graphics! And feeling like a boss! The best part about Nanowrimo is Winner_180_180_white.331221427_stdthat when you complete it–even if you fall short of your goal–you’re celebrating with thousands of other people who get it.

Anyone can say they get it, but people who haven’t actually tried to write a novel rarely grasp how difficult it actually is. On the other hand, everyone participating in Nanowrimo understands what you’re going through. It’s the one time you’re able to celebrate with other people who’ve survived the same process–at least until you manage to befriend some published authors.

Of course, the winner’s prizes also help you feel like a boss when you reach the end of Nanowrimo. The graphics are adorable, the annual winner’s certificate will bring eternal smiles to your face, and most years you’re also given the opportunity to see your novel in print–even if yours is the only print copy ever made.

All in all, I love Nanowrimo, and I’m excited to start writing.

Are you participating in Nanowrimo this year? Have you participated? Tell me about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

3 Reasons Fiction Writers Should Consider Freelancing

#76 - Mannequin Artist Do you toil away at a day job you don’t like to pay bills while fantasizing about a career as a novelist? Do you daydream about working from home and being able to sit at your computer all day–without your boss hovering over you to make sure you get the work done? Freelance writing might be the solution.

Even if you love your day job and don’t want to become a full time freelance writer, it’s a good idea to try your hand at freelance writing. For one thing, you’ll notice people think of you differently when you tell them you’ve actually gotten paid to write before. It’s frustrating because every great novel took years to write, but people don’t take you seriously if you’re not published.

Still, it only takes a handful of publications to get a different look when you tell people “I’m a writer”.

Not convinced? Here are three other benefits fiction writers can gain from freelance writing:

1. Confidence– knowing that people are willing to pay you to write blog posts, web copy or magazine articles can give you the necessary confidence booster to finally send your novel into the world. Every time you pitch an article it gets a little bit easier. Every time you get paid to write, you start thinking of yourself as a writer. Freelance writing cements the idea that you are a writer who will be successful.

2. Earn money in the meantime– writing a novel takes a long time. Editing it takes longer. Finding a publisher can take years–and then you have to edit all over again. While you won’t start making money as a freelancer five minutes from now, you’ll definitely be earning money as a freelance writer before you make anything as a novelist. Even a small amount of income helps make life easier and validate your dream of being a professional writer.

3. Learn to work with an editor– when you finally get that publishing contract, you’ll need to work with an editor. Even when you’re consciously aware of the benefits editing provides, it can be difficult to deal with criticisms on a novel you’ve spent months or years working on. Make the process easier by learning how to work with an editor. It might not compare to the edits you’ll go through working with a publisher, but knowing how a professional relationship between a writer and editor works can save you a lot of heartache.

Freelancing isn’t easy, but it’s a worthwhile experience for every fiction writer. You’ll gain valuable skills in writing, marketing and networking and even earn some money while you’re at it. If you decide you want to pursue writing as a freelance career, you might find yourself working in your pajamas every day years before you get that first novel published.

Have you done any freelance writing? What have your experiences been like?

Your Daily Marketing Schedule

agenda Now that you’ve decided which social media networks to focus on and where you hope to make guest appearances, it’s time to create a daily marketing plan for the next month. Some activities, like scheduling promotional social media posts, should be done once or twice a month for best results, but you should incorporate time for marketing in your schedule every day.

Why it’s important to market daily

Even if your blog already has several hundred followers, even if you’re selling books well or making a decent living from freelance writing, you need to market yourself every day. Word of mouth is great, but marketing your books and blog yourself is the only way you can guarantee an increase in followers. This is especially true early on–eventually you will experience organic growth, but only a small percentage of people will share your work, so you need to get a fairly large number reading your stuff before it really takes off.

Jobs dry up. Old fans get too busy–or broke–to purchase your latest book. Some months you get more rejections than others. Intense marketing when you go through one of these dry spells might help you get back on your feet, but only by marketing yourself daily will you be able to avoid the dry spells. Hundreds of writers are already marketing daily. To get and keep attention, you must do the same.

How much time should you devote to marketing?

This varies greatly. If you already have a significant following and are making a decent income from your writing, half an hour might be all you need to stay visible. If you only started promoting yourself a month ago, you might want to devote significantly more time to marketing.

Outside life will put constraints on the amount of time you spend marketing, but you should make sure you spend at least half an hour, five days a week putting your name out there.

My daily marketing schedule varies–some days are devoted almost entirely to paid clients–but I always find at least an hour to market myself and search for freelance clients.

What should be on your daily marketing task list?

Every writer’s daily marketing task list will be different. The best ones will all have one thing in common: they focus on creating and developing relationships. Selling a product or service should always be your secondary concern. Even if it isn’t, the key is to act like it is.

So how do you accomplish this?

Start with a small daily commitment to the social networks you’ve decided to focus on. I spend 20 minutes on Twitter every day and always retweet one post I enjoyed by someone in my network and start or participate in a conversation with one other person. I’ve grown to love these conversations, and while Twitter itself still isn’t providing me many clients, I am building awesome relationships with awesome people who might someday read my novels. That’s pretty great. I also participate in one LinkedIn conversation every day, and am growing quite fond of the groups there.

Make sure you’re actually developing relationships with people and, if you’re looking for freelance work, actively tell new connections and ask them if they need any writing done or know someone who does. People on LinkedIn are especially receptive to this and many will hire you–or at least agree to pass your name along.

As for guest posts, I tend to do these in a cycle. One day I’ll spend half an hour or so identifying blogs where I’d like to guest post. The next day I’ll brainstorm ideas for each blog on my list. On the third day I outline some posts. On the fourth day I pick one to write. I usually edit guest posts two or three times before I submit.

You might decide you want to incorporate another activity or two into your daily marketing schedule. Maybe you want to run your email newsletter daily–which isn’t always a great idea–or cold call businesses to offer freelance services. Do whatever feels right. Some things work better than others, but something you enjoy will always work better than something you don’t.

Write it down

Whether you use a calendar, a monthly planner or a weekly agenda, write all your daily marketing tasks down. Every day. For the next month. Right now. Following through on your marketing plan is the hardest part–and the only way to get results from all the planning you did this month–and a daily reminder will help you get it done.

Eventually your daily marketing activities will become automatic and can be scheduled as just “marketing time”. Until then, write down everything you’re committed to doing. Remember that you won’t see big results right away. You might develop a connection on your first day, but it will take time to forge enough connections to create a steady income from your writing.

Incorporate marketing into your daily schedule this month if you want to grow your following substantially this year–every day you wait is an opportunity lost.

Before you finish that draft

After an excruciating process taking anywhere between a few weeks and several years, your first–or second, or third–draft is almost finished. Your adrenaline’s pumping and you’re ready to power through to the finish line.

As antsy as you might be to finish it, I suggest instead you pause and take a deep breath. It’s time to create a plan for after you’ve crossed the finish line.

Start by scheduling a couple says off. You can write, of course, but jumping straight from one book to the next isn’t a great idea. Give your brain some time to relax and refill the creative well by enjoying somebody else’s book or doing something fun. You might want to focus on stories very different from your current WIP so you can get out of that mode and prepare for the next project.

Speaking of which, make sure you choose the next project to work on before finishing your current WIP. Without a plan, it’s easy to stop writing completely once you finish your novel. Writers can be extremely indecisive. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.

A good plan will include a start date, a deadline for completion and a list of things that need to get done before you start the actual draft. If you need to flesh out your world, do some research or develop your characters before working on your next project, write the steps you’ll take to do so out on paper. You’ll probably spend quite a bit of time figuring out exactly what preparations you’ll need to make. Don’t worry about it. Every moment spent planning is made up for with time saved during writing.

If there are some shorter pieces you’ve been ignoring to work on your novel, schedule time to finish these before starting your next book. You don’t want those unfinished tasks nagging at the back of your brain while you’re trying to write a novel.

Every writer plans differently. What matters is you create a plan that keeps you constantly writing. You don’t want to lose the momentum you’ve created writing the last draft.

Tactics for when you’re stuck on rewrites

I’ve spent a long time in rewrites–first working on Moonshadow’s Guardian, then the second draft of my 2011 Nanovel–and the last two weeks have been the most unpleasant of all. Each day I wrote a page, maybe less, of the actual novel and spent hours entranced in other writing. Avoiding the novel itself.

Late last week I hunkered down, figured out the issue causing my avoidance and worked through it. Now I’m back to work on my novel, confident I won’t stall again.

When you’ve been working on the same project for a long time it can be difficult to continue. You start to lose your enthusiasm and writing becomes like walking on hot coals. Every scene seems an insurmountable challenge. The book itself becomes a monster you avoid like the one you thought was under your bed in childhood.

There are many potential reasons why you’re stalling, and many potential solutions. I’ve pulled together the methods I used to get myself back into my current WIP(Work In Progress). Still, the most important advice is to be persistent. If you write a paragraph every day, the day will eventually come when you write several pages instead and the dam is broken. If you want to start writing several pages a day again, beginning with tomorrow, these strategies should be able to nudge you in the right direction:

1. Re-assess your goals: stalling might be a sign you’re focused on the wrong goals. Maybe there’s another project you’ve been ignoring because you’ve been too focused on your WIP. Or maybe you’ve been pushing yourself way too hard and you need to scale back. Schedule breaks. Time to work on other projects, time for fun. Even when you’re not stuck, it’s good to re-assess your goals and current life balance often to make sure you’re on track.

It’s more important to build everyday habits that will help you achieve your long term goals than it is to finish it fast. Give yourself a goal that allows flexibility and room to relax. Pushing yourself too hard will only make you hate your novel and extreme burnout. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way a few times, and I suspect I’ll end up having to learn it again eventually. Re-assess your chosen goals and your overall life now–and again every few months–to avoid learning it the same way.

2. Modify your outline: the problem might be that you’ve taken your story in the wrong direction. It may be that you’re approaching a scene from the wrong angle, that you’re writing the wrong scene or even that your story is completely off course. Whatever the problem, if you’re working from a solid outline, you can find it there.

Examine your outline carefully. Are there significant changes since your first draft? Maybe the old story line was better or maybe you took it in the wrong direction. If you didn’t make any large changes, maybe it’s time you did.

3. Develop your characters: the issue might be that you don’t know all your characters as well as you should. You might be stuck because you don’t know a character’s motivations or how they’d react in a given situation. Or perhaps you’re not quite used to a PoV(Point of View) character’s voice.

Usually taking a troublesome character through some writing exercises is a good start and sometimes all you need. Doing a brainstorm session around a period of their life or their motivations, filling out timelines and physical descriptions can all be useful.

Sometimes you need to create a new character or kill one off. Don’t be afraid to do either one–whatever makes the story stronger–and don’t be afraid to take your time. Getting to the point where you won’t stall again is more important than working on your novel today.

4. Work on your backstory: sometimes you need to go back and take a closer look at your setting or other details of your backstory. For my current WIP I found myself having to write out the kingdom’s laws and several pages about the dominant religion before I could get back to my novel. Most of the time these issues are self evident after you reread the last few scenes you wrote or can be found easily by looking at the outline.

If you’re confident you need to develop your setting further, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much do I know about my MC’s religion?
  • How much do I know about laws in my story’s setting?
  • What are some local delicacies?
  • How much do I know about the science/magic/medicine of my setting?

These 4 strategies should get you excited about your novel again and smooth out the process of writing that second draft. Rewriting will always be difficult, but you can get through it–and if you want to be a pro writer, you will.