Creativity,  Fiction,  How To Write A Novel: Step by Step,  The Writing Life,  Writing

The Shiny New Thing

And how do you learn the craft? In the trenches…I say write and then write and write and write some more and go write some more. August Wilson

Those final days of revising and polishing a manuscript in preparation for submitting it to an agent or publisher can feel endless. You can taste the finish line now and you just want to get on to that new shiny idea that keeps popping up, demanding your attention. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts for attention to detail when it comes to that final check list. You want to put forth your best effort. Give yourself the best chance for a positive reception, wherever it is you have decided to send your baby. But once you press send on that manuscript, the feeling of relief, of celebration, of joy is amazing. It’s why I write.

So, yes, I have done it! I have made it to THE END. I have pressed Send, and now I can start the exciting new journey that is The Shiny New Thing.

This time, I am inviting you along on my journey through the process of writing a novel, from the daily routines, to the spark of an idea, all the way through to THE END. Hold on to your seat. It will be a bumpy ride. But I hope you find some tips and tricks along the way to help you with your journey. I love to read about the writing process of other authors and I always gain new insights. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Writing Practice

In her book A Writer’s Book of Days, Judy Reeves says, “Writing Practice is showing up at the page. It’s running the scales, executing the movements. It’s writing for the experience of it, forming the words, capturing the images, filling the pages…A writing workout is trying out phrases and auditioning words, letting the imagination have free rein while the editor in your head takes a coffee break.”

Here’s what I’ve learned about writing practice. You can’t take time off to write a novel. There are many different stages involved in writing a novel, and throughout all of those stages, if you don’t keep up your writing practice, well, the muse takes an extended holiday, and she takes part of your brain with her! Research, editing, revising, planning, plotting, charting. Not all of your writing involves, writing. I learned this the hard way, so I’m giving you the heads up. Keep writing.

Morning Pages

The foundation of Julia Cameron’s program to unblock artist’s, especially writers, is in the daily practice she refers to as Morning Pages. Every morning you write three, hand-written 81/2 x 11 notebook pages in a stream-of-consciousness format. In these pages anything goes. You are not trying to be clever or trying to write a particular story. You are clearing your mind of all the debris that has collected over the past twenty-four hours and making room for the muse to join you. It seems like such a simple thing, but the results are astounding.

I’m not sure how Cameron determined that three was the magic number, but it really works. In the first page or so, I find myself ranting about my daily stuff: what I did, what went right and more to the point, what didn’t. But somewhere in page two, I begin to run out of steam. I’ve cleared out the distractions and my mind wanders to the story that has been percolating. I begin to ask myself What if? with no idea what will follow that if. To my amazement, some words do follow. Apparently an idea was rattling around in there after all. I continue, in no particular direction to throw ideas out on to the page as to where this story might be leading and who might be in it and why it might be a story worth telling. Honestly? I’m just talking away to myself on the page. I begin to get excited about some of the ideas that flow from my pen and by the end of page three I’m allowing myself to feel a little inspired. I stop at the end of the third page. If I want to work in my notebook about any of the ideas that have come up, I can always do that. But it is the end of my stream-of-consciousness and it has been a resounding success.

The temptation is, in not feeling blocked, to think it is okay to skip the practice. IT. IS. NOT. The commitment to this daily practice of writing is crucial to creativity. It is crucial to maintaining and developing writing skills, and it is crucial, for inspiration.

As we travel this intense journey of writing a novel, you will discover there are many parts of “writing” a novel that do not involve actual writing. Revising, research, editing, brainstorming, planning, etc. All necessary, but not tasks that keep up your writing practice. When you go days or weeks without practice, well, the muse goes on holidays. Sometimes, it’s a bit of an effort to get her to return! Not to mention that your word-smithing also gets a bit rusty. Daily writing practice, in whatever form, is crucial. I learned this the hard way. Morning Pages are not the only way to practice daily writing, but I have found them to be particularly helpful.

Believe in yourself and start writing! The real fun is about to begin!

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