If you're an aspiring author like I am, you may already know the amount of pressure you put on yourself to write the best, most intriguing story possible. Or you may just be curious about how to get started on your writing journey. Whatever it was that brought you to this article, I hope to share all the tips I've used over the years on my long writing journey.
Writing in itself is a long-drawn-out process before even adding a literary agent and publisher into the mix, or self-publishing if you're taking the route I am. It takes months or even years to complete one novel. I think that's part of the reason why so many people lose hope when things don't move along as quickly as they would like them to.
It took me a long time to feel satisfied with my novel and to this day I'm constantly working on making the next books in the series even better. But I do feel like after so many years (I started seriously writing novels in 2015 but have written stories as far back as 3rd grade) I've learned a trick or two to fight some of the constant difficulties you may encounter as a writer. In this article, I will focus on 3 main points of writing a novel; Getting ideas and inspiration, writing your novel, and dealing with writer's block.
My only intention in this post is to try and help you through some of these difficulties on your writing journey. It's scary to do it on your own or to not have support, but if you need someone to believe in and help you along the way then I will work to do just that. :)
Getting Started On Your First Novel
Where do I get ideas and inspiration for my story?
When I first began writing as a kid I wrote so freely, my imagination running wild. Looking back on that I find it completely amazing and it brings a smile to my face. But I feel as we get older, a lot of people, including myself, start to suppress the inner child that could run free and wild. Maybe family/friends or even your subconscious are telling you to "grow up" to "get more serious" but I think those are debilitating phrases. Why cut the stem of where our imagination comes from?
I hear it a lot and feel it too, writers lacking inspiration or ideas for their stories. All writing stems from an idea, so what do you do when you don't have any but want to write a story?
Now this question isn't going to be easy to answer because everyone is different and will need different things to get inspired. But I can tell you some of the ways I got inspired and it starts with letting that inner child back out.
The story I'm working to publish now, BLOOD OF THE LOTUS, the first in the UNDIVIDED series, began with a dream. Yes, I do mean a literal dream. It happened when I was on vacation in Costa Rica, a vivid dream that has now changed and developed into a scene in my novel. I wrote it down in a journal I had brought with me on vacation and it sparked my curiosity.
Now, this dream I actually had multiple times over quite a few months. And each time I expanded on the dream in my journal, adding other little bits that I thought would make an interesting story idea. I was 12 at the time and didn't think too much about what I was seeing and remembering and just wrote whatever came to mind. Sometimes your dreams are your inner child tapping into your imagination when the adult part of you is asleep.
This is something I still use to this day, but I had to work to bring this part of journaling back into my life. And even beyond fuel for your story, tracking your dreams is just a good habit to get into to understand your subconscious.
But this method doesn't work for everyone. Not everyone remembers their dreams. So what else can you do?
For my recent serial series "Postcards on the Wall" (which is no longer available on my site as I want to turn it into a standalone novel for all of you), it took a pandemic, and postcards I brought back to Paraguay from the US being taped onto my wall. Now, this may not make any sense but let me explain. These postcards were brought back from China by my grandma and grandpa and given to me when I was helping my grandma clean out her basement. They caught my eye and I thought I could use them for artistic inspiration, not even thinking about my writing. Six months later and the pandemic hits and I was stuck at home feeling very lost. My house felt like a prison and that's when I remembered I had these postcards. I decided to pin them to my wall to change the environment in my room. And that is exactly how I got the idea, which also translated into what I think is a perfect title.
The base of this tip is to not let circumstances be the barrier between you and your ideas. Sometimes it just takes a change of pace, environment, or thinking to realize or see something that will immediately inspire you.
These two tips are what I use constantly in my writing. Maybe it'll be a dream or a change of pace that helps you! I'd love to hear if it does or if you have another way you come up with inspiration!
My last tip is to hash it out with someone. If you have a close friend or family member, run the idea past them and get their thoughts! With BLOOD OF THE LOTUS, I can't tell you how many times I ran ideas past my mom and even used some of her ideas that she came up with as I was ranting. Now as I move on to the next books in the series I'm even working with the freelance editor I hired for book one, running thoughts and ideas through her.
So I have the idea now, but how do I write my story?
Now onto an even more challenging question but I promise we can work through it together!
To this day I think writing the actual story is the hardest thing about being a writer. Ironic isn't it? But there are ways to help make the process somewhat easier, especially for beginners but even for seasoned writers.
I think the first thing a writer should do is decide the planning process that works for them. Are you a writer that likes research and planning out each chapter beforehand? Or do you have a general idea and write as ideas come to you? Now, of course, you can use a bit of both but I think it's important to find the format that works best for you. These different types of writers can be broken down into Planner, Panster, and Planster.
When I begin writing a story I would say I'm more of a Planster, using a bit of planning and a bit of just letting the story happen. When I begin I usually know what my story is about, I then write some plot points I want to reach and who my characters are, their purpose, and also the setting of the story. From there I might write in a journal or on notecards to keep track of all my ideas. If you'd rather have a digital version of all this information I would suggest either creating a Google Doc of all the information or using a website like Notebook.ai.
But while I have all these ideas and plot points, I don't necessarily know exactly how I want to get from point A to point B. A lot of the time I'll just let my imagination run free, and sometimes it leads me somewhere even better than my original idea.
After figuring out what type of planning works for you, you can dive into the actual bit of writing. Opening that first blank page, staring at it and hoping the words magically appear.
Well, they do as soon as you start typing.
As I mentioned in the beginning, we writers tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves for our story to be perfect. This is probably the greatest disservice you can do to yourself. So when you have an idea and have figured out the plan of your story, just start writing. It doesn't have to be the first chapter, it could be the end, the middle, or anything in between to kickstart your writing process.
The first page, no matter where you start, is the hardest leap to overcome but you need to just push through it and write anything. Because no matter what, you can go back and change it. That's what editing is for.
This goes for especially new or young writers. As you let yourself write, practicing your craft, you'll grow as a writer. It's usually the reason why when we look back on old stories we cringe at how it was written. This leads to my next point.
In order for a novel to be written, you have to write lots of words to fill up lots of pages. So my suggestion to you is to sit down at a designated time and write something every single day. Maybe you have thirty minutes in the morning. Maybe you can spare an hour in the evening when you get off from school or work. Whatever it may be, create the habit and build up to being able to write more each day. I'd suggest reading Atomic Habits if you want to learn how to develop these skills.
And remember, if you can only write one paragraph, take it. If you find yourself writing three chapters the next day, take it. If you don't feel like you can write your novel, write something else, but never stop writing. This is something that I still constantly work on because it's not easy to always find the motivation to write. And if you can't write every day, just write as much as possible. It's all valid and will eventually build up over time.
I'm in the middle of my story but now I have writer's block, what do I do?
Writing blocks, or creative blocks, are something we all go through whether we're writers or not. And they suck. There's nothing like feeling super inspired to write one day and then not having any idea what to write the next. But it happens to us all.
Thankfully, through trial and error as a community, we've found ways to handle these blocks. Just remember, the most important part is finding what works for you, which may change each time you end up with a writing block.
From my experience, in no particular order, these are the things that have helped me overcome my writing block:
Change Your Environment - Like with my postcards story, adding something new to my room inspired me to write that story. The same can be said for writing blocks. Sometimes a change of environment, whether it be changing writing locations, writing tools (laptop to a notebook or vice versa), or changing something in the place you write Any of these can trigger that spark of inspiration again.
Read a Book - When in doubt, look to those who've come before you. Think of reading as a way to learn to write. While practice is important, sometimes a creative block is saying to go back and learn from authors, especially ones in the genre you are writing your novel in. Of course, don't go stealing their ideas, but sometimes changing your thought process from writing to reading can rid you of that annoying block.
Listen to Music - What I've found for me is that when I'm working on a novel, certain music helps give me ideas. Either it has a certain vibe that fits with my story or the lyrics match something that happens. Whatever it may be, music can be the way to go.
Make a Pinterest Board - Sometimes to get excited with your novel again you need visual stimuli. Pinterest is such an easy platform to use to do just that. I've made one for both of my novels and will continue to do so in the future. Whether it's what I think the characters look like, the locations in the story, or quotes that resonate with me, when put together in an online form of a 'vision board' it always seems to help me start writing again. And if you already have one made, try adding to it again and thinking of smaller details you can attach an image to. (TIP: I've recently learned that if you use these photos in your reels or TikToks that you could be infringing on copyright so just be aware of that if you plan on publishing)
Force Yourself to Write - This is the less fun of my tips to break writing blocks, but one of the most important. Similar to what I wrote in how to write a book, forcing yourself to write something even when you don't want to can be the thing that breaks you out of the cycle of writer's block. It doesn't have to be good, just has to be something.
These are just a few of the ways I've used over the years to deal with the constant battle of writer's block. It isn't easy and you may find times where you take a break from writing but whatever it is you need to do for yourself, know that it's okay. Writing is a slow process and there's no rush to meet the finish line right away.
If you have any questions or inquiries please feel free to reach out to me! I'm always here to answer your writing questions or even read your piece of writing!
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