How to Start Writing A Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poetsStarting Your book by Catharine Bramkamp

Just start.  Sometimes we get caught up in the promotion and the expectations for our books, because they are like children.  We incubate the tiny human for nine months, they are painfully born and here they are!  And before we’ve spent any time at all getting acquainted, we think, ah, this child will be a police officer, construction worker, cowboy or Indian chief.  And we will be so proud.  You picture the graduations from multiple universities. You picture yourself bragging to your friends about your wonderful child who is wonderful because you are the perfect parent.

This child will live all the dreams you were forced to defer.

This child will make the income that eluded you.

This child will take advantage of new technologies, new attitudes, and better fashion.

And on her second birthday, the child will demonstrate that no, no she will not.  And all  you are left with  is sixteen years to get used to your dissapointment.

Yeah, writing a book is just like that. All those expectations about publishing?  Like as soon as your book is published you will become younger, thiner, and richer?  May not pan out.  All those hopes for a transformative experience the minute the book is accepted for publication?  You still must do the laundry.

And all those  accolades?   People don’t really care that much, they don’t understand the process or the effort.  Oh, you wrote a book.  I just won third place in the local rodeo for roping tanks.  And the both of you stand there and you think, my kid said something about wanting to rope inanimate objects. 

You cannot control the outcomes. Not for your book and not for your child.  But as you know, you can control the daily interaction.  You can listen to your child, you can take them out on adventures, you can love them.

You can be in every moment possible.

That’s how you manage any great big huge project.

Once you let go of the outcome (I know, sounds kind of zen, and it kind of is), then you can concentrate on the work.  Decide what you want from the writing experience.  Do you have something to say?  Begin by saying it.  Do you have  a beef against the small cowboy child who yesterday  roped  the  full coffee maker?  Write about that.    

You start because there is something about doing that will feed your soul.  You begin because you are essentially raising a book and it’s all about the daily tasks and efforts.

Think of book  publication as  High School Graduation.  You are finished with all the daily work, all the moments, all the concentration, all the homework.  And now the child and the book have graduated – it’s official. 

I would like to say that now the work is done.  But it’s not. The work has just changed.

Believe me, it’s more fun to do the first phase, the writing phase, than the second, the post publication phase.  As my friend commented, the hardest years for raising a boy is between 18 and 23, because all you can do is take the call that starts with “I’m okay”.

To learn more.
Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Scrivener for NaNoWriMo

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

How do you organize a book?  I am a Scrivener fan, so I’ll tell you what I told the Sierra writers club this October.  Specifically, how do you organize a book when you are writing furiously for NaNoWriMo?

There are books and blogs devoted to Scrivener and I recommend looking those up.  However, I also know how easy it is to spend your days mastering  a system for writing instead of actually writing.  So here are the basics for Scrivener. I recommend just starting and worrying about the advanced mechanics after you’ve finished your November Novel.keep your novel organized

What I like:

Cork board

You can create that iconic novel system – the 3 by 5 cards scribbled with plot points, right on your computer.   Write down the summary of your plot or just a few random note that will best remind you of what you want to say and better, what the character has to say.  You can arrange the cards any way you’d like and the full notes and material will follow.  Like magic.  Bonus, you can actually print out these cards into real 3 by 5 cards if you want to shuffle them and lay them out on the floor which I did for Future Sky because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

It worked.

Document notes

These are notes you make on the right hand side of your manuscript.  It’s space to yes, make notes on your document and they also stay attached to the main work.  I put photos in here, notes for later and sometimes deleted scenes that don’t work but are relevant to the story.

Sections in the binder

These are discrete essay spaces to place scenes, descriptions, everything that goes into a novel.  These are linked to those 3 by 5 cards so don’t  your sections Chapter One, Chapter Two.  You’ll never know what the pages are about.  Name them as descriptively as you can so you can easily find them and move them around.

Keep the action and characters to their own individual sections, that way it’s easier to re-order and shuffle.

Research

Use the research section to capture characters and setting and research notes.   Uncheck the box to the right under General – Include in Compile so when you select Compile or Project statistics to see how many wonderful words you have written – you won’t fool yourself by counting the lengthy research you dropped into the project – that’s cheating.   Yes I know what I said last week.

Project

Use project statistics to track your word count.  Easy and you can stay in the program as you track your progress.

That’s just the basics because we all should be writing.  But in December, explore this program more, it’s one of the best tools I’ve experienced for writers.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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How to Keep Writing Your Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

It’s NaNoWriMo.

How to keep writing You’re writing a book
I’m writing a book
This is fun, this writing of books.
But now that the first few hours of ecstasy has worn off. How do you keep writing that book?
Cheat
Scheme
Win

I wrote the raw drafts for five books during five consecutive Novembers.  They have all been accepted for publication (the release of said books is another matter).  I love writing a raw draft in a month, I get a kick out of writing dangerously, recklessly.  But the system does have its drawbacks.   Like when you get stuck during your third hour of writing.

What next?

Rather than tell you how to manage your plot and your character, because at this stage in a draft, all you need is a fearless hero/heroine and for pages and page you keep putting stuff in their way:  drain pipes, data, dragons, it  doesn’t matter, this is November, it’s all about the word count.

How do you drag yourself through the slog of word counts? 

I cheat.

My first way  is to give myself really small, ridiculous goals.  I write them all down using colored felt pens, I make big squares on a calendar and post the calendar for all to see.  On each square I write, say, 1,600 words.

Then I do a little more.  If I do a lot more I re-align the goals so they are either smaller goals or the time shorter.  I make big Xs through each accomplished word count goal. 

I dance, I do more and get ahead.  I cheat against my own system. It’s enormously satisfying and it keeps me focused.

Can you “earn” a day off on Thanksgiving by writing 3,400 works on Wednesday? 

Can you start early and bank up your words?  Seriously, who will know you didn’t start at Zero on November 1.  Start with 10,000 words on November first.  You are a rock star!  You are amazing! See how great that feels?  Only we will know.

Maybe your November is packed.  I wrote Future Sky in October – same rules, 50,000 words in a month, but I used October as my month.

NaNoWriMo is not about rules, it’s about community and about stretching yourself, challenging yourself.  It’s about writing as fast as you can and jumping over data, dragons and drain pipes.

If you need to start ahead, if you have a special needs novel that needs more time, take it.

It’s all about getting the words down.

Visit us on ITunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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The Next Steps to Writing a Novel

What are the steps to writing?

Last week we discuss the first step to creating your masterpiece, or the great American Novel, or a how-to book on beer brewing.

The first is to start, or even just stand up and know, in your black little soul, that you are going to do this.

Next steps?Article on the first step to writing a book

Figuring out exactly how to go about it.  I know, you wanted this last week – what are the five easy steps to guarantee a best selling novel?

Unless you are the favorite child of the senior book editor for Random House, there are no five easy steps and no guarantees.

But there are ways to start so you can build a book, and take satisfaction in the process.

Initial step:  If you don’t like the work, nothing will work for you.

Step 1 – Stand up and wobble a bit – think of yourself as a writer.

Step 2- Read everything in the genre in which you’d like to write – actually this is on going, and if you love your genre, every book, every lecture, every book store visit will be a joy.  If you are only writing in this genre because you think it will make money, you life will become hell on wheels. Stop it. 

If you love to read romance novels, then go ahead and write them.

But if you’d rather write fantasy – write it. Don’t chase the market, write what you love best, it will show.

Step 3 –  Outline your idea for your book.

Step 3.5  Failing that, consider your main character – who is he or she, what do they want?

Step 4 – what gets in the way of your main character?  What prevents him or her from getting their heart’s desire?

Step 5 – repeat step four.

Plot is just one damn thing after another.  Story is the way your character overcomes all those damn obstacles.  Together, they make up your novel.

It’s not a complete list, but it is a way to start.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
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First Step towards Writing a Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Clients often ask, what are the steps to writing a book?

There are steps and there are steps.  Writing is personal and interesting and quirky. That is why there are so many books about writing, that is why there are so many suggestions, that is why I’m part of the problem.Article on the first step to writing a book

When you are stuck writing – and if you’re reading this, you are, mosey over to Pinterest.  There are countless Pinterest boards devoted to writing – from pithy quotes to fabulous infographics on how, what, who, colors, better words that “said”, better words that “you”.  A nice selection of information and help.  I have Pinterest Boards on writing so you can check them out. But I’m not the only writer on Pinterest.

In case those  nifty infographics do not inspire –  here is the first basic writing step.

(Just to continue the metaphor – no one learns to walk without falling down. A lot.

Remember that as you take those steps towards your writing project.)

Step 1 – start small with embarrassingly low stakes, goals and expectations.

I’m not kidding. 

Examples of good first step goals.

  • Today I’m going to think about my writing for ten minutes while standing in the shower
  • This month I will write for 1/2 hour.
  • I will stop talking about my novel (since I suspect my friends are bored with the plot already) and instead write down all the ideas that I like to discuss when well into my fourth handcrafted stout.

You may think, that’s just insane, those aren’t real goals, I have never seen an infographic listing goals like that.

Yes they are. Any activity that gets  words out of your head, out of your summary speech for the academy awards which you know by heart, and onto paper, is a good activity.

Start there – take an initial step, clutch the back of a chair for support.  Then tune in for additional steps right here.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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Inspiration for Writers

Writing inspiration Catharine BramkampDon’t Write Like You Talk

What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Some people work with prompts to start their ten minute write.  Which I think is a wonderful idea, it’s like warming up before a run, or something.  I don’t run.  Don’t listen to me.

In Don’t Write Like We Talk, we include a prompt in every show.  To stream line the process, here are a few writing prompts.  Feel free to print them out, share them, use them.   

  • Writer’s Block:  When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.
  • Write about writer’s block.  Believe it or not, when you are really stuck in your work, try writing:  I am really stuck, over and over.  Or try writing non-stop for ten minutes.  The act alone can help you break through.
  • I love holiday letters that chronicle perfect families,  wonderful lives, but gloss over some of the rough parts: the latest arrest, another  job loss, the school record for detentions served.
  • What would happen if we sent our friends and family holiday cards that spoke the absolute truth? Would our year look different from what  we post on Facebook?  Would our holiday missives sound  different if they weren’t mailed to elderly aunts and cousins we still want to impress?
  • What does that look like?
  • Write a holiday letter that only tells the truth.
  • Don’t mail it.
  • Have you ever not said something and were later glad you didn’t?
  • Write about the times you wished you kept your mouth shut.
  • If you need to increase the tension in a fiction  chapter or lift a sagging story line, allow your  character to blurt out some inconvenient truth to the wrong person.  It will keep things lively.
  • Ever do that yourself?
  • What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What was the worst job your character ever had. How did it shape her character, how did it shape yours?
  • Write down a memory from your grandparents.  Did they have a story they told and re-told?  And your initial reaction was “not the story about Grandpa and the bear again”.  This time, remember that old story and write it down.  See what happens from there.  I know, maybe nothing.
  • What have you done recently that was memorable but has no accompanying photos?
  • is it possible to experience something and not have a photo of it?
  • Write about an adventure that managed to happen without any photos.
  • Write out your favorite joke. Now write it as if it went horribly wrong.  Wrong set up, wrong punch like,  just wrong.  If that too funny?  Or just horrible?  Write a story about someone telling a joke badly.  Or someone telling a bad joke.
  • What is stored in the garage right now, gathering dust?
  • What part of your life does it represent?
Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Why Inspiration is So Difficult

 

Inspiration for writingDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

How do you get inspired?  And why is it so difficult to wrestle that inspiration into words let alone into something as coherent as a poem or a novel or a self-help book?  And how do you court inspiration?

Part of the problem we have with inspiration  is that inspiration is often depicted in cartoons or novels or film  as fun, fast and fantastic.  The lightbulb pops up over a character’s head at exactly the right time (thus moving the plot along).  It is delivered in a song, it floats down to characters during a dreamy afternoon paddling on a lake, it is easy.

So what the heck right?  What if we don’t  sing, and there is no lake nearby, and the only light bulb I have access to is on my emoji keyboard.

Inspiration does not necessarily work like magic. But it does work.

Inspiration, delivered by  a perverse Muse often arrives at seriously  inconvenient times, like when you are driving.

Or when you are scrubbing the toilet.

Here’s the good news:  We all drive and we all have toilets.

Inspiration is often not up to you, it is, I believe, a product of successful courting of the capricious  Muse.  Inspiration is often a result of input: books, films, theater, conversation. 

Inspiration comes when you’ve learned so much, the material finally reaches critical mass and you get inspired.   

While you are negotiating heavy traffic.

And you think – now?  Now you visit me oh Muse who is not paying attention to my daily schedule.

And the Muse puts her hands on her hips and says “well do you want it or not?  Because there’s a guy in the lane behind you who will take this great idea and run with it if you are too lazy to pull out a napkin from Starbucks and that pencil stub from yesterday’s golf game and scribble this down.

And so you do.

And because you stuffed your brain with images and ideas and both good literature, great literature and bad literature, you are prepared to know what it is, what the difference is, and you see that yes, yes it’s original and wonderful and inspired.

That’s often how it works.  So read something, watch something.  Go scrub the toilet.  If you don’t get inspired for your writing – at least the bathroom is clean.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Why Bother Writing?

Why Bother Writing?Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

We feed blogs, we write tweets, we compose witty Facebook posts. Why bother writing a whole book?

Because like Half Dome, it’s there.

Because a book will sit on your shelf and remind you, every day, that you are a real author. A book is the mute testimony of a Herculean effort that few accomplish.   A book proves something.  To you and to the world at large.

Books come in many irritations, but most would agree that there is nothing like the real thing.  There is power in holding a book in your hand. 

That’s why you sweat and toil and try to figure out this weeks version  of the publishing system.

(Once you learn about the big publishers, you will run screaming from your computer, cower in a corner, suck your thumb, then realize it’s much easier to publish the damn thing yourself.)

Books are not  lightly cast aside.  Books are important. They wouldn’t be burned if they weren’t.  Kindle books can be erased, but for drama?  Fire. – 451  Fahrenheit for the home game.

We write books because we believe in our words and what we have to say.

We bother writing a book because it’s real.

And we know that being real is not only the ultimate goal of every  Velveteen Rabbit, it’s ours too.

Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

Writing is Imporant

Don't Write Like You TalkDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Writing a book is important. But before you get all puffed up, so is knitting.    

Writing is an art.  Writing is also a hobby.  My friend Myrna  knits beautiful socks as holiday gifts to family.    My friend Terry cooks amazing meals and share them with lucky me. My mother makes greeting cards.  My sister in law creates an elaborate Halloween scene for the local trick or treaters. A number of my friends travel and happily share their experiences with me so my trip will be even better.

What do I do?  I write.  Sometimes I share, but more often than not, I don’t.  Because unlike socks, writing isn’t a really welcome holiday gift.  Wine is better.  Bourbon is much better.

I write because it’s important to me, to my health and well-being.  Writing is my way to organize the world.  It can be yours too. 

I officially give you permission to write for love.  Write because describing the sky makes it bluer.  Write because detailing the grass makes it softer.  Write because it feeds you like  twice baked potatoes.

Why is it important to write?  Because you are making sense of  the   world  and if you do a good job, you’ll help others see what you see, and make some sense themselves. 

 

Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually.  All you need to do is wait . . .  Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Being A Beginner

Beginning is just like starting.  Just start!

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

“Each moment is a place you’ve never been.” – Mark Strand
Are you a beginner? Good. We all are. You’ve no doubt read countless sincere articles about beginner’s mind, the whole zen profound thoughts on beginning and starting fresh.
It doesn’t need to be that hard.
It’s just about starting – and more important, not over analyzing the project before you even start.
Beginners are curious.
Beginners ask, What if?
Beginners block out that pernicious quote: If I knew what I was getting into, I would never have started. Start.
Start the story of your aunt like Julia Park Tracey did. Finish with a best selling series.
Start your story of your mother, like Linda Joy Meyers did. Finish as the head of the Memoir Writers Association.
Start by recording the crazy character who keeps talking in your head.

Beginner’s mind,is another way of expressing – starting.

You probably have read countless articles on starting – how to start an exercise program, how to start a successful diet, how to start a family. Starting a novel is much like starting a family. You do not give birth to a five-year-old. You give birth to a baby with, if you’re lucky, a small head.

Writing is just like that. You start small.
You begin small.

Here is how to start:
Don’t start by working on a big novel, all day. Don’t even start writing for an hour.
Write on anything at all for 10 minutes.
Now stop and walk away. (You know, I tried pushing out that last baby for ten minutes and then volunteered to quit and just walk away. Obstetric nurses don’t have much of a sense of humor).

If it’s not a baby, you can return to your project the next day feeling rather refreshed. Feed that beginning effort with more words. Don’t rewrite, just add. In a few months you’ll have a respectful number of words that once organized and edited, may reveal a theme and plot.

But small, start small. Because trying to give birth to a fully formed novel in one go, is very painful indeed.

To learn more.
Visit us on Itunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
And @CBramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp, thank god there is only one of me

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