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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TBT – Don’t Drive By

In 1989 I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material.  But it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your Scrunchie  and welcome to the 80s.

1980s article about the Renaissance FairDid this work?  Did dragging the boys to the Renaissance Faire accomplish anything at all?  Yes, it did.  The oldest has at least a small knowledge of Shakespeare thanks to short presentations like Shakespeare: the Bloody Bits (truly great, nothing but fight scenes, how clever was that?).  Both boys have an appreciation for blacksmith work.  Neither have, to my knowledge, voluntarily paid money to see a Shakespeare play in full.

After reading this column what struck me was not that my husband and I were so wonderful in exposing our children to living history in general and Shakespeare in particular.  The take away was that we took advantage of the Renaissance Fair when we could.

That fair  was held   at Blackpoint in Marin County. It was considered one of the very best of it’s kind. The venue  was hilly, and shaded by ancient oak trees.  It was a mere 25-minute drive from our house.  Yet every   summer, the only conscious decision we made about the fair was to avoid traveling in that direction.  Traffic was always backed up and annoying.  For years we passed the signs, glanced at the articles, thought – yeah, at some point we should check this out.

We finally did.  It was great, and we returned with the same boys three times.    We loved everything, but worked to make sure they were engaged (they were not required to love anything actually, but the loved those swords.   I should ask if they remember the Renaissance Fair, I’m too busy asking them if they like their work, if they still have work, if their housing situation is still stable so they won’t be thinking of moving back in with us.  So selfish.

Anyway, the take away isn’t to drag your children to a Renaissance Fair because it will make them better people.  The take away is don’t ignore the interesting activities, spaces, events that are close by, don’t pass them by, turn.  Explore.

   That beautiful, perfect spot to hold a Renaissance Fair?  It is now a golf course ringed by million dollar homes.  No more mead, no more turkey legs, no more Shakespeare, no more swords.   

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
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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The Problem with Death – Instagram Poem

The Problem with Death - Instagram poem

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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.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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American Poet – Instagram Poem

Instagram poem

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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
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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TBT – Baby Sale

img_9848

In 1989 I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material.  But it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your scrunchie  and welcome to the 80s.

The moral of this story is there is no moral.  Much,much, later I took a job as the Marketing director for a non profit.   By then, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that babies sell.  They can sell any food, any drink, any color carpet.  AND they are great at solicitation.   

For years I  exploited  my own children to promote our own retail business, a bicycle store, In one ad we took a photo of Thomas in his play pen and called him our General Manager, which wasn’t all that far from the truth.  By  the time I worked for United Way, Thomas, though cooperative,  had grown out of the cuddly phase.  I needed to increase our donation base.  A baby was the man for the job.   I asked a friend who had in her possession, a rather round, easy going baby.  She allowed me to stage a photo with her boy. He was as easy as my son, once we handed him a chocolate bar (to emphasis that babies need good nutrition, we weren’t selling chocolate, although that would have worked just as well). Great baby, great photo, good results.  The only criticism came from the Executive Director of a Senior Service non-profit who complained that I always used babies in the marketing material thus favoring child-based services.

I was too busy hunting down a kitten for the baby to hold next to pay attention.

I suggested that seniors, as a group, are not cuddly. She was not amused, but then, nothing much amused this woman, not even a kitten.   

   Babies are natural sales people built to be adorable and appealing just to prevent their  sleepless, harried caregivers from giving them away.  We all know this.

Well, I know this now.

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
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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The Price of Knowledge – Instagram Poem

Poetry first published on Instagram

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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
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Milk Shoots From My Nose – Instagram Poem

Milk poem

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