Allison and I here, the Beta Witches, and we’ve noticed a lot of repeat mistakes from our clients. Repeat as in every single one has made these mistakes. I made these mistakes, and most new writers will too. We just want to help people stop making them because we really do care that each of our clients, and anyone reading this, writes the best book that they can write.
A bit ago I wrote on The Layer Method for the Disorganized Mind. Basically, it was my way of trying to harness all my thoughts into a coherent story. As the title says, that method is for the disorganized mind. If you’re organized then this might not work for you. You know what? That’s great! We all have our ways that work best for us.
This article is not about a method for any one type of brain. These are tools that everyone needs to use. Writing a book is not a hobby. No, writing a book is not something you pick up here and there if you expect it to be good. Of course, there are exceptions, but let’s be honest that’s not you. If it was you’d be writing your fifth bestseller instead of reading this.
Please don’t get offended. We are The Beta Witches, and we are painfully honest. Take our advice or don’t, but we only want to help.
1. Purge in a journal a few months before you start writing your first draft.
2. Write an outline to cut down on continuity issues. The outline can be reworked, but you need a road map to keep the plot moving along.
3. Have goals for each chapter.
4. Keep referring to the synopsis. Many times the author sends in a synopsis to us that has little to do with the draft that they sent us.
5. Join writers’ groups, join online forums, get feedback on the book.
Every author emails us with this grand idea that they’ve crafted into a bestseller with the best-written characters ever written. Then we read it and the plot is lost among the most mundane of scenes to which one of us always ponders aloud how this writer could make his/her premise this boring.
I did the same thing. I made a good idea more effective than a sedative. I did that all the way until I hired a real content editor who said my book collapsed by the last quarter. I cried for two days, and then I started my first real rewrite. That’s the creative process, hard work.
To help all you lovelies bypass the pain of that first rewrite, or at least go through it easier, we suggest purging in a journal for a few months to make your brilliant idea a real story. As in a story that has a beginning, middle, end, a coherent plot, and fleshed out characters.
Numbers two and three are really the same tool. Once you’ve purged for a few months take the next step and write out an outline. This will streamline what’s in the purge journal and help you write each chapter with purpose.
Another attribute that all our clients do, as have too I with relish, is to write chapters and scenes that leave the reader baffled as to their point. I know you think that the scene of your characters having a long swim at dawn as the world ends by a nuclear meltdown is compelling, but it’s not. It’s nerve wracking to read because why would anyone go swimming at dawn as the world ends? (This isn’t a real scene from any book we’ve read, and yes, a skilled writer could make that scene make sense.)
Each scene needs to lead the reader toward the end goal of the story. After a while, once you’ve become seasoned, and that’s on your own timeline, you can play around with scenes and what you want to highlight. Until then, do your readers a favor and have a point, and then stick to it.
Number four is an extension of two and three. Writing out a synopsis/elevator story/ blurb will help you stay focused on your plot. It’s very easy to become fascinated with a side story about the couple who met during WWI and have the most adorable Yorkie when the rest of the characters are experiencing the apocalypse. (Not a side story from one of our clients.)
Number five didn’t do me much good except to lead me toward an editor and to becoming a beta reader, but that’s just me. You may benefit from a bi-monthly group where everyone gets to read six pages of their 90k book and have it critiqued. That worked for me until I realized I needed more brutal and personal critiques if my books would ever become the best they can.
Yet, for the total beginner writing groups, online forums, and the like are great tools to get comfy with the idea of writing. Meet-up.com is where I found some great people who I still keep in touch with.
Writing a book, of any genre, is work, but I think my fave actor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, says it best. Here’s an interview he did recently where he talks about writing. Start at about 13 minutes in. He speaks a bit about film making mostly and a bit about writing, but the point is that the creative process takes work.
Until next time, happy spell casting.