nanowrimo, writing advice

Dear Author…

BookSigningI am a quintessential older sister. I LOVE giving advice. Seriously, I do. When I was younger, I would fantasize about having an advice column in the newspaper like Dear Abby. It was a lovely fantasy where everyone wanted to hear what I had to say and couldn’t wait to tell everyone else about how clever I was in helping them solve their problems. AND I got paid for it!  *sigh*

Well, I may not be all that clever at helping you deal with cranky neighbors or nosey in-laws, but I love helping young writers tackle their creative writing problems. This week I got a beautiful letter from a young fan in South Dakota.

“I’ve been trying to write books for a while now but I keep running into a problem. I will have a few pages of the book done and they’ll look great, but when I stop typing for any reason my mind keeps the story going. So I will only have started the book two days ago but I’ll already have made up in my mind too far in the future. So then I will start a new story in my head the old one not forgotten but, not on my mind all the time. The new character having all the attention. And the book will be stopped. So my question is, do you have this problem? If so how do you deal with it?”

The answer: YES! I had this problem for years before I finished my first book. For me, it was a problem of planning. I was taught in school to outline your writing before you begin. So, when I had an awesome story idea, I would daydream about it for awhile until I decided it was good enough to write. Then, I would sit down and outline the entire story, start to finish. Then…I was done with it. I could NOT make myself write that story no matter how hard I tried.

This went on for ages until one day I woke up with the most incredible dream. You know the kind of dream that makes you want to cry because you can’t just go back to sleep and finish it? I couldn’t stop thinking about it! How did those two people get into that situation? How on earth were they going to get out of it? Who was the mysterious villain that was after them?

I thought about it while I got dressed. I thought about it while I poured my coffee. I thought about while I drove kids to school. I thought about it while I did dishes. And then finally, I took out a notebook and started writing just to get it out of my head. But I kept writing and three hours later I was mad when I had to stop. I wanted to know what happened! That fall my brother challenged me to write my first book for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I knew exactly what story I wanted to write. I just had to see how it ended! 30 days later I had my answer…and my first book, A Light in the Darkness. That’s when I realized the reason I was stuck after plotting out entire books…boredom. I wanted to write to see how the story ended. If I sat down and plotted out every detail then the thrill was gone, it wasn’t any fun to keep writing after I knew how it ended.

So, I write like a reader. If there is mystery in a book of mine, it was a mystery to me, too. I honestly didn’t know who the bad guy was in The Light Series until book two. NO JOKE! Once I figured it out, I was able to go back and put his name into the first book, but it was a complete shock, I swear. I remember the first time two characters kissed it was the same way. “What are you doing?!” It’s a serious rush when your story takes on a life of its own.

If you’re having trouble staying focused, maybe try writing just to see how the story ends. If another idea pops up while you’re working, jot it down in a notebook or a computer file labeled Novel Ideas and keep going. Don’t get too wrapped up in the new idea. Just dump the details so you can start with them later and keep going. I have more book ideas piled up than I could ever write and they are really fun to look through when I’m ready to start a new project. But, learning to focus on the story at hand is powerful if you’re ever going to finish one. Why don’t you join me this year for NaNoWriMo? At the end you’ll have your very first book! It’ll be a rough draft, but still, I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to type THE END on your very first book. (Who am I kidding? It never stops feeling awesome!)nano_logo

Anyone want to join us? National Novel Writing Month is coming soon! Let’s write and find out how the story ends together. I’ll be hosting a write-along all month long in November, so get your ideas ready. It’s going to be fun!

 

My Books, nanowrimo, writer's life

What’s Next?

I am proud and very relieved to say that my new book, To Light The Path, is now available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Soon you’ll be able to order a print copy from Amazon, too. I am very proud of this book and grateful in so many ways. The process of editing this book helped me to understand why I am writing and who I am writing for as I work on each new project. I started out with a story to tell, but it has grown into so much more. I can hardly wait to see where this journey takes me!

So, a lot of friends have asked me, “What’s next?” Ha. Well, that is a complicated question. I have a lot of amazing things coming up soon. Here are just a few:

  • A Light In the Darkness will be featured on some really fabulous blogs for Christian fiction fans. Watch this site for more details to come in the next few weeks!
  • Next week, I’ll be speaking at the North Little Rock Leadership Symposium. Elementary students in our district’s gifted and talented program will get a glimpse of what it’s like to be an author and hear all about how important leadership skills are in this business.
  • Next month, I’ll be leading an after school program at the Main library for young writers. We’ll be working toward finishing books for National Novel Writing Month along with writers from all over the world.
  • Meanwhile, I’m leading my annual young writer’s club every Monday afternoon and this year I’m typing up all my lessons. By the end of November, the club will all have finished novels and I’ll have a complete curriculum to share with teachers and parents everywhere.
  • Oh! And did I mention I’m working on a new series? I already have the preliminary editorial notes for my next book and I’m hard at work on revisions. I hope to introduce all of you to a new batch of characters and a whole new adventure sometime in November. It’s going to be epic!

So, that’s what’s going on here at my writing desk. How about you? Do you have big plans this fall? Is anyone joining me and the writing club for NaNoWriMo? If so, you might want to stop by next week as I start a new series on pre-writing activities that will get you ready for the big day. For more information about NaNoWriMo and how you can participate, visit their site.

Happy Writing!

Heather