The Journey of 1000 Pages Starts with One Paragraph

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Whether you’re trying to write a collection of articles or a book, some projects are so intimidating you’re tempted to give up. The trick is to break the job down into smaller tasks and just do one of them. Then, do one more and keep going until the day you find your project complete.

Fiction

You have an idea for a novel. Let’s say the idea is that the protagonist has a problem with an adversary and as she tries to overcome it the problem gets worse. The first part of the story will be about finding the people with the skills she needs to beat the problem. The second will be about defining the adversary. Maybe they are hidden because they’re in organized crime or some huge government black ops group gone rogue. The nemesis keeps causing trouble for the protagonist until halfway through the novel when her group understands what they’re dealing with and can counter-attack. In the third part of the novel, they make several unsuccessful attacks on their enemy. In the last fourth of the story, their attacks become more successful as they work their way to the top of the problem organization.

If you start writing your novel with just that paragraph as a guide, you’re looking at a huge job. Not only is it a big project, but even the four parts of the story are huge – 25,000 words each if you’re going for a full length novel. Writing this way, or pantsing, makes your project seem huge and gives you little guidance on the path of the story. It could wander off in any direction. There are so many ways you could become lost and give up. I know. I’ve tried to write a novel with nothing but a rough idea where it was going. It’s frustrating.

To make your project easier to deal with and stay on track, create a chapter outline. I’ve written about chapter outlines and the multiple draft process in the article Preliminary Documents for Planning a Novel if you’d like to look at the big picture. For this post, I’m only going into detail on the outline.
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Kill Writer’s Block Today

Kill Writer's Block Today

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Belief in writer’s block is like belief in failure. If you believe you will fail, you will fail. If you believe in writer’s block, you will be blocked. There is never a good reason you can’t write. There may be a reason you can’t write well. The story isn’t coming alive for you or you don’t have a good explanation for the next section. Don’t let that stop you. You’ll catch it in the revision.

You Can Always Write Something

If you don’t know the material you’re writing about, you’re writing the wrong thing. If you are stuck on what to write next, don’t do something else. Stay right there until you find something to write. You never need to stop a valid writing project because of some imaginary block. Write about being stuck and then write the details of the problem. Propose theories, even impossible ones, and keep working over the problem. As long as you keep writing, you will get to the solution eventually.

I’ve written before about having more than one project as a way to beat writer’s block. If you really can’t move ahead on a project, switching to another project may be the solution.

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Solutions to Getting Stuck on Your Novel

Solutions

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One day you’re writing your novel like you’ve finally got writing figured out and the next you come to a scene or transition that stops you dead. Why does this happen?

The problem is you haven’t had enough practice yet at what comes next. That’s a good thing. It means you’re challenging yourself. It’s going to take some thinking, some imagination, to move on. What can you do?

There are three methods I use to get unstuck.

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Novel Report – The Third Draft of Book 5 is Complete

Writer on Fire

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As predicted, I finished the third draft of my novel on the weekend. Today, that is. It’s a local holiday here, so a long weekend. Now that I finally have the whole story written, I can’t wait to read it. I’ve always had to settle for bits and pieces… or outlines. I’ll let it rest for a month while I write blog articles and begin the outline for my next novel.

I try to give some “lessons learned” in these novel reports. The main lesson I’ve learned is that writing a full 100,000 word novel is a long job. It was about two years of effort over a three year period. For most of 2013 I was focused on other tasks. Now that it’s done, I wonder if there isn’t some way to concentrate the effort more. I’d like to cut the number of days to write even if I don’t cut the number of hours. I have a precedent to work from; my article writing blitzes.

Twice now, I’ve spent a month writing articles about writing. In 2011, I wrote 38 articles in one month. In March, I wrote 56 articles in one month and the total articles in the blitz were around 70. I need to invent a chapter writing and revising blitz. So, maybe I won’t be writing the outline of my next novel during my August article writing blitz. It should be more successful if I launch an outline blitz in September.

I hope you’re enjoying my many writing experiments. Writing is a combination of learning and doing. Learn in order to do it and then do it to learn more. When I read my novel at the start of September, I’m sure it really will be at the final draft. The outline is so complete that I know there are no major revisions left. The job will be typos, minor cuts, and a few additions.

The latest manuscript writing lesson I’ve learned is to narrate slow scenes fast and narrate fast scenes slowly. Can’t remember where I read it. The idea had to sink in. A slow scene needs to pass quickly so your readers don’t get bored. Fast scenes need to pass slowly so your readers don’t get lost in the action and to build the tension.

One last tip. The solution to getting stuck is not to do something else for a while. Okay. Yes. It is one solution, but not one that I find works. If I step away from writing to read, watch TV, or surf the net, two hours will pass and I’ll be back at the same place. Instead, stop writing and think, daydream if necessary. Your mind will wander and the name or plot point has a good chance of coming to you. There’s little chance of finding an answer in pre-programmed media that has nothing to do with your book.

August is going to be an easy writing month. During the four months of work on the third draft, my “writing article ideas” file has filled up. It should be a blast writing the articles. I hope you will enjoy reading them.


Article by Ivan Izo.

Writer on Fire’s 10 Best Articles on Prolific Writing

Writer on Fire's 10 Best

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Since 2009, I’ve written many articles on prolific writing. The following are my 10 best.

On Free-writing and Spontaneous Writing describes two kinds of writing exercises that can get you pumping out words on days you can’t seem to get going.

How To Use Pulp Fiction Methods For Quality Writing talks about the advantage of using pulp fiction methods for writing first drafts.

Think Less – Write More is about turning off your internal editor and how to use the editor when it won’t shut up.

How to Think Like a Prolific Writer presents six methods that will help you think like a prolific writer.

Become a Master Writer in Only 10,000 Hours talks about the importance of writing as much as you can because writers are made, not born.

Prolific Writing is a Skill talks about the importance of continuing to learn as you write.

Six Secrets to Prolific Writing presents some common sense tips that will get you writing more.

Pulp Fiction – Feast or Foul? explains why writing pulp fiction is a bad idea and then gives reasons for you to give it a try.

Write More Daily is about overcoming distractions and taking steps to increase your productive writing.

Writer’s Block: Myth or Reality? teaches you how to develop the tools to wipe out writer’s block using problem specific cures, blanket cures, and methods that overpower writer’s block.

There are so many ideas here that you may not want to read them all in one sitting. On the other hand, you can always make notes. Every prolific writer has that skill. If you’re not a note taker already, today is a great day to start.


Article by Ivan Izo.

How to Write Several Articles When You Feel Like Doing Nothing

How to Write Several Articles When You Feel Like Doing Nothing

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Motivation is highly overrated. If you’ve set yourself a daily writing goal, you need to do it whether you feel like it or not. That’s what makes you a writer. This post talks about articles, but it could just as easily be about short stories or chapters in a novel or non-fiction book.

If you have many articles in progress, simply reading through them will lead to working on them. You’ll think of ideas and information you want to add. Keep cycling through article ideas, outlines, first drafts, second drafts, and final drafts. You know this works.

If you don’t have any articles in progress, make some up. Don’t worry about starting with sensible ideas. You feel like doing nothing. Waste some time with silly ideas. Write enough on a silly thought and some sense often comes out of it.

More on this, did you say?

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Eureka – You Know What to Write

Eureka – You Know What to Write

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Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page and not knowing what to write? You had a good idea. You know there’s an article or short story there somewhere. Maybe even a whole book. But it’s not taking off.

What to do?

Gather Information

The first step is to make sure you have enough information. Is there something more you can read, research, or discuss with others that will clue you in? If so, go for it. But what if you already have everything you need to begin writing and it just isn’t happening?

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One Paragraph to Beat Writer’s Block

One Paragraph to Beat Writer's Block

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There is no “one paragraph” you can read to beat writer’s block, unless maybe it’s the one you’re reading now. The one paragraph that will wipe out writer’s block is one that you write.

In the place where your writing is blocked, write a paragraph. Forget about making it good. It can be terrible, uninformed, off topic, or even a rant about how you hate the topic or plot point. Just write something so that you’ve started writing.

Writing One Paragraph When Many Projects are Important

When you have more than one writing project, one paragraph is easier to achieve. The only catch is that you’ve got to have something to say on one of the projects. Which project do you want to work on most? Which project do you need to work on most?

If you have a project that pays, you can almost always move forward on that one. Money is a great motivator. Even if it’s not the one you’re stuck on, write a paragraph in the paying project first. Now you’ve done some writing. Go back to the one you really want to work on and get your fingers moving.

If you can’t produce a paragraph on any of your writing projects, see the next section on how to get moving on a single project that stalls.

Writing One Paragraph When You Have Only One Project

This is tougher. You may need to write total garbage to get started. Pointless, you say? But you’ll be writing something. That beats staring at the screen.

A good kind of garbage paragraph is a ramble about what you should be writing. If you can’t move in the direction you want, move in the wrong direction. Don’t be afraid to make a total mess. There’s always revision.

When One Paragraph Isn’t Working

Sometimes you won’t even be able to write one paragraph. You must kill inertia. Write one sentence. Still no progress? One word?

You can always follow the advice of Ryoki Inoue, perhaps the world’s most prolific writer. He says inertia must be killed at all costs, even if you have to type your own name over and over. He’s written over 1000 books, so we know his method works.

That’s a simple solution to writer’s block. Just write something.


Article by Ivan Izo.


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Writer on Fire’s 10 Most Motivational Articles

Writer on Fire's 10 Most Motivational Articles

Like most bloggers, I occasionally review my old articles to reduce the odds of repeating myself. There are a few I return to again and again because I find them inspirational. The following articles are the ones I return to most often.

Write More Daily

This one talks about finding more time to write and how to get more written in the time you have available.

Fourteen Ways to Create Multiple Articles

This is my most popular article so far. It describes how to maximize the number of articles you produce after researching a topic.

You Can Write Without Inspiration

Inspiration is overrated. Most writing gets done because of momentum, methodology, and motivation.

Pulp Fiction – Feast or Foul?

Describes how to write short pulp fiction as an exercise to help you write faster.

Five Ways to Reboot Your Article Writing

Presents five methods you can use to change your article writing strategy when you feel like you’ve fallen into a rut.

Nine Places to Get Article Ideas

I’m never short on ideas for articles. This article explains why.

Need More Articles? Write a Book

A short article. The title says it all. Writing a book on the same topic as your blog will inspire you to write more posts.

Prolific Writing Using Caidin Methods

This article goes against conventional wisdom by suggesting you write perfect copy on the first draft. It’s another writing exercise, not a method to use all the time. It could be a good method for writing you want to do but don’t expect to publish.

Prolific Pulp Fiction the Ryoki Inoue Way

Another look at using pulp fiction to increase your writing speed. This one suggests using the methods of the world’s most prolific writer.

Become a Master Writer in Only 10,000 Hours

It’s a cold truth that it takes 10,000 hours practice to become an expert at anything. For a writer, that may mean 10,000 pages. This article presents ways you can get those pages written faster.

These are not Writer on Fire’s 10 most popular articles. These are the ones I find make me write more. And that’s what it’s all about.


Article by Ivan Izo.