There are three things I must do to remain happy. Being happy is one of those important keys to writing. I can chew out some really incredible stuff when I'm angry at someone, but to keep up the effort of writing every day, I have to be in a happy place. It's hard to write when I'm depressed, mostly because I don't want to do anything.
My three "R"s are pretty simple.
Reading. Writing. Raiding.
Ignore the fact that writing doesn't actually start with an "R." It's pronounced as one, and that worked in elementary school, so it works now.
The first two are pretty obvious. I enjoy reading. I like seeing all the wonderful things other authors create, and it motivates me as little else can. I want my stuff to be that good, to be that enjoyed by so many people. Got to write it first.
Writing is a little trickier. When I'm not in school, it's no problem chewing out two-thousand words a day, because it's not like I've got anything better to do anyway. Unfortunately classes, homework, and just being burned out take up a lot of my free time.
The third one? Raiding? Well. I am a gamer. I warned you in my little profile blip at the top of the page. There, over to the right.
See, I play World of Warcraft. I'm in a raiding guild on a little server, and I enjoy it very much. Mostly I enjoy the people I play with. My guildies are all kinds of interesting. Many of them read the same kind of books I do. Some of them don't, but read other stuff, and we get into very involved discussions (read arguments). WoW is, sadly enough, my main source of socializing. It helps that I can get together with a large group of friends on a near nightly basis without having to leave home. And I can multi-task.
The trick is balancing everything out. I tend to either read a lot, or write a lot. Strangely, the one thing that's a constant is the raiding. But, I have either 9 or 24 other people relying on me to show up and have fun doing something I love to do. It's a good incentive.
Now if I could find an incentive that'd get me to chew out 2,000 words a day, come hell or high water.
There's a lot involved with writing a novel. There's planning, writing, revising, editing, world building, character creating, revising, writing, writing, writing, and writing. Not necessarily in that order.
It's a lot of work. A lot of work.
Think about it. I started writing with Jacky back in 2004. It started as an epic urban fantasy. I didn't know a spit about writing, like characterization, description, plot continuity, or anything else. I knew how to put words on paper--or screen, as the case may be--and that was about it. But I did a lot of it. No idea what the word count was, but I wrote 25 chapters of the very first original never revised/edited version of Jacky.
It sat for a while, and when I picked it up and read over it to see exactly what I'd done, I nearly gagged. It was horrible! There's a section where I used "water" at least three times in the same sentence.
But, there was something there. The characters, at least, worked. So I started over again. This time, I finished the first book. And wrote four and half other books. Full length, all of them, ranging from 80-150k. Then I went back again, compressed the first two books into one, and came out with DEALING WITH DEMONS. I was working on the second (originally the third) book of the series, when I had that horrible feeling something wasn't working right. DEALING WITH DEMONS worked. It was good. I wrote query letters, started to re-read it for the upteenth zillion time so I could put together an outline for synopsis writing, and realized it wasn't going to work.
Another book and a half of work, tossed out the window.
So I started yet again. I wrote 18k, tossed out 14k of it. Now I'm still not sure what to call this current incarnation of the first book in what I hope will be the Jacky series, and working away.
What did I learn in all of this?
It's really important to go back over what you've written. It's also important to let it sit for a little while before going back over it.
This doesn't have to apply to everyone, but for me, I need to revise as I go along. As soon as writing slows down, starts getting hard, and I have that niggling feeling something's not quite right, I hit the revisions. Usually I can find the problem, clear it up, clean it out, and get back to the writing. Other times...
Well, other times I end up throwing out over 3/4 of what I've written.
My friend called last night, and I told her what I'd been working on. Rewriting the end of a chapter so that it worked better, and set up for something I desperately wanted to do at a later date in the book because it would amuse me. Then I admitted I wasn't sure where to take things after I was finished with this chapter.
She immediately told me "Outline! Outlines are your friend."
I had to disagree. Probably a mite stronger than I should have.
Outlines work great for her. Which is awesome. Go her. But I've tried using outlines before. They just don't do it for me. I either don't follow them at all, or I try to and then get frustrated when I don't follow them. I've tried several different forms of outlines: chapter by chapter, plot webs, they just don't work at all well.
Why? Honestly, I've no idea. I just know they don't work for me. I know this, and I have ways of keeping track of things I want to have happen, but I don't set them in the concrete of an outline.
There's one thing you have to keep in mind while writing a book. Not everything out there is going to work for you. Something, like outlines, that works really well for some might not work at all for you. The key is to find what does work, and stick with it. No matter what others might tell you, or try to convince you of otherwise.
For me, I have a list of major events I want to have happen. The list is flexible. I can add things to it, or take things away if I later decide they just don't work well, and I don't have to worry about rearranging everything around them. This list is kept on a white board in my office by my computer, so I can consulted it frequently. Also on this board is another list, this one per chapter.
Once I finish a chapter, the chapter list is erased, the number at the top is changed, and the list beneath is changed. This list isn't a series of things that must happen in this chapter, but rather a list of ideas. It's a brainstorming thing.
Here's an example of what my lists look like. A general plot list looks like this:
Things to Happen
Hook-up with boy
Bad person does bad thing to get MC to do something
Something happens that doesn't fit this book
Minor character's relationship (which plays an important part in tensions*)
Tragic event that must be overcome
*Stuff in ( ) isn't actually part of a list
As things on the list happen, I check them off. If they don't work, they get crossed out, and later erased to make room for other ideas or events I want to keep track of.
A chapter list looks like this:
Run into Char
-discover something previously unknown about Char
-takes MC to place
-Person joins them, goes w/MC
Char 2 takes MC to place
First time MC does something related to tragic event
Needs to Happen:
-short background story
Char "drops" in
-MC makes Char 3 replace broken thing
Again, a very flexible list of things that need to happen, and could happen. If I'm struggling with a chapter, this list can change several times in the course of a day. Unlike the "Things to Happen" list, which is done before I ever start writing the first chapter, the "Chapter #" list is done before or shortly after the beginning of each chapter. Like I said, it's my brain storming list.
I suppose you could this an outline, of a sort. It's certainly not my writing buddy's idea of an outline. But that's all right. What works for her doesn't have to work for me. Often times, it doesn't work for me at all. That's all right, too.
The important thing is not to argue about it, or insist that what works for you will work for everyone else too. It's important to try new things, to find the best fit. But don't do something if it doesn't help. It will only wind up hurting you in the long run.