“I just want to stay home and write.”
If you’re like most writers who work full time, you’ve probably said these words at least once a month. Or if you’re like me, once a day. Forty-plus hours a week at a demanding job can suck your emotional energy to the point of going home and binge-watching Garage Wars.
What’s an aspiring writer to do? If you’re looking toward a writing career, you need a plan. These five tips will help you determine how quickly you’ll move from “I just want to stay home and write,” to “Hey, look at me! I’m in my favorite yoga pants.”
Every single time I attend a writing conference or workshop, I always hear the same thing:
“I love being with my tribe!”
“Can’t wait to get working on my project now. I’m inspired!”
“I wish there were more opportunities to get together!”
Writing is a solitary profession. Tucked away in a dark corner of Starbucks, or in our lonely home offices, we often crave the companionship of those who understand our mild obsessions with a perfect verb, and don’t judge us when we fawn over grammatically correct sentences.
Critique groups, like those offered through Inspire Christian Writers, are a wonderful antidote for the problem. Through them, you’ll get wonderful feedback, encouragement, and a chance to soak up some much-needed fellowship.
But not everybody has the ability to get plugged into a local critique group. And some of us need more connection time than even they can offer. Enter the idea of a Writer’s Retreat.
Here are some top reasons for attending one:
What color were her eyes again? How long has he had this job? When did she break her arm, and is she out of her cast yet?
When we’re writing a novel, details threaten to swamp us. We waste time tracking them down. We waste time fixing them during editing. And when we mess up, we drive our copy editors—or our readers!—crazy.
A character chart can save time and headaches.
I use a simple table in Microsoft Word, but you can use Excel or Scrivener as well. The “search” or “find” feature in these programs allows you to quickly locate information. Since I write three-book series, I keep a running chart for the series to make sure I don’t duplicate names or overuse character features.
I set up the skeleton of my chart before I start the rough draft (I’m an outliner), enter information in the chart as I write the rough draft, then clean it up during the editing process. When I turn in my manuscript, I also send my character chart—the editorial staff at my publishing house loves this!
Here’s a snippet of the chart from my latest World War II novel, When Tides Turn, showing the main characters, Tess Beaumont and Dan Avery.
Now I sit me down to write
I ask God for words not trite
I wish I can, I wish I might
Pen a masterpiece tonight.
Many times as we sit down to write, visions of grandeur fill our minds. After all, how hard can it be? I am sure Charles Dickens or Samuel Clemens simply put on paper whatever came to mind didn’t they? It is simply a matter of letting the words flow from our exceptionally creative minds through our fingers to the page. Right?
Readers choose books with lots of dialogue and not so much narrative, somehow feeling that dialogue makes a difference between a dull or great book. They don’t know how dialogue defines the characters, brings them to life and creates the tone of the story. Nor do they understand how the writer purposely used dialogue to evoke an emotional response in the reader.
In the following excerpt from my third cozy cat mystery, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and Angel have just sent their first kitten to her new home. They discuss how they feel about the kitten leaving.
Where is the best place to write your masterpiece? There is the old standby Microsoft Word, and there are great programs like Scrivener. What should you use? It depends on what your needs are.
Scrivener is a software program created by writers for writers. It is very inexpensive and jam-packed with more features that any one person could ever use.
It is good for fiction authors and I think even better for non-fiction works. It helps organize not just your manuscript but every piece of research as well. It will store text, web links, photos, just about anything you need to write your masterpiece. Need a name for a character? There’s a name generator. Need some place to flesh out your characters? There is a character sketch form ready to fill in with things like age, education, occupation and more. You can also put a picture of your character on each one. Amazing!