At least when it comes to writing. I was reminded of that again this morning when I went looking at different sites to find something to blog about this morning. It didn’t take long to come across an article that had me debating between laughing hysterically and tossing my laptop against the wall. I wound up doing neither, mainly because I can’t afford to replace the laptop and we have company and I didn’t want to wake her by doing my insane writer bit so early in the morning.
So, what had me reacting so strongly? It was one of those articles where “real writers” are asked for advice for those of us who struggle to finish writing projects. At least that’s the way the promo for the article is framed. But it really comes down to asking why less than 17% of writers who sign up for NaNoWriMo actually finish the challenge and what those 83% who fail to finish should do.
The first piece of “advice” give is to create “a comprehensive outline before you start writing.”
Look at that again. Not only are you supposed to outline your book but you are supposed to write a “comprehensive outline”. Forget the fact you might be a pantser. Forget the fact that you might do a one-five chapter general outline, staying ahead of where you currently are on the project. Oh no, you MUST write a comprehensive outline before you even start writing the book.
It isn’t until the end of the “you must outline” bit that a caveat is given. “If you can’t commit to an entire outline, consider mini-outlines to keep your momentum going forward.”
Wow, talk about a slap in the face. If you don’t or won’t do a comprehensive outline, it’s because you “can’t commit” and the only way to write and finish a piece is to keep your momentum going forward through an outline.
The next bit of advice is a good one. Find the right tools for your writing. One of the so-called experts talks about how she writes in Scrivener but uses Google docs for outlining, etc. Now, that’s sort of backwards for me because Scrivener has an awesome corkboard and outlining function that is easy to master and can be compiled nd exported as an RTF, DOCX, PDF or even ebook formats. But this works for her and that’s what matters.
Find the program or app that works for what you need. I’ve started outlining–when I outline–in Scrivener. The fact they finally brought out the 3.0 version of the software on PC helps. I’m not ready to write in it. But for organizing, especially for series, you can’t beat it.
I still write in Word, mainly because it is what I’m familiar with. I know the foibles built into it. I also prefer its review function. But that’s my personal choice. Do what works best for you. If you aren’t comfortable with a program or app, it makes it much more difficult to get words on paper.
The next rule the article lists is to make and stick to schedules and milestones.
Again, I’m not too much against this, especially the schedule part. You need to know when your next book is going to be published. From there, you work backwards. When do you need to upload your final manuscript and cover? When do you need to have the draft cover (preferably the final cover, tbh) and blurb ready so you can start promotions? When are you going to run promotions and where? That is the business end of the profession you need to pay attention to and the one where I so often fall down.
But scheduling by the day or week this is when I’m going to do my research and this is when I am going to write and this is when I’m going to edit. Nope, that’s not happening. Research for me happens throughout the writing process because even if I do a comprehensive outline, something comes up in the actual writing of the novel that requires me to check something. It might be the best tactical holster for a 1911M in a certain situation or it might be how much it costs to ride to the observation deck of Reunion Tower. It might even be to research what capabilities a personal comm device might have 50 years in th future because suddenly, that device has become a plot device and I need to make sure I don’t break the rules of the world to make that plot device work.
The next “rule” is to be realistic. In this case, they talk about being realistic about how much work it takes to finish a project, how much time it takes to actually write the book. What caught my attention was how the say all too often, when we don’t achieve our goals, we tend to lower the bar instead of doubling-down and pushing through.
This is one of those comments I waggle my hand at. Sometimes, the right answer is to lower the daily or weekly goal because life has interfered. If you have a family emergency or work at the 9-5 job has gone toxic or your ceiling just collapsed, it’s next to impossible to just power through. There truly are times when you have to set priorities and writing, especially if it isn’t your main form of income, has to drop down the list of things to deal with–at least for a little bit.
So, again, this is one of those rules that are a “Yes, but. . . . “
The last so-called rule the article puts forth is to finish the project before editing. I’ll admit, I often tell other writers, especially new writers, to wait to edit until they put the last period in place on their manuscript. But, it isn’t and cannot be, a hard and fast rule. There are times when you need to go back and do at least a light edit on the piece. A prime example of that is when you realize you’ve somehow managed to paint yourself into a corner. You have to go back, look at what happened and, at least sometimes, edit and/or rewrite to find your way out of it.
Now, I am not against any of the “suggestions” above. But to call them rules or to say this is what you must do rankles me. The only rules you should worry about are very simple:
- Do it in a way that works for you, including what software you use, what schedule you set, etc.
Now, a bit of promotion for me.
Don’t forget that Jaguar Bound is out on Amazon and will be out on the other major outlets this week.
Twenty years ago, the world first learned of the existence of shapeshifters and other paranormals. It hasn’t always been easy but now Normals and Paras live in relative peace. Mackenzie Santos played a large role in making that happen. Mac has spent most of her adult life enforcing the law. Once she started turning furry, that law included Shifter law. Because of her and those like her, the world is a safer place.
Or is it?
A new threat appears on the horizon, one that puts both Paras and Normals in danger. Will Mac be able to meet and defeat this new challenge or will it turn into her greatest fear: war between Paras and Normals?
Coming next month is Destiny from Ashes.
Colonel Ashlyn Shaw is on a collision course with an enemy determined to destroy her and all she holds dear. Honor demands she not turn away from the upcoming battle. Duty requires her to do whatever is necessary to protect her command and her home system. The Corps and her family stand with her, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to finally bring this war to an end.
But when the enemy turns out to be closer than she thinks, how will Ashlyn react? Will this finally be what breaks her or will it see the might of the Fuerconese Marine Corps raining death and destruction down on all who would stand against Fuercon and her enemies?
Honor and duty. Corps and family. These are the hills upon which Ash and every Marine in her command will live and possibly die as they fight to protect Fuercon and her allies.