Sometimes we hit that point in our writing careers where we realize that most of the goals we set don't seem anywhere close to being met. Maybe we aren't selling as many book as we planned, or maybe we don't have as many reviews as we wanted. It's easy to get discouraged when we put a ton of effort into something and nobody seems to appreciate it.
So how do we stay sane during this time of discouragement?
1. Remember why you started writing in the first place. Odds are you probably started writing because you are in love with the craft. You stuck through all of the writer's block, you paid for all of the editing, you spent all that time on critique sites, you developed your characters. By now, you probably know everything about your worlds. Writing is a labor of love, if you didn't love it, you would have never finished your book in the first place.
2. It's not all about the money. Sure, it'd be nice to get a paycheck every once in a while for our novels. Sure, it'd be nice to make a living on something we love doing––and who says we won't . . . at some point. I realized that writing was my passion when I decided that no matter what I made off of it, I would always continue to write.
3. Enjoy your accomplishment for yourself. Whether or not other people buy your books, you can rest in knowing that you took your passion and you did something with it. You finished a novel! Not many people can say that, so revel in it and take some time to enjoy your hard work. You've earned it!
All famous authors started out like you and I, so give yourself some time and keep doing what you love!
All of the good ideas are gone and there is nothing left to write about except chosen teenagers, oppressive governments, and love triangles. You try to look for something groundbreaking, something unique, but whenever you think of something good, you realize that it's already been done.
So what do you do? Panic and quite writing, obviously. Just kidding. Here is something things you have to realize.
1. No plot is original. Now say that again and again until it's engraved in your skull. Dissect some of the greatest stories you've ever heard. Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are the young male lead of an amazing new world, they both have something that gives them a special power (the force, magic), they both have a special weapon (a lightsaber and a wand), they both are the chosen one, they're both orphaned, and they're both specifically sought after by the evil pale faced villains. Art is recycled, so stop trying to be original, it's impossible.
2. You must give an unoriginal plot, original ideas. Even though Harry Potter and Starwars are similar, we can all admit that they're hardly the same. In my novel, Mila (A Three-Part Story), some of my ideas were inspired from one of my favorite films, Gladiator. Gladiator is the story of a general turned slave turned gladiator who must gain his freedom and take revenge on the emperor who killed his family. Mila is the story of a slave turned gladiator who must win her freedom and find her son. While there are similarities of course, the fact that Mila is a girl separates my story from Gladiator. The fact that her son is still alive and missing separates my story from Gladiator. The fact that, Mila's master begins to desire her in a romantic was separates my story from Gladiator.
3. No matter how much your story is like another, it will still be different. No two authors are alike. If you and I both wrote a story about a circus boy, I bet the outcomes would be drastically different. Why? Because our styles are probably different, we might choose different names, we'll probably have different dialogue. You may put emphasis on the animals in the circus while I might put emphasis on the conductor. No matter how similar our original story ideas are, it is impossible for them to end up exactly the same unless you plagiarize me word for word.
So, there you are! Quit fussing and write your story.
So you've written a ton of words, you have your ending planned out, but now it seems like you're just adding filler to get there. Whatever do you do? You don't want the reader to be bored, but you're bored. Then you start to second guess yourself. Maybe you aren't the person to be writing this novel. Maybe you're not cut out to be a writer at all. Maybe you'll never write again. You're all just like...
Calm down. Don't quit. Here are some tips to help you get through those middle pages.
1. Add another subplot. In my novel Mila (A Three-Part Story), the main character and her son are captured by Rome and sold into slavery. Mila is sold as a gladiator with no idea where her son is. Now Mila must fight for her freedom to so that she can search for him. Simple plot, but it'd be pretty boring if it was just her fighting. So, I added subplots. Mila's master finds Mila attractive and wants her for himself. Mila would never marry a Roman and she tells this to him, which makes him angry. Her master accuses her of liking one of her fellow slaves, and then makes life difficult for the both of them. I've said it before and I'll say it again, people love drama! Adding subplots can thicken your plot and it will give you something to write in those middle pages.
2. When in doubt, kill somebody. If this weren't in the context of writing, I'd be ushered off to an insane asylum right now. Luckily, my fellow author friends know exactly what I'm talking about. Killing a character puts a stop in all major plot points and focuses in on the emotional aspects of your character. Was it somebody's fault that they died? Could it have been prevented? How do your characters respond to the death? Killing characters open a lot of doors to conflict, drama, and more middle pages.
3. Add some romance! Who doesn't love romance? Am I right? I am. We love it when we are introduced to a charming new character that just happens to like our hero. Not only do we have to take time (middle pages) to develop these relationships, but we can also add drama within them. Maybe both of your characters hate each other at first, then by the end of your second act they start to fall for each other. Maybe your main character has two love interests. Maybe they like someone who likes someone else. There are so many things you can do and it will make your book all the more interesting.
You guys know that feeling of annoyance you get when you watch a movie or read a book and a character gets out of something that would have been the end of them in real life? Let's say he falls down a massive hole in the ground and somehow survives with just a cut on his cheekbone.
Not only does this make us suspend belief of the story the writer is trying to tell, but it gives us that sense that the character is always safe. That the character will somehow make it to the end of the book/movie. As writer's we want our readers to be in constant fear that the hero is in danger. When we start playing with the natural laws of physics, bending the rules of the real world, and having our characters easily survive the nastiest scenarios, we've broken that trust between reader and author.
So why do writers do this? Well usually it is for convenience. They want action, but they don't want it to cost their characters. A good example of this was in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. As the ground shrinks beneath Legolas's feet, he begins to run up the crumbling rocks, while shooting arrows at enemies in the distance, and somehow manages to make it back to safety. Even within the fantasy world there has to be limits. It has to be realistic.
So what can we do to prevent this? Put yourself in your characters shoes. If you were just in a massive battle, do you think you would just escape with a cut on your cheekbone? Or would you be a little more beat up? If you just injured your leg, would you be running on it two minutes later when the story heats up or would you still be limping around? Think of your characters as real people and your audience will think of them as real people too.
I published my first novel when I was 13 and boy did I regret it.
There is so much I have learned now at 17 that would have been
incredibly helpful to know back then. So, to save you the trouble of
learning this stuff the hard way, I’m going to tell you the five things
I’d wish I’d known before publishing the first time.
1. Join a critique site. I spent so much time asking my friends to
read and then re-read my book every time I made another draft. Not only
was it exhausting for them, but I felt terrible. Later in my years, I
joined a site called https://www.authonomy.com.
You create a profile, upload your book, and then exchange chapter
reviews with other authors. Not only does this provide you with several
readers for your book, that will give you honest, objective critiques,
it provides exposure and connections to other indie authors.
2. After the content of your book has been edited and re-written, you
must professionally edit your book! I know it’s a lot of money, but you
want to make sure that the product you put out to the world doesn’t
reflect badly on you. Your book is your baby, and you want your baby to
look polished. Typos, grammar errors, and odd phrasing are distractions
to your readers and make you look unprofessional. Hiring an editor is
incredibly important and even after they’ve edited it, have another pair
of eyes go over it to make sure they didn’t miss anything. After all,
nobody is perfect.
3. Format your book! Whether you’re making an ebook or a printed book, make sure that you have formatted your book correctly. There are some excellent articles on formatting if you plan to do this yourself, but if the thought of it gives you a headache, hire someone to do it for
4. Build an audience before you release your novel. If you don’t have
a social media presence, who will buy your book when it comes out?
Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, ect. are all great ways to
connect with your readers. Find your target audience, and decide which
social media platform will best market to that group.
5. Hire someone to professionally design your cover photo. We’ve all
heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but the reason that
phrase exists is because people do. Don’t make a cover by yourself
unless you are a professional designer because odds are, it will look
tacky and no one will buy it.
Sure, hiring a professional
designer/illustrator can be pricey, but you must spend money to make
Writing is hard and it takes a lot of effort. We authors don’t do all
the work we do to have our books shoved away in a drawer to collect
dust. So how is it that we keep our readers attention?
1. Curiosity. In a novel I’m working on called Wolf Heart, one of my
characters, Andrea, has amnesia and wakes up in the house of a
mysterious boy and his mother. Andrea doesn’t know if she can trust the
boy and his mother, she doesn’t know how she got to be in their house,
who her family is, or anything about her past. All of those questions
keep the reader in the story. They want to know what is happening. Their
curiosity keeps them turning pages. Without some kind of curiosity, the
reader will grow bored and then your books goes back to the drawer.
2. Conflict. Let’s face it, drama is exciting. Characters in a world
with no drama are characters I don’t want to hang out with. We read to
escape reality, to live in other people’s troubles. Whether the conflict
be with your characters or your plot, give us a reason to be invested. A
good example of this is the book Maze Runner by James Dashner. In that
book, the main character Thomas and 50 others boys are put in the center
of a maze. They don’t know why they’re there (curiosity) and there are
dangerous obstacles in the way of them getting out. To add even more
conflict, one of the boy’s, Galley, hates Thomas. If
that isn’t enough conflict, a girl shows up in the maze. This makes for a dramatic story that keeps the reader on their toes.
3. Character Arcs. Nothing is better than when we start a book with a
character and then by the end of it, they are a changed person. We like
to see the gradual change of people even if they’re fictional. It makes
us feel like we can change too! Having growth as a character is
important because it delivers a message. The reader will want to know
what that message is and so they will keep reading to find out.
Sometimes writing can make us want to pull out all of our hair and slam
our head against the desk. After all, we spend hours a day with
fictional characters who have a lot of problems.
So how do we do it? Sit down, and write over 40,000 words for our
novels? Well, it isn’t easy. I say that from experience. However, here
are 3 tips that have helped me focus!
1. Instrumental music. I am a huge sucker for movie scores. I have
over 1000 in my iTunes library and I still want more. Not only does this
music help me focus, it helps me set a mood. If I’m writing an action
scene, I bring out the epic soundtrack. If I’m writing a death scene, I
may listen to some soft piano music. Either way, music helps me
concentrate, sets the mood, and it’s inspiring. Some composers I’d
recommend are, Two Steps From Hell, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer,
Thomas Newman, Abel Korzeniowski, and Steve Jablonsky to name a few.
2. A trip to Starbucks. Sometimes it is helpful to get away from your
screaming children/family to have some alone time. The change of scene
may even inspire you!
3. Act out the scene. Weird, I know, but it really does help get a flow
for the dialogue and your story. Plus you’re not going to just stand
around awkwardly, so it forces you to come up with things to say or do.
If you want to make it even more fun, have your family get in on it and
have them act out the sub-characters.
The fact that you’re reading this now, shows that your heart is in the right place. Now all you have to do is FOCUS!