Finishing

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Do you have a few unfinished projects lying around? I don’t mean an unfinished sweater you started knitting years ago or clothes to wash. I mean writing projects. For a writer, life is complex. Traveling and going off on a hike with friends are important. Experience is the basis of good writing, but writers must take the time to write. Prioritizing is part of getting things done.

Last year, I set a goal to finish four novels I had written over the past two decades. While writing the novels, I felt compelled to complete three nonfiction books first and published them on Amazon. I edited the novels numerous times and received helpful edits from my critique partners. Then, hired a professional editor. Once she returned them, it meant more editing. So, for the past year I focused on finalizing the novels.

Writing The End of a first draft was a great achievement but then the real work began. If you consider a novel in the 80,000-word range, writing 350 words a day for 228 days would bring you to The End of the first draft. If you are aiming for 100,000 for your genre, you’d finish in a year. That is less than one page of single-spaced manuscript per day.

Some days are more productive than others. I am often up before dawn writing because mornings are my most productive time of day. Find your best time. Most writers can’t write every day, but on days they don’t put words on paper, the stories evolve and solidify in their thoughts.

Rewriting and editing are tedious but must be done to perfection before you query an agent or indie-publish on Amazon or one of many other platforms. After all your personal focus and hours, you may be blinded to serious problems in the storyline or unclear word choices. It is still essential to enlist beta-readers who are voracious readers in the genre and not family members. The hope is to identify problem areas you have not recognized before you proceed to publication.

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your job is to never bore the reader. Information in a nonfiction work or the story in your novel must be engaging and keep the reader reading. Attending writer conferences, taking classes and participating in online writing skills webinars can be valuable. Many are free, but usually, in the end, will try to sell you something.

Each year, November is National Novel Writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. If you need a push to finish a project or start a new one, this may be for you. Locally, at Flathead Valley Community College, Kathy Dunnehoff is presenting Novel Challenge. Beginning October 30 for five sessions. She will discuss the craft of writing and how to keep words flowing for the month of November. With concentrated effort you can finish a first draft during the class.

Dennis Foley is teaching Writing the First Novel during fall semester. Check out the online brochure at FVCC, Creative Writing. Authors

The annual Flathead River Writers Conference is September 22 and 23 at FVCC where you can learn from both Kathy and Dennis along with other publishing industry professionals. The brochure and online registration are available: https://www.authorsoftheflathead.org.

Happy writing and reading. Hope to see you at the conference.

Betty Kuffel

THE END

Are You A Writer?

Writers are compelled to write. If you are one of those people, even when not sitting in a favorite nook with a keyboard or notebook, characters are wandering through your thoughts asking you to write their story. From conceptualizing a book to completing a first draft can be a long journey, usually years, but some hardy souls dive into writing a novel in just four weeks.

In November each year during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, many writers take the challenge. If you look at https://nanowritmo.org, you’ll see how it works. The website is interactive and supportive, so if you need a boost to finally finish the first draft of that special book, this might work.

The concept is to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Not everyone can take a month off and just write. If your busy life demands attention, but you are driven to write anyway, you are a writer. You will finish your manuscript without the push of time and camaraderie found with NaNoWriMo. However, critique groups are extremely valuable and a necessary party of producing a professional manuscript.

People in my critique groups over years have said, if they are in the middle of a book and must take a break because life gets in the way, they miss their characters as if they are living, breathing people who are part of their lives. There are very few times writers don’t write. One key is to always be ready to record a note, no matter where you are. I found working twelve hours a day didn’t stop me. Our guru, Dennis Foley, has some of us carrying markers in our cars so if a thought comes at an awkward time, we can write a reminder on the side-window without running off the road.

Finishing a first draft is just the beginning. Multiple edits are required to make it publishable. A running outline of your story line, including twists and turns, is a start, but some writers use no format, they just write. Others develop extensive character descriptions and pages of scenes before ever beginning to write the book. I began writing years ago without an outline of any kind and completed two books that have since been rewritten many times and finally to completion after discovering two creative writing books.

  • Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,
  • Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure

I have read many excellent books on writing with varied useful concepts, but using skills I learned from Brooks and Bickham pulled me into a different realm. In the past year, I have rewritten and extensively edited three novels. They are breathing life, and after professional copy editing, are finally ready for publication. I finished a fourth one yesterday and will submit it to my copy editor today.

Another tool I’ve found helpful over the past year is to use a text to speech product to review a final manuscript draft. This sounds tedious, but is valuable for identifying word repetitions, missing words, missing periods and sentences that need reconstruction. There are many options including Natural Reader, a free online product. (https://www.naturalreaders.com); Microsoft word following the menu for Review>A Read Aloud Speech; and Kindle, where you can easily save your entire manuscript and listen to it.

Writing The End provides mixed feelings. It is a huge achievement and a relief to finally have the whole story written. If you find you’ve reached the end, yet are not satisfied with the action, intrigue, rising tension or final scene, consider reading a few of Larry Brooks’ analyses and deconstruction of best sellers at (https://www.storyfix.com).

If you are looking for a critique group or help with writing, check out the active local writers group at https://authorsoftheflathead.org

Betty Kuffel

First Drafts

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Here I go again—struggling with the unruly first draft of a new novel. When it comes to writing a new novel, I frankly HATE beginnings. I implore my brain to supply the perfect first line that will immediately grab the reader’s attention and hold it for 100,000 words (I write long). Like a crazed gold prospector, I mine the thesaurus for action verbs and spend too much time researching, while discounting the voices in my head shouting, “Just write the damn first draft!” So, I decided to “research” quotes on writing the first draft by famous authors. Here are my favorites.

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.”―William Faulkner

“Getting a first draft done is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.” ─ Joyce Carol Oates

“You can always fix crap. You can’t fix a blank page.” ─ Christina Dodd

Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” ─ Michael Crichton

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” ─ Robert Cormier

 “The first draft of anything is shit.”—Ernest Hemingway (indelicate, but that’s Papa)

Great advice, but my favorite quote comes from a fictional writer.  

“No thinking – that comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”  William Forrester, played by Sean Connery, in Finding Forrester.

Thanks for stopping by   ~~~ Deborah               

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