DEAD RINGER: Writer Secrets
Hi, book lovers!
If you told my high school self that I would someday write an entire novel, I would have laughed my frizzy-haired head off.
Writing was always my dream, but the beast that is a book seemed impossible before I had a strong handle on how to tackle 300+ pages…and survive. DEAD RINGER is officially the longest project of my entire career, and I am somehow still in one piece. In fact, I’m already at work on another.
Here are my 7 Secret Strategies for combating all the woes of life as a long-form writer.
- Develop a routine based on your existing routine.
Morning person? Write first thing in the a.m. Night owl? Type all night long. Much of finding your mojo as a writer has to do with knowing your MO as a person. I get my best work done in the morning, so I write from 8:00 a.m. until noon every single day. That’s the other part of developing a routine—doing it over and over and over again until it becomes comfortable. Writing is a muscle, so think of it like going to the gym. The more you go, the less it hurts.
- Set a word count every day and hit it.
All hail the crappy first draft! The best thing you can do for your finished product is get a first draft of it done quickly. Writing is rewriting, so there will be many more drafts. When I get hung up, it’s because I’m trying to make every single sentence perfect instead of focusing on getting my word count done so I can move on to the next stage.
- When writer’s block hits, don’t panic. Pivot.
I don’t like to use the term “block” when talking about a hiccup in my flow because it feels so severe. I’m not blocked; I’m just a little cloudy. Instead of freaking out (my former philosophy), I stop writing in the prose of the book and start writing to myself. It comes out looking something like this: Yo. This part is really hard but remember what you’re trying to say is simple: Laura is frustrated with Charlie. Why is she frustrated? You know why. It’s because x, y, z.
I know this seems so strange, but this no-writing writing actually helps me remember that I know my road map and I’m just having trouble finding the right words. In a worst-case scenario, I leave some notes in the manuscript and come back to them another day. It’s not a finished word count, but at least I’ve made some progress. For more on this check out a blog post I wrote on the topic.
- Outline, outline, outline
This should probably be item number one. I know that some writers prefer plunging to plotting, but even when I employ that tactic I still create an outline of what I’ve written. In a 300+ page document, you need a map of where plot and character development is located. When an editor returns notes, you need to know where to begin making adjustments. Your outline is that full picture of the book, and it is critical.
- Don’t wait to ask for feedback
It might seem like there’s nothing scarier than receiving notes, but there’s actually nothing more frustrating than finding out you have major issues to resolve once an entire draft is done! I bring people into the process early (my outline helps) so I’m certain that I’m tracking problems and progress along the way. Somehow a lot of little notes are easier to handle than one massive dump.
- End each day with a plan for the next
When I was writing the first draft of DEAD RINGER, I spent thirty minutes every night making notes about what I was going to tackle writing the next day. This wasn’t actual drafting of the manuscript, just a bulleted list of notes about what would happen in the next chapter. I felt so much better arriving at a new blank page the next day knowing that I had a plan.
- Celebrate along the way
Writing a novel is a massive, massive task. Why wait to celebrate until the very end? I treated myself to little prizes along the way as rewards for finishing small chunks, and I gave myself big gifts after turning in 100-page installments to my editor. There were many hard days, but I gave myself lots to look forward to. That way, I had little tunnels with bright lights all throughout the process.
Trust me—if I can do this, you can do this! Stay focused. Make your writing your priority. And remember what the great Jimmy Dugan (aka Tom Hanks) from A League of Their Own said, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”
Read DEAD RINGER and take a look at Jessie’s finished product! Buy it on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or direct from the Full Fathom Five Digital store (direct purchases give Jessie more royalties!).
About the Author:
Jessie Rosen is a writer, producer, and performer. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Boston College in Massachusetts, and began her writing career in New York. Her live storytelling series Sunday Night Sex Talkhas received national attention. She was named one of “The 25 Best Bloggers, 2013 Edition” by TIME magazine for her blog 20-Nothings, which was also named in “The 100 Best Websites for Women” and “The Top 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women” in 2013 by Forbes.
Rosen is the oldest of four girls, which gives her a special window into the minds of teenagers. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she’s working on film and television projects, as well as her next novel.
Visit her website, http://20-nothings.com.