…that you’ll want to scribble down on sticky notes
…or include in a flipchart
…or maybe even laminate
Seriously, guys, these are really good
All of us wordsmiths—mystery, romance, suspense, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, steam punk (not really sure what that is), literary, aspiring or published—are forever on the lookout for GREAT writing tips. Little nuggets of wisdom that are going to CHANGE OUR LIVES, TRANSFORM OUR CAREERS, and be that SILVER BULLET that will send us soaring into publishing success. (sorry for all the shouting)
Well, friends, let me tell you…I, uh, don’t have that. Sorry, I wish I did. But short of life-changing golden nuggets and silver bullets, I can share with you some of my own writing tactics. Not the kind you find in the craft books. The real ones. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m warning you, I’m holding nothing back. You be the judge and glean what you will.
How to write a SMASHING, WILDLY-SUCCESSFUL, INTERNATIONAL BEST-SELLER
STEP 1: Come up with a brilliant, completely original idea
This is harder than it seems, believe it or not. I can also attest that this has never occurred whilst I was within range of pen and paper. Or sitting in front of my laptop, keyboard at the ready. Oh no. Ideas dive-bomb into my brain while I’m:
- in a work meeting, pretending to look sharp and focused [eagle eye]
- running on a track [sweaty palms, that pencil’s gonna slip]
- driving (look out!)
- folding my children’s laundry [tiny Avengers underwear-inspired]
- in a conversation with someone but I’m not listening
- elbow-deep in food preparation (and the food in question is probably sticky, hard to wash off, and I’ll forget my idea by the time my clean, dry fingers curl around a pen)
- skydiving, bull riding, rock-climbing, or other activities consisting of word blends or hyphens. These are scary.
So, the point is, be on the lookout for brilliance! I always make a point of carrying a pen and a pad of paper. Unless, of course, I forget. All the time. But I comfort myself with the assurance that, if I were organized and meticulous, I would probably perform some function like engineering or code writing. And make a lot more money…uh, moving on.
STEP 2: OUTLINE YOUR ENTIRE NOVEL
This is always my intention. I promise. And yet…
I can’t help myself. I’m a hopeless pantser. This term sounds dirty, but I swear it’s not. I just can’t follow an outline. Just like I can’t follow a recipe. I get a few steps down the list and think, “nah, it would be much better this way…”
It boils down to this: If I have to follow a precise, detailed outline, writing becomes a chore. Just items to tick off the list. Character development? Check. Background? Check. Guy goes here. [tap, tap, tap]. Says this. [scribble scribble]. You get the point. I might as well be plodding down the grocery aisle, tossing green beans and Ritz crackers into my cart. Boring!
And yet, I need some sort of vision. Who are my characters? What is their conflict? How will it be resolved? This stuff, I need to know. After that, I fill in the blanks as I go. It’s like reading an exciting new book, only I get to decide what happens. Yeah! Almost like those choose-your-own-adventure books I grew up with. Much better than the grocery list thing. And the recipe. By the way, you do NOT want to try my soufflés.
STEP 3: Write the book
This is the part writers find the most challenging, as it turns out. I’m not sure why, since it only involves creating 80,000-90,000 words of inspiring, thought-provoking, gripping content with a unique and engaging narrative voice. That’s all you have to do.
But just in case you’re looking for more guidance than this, I will share helpful tidbits from my own writing experience (get out the laminator):
- find a quiet place to work.
As it turns out, my living room does not meet this specification. It’s sort of hard to pen brilliance with three young children firing off constant questions, demands and comments about action heroes/princesses. Even cafés are sort of loud, and I become that cranky old lady in the corner, glaring up from her laptop at the hushed conversations, clanking of spoons, and piped-in music. Sometimes free Wifi requires real sacrifice.
I probably shouldn’t share this secret, but if you’ve read this far, you well deserve it. Here it is: Taco Bell. No one goes in that restaurant. I mean, no one. Everyone orders their tacos supreme from the drive-thru, leaving the restaurant empty, quiet, and free from distraction. And they even have Wifi! Serious writers only, please. Don’t share this little nugget with just anyone, or you’ll end up shoulder-to-shoulder with vloggers, gamers, and those people who dress up in Medieval clothing and have pretend sword fights (Just kidding, I love all those people).
- Have fun.
No, seriously. I used to put so much pressure on myself every time I sat down to write. My words had to be perfect. Timeless. Profound. And do you know what happened? NOTHING! A big, fat zero. Because I was too stressed to write a word. Writers’ block level ten. So, at a certain point, I just threw caution to the wind and had some fun. And do you know what happened next? You guessed it. I wrote novels. Novels I love. Novels I’m proud of. Because when you shrug off all that pressure, you’re able to be yourself and find your own, unique, literary voice. I was trying to be a serious writer. Flowery descriptions, symbolism, argyle sweaters and ascots. This is not me. I am a complete goofball, and I’m almost never serious. That’s just how God made me. That’s my narrative voice. I embrace it now, and the words flow. (And those sweaters and ascots were itchy, anyway. And dry clean only.)
STEP 4: All the other stuff that’s super hard and scary
Like most writers, I love to write. Not…the other stuff. Such as:
- editing [slow and painful death]
- querying agents [curling into fetal position]
- submitting samples/full manuscripts [my nails are gnawed down to the quick]
- reading contracts [um, do I have an agent yet?]
- Self-promotion [squirming uncomfortably]
But all this icky stuff is really, really (really) important. Put on those big girl or big boy pants and Get. ‘Er. Done. The upside is that social media is really fun. I get to post my goofy thoughts and other people “like” them! Plus, the writers’ community is super helpful, supportive, and my only lifeline to sanity whilst enduring the above bulleted list. Because we’re all going through it together.
So, I hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear your comments or connect with you:
Or you can send me a copy of your acknowledgments page featuring my name (just kidding! though I wouldn’t mind…)
About the Author:
Julie Arnold is a Christian Romantic Suspense author of four books, including Garden of Nymphs, Hiatus, and Gold in the Dust. She lives with her husband and three children in Sylvania, Ohio, though her imagination often takes her to faraway, fictional worlds. The setting for Nothing Ventured was inspired by time spent during her childhood at her grandparents’ home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
When Maizey Faye’s fiancé dumps her, leaving her with nothing but a lonely little tree farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she sees it as the fresh start she so desperately needs. So what if she knows next to nothing about tree farming. It can’t be that hard, right? Wrong! She’s in over her head, and if she doesn’t figure it out soon, she’ll lose everything.
Maizey never imagined her salvation would come in the form of her handsome business rival, Jax Lawson. She’s not sure if she can trust him, or if he’s just another traitorous man to add to her growing list. But when she starts receiving mysterious messages and dangerous threats, she has no choice but to accept Jax’s help. With her life on the line, she’ll learn real soon whether Jax is sincere about his affections or if it’s all been a lie to get his hands on her farm.