My 2017 Project: Become a Writer

In 2016, I earned my Ph.D., went vegan, and got my cholesterol under control. I was on a roll.

But I hadn’t successfully finished a piece of fiction (except one short story that I didn’t and still don’t like) since January 2014, when I finished the novel I’d begun the one time I legitimately won NaNoWriMo.

I realized I was never going to be a writer at this rate. So my 2017 project was learning how to write. Not how to get published or how to indie publish, but how to write fiction.

I wanted to break writing down into step by step aspects I could address directly. Writing is a HUGE “thing,” and I honestly didn’t know where to start. But I trusted that if I DID start, eventually I’d get traction.

For the first several months I studied Kishotenketsu, which was a fun warm-up to my serious studies.

Then Dannie, an awesome horror writer and long-time friend, told me about Holly Lisles’ online courses and Brandon Sanderson’s course lectures on YouTube.

The first thing I did was take Holly Lisles’ free flash fiction course. It honestly changed my life. I learned so much about structure and felt so much thrill of success planning and writing story after story.

I learned, proved to myself, that writing IS a repeatable phenomenon. It’s not magic we can’t explain, or lightning that doesn’t strike twice, or a wind that goes where it wants.

I started her novel writing and character courses, but she’s a serious outliner, and I’m much closerto a discovery writer, and that mismatch made them less useful to me. I still learn a lot by reading her blog. I’ll write a whole post about her later.

Then I started watching Brandon Sanderson’s lectures, and I learned so much about novels, including how to approach things from a discovery writer perspective. He’ll get his own post, too.

Brandon Sanderson recommended Dan Wells’s presentation on plotting, and I watched that. I also read Rachel Aaron’s article on planning a novel.

At that point, around July 1, I realized I was ready to start planning my own novel.

And so I did. But that’s going to get its own post, too.

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Yay! I finished a novel! Now what?

So the title basically sums it up. I feel like the dog that caught the car.

Thursday, October 12, 2017, I finished a novel I’d started planning in early July and begun writing on July 31, 2017.

Actually, this was my 2016 NaNoWriMo attempt. I “succeeded” in the flimsiest and most technical manner: I wrote 50,000 words, but they were spread across two stories, most of them were unusable, and neither story ever got finished.

So, Friday I didn’t do much writing, except think of a couple of small points that really needed to be added or clarified. Saturday morning I added those.

Then, I sort of stumbled around for most a week, trying to plan a second novel before NaNoWriMo came around November 1.

It had taken me a whole month to plan this novel, and it had already been partially planned and even partially written.

I have only half that time to plan the next novel, from scratch.

And I was all out of ideas. I was starting to get stressed. But then, on Thursday, October 19, a conversation with my wife just cracked everything open.

Yesterday, I got the lead character and what she wants, her motivation. I got the rough shape of the conflict, and part of the setting (my novels tend to involve a lot of travel, so there will be several settings).

I really feel like I can write this story, that it will hold my attention to the end, and, aiming I do my part, that other people will actually enjoy reading it.

I guess you just can’t force these things. But you can relax, read, look at cool pictures of fascinating places, listen to music you love,walk around outdoors, and let things brew.

You’ll be stuck until you’re not, and it will seem like a magic breakthrough, but it was really a result of feeding your mind, giving yourself silence to create, and taking the pressure off.