Today is your day to start. Find ten minutes in your day, doesn’t matter where or when, and write the first sentence you think of when you think of your book. Beginning, middle, end, doesn’t matter. Write. You’ll be so glad you did. I’ll give you the shout-out you deserve. #novel #starttoday #writersofinstagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CGlOEsihk-p/?igshid=1l23pttquw4yn
Before you write a word of your book, it can be a great idea to get yourself a writer’s journal. It’s fine to use either an app or pen and paper, but I prefer a paper one. I love my writer’s journal, and I use it almost daily, it’s like a therapist and a punching bag in one. There are no rules when you write in your journal, you have to give yourself absolute freedom to vent. In my journal, spelling and grammar are irrelevant. Neat writing is irrelevant, bad language is irrelevant. In my journal I allow myself to swear like there’s no tomorrow, or at least no readers, which there aren’t because no-one but me reads my journal.
When I open my journal, I feel like I’m visiting an old friend. It’s a place that is completely safe, where I can be myself. Like an old friend, the journal knows where the bodies are buried. It contains all of the crazy, angry, frustrated thoughts and feelings I’ve had about writing. My worst writer days and my most desperate thoughts.
When I wrote professionally, copywriting, ghost writing and proofreading, I relied on my journal to edit my thinking and straighten out my ideas. I’m a big picture thinker and some writing involves a careful presentation of the facts, so journaling about this helped me to get my more abstract thoughts out there before I started building a concrete, cogent piece of writing.
I like pen and paper, so my writer’s journals are always physical journal books. My journal collection is nearly as embarrassing as my pen collection, and I use any excuse to buy more of either or both. You can never have too much stationery and being a writer gives you the perfect excuse to indulge.
I use my writer’s journal in a few ways, but the number one way I use it is to complain about my writing process, to let it all out. I love writing, it feels natural and beautiful and if I’m not writing I itch to get back to it. Writing is also torturous and you need a place to sort out the torture so you can get writing again.
A writer’s journal can even be the first place you write an idea that eventually becomes a book. It can also be the place where you swear you’ll never write again. I only look back through my journals to reassure myself that yes, you’ve been in this crappy headspace before and yes, you broke through and continued writing. A writer who keeps a good relationship with their head through introspection and a willingness to be completely honest about their doubts and fears, can become confident, prolific and eventually published. Buy a journal, and make it a nice one. Buy a pen, and make sure it writes smoothly. Put the two together and start your writer’s life.
I can’t write. Do you feel like this? I want to write, but I can’t. It’s so hard to admit this when you have the heart of an author. I can help you to reframe this statement, to sneak your way around it, give it some meaning so that you can make it work for you. I know this sounds unlikely, but awareness is the first step to change and getting to the crux of why you’re not writing is the first step to writing.
Here are five things to say instead of ‘I can’t write’. I invite you to choose one and explore it in your writer’s journal. Did you say you don’t have a writer’s journal? I can’t believe you. I hereby give you permission to buy a gorgeous new journal, specifically to be used as your writer’s journal. Write your name in the front of it and get ready to use it daily. I’ll give you some ideas for that, too. First, here are some other ways to say ‘I can’t write’.
1. I can’t think of anything to write today. Okay, you can’t find words to put on paper or screen right now, on this day, so write that. I can’t write today. I can’t speak for tomorrow or next month, only for today. You never know what you might be able to do tomorrow.
2. I’m too busy to write today. Your life is so full, that you simply do not have a spare hour a day to write. You’re flat out living the life you’ve created for yourself and there is no time to sit and write. It’s okay, we can address this and I have some suggestions for you, in another post coming soon.
3. I can’t write well enough to be published. You have ideas, dreams and maybe even goals, but you do not feel accomplished enough to write a word today. Not one useless word. That is a long way from not being a writer, it’s a mindset. I can give you a dozen reasons to start to write before you even begin to feel like you’re able. I’ll share my own story of feeling unworthy as a writer. Keep an eye out for a new post on that.
4. I can’t start to write because I have no idea how to finish my book. It’s not as though you have no idea how to begin, you just can’t see yourself finishing your book, so you don’t start. This is a problem, but not an insurmountable one, I promise. Watch this space.
5. I can’t decide which of my ideas I should write first. You have a whole lot of ideas, maybe you love some of them, you just can’t choose one. What a great problem to have, some writers would kill to be in this situation. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the frustration you’re feeling, and I do have some ideas to share on this subject, coming soon.
Can you relate to one or more of these five ways of saying I can’t write? The one that tortures me the most is number four, not knowing the ending can really do my head in, and yet writing the ending first takes some of my writer energy out of me as I build a first draft. I’ll write about each of these five writer problems and create links in this post so you can see what I think will help you overcome each of these issues. In the meantime, grab that writer’s journal I recommended and explore the torture of not writing. I promise it’s a worthwhile action to take.
If you haven’t started writing a book, this post is for you. If you’ve started and not finished your book, you’ll probably find some of this useful for you, but I’m specifically writing today for the women who have yet to start. There are a lot of reasons you might not have started writing the book you so want to write. You might have been focused on your small children, or your career or both. You might not have anyone in your life who encourages you to write. You might not trust yourself to tell the story you have in your heart. Keep reading, and I’ll show you what you need before you can get started.
A lot, and I mean many, many women over the years when I was a professional writer, asked me the question: how do I start writing? They had an idea for a book but they just didn’t know how to start. I always encouraged them to write their book, but at that time, I didn’t really know what else to say.
I’ve read a lot of advice from successful novelists about this subject and I have my own opinion. My take involves asking yourself a series of questions, answering them as honestly as possible and using these answers to make your start. I encourage you to take the first concrete steps in this post and become a writer.
A common thing writers say is that you just need to start, to get some words down, in a computer or on a page, and this is a valid point, I mean there’s no writing unless you write, but what if you really cannot simply start like this? We humans are individuals. Yes, we have a lot of similarities, but the most interesting thing about us is the way we differ from one another. If I didn’t know how to eat and someone told me it was as simple as peeling a banana and taking a bite, that would fail spectacularly because I really hate bananas unless they are in a cake or a smoothie. So how can there be a solution for a wide range of people wanting to be writers, when we differ so much? The answer is simple, and notice I didn’t say easy, but definitely simple.
One thing I want to suggest to you before we go on is that all women who want to write a book have something I call a Frustrated Inner Author, or FIA. This is the part of you that feels driven to write a book, the part of you that knows you have a book in you, the part that dies a little each day you don’t start writing. That sounds a bit dramatic, but thinking about your writing drive as a real part of you with a name can help you to start to get real about writing.
Here are my first three questions for you, and they deserve real, written answers. Use a journal or an online writing file to respond to these questions and keep your answers.
Question 1: How to you talk to your Frustrated Inner Author on a day to day basis, what are you telling yourself about the lack of writing in your life? This is no easy question to answer and requires some thought.
Question 2: What is your wildest writing dream? Your ideal writers life? Ask your FIA, your writer self, don’t hold back.
Question 3: When do you see yourself starting to write? Your answer might be something like; after my kids go to school, or once I live in my own place, or when I know a publisher will publish the book I write. Be honest with yourself and write as many answers to this question as are relevant for you. Listen to your FIA, dig deep.
I hope your answers gave you a fresh perspective and a clearer picture of who you are as someone not writing. Send me a message here, or find me on Instagram, and let me know what happened for you when you answered these questions. I’d love to know what you came up with, so I can help you take the next steps.
The last day of summer was a stinker and nobody was surprised, least of all Zoe Quinn, who thought no good deed goes unpunished as she packed her car. By eleven am there was no comfort in the shade and the weather app on Zoe’s phone predicted worse by noon. She made her way through the city traffic and then parked as close as she could to the reserve, turned the car off and groaned as cool air gave way to instant, stifling heat.
The beach umbrellas in the back of her car were going to look pretty even if they served only as decoration, rather than any real protection against the heat. As she stepped out of her car a white van pulled up beside her.
The passenger side door on the van opened and long tanned legs appeared followed by the impressive six-pack of an able bodied helper who squeezed out between the vehicles. Zoe smiled up into the familiar face and held out her arms for a hug, enjoying the embrace just a little too much despite the heat.
“Great to see you River,” said Zoe.
“You too, Zo,” said River and they made their way to the back of the van.
“On time, and all here,” said the beach bleached blonde digging into the stacks of chairs and boxes in the van.
“And much appreciated, Zac” said Zoe, opening the hatch of her car. “We’ve got plenty of time. You can start with the tables and chairs, that’ll give us the shape of the place.”
“What did I tell you?” said Zac. “She’s worse than my mum,”
Zoe rolled her eyes and lifted an armful of umbrellas, turned and walked to the space on the grass she had booked for the party.
“From there to there,” she said, pointing at a cluster of gum trees and a tall narrow sculpture. “Only as far as that big tree, but all the way to the edge there. We want two trestle tables together, so we’ll end up with four square tables. We also want one trestle for gifts and two for the food. Mia is coming with the tablecloth roll and the scissors.”
“And speak of the devil,” said Zac, watching a small red four wheel drive reversing into a parking spot.
“Fantastic,” said Zoe waving her arms around above her head.
Zac put down the stack of white folding chairs he was carrying. He thought of the slab of beer behind the drivers seat in the van, but it would have to wait until the party kicked on at Riv’s place.
“I brought sustenance for the workers,” said Mia, carrying an armful of water bottles to the shade beneath the biggest tree. “Frozen,”
“You are the best,” Zoe said, grabbing one of the bottles.
While Zac and River set up the chairs, tables, and umbrellas on weighted stands, Zoe and Mia cut the tablecloths to length and taped them down, put paper plates, knives and forks and cups on them and then strung bright red and yellow bunting around from tree to tree and to the ground so that it formed a loose boundary.
People started arriving at ten to twelve. By a quarter to one the caterer had come and set up the grazing table and almost everyone had arrived. The gift table had a decent amount of presents on it. As instructed, everyone was drinking their own soft drink, although Zoe saw a few pretty suspect-looking containers.
“She’s here,” Zoe heard someone say, and she walked towards the cars. She saw Ashleigh before Ashleigh saw her, and watched her face as she cycled through shock, panic and finally resigned good humour.
“Surprise!” Everyone seemed to say it at a different time, but that kind of worked and felt casual and set the mood. Ashleigh walked up to Zoe and hugged her.
“I’ll kill you later of course,” she said.
“Of course,” Zoe laughed. “Happy thirtieth.”
Ash turned to her husband and told him “You’ll keep, Ryan,” and he shrugged and smiled.
“I was under orders,” he said. “Zoe’s orders,”
The food was a big charcuterie spread that was already warm. Zoe encouraged everyone to eat as soon as possible to avoid any possibility of food poisoning. People helped themselves and sat in cliques around the tables, laughing and complaining about the heat. After only an hour, someone suggested kicking on to Rivers place early for the pool and booze portion of the day. Zoe felt a bit frustrated after all the trouble she’d gone to, but she didn’t complain, and anyway, all the photo’s on Instagram were proof that everyone had had a blast so far. The thought of jumping into a pool was heavenly.
Everyone helped stow the party back into the van and some of the cars and not one person bailed out. It was going to be a big night.
River had inherited his grandmothers house at Bondi Beach, so he was used to hosting the crowd.
Thankyou for reading the first draft of the first part of the first chapter of my book. If you look carefully, you’ll see it’s imperfect and that’s exactly the way a first draft is. I have many more words to write, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Sometimes the first draft ends up being pretty close to the final draft, but more often as I write the story, events that occur later in the story necessitate changes, tweaks, huge chunks being shifted around or deleted. Welcome to my story.
I assert ownership of all the words in my blog from today forward. This is an original work and it belongs to me.
Posting my first chapter is harder than I thought it would be. Writing it has been fantastic, getting into the story and having goddess-like control over the lives of my characters, that’s so fun. Hitting that publish button on my blog post and sending it out for reading, scrutinising, criticism and oh yes the comments on grammar and spelling mistakes that a first draft inevitably produces despite my reading and rereading. These things are giving me the first post jitters.
This calls for courage and fearlessness, trust in my readers, and a willingness to shrug off any negativity that is sent my way. I can do this, I can, I know it. This new book won’t be read if it sits in my laptop as a draft post or is printed out and placed in the drawer with my five other novels.
The world is going to get a chance to start to read my book this week. My readers will be able to give me feedback, tell me who they love, who they really don’t like, and what they hope will happen next. I don’t promise to follow directions, but you never know, I might even include a reader suggestion or two. I’ll definitely be asking readers to choose some things like place names. I hope you will have your say.
As promised, I’m announcing the title of my book in this post and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Unlike other books I’ve written, the title came to me first and the characters and story second and third. The title made me laugh at myself for even thinking it, but I’ve had some time, a few years, to get used to it and find the courage to not only write this book, but do it publicly, in front of anyone who wants to read along. My book to your eyes, week by week. I can’t promise you’ll love the story or even like it, but I can promise to try and make this journey together interesting, fun and encouraging to all the women out there who want to write but are scared to start.
I just want to say from the start that although I was a professional writer for many years, I’ve never tried to have any of the five novels I’ve written published. The time was never right, and I always told myself that those five stories were like my apprenticeship in fiction writing. It’s okay to keep writing until you choose a story to put out there. Every book has its time and not every book is for sharing.
The name of my book is The Naked Ladies Writing Group. Yes, it has the word naked in the title, but no it isn’t all about being nude, instead it is about being your most bare, honest and real self in your writing practice and you’ll see as the story unfolds that the characters aren’t all at the same stage of willingness to be open. It’s going to be about a group of women, each one wanting to write, each one with her own style, abilities and obstacles. I haven’t yet definitely decided how many women will be in the group, and my job now is to make my final decision about each of their names, attribute personalities to them and set up their lives. I like to do this when I write fiction, and then use it as a kind of primary source for writing the story.
Today I’m looking at lists of baby names, lists of surnames, lists of people in the online phone books, and writing down the ones that leap out at me. As I’m writing the first draft I like to have these lists so that as I write, even if there’s an incidental character who needs a name I can just look at my list and choose one. This impacts the flow of my writing minimally. Names are important to me and I’ve even changed a characters name halfway through a book, which leads to painful time editing that day!
The characters and events in my book will be completely fictional, created in my imagination. The story belongs to me, each blog post belongs to me. As I write the story in my blog posts, I will be copying and pasting each entry into a Word file, building up the story in one place to edit later. Do you like the name I’ve chosen for my book? Let me know in a comment. Find me on Instagram at RachelGraceWrites and say hi.
When I wrote for other people, copywriting and ghostwriting, there was a need for privacy and it wouldn’t have been right to show the world that work which really didn’t belong to me. Now I’m writing for me, for fun, and I want to share my process with anyone who wants to watch and maybe even learn a bit about writing, the way I do it.
I have my own writing process, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you because I think you might like seeing my writing world. I know the story I want to tell, and my style falls somewhere in between writing to see how the first draft of the story fleshes out and compiling copious handwritten notes about the story as I plan to write it, characters, their names, traits and descriptions, places in the story, ideas about when and where a certain event between characters should take place and lots more. I’ll share photo’s of this journal as I write in it, to go with the writing I do. If there’s anything you can think of that you’d like to see, feel free to ask.
I’ll share the apps I use, the pens I use, the notebooks, as well as what time of day I feel the most productive, where I write and so much more. I’m completely open to suggestions and I’ll try almost anything to get my story written, so please don’t be a stranger.
Writing happens in three stages: writing, which is often called the first draft; editing, which is the second, third, fourth, fortieth draft; and proofreading which happens at the end of the process, to tidy up grammar and spelling. For now, I’ll be writing the first draft of my book and for your benefit I’ll be careful of spelling and grammar in a way I never have before in a first draft. I’ll make mistakes, and I know you will let me know, all I ask is that you be kind. Putting this process out there online is huge for me, and I’ll be waiting for those kind comments letting me know where I’ve messed up or where I’ve missed a predictive correction that went wrong.
I commit to posting one blog a week of first draft writing and one blog a week of writing information, answering questions, chatting about my process and how I feel it’s going, basically the writing life. In my very next post this week I will announce the name of my book and some initial information about the story. You can email me from here on my blog, and I hope to meet you on my Instagram at rachelgracewrites. Bye for now.