Write, Produce and Publish a book in a year, lesson one : planning and homework

*disclaimer*  I know that this isn’t the only way to go about writing a novel, or even the best.  I’ve found it works well for first time novelists I’ve worked with and it suits itself to the class format.  I’m not saying that your way is the wrong way.

This is a sort of practice go for the course I want to run, so choose a day when you have a couple of hours spare to start off, settle yourself down and have a read. It might be an idea to get together with some friends once a month to work through as if it were a real class (this is very good for discipline) or post your ideas here for peer review.

Sit down with a pen and a few bits of paper.  If you prefer you can use a computer, but I always prefer pen and paper for scribbling out etc.  You probably have an idea of the book you want to write.  Any ideas at all – theme, characters, plot ideas, bits of text.  Pop any ideas you have down on the paper.  Take at least half an hour over it.  Have a look at it.

Go and have a cup of tea.  This is very important.  You have to step away at this point and go back to your work with a fresh pair of eyes.

When you go back to your paper have a read through.  What areas connect?  Which bits work well together?  Using this for reference write out the plot, one line at a time leaving five or six lines between each.  If there are other people with you, swap plans and make constructive criticism, if not, post your plan in a forum or on the bottom of this blog.  If you can’t bring yourself to do even that, take a look at it yourself.  Does it make sense so far?   Does it have the right amount of tension, suspense, relief? All novels need that – from thrillers to rom-coms.  If not, fill in some of the gaps.

If your in a group or a forum, try to get the opinion of at least two other people, and then help them in the same way (if solicited, unsolicited doesn’t make friends of authors)

The next thing you need to do is (and this is going to seem very previous) is look at how to promote your work.  Do this step now, while you have your group together or you’re in your forum.  Interview each-other.  I want you to write two or three interviews of fledgling authors who should also interview you.  Ask about inspiration – why now?  what’s it going to be about? have they written anything before? (poetry, flash fiction, blogs, non fiction etc) if so do they see this being different to their other work?  what other writers do they admire?  why are they setting out to write this book?  Do they think they’ll manage from plan to production in a year?  what might get in the way of that? if there’s anything you’re interested in knowing from your interviewee, ask them now.  Coming across as genuinely interested is what makes a good interviewer and the best way to do that is to be interested.

If you’re doing this solo you can use me for reciprocal interviews and feedback – cross publicising from an early stage is how indies survive.

Now for homework.

Set up a blog.  You may already have a personal blog, but a writers blog would be better, depending on what your blog’s already like, you might just want to add to it.  If you don’t have one, you can make a free blog on wordpress.com quite easily -let me know how it goes!

Don’t post all of your interviews at once, one a week should do it, and link them to the blog of the person you’ve interviewed.  When they blog your interview re-blog it.  You can also blog about your writing process and ideas, but don’t get too bogged down in that just yet -you’ve got a lot of homework this month.

You need to get in the habit of writing 2,500 words a week.  This might seem like a lot, but it’s only 500 a day Monday to Friday or just under 400 a day 7 days a week.  I can sometimes just sit down and write 15,000 in a day, but it’s more realistic for me to aim at a more paced 400 a day.  This is your time for working out where your strengths are in this regard.  Experiment.  DON’T burn yourself out and start to hate it, though.  That’s a bad move.

Your homework for the first month is to spend the first week on a proper step by step plan.  The second on short character sheets.  Character sheets ARE NOT necessarily full of information you need to share with your reader, but YOU need to know.

Weeks three and four are where the work begins.  You don’t have to write your novel in sequence, but if it’s a first novel it’s easier to do it this way, in order, to keep your thoughts in order.  You need to have written at least 5,000 words by the next lesson, which I’ll put out on May 20th.

See you soon

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