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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guest Post - Judy Croome

Judy Croome, author of Dancing in the Shadows of Love, has stopped by today from South Africa to share with us some novel writing insights. Hop on over to  Judy's Blog (where I'm a guest today) to read more tips and what she calls an eclectic mix of topics.

Five Steps to Writing a Novel                                                     
by Judy Croome

Writing a novel requires far more than flashes of inspiration and a knack with words. If you’ve always dreamed of writing a novel, either for your own enjoyment or with aim of becoming a published author, there are five simple steps to make this dream come true. They are:

1. Vision
2. Goals
3. Discipline
4. Think Positive
5. Action

Before you can start, you need to have VISION. How is your novel going to take shape? Do you have characters, setting and dialogue in your head? Do you know what your characters are going to do: will they fall in love, be murdered or go on a long voyage? Are you going to publish independently or submit your novel in the traditional way?

You also need to have the vision of yourself as A Writer. Can you imagine yourself writing those two magical words: “The End”? Can you dream of the day when you’ll sit in your local bookstore, a pile of your books next to you and a line of readers waiting for you to sign your name?  Find the carrot that will keep your vision of yourself as A Writer alive and well during the tough times when the words don’t come easy and the dream appears to be fading.

Dreams alone are never enough. You also have to have GOALS.

You need to break your vision down into bite-sized chunks of carrot by setting goals. For example, set yourself long-term goals, medium-term goals and short-term goals. A long-term goal could be something like “Submit final copy of novel to agents within twelve months.” A medium term-goal could be “Finish first draft within four months”, while short-term goals could include “Write five hundred words a day” or "Finish research on the Namib desert as setting."

Goals are only effective when you reach them. If you find you’re constantly missing your targets, take the time to reassess your goals. Are they unrealistic? In what way are they unrealistic? Have you set a goal of five thousand words a day when you have small children to care for or a full-time job? If you still think your goals are achievable, ask yourself why you aren’t meeting them. Are you allowing yourself to be distracted from your writing? Do you keep your writing time sacred? Are you a slower writer than you think you are? Or do you just lack the discipline to focus on your writing goals?

DISCIPLINE is a harsh word. But it’s a word any aspiring author needs to make friends with. Without the discipline to keep focused on your goals, you won’t meet them. Without the discipline to write when you’d rather go to bed, your story will never get finished. Without the discipline to re-write again and again, your story will not shine.

Discipline is not the same as self-criticism. But it can help with the next step to getting your novel written, which is THINK POSITIVE. You need discipline, and self-belief, to keep yourself optimistic. Optimism doesn’t just happen: it’s a choice. Writers are emotional human beings and, at times, you may find yourself doubting yourself, your writing and even your vision. So how do you overcome that doubt? You can choose to think positively. By being optimistic about your writing, you encourage yourself, and others, to believe in what you’re writing.

As long as you are writing. Nothing can get the novel written unless you TAKE ACTION. Dreaming about your writing vision and planning your writing goals are important, as are discipline and optimism. But these alone cannot result in a completed novel. You have to sit down and actually write the words that will bring your vision into reality. After all, that’s what you’re in it for, isn’t it? To tell a story?

When you’ve finished writing the story, when you write those delicious words “The End”, it’s then that you know you’ve climbed the five steps to writing success.  You are A Writer.

Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, other short stories and poems have been published in journals and anthologies. Her independently published novel, “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” is available from Amazon.com and Loot.co.za.
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Thanks for visiting today, Judy and sharing your writing tips.