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Tag: non-fiction

What It’s Like to Write “The End” Again

Honestly, it has been a few long years, and it feels like even longer since I have written “The End” on a book, mine or otherwise. In some ways, I was beginning to wonder if I could still do it. By that, I meant carry a story through until the end. 

Don’t get me wrong. I knew I still had it in me, and from my freelance writing career, I knew I could still write. However, writing is novel is much different than an article, a blog post, or a short story. Even those bait e-books they talk about are different when you write the end. 

But after the last year, things changed for me a lot. First, my freelance writing and even a ghostwriting book took off in ways I could not have imagined. I grew as a writer and a person and got back into the writing groove. I took on gigs I would not normally have and transformed my life to once again put writing at the center. 

I wrote “The End” a few times in recent months, and it feels good. If you are a writer and struggling to do the one thing we all struggle with from time to time, finishing, here are some thoughts for you. 

Personal Satisfaction

While we all know that writing is a business and “The End” is just the beginning of a larger process, it is the end of one of the toughest parts. There is something immensely satisfying in the completion of a large project, and whether that is a novella, novel, or a non-fiction book of some sort, you have proven you can see something through to a conclusion. 

Why are NaNoWriMo and other such programs so popular with writers? Because they give you a chance to finish something, even if you do not see it through to publication. Writing “The End” whether the first time or the fiftieth, matters. 

Inspiration to Do it Again

One of the truths of the writing craft is that no matter how good you get, no matter how long you work at it, you will never be truly a master, because there is always something new to learn. The only way to learn those things is to write something and finish it over and over again. 

Writing the words “The End” inspires you to do it again, and again, and again. Maybe you are like most writers and have a lot of projects in the works. When you write “The End” it is time to move on to whatever is next. You should have a plan for that too, by the way. Goals set are goals achieved. 

The Psychological Victory

Let’s put things in a bit of perspective. A big part of writing fiction or anything else is psychological. If you have chosen writing as a career, you can type pretty fast (probably) and you probably have enough ideas to fill a book themselves. Then life happens or people give you other ideas, and you feel like you can write forever. 

Until you sit down to write and then somehow our brain blocks us from doing what we love if we let it. The ability to get through those blocks and to the end with something that is at all good and worth working through the rest of the process is a huge breakthrough, and not just once, but every time. 

I endured a lot of personal criticism about many aspects of my life, including my decision to be a writer and do that for a living for a few years before a relationship ended and I started over in many ways. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever you need to do to finish or get started again, the ability to complete something and write “The End” will boost your confidence and morale. 

What a Relief

To be a successful writer, you need to need to be a writer, to the point where nothing else will really do. Whether this is a hobby for you or a way to make a living, you still need to have the same need. 

Writing “The End” this time for me was a relief. I need to be a writer. An extensive collection of nametags, hairnets, and various unsuccessful careers tells me this is true. The question I had after the last few years was whether or not I could do it anymore. Freelance was one thing: my books and novels were another. 

But I found I could. First, I wrote “The End” on Tilting With Windmills, a Monster Marshall’s story coming sometime this year, wrote “The End” on a ghost writing project I am involved in, wrote it in Harvestedformerly of another title after a major re-write, and am about to do it again on a non-fiction project about writing as a business, also coming out this year. 

This isn’t to brag. It is to simply say this very act proved I can do this, I can be a writer, and I can make it my living. I can keep writing “The End” over and over again until it is written the final time for me by someone else. What’s it like to write “The End” again? It is all of these things. What is standing in your way? No matter what it is, you can get past it. After all, what better satisfaction is there in this crazy business of ours? 

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Business 101 for Writers: Production Part 2: How to Write More

We ended the last post on a cliffhanger, something you should always do to yourself. I mean, it is great advice to write some words. If you are going to have a writing based product to sell, you need to have something written.

However, the first step in production is where writers often get tripped up. They get caught up in the business side, especially when they first become stoked about writing for a living, and they get so busy creating an author platform, getting their website ready, and being sucked into social media (Oy!) that they neglect the writing part of the business.

Before you know it, they wake up realizing their novel is stale, they have not posted an article on their blog or sent out outreach to new freelance clients in weeks. Here is the one line, simplest truth of the matter: You are a writer when you write. When you are not writing, you are no longer a writer.

So how do you make sure that this terrible tragedy does not happen to you? Here are some really obvious tips, but ones writers often neglect.

Write Every Day

I have tons of aspiring writers tell me they do not have to write every day. They are absolutely right. You can go for days without writing until you really start to take yourself seriously. Once you embrace writing as a profession, you can’t help but write every day.

Why? Writing, or engaging in any creatively based activity, changes something in your brain. It releases chemicals that make you happy when you write, and when you don’t, depression and anger take the place of that happiness. There is no one worse to be around than a writer who is not actually writing.

Your brain changes, chemically and in its thinking and habits, when you write every day. Nearly every professional writer I know writes something nearly every day, even if they are on vacation or it is their “day off.”

Try it. If it doesn’t work for you, email me. Honestly. I will talk you through it because I have never found any true writer who after giving daily writing an honest try, did not find that it changed things dramatically for them.

Have a Writing Schedule

I have heard all of your excuses. My kids, school, house, the laundry, you have five cats, four dogs, and your poor neighbor needed help with cleaning their gutters. So how could I possibly write every day? I am going to be frank and potentially offensive.

All of your excuses are bullshit. Nearly every writer I know who does write every day, who does it for a living, did not start out that way. They had full-time jobs, wives, kids, and pets just like you do. They started to write every day anyway.

How? They set a time, usually early in the morning or late at night, and wrote at least for a little while no matter what else was happening in their lives. Read that last sentence again. They set aside a time and wrote at least something, even a single page, no matter what else was happening in their lives.

It can be a page in a short story. A page in a future article. A page in a novel. 365 days of a single page a day means you have a full-length novel completed. Stop telling me how busy you are, and that you do not have time to write. Set a schedule, and keep it.

If your first schedule does not work for you, find one that does. Find your optimal time when everyone else is either gone or asleep, and keep your schedule no matter what.

Allow Yourself the Freedom to Write More

Wait a minute. I just spent a whole bunch of words trying to convince you to write every day, and schedule that time, keeping it sacred. Now I am telling you to give yourself the freedom to write more?

Yes, if you are using the 12 minutes a day method I mentioned in the last post, and you get to the end of the 12 minutes, your timer goes off, and you are on a roll, keep going. That’s right. Keep writing as long as the words keep flowing, even if you are interrupted. Get back to your work and follow the flow.

No matter how long you have been at this, there are days when the words do not flow as easily as they do other times. Don’t mistake this for writer’s block. Once you finish reading this series, you will never be allowed to have that, or blame it, again. But sometimes writing is hard, and so when it is easy, let it flow.

Especially when you first start out, or there are many distractions in your life, you will sometimes struggle in your daily, scheduled writing sessions. Write anyway.

Some days, the words will flow from your fingers quickly and easily, and your fingers will fly over the keyboard. Keep going. Write as much as fast as you can. That will probably be some of your best writing, and stopping can kill your spirit. If your flow is interrupted in those moments, you may even get angry.

Good. That means you are on the right track and your writing habit is taking hold. Control your anger, roll with life in general. But give yourself the freedom to write more when things are going well, and take the time you need to follow your muse when things are good.

Leave Yourself Hanging

Am I contradicting myself again you ask? No, not at all. Even if you get on one of the beautiful rolls above, where your words are flowing like the water over Niagara Falls, when you stop, leave yourself hanging.

Stop writing at the point where you are excited about writing what comes next. Be that the next point you are making in a non-fiction work or the cliff hanging, nail biting end of a chapter in fiction, stop there. I have heard of writers who stop in the middle of a sentence.

If you are excited about what is coming next, you will be anxious about sitting down to write again, excited about it instead of dreading it. Make no mistake, writing is work. It is a job. But you can make it much more enjoyable for yourself, to the point where most days you actually enjoy going to work.

This is just a small technique and not one that always works. Often as a freelancer, you have to finish the article and submit it. Or you are under deadline with a publisher for your next novel, or even your own deadlines (more on this later in the series). Sometimes you have to write “The End” as you finish a writing session or writing for the day.

The more you can do this for yourself, the better. The more excited you are to write, the less likely you are to quit, and the more likely you are to write every day, keep a schedule, and give yourself the freedom to write more when you are on a roll.

Don’t Stop Believing

Sorry for the cheesy song reference, and you can thank me for humming the Journey hit the rest of the day by buying one of my books. Or more that one, if you really love Journey or even just this one song.

But this is important. There will be times in your life when no one around you believes in what you are doing. It will seem like no one understands you, and you will never make it as a writer. Tell them to shut up, and keep writing.

Believing in yourself is an easy thing to say. It is much harder to do, and there have been some dark days, some dark times in my life. I have been where you have been, and if you struggle with believing in yourself or acceptance, reach out to other writers. We really do understand.

We also want you to be successful. That means that no matter what, you believe in yourself. No one else will ever be as big of a fan of your work, and you are your harshest, yet most important, critic and cheerleader.

So don’t stop. Keep writing. Keep working. Keep believing in yourself, and you will finish whatever it is you are writing. Then you can move forward in this process of production to the parts we will cover next.

Because once you have mastered writing some words, gotten yourself into a writing habit, and finished what you are working on, you need to move forward and do something with your writing.

I’m going to teach you exactly how to do that.

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Why Self-Editing is Not Enough

Double commas. Simple typos. A word that is not misspelled, per se, but is just in the wrong place.

Software grammar checkers like Grammarly are getting better all the time, but we as humans keep thinking of ways to trip them up. Microsoft Word is even getting better without the Grammarly plugin, but it still misses things from time to time. That is because it uses a machine learning program: it learns from us as we type, tell it to ignore certain issues or add words to our personal dictionaries.

Google docs have another delightful feature: the dictionary will even correct the spelling of celebrity or popular athlete names, just as if you had searched Google for them. Once again, machine learning and an enormous database mean spelling and grammar correction is getting better all the time.

But it still isn’t human. Sometimes sentences are too long, or the word order just does not make sense. You are not clearly getting your point across.  This is where a human editor comes in.

Think of your story, or your article, or whatever you have written as a fire. When you created it, you created a lot of smoke. An editor’s job, really, is to clear away all of the smoke. The problem is, since you created it, you often don’t see the smoke yourself.

Repetitive Words and Phrases

As writers, no matter what level your experience, we tend to repeat words in close proximity to one another. “That” is extremely common, and most of the time unnecessary. But we repeat other words, like the phrase “as well” or “in light of.” We often use “though” and “however” much too often and too close together, especially in non-fiction.

You can catch these when doing self-edits, but it takes a conscious effort. Often, if you read your work aloud or have it read to you by a program like Natural Reader, you will notice your mistakes before you submit your piece or publish that blog post.

Someone else reading your work will probably catch the error right away. They can then flag the word for you so you can substitute a synonym or somehow reword your sentence to eliminate it.

Word Blindness

Sometimes we use the wrong word in place of the one we actually want. But when we read over our own work, we see the word we meant to put there. This is called being word blind and is why editing and proofreading by another set of eyes is so critical.

The editor will see the wrong or odd word usage even when software does not catch it. These types of errors not only make you look unprofessional in some venues, but they often throw the reader out of your narrative, making them wonder what you meant.

Clarity

A software grammar checker can tell if your grammar is wrong (sometimes) or if your spelling is off (most of the time) but it does not know the point you are trying to get across.

Hopefully, your work makes enough sense and you have structured it in a way that your editor can tell what information or plot point you are trying to convey. If not, and editor can simply say “I don’t get it. What do you mean by this?”

So far, software editors, at least those available to the general public, are not able to do this effectively. As machine learning matures, they may get better, becoming very IBM Watson-like in their evaluation of your work.

Until then, and maybe even then, you need another set of human eyes on your work, one that will see your repetition, decipher your word blindness, and help you clarify your language.

Self-editing is not enough. You need an editor, someone to take an objective look at your work with a fresh perspective. It is one of the many ways to make your work the best it can be.

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