Starting Your Book—Step 1: Planning

Photo by Polina Kovaleva

“Go, sit upon the lofty hill, And turn your eyes around, Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound. The summer sun is faint on them— The summer flowers depart— Sit still— as all transform’d to stone, Except your musing heart.”

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What are you holding in your musing heart that wants to make its way onto the page? Fall is a great time to refocus and honor our impulse to write—herbal tea, spiced cider, or mulled wine by your side.

And it isn’t too soon to establish a plan so you can finally start that book that’s nestled down inside your heart at the beginning of 2024.

To help, here’s your first step in building a solid foundation for your first draft.

PLANNING

Grab the downloadable, fillable handouts mentioned in this video right here.

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy writing!

Do You Really (Really, Really) Want to Write Your Book? Investing in Yourself is the Answer

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I know many of you want to write a book, or at the very least, have a regular writing practice. I also know that way too many of you are struggling to make it happen. Creating, developing, and maintaining a writing practice requires both intention and attention. It also requires a whole lot of self-love. Making a few tweaks to your thinking could very well make all the difference and set you on your way to not just starting—but finishing—that book that’s been rumbling around in your mind and heart for way too long.

Think of it as an investment in yourself.

I always tell my clients and workshop participants that honoring our impulse to write and create is an act of self-love.

I believe this impulse to create is our life force wanting to move and flow, and when we stifle it, we experience dis-ease on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. Living in the modern (read: capitalist) world puts most of us to the test when it comes to honoring our creativity—and sometimes even recognizing it.

To truly tend to our own precious minds, hearts, souls, and spirits, we must tend to our creative impulses and invest in ourselves.

So, how can you invest in yourself when you want to write a book?

Privilege your writing practice in your mind.

Make it as important to your day as all the responsibilities you make time for on a regular basis. Instead of thinking I’ll get to my writing after I’ve taken care of X, Y, and Z, think I’m going to write XX days each week (or XX hours or XX pages).

Tell people.

Let people who are close to you know that you’ve made a decision to privilege your writing. Tell them what you need from them to make it happen. Time? Space? Quiet? Respect?

Give it space—in your day, on your calendar, and in your home.

Change some habits if you need to. Reduce time spent on social media, TV, and shooting-the-breeze phone conversations to create more time in your days. It all adds up.

Mark it on your calendar and treat it with respect. If you had a doctor’s appointment for yourself, for one of your kids, or for your pet… or a meeting at work, you’d remember it, you’d plan the rest of your day around it, and you’d show up for it.

Designate a spot in your home as your private, personal writing space where no one else is allowed. If you’re not able to do this, find a time when the people you live with are out of the house or asleep. Or find a place outside your home where you can write. If you don’t need quiet, coffee shops and pubs are great places to hole up and let the words flow (and you’ll be supporting local business at the same time!). If you do need quiet, head to your local library and find a quiet corner (some libraries even allow you to reserve a separate room to use for a specified period of time).

Get a new writer’s notebook.

Think of this notebook as a place for you to jot down your ideas and thoughts—about your writing—that drift in and out of your brain as you go about your day, as you’re drifting off to sleep, or when you first wake up in the morning. If you’re a journaler, you can keep doing that, but in a separate notebook. A writer’s notebook and a journal are two different things.

Read.

“Reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” So says Annie Proulx. Read books in the same vein as the one you want to write. Read books that are different from the one you want to write. Read short fiction. Read non-fiction. Read novels. Read poetry. There’s something to learn from them all.

View yourself as a writer.

Instead of seeing yourself as a parent or an employee at a company or organization who wants to write, see yourself as a writer who happens to also be a parent and/or an employee. And if you’ve yet to be published, it doesn’t make you less legit than people who have been published.

If it helps, use a mantra. Say I am a writer over and over in your thoughts throughout the day. Or writing is not a luxury. Or writing is an act of self-love. You’ll start to believe it.

Know that it’s a mind game.

So much of the act of getting the words on the page—is all in the mind. When we can think about writing differently, we can show up for it and give the creative impulse inside us the respect it deserves.

What can you do to move your writing practice further up your list of “Important Things To Do”?

Sending you mad writing mojo…

10 Steps to Plan for NaNoWriMo

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October will soon come to a close and November will be upon us. That means it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month.

This will be my first year taking the challenge. Instead of officially registering for the event on the NaNoWriMo website, I and my writing group are doing the challenge to get our in-progress novels completed by the end of November. (I’m about one-third of the way in on mine…)

Having intention is one thing, but we need to do more if we want to see success with a challenge of this magnitude. Planning is essential, and it paves the way for successful implementation.

So first, let’s look at the goal itself.

The NaNoWriMo challenge assumes approximately 50K words total. That equates to 1667 words per day (5 double-spaced pages / Times New Roman 12 pt font) or 69 words per hour.

Having these numbers in mind will help you begin to break down the task into manageable pieces.

Now, here are some tips to help you do that.

  • Plan—Take care of any business or obligations in your life that can be completed before November.
    • If you celebrate Thanksgiving and it’s traditionally your job to shop and cook, make your shopping list before November 1. When the day comes, enlist people to help you. (Do it!) And if you absolutely must miss writing on this day, decide where you’ll double up on another day—in advance—to stay on track.
    • If you have other special days to celebrate—an anniversary, a birthday—again, get your shopping done before November 1. If you need to mail packages, get them wrapped and ready before November 1. Mark the trip to your package delivery service on your calendar.
    • Create a Plan B. No matter how much we plan, people and situations beyond our control can interfere. If you have a solid Plan B in place for the days that go awry, they won’t throw a giant wrench in the works and will only derail you for a short time.
  • Schedule—Block out the times you’ll write on your calendar. (I’m a geek for calendars, so this is one of my favorite parts of preparing for projects.)
    • Determine which calendar works best for you: digital or analog. (I use a combination of both.)
    • Reserve blocks of writing time in your calendar. If you use digital, color code those blocks time with a color ONLY used for writing. If you use analog, use a highlighter to accentuate the blocks of time you’ve designated for writing.
  • Shift Your Mindset—Rather than think of the challenge as daunting, make it fun. Starting with a defeatist mindset from the get-go (or at all) will be a giant deterrent to successful completion.
    • Write down mantras. (“Writing is fun.” “This draft is only for me.” “Perfection is not necessary.” “My writing comes first.”) Or make up your own. Repeat them to yourself every time your mind drifts into defeatist territory.
    • Write a letter to the voices in your head. Let them know they are not welcome, at least, and especially, not for the month of November.
  • Commit—Treat your commitment to NaNoWriMo as you would a commitment to someone you care about very much. Make it a priority. Privilege it (at least in your thinking) above all else. Just for a month…
    • Clean and prepare your workspace. This will send a message to your brain that this is important, that you mean business, that it matters to you.
    • Enlist the help of family and friends. Tell the people in your life what you’ll be doing. Tell them how much it means to you. Ask for their help in the form of respecting the times you’ve set aside to write.

For more detailed and hands-on help, check out the first four COMPLIMENTARY modules of my Conjuring Clarity course, created to help you accomplish these first four steps.

Now, for the writing itself.

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  • Know your people—Make a list of your protagonist(s), antagonist(s), and supporting characters.
    • What traits and characteristics define who they are as people? Think big. Think small.
  • Know your people’s backstories—Knowing your characters’ histories will inform why they want what they want and why, as well as what obstacles they will face, both internal and external.
    • Where are they from? Where are they now?
    • What has happened to them in the past (especially their deepest wounds).
  • Know your milieu—Make detailed notes about your story world. Do research beforehand, as needed.
    • Where does your story take place? What are the characteristics of this place?
    • When does your story take place?
    • Do any special rules apply to your story world (as in fantasy, sci fi, or magical realism)?
  • Determine your opening scene and inciting incident—Having a clear starting place will go far to start you off with a smooth beginning.
    • What is your opening scene? How will you set the stage and engage the reader? What does the status quo life of your protagonist look like when the story begins?
    • What (inciting) incident or event will turn your protagonist’s world on its axis and set them on their journey?
  • Create an outline—While it’s true that we gain insight about characters and what they want and why as we write, having some kind of framework to focus on will help you keep moving forward with a tight deadline like this.
    • What is your protagonist’s deepest desire and why? (Hint: This is oftentimes connected with their wound from the past.)
    • Given your protagonist’s personality, how will they attempt to realize their desire?
    • Given what your antagonist wants, how will he/she/it interfere with your protagonist’s progress?
    • What’s your ending? This can be hard to know sometimes, but make a guess for now, then set up a series of events and/or key scenes that you know will be relevant to the storyline.
  • Relax, trust, and let go—Surrendering to the process, letting go of any preconceived ideas about the finished product will give you the creative space to see you through to November 30.
    • Think of this draft as an abstract painting. Put down what comes to you without feeling the need to edit as you write. (You can do that in December.) Use big, broad brushstrokes. Use tiny, finite brushstrokes.
    • Be willing to both stick to your outline and shift your course when new, surprising ideas show up. This is the give and take of the creative process.

Want to go even deeper with Steps 5-8? Check out the second four modules of the Conjuring Clarity course.

Want to go even deeper with Steps 5-8? Check out the second four modules of the Conjuring Clarity course.

Want to go even deeper with knowing your people by experiencing the magic of the Writing Through the Body™ method?

Check out the COMPLIMENTARY Intro to Writing Through the Body™ video.

Check out the entire Writing Through the Body™ course.

I hope these tips help. Please let me know, in the comments, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Then, come back after November 30 and let me know how it went.

And remember… ANY progress is good progress. We can do this!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy writing!

Johnnie
XO

How Understanding the Crown Chakra Can Improve Your Writing

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When we have defined the shaping of our characters’ identities (Root Chakra); understood their sense of self-awareness in relationship to others (Sacral Chakra), their displays of agency in the world (Solar Plexus Chakra), and their supporting characters and antagonists (Heart Chakra); listened to them speak (Throat Chakra); and tuned into their intuition (Third Eye Chakra), we stand a better chance of reflecting their transformations.

 

The Crown Chakra is about having a deeper knowing about one’s life, perspective based on wisdom and experience, and an understanding of one’s Self as part of a much bigger picture. When a person reaches this level of development, she has been able to make meaning of her experiences, actions, and reactions.

 

If we’re writing fiction or memoir (because we are writing about a period of time in a life), we want to envision an ending, if possible. Sometimes this take a fair amount of writing to know the ending. Sometimes the ending comes to us early in the process.

 

This has something to do with perspective, and more precisely, point of view. Not only do we want to understand our protagonist’s perspective about life before, during, and after her transformation, we also need to decide who can best tell the story.

 

In the case of fiction, the story may be told in first person from the protagonist’s point of view, or it may be told in third person by an omniscient narrator or a combination of both by another character.

 

In the case of the non-fiction, self-help/how-to category, you will likely use a combination of first person and second person point of view. You will also want to be clear about who your Ideal Reader will be after she has followed your plan based on your method, process, or program.

 

Write a significant scene in your story (fiction or memoir) from first and third person points of view, considering the options for third person: totally omniscient (an all-knowing voice that has insight to all characters’ thoughts and feelings), partially omniscient (an all-knowing voice that has insight to only the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings), or a more subjective point of view from one of the other characters.

For a non-fiction book, try writing passages both with and without second person “you.” The tone you want your book to have will determine which is the right choice.


Please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you discover.

 

 

How Understanding the Third Eye Chakra Can Improve Your Writing

 

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We’ve all heard how important it is to listen to and trust our intuition. But what about our characters? How do we know what they intuit? When we spend time truly getting to know our characters, our people, no matter our genre of choice, we can start to hear their intuitive thoughts. This is the Third Eye Chakra. These intuitive thoughts may be thoughts that pass through the minds before they speak, and use the power of the Throat Chakra. Or they may be thoughts that remain locked inside the confines of their minds.

 

For fiction, consider the thought that crosses your protagonist’s mind that he disregards right before making the choice we know will create more strife for him.

 

For memoir, consider your own life trajectory and make note of all the times you disregarded your intuition – those times you said, after the fact, “I knew I should have…” Think of your overarching desire, in the context of the time in your life you want to explore, and all the ways you were detoured from that desire.

 

For a non-fiction, self-help/how-to book, think about what your Ideal Reader must know deep down about herself to want to learn about your method, process, or program and change her life.

 

One of the best ways to understand a character’s intuition is to listen to her thoughts. Write an interior monologue piece of the thoughts that pass through your protagonist’s or Ideal Reader’s mind, the thoughts she doesn’t want anyone else to know about. Write it as a stream-of-consciousness piece. Then write it as a more controlled expression of your protagonist’s thoughts.

 


Please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you discover.