Tools and Resources for Writing (How I Became a Romance Writer, Part 4)
Need to catch up on the entire How I Became a Romance Writer Series? Click here to read every post.
In the last installment of the How I Became a Romance Writer Series, I revealed the reason I decided to write romance. And today, I’ll tell you how I did it, both the tools and the method. (This is a monster post, so you may want to bookmark it.)
But first, the secret, the one thing that is required before you can be successful.
Your book requires a deadline.
Putting a stop date on a project means you are serious about completing it. It’s no longer a hobby; it is a job. You expect to complete your story on a set date, and by doing this your mind, your muse, and your mojo conspires together to make it happen.
If you say you’re working on a book, you’ll always be working on it. If you say you’re publishing a book on August 15, then you’ll do it.
See the difference? If you take nothing else from my writing routine below, please take that message to heart. Because you can spend a lot of money and time trying to write a novel. Working on a novel. Waiting for your novel to take shape.
Or you can spend a fixed amount of time writing a novel, knowing from word one when you’ll finish and training your mind and muse to work to a deadline. And once you harness your creative power in that way, you’ll never flounder again.
How to Outline a Novel
You know those writers who say the character speaks to them, that they merely transcribe the story as the character relates it? I’m not one of those writers.
I suspect most writers are more like me. We imagine a group of characters, a specific scenario, and we wonder what will happen if we keep throwing difficulties and obstacles in their way of achieving a goal. The characters cannot invent these twists and turns, because if it were up to them, they’d get their happily ever after in chapter two, right after they meet the sexy hero.
Some writers do it with a detailed outline from the start. We call them Plotters. Some writers are Pantsers, writing by the seat of their pants from page one. I’m somewhere in the middle, plotting a general outline of my story through Beats, a method I learned from Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, two professional writers I admire for their productivity, quality, and professionalism. It still gives me some wiggle room if I want to change things up midstream.
Click here to learn Sean and Johnny’s method via Udemy for just $19. This is money well spent, and the same course I took that transformed the way I work.
I don’t use a ton of tools or programs for writing, mainly because my main tool is so comprehensive and I use the methods outlined in the Udemy course above.
I am a diehard fan of Scrivener for writing books. Unlike Word, Pages, and Evernote, Scrivener was created specifically for writers and the way we work. From the ease of writing, to the ability to move my scenes around until they fit, to saving my cut text, to the side-by-side comparison, to the ability to create location and character sketches within the book, I will never write without Scrivener again.
When I am editing, revising, and cutting my books, the last thing I need is technology that fights against me. Scrivener flows with me, making the difficult job of writing as easy as it can possibly be.
The bonus comes at the end of the writing, though. Compiling the book for print, PDF, Kindle, iPad, and other formats takes a fraction of the time as it does working with other programs.
Scrivener is cheap, and when combined with the method of outlining with beats that I revealed above, it has become the secret weapon in my writing business. Without it, I’d produce less than half of what I do and with a lot more aggravation and stress.
My other writing tool is Grammarly, a tool that helps me correct my writing before I send it for editing and proofreading. You may ask why I do this step, when I’m already paying professionals to do the same thing.
The reason is two-fold. First, I learn from Grammarly about my normal writing mistakes, tendencies I have that need to be corrected. When someone else corrects my work, I can’t learn from my mistakes.
Second, I don’t pay professional editors and proofreaders to simply fix stupid mistakes. I want them to polish my book, to make the story sing. Their services are far more valuable to me than simply correcting typos or grammatical errors. And when I give them a clean copy of a manuscript, they can spend more time on polishing my words than fixing my mistakes.
Grammarly has a free option to try. I use the Premium service and pay a discounted annual fee of $140, though you can pay a monthly fee for the Premium service with no discount. Click here to find out more on Grammarly.
Focus@Will is a music site designed to boost productivity. I use the Drums & Hums channel to focus on my writing in twenty-five-minute bursts of concentration with a five-minute break in between. After four of these sessions, I take a longer break of twenty to thirty minutes.
I can generally hit my target of 2000 words per day in three sessions.
This method of working is called The Pomodoro Method and is named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. What I like about Focus@Will is that I can combine their productivity-boosting music with the Pomodoro system of working to give me maximum results in shorter time period.
Focus@Will has a free two-week trial period. I pay the discounted annual subscription of $49.99 for this service, though you can pay monthly.
In addition, I keep a spreadsheet to track my line count during those sessions. This one activity has helped me more than double my production per session in just six weeks. Because I write with Scrivener, I always have a counter of my day’s work available, so tracking each session’s productivity takes only a few seconds.
My spreadsheet is simple, tracking the date, the number of Pomodoro sessions, and my total line count in each session. I also have a comment box to note anything that affected my production, positive or negative. I can look at a glance to see my production and easily figure out what’s helping or hurting me.
If you work in different locations or different times of day you may want to add that data in to see where and when you’re most productive. (I write at the same time every day and at the same location.)
I am an indie publisher with my husband, which means sourcing ISBN numbers, beta readers, editors, proofreaders, formatters, and designers ourselves. We create our websites, manage our social media and email marketing, and write our own blogs and website content.
Much of this we can do ourselves, but there are some things we need to outsource. The most obvious one is book cover design. We like 99Designs and have used this service for several of our nonfiction books and all of The Late Bloomers Series books. What I like about the service is that we can state what we generally want, let designers interpret that in a number of ways by submitting concepts, and then allow our readers to vote on the ones they like best.
It is market research and design rolled into one. And the cover I like NEVER makes it to the final round, which tells you how bad my taste is in choosing book covers. I don’t think I’m in the minority on this, as most authors are not professional designers or marketers. I have a tough time distancing myself from the book to see it objectively, so I allow professional designers and my market decide for me.
Click here to find out more on 99Designs and how it can work for you.
Books on Writing
There is a danger in reading too much about the craft of writing, mainly because it keeps you from writing. But there are some books I’ve found helpful on the craft of writing and the process of publishing.
Write.Publish.Repeat, by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. You’ll see that I’m a big fan of these guys. They are professional, prolific, and personable, all the things I strive to be. They publish over a million words a year, and their repeatable methods are easy to replicate. If your goal is to become a professional writer, making a regular income from your books, then this comprehensive book is your roadmap to the process and mindset that will get you there.
Do the Work, by Stephen Pressfield. This short book is my go-to resource for battling Resistance, that evil voice in my head that tries to turn me away from work and productivity when I’m most prone to making a breakthrough. One quick read and I’m back on track.
The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. Learn about preparation and harnessing productivity from this accomplished choreographer. You will never think of creativity the same after reading this.
That’s it, my tools and resources as a romance writer. This is how I get the manuscript done, but it is certainly not everything. Every single writer needs an editor, no matter how long she’s been doing it, and smart ones rely on beta readers and proofreaders as well. And that’s the subject for part five of this series, so stay tuned.
To keep you enthralled until then, catch up with the five women of The Late Bloomers Series in this free story about New York City, New Year’s Eve, and a surprise chance at love. All I need is your email address to know where to send it! Click here.
Originally published at betsytalbot.com.