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Almost every piece of advice about story-writing comes with a disclaimer
Results may vary! Doesn’t work for everyone!
The only universal truth is that in order to write a book, one must write. At its most basic, we all write the same way: one word after another.
But how we get from a blank page to a novel is not basic. Every writer has their own methods and practices.
Herded Words is all about finding your methods and practices so that you can write your stories. Who are you? What works, and doesn’t, for you?
Let’s get started – there’s a lot to do!
1. Preparing Yourself to Write
The first thing you have to do is prepare yourself to write.
A Writing Space
You’ll need a writing space. This can be anywhere – some people prefer cafes, some prefer dungeons. You do you. You don’t need a perfect space, just somewhere you’re comfortable.
Next up is supplies. Gather everything and keep it in your writing space (or in a portable container).
I’m talking physical supplies like pens, pencils, post-its, highlighters, wet wipes, paper, notebooks, a computer, etc., I’m also talking about technology like software, apps, etc.,
My personal physical supplies include a book of cheap graph paper (I don’t know why I prefer graph, but I do), a Moleskine for my purse (you never know when you’ll want to jot something down), colored fine markers, pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a million post-its.
For technology, I use a 2013 MacBook Pro and Scrivener. You don’t need the latest and greatest technology to start writing – you just need something.
Schedules & Deadlines
You’re not done getting ready yet. You should evaluate your schedule and set yourself some deadlines.
When can you write? How much time a week can you make? Are there things you can stop doing to get some extra writing time?
Setting a deadline for yourself can help motivate you to keep going. But make sure it’s a reasonable deadline. An 80,000 word novel at 1,000 words an hour (your speed will vary) means 80 hours of writing. That doesn’t include planning, editing, research, staring at a blank screen, etc.,
Prepare Yourself Resources
19+ Must-Have Tools for Writers
Make writing easier with these tools. Including tools for grammar, writing, organizing, productivity, and more!
Writing Software Review & Comparison
A comparison of popular writing software including Scrivener, MS Word, Novlr, 4theWords, and more!
Scrivener Review: The Best Writing Tool!
Scrivener is the writing software that I use. Learn why with these 7 things that make Scrivener the best writing software.
7 Steps for Setting Writing Goals that are SMARTER
Learn how to set and achieve SMARTER writing goals this year, including common examples and fixes for common problems.
There’s still a lot to do before you dive in and start writing your novel.
Ideas can come from anywhere or everywhere. Maybe you have a million ideas, but if you have none don’t worry we can help with that!
Big, small, long, short, crazy, boring – it doesn’t matter! An idea is an idea. Find yours, write them down. You don’t have to use all your ideas – that would be impressive – but you can’t use what you don’t have.
Once you have the ideas, it’s time to evaluate them. Can you turn your idea into a story?
Ideas aren’t stories and not all ideas can become stories. An idea can be anything but stories need a plot, characters, settings, etc., Making it even harder, sometimes our ideas just don’t suit us as writers.
Planning (aka Outlining)
I think outlining is the most personalized and debated aspect of novel writing. There is no right or wrong way to plan your novel!
There are those that plan every single detail, those that just start writing, and those that fall in between. Common terms to describe them are planners, pantsers, and planters.
The best outline is the one that works FOR YOU! I can teach you my 15 Step Master Outline for Fiction and it’s what works for me. I believe (firmly) that it can help anyone. HOWEVER, it will help you the most if you’re willing to be flexible with it and change the parts that just don’t suit you.
That’s what outlining is. It’s preparing a story idea as much (or as little) as you need so you can start writing. The key is YOU.
Personally, I don’t like to interrupt the flow of writing with research. I like to do as much research as possible before starting the novel. Then, I make a note of anything I want to research as I’m writing. I do additional research at a time separate from writing time.
My #1 research tip is to make a list of names before you start writing. I usually make a list of about 50 male and 50 female names. This means I can easily choose names while writing AND I can make sure that my names aren’t all too similar.
Making Style Choices
You’ll need to decide on a number of style choices for your book. What genre will you be writing in? What tense and point of view will you use?
The genre of your story will influence the length, how much research you’ll need, and more.
There are four points of view: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Limited, and Omniscient. There are 3 tenses: past, present, future. It’s extremely uncommon for novels to be written in the 2nd person or the future tense.
Beating Writers Block
You’ve done everything above and you think you’re ready to start writing. But writing is where a lot of aspiring authors lose focus. So many writers use writer’s block as an excuse to never finish their story. Don’t be one of them!
Where to Find Creative Writing Ideas & Inspiration
Learn 9+ places that you can find ideas and get inspiration for your novel, including examples.
Is Your Novel Idea Worth a Book?
Take your idea and apply these exercises to it to find out if your idea can become a whole story.
Find the Outlining Process that Works for YOU!
Learn about 5 common & popular outlining methods plus how to customize them for plotters, pantsers, and planters.
How to research a novel: the 7 most up-to-date tips
Much of the advice available on researching novels is now dated. So this blog post includes the best modern tips on how to research fiction, with a case study included.
Genres of Books Guide
Check out the top 10 genres most requested by literary agents. Includes examples and common word counts for each genre.
Past Tense vs Present Tense
A comparison of past vs present tense including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
Point of View in Literature
A comparison of point of view in literature (first, third limited, and omniscient) including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
How to Banish Writer's Block Permanently!
Learn how to banish writer's block with these tips, techniques, tools, and methods of motivation & inspiration.
3. Start Writing
It’s time to start writing! Get those words down on the page.
Try to avoid editing as you write, there will be plenty of editing when you’re finished the first draft.
Here are some additional resources that might help you while you’re writing.
Writing Resources: Plot
Guide to Plot
Learn the 5 key plot points of every story.
How to Write a Hook
The hook is the opening of your story. Learn the four elements of a hook.
How to Write Exposition
Nail your exposition period with these 5 techniques.
How to Write the Inciting Incident
Master the inciting incident with these 4 essential elements.
How to Write Rising Action
The rising action is the period between the inciting incident and climax. Learn how to nail your rising action with these 4 elements.
How to Write the Climax
These 4 elements will make your climax unforgettable!
How to Write Falling Action
The falling action is an important part of your novel. Get it right with these 4 must-have elements.
How to Write the Resolution
What's the purpose of the resolution? Find out and see if you should skip it.
Adding Subplots to Your Story
What is a subplot and how do you add one? Learn three popular types and three common methods for adding subplots to a story.
Writing Resources: Character
6 Essential Characters
These are the 6 must-have characters for any novel: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, skeptic, mentor, and love interest. Learn why with modern examples.
How To Write a Main Character
Learn the 3 required qualities of main character with modern fiction examples.
How to Write an Antagonist
Learn the 4 types of antagonists, get 5 tips for writing an antagonist, and see modern fiction examples.
How to Write a Sidekick
Learn the 4 qualities of every sidekick, 7 roles your sidekick can play, and see modern examples.
How to Write a Love Interest
Learn the five loving qualities of a love interest and see modern examples.
How to Write a Mentor
Learn the 8 mentor qualities & see modern fiction examples.
How to Write a Skeptic
Learn the importance of the skeptic character and their two roles. Plus, see modern fiction examples.
Guide to Secondary Characters
Every novel needs more secondary characters than just the essential ones. Learn the six roles of secondary characters with modern examples.
Guide to Minor Characters & Extras
A story world is filled with minor characters and extras. Learn their four jobs and see modern examples.
Developing Strong Character Relationships
Learn the 8 relationship types and why your novel needs them all. Plus, see modern examples.
Writing Resources: Other
How to Write Dialogue
Learn how to write dialogue with these 6 tips and tricks.
How to Use Dialogue Tags
Learn why "___ said" is the best dialogue tag you can use (plus breakdowns of modern fiction).
Show vs Tell
"Show don't tell" is bad advice. Learn why you need to show AND tell in your story (plus tips to help you improve your showing).
Writing Women in Fiction
Learn how to write fully developed female characters by avoiding common (and harmful) tropes.
Guide to Grammar
Learn essential grammar tips for fiction writers. Plus see software recommendations and advice for hiring an editor.
Chapter One: Tips
Your first chapter is one of the most important. Learn 5 must-have elements of the first chapter.
How to Foreshadow with Flair
Foreshadowing is a little preview or tidbit of what's to come. It doesn’t have to be huge (and often isn't). Learn how to foreshadow like a pro!
Narrating Dreams & Visions
Dreams are like flashbacks, but different. Learn how to write interesting dreams and visions!
Dos and Don’ts of writing flashbacks
Everything you need to know about writing flashbacks.
4. After Writing
You’ve finished the first draft – Congratulations! Don’t celebrate yet though, there’s a lot of editing work to do. The Creative Penn has great information about what to do next!
Get Started Writing YOUR Book
Now it’s time for you to start your own novel. Follow the steps above and use the resources and you’ll have a completed novel before you know it.
Everyone starts at the same place – with the first word of their first novel. Get started with yours now.
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