Wednesday, September 24, 2014

So you want to be a writer?

Do you get all starry-eyed when you finish a good book? Do you find yourself thinking . . . I would love to be able to do that, to make people feel like this . . . I could do it too, I know I have a great story in me! ?

If you do, you might be in terrible danger of . . . becoming an author. Ahhhh!

I used to feel that way. For many years, actually. And for a long time, it was just that: a feeling, a fleeting desire. As years passed, however, the feeling morphed into a sort of itch. It bothered me. Didn’t leave me alone. So one day I had no choice and—idea in hand—I sat down to write a first chapter. And lo and behold, I did it. I wrote one chapter! Yay!

Except that was it. The story didn’t go anywhere. Not so yay :(

Through the years, the itch attacked me few more times—enough for me to sit down again to write another first chapter and sometimes even a second. So much that today, the openings of several different books live stuffed in drawers and old folders around my house. Those stories never went anywhere either, especially not to “the end.” Still the need didn’t go away. It stayed and stayed and stayed.

One day, talking to my best friend—off hand, no big deal—I mentioned the itch. I think she saw the stars in my eyes, and knew—before I did—that I was meant to do this. Being the amazing friend that she is, she bought me a book she thought might inspire me. The book was On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I read it, devoured it, really, and from then on everything changed. The reason: the book contained the most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever received as a writer. It was nothing magical, nothing earth shattering, just a simple morsel of common sense advice:

Set a goal.

That was it. Set a goal: a number of words to write every day—no matter what.

But hell, you might say, who wants to set goals? Goals suck!

I’ve heard a lot aspiring authors say, “But I can’t be creative on a schedule. I have to wait for my muse to strike.” But I tell you, this isn’t true. I tell you, you can whip your muse into shape, you can train her to be ready when you are. Because honestly, who’s the boss? You? Or her?

Of course, training takes time. Michael Jordan wasn’t born shooting hoops and nailing every single one, was he? Just like no one was born penning novels in their crib. You start with baby steps, until you learn to run and one day maybe fly. I started with a daily goal of 300 words a day. It doesn’t sounds like much, but I’ll be honest: it was very HARD to do it every day. But I did, and after one hundred days I had 30,000 words. Half a novel! Way more than those lonely chapters I used to write.

From there, I increased my goal little by little. I went to 500, then 700. Now I write 1000 words every day, and I don’t bat an eye. It is actually a manageable goal, even considering my busy life with a full-time job and growing family. 1000 words don’t intimidate me. They used to, but not anymore. My record is actually over 8000 words in an 8-hour stint.

I don’t say this to brag. If, a few years back someone had told me that I’d be able to do this, I would have laughed and told them: NO WAY! No, I say this to illustrate the fact that goal setting works and it can help turn that elusive muse into your own personal b*tch—not the other way around.

So yeah, set a goal!

Post by me, Ingrid Seymour :)
Author of Young Adult and New Adult fiction

One commenter will receive a free ebook copy of THE GUYS ARE PROPS CLUB a fun and sexy new adult novel about two girls bent on breaking guys' hearts to avenge their previous heartache.

I'll pick a winner on Thursday morning. ALSO, all commenters are eligible for the September drawing for a KINDLE FIRE HD! So comment away.

For the month of September, Southern Magic celebrates their Readers Luncheon being held November 1 in Birmingham, AL. NYT bestselling author Sylvia Day is the keynote speaker. Come back and visit every day. Each post will be giving away a book or gift card! At the end of the blogfest, a grand prize winner of a Kindle Fire HD will be picked from everyone who comment during the month and be announced September 30. 

To register for the luncheon, go to Each attendee will receive a bag of books and author swag, sit at a table with one or two published authors, and opportunities to win baskets full of goodies.

[Image attribution: Photo by Celestine Chua, used under CC/No changes]


Charlotte said...

Hi Ingrid, Thank you so much for your post. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I'm notorious for starting stories and not following through. Also I have a be-jillion ideas running through my head at any given moment and don't take the time to write them all down, (my bad). I do have a list of general goals written down and I know I need to be more specific. It's almost like I'm catching butterflies with a net then letting them go. I do believe your words will help, I've never set a goal for a certain number of words per day. But I intend to begin tomorrow and write a hundred words. I'll have to start slowly. Thanks again for the motivation. Best wishes. I am baxleychar Best Wishes

Cari Hislop said...

I totally agree, On Writing by King is THE BEST book on writing I've ever read. He managed to kick me in the backside as well as push me up against a mental mirror and force me to face myself. Brilliant book. So many books about writing are rubbish - the worst are written by people who aren't even writers. I'll never forget the irritation of reading a passage where I was being informed that writing dialogue was the hardest part...and they weren't a fiction writer. How would they know? It's depends on the writer! I roll my eyes!

Goals are good. I try to make sure I have short, medium and long term goals. The thing I struggle with is how sometimes the larger goals seem to shift without my notice. Lately I've had to ask I want that big goal I've wanted for twenty years or do I want a different big goal? It's not as if there are goal police to worry about (though it can feel like it). I think when making goals it's best to be blunt honest with ourselves. Like you starting out with one hundred words and working your way up. I think that's awesome!

I don't personally use a daily word goal. I normally I keep a daily diary of my writing word count which then inspires me to try and match or beat the previous day's work. It gives me a visual map of how I'm doing. Even if my writing consists of deleting thousands of words that goes on the card too (I use those record cards in various colours). It's all about finding what works best for the individual. As for my muse - She's most certainly in charge! ;)

cari at thehislops dot co dot uk

Ingrid Seymour said...

Charlotte: I know what you mean about keeping track of all your ideas. I've started keeping mini notebooks my the bed and shower O.o I also send myself emails from random places. Sounds like your muse is hard at work! Thanks for stopping by.

Ingrid Seymour said...

Hi Cari. I've been telling myself I need to re-read that book since it has been a while. I'm sure I'll get something new out of it. I need to really make the time.

I love your idea of beating your own goals. I can be competitive with myself, so it might work. *makes note to try* :)

Meda White said...

I'm so ashamed. A friend gave me "On Writing" and it's in my TBR pile. Thanks to your post, I'm going to put it on top of the pile and start reading. :) Best wishes!

Ingrid Seymour said...

That's good, Meda. You won't regret it! Thanks for stopping by :)

bn100 said...

Nice advice

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Ingrid Seymour said...

The winner of the free THE GUYS ARE PROPS CLUB ebook is Cari Hislop. Congrats.

Shadow said...

Great post! Gotta say, ive felt that itch, even tried writing a few books, didnt even get past the first chapter, it was fun, frustrating. lol Im not much of a writer, ill leave that to yall! But i do adore reading! Ive set goals to get a certain amount of books read in a week, month. lol I agree with ya, goals definitely help! Thanks for sharing! I might just check out On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Thanks for sharing and for the recommendation! :)