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How to Write a Novel in Just One Year

How to Write a Novel

How to Write a Novel

The first of the year can be a disheartening time for writers.

The zeal brought on by ambitious resolutions has worn off, and, with each passing day that you don’t write, the sting of failure grows less acute as you sink back into your regular, creativity-free routine.

You don’t have to settle for failure. If you didn’t follow through on your writing resolutions, perhaps you simply need a new approach.

For all you aspiring authors out there, sticking to a writing schedule in the new year can help you achieve your goal to start (and even finish) that book you’ve been planning to write.

Maybe you’re the kind of author who experiences sudden bursts of inspiration, or maybe you’ve had an idea percolating for a while. Whether you’re starting from scratch or dusting off a rough draft, writing a book is hard work that requires dedication from start to finish.

Researching, writing, revising, editing, and proofreading your manuscript may sound like a daunting task, but harnessing the power of a writing schedule can help you create and achieve attainable writing goals, whether you’re starting January 1st or right now.

Prioritize Your Writing

The best way to incorporate writing into your daily schedule is to find out when you do your best writing, when you’re free to write, and how to keep yourself motivated. It’s also important to have a dedicated work environment to stay on task using methods that allow your creative juices to flow.

Every individual author has a different writing process, and understanding yours will help you write efficiently. Be sure to consider the following:

  • Time of Day: Are you a night owl who finds your sweet spot around 2 a.m.? Or do you function best early in the morning, before the kids wake up? Regardless of when you’re most loquacious, try writing at a consistent time of day. This will strengthen your writing routine.
  • Location: Do you work best in a quiet room, free of distractions? Or do you like the bustle of a coffee shop or music playing softly in the background to help you focus? Finding a compatible writing environment is essential for many authors to enhance their productivity.
  • Writing Tools: Do you type, write in cursive, or print in block letters? For some, ideas might flow more easily from rapid strokes on a keyboard than from a pad and pencil, while others prefer the feeling of a pen against paper to really get their creative juices flowing. Even famous writers use unconventional means of writing to meet their deadlines.
  • Motivation: While writing, do you respond better to positive or negative reinforcement? That is, do you stay motivated by rewarding yourself (e.g., with breaks, snacks, activities, or cute pictures of kittens) or by working under pressure? Motivating yourself with rewards or stressors can help give you that extra push to stick to your writing schedule.
  • Routines: What is your daily routine? Writing is unlikely to become your go-to activity in every spare moment unless you make the conscious decision to form a writing habit. Author Bryan Hutchinson recommends that you commit to writing “at the same time every day so that it becomes a natural, automatic part of your day, regardless of whether you feel inspired or motivated.”

With all these factors in mind, find what works best for you, and make the decision to keep working in the way that suits you best.

Set a Production Schedule

Unlocking the Art of Fiction WritingTo get an accurate idea of how long your book will take to write, you’ve got to set a total word count that’s appropriate for the scope of your project. Are you writing a 10,000-word short story or a 60,000-word novel? Knowing how long your work might be will help you create a realistic writing schedule.

Another thing you need to know is how quickly you can produce new material. How many new words can you write per hour (excluding rewriting)? This might be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words. It’s totally okay if you’re not very fast; the idea here is to recognize your typical output level and work with it.

You should also consider how much time you have available. For writers who have full-time jobs, it can be hard to commit to a solid writing schedule. You may even have to sacrifice other activities. But, only once you decide to build writing into your daily routine will you start seeing results.

What’s the formula for your daily writing schedule? Here are the two equations you’ll need to solve:

  • Your weekly productivity = the number of words you can write per hour × the number of hours you have available per week
  • The number of weeks it will take to complete a first draft = the work’s approximate number of words ÷ your weekly productivity

So if you need to write an 80,000-word manuscript, but you can only write 10 hours per week at 1,000 words per hour, it’ll take you 8 weeks of writing to complete your first draft:

80,000 ÷ (1000 × 10) = 8

Keep in mind that this is an ideal equation that does not account for interruptions, delays, cases of writer’s block, or sudden waves of inspiration that you ride for 48 hours straight to finish your manuscript.

Set Writing Targets

If you’re not a word-generating machine that can pump out words in a constant, uninterrupted flow (honestly, it would be alarming if you were), don’t worry—writing targets can be either project-based or process-based. In other words, you might set a goal for yourself to finish a chapter by the end of the week or to revise a poem or short story by the end of the day. Whether or not you find having a weekly word count goal appealing, having a daily or weekly target can help you stay on track with your writing schedule.

Set Deadlines for Your Writing Process

Now that you have an idea of what’s involved in creating a writing schedule, let’s look at the step-by-step process that serious writers follow to see their work in print.

To start meeting the demands of your writing schedule, you must have a thorough understanding of the various aspects of writing: outlining, researching, writing a rough draft, rewriting, editing, and proofreading. Every writer will find a timeline that works for him or her, but the following sections outline a writing schedule that’s roughly based on the process I used to write my master’s thesis, which was about 25,000 words. You can either expand or condense it to fit your production schedule.

Month 1: OutliningYearly Writing Schedule

Some writers come up with their best material simply through the act of writing, and not everyone follows all stages of the pre-writing process in succession. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent idea to plan your writing before you launch into writing an ambitious manuscript.

A clear outline will help you avoid wasting time writing paragraphs or chapters that you might eventually just throw out (though you might be forced to do that to some extent in the rewriting stage, anyway).

The basic idea here is to create a skeleton of the key subject matter of your book, including the major plot points of a novel, the order of events of a memoir, or the main topics of a non-fiction work (such as a biography).

Months 1–3: Researching

Once you’ve identified the key topics you want to write about, take some time to get acquainted with them.

Experience and insight are often the best teachers for believable writing (whether fiction or non-fiction), but some topics will require extra research.

However, unless you’re writing an academic research paper or a science-based, realistic portrayal of an intricate process, this prewriting stage might not necessarily involve scholarly articles and monographs.

There are alternative ways to research a topic for writing. If you’re writing a young adult novel set in 2017, you might need to understand the quirks of teenagers’ conversations, whether online or in public, to write believable dialogue. Or maybe you’re writing a memoir, and you want to recapture the sights and sounds of your old school’s playground.

Sometimes, observing phenomena or interviewing individuals from relevant demographics is the best way to incorporate realistic material into your new book. Other times, you might need to dig a little deeper and conduct research online or at the library.

The bottom line is that you’ll write with more authority and precision about topics you know and understand. You don’t want to commit a factual error like some of these famous books and movies did.

Months 4–8: Writing a Rough Draft

You’ve got your outline and the necessary background information, and you’re raring to go! Finally, here comes the fun part: writing your first draft.

There’s a lot I could say here, but the most important advice I can give is to be like Dory: “just keep writing.” Another important maxim is to stay consistent but flexible: if new ideas develop while you’re writing your rough draft, don’t feel bound to your original outline, but you can still refer to it to stay on track.

Don’t sweat the details at this stage. I know it can be tempting to be critical of your mistakes, but your rough draft doesn’t have to be perfect—it’s called rough for a reason.

Month 9–11: Rewriting and Editing

If you’ve ever written a novel or a book in a short time, you might find yourself wondering what to do next. Basically, you want to take time at this stage to step back from your work and look at it through the eyes of your reader. This will allow you to rewrite and edit appropriately.

Rewriting might involve adding, cutting, or rewording passages. Try examining your book chapter by chapter and then re-reading it as a whole. Are there any gaps in continuity? Is the tone consistent throughout? Is there any unnecessary information that could be cut? This stage could take as long (or longer) than writing the initial draft. Examine your manuscript critically in terms of structure, organization, and style.

Once you’ve revised your manuscript and edited it to improve word choice, clarity, flow, and overall readability, you’re almost ready to polish your book for publication (the ultimate goal!).

Month 12: Proofreading

This is the final stage of the writing process. It’s important not to get caught up in the mechanics of language too early, because it won’t matter how you spelled convalescent if you decide to cut the chapter on your character’s recovery from surgery.

Proofreading is meant to fix grammatical, typographical, and spelling mistakes to ensure a perfect final draft. This is especially important if you’re hoping to get your book published, so consider enlisting the help of a professional proofreading service that will review your manuscript with fresh and experienced eyes.

Conclusion

Deciding to write a book is one thing, but finishing it is another thing entirely. We’d all love it if our ideas could form themselves perfectly in our heads and immediately spill onto the page in well-ordered lines of eloquent text, but alas, that’s not how it works.

Just as bodybuilders must work out to achieve their fitness goals, so too must writers work hard. By adhering to a writing schedule, you can achieve that perfect final draft.

While reading endless advice articles from other authors and every book about writing you can get your hands on is one way to motivate yourself to succeed, the only real way to write a book is to do just that—write, write, and write some more.

Though it’s unlikely that you will write your book from start to finish without rearranging, altering, or rewriting any words, planning out a specific writing schedule will help you make writing part of your daily routine.

Don’t let this be another year of untapped ideas and empty notebooks. Make the commitment to set a writing schedule, and follow it until your ideas manifest from just a plan into writing on a page.

Image source: TRT Photo/BigStockPhoto.com

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The Best Software for Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing Software

Collaborative Writing SoftwareWorking on a team is necessary for success in virtually any professional scenario. You might be a business professional collaborating on a project with your colleagues. Or perhaps you’re an academic writer who is working on an article with your peers, hoping to submit it to a field-specific journal. In these scenarios, you need the ability to communicate effectively with your team to ensure the project goals are met on time.

Easier said than done, right? A team’s ability to accommodate conflicting schedules and differing perspectives is an art form, a tenuous balancing act.

To further complicate things, members of the team might be working from separate locations, whether that means different cities or different continents. This certainly complicates what can be an already convoluted process. It is difficult enough to ensure that group members communicate effectively. But when the members of the team are working from remote locations, it is even more crucial to implement systems and methods to improve the lines of communication and optimize interaction within the group.

Many professionals and academics work remotely on collaborative writing projects. Here’s the thing: there is nothing more confusing than sending out multiple versions of a document via email with revisions from each team member. Keeping track of a document’s version history is bound to hit a snag with this editing/revision process.

Collaborative writing software to the rescue! Software for collaborative writing allows multiple individuals to engage in the virtual, real-time writing and editing of a document. Many types of collaborative writing software are out there, each providing unique features, pricing options, layouts, and degrees of complexity. Of course, the ideal collaborative writing software depends on the specific project, as well as the price and complexity required by the user.

Collaborative Writing Software: The Best of the Best

1) Google Docs

When you hear “software for collaborative writing,” does Google Docs come to mind first? If so, it’s easy to see why. Google Docs is the prevailing software solution for this task. Multiple collaborators can simultaneously compose and edit a document. The keyword here is simultaneously: those who have access to a document on Google Docs are able to work at the same time and view the changes that other collaborators are making. What’s more, Google Docs is free to use, and any changes made to a document are saved automatically.

Prior to opening a file on Google Docs, users can either select a blank document or use one of several templates (essay, letter, lesson plan, report, etc.). Contributors can provide comments that are linked to specific portions of the text, and other collaborators may respond to the issues/concerns raised in these comments. Google Docs also sends emails to contributors when a file is shared with them. In addition, files can be exported in .pdf, .doc/.docx, or .odt format.

While Google Docs is one of the major contenders among collaborative writing software, it is not open source. Furthermore, the ability to track a document’s version history is limited, and documents tend to lag and become less responsive when many individuals are writing/editing at once.

2) Etherpad

In contrast to Google Docs, Etherpad is an open-source software for collaborative writing that allows multiple users to compose and edit documents. Etherpad is available for Windows and Mac/Linux systems, and it is ideal for recording collaborative minutes or brainstorming with colleagues. Etherpad color-codes the contributions made by different authors, and the changes that have been made to a document over time can be recorded and played back for review. Therefore, the ability to track versions of a document is more robust in Etherpad than in Google Docs.

Once the document is complete, the color-coded changes are integrated into the text to produce a more appealing, professional format. Etherpad is ideal for those who do not want to dish out an outrageous monthly payment. This resource is free, though donations are encouraged. The main downside to Etherpad is that users may be limited in their ability to include footnotes, figures, or images with their text.

3) Draft

Draft is a type of collaborative writing software that enables several collaborators to work with and edit a single document. The changes are not immediately integrated into the text, however. Instead, a new version of the document is produced every time a contributor’s changes are accepted.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside, as only the original author of the document can accept or reject other contributors’ changes.

While this feature permits users to easily keep track of the project’s version history, some may view this as a downside: only the original author of the document can accept or reject these changes. The original document is updated only when these changes are accepted.

Users must create an online account prior to using this software. Draft is unique in that it prepares analytics of an individual’s writing habits, such as the number of words produced by a writer per week. And, as with Etherpad, Draft is free.

4) Quip

Quip is a writing software suite that encourages teams to collaborate more efficiently. Members of a project team can work collaboratively on documents, spreadsheets, and checklists.

Quip Logo New

Quip provides a comment thread to facilitate interactions between collaborators as they work on a file. Users receive notifications of any changes that other collaborators have made to the document. What’s notable about Quip are the multiple platforms on which the software is supported (Mac, Windows, Android, iPhones, iPads, or online). Quip is also designed to be ideal for a mobile environment. While the business version of Quip requires regular payments (a free trial of Quip Business is available), a free version also exists.

5) Dropbox Paper

Though Dropbox has always been a great tool for sharing Word documents and file folders with multiple users, it has recently improved its capabilities for collaborative writing by introducing Dropbox Paper, a cloud-based software for editing.

This application can only be accessed online through a Dropbox account. In order to access Dropbox Paper (which is still in beta), users must first join a waitlist to receive an invitation to use the application. Project members can work together on a single document, with contributions from different users marked by colored cursors. Yet Dropbox Paper offers only three fonts and basic formatting options (underline, bold, strikethrough, and italics), which certainly limits your editing capabilities.

Dropbox Paper is ideal for managing a project because users can create to-do lists and notify team members of a task that requires completion.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it—the best software for collaborative writing. For those in academic or professional environments, working with group members from different locations is a reality. And though virtual group interactions can be complicated, these tools will help you avoid the cumbersome, hopelessly frustrating, sending-edits-via-email form of collaboration once and for all!

Image source: DesignCue/Stocksnap.io

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What Successful People Are Doing While You Are Sleeping In

What Successful People are Doing While You are Sleeping In

What Successful People are Doing While You are Sleeping InThere are few things more delicious than sleeping in, burrowing deeper into a heap of clean sheets and having breakfast brought in on a tray. Reality probably strikes closer to groggy protests and the inevitable panic when you realize you’ve hit the snooze button a few too many times. In either situation­—whether you’re lounging in luxury or running for the dry shampoo in lieu of a shower—people far more successful have already been up for hours. Have early risers caught on to something, or is the relationship between an early start time and success just coincidence? This is what the world’s most successful people—CEOs, self-made millionaires, industry tycoons, and world leaders—are doing while you’re still snoozing.

They’re staying fit

While it’s easy to want to exercise, the follow-through is much more problematic, especially when hectic schedules and innumerable life hiccups get in the way. It makes sense that those most successful get in their workouts in the morning before energy levels and willpower wane. President Obama starts every day with a workout at 6:45 a.m., by which time Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at Vogue, has already played tennis for an hour. Former Pepsi CEO Steve Reinemund wakes at 5:00 a.m. daily to run four miles, and Condoleezza Rice sets her alarm for 4:30 a.m. to fit in a sweat session. In this Yahoo! Finance study, more than 70 percent of executives exercise in the morning, and as such, benefit from revved up metabolisms, increased energy, better moods, lower stress levels, and higher productivity. A consistent morning exercise plan also brings that sense of control and empowerment so often exhibited by the world’s most powerful.

They’re staying current

According to CNBC, Warren Buffet’s morning reading includes the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the New York Times, USA Today, the Omaha World-Herald, and the American Banker. Bill Gates takes in the national news and various economic and business publications. Others add checking social media feeds to their morning news routines. Whatever the medium, leaders are making sure they are up-to-date on the world before going out into it.

They’re staying sharp

Icons of success use mornings to get a head start on important projects, before the slew of daily distractions, meetings, and interruptions compete for attention. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, is known to send out the day’s important emails at 4:30 a.m. Pre-dawn hours may be the best to tackle difficult projects as not only are you freshly recharged but you’re also primed for creative problem-solving directly after REM sleep. The peak energy levels you experience throughout the day are determined by your personal circadian rhythms, but that’s not to say that night owls should write off their mornings as unproductive. According to this article, your creative potential is actually at its best when you aren’t, so if you’re typically alert at night, you’re most likely to experience problem-solving breakthroughs in the early hours of dawn.

Successful people also take time in the early hours to cultivate mental health through meditation. The billionaire founder of the world’s largest hedge fund said in this interview that he attributes his success to early meditation. Bill Ford of the Ford Motor Company built meditation into his morning routine when he realized he needed a way to bring positivity to the workplace during difficult economic times. If in doubt, ask Oprah; she swears by at least 20 minutes of quiet to set the tone for a successful work day.

They’re staying personal

Demanding family schedules make it more and more difficult to organize evening meals. TV writer Nell Scovell found that her career responsibilities often ate into dinner hours, so she changed her family’s main meal to breakfast instead. Sharing your morning time with loved ones also creates a positive mental space to carry throughout the day. Morning family time for successful figures isn’t just about kids; morning sex triggers a boost from happy hormones that keep moods elevated and stress levels down as the day goes on.

The morning routines of the world’s leaders are absolutely achievable. While that snooze button may be tempting, rejecting excuses and adopting a few habits of the successful can only bring greater physical, mental, and spiritual health to your life. Take it from morning lark Benjamin Franklin: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Set your coffee machine on a timer, unroll the yoga mat, and give up your bed a little earlier for some well-deserved self-improvement.

Image source: arka38/Shutterstock.com

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Four Qualities to Look For in a Content Writer

Content marketing is a critical component of any web or social media strategy. As such, don’t you think it’s time your company started to produce quality content . . . or found someone who could do it for you?

Content marketing, the kind that catches eyes, minds, and hearts, takes more than words. While anyone can write, the real feat of creating quality content doesn’t come from putting words on paper or hitting publish on your latest blog post. It comes from the ability to produce a narrative that resonates with your audience. Quality content is masterfully crafted to increase awareness, generate interest, and ultimately inspire a reader to take action.

Who’s in charge of your content?

If you’re trusting your content to an intern or an administrative assistant, simply because they “know how to write,” you’re making a big mistake. Just because someone knows how to string sentences together doesn’t mean they have the talent, experience, or ability to deliver your message in a manner that will convince and captivate your target audience.

You wouldn’t hire a marketing manager to handle your accounts receivables, so why do you trust an inexperienced writer to produce the vast majority of your marketing materials?

If you don’t have the talent on staff, now’s the time to find an experienced content outsourcing partner. According to a recent report from Custom Content Council, 55% of companies outsourced their content development in 2011. This number increased to 62% in 2012. More and more companies are waking up to the importance of quality content—isn’t it time you did too?

Qualities to look for in a content writer

Not sure what to look for when searching for a quality content writer? The following are five important characteristics:

1. Punctuality

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. When it comes to content marketing and business writing, punctuality is paramount. If your writer can’t get assignments done on time, you’re just causing yourself more work and hassle.

2. Proven research experience

Quality content needs to educate its audience. It needs to include useful statistics and source information. Exceptional writers are constantly reading, researching, and learning—that’s how they’re able to create content that’s both accessible and educational. Which leads us to characteristic three . . .

3. Flexibility and adaptability

It takes a very specific kind of writer to produce marketing content. Like other writers, content producers are detail-oriented fact-finders. However, when it comes time to produce a blog post or publish an online resource, they know how to adapt their voice and style so that it suits their audience and medium.

4. Readiness

Content marketing is all about the here and now. Your audience doesn’t want to hear about yesterday’s news tomorrow. They want to know what’s happening in their industry today. Companies need to have content producers that are readily available.

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5 Books Every Work-from-Home Businessperson Should Read

5 Books Every Work from Home Businessperson Needs TN

5 Books Every Work from Home Businessperson NeedsTired of the office life? Many people aspire to work from home, but doing so requires a particular set of skills. It’s not all pajamas and cuddling your cat while bringing in the money; successful work-from-home businesspeople are excellent at time management, personal organization, work–life balance, and marketing their unique skills to maintain a livable income. Below, Inklyo has rounded up five books that offer great tips for working from home.

1. My So-Called Freelance Life, by Michelle Goodman

Written for female entrepreneurs, My So-Called Freelance Life has practical tips for working from home for anyone wanting to leave the 9-to-5 grind (not just women). The author, Michelle Goodman, has been a successful freelance writer for 16 years and shares her experiences and tips for working from home, while delivering her advice in a relatable, funny, and highly readable way! Michelle offers a thorough overview of what’s involved in growing a successful freelance career, and, although she is a writer, the basic principles she describes are useful for any freelance creative work.

My So-Called Freelance Life covers how to organize your clients and jobs to optimize your output, plan your own career path, plan your workload based on how much you want to earn, market yourself using a great web presence, network and gain clients through referral, and negotiate projects and contracts. It also covers legal, budgeting, and tax issues. Overall, Michelle offers some great pointers for those wanting to do freelance work and those who are already doing freelance work.

2. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam’s book on time management, 168 Hours, is one of those reads that people either love or hate. The author advises us to start thinking in 168-hour blocks (i.e., the number of hours in a week), monitor what it is we are actually spending our precious time on, and then cut the time-wasters. She offers sound advice for spending your time mindfully and on pursuits that further your career, relationships, and passions. In 168 Hours, quality is more important than quantity, and living a full life is as easy as out-sourcing the tasks we don’t want to do to make room for the ones we love. This is one principle that many readers have an issue with, but besides a tendency to whitewash the fact that time management may look different to people of various economic means, the core concepts of her book provide realistic tips for working from home.

3. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr, Dr. James E. Loehr, and Tony Schwartz

A work-from-home businessperson reading.The Power of Full Engagement is a powerful book that aims to help people change their perspectives on time management and their daily routines. The core concept here is that, instead of prioritizing the amount of time you put into your day-to-day actions, you should focus on the energy cost of those actions. An over-packed schedule not only creates stress but is also detrimental to productivity—which is especially important for those who work from home and depend on their own ability to self-manage. The authors explain the cost of spreading yourself too thin and how it affects your happiness, physical state, and engagement with life. These same positive and negative energies also affect how well you do your job. The Power of Full Engagement provides key principles to ensure that you are using your energy efficiently and in the way that is best for you, an important tip for anyone working from home.

4. Creative Personal Branding by Jurgen Salenbacher

Jurgen Salenbacher’s Creative Personal Branding is a great place to start for anyone wanting to learn more about developing their personal brand. In a world so driven by fast information and seemingly endless options, having a dynamic, recognizable personal brand is a must for anyone working from home. In this book, branding is explained in detail, from defining your own marketable skills to how to market those skills creatively in today’s global market. How well you present yourself has a huge impact on your success as a freelance businessperson or entrepreneur.

5. Organizing from the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern

Organization is not just for Type A personalities. Julie Morgenstern’s book Organizing from the Inside Out covers many areas of life and explains how keeping your surroundings organized can lessen stress, create more positive thinking, and increase productivity—all of which are important when you work from home. The book is laid out in chapters that cover separate areas of life, from your kitchen and your kids’ rooms to your office space and home-based business. Morgenstern’s goal is to help you build an effective strategy for tackling the disorganization issues specific to your life, so that you can forget about mental and physical clutter and focus on your own success and goals. The chapters about using technology to organize projects and resources are especially relevant and packed with tips for working from home.

Image sources: Startup Stock Photos, kaboompics.com