This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Anna Bell
Years ago I heard the quote ‘Swim the pool not the man’ from a really cheesy children’s sporting drama, but it’s a quote that has stayed with me for life. A swimming coach was telling a teen olympic hopeful to concentrate on swimming against the pool and not the man in the lane next to him. It’s a brilliant bit of advice for any walk of life; always do your best and don’t worry if the person next to you is in front or behind you. It’s especially applies to writing.
It’s very easy, especially in the age of the internet, to think that everyone else is ahead of you. No matter what stage you’re at with your writing, social media can give you the impression that everyone’s doing better than you. From seeing a fellow aspiring author who’s just got an agent requesting a full manuscript, to a fellow author who’s renegotiated their book deal and ended up on mega bucks. It’s hard to distance yourself and stop comparing other people’s successes against your own. After all, their success does not prohibit your success.
I recently started planning a new novel. Over the last few months I’ve been reading numerous blogs on how to plan novels and there are some brilliant ideas. I loved Michelle Gorman’s idea to use a spreadsheet to plan story lines against characters which highlights at easy glance chapter by chapter the plot and what happens to each person. It sounds like a great way to check the balance of story lines. I also love the idea of writing plots on post-its and moving them around to get them in the right order. Yet I’ve never given either of these methods a go as I know that that’s not how my mind works.
This time, I planned my novel using the three act structure, then I started writing. It wasn’t long before I realised that I’d planned too big. I knew my characters’ motivations, the big plot lines, the dramatic climax and the obstacles in the way of my MC. What I didn’t know was what happened in the gaps. What were the subplots? What was going to get my MC to the obstacles? I had to stop at 5,000 words and plan the next 20,000. I sat down and thought about the little details and came up with five or six chapter ideas to really get me into the novel. It seems to have worked. It’s not particularly methodical, but it works for me which is all that matters.
I do admit that I’m addicted to reading writing tips – Novelicious is very helpful in this matter, but it’s worth remembering, as with any writing advice, that’s it’s not gospel. There’s no right way to write a novel. There’s no set time limit of how long it should take you. You might be a Speedy Gonzales or you might be tortoise, it doesn’t make you any better or worse a writer for it.
So here is my writing tip – ‘Swim the Pool not the Man’. Read as many tips and advice as you can and then make your own mould for writing a novel, and don’t worry about what any other writers are doing around you.
Do you have any inspirational quotes that you use?