Hey, guys! I just posted a few videos on my 5 Day Book Writing process on Snapchat. Add me via Snapcode by saving the photo below:
Hope to see you there!
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After I finished writing my latest novel, I went through a dry spell. The novel I worked on was an emotionally and physically draining project that I have worked on relentlessly for most of 2015. Unfortunately, however, through that entire year, I wasn’t able to finish anything else—except for a screenplay that I co-wrote which is turning out to be a total waste of time but more on that later.
Things were changing. My living situation turned 180 degrees, my savings were running low, bills were piling up and I was unemployed. It’s safe to say, I had a lot to figure out and my writing had a setback.
For months, I looked for ways to make money. I modeled for the most part and I thought I could sustain that lifestyle of working a few days a month in a convention or something, making enough to get by, and writing the rest of the month. It was easier said than done, especially since I wasn’t signed up with an agency and had to look for gigs all on my own. So between searching, applying, going on castings and calls backs, and daily trips to the gym to make it all possible, I had the equivalent of a full-time job without even knowing it. So I decided to sign up with an agency, get employed and try to fit writing into my schedule somehow.
Finding the perfect job was a challenge on its own. Living in Vegas, the natural choice would’ve been for me to work as a cocktail waitress in one of the casinos or bars and since a good job in that industry would earn me a lot of money from tips. But that kind of job would demand a lot of time and physical effort, I doubted I would’ve been able to find the energy to make myself dinner by the time I got home let alone write—and I’m big on making my own dinners, by the way.
It just so happened that my landlady had a friend who worked in the real estate business and they wanted an assistant. I applied and got the job. So now, for four hours a day, five days a week, I process mortgage loans. It’s a boring desk job that requires minimal thinking and offers an annoying boss that goes with it. And it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me as a writer and entrepreneur.
Here’s why. First of all, being that I get off work around 2:00 p.m., I arrive back home at a reasonable hour. It’s crucial to remember that I don’t have a car and a trip that takes 10 minutes in Vegas, takes me at least an hour with the bus. Being home early gives me time to cook, unwind and work out. Since the winter timing, I don’t go to the gym anymore, but I do have time to do at least an hour of exercise daily at home. After that, I have the evening to edit, read and work on an entrepreneurial project which I’ll share with you in due time. Also, since my job isn’t very demanding to begin with, I sneak a little note-taking time during work when my boss is gone or not looking.
“So when do you write?” you ask. Well, in the morning, of course. My work starts at 10:00 a.m., so I wake up at 6, sometimes at 5, write till 8:30, grab a bite and leave my house by 9:15. It’s all planned to the minute. I recently finished a screenplay. By writing two and a half hours in the morning I averaged around 5 pages. Not bad, right? Also, I get weekends off. So if I’m not shooting a movie or commercial or working at some convention, I get a lot of writing done as well.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m now a writing intern for Cliché Magazine? That’s right, I’m their new beauty writer. Add that to my list of tasks. Within a few month, I went from an unemployed girl who had all the time in the world and didn’t know what to do with it, to a girl with three careers, two jobs and a nascent business who is able to take care of all her responsibilities with a little organization and the sacrifice of a few hours of sleep.
It was important for me, being newly-employed and all, not to get discouraged by the relatively slow progress I was making as a writer. Usually, I’m much more prolific. But I had to lower my expectations and put less pressure on myself given the little time I had to accomplish what I wanted.
Another reason why this job has made me a better writer and entrepreneur is because I hate that job so much. God, I hope my boss doesn’t see this; she’s already on the verge of firing me for being “unmotivated”. Yes me. But anyway, that job is boring, monotonous, mentally limiting and I can’t wait to quit. And this dire urge to quit has made me work harder on my writing and other dreams.
So if you have a job that you hate, a passion that you’re hoping to turn into a career, and the will to put the effort to make it happen, all you have to do is find that small time slot every day, however short it is, and get yourself one step closer to where you want to be. How are you guys balancing writing with a job?
As I mentioned in earlier posts, I recently managed to write a novel in one month. To this day, it surprises me. Before that, it used to take me three to six months to write 50K words. The first draft of that novel was completed at 78K. Every night I would go to bed both satisfied and incredulous about the progress I was making. And now I want to share my process with you.
Say what you will about prolific writers, but they can’t get anything done before they find their story. Here’s a little anecdote about mine. I was lying sleepless in bed at 2:00 a.m., I had finished writing a novel a few days before, and I was homesick and plunging into depression when a tiny idea for a twitter post came to mind. It was simple and funny and I was about to post it when another thought struck me: “What if this thing is worth money?”
So I started taking notes and, needless to say, I lost sleep over that idea. The next day, I wrote a bit about it thinking that it would be a nice short story. It proved to have more substance, and I thought that I could turn it into a short story collection. But once I hit 3,000 words and it seemed that the story was far from over, I realized that the short tale was bound to become a novel. And a couple of chapters later, the novel became a book series. Obviously, I was very excited about this, which brings me to the second point.
A few thousand words into the book, it became clear to me that the world I was creating was very similar to the one I lived in. The idea was so organic to me and it fed off of parts of my life I was afraid to talk about. Which reminds me, that was a time when I tried to write my memoir. Yeah, I don’t know if you remember me talking about those, but I failed to finish them. Too much pain. When I translated that pain into fiction, however, words flowed, worlds were created, and pain began to heal.
This book gave me a reason to wake up in the morning and kept me up at night. I had to stop myself from writing because I wanted to conserve my energy for the next day. There was a time when I finished my writing day when my main character was in an uncomfortable situation and spent the rest of my evening blaming myself for leaving him there. It was the most passionate I had ever been about anything. But passion alone is not enough.
Now we can start talking numbers. Once I realized that I was writing a novel, I noticed that I was writing a considerable number of words every day. I always thought that 2,000 words a day was ideal. But I noticed that I was writing much more. So I bumped my daily goal to 3,000. I wasn’t set out to finishing the book in one month. Honestly, I had skipped too many NaNoWriMo‘s because I didn’t want the pressure. Nevertheless, the prospect was exciting. So I made a schedule comfortable for me.
Everyday, I would wake up around 7:00 a.m., make coffee and start writing. I would get hungry around 9:00 and have breakfast then carry on with writing. By 12:00 a.m. most day, I had a 2,000 words written. I took a break for an hour or two, made lunch and sometimes extended my break for a few more hours to read or take notes. Then, I wrote some more until I reached 3,000 words. Then, I stopped.
On average, I was finishing a chapter every two or three days. I started on December 4th, and by January 4th, I was done. It was not easy, even though I make it sound such. But it made me happy which made it easier for me to commit. I had to give up a lot of things for the sake of finishing the project sooner. I stopped going to the gym for instance, I stopped watching TV because I had no more time, I even started reading less because by the time I was done writing I was too exhausted to do anything else. My schedule was brutal, and I managed to stick to it most days. But there were certain days when I wasn’t as lucky, which brings me to the next point.
One thing people forget to learn about commitment is learning when to stop. And I’m not just talking about breaks within the day. Yes, somewhere along the way, I had created for myself an invisible, nagging boss with a strict deadline. Yes, I was enjoying writing and the task was not arduous at all. Yes, after getting used to it, 3,000 words a day became normal to me. However, I had my days as well. I stayed at home for an entire month, hands on keyboard, eyes on screen, mind occupied with people and places. Albeit those places and people provided me with an escape and solace; sometimes, however, I needed my break from them too. So I took it.
On the days I felt I had no energy or desire to write, I didn’t. This may not sound like the best idea, but when I was averaging 18K week, I let myself get away with writing no more than 200 words on certain days. There was a day when I wrote only 50 words. I had received some emotional news on that day that rendered me useless.
On days I took breaks, I went to the gym. I would advise other writers to stay active more often than I did, go out in nature and find a quiet place where they can reflect and relax without being too distracted. Also, I didn’t punish myself on the next day and I didn’t put pressure on myself to compensate for the words I haven’t written. For example, if I wrote 2,000 words on one day, I did not force myself to write 4,000 on the next. I simply stuck to my 3,000 words-a-day goal.
With this project, I took it day by day. Every night when I was done, I would praise myself for writing what I wrote and think about what would happen next. When a plot point revealed itself to me, I rejoiced. I was obsessed with the project. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about the characters, what they were doing and what would happen to them next in that book and in other books to come.
This was a prophylactic measure I didn’t know I was taking against writer’s block. When I was constantly thinking about the story, I knew exactly what to write the next day, and the only thing that I needed was to focus. Social media was banned. So was anything else distracting. Reaching me over the phone became impossible, having a conversation with me before 9:00 p.m. was out of the question. I was immersed in the story all day, every day. And it was the only way I could’ve finished it.
Another thing I did to keep me motivated was to reward myself. Sure the biggest reward came when I finished the book, but between every 25K I found myself rejoicing and allowed myself some room to celebrate. I actually didn’t realize that I was going to finish the book on the day I finished it. I thought it would take me a few more days but the story came to an end and surprised even me. It brought me to tears. The book made me cry many times actually but this was one of the most tearful moments. It was as though all of a sudden, all the efforts and emotions culminated and boiled inside my heart. I couldn’t fight the tears then. But surely after that I was fine and dried my cheeks with pizza and wine, metaphorically of course.
I know that it is very difficult for people who have jobs and responsibilities to follow this formula. I was fortunate enough to be unemployed at that time. Believe me, a book a month is not an average for me; I’ve been working on the sequel for that book for months and I still haven’t hit 20K. I’m sure, however, that if I followed that same formula and had the same levels of focus and dedication that I will be able to finish this new novel within an approximate time frame.
The first draft of my book was done at 78K. I knew the journey was far from over, but a major part of it was. Not only was this book the one I finished fastest, it was also the only one I edited and the one I’m most proud of now. I am happy to have shared this story with you and can only hope that one day a random reader will feel for this book a fraction of the emotion and passion I’ve put into it.
What was the fastest it ever took you to write a novel? And do you think that if you followed my method that you could finish your novel quicker?
[Photos aren’t mine unless otherwise mentioned]
I haven’t done the blog hops and nominations for a long time. But I felt that this particular post would be beneficial for fellow writers. I’m supposed to answer a few questions concerning my writing process, so here goes.
1. What am I working on at the moment?
I recently finished the first draft of the first book in a trilogy. I took some time off to unwind, so I will start editing that soon. Also, I’m working on a memoir. As for shorter work, I have a half-finished novella waiting for me to come back to it when I have time. Inspiration for poems strikes me when I’m half asleep, I write those sporadically.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I am a huge fan of thrillers, unforgettable tales, stories that keep me on edge and linger in my head for days after I finish reading them. My thrillers are different in terms that they are inspired by my personal experiences. My life is a thriller on its own. But there are chunks of my life that I extracted and developed into an idea for a trilogy.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write because I can’t but write. It’s the only way I can remain sane and it’s a great way for me to vent. When I was younger, I lived in an oppressive household. Writing was my only escape and it still is.
4. How does my writing process work?
On a normal day– which I haven’t had in months– I wake up around 7:00 a.m., have breakfast, coffee and start working on whatever project at hand. Noon, I take a break, have a snack, check my emails and blog. Afternoons are for editing, research, and smaller projects. Nights are for reading.
I hope this post was informative. I am supposed to nominate a few people, but I follow a very small number of people who are all inspiring and phenomenal.
Thanks for reading and feel free to answer those questions in a comment 🙂
Why do magazine editors tell writers to read a few of the magazine’s issues before submitting to them? It’s because they want to increase their sales or website hits, right? Wrong—well, partially right. But did you know that reading what your potential market publishes is more beneficial to you, the writer?
Writers love to read—or at least they have to read. Most of us have no problem reading novels. But if someone asks us to read a magazine or a literary journal, we need to stop and think about it for a long time before we decide we don’t need to. We think that if we read mystery thrillers, then we are fully capable of writing a short story fit for Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. Well, I used to think that way, until I read one—yes, only one—issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s magazine. I realized that the story I wanted to submit for that market was not a great fit. And after reading a few other issues, I realized what I needed to do to fix it.
“But, why?” you ask.
Because it’s that simple. You need to get the general feeling of a magazine before you can successfully submit to it. You need to know what subjects have been dealt with so you don’t repeat them. You also need to pay attention to certain details, especially in fiction, like the degree of violence, swearing, sex, etc… I’m not suggesting that a magazine is a monotonous mastermind that only publishes one thing or the other, after all, several authors contribute to every issue, and each one of those authors has his own style. You do need to be familiar with what the editors like before you send them your “masterpiece”. Your story sometimes is too much for a market—too good, if you want to believe that. You owe it to your story to get it published in the most suitable place, where your story’s counterparts are just as good as it is.
Think of reading issues of your potential market as going out on a date. There are different types of personalities, but even similar personalities have disparate likes and dislikes. If you like outgoing people, it doesn’t mean that you are going to be compatible with every outgoing person you meet. Every conversation with that date of yours will reveal something about their personality. After a while, you will have enough data to determine whether you want to continue seeing this person or not. Similarly after reading a few issues of a magazine, you will be able to determine whether your story is a good fit for it, if you need to tweak your work, or submit it somewhere else.
Hope this helps. What magazines are you reading?
If you happen to stop by Lebanon, Egypt, UAE, or any other country in the region, you might like to pick up the September issue of Sayidaty Magazine and read my new article Have More While Spending Less. I’m proud to be published by Sayidaty, one of the leading women’s magazines in the Middle East region, and I hope some of you will get a chance to grab this month’s issue and let me know what they think of the money-saving tips I suggested.