by Ron Vitale
You might ask yourself: How am I going to make time? Where do I begin? Why would I do this to myself? These are the questions I asked myself when I decided to start writing Lost: Cinderella's Secret Diaries back in 2009. I had two young kids, worked full time and actively ran several times a week.
For many years, I dreamed of being a writer and publishing my books, but I did not know where to begin or what to do. Over the last three years, I've learned a lot and want to share that with you.
Make the Decision to Start
I can clearly remember the day I decided to write my book. I brought my laptop with me to work and during my lunch I shut my door, fired up my laptop and started to write. The biggest step for me was making the decision. I made a commitment to myself that I would write the book, invest in my talent and to finish. I did not have a plan, wasn't certain how to move forward, but I did some soul searching and realized that one of two things was going to happen:
- I could talk about writing but never do it.
- I could start writing.
It was that simple. I realized that I wasn't getting any younger (I was 38 years old at the time) and no one was going to swoop down and offer me a book deal. I either had to leave my dream behind or embrace it and make it happen on my own. I chose to make the commitment.
Build Your Network and Plan
After I had made the decision to start writing my book, a few things became clear to me right away. I had no plan, no networks and I didn't know where to begin. So I sat down, started writing and just kept writing. That wasn't much of a plan so with a little hindsight (three books published, a short story collection and another novel on the way), I've learned a few tips that I'd like to share:
- Tell your family, friends and fellow writers of your decision to write a book.
- Write a general outline of what your book will be about.
- Set a schedule on when to write and keep to it.
- Keep track of a chapter by chapter synopsis as you write your first draft and list all the characters' names and who they are.
The above list will help you to stay on target. When I started out the first week, I took comfort in that I had told my family and friends of my goal and the act of sharing this information on Facebook, Twitter and in face-to-face meetings kept me honest. I had made a decision and I wanted to stay true to that promise. To stay committed wasn't easy and I needed to find a way to balance work, life and everything in between.
Now when I start a book, I not only tell my friends and family about my goal, but I share my progress on all my social media platforms. I'll even blog about my progress. There have been times in which I hit a bump in the road, can't dedicate time to writing for other commitments and being able to share the process helps me overcome the challenge.
Now that I write out a basic outline (really, really general--a couple of paragraphs) and then a chapter by chapter synopsis, I'm able to go back, look at the work I've done later and remember where I am, what's working and what isn't. I'm building a road map along the way, and when I go back to rewrite my book, I can easily get to a part to fix a particular scene easily. My books tend to be 82,000 - 87,000 words. Trying to find a scene in that many words is like trying to find a pin that's dropped on the ground. It's not easy.
Make the Schedule Work for You
On January 2, 2013, I started writing Found: Cinderella's Secret Diaries (book 3 of the series) and on December 7, 2013 I had finished the book to the point that I could share it with with my beta readers. How did I get from zero words to more than 82,000? One day at a time. This is the hard part that many writers find difficult. Some writers can do the NaNoWriMo method and crank out a book in one month. Many full time novelists are knocking out a book every two to three months. At this point in my career, I can't do that.
I leave for work by 7:30 a.m. and get home after 6 p.m. and often am checking email and working off and on up until I go to bed. In order to complete my book and not give up during the process, I wanted to come up with a schedule that would work for me. I wanted to set realistic writing goals. To do that, I came up with the following schedule:
- Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday: Run
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: Write
On run days, I go out and run before work (or before my kids are up on a Sunday). On writing days, I get up and write before work. Some days I write more than 1,200 words, some days it's only 300 words. I have a very loose goal of 3,000-4,000 words that I strive for each week.
The key to my success is to lessen the pressure. I do not set unrealistic goals for myself. Saying that I have to write 1,500 words every writing day is not going to work for me. There are days in which work or family priorities stop me from writing and that's okay. For the last four months, I had realigned my goals to train for the Philadelphia marathon. I chose to put writing my book in a lower priority so that I could train and raise money for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation to help kids with cancer. After the marathon, I changed my priorities and put writing back up at the top of my weekly "to do" list.
The key here is that I allow room in my schedule for unexpected events, time off, different writing projects or whatever life throws my way. Could I be working harder? Yes, I could cut out my running and focus more on writing, but I'm choosing not to do that. Since I've started this schedule, I've found out what works for me and I'm happy with that. I try really hard not to compare myself with other writers because when I do I get frustrated thinking that I should do more.
Don't Listen to the "I Should"
We are our own worst enemy. There is nothing more disheartening than loading up your work in progress and thinking: "I'm only 11,000 words in, I'm never going to finish this." Remember when I mentioned my writing network, friends and family? When I hit moments like this, I reach out and share how I feel. With my current book, I finished the first draft and knew that the book sucked. I had no nice way of putting it. I had spent more than half a year writing and hit a wall. I talked to people, shared my concerns with trusted friends and then after I had a little time to lick my wounds I jumped back in and rewrote. The rewriting process was hard because I had to throw away whole scenes and write from scratch entirely new plot lines. Taking a break and then rewriting has helped my current Cinderella's Secret Diaries book, but I know that I have a long way yet to go. The book still needs work.
But that's okay. I've finished writing the book and have sent it out to my beta readers. While I'm taking a break from the book, it's giving me time to write blogs like this one, spend time with my family, and read. Do you see how this works? The key to writing a book, finishing and publishing is to have realistic goals, a support network and a plan that works for you. There is no special magic to any of this. It'll take a lot of hard work, but it is possible and you can do it.
What to Do When You Finish?
When I finished my book, I decided to publish via Amazon using Kindle Select Publishing. In today's world, there are many options. What worked for me, may not work for you. But if you are curious about my indie publishing story, I've written up my experience over the last few years. The important thing is that you set your goal, follow your dream and achieve it at your own pace.
Don't give up, work hard and believe in yourself. When I completed Lost: Cinderella's Secret Diaries and read it on my Kindle and held the print version in my hand, I smiled. I realized that my dream of being a novelist had finally come true. Doors have opened for me since then in ways that I did not see possible. And it all started with a simple decision: I want to write a book. If my dream could come true, so can yours. Dream it, work it, believe it.
Ron Vitale is the author of the dark fantasy series Cinderella's Secret Diaries who hopes that his children will grow up to find their own voices and not allow others to dictate who and what they can be.