Five Steps to Help Start Your First Novel

When I tell people that I’m a writer, sometimes I get the response, “Oh, I’ve always had this great idea for a book!” or “I started a book years ago that I just never finished.” 

Writing a book and then finishing it is an incredible feeling. I’m always excited and extremely proud every time I finish a book. I want everyone to experience the joy of writing a book. 

If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, here are five steps to get started on your book writing journey. 

Step One: Plotting Your Plot

Before writing books myself, I thought writers instantly thought of their whole story when they got an idea. A lot of my stories came from just a sentence, like, “I wonder what living in a mobile home park is like?” or “This is so good, it’s like I died and went to Heaven!” As long as you have an idea, your plot will build around that. 

Step Two: Insert Main Character Here

I would say don’t just think of who is starring in your story, but what their aspirations are and how they’ll change at the end of the story. 

Sometimes writers name their characters accordingly with what they do in the story. In my book Saving Flight 926, my main character’s name means “heroine”. It’s fitting for a girl who saves the lives of her classmates. 

Step Three: This is InTENSEifying! 

A story can either be told in past or present tense. Personally I just prefer past becuase it’s easier, but I have written a story in present tense. If your story is full of “in-the-moment” action, you may lean toward present tense. 

Step Four: You, Me, or a Fly on the Wall? 

After picking your characters, decide how you want your story to be told. Point of view, or POV, can be in first, second, or third person (aka the fly on the wall perspective). I prefer first person because I feel like I can better connect with my characters that way. If you want to be more neutral, choose third person. Writing a choose-your-own-adventure story? Then second person is the way to go. 

Step Five: Sitting Down to Type

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when starting that first chapter. Sometimes writing can be so scary that you don’t want to start. Just remember that this is a first draft, and it’s okay for it to not be perfect. 

So don’t worry when writing your first novel! It may seem scary or overwhelming at first, by following these steps and writing a little at a time, you’ll be on track to finishing your first novel in no time! 


You “Watt” not Believe it: 5 Years Since I Joined Wattpad

Five years ago, I was a senior in my Christian high school, talking with one of my friends from the drama club during lunch. She loved to write, and I loved to write. She suggested I join Wattpad.com, a website where I could share my stories, and read the stories of others.

On a Wednesday night, bored after finishing my homework and without something to watch on TV, I opened up my laptop and registered as the user “dreamsmadereal,” simply because being an author was/is my dream and this was helping to make it a reality.  That night began a journey that would change my life. To celebrate this five-year milestone of being on the site almost daily, I’m counting down the five biggest highlights that have happened over the years.

5. A Whole Lot of Books

My first night on Wattpad, I posted a few of my poems. Today, I have 19 posted stories on my profile, three of which are short story and poem collections. At the time, I’d written only three chapter books. Right now, that number stands at a monstrous 14, with number 15 about halfway done.

4. So Many Numbers

A lot of things can add up over five years. The night I started I had zero followers. Today, I’m at over 1,100. All those followers mean a lot of reads. After freaking out that my poems got ten reads each overnight in 2012, today all of my Wattpad works have a combined total of 136,673 reads. Yes, I personally went and added all that up.

As an editor and critic, I actively use the discussion boards, or “clubs.” In five years, I’ve posted on the discussion boards 5,358 times, mostly in the “Improve Your Writing” club. Hopefully I’ve helped a lot of writers!

3. I’ve Got the Power

For a few months back in 2014, I was an official Wattpad moderator. It was so exciting to help out on the site and have face-to-face video calls with people who I considered Wattpad legends, who I was working alongside. Sadly, due to college life and my internship (that turned out to be a scam) eating up a lot of my time, I had to exit the moderator train, and would someday love to get back on.

2. The VIP

Back in the summer of 2013, I was a rock star…an editing rock star. For a short period of time, on the “Find an Editor” thread, Wattpad would be listing a section of VIP editors. They would appear at the top of the thread so everyone could see. After recommendations from a lot of satisfied Wattpadders, I made it to the VIP list, getting tons and tons of requests a day.

1. What’s Hot? My book is!

My number one Wattpad highlight involves me actually being number two…of 22,000, that is! Still a newbie to the site in April 2012, I posted my most recent finished chapter book, “Hype.” Since my main character was a devout Christian, I put it in the tiny Spiritual story category. Hype was slow to catch on at first, but then took off like a rocket. I suddenly found myself getting 700 to 1,000 reads a day. At that rate, I climbed all the way to the number two spot in the “What’s Hot” list for Spiritual stories. In this case, I’m fine with being number 2 out of 22k.

Well, there you have it, my top five highlights in five years of Wattpad. Here’s to another five years or reads, edits, critiques, and whatever else comes my way!

 

Things to Remember Around the Competition

I started worrying last night. Today is the first day of my very long anticipated Fiction II class. The intro class really kicked my butt so I’m pretty nervous about how tough the higher level will be.

Of course, when you’re in a writing class, everyone is always whispering about who the “best writers” of the class are. Everyone is going to be looking over your work. One bad paragraph could ruin your reputation, so it’s easy to start stressing about everyone else. Here’s a few tips on how to stay cool when you’re around another group of writers.

1. Remember that no one else is perfect: 

It’s true though! Every writer has their flaws, and everyone will mess up at some point. Let’s be real, we go through TONS of ideas before we finally have a winner.

2. Don’t let titles or fancy awards get to you: 

I’ve had classes with award winning writers, people that are top editors for the school paper, and people with tons of publications. It can feel really intimidating at some points, or even all time. (Mostly all the time for me). Just remember that you’re all in the class to learn and improve your skills.

3. Everyone has different strengths: 

I get worried in fiction classes because I’m stronger in nonfiction. Everyone has areas of writing that they’re better at than others, and that’s totally okay!

4. Be yourself! 

While it may be intimidating to be around a bunch of competition, just remember to relax and be friendly. Having a good relationship with the class will make being there that much easier.

Four tips, because I just can’t think of a fifth one for some reason. Enjoy the rest of your week everyone.

Why Real Critics Shouldn’t be “Sugar Coating”

A while back when I first started doing critiques on Wattpad, I noticed a common trend in the posts of the advertising critics. This trend was usually at the bottom, and was under the caption “Sugar Coating.” These critics wrote in their post things like, “I will sugar coat” or “Please let me know how much sugar coating you would like.”

I was baffled. If they weren’t going to be giving honest reviews, then what were they doing? Well, when you look at it, being a Wattpad critic is a great way to get follows or reads on your own story.

Then again, I’m sure that many critics know the backlash we receive when someone doesn’t like what we have to say. I’ve been called a “bully” and a bunch of other names by Wattpadders.

The thing is, we shouldn’t let that stop us. There is no way on earth that I’m going to stop telling people what is wrong with their story because I don’t want them to get upset, or hurt their feelings. I’m not saying you should be a jerk when you go out and critique someone’s story, but you definitely shouldn’t be super nice.

By doing this “sugar coating” and giving them nice feedback when their story actually stinks, you’re only damaging the writer. That doesn’t help them improve and could even lead to cockiness. Because let’s face it, when people tell us our stories are really good, it bumps up our ego a notch.

Ending point: Don’t sugar coat. Be yourself when you critique. If you’re not giving helpful feedback, you might as well not give it at all.

 

How it Feels to (Kind Of) get a Shout Out From John Green

Photo courtesy of John Green’s Twitter

It’s only been two days, and I feel like this is already old news. I was going to publish this yesterday, and I had the whole entire post written except for the featured image, but, thanks to the school wifi, I wasn’t able to post it and it didn’t save a draft.

So, anyway, the other day I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I saw a picture of John Green pretending to look like the guy from the movie “Her.” There was also a screenshot of a comment on this picture. A user, known as TheAutisticGuitarist, commented on YouTube, “I loved you in ‘Her.'” That user is Desmond, my boyfriend.

So I really love John Green, saw the movie “Her”, and am the girlfriend of the guy who got the shout out. That counts as “kind of” right? And just in case there are any doubts (because let’s face it, it’s really easy to make this kind of thing up), here is a picture of Desmond and I last Halloween, where he is wearing the same hat as he is in is YouTube profile picture.

des halloween

When I found this out, I called Desmond immediately and told him. When he saw Green’s post, he didn’t freak out like I did. He laughed and just thought the whole thing was a big joke. A world famous author mentioned him on social media, and he was laughing.

So this just goes to show that any normal day can turn into something extraordinary. You could just be sitting on the couch and all of a sudden your boyfriend gets mentioned in a post by John Green.

Things You Definitely Shouldn’t do if You Want Beta Readers

After four days of completing my first round of edits on my story Knowing You’re There, I am on to the next step in the publishing process: getting beta readers. While I’d love to have a great post for you guys about how successful I’ve been, I have the exact opposite. So, I’ll use my failed attempts to have a laugh and help you guys as well.

So here are five things to NOT do in the process of finding beta readers:

1. Ask Your Friends

This so far just hasn’t been successful for me. If my friends were in the writing field, not busy college students, and were being paid, you would probably have more luck.

2. Ask Your Relatives

I just haven’t even attempted this one after my past outcomes. Three years ago, all I asked my sister for Christmas was to read my short novella Euphoria on Wattpad. I gave her three months to read the 80 page book. Instead, I got a Spongebob DVD. My mom has not read a sentence of Saving Flight 926, the book I started in January.

3. Beg

If your current beta readers aren’t committed, they’re still not going to do it, even when you beg. If they’re busy or uninterested, they’re not going to do it.

4. Not Explain Your Deadlines

While I’m not a beta reader expert and really am kicking myself for not researching more on the topic, surely everyone needs a time where their beta readers should be finished. If you don’t give them a deadline, they may think they’ll have unlimited time. I literally just explained this to my boyfriend, who had no idea.

Tips for Getting a Writing Internship

I’m going to sway away from talking about edits and publishing progress to share a new experience that I had yesterday. As many of you know, I was extremely heartbroken to find out that the internship I worked so hard to get in January for the website University Primetime was a total scam.

Since then I had given up, then started trying again to find a new internship. I looked at websites again, but everything was “virtual” or solely online. I just can’t trust a place that doesn’t have an actual office. So I took a leap of faith and ironed my old blazer, fixed up my resume, and went to my school’s official internship fair. I knew that in between all the banks and logistics companies, someone, somewhere, had to need a writer/editor/journalist. So while I was there, here are a few things I learned.

1. Sell Yourself

Dressing up and bringing a resume are just part of it. Shake hands, introduce yourself, make eye contact. Talk a little bit about what’s on your resume.

2. Show a Variety of Skills

Writers don’t just write fiction or poetry. While in some areas we’re stronger than others, we can do a lot of things. We can copy edit our work, we’re vigilant readers, we most likely have a blog, and for college students, having to hand in a portfolio at the end of the semester for nearly every class makes us killer organizers.

3. Don’t Downplay Your Acomplishments

Even if you weren’t published in print or don’t have thousands of followers on social media, it never hurts to talk about a finished novel or that book you edited for a Wattpad user. Companies will like that you’re passionate and determined about something.

4. You Don’t Have to be an Ad/PR Major to Advertise

This was probably the most important thing that I learned yesterday. If a company says they need someone in advertising, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to shoot and edit a commercial or design a billboard logo. Many, many companies have social media that needs managing, blogs to update, and events/products that need to be advertised.

All of us want to make it to the big leagues. We all start small. In my opinion, writers are the absolute BEST people for advertising, because we do it all the time! We know all about compelling people to read and buy our works. We have blogs and tons of other social media accounts, where we post about our books whenever we get the chance. We’re social media gurus.

So if a company says they’re looking for someone to advertise, don’t forget to tell them all the experience you have with social media!

Best of luck to all you other hopeful writing interns out there.