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Becoming a Writer? Here’s Book 2 in the Series

Becoming a Writer? Here’s Book 2 in the Series

Today I am writing a review of the second book in Kate Johnston’s wonderful series, Writer Interrupted, A Handbook for the Emerging Writer. 

In Book One, Kate led us through the decisions one must make in deciding to become a writer.  Now in Book Two, she leads you through a strategy you can use  in implementing that decision.  I know, learning “strategy” sounds dull.  But, Kate leads us through it in her usual light hearted and informative way.

Kate starts out by reminding us the over riding reward we all gain from writing is pure, unadulterated, joy.  Writing is hard work…period.  Yet, we soldier on for the pure joy we derive in the doing.  And again, in her Mini-Journals, she outlines easy steps we can take to make sure we obtain the joy we deserve for traveling this road.

Writing is a skill.  Like any skill, learning it takes discipline.  Kate explains why setting goals is the most important thing you can do to build your skill as a writer.  But…just setting goals is not enough.  In describing her own journey of failing to set goals and the consequences that arose, she tells you the kinds of goals you should set and why.  Perhaps the most important point here is to note the only function goals have is to help you keep your quest on track.  The goal is not the quest, just as the map is not the territory.

Finding Your Groove

Next up is finding your groove.  That mystical place, where the words just seem to flow.  This is a highly personal task, which may need considerable effort.  The thrust of this is to help you determine what set of actions will allow you to show up and write every day.  I know,  writing every day sounds like drudgery.  But there are things you can do that brings joy to each session.  Recording voice memos on your smart phone, keeping a small pad with you to write down ideas,  scribble notes on paper napkins at lunch.  All writing counts.  It doesn’t have to be confined to one time or place.

Maybe for you the best thing is to have more than one project going at the same time.  I know this is what works for me.  That way if you stall on one thing, you can take a break and work on something else.  But, beware.  Managing multiple projects does take organization and the ability to shift attention.  

What’s Your Strategy? 

What’s your strategy?  Kate asks the question because you need one.  If you just sit down and write it’s called “pantsing”.  Writing by the seat of your pants. Many famous writers such as Lee Child and Harlan Coben write this way.  Other writers like J.K. Rowling create highly detailed outlines before ever writing a line of dialogue.  This is what I do.

I wrote a book using the pantsing method.  It wound up in the trash heap (where it belonged).  Now I outline down to the smallest detail.  For me, once I get the outline done, dialogue is almost like filling in the blanks.

If you don’t have a writing strategy yet,  Kate suggests you try both ways and pick the one that works for you.

Kate says she has invented a new system called “Plontsing”.  But, we’ll have to wait for Book 4 in the series to learn about it.

Word Count

And now… a word about word count (pun intended).  Kate points out the necessity of writers paying attention to word count.  First, as writers, we should be aiming for a goal of X number of words written per day.  Depending on how you write, you may want to tinker with the way the goal is structured.  It could be an average of X words per day, or X words per week, etc.  You get the idea.

Then you need to be aware of the general word counts expected for scenes, chapters, and books for the genre you are writing in. Kate cautions though, not to let word count get in the way of a good story.

Research

Next, Kate tackles three ways to do research.  Before, during, or after you write.  Determining when to do research depends on how you write.  If you have a fresh idea, you may be able to list the stuff you need to research before you start.  As a plotter, I find most of my research needs are discovered during the plotting stage. If you’re a pantser, items you need to research will turn up as you write the rough draft.  Then the actual research can be done between drafts.  Kate recommends not doing research as you write as it tends to disrupt the story flow.

There is an exception to this, however.  It occurs when the dreaded writer’s block strikes you.  The existence of writer’s block is hotly debated in the writing community.  Simply put, writer’s block just means you’re stuck.  There are several ways to overcome this.  Kate suggests just putting the project down and walking away for a while.  This gives your mind a chance to relax and allows your subconscious to come up with solutions.  And, here is where more research can turn up new ideas to get you unstuck.

As usual for Kate, she gives you plenty of ideas to try in her Mini-Journals at the end of each chapter.   These exercises will help you find the way to your groove.  That magic place where the words just flow.  Every day.  I highly recommend this book to everyone who ever even thought about becoming a writer.

Becoming a Writer? Here’s a Great Book!

Becoming a Writer? Here’s a Great Book!

Today I am reviewing a wonderful book “Writer… Interrupted: A Handbook for the Emerging Writer”, by Kate Johnston,

Have you ever thought about becoming a writer?  I remember when I did. It looks easy enough, right?  All you have to do is sit down in front of your keyboard (or pick up a pen and paper) and write.   Then…nothing happens.   Murphy’s First Law, “Nothing is as easy as it looks” has reared it’s ugly head.

Well, here is the good news.  In Writer Interrupted, Kate Johnston guides you through the action steps necessary to pursue that dream.

Writing is both a calling, and a craft.  If you decide to answer the call, then you can learn the craft.  Ride along as Kate details her journey from a child in love with story telling, to stay at home mom, to falling in love with writing again.  In the details of her emotional struggle you will find questions you need to answer in deciding your own path.

In the “Mini-Journals” at the end of each chapter, Kate gives you action steps to choose from.  Pick the ones that appeal to you.  Take the all important first step…”And, you’re a writer”.

Writers write because they have to, just as other people have to breathe.  But, where do writers come from?  A very few are born to it.  Most come to it later in life.  Kate leads a wonderful discussion about the origins and types of writers.  Which type do you aspire to?  Do you want to write for yourself or do you want to be paid for it?   Kate’s questions will help you decide.

The first thing an aspiring writer learns is the one thing essential to success is writing every day.  An aspiring writer also needs tools and a place to use them.  I know this sounds mundane, but deciding what tools you need to carry on your task and where you are going to do it does smooth the road to success.  There are lists here to help you decide what is right for you.

Writing is always assumed to be a lonely profession, and it can be.  The truth is all writers need a team.  It’s also a fact that you will wind up with a team whether by default or by design.  The chapter titled “Team Writer” describes the ins and outs of putting your team together.  Where can you find team members?  Who should be on it?  In the beginning, letting others see your work can be a terrifying experience.  Here you will find resources you wouldn’t discover on your own.  Your team can make a big difference in your quest.

Time.  Ah, yes, time.  Perhaps the biggest challenge all beginning writers face is finding the time to write every day.  Maybe the best way to determine this is to ask, “When is my mind most productive?”  For me it’s in the morning.  My most productive time is before noon.  Kate writes at 4 AM.  Why? It’s a fascinating story.  You’ll need to read the book to find the answer.

Writing time doesn’t have to be hours.  You can start with as little as 15 minutes a day.  Be creative.  You can do it at lunch.  Sit in a back booth at Mickey D’s with a Big Mac and a coke.  Once you find your time slot, do it every day.  Every successful writer will tell you the secret to success is found in the acronym BIC (Butt In Chair).  Sit down.  Write.

Last, Kate discusses the necessity of nurturing yourself.  I think when writers answer the call and begin to dig into learning the craft, they are surprised to find out how much energy it takes.  Writing can be cathartic and at the same time very tiring. Just as an athlete trains with interval training, you need periods of relaxation to regain your energy.  Giving thought to finding what works for you can keep the writing experience fresh and exciting.

Did I see myself in this book?  You bet I did.  If I’d had this book to go by 20 years ago, my path would have been much easier.

I’ve found there are two ways to learn: By enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or from someone who’s gone before. Kate’s book can make the journey a lot more fun

This is Kate’s first book in a series. I think you will find it instructional, inspiring, and challenging. I highly recommend it to anyone who has something to say to the world.

You can find it by going to the Amazon website and entering “Kate Johnston” in the search bar. 

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