From Nick: This is a guest post from Jared De Roo, and it’s a great journey through the joys of using a real software package to write a novel–in this case, Scrivener. I’ve posted about Scrivener before, and how I’ve used it to write a novel in a month or so, and Jared does a good job explaining it as well. 

However, what I love about this post is that it’s not about the software as much as it is about the sheer need to just write and stick to something you know you want to finish. As Jared says, “What you need my friend, is a deadline. A hard, cold, unmovable, yet friendly and encouraging deadline.”

Right on, Jared. Take it away!

Enter Jared:

Have you been working on a book, or other project for an incredibly long time, but never really find time to work on it? Whether you just got an email, you got a notification on Facebook, or your wall just got really interesting you just can’t seem to find time to sit down and write.

What you need my friend, is a deadline. A hard, cold, unmovable, yet friendly and encouraging deadline.

This is how I wrote a 100,000 word book in a month. I had, not only a very strong deadline, but I had a very strong incentive to stick to it.

Alright, now lets say that you’re all pumped and excited now, you have an idea for a book, and you’ve just given yourself a deadline. Now… how to stick to it? There’re a lot of really good ways to do this…and self motivation isn’t one of them. (Unless of course you’re one of those superhuman people who are not me.)

So here’re three ways to stick to your deadline:

  1. Before you start a huge creative endeavor with a deadline TELL EVERYONE. Get a blimp with the words “I’m writing a book!” and have it fly across the world…or just post about it nonstop on Facebook. By doing this you’re digging yourself into a hole where if you don’t finish you’ll be the laughing stock every time someone mentions the word “book.” (Note: You’ll find that none of these suggestions end well for you if you don’t reach your goal.
  2. Do it with a friend. Do you have a likeminded friend who would like to write a book as well? This is one of the most effective ways to get it done. No one likes losing, so this gives you a drive to get to the finish.
  3. Punishments. Last year my friend and I decided to write a book in a month. His word goal was 60,000 and mine was 80,000. Beforehand we both agreed that if either of us missed a word quota for a day the the other got to post a status on their Facebook account. I missed one day. After that both of us were too terrified to miss another day. In the end, even though we took a week off in the middle of the month, we both managed to hit our word goals.

All three of these methods are basically getting your friends to either cheer, or guilt you to the finish line.

Now I can hear you asking, “This is great and all, but when I write fast it turns out terrible.”

Your book might be terrible, but it’s also a first draft. So then you go through and revise it until it’s what you want. That in itself is a very long and odorous, yet fun, process. Also one that I’m not covering in this article.

Something that is highly recommended before starting is an outline. It can be as long or as short as you want, it’s just a good idea to know where you’re going.

I’m a terrible outliner. But that’s because the way that I get my ideas is through actively writing. I have difficulty sitting down and saying “This is going to happen.” Rather I get ideas as I write. This is why I don’t go to the pains of making an extensive outline; as I’m writing I’ll see something that would work better and I’ll abandon my current road and move onto another.

To give you a little taste of how terrible my outlines tend to be I took this screen shot of Scrivener, the completely and totally amazing writing software I use. Basically, I have a document for every chapter and a brief little summery of what’ll happen in the chapter. (I also have character sheets and settings and tech and all sorts of other stuff that I do actually plan out somewhat extensively…ish)

Now that you have a brief insight into my insanity you can see, while this outline is very skeletal it’s still all encompassing and therefore gives me a very good road map on where to go with my book. In the end I wound up with 36 chapters instead of just thirty and rather then 80,000 words it came out as exactly 100,000 (Something I’m more proud of then I should be.)

This is how I outline, it’s very haphazard, very unprofessional, and it doesn’t cover everything. However this is what works best for me. It fits my writing style. I have a basic road map that leaves me free to throw in whatever I want to help flesh it out while still maintaining a the feel of the story going somewhere and not being totally random.

Now that you’ve seen this I’ll tell you about one of my friends. He is an outline fanatic. He literally plans out every little thing that happens, from bits of dialogue to what the characters were having for lunch. What he’s doing when he goes and writes it is pretty much filling in all of the little gaps. This is a great example of how there are no set in stone rules for how you need an outline. It can be as thorough or as skeletal as you want it to be and still be incredibly helpful. Having a huge outline for someone like me is plain and simply a waste of time. Most of what I worry about isn’t plot stuff, but world things such as cultures and tech. And on the flip side having a skimpy outline for someone like my friend would leave them flailing around in the vast empty space of their novel.

So now, armed with your deadline, your friends, and your outline you stand undaunted. The world is your oyster as they say. Go out, and write a novel!

About Jared: Jared De Roo is an Illinois based student in highschool and an avid writer. In the past year he wrote a book which is currently in the revision stages and has been writing since he was six. Outside of writing he runs a blog, a video blog, and writes music, which generally ends up on YouTube and can be found here:

He has an abnormal love for sandwiches of all kinds and has played 12 instruments. Music and writing are his passions and he’s been told he plays a good shakespearian drunk.

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