This transcript has been adjusted to correct minor mistakes and provide you with the most up-to-date addresses for all the referenced links…
Hello, and welcome to week one of the #2021NovelChallenge here on The Writer’s Everything.
#WriteANovel2021 Week 1
I am super excited to start this year-long project, and hopefully all of you listening are as well. Before we get into the assignment for week one, however, I think it might be good for me to introduce myself and my history with writing so that you can know where I’m at in my writing career, and then hopefully we’ll know how best to encourage and help each other.
Of course, if you just want to get to this week’s task, then feel free to go ahead and skip to the eight minute mark.
Ok. So for those of you who are still here: I’m 28 years old at the time of this recording in January 2021. I loved creating stories and adventures with my action figures when I was between seven to nine years old. So one day my grandfather suggested that instead of just acting them out, I should write my stories down. That way I wouldn’t forget them after I came up with them.
In short, I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since.
As I got older, entering my preteen and teenage years, I wrote a few extremely rough drafts of different novels, including an epic rewrite of the Star Trek: Enterprise series finale that I still love to this day. But for the most part, I didn’t feel like I had the necessary skill to bring my dreams to life. So more often than not, my exciting daydreams stayed firmly locked within my own brain.
As I reached my mid-20s, I found myself wishing, as I think most people in their mid-20s do, that I would have already had some great achievements in my life. On top of the desire to have meaningful and gainful employment, I more and more wanted to become a writer.
In 2017, I sought out medical treatment for my anxiety and depression. The pills I was prescribed managed to give me the motivation necessary to stop dreaming and start doing. I outlined a novel that year and wrote roughly half of the first draft. I was just about to start revising when I had a vivid dream that ended up becoming my new project and my new priority.
I spent six months outlining the plot of my dream, and when the 2018 NaNoWriMo finally came around, I completed my book in roughly two weeks. Then, like a total noob, I self-published it on Kindle before the year was even up. Let this be a lesson for you: don’t publish a first draft!
I eventually realized my mistake, but still wasn’t willing to take my story off of Amazon because it had two reviews and I wasn’t willing to lose them. However, I still took the story through several rewrites and did my own revision of it. Then I published it as a full-length novel inspired by the much shorter NaNoWriMo-length novella. After a few months, I finally built up the courage to do the right thing. I took the crappy first draft off of Amazon.
I decided while working on the revision of my novel that I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about the writing craft. I wanted to become the expert I always hoped I would be. Since then, I’ve absorbed writing how-to’s like Spongebob absorbs water. Helping Writers Become Authors, How Do You Write, Writing Excuses, The Creative Penn Podcast, I’ve listened to them all. I’ve listened to audiobooks by Joseph Campbell, Robert McKee, Lisa Cron, Matt Bird, K.M. Weiland, and Jessica Brody, as well as an Audible-exclusive Great Courses class on writing fiction.
Of course, the more I learned, the more I wanted to share the information with others.
Ok, so full disclaimer. This desire wasn’t 100% out of charity. I had seen the way other authors that I listened to had their careers boosted by blogging and creating podcasts about the craft, and I wanted that for myself, as well. On the positive side, I already had an extensive background in teaching, and I had been told many times that I made things clear, concise, and extremely easy to understand.
So thus The Writer’s Everything was born. It started as a free downloadable magazine, and was then compiled into ebooks and turned into audiobooks, both of which have been extremely poor sellers, more than likely due to my lack of focus when it comes to their topics.
In spite of the amount of content that I have created for The Writer’s Everything in the last year and a half, however, it’s become very plain to see that I am not a consistently motivated individual. I was trying to write a weekly magazine and produce fiction at the same time, and each week, one or the other fell to the wayside. (It was usually my fiction).
Now it’s not that I haven’t been writing fiction since my first NaNoWriMo win. I wrote the majority of a time-travel police procedural, before deciding that I wanted to rewrite the entire thing. So naturally, I then started writing a fantasy book. After 60,000 words, with 50% left, I decided that the book was far beyond my skill level, and I shelved it for later. I decided I wanted to write something easier, so I started working on a military thriller about an alien computer system that was found on the dark side of the moon. As I reached the last few chapters, I realized that, for one thing, not enough happened in the second act, and for another, I needed to be a lot more skilled than I currently was in order to pull off the emotional third act.
Then I returned to the sequel to my NaNoWriMo novel. I wrote about 35,000 words, 1/3 of the book, and then I completely slacked off. The train-wreck that was 2020 didn’t help me, but honestly it was being cheated on, lied to, manipulated, and then divorced that really wrecked my momentum. So I feel justified in giving myself a pass for last year.
But that’s where the #2021NovelChallenge comes in. What I’ve written for The Writer’s Everything this last year and a half has been invaluable for the creation of my website and my podcast. I’m sure that I will continue to work on this content throughout the year. However, in 2021, I want to start streamlining my writing process and dedicating more of my time to my fiction.
I want 2021 to be the year that I get back into the game and write and edit a full novel from start to finish. By this time next year, I want at least one new fiction book to be available on Kindle. If I finish one of my works-in-progress along the way, that will be an added bonus.
Ok. For those of you who skipped ahead, welcome. To summarize what you missed, I’ve been slacking when it comes to my fiction writing ever since publishing my first novel in early 2019, and I want to change that in 2021. If you have an unfulfilled dream when it comes to being a novelist, then I’m sure you want to make that change as well. Throughout this podcast, I think that we can encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and cross the finish line together with our brand new novels in hand.
For those of you who have already written a novel and have a proven method that works well for you, I strongly suggest you stick with what’s given you your good results in the past. For those of you who have not written a novel before, or who have attempted to do so but been unsuccessful, don’t worry. I’m going to do all that I can to help you through the process.
For the #2021NovelChallenge, I’m going to be dividing the novel-writing process into 52 weekly assignments. They’ll be short and relatively easy to accomplish most of the time, but if you stick with it, the end result will be a solid, full-length novel. And I think we can all agree that that’s worth a little weekly effort.
The first two months of 2021 are going to be about discovering your muse, deciding what your novel is going to be about, and then creating a rough series of events for said novel. The next month is going to be for making a thorough outline of the novel. Six months are going to be for writing it. One and a half months will be allotted for both the first and third acts, and three months will be allotted for the second act.
If you don’t know what the first, second, and third acts are, don’t worry. I’m going to cover information like that as needed.
If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo before, you know that the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. That is a fantastic word count for a month’s work, and is definitely sufficient for a first draft, but for the #2021NovelChallenge, I’m going to be aiming for 80,000 words. That means that I will only have to write 440 words a day over the course of those six months.
I suggest, first of all, that you adjust your word count goal to fit the plot of your story, as well as to match your experience level and the amount of time you have available to write, and secondly, that you don’t try to write so fast that you burn yourself out. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself.
Once month nine is finished and the first draft of your novel is done, the next two months will be for structural edits, and the final month will be for proofreading.
You will be able to find the contents of each episode of the podcast on TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts/, as well as on the blog and, eventually, in The Writer’s Everything magazine.
As each week goes by, my goal is to accumulate more and more tools and resources on The Writer’s Everything website for us to use in this challenge. By the end of the year, I want the website to be a go-to site for every step of the process.
Now, don’t forget that the entire point of the #2021NovelChallenge is encouragement and accountability. So the podcast is going to be an interactive one. If you go to my podcast on anchor.fm/qj-martin, you will be able to send me your own audio messages. Each week, I’d like to include at least one or two updates from those of you who are participating in the challenge. You can update us on your novel’s status, talk about issues that you’re running into, ask questions that other listeners can answer, or give words of encouragement or quotes that have had a significant impact on your personal life.
Remember: Encouragement and accountability.
Are you ready for your assignment for week one? Well, you may or may not have listened to the podcast I released in December called Week Zero. In it, I suggested getting a jumpstart on this week’s assignment by coming up with a list of your favorite movies, tv shows, books, or other stories.
I’m going to be doing this step right along with you, in spite of the fact that I already have ideas saved for roughly a hundred different stories. Not everyone is good at coming up with concepts for their novels, and I want to be working with you every step of the way.
So as you create your list of favorite stories, try to focus on the types of adventures that you would enjoy creating. As an example, I love all of Christopher Nolan’s movies, but I could never come up with a story as full of twists as Memento or The Prestige without much more time and effort than I have available to devote to the #2021NovelChallenge.
So for my list, I think I’m going to focus on time travel. Several amazing Star Trek episodes come readily to mind, including Yesterday’s Enterprise, Time’s Arrow, Year of Hell, and All Good Things. I’m also going to include the 2007 Taiwanese film Secret, the amazing Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow, and one of my favorite Amy Pond episodes of Doctor Who, The Girl Who Waited.
So I suggest you do the same. Make a list of the types of stories that you want to emulate, to capture the emotional resonance of. Once you’ve made that list, start to identify the elements that make you love those stories. For example, in Yesterday’s Enterprise, the entire crew of the Enterprise D had to give up their own lives and reality, as well as the crew of the Enterprise C, in order to change the timeline. I love that element of sacrifice, and the tragedy of losing something that never really existed in the first place, which is also seen in The Girl Who Waited. And Year of Hell has a fascinating way of showing the varied effects in real time that altering the past has on the present.
Make sure to have your lists ready for next week’s episode so that we can start to shape them into a preview of your novel-to-be. We’ll also take a look at a few of the hardware and software options that are available for you to use to write your story during the #2021NovelChallenge.
Remember that if you support me for just one dollar on Patreon.com/QJMartin, I will have a personal monthly conversation of encouragement with you to help keep you going on this challenge. And if you support me at the $5 level, then I’ll help you develop your story, overcome your plot obstacles, and flesh out your characters with a thorough monthly collaborative discussion.
That’s all for this week. Be sure to come back next Monday for Week 2 of the #2021NovelChallenge.
Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Writer’s Everything podcast. If you’d like to read a transcript of this episode, you can find it at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts. If you’d like to listen to future episodes, be sure to subscribe on whatever platform you’re currently listening on, and be sure to give it a rating while you’re at it to let me know what you think of the podcast. The Writer’s Everything is also available as a free downloadable magazine. If you’d like to read it, simply go to TheWritersEverything.org/magazine, and download the issue of your choice. If you’d like access to exclusive bonus content, such as my list and review of the top Character Name Generators on the web, you can go to TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can do so at Patreon.com/QJMartin. For your convenience, all the referenced links will also be in the show notes.