Writing a novel as a full-time writer and part-time blogger

I'm letting you in on a little secret: There's a book on me. And hopefully sooner rather than later, you'll be able to read it, rate it, and review it. (...But more on that at a later date, I promise!)

For now, I'm figuring out how to get this story on paper while also writing full-time and blogging part-time. I spend my 8-to-5 writing recruiting and enrollment materials for colleges across the country – I love my job and count myself as one of the lucky ones who found a paying, full-time, "big girl" job putting words together. Plus, since 2009 I've been blogging right here. It's a whole different type of writing that lets me share my passion for pretty spaces, cheap decorating, and do-it-yourself projects.

But my real love of writing lies in noveling. (Is that a word? It should be. I'm using it as one.)

I've started and finished many stories since childhood, but there's one big story in me that I've been working on for 12ish years. It began as a classroom assignment in seventh or eighth grade, and it stuck with me. It's undergone so many re-writes, edits, and revisions over the years. The ideas and characters have grown up with me. And although it's an entirely different story now, the main characters and the main idea remain the same, which quite astonishes me.

This story is something I think about on a daily basis – whether I'm actively working on it or not. It's often one of the last things I think about before falling asleep and one of the first things I think about in the morning. I've tackled re-drafts of it for several runs of NaNoWriMo. And I've always told myself that someday I'll get around to finishing it, perfecting it, and publishing it. But I've taken my novel off of the to-do list of someday. Because as that lovely image above says: There are 7 days in a week and someday isn't one of them. 

If you were to ask me what my number one goal in life is, it's to get this story out. And too often, my novel has fallen to the wayside of work, blogging, freelance, and... well, life. My full-time job will still come first. (Girl's gotta pay her bills.) And The Lovely Side isn't going anywhere, I assure you.

When I'm closer to finishing and putting my book out there, I'm hoping that many of you will give it a read, give it a rating, and (most importantly) give me your constructive criticism, inspiring insight and ideas, and honest feedback. I know I've got some well-read, opinionated bookworms out there, so I'll be looking forward to and appreciating whatever you can throw back at me.

For now, here are my tips on how I'm making this novel dream thing come true:

1. Jot it down.

Hell hath no fury like a writer who births a brilliant idea, doesn't write it down (because surely they'll recall it later), and then the idea completely slips from their mind later on. Whether it's a Moleskine or EverNote, jot it down. Mid-email, mid-nap, mid-shower, pretty much everything except mid-driving... if a muse suddenly whispers something inspiring into my ear, I take the two minutes to jot down the gist of it so that I can access that inspiration later on.

2. Write what excites you.

If you're familiar with NaNoWriMo, you might be familiar with the terms pantser and plotter. Pantsers write their novel by the seat of their pants. Plotters plan their stories with outlines, research, and that whole organized shebang. I'm most definitely a plotter who believes the devil's in the details. I love the process of outlining my entire plot down to the little details of each scene, but I often end up caught up in unnecessary backstories and superfluous details. And when I sit down to write, I feel too restrained by the fact that I need to write this boring scene before I can write that more exciting one. No more. I'm still outlining, but when I sit down to write I'm looking past the fluff and filler scenes. I'm allowing myself to write the next scene that excites me. Because if you're bored writing a scene, it will turn out boring – then your reader will be bored. But if you write what you're excited, passionate, and curious about, those feelings will shine through in the writing and your reader will feel excited, passionate, and curious, too.

3. Change the scenery.

This is incredibly important to me, whether I'm writing at work or blogging/writing at home. I'm a visual person and I get creatively inspired when I have a lot to look at or get to look at new and different things – even if they're just in the background as I stare at words on a screen. Oftentimes at work, I get tired of sitting at my desk – even with pretty typewriter pictures posted on the wall. So when I don't need my desk or double monitors, I abandon my cube for a cozy little nook with comfy chairs and big windows. Even though at home I've created a lovely little office full of inspiration, I still need to get away from that desk and write on the couch or even in bed. A change of setting gives my creativity and productivity a boost. It's a fresh perspective and position to write something new or make revisions to something old. 

4. Write drunk. Edit sober.

Hemingway knew his stuff. And you can take this tip both literally and figuratively. It's not the beverages, but the mindset that really matters. A little whiskey or wine can loosen up the creative juices in my brain. A little coffee or tea can help tidy things up. But it's really got less to do with what I'm drinking and more to do with how I'm setting my mind free... or how I'm setting it to work. Writing "drunk" means writing without inhibitions. It means getting the idea on paper without fretting about plot snags. It means churning out content without fear of spelling mistakes or bad grammar. It means letting loose to write creatively and freely. Editing "sober" means looking at your work with a keenly fresh and equally ruthless eye. It means going through all the chaos and crap you wrote, and fine-tuning it into something cleaner, more meaningful, and (of course) more grammatically sound. 

5. Show up.

Without a doubt, this is the most difficult part of noveling – for me, at least. You must get into the habit of treating writing like the job that it is. Even if you have a real full-time job or part-time job(s). Life gets hectic. I like to say that the more I write, the more I write, the more I write. And some days, that proves true: I cannot get home fast enough to sit down and write out the scene that's sprung to life in my head. But truth is: Sometimes after writing emails, postcards, brochures, and blog posts all day long, the last thing I want to do is stare at words on a computer screen (or even paper) when I get home. Watching Netflix, playing with my cats, or grabbing a beer with friends sounds soooo much more appealing. But even when I'm busy or plain don't want to, I'm getting myself into the habit of showing up. Whether it's just 5 minutes of re-working a scene or a larger chunk of time cranking out 5,888 words (like I did a few nights ago), I've got to show up. It's not going to get done if I don't.

6. Learn to say no.

I enjoy writing. I'm good at it. But there's a catch. The thing with loving all sorts of writing (and being good enough to get paid for it) is that you get asked to do other projects on the side. Freelance work can be nice. I like (and need) a little bit of extra money now and then. And here and there, the projects can be really fun, creative, and inspiring. I have a tendency to say yes before I really evaluate whether I have the time in my schedule to take on such a project. Or sometimes, my full-time job ends up getting crazy busy and I couldn't have predicted that workload to begin with. It comes down to priorities. At this point in my life, my main priority lies in my full-time job because that's how I make my living, pay the rent, and try to put dents in student loans. And my next priority is getting updated content published here. After that, I also want to see my bf, friends, and family – rather than become a hermit. But after working, blogging, and occasional socializing, I've got to take a hard look at what I can do, what I can't, and what I want to do with the spare time I have left. When it comes down to it, I want to write this novel – no matter how fun and creative the freelance opportunities are. So I'm learning to say no to side projects, learning to turn down those gigs even when they're right my alley and would be a great asset to my portfolio. I'm saying no because if I keep saying yes, I'm not going to be able to "show" up to my novel.

So stay tuned.

Something good is in the works.
And I'd love for you to read, rate, and review it in the near future. :)

Who else is working on a novel or some other big goal?
Any bits of inspiration or pieces of insight to share?

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A. said...

As a fellow writer, I seriously needed to hear all of this. Thanks for giving me the kick in the butt I needed to get back at my own work. It's easy to get wrapped up in the full-time-work and crash routine, but that would be wasting my talent.

Let me know if you need somebody to give you feedback?

- Alycia.

Jessica • The Lovely Side said...

Thanks for your comment, Alycia!

I hear you on the full-time-work and crash routine. It's all too easy to fall into that rut.

Here's to staying inspired and productive – and not wasting the talent (or passion!) for writing.

Stay tuned on The Lovely Side. I'll be revealing my story in the coming months and I'd love your feedback. :)

Best of luck with your writing!

Anonymous said...

This was just what I needed to get motivated. School and work means no will to write. I cannot tell you how many times I've wanted to kick myself for not writing down an idea. I'd love to read your story when you're finished! Also, just discovered Scrivener- seriously cool writing app.

Casey from Baltimore :)

Anonymous said...

YES! Can't wait to read your book! I'm in the same boat myself, with wanting to write this book I have in me, but having difficulties finding the time, so I'm looking forward to following your journey, and get some motivation and inspiration!