Whether you’re counting down the days to National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), or using Evernote to organize your thoughts as many writers do, you may be thinking about the journey from blank page to finished work. It’s a conundrum every writer must face: how do you get from here — the resolution to write — to there, a completed text you can be proud of (or maybe even publish)?
“In your mind, your novel is an epic tale that will redefine a genre,” says Andy Weir, author of The Martian. “You have the setting defined in excruciating detail. You could fill an encyclopedia with information about the protagonist’s childhood. You have the next six books in the series all planned out. Why can’t you squeeze out a single sentence?”
Una LaMarche, a writer of young adult novels, adds: “It’s like Michelangelo chipping away at a block of marble, only instead of marble you have a computer screen and instead of a chisel you have a stress headache.”
Being a writer means coming up against sometimes harsh realities. But those obstacles can be overcome with the simple techniques. Evernote, along with our friends at Penguin Random House, is pleased to present a free ebook, Signature’s Ultimate Guide to Writing Advice. The ebook was produced in conjunction with Penguin Random House’s Signature website, a premier destination for writers and readers of all kinds.
In the Ultimate Guide, twelve writers at the top of their games (plus one leading editor) open up about every phase of the writing process. It’s all here: planning a story, coming up with an opening, overcoming writer’s block, and getting into the write — er, right — mindset to sit down at the keyboard every day:
- Elizabeth Berg — “What it Takes to Be a Writer”
- Una LaMarche — “4 Tricks on Self-Starting”
- L.Y. Marlow — “Write a Sh*tty First Draft”
- Charles Baxter — “Opening a Story the Right Way”
- David Levithan — “[Insert Strong Title Here]”
- Emma Campion — “Turning Fear into Excitement”
- Taylor Stevens — “Inspiration Is for Amateurs”
- Andy Weir — “The Tyranny of the Blank Page”
- Maggie Shipstead — “On Little Moments of Unlocking”
- John Marshall — “How Writing Is Like Traveling”
- Jo Baker — “The Natural State of ‘Outsiderliness’”
- Alexis Landau — “7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers”
- Benjamin Dreyer — “A to X Writing Advice”
One thing all the contributors agree on: An aspiring writer must never give up. “Sometimes the words you put down aren’t even coherent,” says thriller writer Taylor Stevens. “Sometimes the thoughts are jumbled. And certainly none of them read very well. But none of that matters. What matters is that you sit there and write, and you write, and you keep writing.”
As any user of Evernote knows first-hand, capturing ideas while they’re fresh can pay off down the road. As Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me, says: “That moment right before sleep has been fruitful for me… I’ve learned, though, that I have to rouse myself enough to make a note on my phone or on paper, otherwise my breakthroughs tend to have vanished by morning.” Alexis Landau, the author of Empire of the Senses, agrees: “I try to remember not to dismiss any idea, no matter how arbitrary it may seem in the moment, because sometimes the small detail or phrase later generates a great scene or moment in the story which was unexpected.”
And in the end, that’s what writing is all about, regardless of your chosen genre. It’s an adventure and a process of discovery. Or in the words of award-winning screenwriter John Marshall: “A journey of a thousand miles, like a book of a thousand pages, begins with a single step. A single word. So I write it. And write another one. And cross that one off. And keep going.”
Evernote is a proud sponsor of National Novel Writing Month this November. If you’re up to the challenge, sign up for free at nanowrimo.org/sign_up, then visit Evernote on the NaNoWriMo forum and let us know how your novel is coming along! We’ll post more tips and strategies to our blog throughout October and November.