Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Writers' Construction Zone: Part 1

A writer friend recently asked how she could jumpstart that novel that's been sitting in a drawer for the last five years. She wants to write, but those first 25,000 words still languish.  

I want to tell her to start at the beginning by thinking about her goals. When she's decided what she really wants to do, then she can begin identifying those "next steps" to lead her to a completed novel and a specific plan for skill building and marketing.

Because finishing one novel is not the whole story.

So here's Part 1 of Writers' Construction Zone, a guided workshop on identifying your writing goals and a self-assessment to determine where you are right now. Part 2 will identify those specific steps you can consider taking to reach your goals.


Some writers begin storytelling as soon as they can read and write. Others take a little longer to discover their dreams. If you are reading this far, you've already made a commitment to being a reader and a writer. But we can be overwhelmed by many different aspects of being a writer, from skills building, to publishing, to creating an online platform, to marketing.

So, let's take this step by step. Take some time to answer these next questions to build an writing plan that's tailored for you -- and that will identify the specific skills you need to work on to achieve your goals.

1.  What are you writing right now?
2.  What would you like to be writing within the next 2-3 years?
3.  How would you describe where you are in your writing career? Are you a beginning writer? Someone who's published a book or two? Someone at the end of your writing career but eager for just one or two more books?

Unless you are writing for your pleasure alone, somehow you'll want to get what you've written into the hands of readers. 

1. Who is your primary audience? 
2. Is your audience larger than family and friends?
3. Can you describe the demographics of your audience?

If you had a finished manuscript in your hands, what would you want to do?

1.  Find an agent and be traditionally published by one of the big 5 US publishers -- Penguin/Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hacette, or Simon & Schuster?

2. Work directly with a small, independent publisher?

3. Self-publish through Amazon (KDP and/or CreateSpace), Smashwords, or Lulu?

Much has been written online and in writing magazines about the strengths and drawbacks of each of these three publishing options. If you were buying a pair of shoes, you wouldn't rely on advice from your friends. You'd want to try them on, right?

Next Saturday's post will depend on your questions and comments. Let me know what you'd like to hear about first and what kind of information you'd find most helpful.

Meanwhile, the sun is shining. Let's write!


  1. This is a great list of questions to ask, regardless of what stage we're at in our writing journey. I would say I'm at the "nearly there" stage, to borrow a phrase a fellow writer used on her blog. I'm not a beginner anymore, having mastered the basics, but I'm not quite ready to be published. I'm working on the more advanced parts of the craft--creating tension on every page, creating satisfying character arcs, thinking about topics like theme and voice.

    I think it's important to assess where we're at regularly. For example, I wrote the second chapter of a novella yesterday, and I wasn't satisfied at all with what I wrote. I sat down last night and asked myself why. It was because what I'd written didn't fit the type of story I wanted to write. It was action/adventure, not romance/fantasy. So today I'm rewriting. Without that self-assessment, I'd still know something was off in the manuscript, but I wouldn't know why.

    I look forward to reading additional posts!

    1. Thank you, Denise, for commenting. I find it difficult to sift through what is not working, whether it's writing process or a technical skill. But, we persevere when we ask these kinds of questions. What to readers appears seamless involves work, but the work itself is ephemeral. May your writing go well, at whatever level.