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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Arnold Schwarzenegger Can Pump Up Your Writing

Hear me now and believe me later:
Arnold Schwarzenegger's rules of
success can help you write a novel.
by Laurence MacNaughton

What could Arnold Schwarzenegger possibly teach you about writing a novel?

A lot, as it turns out.

Schwarzenegger likes to talk about his “6 Rules of Success”. Believe it or not, these rules just might hold the key to your success as a writer.

Rule #1: Trust yourself.

Deep down inside, you know that you need to write a novel. It’s not just an idle idea -- it’s a burning desire. An obsession. A physical need.

If you want to succeed as a writer, you need to trust that.

"Inside my head and heart were a burning desire to leave my small village in Austria," Schwarzenegger said recently. "Not that there was something wrong with Austria. It's a beautiful country. But I wanted to leave that little place and I wanted to be part of something big, the United States of America, a powerful nation, the place where dreams can come true."

Rule #2: Break the rules.

Everywhere you look, you can see authors who are succeeding by breaking the rules.

The old rules used to tell you to get a literary agent before the book deal. Science fiction author Hugh Howey became a bestselling author first -- and then signed with an agent afterward.

Rules exist for a reason, that’s true. But a good writer knows when to break them for maximum impact.

Rule #3: Do not be afraid to fail.

Years ago, I met soon-to-be-author Dolores Johnson in a copy shop, making photocopies of a manuscript. "My debut novel," she said, with a smile.

"Wow," I said. "Your first novel?"

"Well, not the first one I wrote," she said. "Just the first one to get published."

She told me that she'd written half a dozen manuscripts that had been roundly rejected. But she just kept writing. She knew that she'd get published sooner or later, and she never gave up. She went on to become the author of a successful mystery series.

No matter what your dream is -- publishing a novel, winning Mr. Universe, whatever it is -- you'll spend a lot of time failing. Getting rejected. Losing contests. But that's not the end. In order to succeed, you have to get up and keep going.

"You can't be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself," Schwarzenegger said. "You keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision and you know that it is the right thing to do, and success will come."

Rule #4: Do not listen to the naysayers.

To this day, my mom tells me, "Nobody earns a living as a writer." To which I always respond, "Mom, I make a living as a writer."

"But do you get benefits?" she says. "No, you don't."

We all have naysayers in our lives. People who tell us that we can't do it, or we're making a mistake, or that things don't work this way.

Hollywood agents told Arnold Schwarzenegger that there was no way he'd become a star. Not with his thick accent, his weird name and his massive physique. Instead, those traits ended up being his strengths. If he had listened to the naysayers, he might still be in the Austrian Alps, yodeling.

Rule #5:  Work your butt off.

Schwarzenegger started bodybuilding as a teenager. When he joined the military at age 18, they had him out doing field maneuvers, many miles from the nearest gym.

So how did he stick to his workout routine? By loading his weights onto the back of a tank. After they parked to make camp for the night, he'd pump iron for a few hours before dinner.

He left the military to pursue bodybuilding professionally, and at age 20, he won Mr. Universe. He went on to win Mr. Olympia seven times.

Are you willing to work that hard to finish your novel?

There are 24 hours in a day. If you sleep a full eight hours, you still have 16 left. If you devote one full hour to writing, and no more, that's only 6% of your day.

Yes, it's difficult if you also have a day job. And kids. And all of the other aspects of daily life. But it's still only 6% of your waking hours. When you look at the math, every excuse falls flat. You can afford an hour a day to write a novel.

Hey, it's not like you have to go load dumbbells onto a tank.

Rule #6: Give back.

Every year, I donate a manuscript critique to the Brenda Novak Auction to fight diabetes. And a portion of my book royalties goes to Project Angel Heart, which provides nourishing meals to those coping with life-threatening illness.

I don't do this for the bragging rights. I do it because it feels right. Oddly enough, I never experienced any success as a writer until I started giving back. I don't know if it's karma, or something spiritual, or simple gratitude. But it's real, and it works.

Find a cause that you care about and give back to the community. Offer to write or edit a community newsletter. Volunteer to mentor a child. Donate to a charity that you believe in. It will not only help others, it will help you.

You've been blessed with a rare gift: the ability to create emotions with words. Use that gift to make the world a better place. You'll find that you become a better person, too.

Remember: the next time you start to doubt your writing skills, or you feel stuck in the middle of your novel, just follow Arnold Schwarzenegger's 6 Rules of Success.

Before you know it, you'll be telling that writer's block, "Hasta la vista, baby!"

– Laurence MacNaughton is an author and editor who specializes in manuscript critiques, story editing and one-on-one coaching. Find out how to get your free ebook: "Instant Plot: Plan Out Your Novel the Easy Way"

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to outline a novel - 3 things you need

By Laurence MacNaughton

Dear Laurence: What do I need to know beforehand in order to write a novel? I’ve been told by several different people that an author has to have a character outline (with a biography, as if he or she was a real living person), then a story outline, and I don’t know what all else. I feel like I want to just sit down and start writing, but I’ve never written a book in my life, and I don’t know if I can pull it off. How much do I need to figure out before I start writing my first novel? --Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: Some writers plan out every detail of their books beforehand, while others just sit down with a blank page and wing it. You can go either way. Personally, I'm in the middle: I plan some, and then I make up some as I go along.

To be honest, planning isn’t as important as perseverance. Writing a novel is more of a marathon than a sprint, and it takes a ton of effort over an extended length of time. You might consider writing a short story first. Not only will it give you some practice, it will also help build your confidence. Plus, you'll get the satisfaction of finishing a story. And that’s no small thing.

But I don’t blame you if you’re worried about getting stuck in the middle of your first novel. My new ebook, Instant Plot, might help (and it's free to readers of -- just email me to request a copy). It walks you through the process of answering the key questions you need to finish your novel, and you can complete it in less than an hour.

Now, here's my #1 tip for planning out a novel. Write this out on a sticky note and stick it over your writing space:

Every good story is about a sympathetic character who overcomes seemingly impossible conflicts in pursuit of a meaningful goal.

In other words, you need three things:

1) a character that a reader can really care about;
2) a truly important goal for that character to pursue; and
3) a series of overwhelmingly difficult obstacles in between.

That’s it. It really is that simple. And if you can make all three of those clear in every chapter, then you're well on your way. Have fun writing!

Are you writing a novel? Click here to find out how a professional manuscript critique can help you get published.