Learn the 4 stages to write a book, by writer Ginger Moran
Ginger Moran is a writer and a book and creativity coach. She calls herself a book mentor and also used to teach at University but she now divides her time between writing her own books and helping others write their books. I got to know Ginger through Kaizen-Muse creativity coaching where we coached each other for a while. I can tell you from first-hand experience that Ginger is a great coach, smart and funny with a wicked sense of humour.
For this series of interviewing different types of creatives about how they do what they do, I try and find people who are in the arena, to use the famous Theodor Roosevelt quote, people who are working at their craft and willing to share their process. Because it’s the process that is interesting. It’s where most of us quit and it’s where all the learning, growing and changing is.
I also love Ginger because she doesn’t pretend she has writing all figured out even though she’s taught writing for years, is a Martha Beck coach and kaizen-muse creativity coach. She still gets stuck in her own creative process and that gives us a picture of what creating is really like.
The 4 stages of writing a book
Ginger shares with us the 4 stages of writing a book and why it’s so important to know about these 4 different stages. When stuff gets hard the story we tell ourselves is usually that it’s us or someone else that’s to blame. It has to be somebody’s fault. I can see now that I get stuck in stage 2 of writing. When I write I correct as I go along which is killing my flow of writing what I’m thinking. Now I understand I am not to correct anything as I write the first draft and hopefully this’ll get me further in the future.
Stage 1: The Seed
All new creation begins with an idea. The first stage in writing a book is where you have an idea bobbling in your head. You start taking notes, maybe you share your idea with somebody. You gather information and perhaps do research. What kind of book is it? A novel, a how-to or autobiography?
Stage 2: Create
This is where you write your terrible first draft. Don’t worry about grammar, types, publishing or any of that stuff. Just get your idea down on paper. Get the big story on paper. Are you helping people solve a problem with this story? What is the idea?
This first draft needs to be bad because you’re looking for the heartbeat of the story, what really matters and your inner editor cannot be there for that process.
Martha Beck talks about how a caterpillar goes into the cocoon where it melts down into nasty goo before it emerges as a beautiful butterfly. Ginger applies that to writing. Your work has to be nasty goo before it can become good.
Stage 3: The craft
Here you work at the craft of writing a book. You’ll have to do several revisions. Get the characters filled out, get the theme of your book clear, get the story right so there’s tension. Work and rework the drafts.
This is where you show your work to people, but make it people you trust and give them instructions as to what to look for.
Stage 4: Connection
The last stage is the connecting stage where you begin the process of publishing and begin your marketing process.
Then Ginger says there are 2 things that go on in writing.
You want to express your vision. Some people want to express, which in and of itself is a terrifically creative enterprise. And you can learn so much from that.
If you want to connect with other people you’re going to have to learn the craft and apply it. People have been practising for thousands of years the art of storytelling. That’s how you connect with people.
About showing your work to other people
The first stage should almost always be in isolation. Ginger recommends you don’t show your work to anyone in the first 2 stages unless it is to someone who is experienced in finding the heart of a story. Someone like Ginger.
And when you do decide to show your work to someone, give them instructions. Ask if they understand the characters and if the story is holding up. Don’t just ask f they like your “baby”. That’s not helpful and it’s also not a baby.
Ginger’s new book
Well, she outed herself and confessed that she’s got 6 books that she hasn’t gotten “out there”, so she’s doing a 100-day challenge to finish a spy novel she’s writing. It’s a little different because the spy is not the main character, the spy’s wife is. She’s been writing this book for a couple of years and her own process is that she writes everything by hand first, and then she types it afterwards. This is her drafting process. She’s in her 4th draft of this book now. After she’s done the final knock-it-on-head draft, she’s sending it to get proofread.
In her 100-day challenge, she’s invited people to go along and she’s teaching as they go. She’s created a plan, get it here, to help you in the writing process. She’s come up with a 4 P-system of problem, people, place and plot.
It’s an imperfect process because it’s artistic but it’s important to have a framework for creativity to thrive.
She’s showing people how to go about getting an agent, finding publishers and getting it out into the world WHILE she’s doing it. That’s unique.
About planning and being organized
For Ginger, and like myself, her planning has to be visual and “out there”. Digital planning doesn’t seem real to her. This is exactly how I feel. When we coached each other, Ginger and I often talked about the overlap between creativity and ADD and how we see similarities between highly creative thinkers and the neuro deficiency known as ADD. Ginger has worked with an ADD coach and she’s helped her find a balance.
I spoken before about the rabbit hole of spending too much time and energy on your planner and not on the actual work you need it for.
This is why Ginger created the writing planner, which uses the Martha Beck turtle system versus setting big goals. This also the kaizen way of using small steps and setting small goals.
Your big, dreamy, exciting, sexy goal is supported by habit and routine and very, very small steps.
You take your big goal and work backwards and break it down into really small steps. And if it still feels too big and overwhelming, break the steps down further.
The brain’s reaction to this writing process
Ginger’s had to teach herself how to be in the different stages of writing. The first stage is the dopamine stage where you get high on new ideas and dreams. Then you move into a different neurotransmitter which is serotonin. That’s much less exciting and it’s hard work but it’s deeply satisfying. She sees that as equally rewarding, it’s just different. This is also where you can experience flow and most likely will.
More writing tips from Ginger
It’s a balance between structure and looseness that’ll actually get the work done.
Also writing early in the morning work for her. The trick is to write when your inner editor is still asleep or has gone to sleep. Sometimes you have to trick yourself.
Write for a short period of time. Ginger writes half an hour a day, thatøs 2 pages and it’s most of a book in a year.
Understand the process. She doesn’t know any professional writers who write more than 4 hours a day and that includes research. Writing is hard work and it’s concentrated work.
What keep her going?
She says, and people around her say, that she’s not a very good person to be around if she’s not writing. :-) She gets cranky. (This is the same for me and I believe the reason there are so many cranky, unhappy people in the world. They’re not using their creativity.). It’s food for her soul.
She loves it. She LOVES being gone in her world with her characters. It’s like reading, she can live so many more lives because she reads. And writing takes that to a new level because she’s the one making those characters.
Final words of wisdom
In her talks, Ginger says the word genius actually means the special eternally unique spirit you’re born with. And everybody has it. We cover it up and some people are happy not expressing it. But some of us are deeply satisfied by finding it and expressing it. Whatever that means. But there’s a special you that’s your special genius and it wants to be in the world.
Find Ginger here: Gingermoran.com
Get her planner here: gingermoran.com/planner
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