Confessions of a Control Freak

hnovak Blog

I discovered the other day why I love writing so much. Besides, you know, the obvious. It’s because I love creative control! MUST. BE. IN. CONTROL.

It started in middle school when I started doing international Theatre Organ competitions. I needed to be in control of which music I played and how the song sounded. In high school, I directed theatre. In college, I started in costume design, then moved to radio, directing film, editing film and music, and ultimately screen writing.

I loved having complete creative control over my characters.

Which led me to writing. I was like, “OH HEY! I can do it all on the page!” And, well, here we are.

The trick? Learning how to write so well, your reader sees the costumes and hears the music and feels the quiet moments without even realizing they’re reading a book.

I’m still working on that part.

Great film example? The new Cinderella. (Which is directed by Kenneth Branagh and is so brilliant and shut up, go see it right now! Shot on real film, it’s absolutely stunning. From the music, to the cinematography, to the costumes, to the set, to the acting. A++)

When Cinderella arrives at the ball and the prince touches her for the first time, he puts his hand on her waist to pull her into a dance And she gasps. Perfectly filmed. It’s is probably my favorite part in the entire film. It was an amazingly, beautiful, real quiet moment that was magnifique.

If you watch nothing else but this scene, do it. This is how you should make your audience feel.

Keep writing, friends! You’ll get there.

Writing through Winter – Fighting the Winter Blues

hnovak Blog

Snow-storm-meme-630x472Michigan is not very friendly come January and February!

They’re definitely the two most difficult months to get through. The holidays are over and we’re left with subzero temperatures and the constant pelting of snow. It’s why I always schedule myself a vacation to see the family in Florida sometime during these two months! (It doubles as a read-a-thon.)

I’m sure it’s no surprise that it’s difficult to start a project mid-January. For the last few years, I found if I started a brand new book during this weather, it was vastly different than one I started in any other season. Having my characters constantly talk about how cold they are isn’t exactly riveting. But, this spring, I’m preparing for the release of my self-published series: The Lynch Brother Series. Which means, guess what? I have to write in winter.

I knew the winter-writing-slump was on its way, so I took some precautions. 1) I started the first two chapters of the book in fall. I got the characters on paper and notes on where I want the story to go. 2) I’ve got to be extra careful about the burnout. It comes quicker in winter because I’m already cold-cranky. 3) writer friends! I have “writing sprints” with friends across the globe, thanks to Twitter. We do “1k/1hours”, “how many words can you write in thirty minutes”, and at the end of it all “how many pages can you edit in 30 minutes”.

These little tricks have kept me going. Number two is by far the most difficult. As a writer with a 50 hour a week day job, there are days I get home where the thought of sitting at a desk again is revolting. So I scheduled in nights where I put on an episode of Gilmore Girls and eat some chocolate. Then while I’m writing mid-pout, I remember that my fun-filled-television night is just around the corner.

It’s not a foolproof plan — I still sometimes pass out in my computer chair from exhaustion. But I’m getting less work-a-holicy and more dedicated-smartly.

What are your tips to beat the winter writing blues?

Writing More In Less Time

hnovak Blog

For a long time, I had the serious problem where I could only get a couple hundred words down per day. Then, I’d go through and reread everything I had written and edit the crap out of it over and over again. I don’t need to explain how COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE this was. You know.

Then one day I read a blog.

This blog changed everything. I read more blogs. And more. And then I took the master’s (Steven King) advice — do not spend more than 3 months writing your first draft. I put together all of these new tactics and guess what? I finished a book in four months. A damn good book. The best I’ve ever written.


Because the story wasn’t stale. It flowed, it surged, and it is awesome. I’m currently shopping it around for an agent and I pitch it to Random House/Penguin on January 20th (fingers crossed)!

So how did I write an 86k novel in three months then spend another month polishing it to perfection?

1) I trimmed the fat in my life. I am fortunate enough to have a significant other with a good job. By cutting back, I was able to quit my second job. This was huge! Suddenly, I had an extra 10-20 hours in my week.

It also meant some sadder things. I had to give up choir, for now at least.

But that’s not where it ends. You have to prioritize your weekend. Every other weekend must be a “Do Not Disturb: Writing Weekend”. And that meant saying no A LOT. Weddings, birthday parties, impromptu karaoke nights. And I can hear you saying, “But couldn’t you just write the next weekend?” You have to pick the events that you would regret missing the most.

A wedding of a family member I hadn’t spoken to in twenty years is less important to me than my two best friends getting married. The love of my life’s birthday party was more important to me than my own (we’re a week apart). Prioritize, cut the fat, and know you’re not alone in the pain.

2) I hand wrote.

STOP PANICKING! I didn’t hand write 86,000 words. I can hear your heart racing over here. I wrote the meat of the “first draft” in WriteWay. Then I made a list of what I needed. “Need to build this friendship”, “need to add in scene where so-and-so is in danger”, “need to have this conflict here”. Then I jotted those scenes out on paper. I got the direction of the story and the dialogue down.

Here’s the benefit of paper:

You can’t check Facebook 300 times. And your mind tends to wander less. And when I go to type the scene on the computer, the perimeters are already in place. So my typing fingers fill in all the blanks, like emotions and nervous habits, without straying form the storyline. I found I was getting to 1800-2000 words per hour this way.

3) Support system.

I have four other authors from my RWA group that are some of my best friends. In fact, we’ll be releasing an anthology together in the spring! (See Booklist page for details). We are in constant communication with each other, especially when things get tough. You need to have that source to say, “I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS!” And have someone say, ” YES YOU CAN!”

I’m also equally blessed to have my best friend Erika. Erika is contract editor for Soul Mate Publishing in New York. I remember the exact moment several years ago I looked at her and said, “I want to write books.” She was the only person who didn’t laugh at me. (She instead made me cry after reading my first manuscript and told me to try harder. And I did.)

And I can’t forget my social media writer friends! My friend Jenny Hale and I can be seen doing “writing sprints” every week. We push each other to bleed out the words. I have too many amazing author friends to list here, but they have undoubtedly made this journey something special.

I must mention those writers that encouraged me without question – Josh Malerman, Elizabeth Heiter, and Penny Reid. (There are so many more, and I thank you so much!)

3) READ.

Seriously. Read. Reading jump starts your brain, gets your heart racing, and gets the creative juices flowing. You know that chapter you had to read three times because you loved it? Take it apart. WHY did you love it? How did it make you feel? How can you make YOUR readers feel the same way? This is how you cultivate your talent.

I’m cheering you on! Make those connections, make those friends, splurge on your favorite book series, and learn what works for you.