I’ve finished the first draft of my new book. Technically parts of it are in the third, forth, maybe fifth draft. But overall, it’s draft one. It’s been a long process, and I’ve screwed up a lot, but I’ve learned a lot too. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.
- Don’t overthink it. Writing is hard. If you read a lot (and as a writer, you should) you already know what makes a good story. You think you’ve got one, but it keeps coming out all wrong. It’s not measuring up to what other authors do, or even what’s going on in your head. That’s okay. Just write what pops into your head. If it doesn’t come out quite right, or you feel it’s sloppy or juvenile, don’t worry. You can always fix it later.
- Write consistently. As in every day that ends in ‘Y’. I’ve been working on this project off and on for about two years now. If I skipped a day, I ended up skipping another one. And then another. And before I knew it, a month had gone by and I’d barely written a damn thing. So write. Seriously. It doesn’t have to be for hours and hours. Give yourself a small goal to start, either word count or time. Surely you can spare five or ten minutes each day. Do it. If you’re not feeling it one day, do it anyway. You can always fix it later.
- Stop editing. Just stop. Leave whatever it was you wrote yesterday alone. I had a hard time with this (hence parts of the book being several drafts ahead of the final bit). This project is divided into three sections, and I would finish a section and obsess over it. The wording, the flow, every bit of character detail and world building. In the end, when I finally got around to finishing the book, all that editing was just more work that I probably didn’t need to do (at least not at that stage). Now that I’ve got the ending down, I’m going to have to go back through the first two sections (AGAIN) and tweak things to match up to the ending (minute story details, tone, character development, etc.) It’ll be a pain in the ass, I’m sure, made all the worse since I know I’ve already editing parts of it a million times. So just write it. If it sucks, you can always fix it later.
- Put yourself on deadline. This one’s important, because if you’re on a self-imposed deadline, you’re more likely to follow the previous points. I gave myself the month of November (in a little homage to NaNoWriMo) to finish. The deadline kept me in check and made me want to write and stop procrastinating. I ended up finishing three days early. I didn’t come anywhere near the 50,000 words NaNoWriMo requires (more like 20,000), but I finished. And that’s the important part. And, let me tell ya, there’s a nice ego boost and sense of accomplishment to go with it. It wouldn’t hurt to give yourself a little reward at the end of your deadline, either. Even if you think what you wrote is awful, keep chugging along to meet that deadline. You can always fix it later.
You may have noticed there’s a common theme in all these points. YOU CAN ALWAYS FIX IT LATER. Remember that, and don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day. It’ll be better tomorrow. Or the next day. I promise.
Now to begin editing. This is the worst part, emotionally, for me. It’s the time I’m most prone to thinking I suck and should just go get a real job. It’s also the time my poor husband has to comfort me the most. I’ve given myself another month to finish the next draft. Then off to betas it will go.
Wish me luck!