Two Things I’ve Learned Writing A Novel
“To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail.” ― Michael Jordan
Now that I’m almost finished with my second novel, I can admit there are two thing I ‘ve learned during the journey; write the first draft, and nothing is perfect.
Maybe its just me, but these were, and still are, the most challenging aspects of writing – be it novel, story, or otherwise.
Why so hard, you ask? Doesn’t every book have a first draft? – And shouldn’t an author wait until their MS is perfect, before sending it out to an agent/publisher, or self-publishing?
Doesn’t every book have a first draft?
Depends. If you’re a ‘planner’ (someone who has most of the book outlined before they start. IE: scenes, characters, story arch, conflict, world building, etc.), then the answer is YES. The first draft is actually a more comprehensive version of your outline – which you’ll then go on to flush out even more.
But if you’re a ‘pansier’ (someone who has only a vague idea of what the story will be about when they start, and the thought of outlining anything will only a)encourage prolonged video gaming b)numerous tequila shots c)’Lord of the Rings’ movie marathon), getting that first draft down can be a real bugger. Especially if you have an over active imagination, then its like trying to herd cats – the story and characters invariably take off in random directions at will, leaving you to try to get through fifty different versions of same scene.
Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on the day of the week and how many ‘cuppa joe’s’ I’ve imbibed) I am a creature of both worlds – half planner, half pansier. I love order and tend towards chaos or, as in the case of writing, I start out with a pretty good idea of what I want (even an outline of the beginning, end, and the major scenes in between), but find myself expanding and elaborating in too many directions before I can get the first draft written. And don’t even get me started on world building (OMG I lose entire days with this one.).
My solution? Learn to except that it is what it is, and don’t beat myself up because I like herding cats. Sure I keep trying to color between the lines, but even that can be time-sucking. So I outline when I can, and let the muse have enough rope she can do what she wants, without hanging us both.
“We Have to Continually Be Jumping Off Cliffs and Developing Our Wings on the Way Down.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Shouldn’t all MS be perfect?
There are no perfect MS. That’s right. Anyone who tells you their finished MS is perfect is either a liar, or delusional. Not even a book published by a well-known author/publisher team is ever perfect.
How can I make such a blasphemous statement?
Because I’m an avid reader, and the longer I spend perfecting my own craft, the more I recognize the mistakes other authors make in theirs – which in turn helps me remember that writing is learned, practiced, and executed, over and over again. Authors are always building on what we know, while encouraging ourselves in the reality that we will get better with time and effort.
For Type A personalities like myself, that can be a loaded gun, since I will spend hours, even days, re-writing a scene – sometimes a sentence. Drives my editor nuts. So one of the things that I try to employ when I recognize myself climbing up onto the hamster-wheel-of-perfection is, leave it for a couple of days, then come back with fresh eyes. If it still looks like it needs work, I’ll hammer away some more before asking one of my beta readers to take a look. But if after all that I still get that warm fuzzy feeling, I’ll do the happy dance and move on.
Is it perfect. Nope – but it is for now.
So what is it that challenges your writing ability, and what have you done to over come it – or not?
Be sure to visit my new publishing site – reigningpress.com
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