Why We Don’t Finish Writing Our Novels

There is a lot of pressure that comes with the first draft. We invest a mountain of effort in our work. Questions and self doubt swirl and often collide and cause a terrible panic. Every word has to be perfect! When they are not we believe are horrible. The End.

That first sentence is terrible! (So we rewrite unto oblivion.) I need a better opening! (We work on this for months!) Then we stop look around and think, wow this writing thing is hard. I’m going to take a break. Then six months later, I’ve only written three miserable pages? Ugh.

But, the simple fact is – no one sees those terrible first drafts (or they shouldn’t!). You are going to cut pages, rewrite scenes, and remove them. I cut about 20,000 words on the second go round of my first novel and plan to cut another 15,000 on this next edit (my eighth).

The first draft is a learning phase and you have permission to make mistakes. Repeat, you can make mistakes and each line can be okay, it does not have to be awesome, yet. You can fall, scrape your knee, and try again. Think of yourself as a baby. This might be marginally silly, but no baby takes a step and then decides to race Usain Bolt the next day.

So move forward. Don’t keep interrupting the flow of your book. You’ll have to rewrite and cut scenes and later anyway. Finish your draft first, then you’ll know what to improve. This is the time to take risks and try things with your characters and plot.

For now, write like it’s your job. Especially if you want it to be some day. But remember to have fun and that you’ll learn so much more about your novel when it is done.

Keep writing, friends.

“If want to be a novelist, you need to learn to finish things.” – Neil Gaiman

See You At Jot!



How to Get the Most Out of Jot

jotI’ve read it in writing magazines and on blogs and websites of famous writers that going to writer’s conference is one of the best things you can do if you are serious about being a writer. Writing conferences are part education, part encouragement, and part filler of that elusive creative well.

If you’ve been to Jot, I hope you’ve experienced these things.

Writing can be a lonely process. This is not just true for us amateurs but for professionals too. In the book CS Lewis: Eccentric Genius. Reluctant Prophet., Alister McGrath points out that Tolkien (older and well respected in higher education circles of his day) timidly showed CS Lewis one of his poems he had been working on. Lewis approved of it so enthusiastically, he showed him more. In part, because of that encouragement we now have The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Being around other writers is essential to our success.

So, how do you get the most out of a writer’s conference that lasts for only one night? Pull a bit of your hidden world out of your pocket, be bold and share. Ask the presenters questions. Take notes and attend Matthew Landrum’s Poetry workshop (limited spaces available) even if you are not a poet.  Get to know the person next to you, and share a little bit about your work. You may find a kindred spirit, and even if they are a poet and you are writing a memoir, you will find a friend and also affirm aloud what you are: A WRITER.

Every time I leave a writers conference I am buzzing with so much energy I cannot sleep. If that is you, use that energy to write when you get home.

Don’t miss out on this great event. Come ready to learn. Come ready to meet other writers, and come with you notebook or laptop and commit to getting some words down on the page.

The Weaklings thank you in advance for coming out for this free event.

If you have questions about the event, please post them below. We’ll try our best to get them answered before tonight. Or, write them down and bring them with you.

If you cannot attend, I’ll be live tweeting the event. You can follow me @parttimenovel. We may also have a live stream up and if so, I’ll tweet or post the link here on the blog.

See you tonight!