3 Things The Pre-Published Writer Should Keep In Mind

As the drafts of my current novel get perilously close to the double digit mark, there is ample time to reflect on what went wrong at the beginning. If I’m honest, I didn’t know how to craft a story, I just liked words. Now, I feel as if a good percentage of the fog has cleared. I can tell when a scene stands on its own merit and when it is time for one to die.

Below I’d like you to consider three things while you work on your unpublished manuscript so you are not overwhelmed and give up.

Leonid_Pasternak_- Writing Be fair with your comparisons – If you are just starting out, know where you are. You are not the next Rowling, Hardy, or Dickens. At least not at this moment. Do not pick one of the greats in your genre and think, “Well, I’m never going to be this good, time to try woodworking”.

Do people who want to lose 30 pounds do so in a week? How about someone who has never run a marathon? Could they just wake up the next day, put on their running shoes, and sprint to victory? Be realistic writer. You are still trying to figure it all out. Be okay with that. Your first draft probably won’t be magic. But the fifth one might, so keep at it.

You are in the learning phase – Sadly, one does not write a book and immediately get published. But this can also be a very good thing. Books published without going through the crucible of a severe and honest edit and several drafts have given the perfectly viable industry of self-publishing a terrible name.

Before you try to publish, learn about the publishing industry. Learn about agents. Read magazines on writing. Find people to give honest feedback that will help you understand what went wrong. Do not go to someone who is ruthless. After all, is it okay to tell a baby how awful they are at walking and never to try it again when they are taking their first steps? I do hope you said no.

Writing is hard – Writing is a slow plod, not a sprint. Even those with dynamite first books spent years learning the craft in school or otherwise. So when you spend three hours on a paragraph and are tempted to scrap the whole thing, take a deep breath. Go for a walk, refill your creative well, and find a new way through the thicket of your book.

Writer, if you find yourself in deep despair or overwhelmed at the blank page or your latest draft, relax. Remove the belief that something has to be great, immediately. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations, learn all you can, and then get to work.


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!