So I’ve talked about a few different things for the story, the world, things like that, but I think it’s time that I mention the writing process itself and, more importantly, habits you need to establish if you are going to be doing this. So many people are stuck on the “I have an idea” phase or never get beyond the first chapter.
Trust me, I know. I have had to learn to do these myself, and they aren’t easy to do. Hell, I still fall into some of these traps, and I have two books out, my third almost ready for general consumption. That’s why they’re habits – these are going to be life-long processes.
- Shut-Up and Write: You have an idea? FANTASTIC! Write that shit down. There’s only so far your plotting and research will take you. Both are required for you to get a good story going, but it’s so very easy to get caught up in the process of trying to outline and get the story points just right before… or get that little bit of extra research before… Or anything before… You’ll never start this way. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not telling you to skimp on the research, the plotting, the outlining, but at some point, enough is enough, and you need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and get ‘er done. Just start. Once you do that, you’re already further than most of the people who are still gleefully talking about the idea they have.
- Outline or Plot: Doesn’t this contradict WHAT I JUST SAID? Why no, no it doesn’t. Here’s the thing – if you know what is going to happen, it is easier to begin. If you have at least a decent idea of how it is going to end and how you are going to get there, it makes it even easier to stick to with the story. Yes, you can let your characters have their head – sometimes a scene doesn’t work because that’s not what the character would do. That’s fine. You CAN change your outline/plotting to accommodate. But have an idea BEFORE you start of what is going on, where you are going, and how you are going to get there… I assure you, it will go much more smoothly that way.
- Write Everyday: This one is a toughy – I know. Dude, I KNOW. I fell out of the habit of this one (a large part of why Book 3 is so delayed). It’s something you have to do, though, if you are to get anywhere with it. Yes, even the weekends, my dears. Even if it is just one page a day. Yeah I know that doesn’t seem like much, but look at it this way – if you write just one page a day, by the end of a year, you’ll have 365 pages! I mean, then it’s time to edit…. but the point is, YOU WILL HAVE DONE IT. Yes, I know things get in the way – heaven knows Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you! It so easy to say you’ll start tomorrow or next week or next month… that’s how books DON’T get done. But devote the time to it, and take babysteps. Little by little, you’ll find yourself at the end of the manuscript.
- Stop Editing As You Go: Good lord, this one is rough, and I still find myself going back and editing and re-editing and editing yet again. For a good six months, I was stuck at 40-45K words on book 3. Why? Because I would go back and change something. Start writing from there, but then something else wouldn’t fit. Change that, writing, then the next thing…. This is a mild display, however. So many people I’ve talked to can’t get beyond their first chapter because they keep going back and fixing things. Over and over and over… they work that chapter 1 to death, and never even see a glimpse of chapter 2 because they are getting in their own way. Well, guess what, my darlings? That’s what the second draft is for. Drop a note, and keep going. Your first draft WILL be awful. Absolute poo. That’s fine. You can make as many edits as it takes to polish that until it gleams. That’s precisely what editing is FOR.
- Change How You Look At Scenes/Elements: Sometimes, elements of your story just won’t work. It could be a small or big thing – that’s FINE. Don’t just stick with it because that’s what you decided to do at the very beginning – it doesn’t work that way. If something jumps out at you as “not working” for whatever reason, it’s going to do the same thing for your readers. When I was working on Book 2, I was halfway through when I realized “Well, shit… If I was the antagonist, this is where I’d just kill Jo…” Please see how I didn’t murder my main? Instead, I had to go back through and figure out WHY she’s just not deaded. Yes, I had to start ALL FREAKING OVER, but I got to use alot of the same scenes – I just had to rework and reorder them a bit. BUT IT WORKED. If you are having difficulty with a specific scene, look at the WHY of it. It could be something at the back of your head suggesting you do it a different way. Ask yourself if that scene is really necessary, and come at it from a different angle.
Of course there’s more to getting your manuscript done than all of this, but you stick to the above, and you’ll be further than those who never even begin.
What are some things that have held up YOUR writing?