The holidays are over. That means it’s crank out the next book time. I’m shooting for 2,000 words a day, though I acknowledge that it will take me several days to build up some momentum. The process of writing this book will be different from how I wrote the first book in so many ways. I decided to take a moment and reflect on what I learned from writing, completing, and revising my first book.
It’s true what they say– the best way to learn to write is to write. I mean, I know everybody says that, but did you really believe it? I didn’t. Turns out, everybody was right. I still maintain that reading books and articles on writing and talking with other writers is beneficial, but nothing gets the job done like, well, getting the job done.
The first draft really is the first draft– the first of many. I think all writers have a teensy part of themselves that believes the first draft will need just a little tweaking to become absolutely perfect. I changed literally every single word in my manuscript at least once. My days of fretting over finding just the write word during the first draft phase are over. This time around, I’m going to NaNo this book to the very end. It’s not a sprint to the finish line; it’s a sprint to the starting line for the marathon that is revisions.
The most useful book I read recently wasn’t really a book at all, but more of a glorified pamphlet. In Tell, Don’t Show !, author James Lofquist says that telling what happens in a scene in the form of lists or choppy sentences instead of writing the scene complete with description and dialog can keep momentum rolling for the overall project. Generally, I cannot write out of sequential order. If there’s a scene that I’m really excited about. I have to write my way there. This method helps me do that more quickly, leaving less opportunity for my enthusiasm to wane in the interim. This method helps me keep my focus on the big picture.
Sleep on it. Now I’m not advocating a nap every time the writing gets tough, but I can’t count the times I wrestled for hours with a plot point only to wake up the next morning and find the answer waiting there as though delivered in the night by the Tooth Fairy. The creative mind is a mysterious thing. Sometimes, the only thing to do is to get out of its way.
That brings me to the final and most important lesson I learned, one that I’ve written at the top of my to do list so it’s the first thing I see everyday. “Have faith. You’ve got this.” We writers are a fickle lot, prone to talking ourselves into feelings of hopelessness and despair. Since publishing a book, friends and family who have bought the book (I love you people dearly) ask me how I came up with this or that idea. The truth? I have no freaking clue. The ideas just came when I needed them, so many that several of them had to be abandoned. Sometimes they were born as I wrote, other times they seem to have been seeded by something I read, heard, or watched. Writing is tough. At the end of some days, I felt like I had been digging a ditch in frozen ground, and all I had to show for it was eight-hundred words of total crap. It happens. It happens kind of a lot actually. But that other thing happens to — that thing where you get lost in the story, and your growling stomach reminds you that you haven’t come up for air in six hours, and you look at what you’ve done and think ‘Whoa! That is awesome.’ Those moments happen too, and it’s those moments that I have faith in.