Last year, I decided that I would sit down and write my first book. I had an idea for one rolling around in my head for years, started it several times and gave up. This time differed from all the other times for a variety of reasons. The main reason, I had my husband’s unwavering support and encouragement. Before I embarked this time, I read all the books on writing that I had bought over the years, including Steven King’s On Writing. (If you haven’t read that yet, please do. It is full of great advice.)
The biggest take away: write every day. I needed to write whether I felt like it, whether I was inspired or had the energy or wanted too.
So I set a goal for myself. I would write 1500 words a day. (I would do more on the weekends when I was not working. Rarely happened though.)
I also told myself to “pants it”; never peek back at what I wrote. Just write. Editing would come later. But, there would be no major issues, right? (Cue canned crowd laughter)
For a little over three weeks, I stuck to it. Every day, I would come home from work and I would take care of the dogs, cook dinner, etc. After dinner, I would sit down at the table and write my words.
I struggled at first, checking every two hundred words to see if I had hit my goal. After the first week, I needed to check less and less. Then I was writing those words without blinking.
I got sick after week 3: I couldn’t write. My poor dogs didn’t get their daily walks. My husband hid from me to avoid catching what I had. The Bjorson household was miserable.
But then I picked the writing up again and after two long months, I completed my first draft! Doing as I had read, I put the manuscript away for a few weeks.
My husband bought a printer, and we printed off two copies. He started reading my precious book.
And he did not have much to say. So I asked him to say something.
He said it was hard to read because it was so full of errors.
And he was right.
My story could be interesting. But because I took everyone’s advice and never looked back to look at what I wrote, I had some major errors in my writing.
So I started the monumental task of editing. I bought a couple books, read a couple blog posts, watched YouTube videos on what is the best way to do this. I settled at the desk again and read my story. I attacked it the way I attack my students’ essays. And you know what happened?
I got overwhelmed.
Because there was so much to fix, so many plot holes and so much that was just wrong. The story I had loved and poured hours into was suddenly something I hated.
It didn’t help that I was planning a wedding. We also moved, selling our home and buying a new one. All within two months of each other. (If you want to test your relationship, do this. If you survive, it means you are meant to be together.)
Once we settled into our new home and married life, I now had a cluttered, bright office to call my own. I pulled out the manuscript and tried tackling it again. This was just under six months ago.
I’m still working on it. Because it is hard. A lot harder than anyone ever made it sound.
November rolled around, and I took part in my first writing challenge for NaMoWriMo. And I did decently well. I did not hit the 50,000 word limit but did get to 30,000. With this new story, I tried a different tactic. I completed a plan/outline of how I wanted the story to go. Which helped me get started and stay organized. Halfway through, I back-tracked to the beginning. I started editing, and I started filling in holes. I recognized events I had set up I needed to reveal, or discovered major plot points I needed to fix.
What’s my point?
Figuring out my writing style took a full year. I thought I had to do what other authors did. I read so many books saying that editing as you wrote was detrimental to your writing, it would cause you to never finish. This process would send me into a vortex of editing and not writing, never adding any words!
For me, it worked exactly opposite. I realized plot holes sooner. If I got stuck, I could edit a little. This always led me to being inspired to continue writing.
This book is on track to be done by the end of February. (Fingers Crossed!) Which means I can send it off to the editor!
I’m still working on the other one. I will finish. But for all my future novels, I will stick with the editing as I go. This may not be what the books say to do, but it works for me. And it may not work for you.
Don’t be discouraged if you have been struggling. Try something new. Try writing at a different time of day; go back and look at what you have been writing. Talk to someone about your book. Skip to a different part of your novel.
Do whatever you need to do to get it done!
They make rules to be broken.