Congratulations! You’re writing a book! Here are some tips that have worked for me. Remember, everyone is a unique little monkey, so what works for me might not work for you! Don’t give up!
- Perfectionism is the enemy, especially in your first draft. For me, books don’t start to shine until revisions happen. Don’t be hard on your writing until it will BENEFIT your book to do so! That comes later!
- Are you a panster? A plotter? It might change for each book you write. Two books that have greatly helped me structure my novels are SAVE THE CAT, by Blake Snyder and WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron. There are also a bazillion blog posts on structure, just get your Google on and you will find TONS. James Scott Bell is the Man for this stuff.
- Read, read, read. Read the books in your genre. Read the books outside of it. Take all the books you’ve loved forever and pick them apart. Find the things you love and imitate them. Have fun. Do this for long enough and you will find your own voice. When you do, trust it. Beware, your actual voice might be the opposite of what you think it will be!
- Lots of writers start with vague ideas. This is fine (to start), but I find it helps if I think of the story as a ‘transformation machine’. If the main character doesn’t change by the end of the book, you probably need to work on your premise until they do.
- Before I go into a story, I need to know five things. A) Who is my main character? Tip: This is the person who changes the most and has the most at stake. B) What do they think they want, and why? C) What do they really want, and why? D) What or who is standing in their way? E) How can I culminate all of this into a climax that will blow people’s socks off? If this seems like a lot, you might be a pantster! Eventually, your book will need these things, but how you get there doesn’t matter.
- You will hear a lot of ‘noise’ about how quickly people write their drafts. Some people write in huge blocks of time during the day. Others write at midnight after the dishes are done and the kids are in bed. Some write on napkins, some write on Scrivener. Books get written in two weeks, and books get written in years. No method is more valid than the others. However you can make time to write is best for you. Go with it.
- While you’re drafting, keep the ‘editors’ out of it. I don’t just mean the people, either (though they are lovely). I mean the voice in your head that’s asking you, ‘is this going to sell?’, ‘what if so-and-so hates it?’, and ‘what if this a complete and utter waste of my time?!’ We all have these questions. But they will kill your draft before it starts if you give into them. You know how you don’t feel the trolls on the internet? Don’t feel the trolls in your own head. This takes practice.
- BUT, to answer one of those questions for you – there is no wasted writing. If it doesn’t get finished, it’s not wasted. If it doesn’t get published, it’s not wasted. Every single word, every single idea, every single chunk of random premise will make you a better writer. Because words, ideas, and premises are our life blood. And you never know when one of those ‘wasted’ paragraphs sparks something big when your head is ready.
- In the end, the first draft of a book is really a head game. You will have moments where your book feels right. And also moments when it feels like it belongs in a bonfire of dumb ideas. Lots of people will tell you to finish everything you start. I don’t necessarily believe this, but it’s all a matter of trusting your gut. That being said, it is VERY hard to hear your ‘inner voice’ when you’re having a bonfire day. So, my best advice is to ride it out. Let it sit. Don’t make rash decisions about your work when you’re feeling like crap. Know that everyone has bad days, and that isn’t some cosmic sign you’re not meant to be a writer. Only YOU get to decide that.
- In the immortal words of Jack London, ‘You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” This doesn’t just apply to inspiration. Writing that book of yours won’t happen unless you go after it with a club. You can’t wait for it to happen on its own. Keep swinging, and one day you will be typing those amazing words, ‘The End’.
Are you ready to tackle your draft yet? If you have any drafting questions, pop me an email! I am happy to send good vibes, virtual cookies, or cheering gifs!