Novice Musings

I wanted to write a quick post. The first reason is I've let this blog down. The second is I wanted to talk a bit about what it's like to write a first draft. This might be a bit jumbled.

I've done enough back-patting and self-congratulation in the past few days. I want to focus more on the work itself. The idea had been bouncing around for a while, and because it stuck around so long I knew it was a good one. It took National Novel Writing Month before I went ahead and did it. Write a novel in a month. That's the basic challenge, and it seemed like a good way to jump into the process. With all that accountability, I'd have no choice but to dive in and keep going until it was done. I've been told I'm a fast writer; it's come up several times. I don't think I really believed the impact of that until I finished that draft. Writing it felt a lot like sloshing through a swamp (at least the way they're described in Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide). You start out looking over this weird marsh, knowing that you have to get to the other side. The first steps are fearful, weird even, as you get ready to cross this new terrain. You brought rubber boots, but you quickly realize they're not nearly tall enough. You can fell the water and muck seep in. The depth of the water changes as you head in, and you have to be careful not to trip over some log or rock hidden beneath the surface. There's some dry bits where you can rest for a bit, but it always feels like your pace is too quick there. Then you're back in the muck. Your head's kept down nearly the entire way, and you don't realize how far (or near) the end is until it's staring you in the face.

Ok, that might have been a bit negative. Still, it wasn't all sunshine. A lot of whiskey went into getting this thing done. Yet, I wouldn't mind doing this for the rest of my life. That was probably the single most important thing I learned writing this. As much of a struggle as it is, even when it feels like a useless grind, it's still incredibly worth it. This book could bomb, and I'd be satisfied because I learned I can and probably will do this for a living.

I've gone over how it feels, so that's done, but I noticed that people are already asking me how I did it. It's a bit ironic, considering I've only written the one first draft. I'm probably the exact opposite of an expert. Despite that, I guess I could be the 50th blog to write about writing. The single most important thing I did was tell myself I would write every day. Now, I didn't write every single day. There were days where I just "didn't want to." But, in those two and a half months I spent writing the first draft, there was about a week of lost time. So tell yourself that you will write every day, and reinforce that every day by either writing or feeling bad because you didn't write. When your head hits the pillow, disappointed, for three nights straight, you're going to write on the fourth day. If you don't do this, I think it'll take way too long for that first draft to get out.

Another important thing: no looking back. How many times do you get stuck editing and revising the same sentence for way too long? That's time you can't afford when writing a first draft. Full steam ahead, get it down on paper (exceptions can be made for glaring grammar/syntax/spelling mistakes, please correct those). If you think of something really cool you should put into Chapter 5, write it down somewhere else and save it for the edit. Better yet, don't write it down anywhere. If it's actually cool, you'll remember it when the time comes. Just don't look back until it's time for the edit. You're just slowing yourself down.

Last thing: don't start writing something else. I used to be terrible at finishing what I write because another cool idea would pop into my head and badger me. I've hoped from unfinished story to incomplete introduction too many times to count. I fixed this by forcing myself to only write one thing at a time until it's done. Sometimes (a lot of times), it means finishing a bad story. Better to finish a bad story and learn from the experience than to abandon it and repeat its mistakes elsewhere.

That's it for now. Hope you got some value out of reading this, or at least found the insight into a novice writer's life interesting. I'll keep this blog updated regularly; this was helpful.