What I Learned Writing My First Draft

I have spent 26 months, off and on, writing my novel. So many things happened in my life in those two years: a new baby, a ton of loss, a new job, a promotion, a couple personal crisis, a bout of postpartum depression, a year of college, and ultimately growth.

Though I really want to rest on my laurels, I know that it is not finished. I know that there is sooooo much editing to do and it is killing me to take a break from it. One piece of editing advice I received which was by far the most discouraging but made the most sense, was to rewrite the entire thing from scratch. To print out my existing content, finger paint all over the pages, and type it from there. Only then can I ensure that I did not lazily skip over details that need to be added (Writer friends: thoughts on this process. It makes me want to cry but I am also seeing where I need to do this).

So onto what I have learned:

  1. Keep writing when you are stuck. If it’s too hard, then you need to go back and change something to help you move the story along. I killed someone and was stuck writing for MONTHS! So I brought him back to life and that was that. It added a dynamic to the universe that I built and was helpful down the road.
  2. Have a writing routine. Whether you spend every Sunday morning writing, an hour a day, or a specific word count per day, week, etc, just have some sort of consistent and sustainable goal to write. Once you set these goals, make them a priority.
  3. Join a network of follow writers. I personally enjoy the fellowship and talents at ChapterBuzz . Run by a self-publishing coach, it gives you encouragement, monthly challenges to help you create writing routines (See #2) and also comes with a social network on FaceBook. You can also follow Tim Pike’s blog at What Inspires Your Writing.
  4. Do NOT edit. Lawd. Some days, in the very early stages when I was not feeling motivated or otherwise creative, I would go back and edit previous chapters. Now I can see that even then, and probably less now, I had no idea what I was doing. Before it fully developed into what it is now, my writing sucked. Just wait til it’s over to edit.
  5. You can have a working title, but chances are it wont stick. I created a word to describe a main puzzle piece in my book, but after much thought I knew that if I saw a book on the shelf with that title, I’d never pick it up. It was awkward, was made up, and no one could relate to it. So thank you, Google, for helping me brush up on electrical vocabulary. I stumbled on something ironic, easy to pronounce, and relevant to the story.
  6. There is absolutely NO reason to pursue representation from an agent before your word is D.U.N. DONE! Thinking about it is going to stress you out. Instead create a realistic timeline to completely complete your work. And then MAYBE you’d be brave enough to begin the query process. So if there is less than a week from the time you type THE END, until your dream agency hosts a Twitter Query Session, you should just patiently and painfully stick to your REASONABLE timeline. Do not try to edit your first 50 pages in a week. It’s unrealistic and will not be your best work. Then you run the risk of being rejected by your dream agency. No one wants that.
  7. TAKE A BREAK WHEN YOU ARE DONE!! I had planned to finish writing on June 30th then jump right into editing on July 1st. Little did I know, the book would be done two weeks early and 15,000 words short. But the story is written. I have given myself a month and a half to edit and bring up the word count. I need a break anyway to focus on things that have been neglected like my blog, and every other social media account I have as a writer.

 

So there you have it. Wednesday is that twitter pitch for my dream agency, in case you wondered. I’m chewing my nails wanting to try my queries, but I’m scared of what happens if they love it and want more. Should I ignore them and just rest assured that they would at least want to hear it at some point? Like August 15th when I had planned on being done? Or should I just watch and see what kind of pitches they picked to check out.  UGH!!!

Hope you enjoyed. Do you have any advice to add?

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2 thoughts on “What I Learned Writing My First Draft

  1. Wow, what a journey. I think all that stuff that happened to you along the way while you were writing would only have enhanced your work. I have no idea what you should do next as I haven’t been there but I suspect that it’s different for every writer anyway. One thing is for sure, you just gotta keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on finishing your first book! What an accomplishment and I’m so excited for you going forward. Good luck tomorrow! That must be so exciting and scary at the same time but you’ll do well!

    I’m not so sure about the writing everything all over again part. Unless the work is really bad, I’d do it, but if it were to happen to me, it will be for one of my five published novels where I’d actually start over only because there’s so much I’ve learned since then on how to better tell this particular story and where I’d put certain things and how I’d approach certain conflicts based on genre expectations. I also edit as I go, meaning I write one chapter and then edit it before moving on to the next one. Sometimes I can keep going with four or five chapters in one sitting as far as writing but at that stopping point, I don’t continue until I go back to what I’d just written the next day to see if there were any new avenues my characters would go compared to the night before when I’d just finished writing all the words. Sometimes I sleep only to allow the characters to talk to me and then wake up raring to go either the same way I’d planned or a whole new direction because I somehow thought it out or dreamed it out the night before.

    But I only started editing after writing my second one during NaNoWriMo and it ended up at 90K words and it was still in the middle of the story. It was all over the place. I set those 90K words aside and ended up taking parts of it (like the parts of the hero that turned out perfect) and using that for what would become my first published book, Finding Sam. So it wasn’t such a waste but that’s when I started editing as I went, chapter by chapter.

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