Go with your gut. Before writing this tip, I scanned all the others, thinking I MUST have covered this long ago (I haven’t), how important it is to listen to that little voice inside that’s telling you which way to go and what to do when faced with a tough decision. Something happened this week that’s got me thinking about — or, perhaps, rethinking — my goals for Baby Grand. What do I really want? What’s important to me? And I’ve spent much of the week weighing the pros and cons of each decision available to me.
There’s going to come a time while writing, editing, publishing or marketing your book that you’re going to have to make decisions. Important ones. And as I found with parenting, when it comes to writing/publishing advice you’re going to get all kinds — from complete strangers to people you admire and trust. But for me it all comes down to what FEELS right in the end. And that’s the path I usually choose. That little voice hasn’t let me down yet.
Yesterday, I was struggling to make my #1kaday word count for In the Red.
At the beginning of every writing session, I have a habit of reading what I’ve written the previous day and editing my work and then moving on to write new material.
However, yesterday, it seemed as if I was rewriting and rewriting that opening chapter without really any improvement. Adding sentences and then deleting them. Not sure about certain names and character attributes. Hours were going by, and my word count remained essentially the same.
Finally, I just told myself: Move on.
I decided to work on a chapter that was very clear in my mind, one that was much further along in my story. Within an hour, I had a thousand words written and then some.
One of the perks of the blank page is that you can just write. Get it all down now and worry about perfecting later. I had to remind myself of that.
If this isn’t your process, if your words need to be just so before you can move on, that’s totally cool. But, for me, “bad writing is better than no writing,” as I like to say. And even though sometimes the writing’s really bad — cringe-worthy, even — I remind myself that first drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect. They’re just supposed to be.
Stick your manuscript in a drawer for a while before you edit. Or, as novelist Zadie Smith suggests, leave a “decent” space of time between writing something and editing it. As many of you complete your manuscripts for NaNoWriMo, you will be on a tremendous high as you reach the finish line. (And you should be!) You will have the urge to continue the fast pace and charge immediately into revisions. But now it’s important to put some space between you and your work in order to edit from an objective and fresh perspective. After finishing Baby Grand at the beginning of August, I took about a week to 10 days to read the manuscript over and edit, and when I submitted to my agent, I was quite happy with the draft. Then imagine my surprise when I started reading Baby Grand again this month for some minor revisions to find there were problems — plot disconnects, clunky language, weak character descriptions and just some things that I didn’t like. It was quite the eye opener. While I can’t tell you exactly how much time to put between the writing and the editing of your work, it should be long enough so that when you begin to read over your stuff, the familiarity with it has gone, and it feels almost as if you’re reading it for the first time.
To check out all of my writing tips, click here.
Know your ending. So many of my writer friends tell me that knowing the ending of your novel will stifle your creativity, limit the possibilities. I disagree. For me, knowing where I was going while I was writing Baby Grand helped me to get there, no different than driving a car to a destination. On many long nights, being able to envision the final scene was like a beacon in the darkness when I was plagued with doubt and suffering from writer’s block. And once I got to the last page of Baby Grand, my last lines were pretty much as I thought they’d be. However, the circumstances around those lines had changed — scenes were rewritten, characters had developed in new and surprising ways — and that’s because even though I’d ended up where I knew I was going, I had taken a few detours along the way.
You would think after some 13 years of freelance writing, the thrill of seeing my byline would fade or become rather pedestrian. Nah. It never gets old. My first freelance article for Newsday in about a year and a half ran today, and I made my daughter get dressed immediately after she fell out of bed to go pick up our drippy wet newspaper from the front lawn (luckily it was wrapped in plastic). Hey, she was getting dressed anyway…