Thank you again Stephanie, for sharing this Wonderful Second Guest Post!! :)
To Check Out Part 1 CLICK HERE!
What does it Take to Write a Novel and Finish
Part II: Your Novel as Mistress, Master, and Tyrant
By: Stephanie Carroll
This is part two in a three-part series where author Stephanie Carroll gives advice about how to start writing a novel and not give up until it's finished. Check last week’s post for how to start a novel and check in next week for how to finish. This week is all about the middle phase, which Winston Churchill described as a point when your novel becomes a mistress then a master and finally a tyrant. Yippy!
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It’s easy to see how starting and finishing a novel would be the most difficult parts of the process, but many authors would argue that the middle point is where people lose it. This is when the words: patience, willpower, discipline, and never give up become very important.
Don’t Click Send Until It’s Done
One of the biggest mistakes people make is finishing a first draft and running out to send it off to agents and publishers who respond with either silence or absolute disgust for even sending it at that stage.
When I wrote my first novel, every single draft looked fantastic to me because I didn’t know what a final draft actually looked like. When I had finished the first draft of my second novel, I had just sent out the final copy of my first book, so I knew what a finished piece looked like and boy was my first draft material awful! Truly, truly awful! This is why writers like Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight, freak out when a draft is leaked onto the net. It’s dribble!
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Unfortunately, first time writers may feel horribly squashed by an early rejection and terribly overwhelmed by the thought of the editing process. Again, I recommend getting some good books about editing to help, but it’s also going to take some drive and commitment.
Treat Writing like a Job
You have to get on yourself to work on a routine schedule, every day if you can manage or at least a full work week. That might mean 300 words a day or five chapters a week, but you have to keep trudging forward. Set a period of time when you are not allowed to do anything else, that means no email, no Facebook, no dishes, or laundry, nothing other than writing. I can’t tell you how many people will actually iron clothes in order to get away from the blank screen. Find ways to motivate yourself like rewards for finishing a draft or getting to a certain point in the manuscript.
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Never ever wait for inspiration! Inspiration is not a requirement to write, it’s a good day. No one has a good day every day. If we all waited around for a great day before we did anything worth doing, nothing would ever get done. Write whether you have inspiration or not. Treat it like a job with set hours or a quota. You are in control of how much you produce. I also recommend having your own space to write, whether that be an actual office or a corner in the living room or a hideout in your closet.
Don’t wait to get feedback. Start sharing your work from the very beginning. Share with critique groups – in person or online – to get initial advice about how things are going and to get that confidence that you are producing something great. Don’t be afraid of showing them messy first draft material. They write it all the time. The best writer’s groups encourage while they critique. Avoid groups that only make you want to cry or only make you feel like you are the best writer in the world.
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A Novel Doesn’t get Written Overnight
Prepare yourself for the long haul. When you start, you’re going to always think you can finish in a year or less, but the reality is that might only be true for a first draft. The full editing process can take years and some people work on the same manuscript for more than 10 years before it’s finally ready. I’m not saying that’s everyone, but there are a lot of them out there. Just accept the fact that you will be reading your manuscript so many times, you will lose count.
Writers Block Happens
Brace yourself for writer’s block. This happens to all writers and to all artists. It’s a state where you feel as though you cannot create anything and everything you have ever created is awful. It can last for a short while or a long time, and it usually has to do with confidence and overworking yourself or under working yourself. I once new a writer who could never finish a novel because every time he got writer’s block, he deleted the entire manuscript. For the love of all, don’t delete anything when you have a block!
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The key to breaking the spell is to keep going in some form or another. The only time writer’s block actually breaks a writer is when he or she gives up because of it. I find the best treatment for writer’s block is to figure out if I’m overwhelmed and how to cope with that. Sometimes it’s because there is something I can’t figure out, like how to end a story or kill off a character in a way that’s not cliché. Sometimes reading good fiction or good technique books is enough to fuel new ideas.
Either way, don’t let writer’s block be an excuse to not write for more than one day. It’s ok to take a day off because you need a break, but any longer and you are in the procrastination danger zone. I once read that you can only write as good as you can write. A writer’s block doesn’t actually make you write bad. You just think you’re writing bad, so force yourself even though your work looks awful because it’s really not. Also try these resources to beat the block, The Writer’s Block: 786 Ways to Jumpstart Your Imagination and Unstuck: A Practical Guide for Working Through Writer’s Block.
Further Reading for Getting Through The Mid-Point:
Stephanie Carroll is an author and blogger. Her debut novel, A White Room is coming out in the Summer of 2013. Learn more at www.stephaniecarroll.net and visit her blog The Unhinged Historian for fans of Gothic, Magical, and Paranormal Victorian Fiction.