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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Finishing Can Be The Hard Part

Most of you have heard someone say they have a novel idea they'd love to write. Many of you know people who've started and never quite finished. Heck, some of you may have even started a novel yourself that you didn't get around to completing. Any author will tell you, writing a novel and especially committing to finish it, are the hard parts. Ideas are a dime a dozen but sticking with them and caring about them enough to see them through to the finish is priceless. And it's often the difference between a writer and a published author.  If you never finish that book there's no way you're going to get it published.

So what makes most people stop and put it aside? One word: Perfectionist. Don't be one. Seriously. As a recovering perfectionist I can say that. You know what we call the first draft? A rough draft. That's not just a catchy phrase, that's how your first draft should look. My first draft is never seen by anyone because I allow it to be rough. Its not meant for criticism or judging eyes, its meant to be a foundation.

Every person I have ever talked to who started a book and didn't finish was editing the heck out of it, and it wasn't done! I never edit before finishing. It makes me second guess myself and can discourage me enough to halt the entire process. For the sake of my book I will not do it. Which is worse, a rough first draft or no first draft?

If you're struggling to finish that novel and this isn't quite enough advice, check out this great post by Writer's Digest on the subject: http://writersdigest.com/article/4-steps-to-take-your-novel-to-the-finish-line/

9 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more! Giving myself permission to write utter rubbish is a critical part of my writing process. As the wonderful Julia Cameron says (paraphrased): The first draft is just laying down the track. Fill in the landscape and colours afterwards.

    I also have to remember that in the editing stage, I will believe that everything I have written is absolute rubbish. That passes - but knowing that is just my censor and self-doubt stomping about is half the battle.

    Phew. Writing is hard sometimes... Us recovering perfectionists have to stick together, right? :)

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  2. Great post! Perfectionism. Yes, the last letters certainly change the meaning of the first seven to something that acts as a roadblock to writers.

    Your advice is very good, and thanks also for linking to WD's post!

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  3. Absolutely Emma, we have to stick together! Don't want to fall off the wagon and attack that novel in the first stages. Allowing yourself to write a rough first draft is rather liberating.

    So true Marisa, the 'ism' part tells us we should stay away from it! Thank you for your kind words, I'm blushing! And you're very welcome. Writer's Digest rocks.

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  4. I am SO BAD about editing and fixing as I go!! I usually write my best stuff late into the night... sleep for a few hours and then get up and reread and edit before moving on. It just works for me! And I haven't really struggled to complete a book yet... but I just feel like the writing/revising/reworking process is a continuous cycle for me. Now, granted, once the book is finished, the more involved revisions take place for me... but I can't help doing little stuff as I go!

    I will try to be better, Heather... I will try!! :) Thanks for all your helpful posts!

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  5. If it works for you Krissi I say don't sweat it. As long as you can still finish a book that way go for it! Me, I'd never finish. It would be a year before I could get half a book done! A short book! :D

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  6. You are so right on this one. A friend of mine who is writing a book was starting to get bogged down in edits before she ever finished the first draft, and I had to give her a swift kick in the pants (figuratively) and tell her to just FINISH the thing. It's hard to do sometimes, but it's the best method for sure.

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  7. Me too! Though he didn't listen and now, two years later, I fear he may never finish the book. If edits slow you down that much, it's too much! Good for you for rescuing your friend from the perpetual book that never gets finished :)

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  8. I think we writers are so hard on ourselves. Not only do we have to allow ourselves to make mistakes and leave them alone long enough to finish our project, we then have to open up and let other -professionals, no less- see what we've done. A scary prospect.
    Thanks for the post, Heather!

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  9. So true. Sometimes we're too hard because exposing our work isn't easy and we fear making a mistake others will catch. I know I do! But if no one else ever reads it, it doesn't matter if its perfect :)

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