Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.


What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

It’s okay to rewrite your novel.

When we sit down to write our first manuscript, we’re caught up in the excitement of a new story and the rush of seeing it exist outside ourselves. But we all know that first draft is not the best version of your story, which is why we revise.

Sometimes, that first draft is just a rough outline.

I figured this out the hard way… by means of beta readers. (For which, I’m eternally grateful!) I started my current WIP during NaNoWriMo 2014, had a completed draft by the end of January, then went through seven rounds of revisions before sending it to my beta readers April 1st.

I thought I had a decent manuscript. I’d cut a lot of words, added a lot of words, fleshed out scenes and rewrote the second half of Act 2.

Safe to say, I was still a LONG way from having a query-able manuscript. You can read the post on my experience with my beta readers, here.

In order to make the changes to the novel, I had to deconstruct it. I took my outline of the beta draft and began reconfiguring the chapters/scenes to fit the new structure. There were some scenes that remained, some that were altered, and some that were deleted all together. But there were a lot of new scenes to add as well.

At first, I was pulling my hair out with the revision, focusing solely on the quality of the words instead of getting the new story down. Mind you, I don’t [totally] regret that bit because the writing did improve, so I’m ready to tackle the MAJOR REVISION waiting for me at the end of this draft.

I think a lot of us get lost in everything wrong with our writing that we lose sight of our excitement for the story we’re telling. It’s okay that this happens, but you can’t let it determine your writing journey. So if the first version of your MS isn’t what you want it to be, deconstruct it and dive back in to Rough Draft Mode. Then you can revise the new version until it glistens and shines.

Happy Writing!

The Never-Ending Cycle of Revision

So I spent this past weekend working hard on the third round of revisions for my WIP when I realized that I really, truly am a workaholic. Not that this comes as a surprise, but as I finished the edits on chapter 9 (of 26), I found that I’m genuinely excited for the next draft, and the draft after that and the draft after that.

Each draft presents an opportunity to clarify the story and bring depth to characters, which means that each time I read through a new version, I’m that much closer to having the product I want readers to [hopefully] enjoy.

Now every writer’s revision process differs. I wish I could revise as I go on the computer, but I’m weird and feel oddly attached to the words on the screen. So I print out the whole draft and ruthlessly rip into it, type in my edits, then do the whole process all over again.

(I have this irrational fear that there’s a tenth circle of hell for everyone involved in print publishing where trees punish us for turning their friends and families into paper, so every time I print out my MS or the magazine at work, I suffer this unsettling guilt…)

The process is a bit long and drawn out as I mark-up the entire manuscript each time. It’s not that I don’t like to concentrate on smaller pieces, it’s more so I just enjoy getting a feel for the pacing of the different character and plot arcs and how they connect. I participate in a critique group that looks at 10-20 pages at a time and their input is invaluable when it comes to improving the writing and avoiding certain issues. But as a novelist, I feel like I need to ensure the overall product is cohesive. To me, that means printing out the entire draft, sitting on my couch and reading through it from beginning to end, notating where things don’t work, what’s redundant and what needs revision.

Like I said, this is just my process and you have to find what works for you. Just remember that revision is an integral part of the writing process. Yes, it’s tedious and often frustrating, but when you do finally reach that final draft, you’ll be so glad you did!

Happy Writing & Revising!

The First Draft: Just get it out on paper

Oh first drafts. So full of joy and adventure and excitement – until you read them.

There’s a reason they’re called “ROUGH” drafts, folks, and it’s because they are usually, indeed rough. When we’re turning our stories into words for the first time, the writing isn’t always going to be presentable. Lord knows mine is in shambles my first go around, always including too much redundant character motion and not enough scenic details. Transitions get left out. Dialogue tags are out of control. Scene movement can get choppy.

But that’s okay because the rough draft isn’t the final draft.

A while ago, I was at a critique meet when I heard someone call their first draft, her “vomit draft,” and it’s stuck with me ever since. And here’s why . . .

A vomit draft implies a couple of things:

  • You throw your story onto paper as quickly as your body will allow.
  • You don’t worry about what’s pouring out of you being pretty or perfect, you just get the story out.

It’s crazy how changing one word in your vocabulary can alter the way you view writing. Thinking of my first draft this way helped me out in more ways than I expected, but here’s just a small list:

  • My productivity shot through the roof. I went from having 2/3rd of a rough draft for one book to (in nine months) having two complete drafts of two books.
  • It took the pressure off, letting me enjoy the adventure of writing instead of seeing it as a chore.
  • It also allowed me to dive deeper into the tension/pacing of each scene instead of worrying so much about the details.

But like I said before, the vomit draft should never, EVER, be your final draft. So now that you’ve gotten your story completely written out, go revise it then ask a fellow writer/reader to look at it – we’ll discuss the importance of critique partners and beta readers in a later post. Hint: You want one!

Happy Writing!