3 Big ‘Don’ts’ to ensure you DO finish your book!
(This post is one for my writer friends…)
1) Don’t spend your writing time reading your own work.
I played the piano when I was in middle school. I never could get the hang of reading sheet music. I compensated for my shortcoming by pecking my way through a note at a time—memorizing as I went—until I could play an entire song. When I didn’t want to put myself through the grueling task of deciphering and memorizing a new song, I played one I already knew. I once played “Für Elise” and “The Rose” every day for a solid week during my one hour allotted practice time.
I don’t play the piano anymore.
I mention this because I got stuck in a rut a few years ago when I wasn’t quite sure how to end BLOOD TOY. I didn’t exactly have writers block. I just had a frayed mess of loose ends and no clue how to tie them up in neat bow by the end of the book. To alleviate my frustration, I decided to read what I had written to see if inspiration struck. When none did, I read it again. And again.
I told myself I was ‘editing.’ Nope. I spent more time admiring what I had written than changing it. I was in ‘reader’ mode. Not ‘writer’ and certainly not ‘editor’ mode.
Thankfully, I eventually got sick of reading my own book and starting scouring Amazon for one to help me get back to actually writing one. That’s when I found 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron. This is a terrific book. I cannot recommend it enough for improving efficiency.
My mistake all along was waiting for inspiration to strike me in the first place, when what I needed to do instead was to figure out how I was actually going to end the book, scene by scene, then put pen to paper. I needed an outline. A plan. Sounds simple enough, right? So why did it take me two years to figure it out?
2) Don’t wait until your manuscript is perfect to let someone else read it.
While there are plenty of novice authors who have no problem baring their virgin manuscripts on wattpad.com and waiting for the praise (and maybe even those big six deals) to come in, there are many of us that fear letting a single typo out into the world. So we hoard our story, rewriting, revising and tweaking until, if we are wise, we eventually let it find its way to beta readers, editors and fans.
There are two big risks in this practice. The first is the very real possibility of spending so much time with your work before letting it go that you can no longer find fault in anything. This will inevitably lead to heartache when your editor advises you to cut that favorite sentence or chapter. Don’t even think it won’t happen to you. When it comes to editing, nothing is sacred. I once had an editor mark out an entire chapter—one red line through the center of ten pages—with only this criticism for explanation: Well, Bippity Boppity Boo!
On the other hand, you just might, like me, fine tune your work to the point that you despise every single word of it, scrap it entirely, and start over. I did that three times with BLOOD TOY.
3) Don’t put off writing any scene for later.
The first time I wrote BLOOD TOY, I immediately wrote the next three installments in the series, hoping to get them all finished before I started college. I set a deadline for each book, and I meant to stick to the schedule. When I got behind on the third, I skipped ahead to the fourth, meaning to make up some time and come back to it later. I was writing eighteen hours a day that summer, living off of Maxwell House and Jelly Bellies. It wasn’t until I came to the missing chapters during self-edit (I had allowed myself a meager 5 days per book) that I realized I had not actually finished Book 3 at all.
While you will probably never find yourself putting off—and then forgetting—entire chapters, procrastination on any scale is a bad idea. Why you are procrastinating is probably the most important thing you can ask yourself. In 2K to 10K., the author asserts that if you don’t want to write something, chances are your audience will not want to read it. That concept was no less than an epiphany to me.
I was once again putting off my last three chapters, this time not to satisfy some arbitrary timeline, but because 1) I did not have an outline to guide me through them—and there were frankly too many loose ends to tie up by the seat of my pants—and 2) the ending I was thinking of writing bored the crap out of me. The solution was really very simple: Stop putting off writing something I didn’t want to write, and start actually writing something I did.
What came out of that resolution not only changed the ending to BLOOD TOY completely, but improved my whole novel from start to finish. In order to make the new ending plausible, I had to revise Diane’s character arc throughout, creating a much stronger protagonist.
Chances are if you are putting off writing something, you need to ask yourself a few tough questions before you write it anyway.