This is the last of my Nanowrimo posts, which I originally wrote for my region as a Municipal Liaison in 2016. From here on out, things will certainly get more interesting.
A common attitude among beginning writers is this: I’m not ready to write this story, because I don’t want to waste words. I was no exception to this line of thinking. As if words were a limited commodity…
But the “wasting words” mentality stops a lot of people from ever finishing novels. I’ve overcome this problem, for the most part. Not easy to do. Let me frame this in an anecdote.
In August of this year, I was working up against a deadline for a novella. I wanted to hit the deadline, because I’d been floundering on the project for too long. So I set a goal of writing a 1000 words a day or more, and turn the story in by August 31.
The novella got sent to my first reader, and I slotted it on the schedule for publication. Total win. But I had another problem.
The story didn’t feel right to me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem.
What does this have to do with finishing a novel? I’m getting to that.
Often what happens is I get overly critical of myself. I’ll tell myself, hmm that sucked. That could’ve been better. The end isn’t good enough. I’ve learned to expect this, and I’ve learned ways to deal with the negativity in my head.
My solution to the critical voice problem is to hand my work to my first reader, and let her decide if the story works or not. I’m too close to my own work, and therefore not a reliable judge of what I’ve just done. My first reader is a trusted friend who not only reads the genres I write in, but also understands me as a person. And I give her simple instructions: read the story, tell me if you enjoyed or not, and point out my biggest blunders if you can.
Most of the time, she enjoys the stories I write and has few complaints. On this novella, she confirmed what I had suspected. When she told me what didn’t work for her, even though her explanation wasn’t very technical, a lightbulb went off in my head.
I knew exactly where the problem in the novella was. And it was a deep flaw. From writing this goofy story I learned huge lessons about storytelling and plotting.
But before I could find the flaw, I had to write the ending and give the story to a reader. Before I could learn how to be a better storyteller, I had finish the novella. I’ll be carrying these lessons to my future projects.
The most important thing I can teach you about writing is this: you don’t know what you don’t know.
You can’t edit a story that doesn’t exist. Readers can’t read books that haven’t been written. You will never improve as a writer until you’ve finished a story. And then you have to finish another one. And another…
Finishing isn’t easy. So set a daily goal. Maybe you won’t finish in November. Oh well. Finish it before New Years. Just pick a deadline that is reasonable, and spend the time every day to work towards “the end.”
If you give up, you won’t improve as a writer. No words are ever wasted, even the ones that get tossed out during editing.
Good luck. And have fun!
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