Friday, December 21, 2012

Birth of a Novel: But is it any good???

If I had a nickel for every time I or an author friend posed this question: Is what I'm writing any good? It's a natural for us to want our baby (aka manuscript) to be as good as we know how to make it. But the fact of the matter is, the first draft is not the time to worry about the quality. Right now, it is all about the quantity so write, write, write.

If NaNoWriMo teaches us anything, it's that to complete a novel, you gotta work. You have to produce word count and if you worry about every word choice, every sentence fragment, every nuance of a scene, you cannot make forward progress. Nothing is ever perfect and really, it's just another delay tactic to avoid the hard road ahead. A novel is a marathon, not a sprint.

During your first draft, give yourself permission to make mistakes because you're going to. I just went back and read some of the stuff I dashed off in the first couple of days of my current project, PINCH OF THIS and realized it doesn't work with what I'm building now. Did I go back and fix it? Not yet and here's why: I don't know exactly how this journey is going to wrap up and what seems out of place or just plain nutty right now may not seem so when I'm done. There's no sense going back and editing and re-editing something that doesn't have a full form. Don't get caught in that endless loop. Lots of first time writers do and that's also why you'll hear more people say "I'm working on a novel" as opposed to "I've written a novel."

Though you might cringe later, write whatever feels appropriate now. There's always the backspace and delete buttons, but ONLY after the first draft is complete. The hard fact of the matter is that none of it may seem very cohesive once you read it as a finished product, but you won't know UNTIL you finish. So keep plugging away and save the self-edits for another day. Hey, that rhymes. Hee hee.

Next time, we'll talk about how to keep the inspiration flowing because a novel or even a novella is a long haul.



Jacqueline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacqueline said...

It took me a while to have confidence in my ability to write, but once you are over that hurdle life gets a lot easier. It means that anything you write and check will be readable, although it could probably be improved - and improving is relatively easy.

I start every writing day by re-reading and editing the previous two or three days work. That gets rid of the simple mistakes and lets me finish the project.

Then - relax, it's good enough. Now you have to concentrate on how your story works, whether plot and characters could be adjusted. It's good to get outside help at this stage - an outsider can often see things better.

Jess @UsedYorkCity said...

Fabulous point about NANoWriMo...sometimes the hardest part is to discipline ourselves to sit and actually get the words out, but once we do that at least we HAVE stuff to go back and delete later! Gotta start somewhere:-)

Kristin Boyd said...

This is a great post. I've been stuck in an "is this any good?" Wormhole for forever! Its kept me from even finishing any projects. Even first drafts get scrapped. There is a lot of useful information here and it's encouraging. Thanks for posting this!

fiona maclean said...

I do love your commentaries. Maybe I might just start that book in the new's really good to have someone talking from the 'been there done it' perspective

Gemma James said...

I've been having a really hard time getting back into the swing of writing. I stumbled across this at the perfect time. Great advice!