If you missed my introduction to this post in Part 1, then lemme catch you up real quick: I just announced that I’ve finished writing the first draft of my first novel, and now I’m sharing the process I went through to get to the other side of a “maybe one day” dream. In Part 1, I described six ways in which I prepared for writing the draft and today in Part 2, I’ll share what came next to actually get the thing written!
- I read successful books. As soon as I decided I was going to write a book, I decided, at 29 years old, that it was time to read Harry Potter for the first time in my life. I mean, J.K. Rowling became a billionaire because she wrote children’s books. Whether you like HP or not, you can’t deny that she did something right! The Harry Potter series is nothing like my story, but I noticed how much attention to detail Rowling employed, along with her use of foreshadowing, and her mix of humor and drama. I can’t say I’m a “Harry Potter fan” – probably because I read them as an adult – but I am definitely a J.K. Rowling fan. She’s an amazing writer and reading her work was inspiring and motivational before I dove in myself.
- I read… less successful books. Rule number one when you get into this biz: don’t criticize another author’s work. We’re all laying our hearts out on the line for all to read, and we’ll get enough criticism from readers who don’t know the difference between “their” and “they’re.” So be nice to other authors, because you know how much they went through to produce their work. That being said, there are some works out there that aren’t best-sellers, or there was a lazy editor involved, or someone self-published prematurely. Reading these books and then realizing that you’re reading someone’s book is pretty eye-opening. You realize you don’t have to be perfect in order to get your book out there. You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer or Suzanne Collins (my novel is YA, can ya tell??) to find an audience. So read the less-than-perfect stories that are out there, and know that writing your own doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you may have thought.
- I proofread for a friend. There was a friend who had been working on her own story, and she asked me to read it for her and to give input. This was a great opportunity for me to think critically about what went into writing a book. I could see what an unfinished novel looked like so I was better prepared to face my own incomplete work on the computer screen. When I gave this author feedback, I internalized what I was telling her, making sure to incorporate my tips into my own writing (hopefully).
- I wrote the outline. Apparently there are two camps in writing: pantsers and plotters. I always thought I’d fall into the pantser category. That is, I thought I’d write best “by the seat of my pants.” It started out that way, and I got four chapters written just from what I had floating in my brain from all the notes I had taken in the preparation part. But then I got stuck, and while it was good and right that I just wrote with the flow, I ended up scrapping three of those four chapters. I gave myself a month to compile my ideas into an outline and I am SO. GLAD. I. DID. There’s no way I would have been able to write as smoothly as I did without the outline. I have multiple story lines happening simultaneously and they all come together in the end. Trying to magically put them together without a plan would have been frustrating to say the very least. To write the outline, I just went to the library and did a lot of thinking, and I talked with my writing friend to make sure that what I was imagining made sense.
- I set a goal. Goals were never my thing growing up, they were just another opportunity for me to prove to myself that I was a loser incapable of achieving anything (self-esteem issues, much?). But when I started the writing process a year ago, I was a stay at home mom to a 6-month-old and a 2-year-old. If I didn’t set a goal, I knew I wouldn’t get it done. My original “big goal” was to finish the first draft by my 31st birthday, which is 3 days before the year ends. That gave me a year and a half. I really hoped to be finished with it before then, but I wanted to be realistic. After setting up that big goal and writing my outline, I knew I had about 35 chapters planned so I set a smaller goal to get one chapter written every week. Even if I missed a week here or there, I would still be on time in completing my big goal. Turns out, I only missed one week and often had multiple chapters done, but I was content with my progress if just one chapter had been completed. Or deleted from the outline 😉
- I wrote. Well, duh. I wrote in Google docs online, and I had a folder with several documents in it. My outline, my notes, the stuff I had scrapped, a list of my characters’ names and pictures I pulled from the internet of actors I thought could play my characters, and other various things. What worked best for me was when I could get childcare for a couple hours so I could go to the library to write. We have a nice indoor park with waterfalls and real trees in our library, so it’s a very calm and neutral environment. When I couldn’t get time away from the house, I used basically every nap time to get the writing done. This meant that other things were put on hold for awhile. My meals weren’t quite as thought-out and my house wasn’t as clean as it could be, but I knew it was temporary and I had chosen to make writing my priority for the time being.
I thought this was only going to be a two-parter, but I’m realizing that something I should add is what I did whenever I’d get stuck, because that is definitely a major problem. So stay-tuned once again, my friends, for Part 3! In the meantime, get going! Pick up a book or open your laptop! We want to hear your story, so MAKE IT HAPPEN!!