Now, I know this is gonna sound crazy, what with me being a relatively new writer, but I’d like to give some advice for new writers anyway. There are so many things that I wish people had told me prior to my getting started or things that I wished had been drilled into my head before I ever got behind a keyboard. So many, in fact, that I’d probably do a lot better with a Q&A as opposed to trying to write it all down. But, regardless, I want to share a few things that I think are invaluable to someone who’s just sitting down to write a manuscript. Actually, no. Wait. I think these things are important for every writer. I read somewhere recently that one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is giving up their childlike views and novice tendencies and approaches to writing- and I completely agree. So, whether this is your first time writing a manuscript or your tenth, I think these tips are for you. Trust me, I’m a professional. (Okay, not really. You can take my advice or leave it.)
NUMBER ONE: Stop freaking out.
Seriously. It’s not that big of a deal. If you have ideas in your head like, “No one is going to want to read this”, or “I really suck at writing”, or “This will never get published”, STOP IT! Get rid of those ideas. They are nothing but detrimental to you and your writing. You shouldn’t even be thinking about that when you’re working on your first draft. What you need to be focused on is creating your world, crafting your characters, and ENJOYING what you’re doing. I can’t stress that enough. If you are enjoying what you’re doing all of the other stuff should just fall away. The best advice I was EVER given during my time as a writer was, “You have a lot of grammatical errors and stuff like that, but don’t even worry about that. Just get your ideas down on the page.” That little tidbit of advice is what got me through my first manuscript. I stopped caring about that sort of thing, and just went to town crafting my world. And sure, when it was over I had a ridiculous amount of editing to do. But who cares? I finished a manuscript and had a great shell to start creating a better version. Which brings me to my next point.
NUMBER TWO: The Educated Writer VS. The Smart Writer
I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I think it’s important enough to mention again. Okay, first off, there is a difference between an educated writer and a smart writer. An educated writer is someone who knows how to write by the book, craft a good sentence, create an engaging plot, etc. etc. etc., blah blah blah. A smart writer, on the other hand, is the kind of person that can do all of those things while maintaining their mental and emotional well-being. If you’re freaking out about every comma splice, run on sentence, or whatever, you aren’t being a smart writer. If you lay awake at night and ask yourself, “Are people going to like my work? Am I good enough at this?” You aren’t being a smart writer. To be a smart writer you have to be able to use some cognitive therapy on yourself. When you find yourself asking questions like that, follow them up by asking, “What does it matter? Is this helping me?” If the answer is no (and it is), then you can move on. You can get back to writing for the sake of writing and enjoy your work. If you’re ever at the point where the sight of your own work is making you sick to your stomach, you aren’t being a smart writer. Take a break! I can’t stress enough how important it is to maintain a positive attitude during the writing process. If you don’t you wind up like me and stop writing for a long, long time, licking your wounds and trying to repair your damaged brain.
NUMBER THREE: Your first draft is going to suck.
Let’s face it. It is. Unless you take three years to bust it out, agonizing over every single detail of it, it’s going to suck. And even if you do, it’s probably still going to suck. But that’s okay! It’s supposed to! You have to allow it to so that it can grow into what it truly needs to be. The important thing to remember about a first draft is: IT’S A FIRST DRAFT! That’s what editing and revising is for. Like I said, get your ideas down on the paper. All of the other stuff can be fixed later. I know it’s hard to think that way, and you’re going to want it to be as great as it can be, but just go for it. Just get the story down, enjoy yourself while you’re writing it, and fix it when it’s done. Which brings me to my next point.
NUMBER FOUR: Let your work breathe.
If you’re like me (And you probably aren’t) you’re going to want to get this manuscript done as fast as possible, jumping on the editing wagon as soon as you type “THE END”. But don’t. I know it’s hard. I know you have great ideas and you think you’ve got it all figured out. But slow down. Once the manuscript is complete, let it sit for a while. This could be a week, or this could be a month, it really all depends on you. Wait until the hype about it has calmed down in your mind and come back to it with fresh eyes. By letting your story sit and fester for a while, you’ll have a chance to fill in the gaps, think about the more detailed aspects of the story, and really get a true understanding of your characters. Not only that, but when you come back to it the errors within it will be all the more apparent, making your job of editing the thing that much easier.
If I had someone to tell me about these things prior to my first attempt at writing a novel, I probably wouldn’t have given up and let it collect dust for two years. I think that these ideas are universal, and good to keep in mind regardless of your writing experience. If you agree with me (Or don’t, whatever) leave me a comment! If you have any more questions or things you’d like to say, feel free to ask or tell me!