Completing the first draft of Old Souls took me years. Years. Right now I’m revising chapter nineteen, and soon, I’ll only have four chapters to go before my second draft is complete. Sounds easy, right? I should be finished writing my book in no time . . . right?
Except when you consider that I’ve botched every goal I’ve set for the completion of this book. My biggest deadline, to have my novel ready for submission to agents by the time all three of my hellions were old enough for school, passed two months ago when this guy began kindergarten.
So, why has it taken me so long to get this story out of my head and onto the keyboard? I started my book shortly after I read the work of an author who wrote her first book in three months. THREE MONTHS. Like me, this mere mortal had three sons, a husband and a life. She made writing look so effortless that I said to myself, “Hey, I can do that.”
*Bangs head on desk*
It turns out: writing is hard.
In fact, I’ve learned so much in the past year alone that I’m no longer working from my first draft. It is serving as an outline. I often say that learning to write well is like learning another language: the language of saying exactly what you mean. When an author dives into the writing world, the first thing they’ll realize is that there are way more rules than the average reader ever notices. Don’t believe me?
Use shorter words, sentences and paragraphs at points of complexity, do not repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect, choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands, interesting names attract the writer and the reader, seek original images, reject clichés and first-level creativity, make word lists, free-associate, be surprised by language, set the pace with sentence length, when the topic is most serious, understate; when least serious, exaggerate, learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both, read drafts aloud . . . and finally: listen to your inner voice and IGNORE ALL THE RULES.
In all honesty, I’m not sure I would have started this journey if I knew just how hard writing is. But then, I’m not sure I would have started a family if I knew how hard THAT was, and of course, I’m so glad I did. If you think about it, the two endeavors, producing a book and raising a family, are comparable . . if you squint just right.
When someone tells me they’re thinking of writing a book, I react almost the same as when someone tells me they’re thinking of tossing a bun in the oven. Goosebumps, excitement, and the sick satisfaction of knowing that these people have no IDEA of what they’re getting themselves into. The late nights and early mornings, the blood, sweat, and tears, and the criticisms from others that you’re doing it all wrong.
I doubt I will ever be able to complete a book in three months. It took three months to pop out my last 8,000 words. This morning, I woke up at 4am to attack one of the more difficult scenes in my book. I wanted to write 1,200 words before my boys woke up for breakfast. Instead, I stared at my blinking cursor for about half an hour, then googled searches like: how to write a battle scene, how to increase tension in key chapters, how to increase blog traffic, and finally, how to clean red dirt off of wooden banisters.
I have come to the conclusion that not only am I a slow writer, but I am slowing down. Actually, I am stuck.
I want to finish this RIDICULOUS book if it’s the last GOD-FORSAKEN thing I do. And, I want to do it in a reasonable timeframe. Because no matter how hard writing is, it shouldn’t take this long. Maybe D. M. Miller is right, and I’m paying too much attention to the rules. At the end of the day, my book is my baby, and I want to get it out.
In the past I’ve set ambitious goals with the best of intentions, and then become frustrated when they never amounted to more than a few crumbled papers. I have a friend, (incidentally the fastest writer I know) who runs a mile a day. Jokingly, I’ve said to him, “A mile? That’s not very far. Why bother putting your shoes on?” To which he replied, “I ran seven miles this week. How about you?”
So today, I’m putting my shoes on. I’m setting achievable goals. Goals that I’m going to blog about every day this week, partly to hold myself accountable, and partly because I know some of you are facing the same writing struggles as me. My goal for the week is to write 500 words every day. If I do it, I’ll have written 3,500 hundred words by next Sunday.
If you’re struggling, I encourage you to join me! Comment in the comment section, or leave a link to your blog posts about your writing endeavors this week. How do you deal with getting stuck? What are your writing goals? What are the best ways to tackle a battle scene, and how the HELL do you clean red dirt off wooden bannisters anyway?