I’ve been talking to some young writers who would like to start a novel, and while talking to them it occurred to me how many things new writers do that keep them from finishing their first draft. Sometimes it’s because they want someone to read and give them feedback while they are writing their first draft while at other times it’s because they just don’t know where to take their story because of a lack of planning.
Then I remembered how much I learned while writing my first book’s draft and how many things I wish I had know or been prepared for. Perhaps if I had been warned my plot wouldn’t have fallen flat on 5000 words. While I had pushed through I was very close to simply calling it quits.
So this post is for those of you who are thinking of writing a novel.
8 things to know before you start to write your first novel.
1. To get through your first draft takes a lot of discipline. Yes writing is fun, but there will be day where you just don’t feel like writing. I’m not trying to throw you off or keep you from writing by saying this, I just want you to be prepared because it’s true and it’s often where people give up on their writing. The truth is that writing will get hard but even on those days you need to put your butt in front of a computer (or pen) and keep writing. You will need to be disciplined to keep writing. The best way to be disciplined is to make sure you write at least 100 words every day.
2. You can find that even though you are disciplined in your writing a day might come that you need to kick up the motivation. I’m stubborn so my motivation is proving a point most of the time, or because I really want to reach the end of the book but if that doesn’t work you need to find a way to motivate yourself, perhaps the reward system can work for you. (500 words for a cup of coffee?)
3. Expect to learn a lot while writing. I’m not talking random facts; I’m saying that you will learn a lot about yourself. You will also learn that you suck at writing…
Not that that means you’re a bad writer, it just means that this is your first time attempting something like this and I’m sure any successful writer can tell you that their first draft of their first story also sucked. It’s not a bad thing it just means that you have things to improve on. When you realize that your writing is worse than you would like it to be, don’t give in, and embrace it. Yes it’s bad but you can only improve your writing if you write.
4. This is another thing you need to know about your first draft, your writing will improve. I have no doubt about it. As you write your brain becomes more accustomed to the way sentences sound and by the end of your 120 pages you will have gotten much better. Don’t be surprised; let it motivate you to keep writing.
5. I often hear young writers who has never finished any book tell me that they don’t plan because they’re more on the seat writers. If you’re a pantster (someone who writes without a plan) then that’s great, but if you tell me you’re a panster and then later tell me that you keep losing interest before you can finish your novel then I suggest you try planning.
It takes a little extra time but it really does help. If you know where your story is going then you will never be caught in one of those moments where you ask yourself “well what do I write now that won’t be boring?”
6. Here is something more common among the young writers on forums on the internet; they often start to worry about title, covers and dedications before they even finished their first draft. These things don’t matter at the moment, just focus on finishing your novel.
Yes a good title is always nice but the title is focused on the audience and getting them to buy your book, and guess what, that doesn’t matter until you have a book to sell. You don’t need a good title or a cover when you are writing your first draft. You want to know what I’m calling my work in progress? Felix vs Aida… it’s not the title it will keep but it helps me remember in which Word file the story is being saved.
7. I feel I need to say that
you don’t write your first draft for an audience. You write it for the story. A friend of mine has this habit of sending you bits of her first drafts, and I love my friend to bits, I see potential in her writing but her first draft is just like mine, not all that good. So please I’m asking you while you’re writing don’t give your writing to someone just to be read so they can give you praise, it puts people in an awkward position. The only exception is for when you are in a writing group and you have discussed reading your work out loud. Even then people might give you bad feedback and this has also kept people from writing so that is where the whole don’t write for an audience comes in. While you are writing your first draft you are writing the story your way, and other people don’t have a say. Only when you start to edit do you start considering other peoples feedback.
8. The last point I want to make is that your story will grow. You might have had a simple idea but as you write the idea will twist and turn. Again this is where your planning helps, it keeps you from making drastic choices… but these twists in your idea isn’t a bad thing and that’s what I want you to know. Don’t panic because you’re not sure whether or not to implement a change. Examine it from all angles and ask yourself if it fits, if you want to add the change go for it. This is your first novel you have free reign on how it goes.
I hope this helps the new writers out there and if you happen to have a novel finished then share something you feel young writers should know.
If you have a unfinished novel lying somewhere or you have a spark of an idea without any substance then I challenge you now to go take a look at it and turn it around in your head a few times to see if you can get something from it.