Sunday, September 20, 2015

On Writing and Not Letting Self-Doubt Win

It took me two years to write my first book, Outspoken.  The biggest reason why it took that long was self-doubt.  I'd hit a place in the writing where something in the plot eluded me, or my dialogue was crap, or I was just sure it was never going to come together.

What I did during those times was to put it away.  I'd close the file and go watch tv.  Or read a book that somebody better than me had actually finished.

Two weeks or maybe even two months later, I'd get back to it.  I'd go along merrily for a while, until I came to a place, again, that challenged me, and I'd quit for a while.  Repeat until the first draft was done.  That took eighteen months.

Then I discovered the joy that is revision.  I'm not being sarcastic, I love revision.  Reworking the words, plumping up the words, building the words into something I loved.  Revision is where it's at for me.

For six months, I worked nearly every day on the book.  I had a little self doubt during those months, but instead of being discouraging, that particular self-doubt was borne of a reader's eye and let me know when a scene wasn't working.  So I listened to it and revised until I had it right.

So, that book is done.

Which meant it was time to write another book.  

Before I began, when I was just at the stage where ideas swirled around my head and my fingers itched to get started, I thought about what would make the first draft less painful this time.  I wanted to ensure that I didn't take two months off because I was discouraged or simply couldn't think of anything to write.

I decided to plow through the tough stuff so I could get to the golden delight of revision.

I set the goal of writing 1,000 words every single day of July and August.  I printed out a calendar to cross out the days when I succeeded.  I used a purple marker.

There were days when I wanted to skip it, there were days when it took me more than two hours to squeak out those thousand words, and there was one day I decided to skip but then at the last minute decided I couldn't and came in under the deadline at 11:54.

I haven't taken down those calendars yet.  I may leave them up forever.  At the end of August, I had 65,000 words written.  I probably won't leave the ending where it is, and it's messy.  Very messy, even for a first draft.  But it's a mess I can clean up.  I can do the organizing and the scrubbing and the tidying.  

It will take a long time, but it won't take two years.  

In writing my first novel, I learned not to take the first draft too seriously.  I learned that personally, I need to power through the first step so that self-doubt doesn't have a chance to grow roots.  


Ms. Moon said...

The best writing advice I was ever given came from my son. When I hit a stuck place he said, "Write your way out of it."
I am incredibly impressed by you, darling woman!

Lora said...

Yes, absolutely Mary! Hank is right. And thank you. I'm impressed by you daily.

Sathya said...

Nice and interesting. Thanks for sharing.