- Don't forget about Books + Beer on November 29th! Four authors, free beer, and general merriment. I'll also be giving away custom necklaces for people who buy all three books of the Torn Trilogy. And maybe spilling details on the new series...
- The winners of the teamTeenauthor giveaway have been chosen, and the organizers will be getting in touch with you soon.
And on the topic of teamTeenAuthor, this month's topic is, "So You Want To Be A Writer," which we figured was fitting, considering that November is National Novel Writing Month.
Those of you who are NaNoing are probably hitting your midpoint mark right about now. If you're anything like me, midway through the novel is about the time you start saying things like, "I have used up all the words. There aren't any more words." Or, "This book is irretriveably broken." Or maybe you aren't saying anything at all. Maybe you're curled up in the corner, rocking back and forth and eating your body weight in guacamole. (Don't judge me.)
Frankly, and I have said this before, I hate first drafts. The entire process is miserable and soul-sucking and like so many horror movies, you're lucky if you get out alive. And if you want to use the comments to complain about first drafts, go right ahead. I will listen and pat your hand and give you a cookie and some tea. First drafts can be the roughest of rough patches, and no one will lend you a more sympathetic ear than I.
And then I will pass along Bit of Advice #1: Suck it up, buttercup.
I know this sounds harsh. The thing is, if you want to be a writer, you're going to have to write a first draft. You're going to have to revise it, too, but that's advice for another time. Now, if you don't want to be a writer? Then go ahead and abandon the book. If you want to be a writer? You have to write a first draft. *
Now, people NaNo for all sorts of reasons. You might be thinking, "But I'm not looking to be published! I just want to see if I can write a novel!" That's awesome, and a perfectly valid reason for doing NaNo, or writing a book in general. However: If you run 26 miles, you ran a long way. You didn't run a marathon. It's the extra .2 miles that make a marathon. Writing all the way to the end makes a novel, regardless of page or word count or your reasons for writing.
You might also be thinking, "But this book is terrible! It is unfixable and irretrievably broken! And I have another, shinier, prettier idea for a book that would be awesome!"
To which I say, "So?"
It's entirely possible that your draft IS terrible. Maybe it's unfixable (though I don't believe any book is.) And of COURSE you have another better, shinier, prettier story idea -- that story is untested and unwritten. It doesn't have the battle scars this one does. But you're learning something from those battle scars. You're learning how to deal with inconsistent characters or rambling plots or insufficient conflict. Every book teaches you something -- and one of the things it will teach you is how to end a story, which involves more than just typing "The End" and ordering some celebratory sushi. Abandoning ship halfway through means you're not going to learn those lessons. Moreover, you're setting a dangerous precedent of quitting when things get hard. And writing, while not as hard as mining coal or fighting fires, is nevertheless hard work. So have some tea. Have a cookie. And then suck it up, buttercup, and get back to work. Which leads us to...
Bit of Advice #2: The Only Way Out Is Through
"Fine," You say. "I have sucked it up. I will Do This Thing. But...how?"
However you can, chickadee. When you're writing a first draft, you have one goal: to get to the end. I don't care how you get there. I don't care if it's good. All that matters is that you reach the end. You can write out of order, or backwards, or chronologically, longhand or on a computer or by texting yourself one sentence at a time. Whatever works.
You have a story to tell. You're the only one who can tell it. So push on, even if it's only a bit at a time, even though it's not perfect. Every page you write is one page closer to the end, and the only way to get to "The End" is to keep moving forward.
The only way out is through. I tell myself this every day.
Bit of Advice #3: "You can't fix a blank page."
You know who said this? Nora Roberts, who has written more than 200 novels and has more than a passing acquaintance with the NYT Bestseller List. She knows a little something about writing, so listen to La Nora.
Some people revise as they write their first draft. If that's how you work best, go for it! Just make sure that you're not spending so much time perfecting the first three chapters you never move on to chapter four.
Some people (and I am one of them) write an entire first draft and then revise the whole book. Usually at the midway point of a first draft, I realize something -- a character, an event, a major piece of worldbuilding -- is missing. Rather than stop, I make a note in the margin that says "Add in ____." Then I keep moving forward, writing as if the missing piece has been inserted. For me, momentum is key.
Regardless of which style (or combination of styles) works best for you, the physics of writing dictates that you can't revise something if it doesn't exist. NaNo gives you permission to write badly for the month of November. I will give you permission to write badly anytime you're writing a first draft. Even if you're a revise-as-you-go person, it's okay for things to be less than perfect in that first draft. It's expected, even.
Later, after you've had a glass of wine and a pan of brownies, there will be time to fix your manuscript. I've never read a story that was impossible to fix -- just stories that needed varying amounts of work. But that's for later. For now, get the words on the page, in whatever manner suits you. Remember: your goal is to get to the end. Worry about prettying things up once you've had a chance to recover.
For now, let's check in: how are you doing with those first drafts? Do you need to vent? Need some encouragement? Have a tricky plot problem? Have advice for others about how to survive the first draft? Hit the comments, and I will do what I can to help.
Here's a list of the other teamTEENauthors with their own suggestions:
* And a second. And possibly a third. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.