Tag Archives: first draft

The 7 Pillars of Writing

Writing process is individual, and what works for one person might be completely useless for somebody else. Still, here are some essential things most writers need to learn how to do (in their unique ways):

Reading

You can’t be a good writer if you don’t read. Read a lot, read good books, read bad books, read books of the kind you want to write. It’s more than just having fun: reading makes you understand what works and what doesn’t work in a novel.

Inspiration

Learn to recognize a story idea when it presents itself to you. This is one of the rare effortless moments (everything else is hard work), so learn to embrace it. When something seems inspiring, or when you start thinking about a plot idea or a dialogue, make sure to write it down.

Outlining

Outlining is expanding your idea, and it’s all down to your unique writing method. No two writers do it in the same way. There are plotters and pantsers. Plotters like to have every single thing planned before they sit to write the first draft. Pantsers start without an outline, but that doesn’t mean they work without one. For these people, a first draft serves as an outline. Whatever you do, you need to find a way to expand your initial idea into a coherent story. Since there are many different ways to do it, you need to find the one that works for you. The only way to know is to try and see what suits you.

Writing

This is the actual process of putting words on paper. Never (ever, ever) mistake an outline or a story you have in your head for the actual writing. If you want to be a writer, you need to WRITE. You need to put those words on paper (a real or electronic one, doesn’t matter) to produce a first draft. It’s not easy. Most of it will seem like rubbish, and a lot of it will be rubbish. You’ll experience frustration, inspiration, confusion and a writer’s block. It’s important to keep writing. If you have to, set a strict regime. For example, write two hours a day. No exceptions. You’ll write even when it’s the last thing you want to do, even when your words seem like the worst crap ever written. This is the only way to get it done with the first draft and the only way to practice your craft.

Revising

This is another big step. You need to learn how to turn that mess of a first draft into something that makes sense. Again, the revising process is highly individual, so you need to learn what works best for you. Some people start with identifying problems with the story. Others revise line by line. Some include Beta readers right from the start. The only seemingly universal thing about the revision is that you shouldn’t start it right away. You need to put your story aside for a while and get back to it later. All stories will need at least one revision, probably more. However, you also need to know when to stop revising. There’s no need to do a 14th revision of a story. At one point, you just have to let it go and move to your next story.

Sharing

You can’t write a good story without some constructive criticism (emphasis on constructive). This is what Beta readers are for. In a way, this step is part of the revising process. Some people prefer to share their material with Beta readers right from the start, while others choose to make the story as good as possible. Some even share the material in the process of writing the first draft, or even before, when they’re outlining or thinking about good solutions. Whatever you do, understand the importance of Beta readers (and other people who can help you). You need this feedback; no book exists without readers.

Publishing

Not all writers want to publish their work, but unless you’re writing diary or a story for yourself, chances are you’ll want people to read your story. There are many ways to bring it to the readers, from sharing it among your friends or publishing it on your blog to seeking a commercial publisher. Each of these methods require a different approach, so you need to know what you want for your story and you need to understand the rules of the game. If you wish to be published traditionally (or even if you want to self-publish), you will need to deal with the business side of writing. Many writers refuse to think about writing in commercial terms, but you need to understand how things work in order to choose the best path for you and your work.

I Finished My Novel

Yes. Finally. I finished my NaNoWriMo novel. And yes, it’s long overdue, because NaNo ended in November (more about that in a minute). But this is a very special moment because last time I finished a novel… It was more than 13 years ago.

Of course, it’s just a first draft. There’s a lot of editing to do. Currently, it stands at 102 000 words. Out of these, around 86 000 were written in November, during NaNo, and the rest (the last 6 chapters) in December. You could tell I really slowed down in December (be it because I’ve encountered a problem with the plot (yes), or because I lacked the motivation and the rush NaNo gives you). In any case, I managed to finish the first draft on December 30th. I still need to write one short scene in the middle and include a couple of pages between different sections of the book, and then I will have to start cutting. My goal is to make it around 80 000 words.

Additional details

The working title was “Hardin Hades” (in lack of a more inspirational one), but towards the end I’ve decided to change it to “A Postcard From Hades” (or something along those lines). The problem is, the title seems like something more appropriate for a horror story.

Also, I still don’t know what the novel is “about”. It’s obviously, more character than plot driven, but it’s not as heavy as some literary fiction is. Alternatively (and I cringe at this), it can be seen as romance, or young adult. The problem is, there’s way too much sex for YA.

Speaking of which, the sex in the story is not erotica, but very Judy Blume style. It’s the only way those scenes could be written. (The only way that makes sense).

What I learned

I learned that I still have “it”. I still have the urge and the need, and I still have the will needed to write, plot and outline.

I learned I still enjoy it, very much.

I learned I still can’t write short: in my mind, this was a small novel, and I wondered if I’d be able to make it 50 000 words long. But it turned out to be more than 100 000 words.

I also learned I am not as bad at writing dialogues as I thought I was. Some of it came naturally to me, and writing most of it was really easy. On the other hand, I learned I have a problem with so-called transitional scenes, in which I have to describe stuff that happened but not directly show it (and no, contrary to what writing advice says, you shouldn’t always stick to “show, don’t tell” rule. Some things you have to tell (and not show), or else your novel will be either very long or fragmented).

I learned I can write explicit rape scene, but not a regular sex scene from a male POV.

And, very importantly: I learned I’m able to write “on command”, meaning, whenever I find time, no matter how small it is. This is very important, because of the time management.

In any case, I am really excited about this, and, dare to say, proud I finished this novel. It’s not my first, it’s actually my 13th, but it’s been a while. NaNoWriMO came at a perfect moment, and it helped me a lot. It gave me hope and support in a moment I really needed it.

Of course, it also helped me with my writing. My style is still unpolished and not as sharp as I want it to be, but I feel like I’m making a progress. More importantly, I am enjoying it, and I am more and more inspired to write something new. Maybe I should really start working on a novel I’ve been outlining for 7 years now (a fantasy novel I still don’t feel ready to do… But I will have to start at one point because it just won’t be any easier to do it. When novels are in your head for so long, they grow to great proportions, great significance, and it just puts a lot of pressure on you to actually start and write it).

Also, I got an idea (well, updated an older idea) for a dystopian novel about cloning. This one might have a potential. And yes, I know we don’t really need more dystopian novels about cloning (and I’m certainly not as skillful as some writers to pull it off), but it’s ok, because it won’t really be about cloning but something else (as usual). A really intimate story, you could say.

I just wanted to share this with you. :)