Have you ever come up with a brilliant idea for a novel or story, started on it, found it is going to be harder than you thought, and filed it away for a ‘better’ time? Or worse, deleted it completely?
NEVER delete anything that you have written, even though you think it is junk.
I’ve said this a thousand times to friends, people who like to talk to me about their writing and myself too. After all what is the point of giving people advice if you don’t follow it yourself?
There is only one thing that is worse than doing any of the above. And that is doing nothing at all. Fine, think that what you have written is the biggest load of horse apples that you have ever seen, you are the worst writer who ever managed to draw breath unassisted or any other downput you can put on yourself, but be aware that you CAN make sense of what you have written.
Deleting your work is not a good idea. Sure, file it away somewhere that you can find it again, put it on a USB and throw it in a drawer or simply put it anywhere out of your sight for a while. Just don’t get rid of it completely.
So why should you continue to DO something, even if it is nothing to do with what you are interested in writing?
Some writers get so disappointed with their efforts that they simply abandon ship, no matter what stage they are at. And they spend the rest of their lives disappointed, feeling a failure and carrying a burden in their subconscious of ‘what if?’ They may forget their aspirations and dreams, but a little seed still niggles at the bottom of the psyche and sometimes even puts a feeble leaf through the debris, only to be squashed again.
This is sad. So sad. Why do we do this to ourselves? So many would-be writers literally go to their graves regretting the fact they did not persevere with their dream.
Okay, life does get in the way. I’ll agree with that 100%. We all need to eat, have some type of life, rear a family, a hundred and one things to take our attention and leave very little time for ourselves to indulge in what our sensible selves think of as dreams.
This does NOT mean we need to abandon those dreams on the way to where ever.Everyone should have a dream and the more outrageous the better. After all, Man would never have walked on the moon if someone somewhere hadn’t had a dream.
So keep all your crap writing. Give it a month, a week, any time that it seems to have faded from the top of your thoughts. Only then take it out again and look at it. Even better, have something else completed so your mind is no longer up close and personal with this particular work.
The closeness you have to your work is deadly to any concentration you can focus on the work. It is very much like giving birth. The child is perfect when he/she first appears. This is normal. But, as the child grows, you have to notice some changes in him/her. And sometimes not for the good either, if we are perfectly honest. They may appear shy, demanding, sweet, enraging,genius, gorgeous, all the facets of small humans.
But, like watching a growing child, we need to take a step back from our creation and look at it objectively.
Nothing that we write will ever be perfect. Get that into your head and you can create something much beeter than a first draft. You can rewrite your work as many times as you like, but it will never be perfect. But you can create something which other people will want to read.
So leave your snippet, short story, blog post or novel ‘stew’ for a while. Then take it out again and simply read it right through. Do not make any changes this first read through. Your subconscious will see what it doesn’t like, pick up bad grammar, wrong spellings etc.
Then read it again for story. This time you can make notes. Does your story hang together? Are your characters believable? Have you introduced enough conflict that makes sense? Have you introduced something that does not make any sense?
This time, make yourself a pile of notes. Rewrite the whole thing, adding all the notes. This is not extra work. It is a part of polishing. It will also add to your world count. In the rewrite, also clean up grammar, wrong spelling and anything else you see.
You don’t do a third read through for the moment. Find yourself some beta-readers and ask them for comments. Try to get your manuscript read in a week or so, depending on its length. Then gather all the comments up and read them through.
You do not have to use all of the suggestions that may come back if you do not feel they can be of any use. But do be polite and thank your beta-readers. Without them, you may just put out a crap book into the world.
Now reread the book again, including all suggestions that you see fit to use. This will be your third draft. Which means your book is very close to being as good as it can be.
You might think this is a lot of work. But it isn’t. Your first draft is the heap of clay you start with. All the other work is to sculpt the clay and set it for firing.
These days, any book of any length needs all of the above done, even should you only have one beta-reader. It is also better to give your manuscript to someone you don’t know. Not only will you have a good chance of getting a very honest review, but the person is not going to be trying not to hurt your feelings and go easy on the manuscript.
You might feel like all of this is far too much trouble and you should simply just go as quickly as you can to publishing, especially since self-publishing can bring you large amounts of money. If it is good. True, you can clean the manuscript up and publish, but be aware that readers will note each mistake and be not in any hurry to buy more of your work.
So it really pays to give your best in each manuscript you put together if you want to grow a following. All the followers in the world will not carry your book if it is not the best work you can deliver, so it is worth the time and energy.
And, if you do it properly, you will have another manuscript already working by the time you publish the first one so you will have something to follow up the first one so your audience does not forget you.
Take care and keep writing.