The best advice I’ve received about writing a book was to simply finish. To non-writers this may seem obvious but it’s amazing how many ways we writers procrastinate. “I’m writing a book,” we say while revising chapter one to get that perfect first line, reading hundreds of how-to write books, attending thirty workshops, critiquing friends’ pages, doing the laundry, walking the dog, anything to avoid finishing.
Writing a first book seems like an insurmountable task. It’s hard enough writing this 350 word blog post let alone an 80,000 word novel! So instead, tackle your manuscript, a little at a time. Sit in your most creative space for a set upon time every day and write one sentence. Make yourself do it. You’ll be surprised at how that one sentence can turn into ten.
I’m a huge believer in setting goals like this. At first I’d make myself write for at least two hours a day, if I could fit in three that was a bonus. Now my goal is 1,000 words a day, no matter how long it takes. I’m surprised at how easy I’m reaching that goal within two hours. I’ll admit this is my second book and now I think I know what I’m doing. But I also know I can crank out those 1,000 words because I’ve given myself permission to suck. This is my first draft and no one but me will read it. It’s laying the foundation for future drafts.
Here’s a secret first-time novelists may not realize: you need to finish your book before you can start it. What I mean is once you’ve written those last words, chances are you’ll have to change the beginning based upon what you’ve discovered about your characters. Don’t spend your time reworking that first line or first chapter until after you finish the book.
When you write that last word, you’ll be part of an elite group of people. People who claimed they would write a book and actually did.
Kristin A. Oakley is a founding member and past president of In Print, a professional writers’ organization in the Rockford, Il area and a Chicago Writers Association board member. She teaches a UW-Madison Continuing Education online writing course on cliffhangers. Kristin’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, is available through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Little Creek Press. She’s currently writing the sequel, God on Mayhem Street, and is playing around with the idea for a science fiction novel.