There, I said it. As much as it pains me to say it, I know that my novel as it stands right now is work in progress and very, very raw. There will be a time and a place for me to make it perfect, but now is not that time.
I have to keep reminding myself of this fact because as I write, I constantly want to go back and fix the plot holes and polish things up. And I know that I cannot. Because if I do, then my novel will never get finished. And no one wants that.
Luckily, my biggest asset in the academic world also translates into creative writing, too. Unlike my wife who reads, rereads, thinks, overthinks, ponders, boggles, and aches over every last word she puts on paper, I am very good at sitting down and churning out a complete piece of writing as quickly as I need to.
Do I need a research paper done in 6 hours? Done. Do I need a novel finished by the end of June? Done.
It may not be good. In fact, it probably won’t be. It may need a hell of a lot more work done to it than hers does, as she pores over the minutiae, but I can get almost any first draft done beginning to end in no time flat.
And by learning how to do that in college, I have helped myself with my novel writing process. I know—based on years of aspiring to be a writer—that I have plenty of ideas, but little enough follow-through when I go back to edit. When I do that, I see all the problems, consider the work lackluster, and never go back. So I am taking a skill I know I possess and translating it. And so far it’s working wonders.
A similar skill I gained by learning I can work straight through before editing is that I am a master at keeping threads of thought together in my head. Cut/Paste (or, if you’re more into keyboard shortcuts like I am, CTRL-X/V) are my best friends, and I am very good at reorganizing entire chains of ideas once they’re on paper.
Looking Forward, Not Back
Right now, my first draft has 41,015 words. That means I am sitting almost directly on top of the halfway point I set for my goal. Normally, I would think that I have reached a wonderful milestone and should start working on making this half as cohesive and polished as possible.
But not now.
Not this time.
With the schedule I have set myself, I should be able to finish this novel and disseminate it to beta readers by the end of June/the beginning of July. Once I have a collection of opinions on what works and what doesn’t, I will be able to settle in and polish the everloving crap out of this thing.
But not before. I won’t let myself. I need to see this through to the end before I can start back at the beginning.
A Slave To…
One thing I know about myself is that I am a slave to two things: calendars and routines.
If I write something on a calendar and set a date for it, it’s as good as done. I was raised with the mindset that when you start something, you finish it. So when I put “2k” and a wordcount on each day of my calendar, my novel was as good as written from that moment. As long as there’s a schedule and even a loose path I can follow, I’m there.
I am also a creature of habit. I like doing the same thing every day. That repetition comforts me. So when I said that I would get up at the same time I go to work during the semester and treat writing my novel like a job, nothing changed. When I said, I need to set 8am-12pm as my “novel writing time,” then after a few days, that became my novel writing time. Once I finish my novel, it will become “short story time” and then on to “second novel time,” at least until I start back teaching in the fall.
The point, though, is that I have now made writing a regular part of my life. And I’m the kind of person who works best when things are regular parts of my life.
Solo, Schmolo (But Not Han. He’s Awesome.)
It’s not to say, though, that I am not keeping track of what needs to be done as far as revising the book. I have a document set aside for revision notes that I will eventually be able to dig through and combine with opinions I get from beta readers.
I don’t want to go in this alone. In fact, I can’t. While my voice and ideas matter a great deal to the success of the project, it’s the feedback I get based on this first draft that will really make it a saleable book. And I can’t get that feedback until this first draft is done and behind me. Then, and only then, will I allow myself to start looking back at what I’ve written.
But that’s another post for another time. Right now, though, my attention is solely on getting a first draft completed. I can worry about its quality at a later stage.
What quirks have you found about your work habits that help set you apart from the crowd?