Something which has been much on my mind of late, as I am now hip deep in an attempt at another novel, and that is: what incentives do you have to finish what you started? Myself, as I am a graphic artist as well as a writer, I made a book cover and rendered it using an online eBook cover maker to make it look as real as possible and stuck it on the desktop of my computer to remind me what it is I am aiming for. The thought of holding that finished book in my hands is what keeps me going. (I am writing under the pen name of Philip Why, to distinguish my fiction from my non-fiction work. The name is in honour of my late grandfather William Why.)
You may do that yourself or you may have other reasons for keeping going. A few spring to mind.
Real men follow through with their ideas. Finishing what you start is what winners do. I have tiger’s blood! I’m Charlie Sheen! Grraoor!!!
I need to finish because I can sell it and make $$$millions! I need to know where my next meal is coming from.
I need to finish because I can sell it and make $$$millions! I need to know where my next car is coming from.
People will think badly of me if I fail, they will punish me with their eyes, I just know it. I suck and will probably fail. Yah I’m gonna fail. But I’ll try not to. But I almost certainly will. LOL
If I complete this task then I will prove I am worth something. But till then I am eating Jaffa Cakes.
My message is like the word of god and I need to get it OUT THERE! I have humanity to save and nothing will sway me from my holy purpose.
My message is like the word of ME and I need to get it OUT THERE! I have humanity to save from itself and nothing will sway ME from my ME purpose. OMG I really AM Charlie Sheen!!!
Which one are you? Well if you are like 80% of writers you are none of these things. Mostly we feel we just don’t have time, or we lose faith, or we get distracted, or we get told we can’t do it and believe it. And annoyingly all the time you see people in print who are worse writers than you, have minimal talent and terrible ideas and execution, and yet they are in print or up there on screen. What happened? I’ll tell you what happened: They finished what they wrote by believing in themselves and convincing others, they were professional and they delivered what the customer wanted. That’s all.
Never mind about those guys. I mean, if you don’t like what they do why are you even paying attention? Devour the people you like and analyse what THEY do. What kind of words do they use? How many words per chapter? How many chapters per book? When does the story get started? When does it reach a climax? How and when does it end? Pick it apart and write it all down and model your story on that.
More important than that process, what I would call NUTRITIONAL work, you have the GYM work, self belief and forward motion. You KNOW that you want to write this book. Check you passion for it. Is it YOUR story? If you are writing it just for the money you will fail, so don’t do that. Write the best book you can. If you have passion for the story then you will succeed in finishing your first draft, and THAT is the only really worthwhile milestone you should shoot for.
YES it’s only 10% of the work that goes into a finished book that you can show other people and send off to be printed. YES it’s going to be full of holes and so SOOO much less of a masterpiece than you had in your head or as compared to the heroes you followed in your NUTRITIONAL phase.
BUT (and listen carefully)…
If you finish your first draft you will finish the book. Seriously. If you go that far it starts to take on a life of its own. It starts to help you to write it. It’s like a being, to which you are giving birth, starts to become self aware and wants to be born, so it starts to help you. It wants to live.
The characters begin to come alive, the situations refine themselves. Stuff which you don’t need to say becomes GLARINGLY apparent. Editing a first draft is 90% easier than writing it in the first place. So the first 10% of the work takes 90% of the effort. You need to treat it like a sport. Limber up, do exercises, focus like a sprinter.
Ask any woman who has given birth and she’ll tell you that carrying a baby around for 9 months is a pressing and unstoppable incentive to give birth and frankly considering what you have to do to deliver a baby you really do need some kind of a push. Sorry, poor choice of words.
Once you have finished your first draft, and you can do that at a sprint, you have the perfect incentive to carry out your manuscript to full term. You do this by NUTRITION that is to say feed your muse and creativity and study the work you are aspiring to be like. Then spend time in the GYM bolstering your belief in yourself and focussing on your task by any means necessary. Sprint forward like some kind of nut, pushing people and things out of the way, to get to the end of the first draft. Momentum is the key. Don’t stop to pick up all those old ladies, children, verbs, scenes, grammatical howlers and rubbish dialogue you knocked over to get to the goal, just reach it and fast, soldier.
Sounds like hard work but you’ll thank me for it, hopefully in your Oscar speech.
Go get started, make me proud.
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