By CM Strawn 10/10/2021
There are a LOT of people, all around the globe, who either fancy themselves a writer or who aspire to the call of the quill. Some pursue the writing craft out of the love of creating mental images with prose, or who intend to generate an income with the pen or keyboard. My intent falls within the latter.
I have finally finished writing my first novel. The sense of accomplishment is immensely satisfying, but the learning curve has been steep, and the path continues upward.
Here are some of the things that I have learned on my journey.
The Starting Point
If you are a published author or a successful freelancer or an employed writer, you are familiar with the road of writing and its many potholes. The first thing any writer learns is that you have to start somewhere, so why not at the beginning. Although some novelists effectively start in the middle, but that’s a topic for another time.
Maybe you are just starting out or maybe you have been writing professionally for years. You may be tweaking a writing career or currently in the system of academia pursuing a degree in writing. Or maybe you have completed a lifetime of work and now have the time available to engage in your long-awaited dream of writing (as it is in my case). Wherever you are, there is or has been, a starting point; that point at which you decide that you were going to be a writer and you started writing.
Make a Plan
The next most essential task is to make a plan. Do you know what you want from your writing? Maybe writing is a hobby, which is perfectly fine. There is fulfillment in the production of prose for personal enjoyment. You may have a goal of becoming a published author or an in-demand freelance writer. Whatever you want to do should include a written plan.
There are many excellent resources that you can find for creating a plan with a little research. (Research is what a writer does, right?) The important thing is that a plan will make your life so much more enjoyable. With a plan, you will know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It is the roadmap for your writer’s journey.
Your plan can be as detailed or as general as you like. Only you can determine how much direction you need to keep you on track. Plans are very personal. If you are a freelance writer and intend to borrow money or solicit investors, your plan must be very detailed. If you are going to write eBooks and publish them on KDP, your plan may consist of one sentence. But whatever your area of endeavor is you should have some kind of outline that you can look at to keep you on track when things start getting murky, which they often do.
Writing is Work
If you are new to writing and expect it to be an easy gig, think again. Writing is grueling, solitary labor. Getting words from your brain onto the page is not an easy task and must be undertaken with the knowledge that there is going to be a lot of work involved.
Someone once said that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life. Writing is work, we’ve established that. But if you love the process of writing and find fulfillment when you’ve completed your final draft, you have probably not felt like you were working. On the other hand, if you hate being alone trudging through endless drafts anxious to be done with the project so you can socialize, you might want to think about another line of work.
Hopefully, you have chosen writing because you have an insatiable need to record on the page the activities occurring behind your eyeballs and not because you think it is a quick way to an easy buck. Writing is an endeavor that will most likely not generate wealth with any great speed.
If writing is your calling, and for many scribes it is, don’t allow discouragement to gain an advantage. It’s easy to abandon the project that you have invested time and effort in when you hit a rough spot. This has happened to me more times than I care to admit. The truth is that I quit too easily because I didn’t take the time to think through my block.
What I have learned is that persistence pays. As I’ve said, I have given up on several stories after writing fifty pages or more because I got stuck and couldn’t think my way out of a situation. One of my problems is that I was writing the story as I went – by the seat of my pants. I was a pantser. I had no plan or outline. So, it was easy for me to get discouraged and quit.
This time I started a new story and set a goal to finish the book in six months. Then I made an outline. The goal motivated me to set aside regular writing time and I followed, more or less, the outline which kept me from getting stuck and bailing on the project.
The first draft I finished in about two months which was a huge boost to my ego. The extra time was a result of changing the outline because there were problems with the original. And I had to do more research in spots that needed a reasonable explanation of events so that the scene wouldn’t appear to be contrived.
After the first draft was finished, the sense of accomplishment was wonderful and motivating. That boost enabled me to push through four more revisions. Now I have my first novel ready to publish after just over a year. I am waiting on final editing and learning some technical skills that I need to self-publish on KDP. But the novel is written. I am just waiting on administrative hurdles.
None of this would have happened if I had not persisted and pushed through the rough spots. I had a goal. I made a plan. And I wrote a loose outline that I adjusted as I needed to.
Maybe some of this will help if you are new to writing. If you are an experienced writer, hopefully, you have been able to smile and nod a little.
Writing is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. And it will require everything you have and more that you will need to learn. For me, this writing journey continues to be eminently worthwhile and fulfilling.