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Writing is about keeping going

Updated: Jan 8


‘The pathos, and the gift of life, is that we cannot know which will be our defining heartbreak, or our most victorious joy.’
Alexandra Fuller

 

You have made it all the way! You wrote your book. Or did you?


If you have done it, we hope you feel proud of all the blood, sweat and tears you have poured into your project. All that is left now, if for you to sit tight, dig deep and keep sending off to publishers or agents. Just like in sales, it’s a numbers game, remember? Set weekly targets to stay motivated.

 

But what if you didn’t finish? What if you are stuck? You would not be the first writer.

 

I can usually slot writers into one of five places where they might be stuck. Are you here? Here are the most common places you may find yourself. Any of them familiar?

 

1.      You are stuck on just the idea of it

Yip, it is so easy to get stuck on the very IDEA of your book. So many possible stories swirling in your head. How should you start? Who should you include? Should you actually write about yourself? What research should you do? All writers have so many choices, but you are crippled with them.

Solution: Structure and a solid writing plan. Go back to Part 1 and get a list of  your book scenes together.

 

2.      You are stuck on the first few chapters

And here is where many writers will get stuck. Some for years! This is one of my biggest slam-dunk-and-move-on areas I will rush you through. Any editor will tell you that you are never going to use those chapters as you first wrote them in your final draft, so stop agonising and trying to perfect them. I am working with a writer on her eighth book and third draft of it.

‘I am cutting out your first three chapters,’ I told her. ‘The rest of the book is fine but your story only really starts in Chapter 4.’


Gulp. All that work agonising over those chapters and they are cut!

Solution:

It will all change in your second draft so just do your best in the first round and move on. Did you read Sarah’s Rules of Writing a First Draft? Stick to them!


3.      You are stuck at 20,000 words

You reach 20,000 words and WHAT? You have told your whole story? But a book needs to be longer and you can see that now. What happened?

Solution: Plotting and structure needs to happen! A book is  l o n g  and that is why we require a certain number of plot points to take your story to the correct length. You might have to go back to the initial structure, chapter and scene list to dig deeper, expand your concept, bring in different aspects,.  


4.      You are stuck on your first draft 

So now you are a bit further down the line. Are you here now? You have pushed all the way to the end. It is a celebration. What do you do? Put it down and never touch it again. Hands up who has done this? My hand is in the air as I have about four books sitting somewhere in my computer that I wrote and never did anything about.

Solution: Kate says time to pull finger and get ready to do some real work. All of you who have been working with us for a long time know that the first draft is just the START. After that, you will do your second draft and make it better. 


5.      Your first rejection letter

‘Thank you so much for your submission but after careful consideration we regret to inform you book is not a good fit with our stable.’Crushing? Of course! So you sniff, delete that email, pretend it never happened and move on to things you are far better at. Right? No! This is the point at which you CANNOT STOP. Of course, not every publisher or agent will like your book. Nor will every reader.

Solution:  Develop a thick skin. I like to call that a professional skin. We recommend sending to 20 publishers on your first email. Of this perhaps two will reply. So your first rejection will sting a bit, but the next few will hurt less. 


Your job is to know your area of potential weakness, and find creative ways to move through them. That is IF you truly want your story to touch the lives of reader’s. And that’s why you are still here, isn’t it?

 

EXERCISE

 

Remind yourself again of something we asked you right at the start. Why are you doing this?

 

Why this? (Why this message? Why do people need to hear YOUR voice?) 

 

Why me? (Why not someone more experienced? Why do YOU need to tell this story?)

 

Why now?  (Why today? Why not tomorrow? Why not next year?)

 

 

And all that is left for us to say is follow your heart and do the work. Put in the time, blood, sweat and tears – and have some fun. Be sure to get the right support and see your project all the way to the shelves.


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