The Write Way

Last summer, I began writing a manuscript for a fantasy novel.  I won’t divulge too many details about the plot right now, but the story takes place in a world separate from our own (which makes it more like The Hobbit than Harry Potter).  I was really excited about working on it because I believed the story had enough twists and quirks to make it a refreshing entry into the genre.  The mere act of writing was also interesting to me, because it was the first time that I really made a strong attempt to write an entire novel.  For better or worse, I was adamant that I would finish the book.

Unfortunately, summer ended and classes returned before I was completed; I was only 50,000 words into the manuscript and I would not have time to finish it for months.  Frustrated, I tucked the story away and hoped for the best.  I didn’t want to lose interest in the project, having come so far, and if I did complete it, I didn’t want there to be a big stylistic difference between the first 50,000 words and the remaining 30,000.  The anxiety of finishing the story was enough that I didn’t even start immediately when school ended this April.  I not only had a lot of writing to do, but I wanted to revise about half of the chapters that I did write before.  I was worried that if I started again, I would fail again to finish the manuscript by the end of summer.

Then, about a week ago, I dusted off my manuscript file and went to work.  I revised first to immerse myself in the story once again, and because I wouldn’t be confident in writing new chapters until my previous ones were in order.  Of course, because I had to reorganize some story sections, there was a lot of writing to be done in the midst of revision anyway.  I had a productive first day, having revised about 40 or 50 pages of text, and realized several things:

I don’t hate my writing.  This is a phrase that all writers should repeat to themselves about a hundred times a day.  If you’re writing a story, you’re not going to know if it’s good or not the first time through.  More importantly: it’s probably not good.  Every great book you’ve ever read was once a badly written first draft, and its current greatness only exists because the writer kept editing (“Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott is a good essay about how you can’t expect the first draft to be good).  Anyway, upon re-reading the beginning of my book, I found out that there was something good there that’s worth writing (and reading) behind the mistakes.  Plus, I made it better by fixing the problems.

I missed my characters.  When I put my manuscript away at the end of last summer, I didn’t just set my story aside.  I let the fates of all my characters just hang there, waiting for resolution.  As I read, the story made me care about the characters again and now I want them to succeed just as much as I want myself to succeed.  That’s another reason I’m more confident in my skills: at some point, interesting characters formed from the assortment of words I chose.  I owe it to them and myself to continue.

I can do this.  When you’re a writer, having belief in your own abilities can make the work easier, and reading the beginning of my book again definitely restored my faith in my writing.  I not only mean that I have the ability to finish the manuscript, but I also believe that I can complete it before the summer ends.  It’s hard to say how long the finished novel will be, but if I write a thousand words a day or so, it shouldn’t take long for me to finish the book.

I think I finally reached a point where I feel like a writer and I’m still riding the positivity that I received when I started working again.  I believe everyone can feel good about their own writing if they push themselves and try hard enough.  Of course, I haven’t been published yet, so perhaps my excitement is a bit premature.

Do you write, or have you ever had a dream about being a writer?  If you do write, how do you push yourself to keep going when the work is difficult?  Are you overly critical about your first drafts?  Do you find the act of revising annoying?  Let me know what you think below.

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10 thoughts on “The Write Way

  1. Great job getting back to manuscript!
    I also love to write, but sadly, I’m one of those that skip from project to project. That’s why I’m trying to focus more on short stories first. I think writing a short story of my main project idea gives me a chance to set up the feel for the project and the style I would like to write it in, and thus ables me to determine whether the project will work or not.
    When I do revise, it’s with great difficulty. I have to be fully focused when revising, otherwise I do a bad job of it.
    Good luck with your writing and revising! 🙂 I hope you finish it.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Writing a novel can be very challenging, but so far it’s been worth it. As far as short stories go, I do have ideas for some and it would be nice to finish a project more quickly, but my inspiration tends to make small stories into large ones. The art of telling a meaningful story in just a few pages is difficult, but hopefully a skill I will one day acquire 🙂

      I agree with you about revising. I really have to be enthusiastic and motivated at the time, or I won’t be happy when doing it.

      Thanks! I hope I finish it too 🙂

  2. Friends like you, encourages the writer(maybe there inside me) to keep going on… keep holding on 😀
    Great Post! And also keep going the good work, I hope I’ll get to read a bit of what you’re writing, soon.. 😀

    • Thanks! I’m glad I encouraged you. So many writers eventually stop trying because they don’t believe in themselves.

      I hope you will have a chance to read my work before too long 🙂 I’m always excited for people to read my work, but I don’t want to show others before it’s ready.

  3. Ooooh sounds interesting! Your writing on this blog is really great, so I’m sure your story will be very good too, especially with your great taste in books as well! 🙂

    When I was younger I always said I wanted to be writer when I grew up. I used to write lots of random stories all the time that just popped into my head. Unfortunately when secondary school started it all stopped because I was too busy with homework, exams etc, I haven’t written anything since, except my blog.
    I have never completed a first draft so I couldn’t tell you anything about that, but I’m sure I would be very critical!
    I hope to get back to writing soon, the problem is, I know absolutely nothing about the rules of writing, syntax etc and my grammar is pretty terrible, I just write how it feels right. I have a couple of story ideas floating around by head but I often feel defeated before I’ve even written anything.

    Good luck with your manuscript, you can do it!

    • Thanks for the compliments! I hope my writing translates well into fiction 🙂

      I had a similar experience as you. When I was in high school, I not only had less time to write, but I was also very insecure and self-conscious about my writing. It made it hard to even start a story, because I would be embarrassed as I wrote anything. Luckily, I’ve become more confident and now I know more about writing anyway, so it works out.

      Anyway, I think you should try again. Your grammar doesn’t seem bad to me, but even if it was, stuff like proper grammar and syntax aren’t as important in creative writing. You’d be surprised at how many classic books have run-on sentences on purpose. If you have stories to tell, I wouldn’t let grammar hold you back 🙂

      Thanks again, for the encouragement. I was very productive today, both in my story and on my blog, so I’m even more confident now!

      • Haha, no problem! 🙂
        Also thanks for the advice. I’m hoping *fingers crossed* that I might get onto this Uni course, and the first year 1/4 of it will be on creative and professional writing because it requires you to take a second topic on. But I don’t want to jinx it!

      • I’ve taken writing courses and they definitely help, because many of them force you to write on a regular schedule. If you make writing a routine activity, it can be a lot easier to write, I’ve found. Good luck 🙂 I hope you get into the class.

  4. I am always so slow at writing first drafts because I get in that mindset that criticizes what I’m writing as I’m writing it. Only when I can turn that annoying voice off am I really productive in writing the first draft. That said, I really admire you for already being so far in your novel! I have always wanted to dive into a longer work like that, but no topics ever seem to really stick with me longer than fourteen pages or so. How long did it take you to outline your plot idea (even in your head)?

    • I used to be the same way (and occasionally still am), where I would be very critical about every single sentence I wrote. It would make me want to revise my writing immediately, but that’s not the best way to work. It just slowed me down so much, and the end product was more forced. Luckily, I’m now able to just let the story come out and think “If this isn’t good, I can come back and fix it later,” which good, because you can’t dwell on every single paragraph when you’re trying to write an entire novel.

      I had the idea for the book almost a year before I started writing it seriously, but the story evolved a lot in that time (it’s still evolving, actually). I started with a general outline, but I tend to be inspired as I’m writing, so who knows what changes I will make before the book is completed.

      As for having ideas that are long enough for entire novels, I have a habit of taking small ideas and building them into extremely long stories. I guess I’m just excited by epic stories.

      If you have an idea you would really like to see as a book, I would recommend just writing it the best you can for as long as you can. Only by writing a lot can you start to feel less critical about your work, which should help you believe more in the story you’re telling. 🙂

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