When I started writing my first manuscript I didn’t know any of the “rules.” All I knew was I had a story I needed to tell. The first draft took me eight months to write and it was an amazing experience.
A year later I wrote another manuscript. This time things were different. I knew more about the publishing business. Friends were getting agents, and publishing books, and I desperately wanted the same thing. I followed the rules. I edited, and put my work out there for beta readers and critique partners. I got some bites from agents, but the manuscript needed revisions that I wasn’t ready to wrap my head around. The thought of tearing apart a story I thought was pretty close to perfect almost undid me.
Luckily enough I had some really good writing friends who listened, and then smacked some sense into me. They reminded me that writing is not about how quickly you can put a thought onto paper. It’s more about the process of developing a good story that will transport the reader to another time and place. The creative process is one you need to revel in, not race through. This started me thinking about my goal of running a half-marathon two years ago.
At first I thought the goal was insane. Running 13.2 miles? I’d never run more than five. And even after that, I needed days to recover. Sound familiar? That same self-doubt shakes almost every author when they think about writing a new manuscript.
Much like writing a book, training takes several months. And the actual event itself, again much like writing a book, takes a lot of mental skill.
So now when I contemplate writing a new story, here is how I look at it:
Mile 1: The warm up period: stretching out the mental muscles – preparing an outline/or beat sheet and making it solid.
Mile 3: Writing the first chapter – pace yourself to make sure you’re drawing in the reader.
Mile 5: The Middle Chapters – self-doubt starts to settle in. Can I actually make it to the finish line? Push past it and keep writing.
Mile 7: You write “The End” – yet it’s only the beginning. Now you edit, and much like the rest of the race, it’s an uphill battle.
Mile 10: The Critiques: Feedback is in your hands, and you think about all the work still left ahead. You push on knowing the story has “legs”.
Mile 12: You’re on your final edit. The finish line is within distance, but you’re not sure you can find the strength to get there. Rely on writing friends to push you forward and buckle down. You’ve got this.
Mile 13.2 – Crossing the tape at the finish line is akin to writing “The End” for the final time. Revel in your accomplishment and enjoy the moment. Soon you’ll have another brilliant idea and the process will begin once again!
What about you? How do you mentally train to write a book? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!