10 Things you should know when you first write a book

When I started working on my first book, I had the following plan:

  • I would finish the draft in four of five months at most
  • I would make a thorough review of the first manuscript and in one single edition round I would correct everything that is wrong.
  • My beta readers will read it in a couple of weeks and I would rejoice in his/her wonderful comments
  • I would find a great Literary agent in a blink of an eye
  • I would have the book published in that same year
  • I would live from my writing and would travel the world.

I was naïve. REALLY naive.

 

download
Enter a caption

 

This is the second year I’m investing in my first book. I’m still editing it. So far I’ve come to understand the following:

  1. Doing the first draft is by far the easiest and quickest part of the process

When I finished the first draft, I was so thrilled. I felt I have conquered the world and I could be called a writer. I was so proud of myself. I thought that finally I was making something good with my life, that I was looking towards the future, towards my goals, you get the point…The truth is that writing the first draft is the easiest part. You can even achieve it in one month (If you want to test the efficiency of NaNoWriMo). But rest assured the first draft will not be readable yet. Chances are it will still have lots of plot holes and huge amounts of rewrite to be done.

images (1)

2. Planning one round of revision is not realistic at all

There will be many rounds of revision. It’s hard to rewrite scenes, plot holes, and work on character development while editing your grammar and punctuation at the same time. You’ll probably need another round, and perhaps a third one, etc. Additionally, after your beta readers come to you with feedback, chances are you’ll probably need to change and rewrite many sections of your book which will lead you to another round of sentence structure/grammar review, etc., again.

images (2)

3. Leaving your first manuscript to rest for a couple of weeks and even a month is not a bad idea

I knew about this tip way before I finished my first manuscript. Nonetheless, I was in such a hurry of having everything done that as soon as I finished my first manuscript, I started to edit it on the very next day. I didn’t leave it to rest and breath. My head didn’t have time to clear enough to target my manuscript with a fresh point of view. The result was several pointless rounds of revision until I decided to finally give myself a break and leave the manuscript for a month. During this time, I wrote other short stories, I read more, etc. When I finally returned to my old good manuscript, my mind was fresh and I could detect more issues than in all those previous three rounds. I identified huge gaps where I could improve. If only I’ve done that before my first round of revision… I would’ve probably faced my manuscript with much better criteria from the first edition round.

download

4.  Your beta readers won’t give you feedback in a couple of weeks

I had three good beta readers, but it took time to receive their feedback. You have to take into account that not all of them are available to read your manuscript as soon as you deliver it. Unless you’re paying for a beta reading service, most of these people will be doing you a favor. You’ll probably need to wait until they have time. Not all of them can read books in a couple of days; they might need more time. Not all of them have only your book to read; they might need to put it in their queue of “still to read books”.

images (1)

5. Good Beta Readers will say the truth and cause many changes in your book

Let’s face it. This is your first book ever. You can’t expect to nail a best seller that soon. You’ll need a lot of time,experience, and good listening skills. You need to pay attention to your beta reader’s feedback. And I’m talking about good beta readers, not your mom, your husband, etc., but people who will be able to judge the manuscript and say what is in their minds without any fear of hurting your feelings. You have to acknowledge that as the author of your book, you know how the plot works, you know how characters look in your mind, but sometimes you fail to translate this knowledge into the written world. Chances are you’ll still need to change and rewrite after your beta reader’s feedback.

download (6)

6. Character development is not achieved at once

If this is your first book, then you’ll probably struggle with nailing “character development”. Even if you outline characters before you start the book, they’ll probably develop and change as your plot changes. Their behaviors will change depending on how the direction of your books goes or how scenes are improved. Providing a three-dimensional character is harder than you think. It wasn’t until many revisions and feedback that I had enough tools to develop my characters as they should.

images (3)

7. Developing your voice doesn’t come so fast

It doesn’t matter how many books about writing you read and how many writing courses you attend. Developing your voice only comes with practice. Sometimes, you want to obey all writing rules and make your sentences’ structure perfect, but then you find yourself with a boring flat manuscript. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to know the rules. To break the rules, you need to know them first. But you can’t expect to find your writing voice in the first round of writing. Perhaps you won’t even find it in your first book.

images (4)

8. Don’t hire any editing service until you’ve received plenty feedback

I made the mistake of hiring an editing service (which was very good) before I got all the feedback. My third beta reader was able to send me his feedback after my manuscript was already edited by a professional editor. This feedback was very helpful and had lots of good advice plot-wise, which meant I had to do significant changes and rewrite many scenes and even chapters. The result, the professionally edited text was gone. It would’ve been certainly helpful to hire this service after all revisions and feedback.

download (3)

9. Consider your first book may not be publishable

In my plans above, I clearly talk about getting a literary agent, publishing it, and having enough earnings to live from my writing. The reality is different. And the truth is your first book could not be published yet or could not be published at all. You need to accept this fact from the beginning. It’s a learning curve. My mind already has tons of topics to write other books; they even sound more interesting than the manuscript I’m working with right now. Perhaps book two or three will be published. Perhaps my first book will be revisited in a couple of years and later published. At this point, I only care about improving my writing.

download (4)

10. This is only your first experience

Writing a first book is about gaining experience. It doesn’t matter how perfect your book idea is, how charming your characters are, or how beautifully you construct prose, the process is still tricky with the first book. You still need to learn how to handle feedback, how to detect plot holes, how to find your voice, how to make useful rounds of edition, etc. If you take this point of view, I guarantee you’ll find the experience more rewarding than the publishing result. You’ll be more excited about your next projects and you won’t suffer so much if the path of delivering your first book looks too hard. Best of all, you’ll encounter the true meaning of being a writer.

images (5)

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Book review: On Writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King

I must confess I really like listening to Audiobooks, not only because I can listen to something interesting while driving or riding the bus, but because when it’s well narrated, the voice can give it a very nice plus to the story. Now “On Writing” by Stephen King is a must on audio as well as on paper. How many audiobooks can you get narrated by the same author? Well, the same Stephen King himself reads you this book.  In other words, you can hear all his examples, stories, advices in his own voice like he were telling them straight to you. The effect it produces is that you actually believe Stephen King is talking to you, personally, in a one-on-one meeting. You can even consider this gathering as a “close friends” encounter. His voice sticks to your head. And when you finish the book, you can still hear his voice in your head when you’re writing, it’s unbelievably effective!

on writing

I’ve read a couple of books about writing, from the grammar perspective to the style, from plot building, to character development, to brainstorming, etc.; all of them good, or at least with plenty of advice for beginner writers. But I must be sincere, I cannot remember much of the advice at the moment. I would have to go through them again or see my notes to remember the exact advice. But from Mr. King, I can remember everything, I can hear him still saying “just be honest and say the f*”, making me laugh and making it easier for me to understand the writing tip (I wonder if I am a better learner when some cursing is around, maybe it helps to grab my attention…)

0611GADDgets

Besides the excellent tips and clear examples, this book is also about the story of a great career, perseverance, believing, and never giving up. This book is not only for writers, I believe everybody can extract good life advice from it.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend this audiobook to everybody out there who wants to have some sort of writing tutor, a coach, or even a writing friend (I have found myself making references such as “like my good friend Stephen says…”). Stephen King tells you everything you should know about writing and makes sure you do not forget it.

One tip if you want to improve your writing

I’ve just finished reading “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White; a classic most people recommended me in writers forums if I wanted to be a writer.

I must confess I felt ashamed when I saw the book had been available all this time in my office. When somebody mentioned that it was a tiny little book, I thought, Wait isn’t the one lying over there? If I had known earlier…

Anyway, I found it brilliant. The book went straight to the point. I can’t believe Mr. Strunk Jr. wrote it so long ago (1919 to be precise) and its contents are still applicable today. Of course, E.B. White updated it later, but still the foundations were already there.

style

This is the first “Style” book I actually read from start to end. I have consulted others, but only for specific topics. Now, I’m considering in going over this book again as soon as I enter into the third revision of my novel manuscript; just to make sure I remember all the words that I’m not supposed to use, the ones that are ambiguous, redundant, or just plain bad english. I felt good knowing that I’ve already eliminated most words from my writing, but at the same time, there were still many others in the book I was not aware of, or just some rules I had forgotten.

Like this style book, I still plan to review other books that people have advised me to read. I’m currently with “On Writing” by Stephen King (I’ll let you know my comments when I finish it). I feel like I am acquiring more knowledge and experience. I love the process.

When I started to write, I believed it was all about inspiration and great ideas. A little part is about that, but little. It is more is about hard work and perseverance.

And you, have you read any style/grammar book to improve your skills? I would like to know if you have any books you can recommend me.

Winner of NaNoWriMo 2014 lets a heavy glass pot lid fall over her head…

Sunday I declared myself winner of NaNoWriMo 2014 and to celebrate I let a heavy glass pot lid fall over my head. No, I’m not crazy, neither eccentric, it was just an accident. Very interesting way to celebrate it though, a huge bump in the head and an ice bag over my head. So people were telling me “wow! You must be excited to have finished your writing month and must had celebrated a lot” And I just go back to my memories of the terrible pain my head was in that day. At least, I managed to write the last words before the accident, because I wouldn’t have written anything else after the glass lid decided it was good to bounce on my head. Although, a good scene of pain and suffering could have actually come up well inspired at that time.

nanowrimo certificate

But anyway, let´s stop talking about the bad part of last Sunday and talk about the best part. I did it! I finished the first manuscript of an entire novel, over 88000 words in total. When I started NaNo I was at 38000 words more or less, it took me around 3 months to write those 38K. If it wasn’t for NaNo, I wouldn’t had pop out those remaining 50K and I would have finished my novel next year.

Never have I ever (I’ve just remembered a drinking game… if you know what I mean, if not just continue reading 🙂 ) I’ve would have dreamed that when I put in my 2014 New Year’s resolution “Start writing for seriously” I would have ended up the year with a whole first manuscript for a novel. Surreal.

www focusinc group com

Image source: www.focusincgroup.com

Of course, I must point out it´s a “first” manuscript.  This December will be harsh polishing and editing. One of the things that you learn with NaNo is to just let it flow; write, write and let the characters guide you through the story. No editing during November, not only because it would have caused constant deletion of words but also because there was no time. And it works, it really does. This is my first time writing a novel and believe me, I struggled very much at the beginning figuring it out how to start, how to plot the story, how to define structure, pacing, etc. Now I know that there has to be some planning at the beginning, but then if you want the story to really flow and reach its end, you just have to let it go, it works. But then of course with no editing in this “flowing” stage, a second, and even third draft have to be considered, the disadvantages of spontaneity.

But I declare myself satisfied. Never have I ever, I’ve been more consistent and persistent in doing what I want to do for the rest of my life. I proved myself that I can do it, that I can create the habit of writing every single day (including weekends and holidays). I can do it. “I’m a roller coaster that only goes up” John Green (Yeah, I’m quoting The Fault in Our Stars, but the quote felt righter than ever).

www pic gifs com

Image source: www.picgifs.com