Wow, only writing this title was an amazing experience. All writers must work, there’s no doubt about that (unless you land a big publishing contract that could only come after decades of experience 🙂 ) But wouldn’t it be great to make your writing journey while you have one of the best jobs ever? I’m still so thrilled that I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull off this post or not.
It was really hard. It was Not one of those jobs where you apply, you get an interview and voilá you got the job. It was hard work and nothing else, and this makes this experience so rewarding because you know you fought for it; the results are only about perseverance and never giving up. It’s about being stronger than you believe. It’s about knowing you really did your best. That’s why this is the best job ever. A job where you get to help people, a job where you get to learn every single day, a job where you get to prove yourself every single day, a job where you can contribute, a job where you can grow endlessly, what else could you want?
Writing is one of my passions! And I will continue writing because it’s in my nature, and I cannot imagine myself living without writing, but when you have a job that makes your day happy every single day, then writing time is definitely going to be the best!
And for all those wondering, what job is this? I’ll get you the details in a next post 🙂
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I try to start my workday with a TED talk. I wish I could say I do this daily, but sometimes I can’t. I usually do it when my work energy level is low or when I feel I need motivation to go with the work routine. Today I came across with “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?” by Dame Stephanie Shirley. The title was enough to call my attention since sometimes when the talk’s title is too predictable, I might just pass it. But this one wasn’t and I’m glad I clicked it.
Dame Stephanie Shirley had it rough. She was one of the Jewish kids saved by being sent to families in northern England during the Second World War . She grew up in an era where women’s only objective was to get married and have kids. There were scarce work opportunities for them. I work in the software industry. Women in the 60’s didn’t just pursuit that area at all. But one woman did it. And this terrific woman showed nothing is impossible. Yes, there was a programming market in that era, believe it or not. If you want to know exactly how it worked, then you have to check the video.
Stephanie Shirley went through all the fights my generation didn’t have too. My generation won’t suffer that gender discrimination again. We have it easy. And what are we doing with our lives? We don’t aim high enough. We don’t dream big enough. We don’t do the fights for the next generations.
I invite you to watch the following TED talk (only 13 minutes of your time but worth your life change).
Most of us will grab our books from the bedside table at night and will probably fall asleep after a few quick minutes. But how could we not? Our bed is so comfortable and our day routines leave us generally so tired that our sheets, blankets and everything else lull us into the land of the dreams without even noticing. Unless of course you have insomnia or the book is so damn good that you’re afraid it’s going to be one of those nights where you won’t sleep… but that’s another topic. But let’s face it, unless you don’t feel tired, the bed is not always the best place for reading. And if you fall asleep while reading, how many times have you woken up to find the cover of your book bent, and twisted in between your sheets?
Reading is a special experience and I believe it’s a good idea to have a reading corner besides the bed. And if you have the space (you really don’t need much, that’s why it’s called “corner”) investing into it is definitely worthy.
We spend too much money in acquiring these magnificent couches to place them in front of the TV. Why shouldn’t we invest in a nice place for reading? A corner that drags you into this world of books and makes you want to spend Sunday afternoons or rainy days in it, with a cup of coffee on the other hand. And even if you don’t use it, they actually look awesome as decoration.
A clever idea is to find a place in your house/apartment/flat where you wouldn’t jeopardize too much space. If you have stairs, then you’re done. The pictures below can give you good ideas. Windows are also an incredible option. These images display some interesting ideas. I must confess I don’t have the proper credits for the pictures. They have resided in my computer for many years in a folder called “dreamed house” yeah, I know… but it’s good to dream (some day, maybe I’ll get to use all of them for real) Meanwhile, I continue feeding my inner interior decorator with the most tangible tool: Pinterest!
You don’t need too much furniture to improvise corners like these ones. Take advantage of some cushions with vibrant colors and textures. (they say bright colors are better… I couldn’t agree more). If you don’t have the possibility to have a window in the chosen space, you could install some lights under the stairs. In fact you don’t need a complex electrical installation, there all sorts of LED lamps and LED candles out there. Be aware you might also need curtains if you’re near a window, sometimes the reflection or the lightening from thunders (yeah, I had to think of all possibilities) could interrupt your reading. Or maybe you just don’t have a nice view, and you don’t feel like staring at a brick wall or having the sensation that a neighbor is eavesdropping at you (again I had to think of all situations here… please feel free to add more in the comments if you come up with something I haven’t thought of). Overall, when you build/install these corners, take into account two factors: lighting and comfort; this will help you submerge into your reading without any distractions.
Additionally, take into account that chair or couch you use is as comfortable as possible. You could take advantage of modern designs or retro chairs that could be as different as you want from the rest of the room, not only in design but in color as well. To enhance the place, you could use one of those standing lamps that not only look terrific in their design, but also help at the time of reading.
Another brilliant idea is to adapt your wardrobe or wall spaces, and make them into hidden and comfortable reading spaces for you. You can use them to distance yourself from the rest of the world, grab a book, and spend hours in it. Add some shelves and cushions inside this space (I bet you’ve realized that I love cushions) A lamp installed in the wall will also be a perfect addition to this reading closet.
And you, do you have any reading corners in your place? any other suggestions for these reading corners I have not taken into account? I’d love to hear from you.
So February arrived, and I believe January has been one of the longest months ever!
I started 2015 really well, with my goals set in mind all the time. I feel they are already so engraved in me right now, that it would take the end of the world to drag me away from them, which is good.
The problem now, is that I need to slow down. I have managed to cultivate the habit of writing every single day or else I cannot go to sleep.
In this month, I’ve read a couple of books on grammar, styling, and how to write in general. I’m also about to finish revising my first manuscript. Then, the second revision round will come, and maybe my beta readers will have to wait until March to get their hands on the story.
But right now, I found I’m overdoing the process of writing. After I finished the first manuscript, I didn’t get away from it for a considerable amount of time (as everybody suggested) before revising. Now, I find myself confused about my main character, his role, and why he has become boring. Additionally, the story seems a little bit overwritten, too many things going on, too many things to tie, etc. So, it’s time for a break from the manuscript. I’m really looking forward for my next vacation, which will be exactly in ten days. I’m not a beach person, but this time, I’m really looking forward to go, sit, and just relax.
Slow down, should be my motto for February now. Sometimes you can be so motivated, so full of energy, that you don’t pause to breath and risk of wearing yourself out.
So February will be the month where I find myself relaxing. I’ve already started yesterday. I’ve been reading so many books on How to Write, that it had been one entire month since I hadn’t read a good novel. Yesterday, I grabbed one book from my shelf that I haven’t been able to put my hands on yet (Exposure by Kathy Reichs, yeah, big fan of Bones over here), and the feeling of getting into a novel, discovering characters, and following the suspense building of the story, had no price. Damn I said to myself, I forgot about this, about why I wanted to be a writer in first place. I have promised to myself, that no matter what the current events in my life are, I should never forget about going without reading a good book.
For those who write, have you ever come to a similar problem like mine?