novel writing

Life Lessons from a Writer


My Storyboard

In all the excitement of Brutal First Impressions, I forgot to mention that I finished the first draft of my novelIn the Pride! 216 pages and over 60,000 words, and that’s not even including the hundreds of pages from the three earlier versions I struggled with.

I started this book last November when I bought my first and only lottery ticket. The story was originally about a woman who wins the lottery but loses her life. Somehow that story became one about a big cat sanctuary (because that’s where I would go if I won the lottery). Now the story is about the connection between animal conservation and global politics — there’s still a sanctuary, but no lottery ticket in sight.

I hope some of the things I’ve learned from writing can be useful in everyday life :

  1. Show up I recently came across the perfect quote by David Campbell: “Discipline is remembering what you want.” There were many days I didn’t feel like writing, but I forced myself to sit at my computer (with the internet turned off), recognizing that if creativity didn’t get me started, boredom would. Remember what you want most in life, and start doing it even if you’re not ready.
  2. Take it easy on yourself. When I write I have a constant voice in my head yelling, “crap!” It’s amazing I get anything done with that distraction. That’s when I say, “yes, this is crap, but even roses grow in sh*t.” Expecting everything that comes out of you to be perfect is extremely inhibiting. Let yourself be average or even terrible, and have confidence that you’ll know how to fix it eventually.
  3. Let things go. After writing 100 pages of my first draft, I signed up for a writing class. My classmates all agreed that the writing was great but the premise wasn’t believable. I kept thinking that if I could just tweak a word here or there, I could make it work. I realized that I could work on that version for years before realizing that it didn’t make sense, or I could start over with a better premise. As soon as I let that version go the next draft was effortless. If the foundation isn’t right you need to let it go. I’ve seen the same thing apply in relationships. People don’t want to break up because they’ve invested so much time into a relationship, but if it’s not working, don’t waste even more time on it.
  4. The beginning is at the end I got this advice from a publisher and it could not be more true. While I was slaving away on the first 50 pages of my manuscript, I was neglecting the greater picture of my story. The publisher told me that I had to finish the entire story in order to know what’s really important. Now that I’ve finished it, I realize that the sections I was perfecting don’t really need to be in the story. When you get closer to the end of your life you begin to see what was really important and what was a waste of time. The only thing I can suggest is don’t waste time making things perfect. Stay curious until the very end.
  5. cover design

    A mock up of my future novel (with the old working title).

    Have fun and reward yourself Throughout the writing process I’ve pinpointed important milestones that I wanted to celebrate. My reward for finishing the first draft is to visit Idaho, where my story is set, so I’ll be writing about that soon. I’ve also come up with different fun ideas to keep the vision of my book alive. A big goal will take over your life. It’s not enough to celebrate at the end, you need to have fun in the process as well.