Saturday, June 12, 2010

new book is started (and thoughts on getting started)

I've been doing the research forever (years, really), but yesterday I actually started writing the first draft of my new historical novel.  It took me a while of staring at the blank screen (at least an hour, and this is with having a very detailed outline already) before I actually got some words written, but I promised myself that I'd write at least a page.

I ended up with about 1,400 words (5 pages) which is an excellent start.  The hardest part is not getting distracted by new research questions, but I'll work all of that out.  My plan is to start writing 5 days a week, shooting for about 1,000 words a day (more is good).

I truly LOVE first drafts.  They're my very favorite part of being a writer.

A friend asked me the other day how I manage to get started writing and how I avoid the internal censor.  That's what trips up a lot of people.

Here's the advice I gave her:

If you're stuck, take a look at Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, or Julia Cameron's The Arist's Way.  They talk a lot about how to cope.

Here is some advice, that I've learned over the years:

  • Be willing to write crap.  First drafts have lots of crappy stuff in them.  You don't have to show anyone.  Don't expect to write a finished book with your first draft.  People get confused, because they read great published books.  Those books didn't start out great.  The first drafts were complete crap, and then got revised, and revised again, and then got edited, and edited again.  (Yeah, there are people who write perfect first drafts, but those people are rare and are best avoided.  They can only make you feel bad.)
  • Nobody sits down and writes a book.  If you sit down thinking about the book or play you're going to write, it's just impossible.  It's too huge.  There are too many ideas and characters and images and words.  Who can get it all out?  I don't sit down and write a book or a play.  I write a chapter, a scene, a page, a sentence, a few words.  I think a scene is the most manageable chunk--figure out the scene, the interaction you want to write, and get that out.
  • Don't read what you're writing.  Seriously.  There's time to go back and read what you've written later.  You know what you wrote, pretty much.  If you go back and reread it, you'll just want to quit, because it's so much worse than you'd hoped (because it's a first draft, remember).  But the better version, the soul of it, lingers in your mind enough for you to write the next scene.  Focus on that one.  There will be time to fix all this stuff later.  For now, enjoy the ride and build some momentum.

(I do plan to reread all this advice come Monday morning when I'm trying to get myself to write Chapter Two of this new book.)

Go write that bad scene.

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