I was in Baja last week and met a reader who told me he was writing a book. He paused and continued by lamenting that he had been writing it for many years and it was not anywhere near completion. I’ve met many writers who are in this same predicament. They’re writing or “gathering” but not any closer to finishing their book–their dream. Believe me I sympathize, I was in the same situation from many years.
Here’s a few strategies I’ve learned from writing Almost Human. First, and foremost, write the ending. I had been writing this book for years and my novel just kept growing. My editor and teacher, Kathryn Lynn Davis, after reading several chapters asked me, “How does the novel end?” When I couldn’t tell her, she gave me the single most important piece of advice that helped me finish my book! “Don’t send me another chapter until you’ve written the ending.” It took me several chapters to accomplish this but once I did, I had a road map to line up my plot development and character arcs. So, after many years of writing on and off, I finished the novel in the next six months! While this may not work for every novelist, it worked for me.
I set myself a goal to write three pages a day no matter what. Very often, on a particularly productive day, those three pages flowed and grew to twenty or more. But most importantly, I wrote every day because that’s what we do, writers-write!
Also, I did very little editing as I wrote. I didn’t try to get my narrative perfect at the expense of the flow. I wrote and filled it out later. Sometimes as a warm up before my three pages.
I was fortunate to be invited to join a writers’ group that included several published authors led by a creative and insightful leader/author. The feedback and advice on how to to improve as a writer and navigate the publishing world was priceless. Just make sure it is a good group that truely critiques your work–no matter how painful. The goal is to become a better writer not participate in a mutal admiration support group. These writers were honest and skilled. I am very grateful.
And finally, I work hard at trying to live a life worth writing about. This can be referred to as “gathering” or “research,” I call it just having fun living life’s adventure. I feel drawing from our experiences makes our work ring true and gives it credibility.
I know while this worked for me and certainly is not exhaustive, it may not work for every writer. I wrote this because of how often I’m asked by readers how I managed to finish my novel.
Oh, it helps to have a worldclass, New York Times Bestselling author as your editor. Thank you Kathryn Lynn Davis!
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