Monday, August 8, 2011

TUESDAY TIPS AND TIDBITS – Why IT isn’t finished, and how to finish IT

Broadland Suspense, The Blue Lady

One of the hardest things for a beginning author to do is finish that first book and get it ready for publishing. There are several camps on this issue, some of them taking approaches that thwart progress and make IT, the book, unlikely to ever get published...

As long as I work on IT, I’ll still be writing. Some authors are born fussers. They fuss with something and can’t leave it alone. They’re obsessive about fixing every little perceived error. They wake up one morning and have an epiphany – my book’s just not good enough and needs completely revamped – so they start over from scratch and rewrite it. They do this so many times, the book doesn’t even resemble what they originally started with. Why? Because they can’t let go of their baby, their heart and soul. They’ve put everything they have of themselves into it, and they just can’t bear for it to leave their hands and their realm of control. Because once a book is sent out to an agent or a publisher for consideration, the author gives up control of the book’s fate. The author puts the book in the hands of strangers, hoping it will be well received, but the author has no control over how the book will be received, except to do the very best to make it the very best it can be. A part of the fear of letting go is the fear that failure will result. If the book receives rejections, those are perceived as the book’s failures. So these authors never let their little darlings leave the nest and just keep working and working and working on them. In that respect, the book is never done.

A good remedy for this situation is to set a goal for submitting the book and following a step-by-step plan. Once a goal is set outside the realm of actually writing the book, the book can move from a perpetual work in progress to a project that is ‘making the rounds.’

I’m so sick of IT, I just have to stop working on IT. A lot of authors run into problems with their stories and don’t know how to fix them. They write themselves into a corner and can’t find their way out. Or they’ve gone over their story so many times, trying to fix this or that problem pointed out by different critique groups and friends and first, second, third, or fiftieth readers, they don’t even recognize their story anymore. And they just have to stop working on it because they have gone so far off track, they’ve lost focus and interest in their book. The only thing they can do at this point is put it away and forget about it. So ... the book is never finished. It’s a sock-drawer victim.

But in time, and with a lot of courage and forethought, a sock-drawer victim can be rescued to become a sock-drawer survivor. It takes a strong writer with perseverance and the will to beat the book in order to dig in, rework it, and finally finish it. However, many authors just do some tinkering and make this kind of book passable so they can simply type ‘the end’ and say they finished it. Often, they’ve gone over their work so many times that the obvious typos and gaping plot holes simply disappear in front of their tired and disinterested eyes. So, although the book may be technically finished, it also may not be anywhere near ready to publish. The best approach for this is to finish it as far as the writer can go with it, then put it away for a short time, two weeks or a month, and take it out again to look at it with fresh eyes, with the objective of polishing it for submission to an agent or publisher.

I can’t stop thinking of new things to add to IT. This type of writer is so enthusiastic about writing, he is flooded with ideas and can’t write fast enough to get all the stories out of his head. Before one book is finished, more ideas form and make their way into a book they have no business invading. This type of writer may actually start two, three, or four different stories at the same time and be so distracted by his own ideas that he can’t focus long enough on any of his projects to finish even one before beginning yet another.

For this kind of writer, a structured writing approach may be beneficial. Plotting and planning may seem boring but actually are necessary steps to keep the flighty writer on track.

I did all I could, but IT didn’t work out. This type of writer has a tendency to cave at the first sign of difficulty and doesn’t understand or want to acknowledge the concept of goal-setting and progress-planning. The idea of writing a book may seem intriguing but at the same time daunting, so this writer tells herself she’ll try it. She’ll give herself an unrealistic deadline to piddle around with writing, coming at it hesitantly from different angles, but never really do any serious preparation to develop writing skills. She wants everything to be insanely easy so she doesn’t have to roll up her sleeves to dig in and get her hands dirty. In the end, nothing substantial comes of her writing venture, and her self-imposed deadline for success expires without her finishing anything that can be called a book. So she feels perfectly justified in letting the whole exercise fade away into the distant memories of all her other feeble attempts at accomplishing something ... anything.

What this writer needs to succeed and to actually finish something is guidance, perhaps in the form of a step-by-step plan. This writer may benefit from attending some writing seminars or enrolling in a one-to-one novel-writing classes where an outside taskmaster keeps her on track.

So, which one are you? Maybe you resemble one or more of these typical wannabe-an-author descriptions. And maybe you have some problems not touched on here. But whatever reason you may have for not finishing your book or for not carrying it through to the logical conclusion of publishing, know this. There are millions of writers out there who dreamed of writing a book and managed somehow to see their dreams through to the end. They finished what they started and got it published, good or bad, big publisher or self-published. With the right mindset, the right preparation, and the right perseverance, you can too.

Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing

(PS - KUDOS on the new look. I liked the old blog art, but also like the new color scheme!)


Natasha Larry said...

This is a GREAT post. I think I'm a combo of the first two. I have shown a lot of growth, I hope...

Thanks, a lot of readers wanted it less cluttered. I think this is a lot better.

Pavarti said...

Great post! I think I'm a combination of 2 and 3. Unfortunately, sometimes a little bit of 4 creeps in, as much as I try to keep it away! Damn you self doubt!

Penumbra Publishing said...

The important thing is to recognize your foibles and take the necessary steps to overcome them. Success will be that much closer!

Next week we'll touch on the subject of success (and failure), and what do when either hits...

Thanks for your comments!


Natasha Larry said...

I look forward to that post! Thank you for posting this.