Don’t sweat the small stuff and finish that book!

Writing a book is daunting. Shoot, writing anything can be daunting. You start with an idea then you create a world, and establish a plot. Even if you are a master at stringing words together to form brilliant sentences, there are so many other things you have to pay attention to and master to create a strong story that stands on its own as a finished entity. Whether you are writing a fictional story or imparting knowledge about a non-fiction topic, you still have to take what you know in your head and pull it all together into something that in the end makes sense and creates the impact you intend.

 So how do you do it? With everything that you need to do to create a book how does anyone actually do it? The best advice I have ever received and the one that worked for me was simple: Finish it.

That’s right. It is that simple. But…but… no buts allowed. Finish it. Take the idea, create a cast of character, sketch out a plot, and write.

I always learn more about my story and characters in the process of pounding the keys than I ever do in the hours of research or contemplation. Are there holes in the plot? They will become clear as you go, and often the solution will present itself further along in the story. Missing the detail? Instead of taking yourself away from writing, leave a note. You can find out what kind of tree should be in the scene later. Did you realize that something you wrote previously needs to be adjusted? Changed? Completely redone? Write a note, but don’t touch it. I’m not kidding. Hands off!

And here’s why. First, you will never finish if you don’t let the small stuff sit for later. It is a first draft for a reason. Focus on the big picture, and the big picture is always the same: You need to finish that story. Second, you cannot know exactly what needs to change until it is completely done. Sure you may know for certain that you need to fix a scene or add detail. But what happens if the solution you have in Chapter 10 for the plot error in Chapter 2 is suddenly changed completely when you reach Chapter 25? That’s right, you’ve rewritten the same thing twice and you haven’t even gotten done with the 1st draft.

Why am I being so black and white about this? Am I 100% sure my way is the only way? No, of course not. It is entirely possible to write a story and edit and research as you go. Many are quite effective at taking a story and creating a road map from hours of prep work. I am in awe of those that can write like this, but unfortunately my mind does not work that way.

I have also seen far too many books thrown off course from too many reactionary edits and too much research. If you write a first draft the way I am suggesting you still have to go back and fix those things. But you have a big picture to work with and solutions reflect the whole story rather than the bits. You need something to fix before you can fix it.

So don’t sweat the small stuff. Not for the first draft anyway. That time will come later, when you have a story and you have been able to put down those two fabulously wonderful words on paper: The End.

This entry was posted in Advice, Writing and tagged , by erinlausten. Bookmark the permalink.

About erinlausten

Erin Lausten's life is as busy and fast paced as her books. Working as an archeologist and research librarian in the recent past, Erin has a unique view of the world. She sees all the possibilities that can be and doesn't accept the limited scope accepted by society. Her favorite question is "Why not?" Join her, if only for a story or two, in her flights of fancy and 'what if' scenarios. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine online retailers.

8 thoughts on “Don’t sweat the small stuff and finish that book!

  1. Thanks Erin. I need all the reminders I can get. I’m on my third revision/read/edit and my story is getting longer and I’m starting to resent the fun these characters are having at my expense! LOL Great informative post!

  2. Thank you for posting this. I just finished my last chapter of my book. I had gotten so stuck on some of these issues that it had completely stopped my progress. Then I just made myself do it. In fact with having finished it I am anxious to work on the sequel even though I know I have to go back and make edits. I made myself a promise that I will go ahead and write the sequel in between times that I am editing. I feel you have to go where your story takes you and then you can look back.

  3. Erin, great piece. You’re sooo right. Right now I’m going back into my novel for about the umpteenth time to have some lull-time chapters. I get so excited when I write every chapter, seems to be high-packed with action. So I’m fixing it for those who are faint at heart and already suffer from high blood pressure.

  4. I have always had a facination with Psychology and Human Behavior. I suppose that is why I went into Anthropology/Archaeology in the first place. The interesting thing I have learned from writing, is when you develop characters and put them into situations, they behave as people, consistent with thier personality and breadth of experience. At least, they should. People are very good at picking out when someone behaves out of character. Because the characters that writers describe have very real personalities, it explains why many authors feel that the characters take on a life of thier own. They do, because they behave as a human would, and we recognize that instantly. It is fabulous and one of the pieces I enjoy the most in the creative process!

  5. It’s a whirlwind of details, writing a book, I’ve found, and keeping track of them can sometimes feel like you’re right in the middle of the whirlwind.

    And the characters do take on a life of their own. We pour a lot of ourselves into them, bringing them to life.

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