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.