So, NaNoWriMo has been underway for a while. I hope it’s going well! I know that these last days of finishing a manuscript can be the most challenging. And today’s post deals with just that – how to pull through when the writing gets tougher, what to do with that imperfect story, and when to move on to the next project.
Perseverance & Grit – your most important tools
Like all the arts, writing looks a lot like a mysterious creative process from the outside. A few lucky individuals are gifted with the talent to write, and us other mortals should not even try… Well – I think nothing’s further from the truth. In my opinion, it looks more like this – 10% talent, 30% learning the craft, 60% perseverance & grit:
Even the most talented writer out there still needs the will to learn the craft and the grit to finish their novel. The good news is, even with ZERO talent you can still learn the craft & pull through to write a very good book!
That thought gets me through a lot of crises of inspiration 😉
Learning the craft
We’ve already touched on this topic in past posts (specifically musing #1 and musing #4), but to improve as a writer, you need to learn the craft. I know, I know, this is easier said than done. But I don’t mean “learn everything about writing before ever starting”, but rather: be curious, read craft books, study works you admire.
And focus on certain aspects you want to improve on. I like to focus on one area I want to improve with each new book, whether that be dialogue, description, weaving secondary plots, emotion …
As a takeaway: slowly and steadily improve with every story you write. But definitely get started even if you don’t know what you’re doing in some areas of the craft. You’ll get there.
Keep on keeping on
As I wrote before, the biggest part to your success is to keep working on your writing. There is no limit to what you can achieve if you put in the time and effort.
A great book on this topic that really opened my eyes is “Grit“, by Angela Duckworth. Backed up by years of research, she shows that it’s not genius you need to succeed in your field, but long-term perseverance and passion for your work. My second recommendation is “Mindset“, by Carol S. Dweck. I love the notion presented in this book that nothing about our potential is fixed, but rather that our approach determines whether we will succeed. I absolutely recommend reading these books!
What to do with imperfection
So the story is written, and you’ve poured all you have into it. You also focused on a specific aspect to improve on. But it’s still not perfect. Let me give you the bad news: it never will be. So how do we decide whether to invest more time or move on? To publish or rewrite? And which criticism to take seriously, and which to ignore?
In the end, there is no simple answer here. You will be the one that has to make these decisions. And you have to feel good about your book! So I just want to give you a few points you should think about before going into another round of edits or putting the manuscript away.
- Where does the criticism come from? Is it a trusted beta reader? Or your agent, or even an editor at an interested publisher? Depending on the person, you want to listen more closely.
- What’s the impact on the story? Is the problem at the core or more on the sidelines? And how do you feel about the change? Because even if the comment comes from your potential publisher, some edits might change just too much. Again, you have to feel good about the changes.
- What’s the pain / gain ratio? Some changes are easy and pack a lot of heft, others will take more time but don’t mean enough. Try to estimate the pain/gain ratio before making the changes.
- Publish or keep rewriting? That’s the hardest one, especially in the era of self-publishing where the old gatekeepers of publishing can be circumvented. Try to get as much beta reading feedback as possible, see if the feedback you get is consistent, and how positive this feedback was. If you are aware of flaws, use the previous points to assess their impact and cost. But if you decide to publish: Always. Get. An. Editor. You want good grammar and spelling. Don’t skimp on that.
Write, learn, repeat.
The bad news: almost nothing comes easily. But the (very) good news: almost everything can be learned. This is true for so many things (parenting, eating healthily, exercising, good sex…).
Writing tip of the week
This week I’d like to highlight a very informative post on the Reedsy blog about Writing in Third Person Omniscient vs Third Person Limited. It’s very thorough and well researched, and comes with lovely info graphics that neatly summarize the two view points and work as a great reference. Check it out!
Fiction reads of the week
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe“, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. This story is simply beautiful. Languid, and beautiful. We get life from Ari’s perspective, but we don’t just see it, we’re made to question and live it with him. His musings on life and the universe really boil down to his relationships, with his mom, his reserved father, his imprisoned brother, Dante’s family, and Dante.
The author did so fabulously here. He never outrightly spoke or labeled Ari’s feelings, but nevertheless I felt them–and the story was all the more powerful for it. His love for Dante is shown in Ari’s sense of wonder, respect, curiosity, ever-mounting frustration, and protectiveness.
A highly recommended read!
Bits & pieces
I hope your NaNo is going well, so keep on keeping on!
Books mentioned in this bulletin:
- The release date has been set for “fels“, the German translation of “rock” – it will be out December 1st!
- You can get a free e-book by signing up for my newsletter
- Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!
Session #5 – The practical guide to outlining
Session #7 – Give your scenes VIGORR!