Hello everyone, Roger here. I am in the early stages of persuing my dream of writing my first novel. I have decided to try and document the experience as best I can, so that hopefully people can learn from any mistakes I make, or maybe even profit from any profound insights that I may stumble across (sadly mostly the former I am assuming!).
Today I am about three weeks into my writing journey and I wanted to take some time to share what have been my biggest pitfalls thus far. And believe me there have been quite a few… It’s been a super fun three weeks and I have come a long way but there are things that “next time” I will make certain to avoid.
1. Too Much World Building:
That’s right! I wasted so much time in this stage. Even though I do feel like there are some aspects of my world that do need to be fleshed out some more, ultimately, I know that a lot of these aspects are seriously minor. It’s not worth the hours I spend surfing the web looking at flag designs or religious symbolism or trying to plan out the cultures of 5 different nations all of which won’t even feature in the book because they are on a totally different continent!
*takes a deep breath*
It’s fun to world build. But I had all the important stuff down and I was getting bogged down by unimportant details – things that I know will come to me if I just leave them be and move along.
Make sure you have all relevant aspects of your world in order and then move on.
2. Being a Perfectionist
I have read on countless blogs that for the first draft you just need to vomit that book out of your brain and onto the screen. Quality is not a factor at this stage. Just write the damned book.
However it was like some invisible force kept my fingers from connecting to my keyboard every time I sat down to pump out my opening scene. I couldn’t settle on a word or a sentence or a paragraph and so I was frozen in the torturous period of just not doing anything because (despite all I had read) for some reason I had to write it correctly the first time.
Chillax Roger you perfectionist wannabe freak!
But it is not easy to just “write the damned book” when you have this tendency. So I started writing other material every day (read: a few times in the last week or so) that was not related to my book and just explored the enjoyment of writing something with no real purpose. It was so enjoyable to do this. Originally I discarded any thought of “wasting” time writing anything other than my book because it seemed so counter productive but I was so wrong. Writing aimlessly with the aim of letting go of my perfectionist tendencies is going to ultimately save me a lot of time and most importantly save me a lot of agonising hours of frozen finger syndrome where I can’t type a word for fear it may not be the correct one and it’ll ruin everything forever.
3. Trying to Plan my Book on my Computer:
I started off using One Note which I loved because of the way it organised itself. But even though I had everything sweetly organised and easy to find/access it was not good enough. I’m a very visual person and maybe this is a personal thing or just limited to us visual learners but I didn’t feel like I took things in off the screen the same way that I do from something I have done by hand.
Countless blog posts later I decided that I needed to do one of these bad boys:
Not all of us are gifted Interior Designers so maybe think twice before you plaster your walls with sticky notes, index cards and haphazardly chopped up bits of coloured A4 paper. However, for me this has been a truly handy process. It now acts as an amazing reference tool whilst writing, as it sits right above my computer and if I ever have to let people into my house it could even be considered a feature piece/curios/conversation starter. Although once they have seen it they can’t leave my home until either a) the book is finished or b) they sign some sort of legally binding document about copyright blah blah oh I’m joking!!! I’m not one of those… But speaking of sharing our writing it brings me to my fourth and final pitfall…
4. Getting a Beta Reader after like,Three Chapters:
The Beta Reader hype is REAL. And for good reason. But I was getting one after three chapters and have come to the conclusion that this is a dangerous mistake for a budding writer with a mere three chapters under his belt.
Firstly, it was my inner perfectionist who made me go looking for one. He couldn’t just sit back and bask in the brilliant glow of first draft chapters. No. He had to immediately set out to find someone who would critique them and confirm everything he already knew about them: that they were rubbish.
The beta reader was very lovely and gave a lot of in depth analysis – far more than I expected. It was so nice to see someone have thoughts and opinions on my work. But after several emails back and forth discussing everything my beta reader said that she felt my main character was autistic and that, if he wasn’t, he probably should be.
I know nothing about autism and have never knowingly met an autistic person yet for some reason I agreed and made my main character autistic.
For all of 24 hours.
It dawned on me eventually that this was way too counter productive to writing my novel. My character was an emotionally stunted 12 year old boy and certainly some comparisons could be made to those of a mildly autistic person but I didn’t want to go there because I have neither the knowledge or experience to do it justice.
I’m just a baby author after all.
So despite the amazing and thought provoking discussions I got into with my beta reader, I had to stop it there because I need to focus on MY story and write it MY way first. Then let someone rip it to shreds.
So I hope that wasn’t too long! Remember, don’t overdo it on world building, don’t be a perfectionist and do try to find a way to lay out your novel that works best for you as a reference whilst writing. Finally, stay the Hell away from Beta Readers until the first draft is done.