Today I’ve provided a guest blog for the ever-eloquent everwalker. In return, she’s been good enough to write a guest blog for me. I definitely get the better of this deal, as do you if you’re reading this. So sit back and enjoy her words of wisdom…
To defeat the Huns… no, wait, that’s Mulan. What’s I’ve actually been invited to talk about is the biggest lesson that I have learned from completing my first full-length writing project (and by that, I don’t just mean finishing the novel, but several rounds of editing and then submission for publication as well). Well, it’s probably not going to be a popular lesson, and you are very welcome to ignore everything I’m about to say and go on about your business in your own way. This is just what I learned works for me.
Writing is work. If you really want to get to the end with the best book you can write, you need to approach it with a fairly rigorous mindset. Plan it in advance, with chapter outlines and character arcs, and all that jazz. Use spreadsheets for cross-referencing and graphs for plotting tension progression. Compile research notes and read up on weird things (my latest included the original names for various German cities, the outward symptoms of criminal child neglect, and medieval medicines for an arrow to the knee). And then, when all the prep is done – or at least has a solid foundation – you keep strict working hours. That takes discipline, whether it’s self-inflicted or imposed by other factors. Write for at least an hour every day, and try to make it the same time so it becomes part of your routine. When you hit editing stage, do the same (that part’s harder). Try not to jump around within the story too much – writing linearly is actually easier in the long run, no matter what your unreliable mind might tell you. Be business-like about it.
I know, it was a shock and disappointment to me too. Writing used to be a hobby, of sorts, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the more impulsive approach. But I don’t think it’ll get the project finished.
There’s one other important lesson I want to mention, and it’s a word of warning. I found that, by approaching it in this way, I got more done. But I also thought about it more, to the point of obsession. There’s only so many hours in the day, after all, and you have to work and eat and sleep in some of them. Now, I’ll be honest – I’ve never been that great at keeping a good work-life balance, and when you’re juggling work and writing and life, one of them is bound to lose out. Just be careful you don’t ignore one completely.