In May 2012, I did something many of you probably have before.
I started writing a book.
And yesterday, October 23, 2015, I did something fewer, but still probably many of you have done also.
I finished writing a book.
The most meaningful thing I’ve gathered so far – after less than 12 hours of time to reflect – is that I actually managed to learn something through this long, at times unbearable experience. A few things, actually. Things I want to share with you today, because I don’t just want to sit here bragging about what I’ve accomplished. As always, I want to pass on what I’ve learned to you, my fellow aspiring writers.
So, now that I can finally say I’M DONE! … here’s what I know for sure.
Striving for perfection is a waste of time.
This was a tough thing to learn for me, the Type A, obsessive perfectionist. I wish everything could be the best it could possibly be the first time I write it. I wish all the characters always said the right things. I wish all the pieces always fit together and that I felt confident about every single sentence in that stupid book.
But that’s not how it works. Even just in the last month I’ve realized, again, that there isn’t time to keep going back and fix things. That’s not what the first draft is for. The first draft is for getting the story out. Figuring out the sequence of key events. Defining your themes and developing your characters.
It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Nothing ever is. If it were, writing a novel would be a completely different process. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t be as self-rewarding as it actually is.
The first draft is not the final product, but it’s still finished.
When you hit the save button that last time, sit back and stare for awhile at this giant word-filled thing you’ve produced, there’s a certain feeling that settles over you. As happy as you are to have hit a huge novel-writing milestone, the moment still lacks closure. As if, even though you’ve finished, the journey is still far from over.
That’s because it is. Don’t get me wrong here: finishing the first draft of a full-length novel is an amazing accomplishment and you SHOULD be proud of yourself. But that first draft is still flawed. If and when you go back to it later, you will find plot holes, inconsistent character traits and, of course, so many embarrassing spelling and grammar errors you’ll want to scream.
You’re not done yet. But for now, you’ve at least done the hardest part of all. It’s all out on paper, somewhat organized, there for you to tear apart and put back together. Someday, when you’re ready.
By the time you finish, you’ll have convinced yourself you never want to look at it again.
Never, never ever never. This morning I woke up and my first thought was, “Wow. I don’t think I ever even want to think about that stupid book again.” This is normal and it’s happened to me a few times before when I’ve finished writing projects like this in the past. It doesn’t help that I wrote almost 9,000 words yesterday to reach my finish line. I am burnt out, and that is okay.
It’s okay because I don’t have another deadline. I don’t have to look at it again right away, and I don’t plan to. By the time you reach the end of any project, really, you’re pretty much over it. Done. Bye Felicia. It has taken over your life, and you’re ready to take your life back.
Give yourself time. Distance yourself from it, not just to rest your mind, but to give yourself space. You don’t need to tend to it every hour on the hour anymore. (Here comes the parenting analogy again. Sorry.) It’s a toddler. A little older, maybe. It can play by itself for awhile without you. Let it. Get something else done while you can. Eventually, you’ll want to go back to it. And you will, and you’ll be refreshed and ready to start editing.
Thank you to all my followers who have put up with me over the past three and a half years. I promise, we’re returning to our normal posting schedule this upcoming week (fewer blog posts, more articles) and I won’t have too many more personal novel updates for you.
At least until November 1.
Want to read more about what you’ll experience writing your first draft? Here are a few more words of wisdom from yours truly.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.