Monday, July 25, 2016

5 Things I've Learned From Completing a Manuscript

Hello All! I thought I'd give you a little list of some of things I learned from completing my first full-length novel manuscript (MS). Enjoy!

1. Writing is hard 

Yeah, this is an understatement. When I first started writing, I only wrote when I was "inspired". Fueled by the reviews of fanfiction readers, I judged my own worth based on the words of a few.

Hint: Do not do this.

But now that I'm writing daily (or certainly, writing seriously), I can no longer afford the luxury of writing when I feel like it. While I may not write every day (and I don't think anyone should force themselves to do so, but that's another post), I write much more often than I used to when I considered writing a "hobby". 

Sometimes it's hard! The words are stunted and slow to flow out, or sometimes, they come out stale and bland like a piece of dry toast. Whoever tells you writing is easy either is lying to you or doesn't understand the commitment needed to do so.

It's okay to think writing is hard. It's okay to struggle. It's what action you take afterwards that tells you whether or not writing is for you.

By completing my first MS, I've learned sometimes the best medicine is to take a step back, work on another project or hobby, or maybe go outside. 

2. The more I learn, the more I don’t know

Years of undergraduate and graduate time taught me this lesson, but writing has reaffirmed this. I started out with the goal of publication, and I thought I was knowledgeable about the industry from the sprinkling of articles I'd read. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I learned (and am still learning) the craft of fiction writing, and this endeavor surprises me daily. From building a platform to publishing options and how to structure plot and dialogue, writing fiction is different than writing within an academic setting. I attended a workshop this year, and next year, I plan on attending a writing conference. I treat all of these things like professional development, and I often leave these experiences with a ton of notes.

What I’ve taken away finishing my MS: be humble. Ask for help if you need. There will always be someone better than you in any field, but as long as you are working towards bettering yourself, that's all that needs to be done.

3. Not all writing advice is equal

Since around October 2015, I've surrounded myself with as much knowledge as I can about writing and the publishing industry (see #2). I learned many things, but ultimately, not everything I've learned is of high quality or value.

I've become increasingly more cautious when it comes to who I choose for beta readers, for example. Many of them have been more than helpful, and these people steered my manuscript onwards and upwards.

But I've also come into contact with not so useful people who soured my confidence in myself and my abilities. These are not the people I wish to surround myself with, but it took me a while to realize that not all who claim they are helping have your best interests in mind.

Some people like to see others crash and burn, and neither I, nor you, need people like this. Writing is already a scary business, there's no need to drown someone else's dreams just to make yourself feel better.

So, whether it's a beta comment, a web article, or an entire book, not all advice is good advice.

4. It's not just one then done

We've established that writing is hard. But, omigosh,, that's a whole other beast.

I know I should  not have had this mindset as I wrote an umpteenth amount of drafts before my final thesis project was accepted. But, I fell into the trap of assuming that once I wrote the book, I'd be finished.

Ah, how naive I was. Now on draft # I-have-no-idea, writing a novel is not a one and done thing. I mean, I suppose it could be, but not if I want to take the traditional path to publication.

There's outlining drafts, editing drafts, drafts that have too much backstory, and drafts that have too little setting. Once it's published, people will only see the polished gem on display...only a select few will know the piles of absolute rubble you had to carve through to get that pretty end product.

Stay strong, my friends, and carry on writing those drafts and making those edits.

5. Lean on your support system

Writing is fun. Writing is work. And like any job, I've learned to surround myself with like-minded "co-workers". On the days where it feels like I am slogging knee-deep in mud instead of writing, my fellow writers are there to pick me up and push me (gently) back into the arena. This support system is so important as these people understand my struggles, fears and anxieties. They know what it's like to deal with rejection, and they are the first to celebrate when something works out.

Regardless of whether you use Twitter, blogging, Tumblr, or something else, find people whose souls are in sync with yours in terms of your writing life.

What were some of the things you learned from completing a manuscript/story? Comment below or find me on Twitter!

And as always, may your words be great and your pages many.         

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