During pitch contests, your pitch is a promise agents expect you to deliver in your pages. So, after all the work I did on my pitches, I worked even harder to make sure I’d delivered the promised magic in the actual story.
That said, first drafts are allowed to suck. Giving myself this pass was the best thing I ever did for my writing.
It took me a year and a half to write the first draft of The Slug Queen because I was trying to make it perfect on the first go. With my free pass to suck, it took me under three months to write the first draft of Child of Darklight. Surprisingly, it didn’t suck as much as I thought it would. I attribute that to all the things I learned NOT to do during that year and a half of torture, the resources I picked up along the way, and my new approach: nailing the concept before starting the story.
Things I learned NOT to do (keep in mind these are highly personal to my process):
- Start without a clear direction or outline (I learned pantsing isn’t for me)
- Have too many subplots
- Add filler to the working manuscript instead of to a separate junk file
- Get stuck trying to find the perfect word, or the perfect sentence rhythm while working on the first draft [little notes to myself like this as placeholders worked wonders!]
- Editing obsessively while writing [Resist! You can always fix this stuff later.]
Resources I picked up along the way:
I use a combination of the hero’s journey and the logical progression steps I learned from Story Genius by Lisa Cron to write my outline. (if the thought of learning the science of stories intrigues you, you need to read this book!) I love story structure. I love structure in general. It makes me feel safe and comfortable and free to be me. So, if you struggle with structure, these resources may help:
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
Save the Cat Writes a Novel! by Jessica Brody
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Layer Your Novel by C.S. Lakin
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
I’m a costume designer. October is the busiest month of the year because of Halloween orders, so November is for hibernating, not being productive. But I love the accountability NaNoWriMo provides: a set number of words written each day, spread out over a specific time period. And if you’re competitive like me, you want that win. I’ve searched for something similar to utilize during the year, and I’m here to tell you that camp Nano isn’t the only option.
I LOVE this website! It’s free, so if you try it and love it too, you should consider donating so they can keep it around forever. It’s that good.
This is probably a good time to say I don’t have any affiliate links on my blog and I don’t profit in any way by recommending any of these resources. These are things that worked for me that I’m happy to share in case you find them as useful.
How has it taken me this long to learn about sprints? It was a game changer! I used mini notebooks (to limit my space) and before each sprint, I wrote the general idea of what I wanted to write for the next fifteen minutes, set a timer, and then wrote nonstop, no matter what.
If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do.
Chris Fox’s book, 5,000 Words Per Hour, is a great place to start, but there are plenty of free articles available on writing sprints.
A recap of my new approach:
- Query Summary
- Write unapologetically until reaching The End
I will note, however, that when I wrote myself off a cliff and had to find a new path forward, revisiting my outline and making sure to mark all places that would be affected before making changes to the manuscript saved me so much time. Sometimes I’d realize that the change didn’t make sense or I’d find an easier solution. It cut down the amount of time wasted on material I couldn’t use in the end.
After workshopping it with my critique partners, I was finally ready for: