Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But sometimes this can be the hardest thing to do. Butt in chair and all that. Dig in and draft, even if you are convinced that your story is crap. You must not only be willing to spend the time getting your story down but also find the clarity of thought that generates the words in the first place. Some writers love this phase, others don’t. Here are some links to help you make that oh-so-important first draft happen:
Love to write but don’t have ideas?
- Being Open to Ideas – Whenever They Strike from Mystery Writing is Murder
- What Should I Write About? Finding Inspiration from Write It Sideways
- How 20 Bad Ideas Can Kick-Start Your Imagination from The Creative Pen
- Who’s Got the Time? from YA Highway
- How Do You Find the Time to Write? from TalkToYoUniverse
- The Right Time to Write from Journaling Woman
- Seven Strategies to Keep Momentum When You Don’t Have Time to Write from Cheryl’s Musings
- Three Ways to Get Unstuck from I Don’t Believe in Reality
- Eight Things to Consider When You Are Stuck from She Writes
- “Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.” Margaret Atwood in the Guardian’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, Part One
Unless you are practically perfect in every way, chances are you will need to revise your work. Spelling- and grammar-check can catch a lot of sins (and introduce new ones), but most stories need polish at the story-level as well. Things like structure, character arc, the mix of external and internal conflict. Although revising is a topic worthy of its own Resource Roundup post, here are some links to get you started:
- Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Revision by Editor Kendra Levin from Elana Johnson’s Blog
- The Art of Revising: Macro Revision from Shrinking Violet Promotions
- Pre-Submission Checklist from Adventures in Children’s Publishing
- Editor Teresa Stevens on Ten Steps to a Clean Submission from Romance University
Now that you’ve revised your story to the best of your ability, let it rest. This is always hardest for me – I’m usually so eager to send my story out into the world, convinced it’s as good as it can get. Whether this impulse is out of confidence or impatience, it’s almost always a bad idea. Set it aside, work on something else, send it to a trusted reader. But avoid the temptation to keep tinkering. Come to it with fresh eyes. Your story will thank you.
- Wait! Don’t Query Too Soon from The Other Side of the Story
- Before You Break Out the Red Ink from QueryTracker.net
After you’ve taken a break and are ready to sink your teeth back into your story, you will be better able to objectively evaluate it. Maybe you’ll need to rewrite some sections or start over entirely. Maybe you need to revise some story aspects or revert to older versions. Make the changes. And then (and this is important) let it rest again.
This cycle can repeat indefinitely, but at some point you will either give up or decide you are done. Here are some resources to help you decide when you can put a project to rest:
- Is Your Story Worth Saving? from Julie Musil’s blog
- When is a Manuscript Finished? When to Query? from Kidlit.com
- How Do You Know? from The Bluestocking Blog
Happy Writing (or Revising, or Resting, or Repeating…)!