You Have To Write The Damn Thing First

In my daily forum trolling, I ran across a post today about someone who wants to be a writer.  I say good for them and would never want to discourage them from making that effort.

But…

I don’t have high hopes for this person.

What concerned me was their to-do list.

Some of the items on there were things that every aspiring writer should do, like read in their target genre.

But then they listed regularly updating their blog, using twitter, putting up an author blog, setting up Facebook, becoming active on Goodreads, and finding editing and cover design services on the list.  ABOVE writing the novel.

That’s right.  They haven’t even started writing their novel yet.

I was lucky that it took me something like six weeks to write the first draft of my first novel and that I had a version I thought was publishable within a year.  But I’ve seen plenty of people who say they worked on their first novel for five or even ten years.

Until you sit down and write it, you don’t know how long it’ll take you to write a novel.

Hell, there are people who have never finished a novel even though they have ten unfinished ones in their drawer.

So why find someone to edit a novel when you don’t even know if you’re going to finish it?

Priority one has to be writing the damned thing.

It’s like deciding you’re going to run a marathon when you’ve never run before.  Better slap on some sneakers and try running around the block before you spend months researching the top marathon coaches in the country only to find that you have sports-induced asthma and hate to run.

We each take our own path to the final destination, but I think the best way to get to the end when it comes to writing a novel is to start with writing it.  Worry about editing and publishing it and finding an audience for it AFTER it’s written.

Part of the reason I decided to post on this today was because I read a great post by JA Konrath that tied into this.

(As a side note, I no longer read his blog regularly.  I did when I started out and then he wrote a post that was so unbalanced in terms of the trade vs. self argument that I actually deleted my link to his blog rather than demote him to my “meh” folder.  But this link happened to come up on one of the forums I read and it made good points, so I bookmarked it.  I say this just to remind anyone who goes there to tread carefully and never trust anyone who thinks they have the only answer.)

Here’s the post: Quitting

It basically says that some people should actually quit trying to be writers.  (Something I happen to agree with.)

Look at the sixth reason to quit that he lists, “You want to be a writer, but spend all your time going to classes and researching, but never get any writing done.”

He’s not the only pro that has noticed this issue where someone is more focused on selling the product than actually creating it.  Here’s a post by PCW on the issue: Meeting the author.

(Seems I’ve shared it before, but still worth the read.)

Here’s her advice on the matter:

“None of that matters until you write the book. There is a word for people who spend a lot of time setting up elaborate schemes to sell something that does not exist, and it is not a nice word. Write the book, finish the book, and then worry about all this. It’ll take you a year or more, probably, and by that time the market may look completely different. None of the publicity and marketing stuff matters until you have a manuscript to sell. None of it.”

So, there you have it.  If anyone reading this is that person–the person who has spent months researching writing but has yet to sit down and write a novel or story–close this browser now.  Open a blank Word document. (Or whatever your chosen program is.  And, no, it really doesn’t matter right now whether it’s the best program for writing.  You’re not at a point where that matters yet.  You just need to write.  Use a napkin if you have to.)  Write a scene from that novel or story.

Don’t stop.  Don’t go research anything.  Just write a scene.  There has to be one moment in your story or novel that you can see in your mind.  It doesn’t matter what the magic system is or how the political structure works.  What matters right now is how character A and character B interact with one another in that moment.

Write it.

And then write the next scene.  And the next.  And don’t stop writing scenes until you’re certain that if you stop to do research that you’ll come back and write some more.

It’s ok right now if the magic system is a little wonky or if that first scene and second scene don’t work together.  You’ll fix that in the editing stage.  Right now you need to write something so you have something to fix.

One more link for the day.  Why agents say no to your project

It’s from Books & Such.  Read that list.  Is there anything on there about twitter followers or Facebook likes?  Nope.  It’s all about writing and craft issues.  So, if you’re just starting out, where do you want to focus your efforts?

On writing the damned thing.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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