Advice for Writers Who Want to Publish
by Amy Fellner Dominy
by Amy Fellner Dominy
I didn’t want to hear about finding my own path or discovering my own process. I didn’t want to read about characters who magically appeared in author’s minds and spoke to them. I wanted something concrete and tangible. Give me rules I can follow!
So, let’s forget for a moment that you actually do need to find your own path and discover your own process (through trial and error). And let’s also forget that there are no magical answers except for hard work (which isn’t very magical but does lead to amazing things). INSTEAD… I’m going to give you what I always wanted—an unshakeable, unbreakable RULE. If you want to make the leap from writer to author, you MUST follow this rule. You ready? It’s only two words. Maybe the two most important words for an author—and ones that many writers NEVER use. Can you guess what they are?
Simply stated, you’ve got to finish a book. You must reach the point where the only thing left of the first draft are the words, THE END.
It’s as simple as that.
But it’s also far from easy.
It’s HARD to finish a book. I don’t know if it’s a psychological thing, an emotional barrier, an invisible wall in our minds, but I know it’s a real problem because I struggled with it for years. In fact, I’m a semi-expert in the never-ending book. I can tell you exactly how it happens:
I begin a new story. I love my characters and the idea, and I zip off to a wonderful start. This usually goes on until I hit about 15,000 words. For whatever reason, no matter how much I think I’ve outlined and planned, I hit the murky middle and struggle. I flail my way to the halfway mark and I know I need to forge ahead. Except, hmmm, what about that scene back in chapter 2? It could use some tweaking…and now that I read the beginning, I see a better opening line….
Before I know it, I’m revising my story over and over, and the end is nowhere in sight.
But wait, you say, I’m still writing and working on my book. My butt is in the chair and I’m still being productive. I’m improving what I’ve got and learning as I go, right? Yeah, well. I told myself the same thing. But the fact is, I started OyMG in 2006. I didn’t sell the book in 2006, 2007, or 2008. Why? Because during those years I was “improving” it.
I sold OyMG in 2009. Why? Because that’s the year I finished it.
Now, maybe I’m just preaching to the choir. You know you should finish a book, but if was easy you’d already have done it. So exactly how can you reach THE END? Here’s where the rule smudges into recommendations. I can’t tell you what will work, but I can tell you some things that have worked for me:
1. Do not look at your manuscript when you open it up. Pull the cursor down to the end of the file and do not peek until you’re there. You may read the last page you wrote to get a feel, but that’s it. Then, you must write something new.
2. Give yourself a word count for each day and don’t let it include any revision work.
3. The night before, or that morning while you’re sipping your coffee and gathering your thoughts, plan what scene you’re going to write next. Be prepared for something new.
4. When you finish your writing for the day, try not to finish at the end of a scene. Write a sentence or two of your next scene so you’re not looking at a blank page when you start the next day.
5. When you start work on a rough draft, try not to go a single day without adding even a sentence or a paragraph. Stay immersed in your book. The longer the break you take, the harder it is to find your way forward. Now, when I start a new book, I force myself to write the rough draft as fast as possible—at least 1,000 words a day. It’s not easy and it’s not fun, and my rough draft isn’t pretty. But—it does get done.
And then I can begin the real writing: Revision.
But that’s another story for another day.
And with that, I will wish you all good luck.