Three Things I Learned Writing My First Draft

I’ve read a lot of blog articles that deal with things people wish they had known before they began their writing journey.  All of them are good and offer much food for thought.

I’m not published.  Not even close.  I have yet to finish the first draft of my novel, Western Watch, but I have learned a few things that I think are important to pass on to those who, like me, are more or less just starting.

So here goes.  Three things I wish I had known — really known — before getting started:

Writing is hard.

I knew this long before I sat down and typed my first word.   However, it is one thing to know a fact intellectually.  It is quite another to experience it first-hand. I had certainly read enough about how difficult it is to write – to flood the words out on to paper.  Did I say flood?  Hah! Lots of time the words drip out, if I’m lucky!

There are lots of things that make it hard – self-doubt, your inner editor, physical or mental fatigue from spending eight or more hours at work (or at home with the kids, or … (fill in your particular circumstances here).

Every time I finish a chapter I feel a huge sense of relief, immediately followed by the realization that the next chapter now demands my attention.  I had trouble enough finding roughly 4,000 words for the last one.  Where the hell will the next 4,000 to 5,000 come from?  I have no idea.  I never do until I start the chapter.

I have to just trust the words will come, sometimes in fits and starts or, much more rarely, in a flood with which I can barely keep up.

Other things are more appealing.

Most people don’t like doing things that are hard, even things that are of direct benefit to them.  That includes me.  Exercise is a prime example.  Writing is another, although admittedly the benefits are further downstream than exercise.  Consequently, I find that other things become more attractive by comparison. Faced with the prospect of writing, I find myself more inclined to

Of course this is easier than writing.  Artist: Max Forward

Of course this is easier than writing. Artist: Max Forward

clean the kitchen, the bathroom, even the cat box.  These normally unappealing (though necessary) activities become more palatable when the alternative is trying to bleed more words onto the page.

There’s no easy solution for this.  You just have grit your teeth and write.

No one cares.

Really.  No cares all that much if you are struggling to produce a novel.  At most you’ll get polite, vague expressions of support.  Offers to read your work may be forthcoming as well, but only when the novel is finished, sometime safely in the distant future.   Even family and significant others (normally obligated to listen to you) will quickly grow bored as you relate the difficulties of plotting out chapter four or how you’ll develop your characters early in the story.

Writing is a lonely journey.  Typically others will not care to join you.  At best they’ll let you stop by to visit, briefly, before sending you on your way.

The foregoing is not meant to discourage new writers, merely to alert you to some of the things that lie ahead.  Writing isn’t easy.  If it was, anyone could do it.

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