We’ve all been there. The friend at the dinner party. The coworker’s husband. The naive neighbor.
Oh, I’d write a book if I had the time.
I’ve been working on a story too.
I’ve got a great idea for a book. We could split the royalties.
As a novelist, journalist and freelance writer who has spent countless midnights rubbing bleary eyes, working weekends and car rides and plane trips for years to start a career, to support myself and to tell the stories, both fiction and non-fiction that I want to tell, these casually mentioned quips aren’t just tone-deaf, they’re insulting.
The worse of all, however, is that friend who just won’t finish their book.
Now, before you get offended, I’m probably not talking about you. It’s privileged and naive to expect everyone to work at the same speed or have the same resources. Trust me, I get it. We have to work and we have to care for our family members, move across state lines, start new jobs. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about external factors that make it hard to focus or get five minutes alone.
I’m talking about self-sabotage.
Raise your hand if you have a friend who has been rewriting the same hundred pages of their story for five or ten years. Raise your hand if they’ve told you about each painstaking revision, change of tone or perspective shift. Raise your hand if you know their story better than they do at this point because layers of writing and rewriting have made it impossible to stay atop their own tale. Raise your hand if you’re starting to wonder if maybe they don’t actually want to finish their book at all, they just like the idea of working on a book and staying nowhere-near-done keeps them safe from rejection and the truth that maybe their book isn’t actually good enough.
Yes, you know who I’m talking about.
Everyone has their own process for writing a book. I’m an outliner, a plotter, a storyboarder. I let books marinate and I research and I plan for a while before I get started. I know people who do the exact opposite and also people who do some combination of the two. However it works for you is great, but do yourself a favor, do your story a favor and for goodness sake, do your friends a favor and stop editing.
Your first draft is going to be rough and the sooner in the process, you accept that uncomfortable reality, the more likely it is you’re actually going to finish your book. Because if you try to shine up every single inch of that story as you’re going, you’ll get two feet of sidewalk paved with gold and nothing else. As the great Nora Roberts said, “you can fix anything but a blank page.”
Some people will never understand. Your neighbor will still think you want their story idea. Your coworker’s wife will still keep telling you they’ll write a book if they have time. Those aren’t the people who can be helped by the rough draft. But when there are a hundred pages of book, when there are a plot and characters and Word Docs and notebooks, there is also hope. Turn off your inner editor, forget the shiny lights of a finished draft, and just write. Don’t edit. Don’t change. Don’t fix. Just write.
You’ll be amazed at how quickly the story gets finished then.
Hmm, not easy for some.. writters block sounds like it… perhaps too much pressure on the finale’ or lost their passion because the dog vomitted up the last pages after asking the dog what he thought of them?! My grammar is shit however after your eyes stop bleeding cyz its really bad. Ha!
Perhaps try to talking to him/her without mentioning it and then perhaps the pressure will be removed 🤣😎😍😏🙄
Great advise. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for reading and your kind words! Good luck on your own journey!
I know of a “writer” (in quotes because I don’t think she actually has anything published) who blogs about the novel she’s been editing for the past 10 years or so. Not sure if she’ll ever finish and its getting kind of tiresome going to her blog to read about her trials and tribulations with her novel (sorry, but reading about you revising a chapter for the fifth time doesn’t do it for me).
For me, I edit as I go, in that every time I get a completed page I print it out and stick it into a three-ring binder. About once a month or so, I’ll take a break and will go through the binder with pen to make notes and the like. By the time I’m done with the first draft, I have draft #2 all ready to be processed.
I like that idea! I used to have hard copies until I realized my process is best when it is on the computer. Saying that, I do believe hard copies are the best when peer editing someones work. Sometimes online doesn’t cut it.
I used to do it that way on the computer, but then I found myself spending more time editing what I wrote multiple times than doing actual writing. Now I make sure that I’m simply writing complete sentences/paragraphs and worry about editing much, much later with the printed copy.
Wise words. It’s true that a artist is never completely satisfied with their own masterpiece.
I would definitely consider her a writer–she has been writing for years! But I do think that kind of editing and rewriting can prevent us from ever creating our best work. Nothing is ever truly finished, but we have to be discerning and come to a point where we put it down and send it out.
Am always short of time. But from today am just going to write……………………………………..
Yes! Write! Write! Write!
I was guilty of this. I caught myself raising my own hand the entire way through your post. The fear of rejection is hard, it’s like staying with a bad partner because it’s comfortable. I have just started to put myself out their and it is nerve racking waiting for responses from editors, seeing comments being added to my Novella on Amazon, and hearing from friends and family members that they just started reading your material.
I think the advise to stop editing your first draft is a great one. I have spent the better part of 8 years perfecting my novel until a friend finally peer pressured me to take the plunge. It was hard, it still is hard, but I have found it to be amazingly rewarding over the past couple of months.
Thanks for the awesome post!
Thank you so much for your candor! I can write about this stuff because I’ve totally been there and done that–it’s so tough to say “yes, this is good and yes I will show it to people” but it’s also incredibly brave and taking that first step allows you to keep telling stories and moving forward! Wishing you all the best on this new, exciting stage of your journey!
Thank you! I appreciate it 😀
After 13 years for me to finish my health book, uh, yeah, you’re right! ❤️🦋🌀
Haha, I know the feeling, my friend! I hope you’re able to trust in the quality of your work and share it with the world now!
Ding, ding, ding! That’s strikes a chord in me. I trust my passion for this work, but I am not there yet as to quality, and I write (and edit) everyday! ❤️🦋🌀