This is going to be kind of short, but it is something that helps me. I thought I would share it with you. Maybe it can help you, too.
I like to think that there are a few parts to writing and editing a book. There’s the Before, when you are all excited and planning and optimistic. Where you have sticky notes scattered on planning boards and the smell of sharpies in the air. You know, when you are taking every second you have to dive deeper into the backgrounds of the characters and find more about the details of their futures. Plotting chapters and fixing and patching the problems you foresee.
Then there is the Middle. This is the writing and editing. It’s blurry because it’s always different with each novel you write. It starts out with that optimism, the hope and excitement that it takes to write a book. You go through drafts and drafts and drafts until you are finally moving on to the After. You start out excited, then get tired and doubtful. You get to a low point, where you just don’t want to write, and then you have to pick your draft back up and keep going. That’s when it starts to get better.
Finally, there’s the After. When it gets better. The relief of being done and the hope of the possibilities the book could lead to. When you start researching the publishers and agents or start making the cover and formatting for your publishing platform. The part where you get to hold a finished copy of it in your hands. You get to let people read the final thing. You get to start really marketing through social media and help other writers out. Maybe you start a blog (me). This is the part that makes all of that low in the Middle worth it.
It goes from excitement and optimism to doubt and tiredness. But then it circles back around again. But the problem is that a lot of writers don’t know that. They get to the doubt and the tiredness and they give up. Because they don’t know that what comes after that is worth it. That it is way better than that initial excitement.
Or they know that it could get better, but think that it is too far away. Too far out of their reach.
So if you haven’t finished writing a book, and you are in the Middle, listen up. You need to get through the Middle so you can get to the After. How?
Think about what you are going to do with this finished book. Have a goal. Have a hope. Maybe you just want to print it out, every last word. Just to see it on paper. Maybe you want to get it published. Maybe you want to put it on the internet for anyone to read. Maybe you just want to keep it for yourself, in a box underneath your bed. Maybe it’s a gift. Maybe you just want to finish it so that you can say, with pride, that you wrote a book.
But think about what will happen when you get there. Because now, if you keep going through the Middle, that After is actually within reach. They say the hardest part isn’t writing the book. I think that’s right, but I would say that the editing is the hardest part. Everything else is just a bunch of little hoops to jump through (formatting, printing, querying).
Everything else can be divided into little goals and little problems to solve. But when you are editing, each draft is one huge hoop. Because you can’t edit a little at a time. You have to edit the novel as a whole, see it through the reader’s eyes as well as your own. Catch every detail that connects somewhere else in the book.
Don’t stop writing the book because you are at a low point. Don’t stop because you think that all you have left is an uphill battle, with all of the difficulties of editing and publishing and marketing. Don’t stop because of that. Keep going for what is over the hill. When you can coast down the other side because it’s all downhill from there.
My challenge for you is to keep pushing through the Middle because that way you can get to the After. The land of little hoops that get you big things. Imagine that land. Imagine holding your novel in your hands or printing it out or reading it all the way through. Imagine publishing it. Publishing is hard, don’t get me wrong, but it is also one of those things that can mostly be achieved through little steps, little hoops.
Imagine the After. Imagine the things that are in the light at the end of the tunnel. If you can do that, then you can get to it. If you imagine it, that light is that much closer and your goals are within reach. If you don’t believe that you can do it, then you’re never going to get there.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!