If you’ve been following me on Twitter and/or Goodreads, you might’ve heard about my debut Sci-Fi novel, The Bureau of Time – and if you haven’t, well, it’s my first published novel and responsible for many late nights over the last year. It’s now available on Amazon and Kobo, thanks to independent digital publisher, Fontaine.
In previous posts, and in the book’s acknowledgements, I touched on how The Bureau of Time has changed my life as a writer, but in this post, I thought I’d explain just how much I’ve grown as a writer in such a short period of time – and how you can apply these same tips to your own writing!
First Drafts are Meant to be Rewritten
Sure, there’s an old adage in the writing world that first drafts are always the worst version of your manuscript – but like every writer, I quietly hoped that wouldn’t be the case. Fast forward a year, and I’ve come to realize that, yes, that first draft written during the thirty frantic days of NaNoWriMo, was one of the worst versions of my book’s many editions.
Here are my tips:
- Don’t waste time in the minutiae. First drafts should be quick and lay out the basic plot and character development. You can add more detail and subtleties in later edits.
- Experiment! Now is the best chance you’ll have to explore potential plotlines – if you feel like your story wants to head in a direction, follow the proverbial rabbit. Your second draft can determine whether to keep the addition or not.
Above all else – remember that your first draft is like a rough sketch. You can sharpen the lines and fill in the details later, but without a sketch, you’ll have nothing to edit and polish later on.
Take a Break between Editions
Writing feels like a non-stop express train at times, as though even the slightest delay will throw the whole momentum of a novel. While you’re busy writing a draft, you should definitely be spending time every day on your novel – just a paragraph or two to keep the creative juices flowing.
But when you’ve finally put down your pen (or closed the word processor), take a week (or longer) break before you start editing the next edition. You don’t need to stop working entirely – feel free to spend the time drafting timelines, expanding the lore, or getting feedback from beta readers and/or the community; but before you pick up that red pen, let the manuscript rest (the cooks among us might liken it to resting meat before carving).
I found that a break refreshed my creative energy, and let me tackle the manuscript with a fresh perspective.
Write the Book You (and others) Want to Read
I love the saying ‘write the book you want to read’, because of all the motivational quotes out there, it’s the most accurate. As writers, we’re also readers, and most of us will always be reading in the same genre we write – or at least, we’ll be familiar with it, and know what makes a good and bad genre novel.
But there’s more to writing than simply envisaging a novel you want to read. After all, if it’s going to become published in some format, then you’ll want others to read it – and that’s where beta readers come in.
Having close friends and valued members of the writing community provide their feedback on my novel was key to getting my novel closer to publication.
Why should you consider beta readers?
- They’re a sample audience – they’re readers who know what a good book is, and can provide you with crucial feedback.
- Beta readers can help create demand – lots of betas will Tweet or Share your book and create a waiting fanbase!
- Having readers provides a moral boost to get you across the finish line.
I was cautious of giving my manuscript to readers, but having readers spurred me on and helped provide critical feedback to fine-tune my book.
Don’t Be Afraid
When my manuscript was finally written, edited, and polished, I was struck with this sudden paralyzing fear. I had thought that, after a year’s worth of effort, I’d be excited to release my novel to the world – but instead, I was filled with this almost inexplicable terror.
Writers are so often conditioned to the prospect of failure – whether it’s from our own personal doubts, from well-intentioned but accidentally hurtful colleagues/friends/relatives, or simply from the bleak reality of the industry – that when it comes time for our fledgling bird to take its first flight, it’s easy to be scared of the infinite possibilities.
I pushed through the fear with the help and support from loved ones and family, from close friends and even strangers on the internet. There was a moment of doubt, a hesitation; but in the end, I’m immensely proud to see my novel on digital shelves, and for people around the world to be reading it.
Learn from my experience by applying these tips and tricks to your own manuscript, and before you know it, you’ll be proudly wearing that author badge too!
This has been just a tiny part of my experience writing The Bureau of Time, and in the coming months I’ll hopefully be sharing more about the sequel, and about my newfound role as an author.
Do you have your own insight or tips? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below!