The Most Important Things I’ve Learned So Far, and How I’m Using Them for NaNoWriMo

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone through a few ups and downs in terms of forming a writing habit. In this post, I want to cover the three things that have had the biggest impact on my productivity.

The rough draft is not the final draft…

This is the number one, fundamentally groundbreaking concept. Once I understood and applied it, everything changed. Three simple things:
1. No other person can ever read your rough draft, so it doesn’t matter what you write.
2. Don’t stop typing. Write what comes to mind.
3. No editing until the story is finished.

The process has been improved using things like ”writing sprints” and better planning, but the fundamentals have remained the same. As soon as I learned this concept, I belted out drafts like nobody’s business. Problem was, they went nowhere. Great ideas, some of them. But they dribbled off into nothing. Or my characters stopped doing anything.

…but it still needs a little planning.

The next couple of stories had rough plot outlines. However, during drafting they inevitably went off the rails, striking out in a direction that I didn’t plan for in my outline. The problem was, I didn’t go back and update the outline with the new plot. The result: two 150,000 word stories and no way to zoom out and look at the overall plot of either of them. The thought of reverse engineering an outline from these drafts terrified me to the point of inaction.

In my last post I recommended “Rock your Plot” and “Rock your Revisions” by Cathy Yardley. One lesson that really stuck out to me was to know exactly what scenes are going and staying before you start editing a single word. What’s the point in getting the pacing and dialogue perfect if the scene has to get cut because it doesn’t advance the plot?

So I won’t be drafting anything in November until I have the outline and character information down pat. Also, the editing phase shouldn’t take so long because I won’t need to worry about doing all this stuff later.

Communication is Key.

I’ve let communication fall totally by the wayside. I get charged about twenty-five bucks a month to keep the email list running. So yes, over the past … ten months? … I’ve been paying Aweber, my provider, for nothing. Always thinking “yeah I gotta get back on track with that.”

Same with my Facebook Page and Twitter. These cost nothing, but I’ve ignored them. This all leads to a future where I’ve written tons of books and no-one even knows I’m an author.

Sharing my work gives me motivation to write more. It also helps me focus on what’s important in my process and in my stories. To write about what you’re doing you first have to stop and think hard about what your process, and that can help you realise that there could be a better/different way to do things.

In November, the Facebook page will be for daily updates. The blog I’ll hopefully do a couple of times a week, and the email list will be for weekly updates. In case you need more of a reason to share your work, check out the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

So that’s that. If anyone were to ask my advice on getting started, I would say that those three things above have been the most helpful to me: Your rough draft is not your final draft (or, writing is re-writing), plan well and share your work and your process.

There are other little bits and pieces I’ve learned. Some of them, like learning markdown and WordPress, are handy but not important. A couple of others are things that I have learned about myself that I actively want to change; these I’ll cover in a seperate post.

If you found this post helpful, please share it to your social media platform of choice, and if you’re into that sort of thing, give me a like and a follow on Facebook and Twitter.