There are a few key places where it is just so easy to get stuck as a writer. You may get stuck in all of them. But if you want to move forward and be a published author you have to fight your way forward and through each and every one of these sticky little holes. They will suck you in and you are going to have to claw your way out. That is some of the hard work required in writing. Did you hear anyone say it was easy?
Here are my top five Writing Black Holes:
1. The idea
Yip it is so easy to get stuck on just the IDEA of your book. So many possible stories swirling in your head….. Should he be a banker, werewolf or a lawyer? Should it be a crime or a romance? Should it take place in the future or present day? Chicago or Germiston? Should you actually write about yourself? All writers have so many choices. Let’s get some focus. Your very first choice and task is to move what is simply AN IDEA into a PLOT. You have to make some very clear decisions and stick to them. I always say, “that all stories are just a series of thumb sucks”. That means you just come up with an idea… and run with it. Yes, he’s banker, it’s crime novel set in the future and the book starts as he lands a big client but knows he is going to pay in blood money. Now plot THAT BOOK. Do the work to make a plot and stick to it.
2. The first few chapters
And here most writers will get stuck. Some for years! This is one of my biggest slam-dunk and move on areas I will rush you through. Any editor will tell you that you are never going to use those chapters as you first wrote them in your final draft, so stop agonizing and perfecting them. I am working with a romance writer on her 8th book and 3rd draft of it. “Sorry but I want you to totally rewrite the first three chapters” I told her. “The rest of the book is fine.” Moral of the story? It will all change in your second draft so just do your best in the first round and move on.
3. At 20,000 words
You reach 20,000 words and you have told your whole story. But a book needs to be longer and you can see that now. What happened? Plotting needs to happen! A book is quite long and that is why we require a certain number of plot points to take your story to the correct length.
4. Your first draft
So now you are a bit further down the line. You have pushed all the way to the end. It is a celebration. What do you do? Put it down and never touch it again. Hands up who has done this? My hand is in the air as I have about 4 books sitting somewhere in my computer that I wrote and never did anything more. All of you who have been working with me for a long time know that the first draft is just the START. Then you are doing to do your second draft and make it better.
5. Your first rejection letter
‘Thank you so much for your submission but after careful consideration we regret to inform you book is not a good fit with our stable.’
Crushing? Of course! So you sniff, delete that email, pretend it never happened and move on to things you are far better at. Right? No! This is the point at which you CANNOT STOP. Of course not every publisher or agent will like your book. Nor will every reader. I recommend sending to 20 publishers on your first mail out. Of this perhaps two will reply. So your first rejection will sting a bit, but the next few will hurt less – ask JK Rowling.
Read this piece I wrote on that and how many times you should actually send out your book so you can get a sense of perspective.
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Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, agent and book editor. She is a structure fanatic and coaches writers on how to write and get published.