I think one of the biggest things I struggle with as a writer is first writing for myself before anyone else! When you want to make a career out of writing, sometimes even writing the first draft will become consumed with thoughts like, will this be good enough? While every piece of writing advice is subjective, and no two writers are the same, perhaps if you’re floating along in the same boat as I am, you’ll find some comfort in my words ahead!
A little bit of a backstory about me. I finished writing my first full novel when I was seventeen. This was the first piece of writing I was completely proud of. Sure, I had made other attempts throughout my teens to write full length novels, but this particular one was the first time I’d ever been able to write the end. I had so much fun with it!
Fast forward about three years. At that time I’m twenty. I’d taken a bit of a break from writing, for various reasons, as many of us do throughout our writing lives. I’d altered and rewritten bits of that first book, and I was excited with the prospect of one day getting it published. As I looked back at it, I did a complete rewrite with publishing in mind. This particular rewrite went great, because I was already in love with the book!
I wrote the end again and that was that. I started querying it, but as many writers will say, querying is extremely subjective with a lot of luck involved. I wasn’t too worried or sad at the rejections, I knew I needed to keep writing and maybe come back to that first project at another time.
At first I was excited to dive into a new project, only to realize I was quickly becoming paralyzed by my fear of whether or not I was good enough. I was so consumed with the prospect of publishing, that the end result was stopping me before I even started.
Sound familiar? Maybe, maybe not. I know I can’t be completely alone!
You might be saying, yes, Makayla, that’s me too! What are you doing now?
I’ve always been a bit of a pantser and plotter in my writing. A combination of the two methods. I plot the main points, but I pants (basically, write without a plan) the middle bits. A planter, if you will. Of course, every writer’s methods are different! And that’s perfectly fine, too. No two writers are ever the same.
Anyways, I’m rambling.
I turned off the word count, firstly. I was so focused on whether or not I was meeting specific word goals that I wasn’t actually writing. Goals are always good, but I changed my goals around a bit. Instead of making a goal to hit a certain amount of words, I made goals of writing for set amounts of times. If I only got two paragraphs down or an entire chapter, at least I was writing something!
The second thing I started doing was I stopped myself from going back or editing my first draft. If you’re like me, you get really, really focused on the opening of your book. We quickly learn that’s the most important part. It’s the hook! It’s where you draw a reader in! I can’t count how many times I’ve rewritten the first chapter during a first draft before I got burnt out on the book before I could get the next chapter in. I stopped this by not allowing myself to go back. Instead, I write my first draft without editing. I just write.
One important thing to remember, as first drafters without a “career” quite yet, is that we cannot compare our beginning to someone else’s end. We’re (usually) not writing on a deadline, so we have the time to get the words out for ourselves.
If you struggle in this way like me as a writer, the first thing we need to learn to do is to write for ourselves before we start writing for others. We have to learn our voice and our craft, and how we personally work individually as a writer. We have to love our work first! Like I mentioned before, and as I’m sure you’re already well aware of, every writer is different. We each write differently and plan differently.