The Conclusion of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series
You’re ready to write the story of your life. You’ve put your heart and soul into it.
• Your themes resonate with you, and they’re the core of the novel.
• You’ve hidden them so well you’ll write a story, not a message.
• You’re willing to write honestly, knowing you can’t please everyone, but you’ll reach the people who will understand YOU.
• You’ve layered your story with subthemes that will make plotting easier, and will make the tale you’re telling richer.
• And you actually KNOW what you’ll be writing about before you start writing.
You have one huge obstacle ahead of you, one you haven’t yet considered. It may not be a factor with your first book, it won’t be a factor for the first book you SELL, but for every book thereafter, your passion, your creativity, and the soul of your story will be written against the background of a ticking clock.
You will face deadlines.
Everyone knows the rules for meeting deadlines. You break your story into daily bites, you write a certain number of words or a certain number of pages per day, you build padding into your schedule so that you can have a few bad days and not come in late, and you stick to your schedule. All great, it works, it’s the way I’ve written a whole lot of books and hit a whole lot of deadlines.
But there’s more to it than that. When the clock is ticking, you know you’ll only have so many times you can fall down, lose your place, and make mistakes before you fall behind. And playing catch-up is hell on creativity–stress, anxiety, and the fear that this time you won’t be able to write to the end of the book come crashing in on you, and make simply finishing an ordeal–never mind finishing on time.
Everyone hits those places sooner or later. But how do you keep from hitting them every time? And how do you hang on to all the richness and power and passion you built into your story when fear and worry make writing feel like rock climbing with no safety gear?
Follow these three steps, and you’ll get through it.
• Believe in the power of your themes.
If you’re writing stories that matter to you, you’ll be able to lose yourself in them even when the pressure is on. I’ve been in some incredibly tight spots, with not just looming deadlines but a dwindling bank account—but because I’d taken the time to build the foundation for a story I wanted and NEEDED to write, once I sat down and put my fingers on the keyboard, I could slip away for a while from the real world and lose myself in my characters and their lives.
If you’re “just cranking one out,” you’re going to have a much, much harder time shaking off the real world and getting your work done. And your quality will suffer, too. If you’re telling a story you need to tell, your characters will drag you to the keyboard on days when you just don’t think you can do it.
• Trust surprises…but not too much.
Be willing to explore story ideas that ADD TO and complement the themes you already have in place. Bringing in new events that can take your characters in different directions but still allow them to get back to the story you’d planned can make getting your daily quota of words or pages exciting—you’re not entirely sure what is going to happen, but you’re pretty sure it’s going to be good.
Make sure, before chasing after a sudden hunch or enchanting new direction, that it DOES work in tandem with your story. Take a few minutes to see if you can daydream your way from the beginning of the tangent all the way through to the place where it connects back in to the big scenes and big events you’ve plotted out.
• Dance with the one who brought you.
Stress and deadlines have a way of shaking your confidence, in making you second-guess everything you planned, in pushing you to look for something that would be easier, simpler, quicker. Don’t do it.
The problem is, you might have what seems like a great surprise idea pop on you that promises to give you easier, simpler, quicker, but it can be hard to tell the difference between a nice surprise and a betrayal in waiting.
Stop yourself right away if you find yourself altering your story themes or your main direction because of this great new idea. The sure-fire way to kill the story you’re writing is to hare off after what is, in fact, an entirely new story trying to disguise itself as something you can use right now. If you’re writing about a doctor who has lost faith in his profession and who walks away from medicine, only to discover how much he needs to help people—and you have a great idea to make him an archeologist—hit the brakes.
Let the archeologist idea simmer in the back of your mind while you finish the doctor book. If it’s any good, it’ll still be there when you’re ready to write the next story.
Easier, simpler, quicker is nothing but a mirage when you’re pushing toward a deadline. Faith in the strength of your story, a bit of daring, and focus on what you started with and what you intend to have when you’re done, however, will give you what you need to get through.
You can do this. And you’ll have the best thing you’ve every written when you’re done; a novel with a pulse, with muscle and sinew, with passion and meaning.
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html