One question I would get from my students when I taught creative writing was, “Will you read my book?”
My response was always the same, “Is it finished?”
98% of the time the answer was, “No, but it’s really amazing… etc.”
I won’t read an unfinished book from a first time novelist. Mean? Yes, I know it sounds very mean, but there is a method to this madness, I promise.
There are people who will try and write one novel their entire lives… statistically those people will never finish it. They have their rationalizations of why they will never finish it. Trust me I know them all, it took me ten years to finish my first novel. Here are my favorites; I can’t write the next part without editing what I have already written. It has to be perfect. I have too many novel ideas come to me so I have ten or so novel beginnings, and I try to work on them when the muse tells me too. I don’t have enough life experience/ haven’t suffered enough. I am not intelligent enough to work on it. I must be brilliant. Every word a stroke of genius. Etc.
It wasn’t until I shut all the voices in my head down and joined a writers group that I felt the strong desire to pick one of my many brilliant (sarcasm) beginnings and run it through to the end. Even though I had published some poetry and a few articles, it wasn’t until I ‘finished’ my first draft that I truly felt like a writer.
Why is finishing a first draft a game changer? Trust me, you don’t even know what your book really is unless you finish it. What you thought or had tried to plan sometimes takes a detour to something better. Not to mention that there is a lot to learn about your strengths and weaknesses with your first novel. It’s like walking through a dark and scary cave alone without anyone to hold your hand. You’ve just got to hold your breath, suck it up and do it to see what is on the other side. You come out learning so much about your own writing style, (or lack thereof) and you also get to put The End on your first draft.
Now I have finished more first drafts than I care to stop and count, I have a pretty good handle on what my talents are and what pitfalls I need to watch out for. For instance, I love to write as I go, but I also have learned that I need a general direction and not a full outline. I also have to have my character lead the way, so I need to have my character solid before I start. If I don’t have a solid character, I may as well be writing a Dick and Jane book. You know, See Dick run. See Jane run. Run Dick. Run Jane. Etc.
These are not specific to me, and I have seen people who struggle with the aspects I am confident at and pull out an amazing story.
So tell me… how did writing The End on your first novel make you feel?
If you haven’t finished a project, why do you think that is?
By Lillian J. Banks