I’m currently working on my eighth novel, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about the writing process is when to hit pause on a particular scene/sentence/description and move on. If you’re a perfectionist or Type-A personality, that can be hard to do, but it’s extremely important. Trust me!
When I was writing my first novel, if I wasn’t sure where to take the story next, I would spend countless hours tweaking, editing, refining, and tinkering the words I already had written. Where did that get me? Nowhere! The problem with spending too much time on a particular area of the book is that you aren’t moving the story forward, and if you don’t move the story forward, you will never finish the book. I’m convinced this is why it takes some people 10 years to complete the first draft of a novel. They work so hard making every sentence perfect that it takes forever to get to the finish line.
A good trick I’ve learned is to use the ALL CAPS function. My current manuscript is filled with notes in ALL CAPS such as:
- WRITE SOMETHING FUNNY HERE
- FLESH OUT THE DESCRIPTION OF THIS RESTAURANT
- ADD IN SOMETHING HERE ABOUT WHY THEY GOT DIVORCED
- FIX THIS- SOUNDS WEIRD
- MAKE THIS DESCRIPTION BETTER
- DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?
It would be easy to spend days, if not weeks, working on the above issues, but at the end of the day, they are details that aren’t critical to the story. If I want to finish the novel, my focus has to be on progressing the story.
Once you finish the first draft, then it’s time to go back and fix all the problem areas you’ve put in ALL CAPS along the way. That’s where the fun begins, because you know you’re in the home stretch!
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