I know what it feels like to be at the beginning of writing a novel.
It’s thrilling. And also…
😱 full of self-doubt.
Writing a novel is a big job, and we often think we have to have all of the pieces in place first.
🤔 We think we should be good at the craft.
🤔 We need proof that it’s a “good” idea.
🤔 We (might) think we need to have every scene planned out.
🤔 We believe we should have all of the research done and know All. Of. The. Things.
But here is the problem: these beliefs keep us spinning at the beginning, whether it’s in the research or planning or the first couple of chapters, trying to get them just right before moving on.
(I know people who have sat in this same spot for years.)
It could be as simple as saying “this is good enough for now.” That can work. But many of us won’t believe it when we say this to ourselves.
There is a solution to this: knowing just enough and giving yourself permission to let it be enough for now. Knowing just enough to get the first draft on the page so that you actually have something to work with.
In this week’s YouTube video, I’m sharing five questions that, if you answer, you will have just enough to move forward. I hope that you find it useful if you’re feeling stuck at the beginning.
Listen, there is always room for more. But if you are stuck in the never-ending perfectionism/procrastination cycle that so many of us fall into, I give you permission to let these five questions be enough. Not that you need my permission.
Because you can learn the craft while you write. In fact, it’s the very best way.
You can get that first draft on the page. That’s what you really want, right?
I believe in you.
Let me know in the comments how these questions land with you!
Hello writers. If you’re a perfectionist like me, <laugh>, you might think that your first draft is supposed to come out looking pretty good. You might think that you need to have a really solid understanding of the craft of writing before you start. Maybe you’ve gotten caught up in taking lots of classes or reading lots of craft books or watching lots of videos, but you still don’t feel quite ready. Or maybe you’ve started, but you’ve gotten stuck spinning either in the planning or in the first couple of chapters just trying to make them sound right and you’re stuck and not ready to move on. What I’m going to share with you today comes from my own point of view, as I have struggled with my own procrastination, my own perfectionism, and how it’s kept me from starting and how, how I have learned to overcome that and also help lots of writers in the same boat.
But first, I need to tell you two things. First, you can learn the craft of writing while you write. In fact, it’s the best way to do so. The second thing I want to tell you is your first draft is not going to be very good. No matter how many craft books you’ve read, no matter how much you’ve practiced, and even no matter how many books you’ve written before, the first draft is just not going to be great. So today, in order to help you get started, I’m going to share with you five things that you really do need to know, in my opinion, before you start writing everything else. You can just let it be for now and trust that you’re going to figure it out. So let’s jump right in. The first thing that you want to ask yourself is why do you want to write this book?
This is so important because it gets to the heart of the motivation that’s going to keep you going, even though your first draft isn’t coming out that great. Okay? It’s going to be the thing that keeps you going through multiple revisions down the road. So why do you want to write this book? Why are you so closely connected to this story? Why do you feel like it’s timely? Now remember, we’re not asking if it’s important. We’re asking why is it important. We’re assuming that it is important. The second thing you’re going to want to know is where is the protagonist going to start your story and end up in the story, both physically and more importantly, emotionally. So the question is really how are they going to change over the course of the story? And the third question is related, which is, how is this change going to occur?
In other words, what do they believe at the beginning? What do they want at the beginning and what are the obstacles to those beliefs and wants? How are they going to overcome them? How are they going to work around them? These are key questions that you want to ask. Now, could you do a deeper dive into the path of the story? Of course you can. If that speaks to you, if you want to do a really clear outline of the plot events, a really clear outline of the emotional trajectory of the character, then by all means do that. But at the very least, ask yourself where are they going to start and where are they going to end? Because that creates some confines around your story, and will help you not write yourself off into the weeds. The last two questions are really about your writing process and about some accountability.
The reason for this is because writing a novel is hard and it takes a long time. When and where are you going to write? So it might not always be the same time of day, it might not always be every day. It might not be in the same place every day. You might be doing the best you can, snatching five minutes here and there, but get really clear on when it is that you’re going to write, so that to you, it becomes higher on your priority list and more clear about when you’re going to do it. And the last question is, how are you going to manage your mindset and hold yourself accountable through the process? Some of us like external rewards, like we write five pages, we get to go buy a latte, or we write that day, we put a sticker on the calendar.
But no matter what you decide to do, the key is to set in place some accountability tools for yourself, and more importantly, have a set of tools and resources for managing your mindset when it goes sideways. Because as I said, writing a novel is hard and it takes a long time. When we are faced with hard tasks that take a long time, our mindset can get a little wonky, right? We can start doubting ourselves, we can start feeling insecure about it. And when that happens, how are you going to manage it? So let’s run through those five questions one more time. Why do you want to write this story? Where will the protagonist start and end, both physically and emotionally? How is that change going to occur? When and where are you going to write and how will you manage your mindset and hold yourself accountable? If you’re at the beginning of the process of writing a novel or you’ve been spinning in the first couple of chapters or in the planning process, I suggest really taking some time with these questions and digging into what will set you up for success. Because here’s the thing, you deserve it. Your story deserves it. Because both of you matter tremendously. I hope you found this useful. Be sure to click subscribe and I’ll see you in the next video. Happy writing.