Completing your Manuscript First Draft

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If success is truly where talent and opportunity meet then not much has changed since I first left school and was told that success meant first, making sure you’re good, then hoping that you were lucky. I always felt that, the being good at what you do, referred to being good at a particular craft, in this case writing, and the being lucky part of the equation, meant at some point being struck by a lightning bolt of opportunity—I know—I think weird.

But what good would it do for the opportunity to become a published author showing up, if you had not put in the time to bring your story idea to the page by completing your manuscript? There is no getting around the fact that taking the time to sit down and get the story in your head on to the page will require an investment in time. So getting back to my: make sure you’re good, hope that you’re lucky, the making sure that you are “good” simply refers to a completed manuscript. So—got your manuscript done?

Answer: “Why-yes-I-do!” Good!

If, however, your answer was no, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why. But first let me say something about the second part of the equation, making sure you’re lucky. Now-days, though the advent of self-publishing you can actually go out and create your own luck! So as far as the: hope that you’re lucky part of my equation goes, no more standing around trying to attract that lightening bolt of opportunity; if you can make sure you’re good by being ready with a completed manuscript your luck is running high.

Even if most self-published author’s advertising and promotional budgets are not as well-funded as the established publishing house they can still look forward to pretty much the same potential profit if their marketing and distribution are good enough.

Of course all of the above starts with something to market and sell, and that all begins when you find the time to complete that all important first draft of your manuscript. Too many of the writers I know spend so much time worrying about being good enough, and agonizing over parts of the publishing process that really only applies to a completed first draft of a manuscript; leaving me to wonder if they might run the risk of talking themselves out of writing anything at all, or finishing what they started.

My thought is, even if you have a degree in English, and several writing ideas that might turn out to be some really neat novel food for readers, none of that matters if you can’t find the time to sit down and write about it.  That was me a few years ago when I was making the transition from writing screenplays to writing a manuscript. I realized that at least one of my half-finished manuscripts needed to be finished before I did too much worrying about possible publishers or self-publishers problems.

So rather than think in terms of finishing my story that would be instantly ready to be published, I thought in terms of just finishing my first draft, giving the story I was carrying inside me a  beginning, middle and the end, and it worked. Just like in my dreams—well almost. You see in my dreams I write so beautifully, so clear and without error that I can start, then finish a story, and have that same story go directly to press, soon as I’m done writing.

Then, I wake up—and realize that my draft needs editing, and proofing, perhaps even a Bata-reader or two, but that’s all part of the process that can only begin when you have a completed first draft of your manuscript.

Do your best to find time to write, believe me it will pay off, my best time is now, late at night who knows what your best writing time will turn out to be? Set the goal of a completing your manuscript and until that is done don’t let too many other publishing concerns block your path or slow your writing to a crawl. Find a way to manufacture time to write; all the other steps will be easier to get to with a completed manuscript in your hands. I also try to write a little every day, I am not always successful at it but since I actually started making the effort—I now end up with more writing days than not and to a manuscript begging for attention, that’s a good thing.

I have even found that having something to write about, or some creative thought, is not necessary when I sit down to write because after committing to write, even if I don’t come up with a sterling writing piece at the time, I usually have enough of an idea to eventually peace together something useful. There will be times when you draw a blank; times when your creativity-well is dry, and nothing makes its way out to the page, take a break, stop for the day but don’t give up, and save even the ideas, and self-suggestions you reject, they can be useful.

The majority of the motivational things mentioned above are some of the tricks and methods I used to keep me writing on a regular basis. Almost none of my writing motivation ideas matched any of my friend’s ideas or methods to keep the writing ball rolling. When it comes to trying to set up some sort of writing schedule you will have to try and come up with a routine that fits you best. Back when I wrote almost exclusively on screenplays all I had to do was put on some music, that I felt fit the scene I was working on, and go to work writing, most of the time I was successful when it came to a useful addition to my story.

My methods to keep myself writing on a project that was already started and yearning for more pages from me was to do pretty much the same, simply making the time to write and trying to make the most out of that writing opportunity. With my manuscript when I try to commit to the same routine as with a screenplay and write on a particular project once a day. What changed was, if I ran into a creativity dry patch while working on a project already in progress, and found myself not happy with the words I was adding, I would stop trying to be creative, and work on other writing chores (like proofing, or spelling) on that same writing project.

More than once I would be re-energized to the point my creativity switch was turned back on and if that did not fire me up with enough good stuff to go on and finish that story, at least I ended up a little further down writing trail and a little bit closer to my first draft. I can tell you this about self-publishing vs the publishing house, you will never experience as much freedom of creativity in book writing, design and publishing as you will being a self-published author; so make sure you’re good (to go) complete your manuscript. Do the things necessary to attract an established publishers, if that is your goal, and/or if that does not work-out, switch to plan-B and self-publish, because a good book idea, is a good book idea, no matter who publishes it.

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