Monday, February 4, 2008

Keep Moving!!

Keep on moving, moving, moving....

Today, for Sunday's blog, I'd like to diverge from my series of topics on the process of setting up a manuscript, and share with you one of my Four Biggest Secrets of Success for a new writer.


Critique groups are fine. The right group can provide extremely helpful feedback. But unless there's something VERY major that needs to be changed, file those comments away and KEEP ROLLING.

There are far too many wonderful writers out there who will never finish a book, because they are so caught up in the endless cycle of critiquing and fixing, critiquing and fixing. By the time they absorb everything that friends tell them, try to rewrite to please everyone, and then polish every word along the way, they end up going in circles...and never do actually finish a manuscript.

Unless your critique group, or a host of contest judges, or something in your own heart tells you that you have gone way off track, keep writing! Save critique comments in a file and fix everything later. But get to The End! Believe me, once you get there, you may have a very different vision of those early chapters, and there might be lots in them that needs to be discarded anyway. And making it to that last page not only will give you a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, but will also teach you a lot about the process of writing a book.

When I first started writing, I labored over every word. Polished and edited after every critique session, then brought back that same material time after time. After two years, I'd piddled my way to 150 pages. And then...I signed up for a wonderful University of Iowa Writer's Workshop Summer Festival workshop given by Leigh Michaels. The class was wonderful. But at the end, when we were critiquing each other's work? Leigh and every one of the class members agreed. My first 127 pages had to go!

As with so many first time authors, I'd started my story too soon--well before the real action started--but hadn't possessed the experience to see it. I felt overwhelmed for a few weeks, then bit the bullet and made the cut. It was a far stronger manuscript after that. But just think of the time wasted! I could have finished that whole manuscript with all the time I'd taken to endlessly polish words that were cut, anyway.

I know a lot of writers who do what I did. They labor over beginning chapters but then flounder before they get half-way to The End. Or, they polish their first few chapters for contests, then start something else and start that same cycle over again. This simple piece of advice is more valuable that you know: finish your book!

Happy writing,
Roxanne Rustand

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