Done, Right, Good: Stage 1 – Done
#1 of the 3 stages of a manuscript – for writers who want to actually finish something – and for readers who want to know why writers are crazy.
It’s a dirty little secret that we writers start and stop a lot of projects before they’re finished. But in recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve described a working mantra that helps me get over my mental impediments – some natural, some unnatural, some perhaps supernatural – and get a manuscript or short story to THE END.
The mantra is: “Done; Right; Good.”
Part of my writophrenia – an insidious affliction affecting creative, wordy types – is the illusion that my creativity is all I need to be an author.
False! Look at a shelf in your local bookstore for an idea of how big a factor creativity is in the publishing world. There are lots of copycat authors, lots of publishers saying, “Hey, they’re selling a bunch of those XYZ books [we pros call these ‘genres’]! Let’s get some of our own!” That makes for heavy parity in the publishing business.
So, what really makes a writer an Author (capital-A) is not creativity on its own, but producing FINISHED written works.
Don’t get me wrong – developing your unique Voice is crucial if you want to be an Author (more about that in a later post), but first, you have to get yourself in the habit of taking y0ur ideas through to completion. Otherwise, you have nothing but a bunch of interesting story ideas to talk about with your other writer friends over coffee. [Trust me, I’ve done a bit of that myself and it goes nowhere.]
“What are the components of Done; Write; Good?” asks the writer who’s tired of brushing off questions about the state of their manuscript.
Today we’ll start with Stage 1: Done.
I’m glad you asked, fellow writophrenia sufferer. You’ve come to the right place with this concern.
Look, you’re already identifying yourself as a writer. When people ask, “What do you do for fun?” you shrug shyly as if you really don’t want to brag, but reluctantly admit that you’re working on a book.
“Oh! What’s it about?” they ask.
You oblige by rattling off the setting and the characters and the plot and the details of the world you’ve created and the wicked twist you’ve built into the story that makes it different from all the others of the genre.
Then comes the dreaded question: “When can I read it?”
This is the moment you wish you’d said that for fun you do something easier like extreme mountain skiing – you know, the kind where you jump from a helicopter onto a rocky ledge at 14,000 feet and barrel downhill too fast, nonstop, and out of control – because that’s where you’d rather be at this moment. It would be more fun.
“Well, it’s not quite finished yet,” is the best you can come up with.
Mercifully, the conversation quickly moves on to diaper changing or herb gardening or cyst removal. You’re spared – until the next coffee-klatch-mine-field when you’ll have to answer these cruel questions all over again.
So, how does a writer avoid such torture in the future? GET IT DONE!
You said you’re a writer. Believe it or not, this declaration comes with an obligation – writing something with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the problem is you’re not sure that what you’re writing makes sense, is appropriate for a given audience, or is even any good.
This type of thinking is a symptom of writophrenia and actually has little to do with truly being a writer.
Let’s admit it – you’re not that good yet. You’re writing because you love it and you’re excited about it. You want to create something – a story that has not been written – so it takes some real work. And you can only start from where you are.
There’s a quote out there from someone way smarter than me: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.”
The art of sucking.
In other words, your first attempts are going to suck. The first draft of that book is going to suck. The first run at a short story will suck. Your dialog will be stiff and too obvious. You’ll have giant info-dumps that block the flow of your story like garbage in a mountain stream. Your characters will be 2-dimensional at their most fully formed. And you’ll be too nice to them, which makes for a boring story.
It may be painful to write it, definitely painful to read it, and nearly impossible to share it with anyone.
But here’s the good news: There is nothing you can do about that until you’ve plowed through the beginning the middle and the end. Then you can see it and admit how awful it is (and how good some parts are).
Why is that good news? Because sucking is an art that must be developed in order to become good. You just have to work through that stage of development – we’ve all had to do it. This and a lot of other benefits only come from practice – that means hours and hours of writing.
Yes, we all want our stuff to be good and to be read. Problem is, we put these concerns before any stage of completion of a project. These concerns are not necessary and they’re not practical, because, unless you have a completed manuscript, you have nothing to work through the next two stages – where you will get the chance to worry about the other issues and do something about them.
What does Done mean?
So, DONE means plow through it, get in on “paper” – beginning, middle, and end. Do it badly if you must, but DO IT, get it DONE.
[Hint: Even as an experienced writer, sometimes I sit at my computer and think, “I can’t do it – I cannot possibly write a good book today.” To get myself going further along into the 3 stages, I have to give myself permission to continue. “Then write the worst book you can today,” I tell myself. “Because if you want to be an author, a bad finished book is better than the best unwritten one.”]
Next week, we’ll discuss Stage 2: Right.
Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.
3 other benefits to having a manuscript Done:
- You can prove to your partner you weren’t spending all those hours watching cat videos on the Internet.
- You get to tell people the book is done but, no, they can’t read it yet – artist’s prerogative.
- There’s nothing more satisfying that writing “THE END” – especially when you’re not experienced enough to know that you have 7 more drafts to do go before you’re really done.
SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!
THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!