Pitfalls of a Part-time Writer

paperblanks
(My beloved Paperblanks journal! Get it here: http://amzn.to/2v7JoOw )

It sounds great in theory. Sketch out your plot, draft at your leisure, and slowly but steadily create what will one day become your first published novel. You have other sources of revenue so writing is your passion, not your livelihood, but therein lies the problem. You aren’t hungry enough for it, literally. And so days, weeks, months, can slip by with little to no progress while you chase your pre-schooler around the yard, work with your clients, and get distracted by the bottomless pit of diversion that goes by the name of Twitter. Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit too semi= autobiographical here but it’s likely that most of us here who write do so in furtive spurts when the spirit compels us, not on a rigid schedule as if our success depended on it. But it kinda does.

I started sketching out ideas for my first novel six months ago, although it feels like much, much longer. I currently have a chapter-by chapter plot sketch, about two-thirds of a first draft, and more random inserts and possible scenes than I know what to do with. I keep cutting and adding, adding and cutting, before I even get everything on paper. But I’ll get there. Just not as quickly or efficiently as I could. Still, I’ve loved everything about this challenge and no matter how daunting it may seem at times, I can see the light: cutting open a cardboard shipping box of my own books! Please allow me to share some of the pitfalls and pros of my journey to (hopefully) published novelist:

Do:

  1. Choose something that you are passionate and knowledgeable to write about vs. something you think will sell.YA (Young adult) is a hot genre for sales but I’m 33 and read literary fiction almost exclusively so I’m likely never going to cash in on its appeal.
  2. Form a semblance of a plan for your book.Some authors create intricate webs of story mapping before they ever crack a single word of their draft while others prefer to experience the creative process more organically, sometimes surprising themselves with the turns the story takes. Still, if you have a general idea of where you are starting and where you would like to end up, the process will be a bit less overwhelming.
  3. Schedule time to write and stick with it.Most of us have to have “real jobs” to pay the bills. That limits the hours available for our art. But they are there and we can either make excuses or make it happen. I find myself given to manic creative episodes late at night so I attempt to block off 9:00 pm-12:00 am for all things writing. This doesn’t always fly but at least I feel a persistent guilt if I binge Westworld instead. Though I try to justify it as research. 
  4. Take your time and get it right.Yeah, I know I focused quite a bit on not getting enough done but it’s far more important to get it done right than to get it done fast. Once that manuscript is out there in the world for literary agents to pick up or pass on, there likely won’t be a chance to revise that awkward love scene or to develop the character of the villain more fully. And that just might be what makes the difference between landing a publisher or not.

Don’t:

  1. Don’t get distracted.I am guilty of having two different browsers open with 8 tabs open in each and toggling back and forth between them, as if it mattered how many likes my latest Bookstagram photo currently has or what insanity #45 just sent out into the Twitterverse. None of this gets me any closer to finishing my novel and is merely a means of avoiding the task at hand. Eyes on the prize!
  2. Don’t give up.If writing is your passion and you know you have a great book inside you, keep on. It’ll be easy at times and it’ll be tough at others, but it will be more than worth it when you hold a copy of your novel in your hand!Stick with it, fellow writers!

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