Perhaps the biggest impediment to successfully finishing your novel is the hectoring voice in your head that’s critical of every single word you choose. You know the feeling. It’s like trying to write while you’re tightly cocooned inside a straitjacket.
Make no mistake: word choice is certainly of the utmost importance. That’s why you’re reading this. There’s a time and place for being preoccupied with finding the perfect word, but when you’re writing those first pages is not that time.
Why not? It seems counterintuitive to neglect nitpickiness right from the start.
All too often we start our novel with the highest of hopes. Then, by page fifty, the writing bogs down. The voices in our head are telling us the story is rubbish, the characters are cardboard cutouts, and those inner voices bully us into believing our writing is uninspired. So, we loop back to the beginning to do some triage. And the patient dies.
But writing is not brain surgery, so try this instead: Before you write the first words of your manuscript, do your spade work — lock in your setting, get to know your characters, build your plot. But hold off for as long as you can before you write anything. Why? You’re building up a head of steam.
Then, when you can’t stand it anymore, let yourself go. Fling off the straitjacket. Turn off your inner editor. Just write. Tell your mother who’s sitting on your shoulder judging you to zip it. Let your writing run free – all the way to the end. That’s right. Don’t stop to buff and polish.
Why? Because when you get to the end, you will have a finished your novel.
If you hit a wall and you’re stumped, just keep writing. You’ll be thinking with your fingers. Trust me. Pretty soon your story will gain traction again. When you get to the end of the journey, then circle back to the beginning.
When you look with a fresh pair of eyes at what you’ve written, you’ll be amazed at what burbled up unfiltered from your subconscious. Of course you’ll see all the flaws, too. But this time when you do all the nit-pick rewriting, you’ll be propelled by the self-confidence that comes from knowing you’ve already written your novel. Now you’re just making it better.
John DeDakis, a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” is a writing coach and novelist living in Baltimore. His fourth mystery-suspense novel, “Bullet in the Chamber,” will be published by Strategic Media Books this fall.