by Millie Ho
It hit me recently that out of all the writing skills I have, actually finishing a book is my least developed.
Compared to other skills such as character development, world building, or plotting, which I improved on a lot in 2015, it’s very rare for me to finish a final draft of a book. This means a solid Chapter One that continued to The End. This is understandable given my problems with writing perfectionism, but now that I’m no longer ripping up every draft when something doesn’t work because I’m approaching the writing process differently, I’m still noticing something in the way.
To give you some stats, I have only finished four novel-length final drafts in my entire life.
Compared to the nearly thirty drafts I started, revised, and then deleted/shelved away somewhere, that’s a pretty sharp contrast.
Many of these four drafts (averaging 70,000 words) were completed when I was much younger. For example, one was completed when I was fourteen, and another was when I was finishing high school. I think the great advantage of being younger was how confident you were. Every word was gold and you were writing for fun, not for publication.
Originally, I planned to show the final revised draft of the Long-Suffering Manuscript to beta readers in November of last year, but as of January 12, 2016, it’s still not where I want it to be. If I’m asking people to spend time on my work, it better be my best effort, something to slap a smile on their faces or make them recoil in shock.
This is not perfectionism speaking. This is my lack of experience with finishing a book.
That’s why I’m having trouble tying together some subplots and loose ends. That’s why I’m making notes upon notes of revisions, reading How To guides online and in book form, because those four final drafts ain’t enough to take me where I need to go.
Which brings me to a question:
Why did no one tell me that finishing a book is a skill I had to learn?
In writing classes during university, everybody emphasized characters and themes and pacing, but nobody reminded me that the key to any writing success is to simply finish the damn thing.
And finish another, and another, and another.
Perhaps it was too obvious. Perhaps the very idea is too broad or general.
Either way, if finishing a book is not my strongest suit, learning from my mistakes is.
My goal for 2016 is to simply finish more drafts so I can get stronger where I am weak. The advantage of having total creative freedom is also its disadvantage. I have tons of ideas floating around in my head that actively try to distract me from the Long-Suffering Manuscript, but now I see a good way of channeling them, by writing them into new drafts, and finishing them.
Beta readers, I apologize for the delay. I will finish the draft by early March.
Now, I’m off to exercise my finishing a book muscles.
Guest post contributed by Millie Ho. Millie is a writer and illustrator from Toronto, Canada. She uses her blog and YouTube channel to document what she’s learned about writing from both the writing process and from books, TV shows, and films.
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