This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
By Anna Bell
Aside from having the ideas and words at the tip of your fingers to write an entire novel, you’ve got to have an enormous amount of willpower to finish not only the first draft, but the endless rounds of edits that come after. With each book I write, I develop new mind games to trick myself to keep going, and this latest book has been no exception.
When I write the first draft of a novel, I’m always hit by the overwhelming fear that it’s the worst book I’ve ever written. The prose is dull. It lacks polish. I feel like it’s the most boring thing that anyone will ever read. This time, I concentrated on finding ‘the money sentence’. In each writing session, when I wrote a line that I was proud of, I dubbed it the ‘money sentence’ (as in ‘that’s money’). It meant that when I switched off the laptop at the end of that session, if I was feeling down about my writing, then I would remember the sentence and be reminded that if I could write that one then a) it might not be that bad overall and b) I could polish it to that standard during the editing stages. It made me feel that nearly every writing session was productive.When it came to the first round of edits, I had to concentrate on developing several themes and adding a lot of extra words (my novel was 20,000 words short), and I came up with a new way to plan. I’m usually a pen and paper planner. The more colourful the pens, and the nicer the stationary, the better my novel plan – or so my head believes. Yet this time I decided to do a plan on the computer. I scrolled through each chapter in my book and I summed up each chapter with the key plots in black ink. Looking at the overview, I then started to type, in red ink, new plot lines or changes to an existing theme. From there, I found it easy to check the pace of the novel and to see clearly how different plots were developed. I could then reorder chapters and plan in new ones (also putting them in red), and see how the overall book would be affected.
With a clear plan written in black and red, every time I sat down to edit, I had a clear path of where I was going. And here’s where the mind games really came in. When I changed the manuscript and tweaked it to reflect the notes in red, I changed the red text to green. That way, at the end of an editing session, I could see how far through my changes I was. I think this harks back to my days at infant school when we used to get a task sheet in the shape of a picture and we had to colour each section when we’d completed a particular task. When doing the red/green edit, I also added red text in the plan as I went along, as sometimes adding or changing something meant another part of the text needed to be amended.
The great thing for me was that when I started to have more green than red, I knew I was almost there. This psychology is important to me, as usually with editing you can’t really see your progress.
All I’ve got to do now is come up with a mind game for the second round of edits, and the third, and the fourth. What mind games and little tricks do you use when you’re writing?