When I first started writing, I looked for any and every bit of advice I could find that would help me. Without a doubt, the best collection of advice I found came in Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” I first read it in 2006. It’s 2015 now and I’m still unpacking and learning to apply some of what he talks about in this book.
One of my favourite pieces of advice in the book (which was also very hard for me to follow) was about what to do when you had finally finished a draft. Stephen King recommends you put away your draft until you can look at it fresh and start working on something new in the meantime. It’s taken nearly ten years, but I think I finally figured out how to go about doing this. One of the steps I had to learn first was how to write every day. Not so long ago—it was taking me a super long time (years) to finish a draft. I had to learn how to build a habit of writing a little bit every day. Once I figured out how to do that—things went a bit easier.
I recently finished a novella called, The Skeleton Key. This book was a continuation of another novella I wrote last year called, The Vampire Skeleton—a book about what Haudenosaunee vampires might be like today and inspired by a popular story my people have been telling for over a hundred years. The Skeleton Key is just over 40,000 words long. I had a great time writing the first draft of it and I’ll be super excited to release it at some point over the next year.
Once I was finished the draft, I happily posted to Twitter and got some very nice congratulations and encouragement from fellow writers who also do the Monthly Writing Challenge. I have to say that encouragement has made such a huge difference in my writing output as well—giving and receiving it. It honestly feels so great to have a place to actively cheer others on. Before I joined the Monthly Writing Challenge—I didn’t really have that many people to talk to about writing. Now I feel like I have a lot of people to talk to and be inspired by and I’m amazed at how much more enjoyable that has made the writing process.
The next thing I did was think about which project I was going to work on next. I started it the very next day. In all my years of writing—that has never happened to me.
A few years ago, I might have done differently. I might have dove right in and started making changes. I might have started looking for places or people I could submit it to. But over the last year I think I’ve overcome something important. It isn’t self-doubt—I think that rascal will always be present to some degree. But it might have been a combination of fear and self-imposed pressures/expectations. It was like there used to be this tiny piece of me that believed the story I was writing was the only story idea I was ever going to be able to come up with and if I didn’t get it perfectly right—I was going to ruin my chances at being a writer forever. I’m not sure why I thought that or why my fear manifested itself in this way. I just know it made it extremely difficult for me to start working on something else. The only way to work past this was to show myself that it was not true—that I had plenty of stories to tell. And the only way to show myself that—was to keep writing.
I’d written three novels in the fifteen years before I started writing seriously a year and a half ago (and by seriously I mean a minimum of 500 words every day). Since that time I’ve written two novels, two novellas, a middle grade book, two children’s books and several short stories. It’s still kind of amazing to me that I’ve written that much just by doing a little bit every day. But even more amazing to me, is that somewhere along the way, the ideas for books and stories I wanted to write came gushing out, so that in addition to the 7 projects that are almost done, there are 5 new projects in the works and new ideas coming every day. This time around, the problem I had wasn’t finding something to write—but figuring out which project to work on first? And that was a super awesome problem to have.
Happy writing everyone!