Sometimes I'm too creative for my own good. You know the type...
Head buzzing with ideas, various projects on the go, getting bored quickly, etc. Which is why I couldn't complete a book draft FOR YEARS.
You see, apart from having my own creative business, I write science fiction and lately fantasy novels, and by that I mean I write incomplete drafts that I can never finish because I'm already onto the next book. Naturally, this is a recipe for never getting published, which happens to be my biggest dream.
Why can't I just push myself to finish the damn thing?
Because it's BORING!
I've already figured out the book or I have written most of it, and the rest is just too mundane - like I imagine an accounting job would be. It's the same with editing - I've always wished I could skip that part, but the truth is, no first draft is good enough to be published, or even shown to another person.
And when I came up with 3 book ideas this summer, I knew something had to change because if I kept doing just parts of books, I would never be able to taste what it feels like to be a published author. And I'd go insane...
And before I tell you how I FINALLY finished the damn thing, I'll tell you about the 3 book ideas because that's necessary context.
- The first book was about a girl who lives in a magic school but who does not possess magic herself, or at least the traditional kind. I ended up outlining the whole book and getting bored of writing at chapter 5.
- The second book was about what happens when you die and about the people who observe the whole process and make necessary corrections. I ended up writing HALF of it, but decided I wanted to tell it from someone else's PoV, and immediately I got overwhelmed and stopped.
- The third book was about my favorite thing ever - werewolves, and it's a love story. And it's the book I finished writing, the entire draft from start from finish, nothing missing and ready to be edited.
- There was a 4th book, too, but I haven't started it yet because I promised myself I'm going to edit the 3rd before I start anything else.
Just so you know, I had never been able to finish a book draft before in my entire life, so what follows is the HOW behind it.
And the beauty of it is - it can work for any kind of project.
1. Strip it off.
The biggest things I did for this particular book:
- go with my favorite topic
- let go of any expectations for it to be good
- let go of any expectations that it has to be published
- go with the simplest plot, nothing fancy
- let go of any and all perfectionism
Basically, I made myself let go of trying to be fancy and making it the best ever book, and I told myself it was no big deal, I was just going to write it for fun.
So if you want to finish the damn thing...
Make it super simple and super easy for you to do so.
That's all there is to it. These days it's too easy to get caught up in consumption and comparison, and people seem to be jumping ahead, like you'd be planning your publishing strategy before you even started the damned thing.
Actually finishing something is only possible if you let go of the BS and go back to basics - no distraction, no perfectionism, and no expectations.
Can you do that for creation's sake?
2. Plot IT OR pantse it?
Another major thing I did for this draft was to find MY WAY of writing so that I don't get bored or get warped in the story. We each all have our own individual ways of doing things, and your creative process is no different.
I recently discovered that I need a balance between PLOTTING and PANTSING (writing by the seat of your pants) when I write, which means that I need to plot some things before writing each chapter, or else I'd write the biggest cliches, and that I also need to figure it out as I go, so it doesn't get too boring.
And that is my NATURAL WAY of writing a novel.
You probably noticed I didn't do that with my first book because I was plotting all the way and then the second book I just pantsed it all the way, which is why I ended up being disappointed and overwhelmed.
How do you find your natural way of writing?
By trial and error. Nobody's going to tell you how to do it. And if you just copy what the experts tell you or wish you could be like your idols, then you're missing out on the most wonderful and fulfilling kind of process
To make it easier for you, I'll give you my method for completing projects, and it works just as well for finding what works for YOU.
3. The non-negotiables method.
And here we are, at the heart of this entire article.
I have used this method myself and I have given it to my clients, only to have amazing results soon after. It's a method that fits YOU, not a method that asks you to fit IT, so don't worry, my rebel friend, this will be painless. :)
The point of this exercise is to make a list of Non-Negotiable elements that must always be present in order for you to complete your projects.
1. Think of two past projects – one you completed and one you failed to complete. (You can add more projects later.)
2. Make a list of the reasons WHY you were able to complete one.
3. Make a list of the reasons WHY you weren’t able to complete the other.
4. Look at your 2 lists and look for patterns, then add those patterns - what was missing from your failed project, what did it for your winning project, and make a new list of your Non-Negotiables, aka elements that must always be present if you want to be able to complete a project.
For example, my non-negotiables in this case were:
- No stress of expectations. I have failed to complete many projects, or even start some because I was already stressedjumping ahead and filling my head with all kinds of BS that was blocking my creativity.
- Breaking big projects into small chunks. In the past I have tried writing more than one chapter per day, and it always ended up overwhelming me and giving me burnout, which was that for the book as well.
- Going with my natural flow instead of forcing the process. In the past, I have tried many ways to write a book, but I was mostly forcing my process to be "perfect" or to follow some kind of blueprint or even a specific kind of writing style that was unnatural for me. Trying to be someone you're not and doing things like other people is always bound to fail. Important caveat here: sometimes you'll think you know what your process is, but you may discover that you were wrong, so try everything and stay flexible.
- Doing one project at a time. Unfortunately, I am a horrid multi-tasker, which means I can't do my business and my books at the same time, which is why I took some time this summer to dedicate just for book writing.
- Not editing as I go. The minute I start editing, the writing is over, so this time I was very careful to not go back on my writing or fix anything before I had written the very last word on the document.
- Writing in the early afternoon (I am most productive then). It's sometimes tempting to sit and write in the morning or in the evening because those are my creative peaks, but most of the time writing is about getting the job done rather than creating in random spurts.
- And the plotting and pantsing thing is also part of my list.
So always keep your list where you can find it.
4. Turning PRO.
The final thing I did to be able to finish the draft was...
Writing. One. Chapter. Every. Single. Day.
Rain or shine, whether I felt inspired or not, whether I was even able to string a decent sentence together, it didn't matter because I just wanted to get the story out of me, and I committed to making it happen.
Most writers get writer's block, tie their creativity to their Muses, and succumb to the evil Resistance, but you are NOT most writers/creators.
And that is why I want to help you, because you're not complaining or making excuses for not doing things, but you are actually looking for solutions to your creative dilemmas. Just like I did at the beginning of 2017 - I promised myself I would level up my creative process, and ended up overcoming some of my biggest creative hurdles - stuff like consistency, completion, etc.
My productivity today is so much better than it was this time last year, so let's hold hands (blush) and promise each other we'll work on getting better.
If you want to be a professional creative, you gotta act like one.
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