SO you want to write? Looking for that great American novel? Forget that nonsense. That ship sailed back in the 1800’s. Now, you just want to write a great novel. And I have a thought on how to accomplish that. I’m currently in the midst of writing a novel that I hope to find an agent for sometime in the fall of this year. I was thinking about how I should go about writing my novel (which I’ve been working on for a year now fyi). And it occurred to me that finding a writer’s group is impossible. An objective opinion outside of grammar police is almost a mythical creature. Therefore I thought, ‘why not come up with your own method, Tim?’ Therefore, I did. Here is my new approach to writing be it a novel, short story, or merely every day fantasy. And I think it has some merit. Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. But here it is. Tim’s Method of Writing:
Step One: Tell yourself a story. Don’t worry about sharing it with anyone. In fact, my rough draft is being written entirely by hand in an old line blank paged book. It’s almost four hundred pages worth of paper and I’m 221 pages in with it. I’m telling MYSELF the story. And not worrying about what anyone thinks about it just yet. I just need to get the story out and banished to the page. Later on, I’ll ask what people think. Right now, it’s about what I think. That’s the most important step. Get it down on paper don’t even BOTHER rereading what you’ve written yet because it’ll just distract you and delay you. WRITE IT FIRST!
Step Two: The Second Draft. It is, for me, nothing but notes on what I’m rereading. That’s right, I’m rereading my novel and using a separate notebook to jot down ideas on what could work differently. How the characters interact and how they are developed. I’m looking at story and plot point oversights and inconsistencies in the narrative. I’m not concerned about grammar. I’m concerned about how the STORY works. Grammar later, story now. I look to balance what I’ve overlooked and to flesh out what isn’t developed enough. The Second Draft is made up solely of my notes. And nothing more. STOP looking at the grammatical! Focus on how the story is told! Are there plotholes? Do the characters act differently over the span of the story? Are enemies weak? Are supporting characters irrelevant? This is the note taking phase and only reading the book or story. Get it done!
Step Three: Draft Three. Draft three is based on your draft two notes. You rewrite passages, flesh out characters, and get into the nitty gritty of what makes your story good to read. Still grammar is irrelevant. It isn’t important. Forget about it! Rewrite your story here! Develop it further based on the insights you’ve eurekaed! Get the beats down! Narrow the scope! Cut out the inconsequential! Formulate your final thesis! Are your characters intriguing? Are the plot points enthralling? Does it make sense story wise? This is the flesh to your skeleton. This is the preparatory stage to your Magnum Opus. You’ve seen what’s wrong, now you’re fleshing it out! Getting into the details. Establishing motivation and correcting oversights.
Step Four: Draft Four is now here. Draft Four is another reading venture! You’re rereading what you wrote and have your notebook ready again! Don’t correct the work. NO. Write down what isn’t working and what you think needs further developed. It is in this step you’ll seek an outside opinion. Find a writer’s group (if it even exists. Online is a waste of time. They’re only out for themselves and the drama they can cause). No find, something in town. If not, then petition family, friends, acquaintances, spouses, children, pay an editor, coworkers, hobos, or whatever it takes to get an unbiased opinion on how the story plays out. STOP FUCKING WORRYING ABOUT GRAMMAR! IT ISN’T RELEVANT YET! Get your story where it needs to be. You’ll find too many people worried about grammar. And if that’s all they want to focus on, find somebody else! Just get the story right! And where your final vision resides! Take feedback on what they think of the characters, situations, plot points, scenarios, and descriptions. That’s what’s important here.
Step Five: Your final draft. Here is where everything comes together. Here is where your story is the strongest. Here is where you seek your agent, your publicist, your buyer. Here is where you’re ready to unveil your work of art to the world. Here is where you read through it again and here (AND ONLY HERE) do you concentrate on grammar. Grammar is the makeup. That rouge you splash on to make it gorgeous. If everything else is working, then this is just your selling point. This makes it easier to read and to digest. It’s the paint job to your sculpture. The base is finished. And now you’re painting and glossing and saying ‘Hey, check this out. What do you think?’ It’s been fine tuned and ready to be unleashed. If it stands the story test (that test that makes sense and is intriguing to your potential audience and your agent and editor and publicist) then you know you made it. You know your story is ready for consumption. And they’ll tell you (those agents and editors) they’ll tell you what they think. And if you’re self publishing, then you’ll know for yourself that it’s the best that it can be. For better or for worst.
At the end of the day, it’s about you. It’s about the story you wanted to tell and if people wanted to have it shared with them. If the people didn’t like it, what did you think? Are you happy with it? If you are, good job. The masses don’t have to savor every once of your awesomeness. You want to make it big, sure. But YOU HAVE to be satisfied with it. You’re your number one critic. And if it doesn’t do it for you, then it isn’t a great story. Thousands of stories get tossed away everyday. But only ONE story is yours. Do YOU love it? If not, start again. If so, then to hell with want anyone else thinks. Of course, selling to the masses isn’t easy (despite what all the mound of junk might make you think). But in the end if you’re true to yourself, you can’t go wrong. Even if you don’t sell. Plenty of artists only became popular after they were dead and gone. Sickening thought, but also…strangely satisfying. Don’t look to be a famous millionaire…look to be the best author you can.
If you can be happy with what you’ve done, others will follow. It’s the nature of the beast. I’m going to keep up keeping on because when I’m happy with my own story, I know others will be too. I hope this has helped. In any endeavor you want to be able to thrive. But the most important part is being able to be proud of yourself. It’s also the hardest. Because PEOPLE are hard to please. So only please yourself and to hell with the obnoxious masses. You’re your own person.