- You haven’t set a scheduled time to write. I know, I know, you only write when you’re inspired. Inspire yourself by setting a regular writing schedule. With the hundreds of people we’ve taught at Art of Storytelling and the dozens we’ve coached on their books, we find again and again that those who finish and publish their books are those who have a regular writing schedule. Or, wait for the muse. That’s fine. Finish the book when you’re 80 or 90. That’s good too. It’s your choice.
- You’re being too critical of your work too early in the process. Yeah, you don’t need other people to tear you down, you’re fine tearing your writing apart all by yourself. Put the critic on the shelf. The first draft of a novel or memoir or any book is called a rough draft. That means it gets to be just that, rough. Or you can spend four hours grappling with the use of a single verb – that’s fine too. In fact, it fits well into your schedule to finish your book when you’re in your 90s.
- You’re editing the chapters too soon. To write a rough draft, you have to get into a serious level of flow. You have to carry the storyline through 300 pages. Don’t stop after you finish Chapter 1 and go back and polish it. When you finish the whole book, I promise you there will be a lot of changes to Chapter 1. The single most important job you have on the first draft of a book is to carry the storyline through to the end. Or you can rewrite the book a dozen times, revisiting the same chapter over and over and over, year after year. That’s fun too. Sure, fun.
- You’re showing the first few chapters of your book too early to family and friends. Take those tentative first few chapters and just hand them over to your brother. Yeah, brilliant idea! He’s always wanted to be a writer, too. He won’t be triggered that you got there before him. And, of course, he was NEVER competitive with you as a kid. So, yes, please hand him your fragile, rough draft newborn of a book, and let him have a go. Better yet, let’s make it a memoir where you reveal the family’s skeletons. Hand your brother the opening to your memoir. What a great idea. No family member would ever get triggered by you writing about them. No, that NEVER happens. Seriously, keep the manuscript to yourself. We suggest you get the rough draft done first, and then be VERY CAREFUL who you show it to. Or, you can just bandy it about and let any joker who doesn’t know a thing about writing crush your spirit. Yeah, do that.
- You expect to be an expert/professional overnight. Your rough draft is mortifying. It’s a hodge podge of scenes that barely fit together. Where’s the book’s climax? How in the hell do you even write a climax? Who were you kidding? You’re not a writer? You don’t even know punctuation, for God sake. Listen, you’ve GOT to allow yourself to be a beginner. You have to be able to align with what the Buddhists call Beginner’s Mind. You’ve never written a book before, of course you’re not an expert. Leave the experting to the experts. Be new. Be rough. Be passionate. LEARN!
Art of Storytelling is holding an e-course called What’s Your Story, beginning May 1. We’ll teach you fundamentals like rough draft, characterization and setting to help you finish that book! Read more.