It’s the 1st Wednesday of the month again. That’s when I take part in Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The IWSG Day question for July is: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing? My answer: Take Time.
This is the perfect topic for me to write about right now. I just got back from our family’s annual “Erickson Cabin Week.” About 25 of us (the number varies slightly each year) go to Woman Lake Lodge where we spend time together, swim, read, and play games.
I recently had surgery on my foot and can’t bear weight on it for 6 weeks. That made cabin week a little different for me this year. I made the best of it, though. Family members came to visit me each day and during the quiet time, I worked on my mystery novel.
A year ago, I completed the rough draft. I felt so accomplished. It was surely a mystery of Agatha Christie quality.
It’s awful. There are so many plot holes. I have too many characters. The murder happens too late in the book. The loose ends are unraveling everywhere!
The worst part of it is that it’s a wonderful story. It’s worth saving. But that takes work.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Take Time.
Take time to read your genre.
This is how you will get to know the conventions of the what you want to write. Even though readers can’t always put into words what they expect from a book, they know in their gut what these conventions are. Begin reading for more than pleasure. When you read a book that is in the genre you want to write in, take time to dissect it. What do the books in that genre need to have in order to work? Knowing that ahead of time will save you a lot of trouble as you write your book.
Take time to learn about what makes a story “work.”
I love The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. He’s an experienced editor who has put together a system with the help of Steven Pressfield. There are other books and systems out there by reputable authors that can help you with the process. Take time to read them and follow their advice. This was where I stumbled. Now, I’m going back over my manuscript and the changes I’m making are taking the story to the next level.
Take time to write plot your book.
This is sure to stir up a lot of opinions. There are writers who prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, thus giving them the nickname, pantsers, and there are plotters, writers who plan out the direction their plot I make no judgment on this.
I am a “plotter.” By plotting out my book, I ultimately feel an amazing freedom to write. It removes writer’s block and gives me a sense of security as I move forward.
Take time to let your first draft sit.
I read my rough draft several times. I thought it was great. After letting it sit I gained some objectivity. I was able to find the problems with the story as well as simple grammatical errors. I was also able to spend that time writing my book, Facing Cancer as a Friend.
Take time to use editors, critique groups/partners, and beta readers.
The feedback from my beta readers on Facing Cancer as a Friend was a big part of making the book a success.
Feedback from my critique group has improved not only my book but my writing, as a whole.
Sometimes we get so excited about what we’re working on that we think we need to get it on the market—now. That only degrades the quality of our writing and our reputation. It’s worth slowing the process down and not skipping steps, in order to avoid such a destructive thing.
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com