For days, months, even years you sit there with an unfinished version of your brain child. You look between the misspelled words, comma splices, and run-on sentences of your first few chapters wondering if it will ever be good enough as you desperately do the type delete, type delete dance to get to that last page.
Looking at it will not finish it.
Thinking about it will not finish it.
But you know what will? Writing it!
For years, 6 years really, I have stared at my unfinished manuscript with dreams of becoming a published author. I have reworked my story more times than a potter at the potting wheel. Nothing was ever concrete (maybe a few things) because I didn’t have an outline.
So how did I complete my manuscript? Let me give you THREE easy steps I took to finishing my brain child.
1. CREATE AN OUTLINE
You can’t know where you’re going unless you have a road map. Have you ever got in your car, took a bus, or hopped in a plane with no destination in mind? Absolutely not! As intriguing as that sounds, it doesn’t really work out. You have to know where you’re going to get where you’re headed. You don’t want to ride around aimlessly and spend so much money going from here to there. In our case as writers, our money is time. Time is ticking the world needs YOUR book!
Take inventory right and think of your goals? Now take a second to write out those goals. Do the same for your unfinished work. Outline each chapter with the key or not so key events. Things you want to happen. I use Google sheets for this, because I love having it with me at all times and it’s easy to edit. Google sheets allows for me to color code easily for example, I use a light green to tell myself that those events actually happened and purple for events I wanted to happen but didn’t. You can also use a notebook or some storyboarding software.
If you already have an outline, PERFECT! Drop a comment below with what you use. If you are someone like me who didn’t have one and still doesn have one, try my Google Sheets Outline – Sample.
2. FOLLOW THE OUTLINE
Sounds like an easy decision, but it can actually be hard to stay on task. I’m not only a writer, but a graphic artist. There are many and I mean many times when I do a sketch and deviate from the sketched lines during the line art phase. ALL I HAVE TO DO IS FOLLOW THE LINES. It’s the same thing with my writing. I wrote an outline and instead of making it hard for me at that moment by reworking how I say things or how events happen, I just have to follow the outline. The object is to get done, not perfection.
It doesn’t matter how it sounds at that moment, just follow the outline. It’s been said so often that you cannot edit a blank page.
So, set aside time to write. Sure you have an outline and you have all the plans in the world, but it means nothing if you don’t get to it. I have a goal to finish 1-2 chapters a week. Maybe that is unrealistic for you. You can always tailor it to your lifestyle and what you can do comfortably. Maybe 1-2 chapters a month. But make a goal.
3. FIND ACCOUNTABILITY
Sometimes we won’t have the drive to finish things and that’s okay. Life was never meant to be done alone. Grab your best friend, grandma, mom, or whoever and let them know about your goal whether it be weekly or monthly. You can give this person free rein to bother you at the end of a designated time or even in the middle to help keep you on track.
But my first draft is going to be a mess.
Did you really expect perfection? Your first draft will be a hot mess, but you can work with a hot mess. The ugly duckling could never be a beautiful swan if it never existed. Let me tell you that Road to Grimpaitra was hideous. It’s currently undergoing growing pains, but version 1 was a heated disaster. Version 2 was less of a hot mess, but still need to rectify some things. I expect version 3 to be to my liking based on how I reworked my outline, but it’s all a process.
So what to do when it’s all said and done?
After finishing your manuscript, take some time off to celebrate and a take a well-deserved break. You did it! You wrote those famous words: The End. Well, maybe not literally.
Come back in a few weeks to tweak things and help it be the best version of itself. Not for the sake of others, but for the sake of you. If you try to please everyone, you will drive yourself crazy.
If you have questions, leave them below or follow me on Twitter! Want to know more about my book? Follow me on Instagram.
Stay cool peeps!
Live & Create