I am the perfect TA to kick off our series on "quieting the internal critic" because I am, as I believe I have mentioned, a serial starter. I dig in to the first draft, I write a few chapters, and then... I give up the ghost.
The reasons for this quirk of mine are many and varied, and I have spent much time analyzing them in order to work on specific solutions. Here's what I've got so far:
1. Plot and concept
Plotting has always been a weakness of mine. As I start writing, I often have a specific concern in mind -- perhaps I'm trying to do too much; or too little; or the external plot is not as interesting as the internal plot. More problematic (and often the case lately) -- by the time I get a novel from concept to page, someone else has already had the same idea. And in a relatively high-concept project (especially when the other writer is famous and you are not), this situation is death.
1. Find a trusted critiquer!
I have mostly implemented this solution by taking classes -- which is a very expensive way to find someone to look at my pages and give me the confidence I need that I have a decent concept that merits completion. Better solution: Find a great and dedicated critique group! (I'm working on it.)
I have discovered that if I get helpful feedback as to the direction of my manuscript from the very outset, I am all fired up to start writing and keep going.
2. I have an ingrained tendency to read, re-read, tweak and re-tweak the beginning pages/chapters. Either these turn out to be much more polished than later chapters; or the later chapters never get written, period.
2. Keep going! Don't go back! If I have revision ideas as I go along, I learned that what I need to do is write myself a note and continue. Part of my problem is that, due to the start-and-stop nature of my writing life, I often have to spend far too much time rereading what I've written -- to get myself back "into" the mood of novel. This step (and wasted time) would not be necessary if I would simply...
3. Write every day! Or at least every week!
(I'm working on it.)
4. I get stuck. My novel has a knotty problem, or I get tired of what I'm writing, and I am tempted to give up.
4. Read! Always Read! Keep reading good work -- and don't let it intimidate you. Be inspired.
Check out our latest Teaching Authors Interview/Book Giveaway for some true writing inspiration from the great Nikki Grimes.
Go forth and write fruitfully! --Jeanne Marie