In my book Writing a Marketable Book, which will publish in October this year, I give authors a crash course in writing for a market – writing a book that has a decent chance of getting published or, if self-published, selling well. I hammer home that if your book is to be marketable, you must design it with the market in mind.
However, there is a point in the writing process where I completely reverse this advice: when you’re writing the first draft.
Earlier this week, I did some research online to find out authors’ average words-per-hour output for a first draft. While browsing through threads, I came across a post by a lady who’d averaged 3,000 words per hour during National Novel Writing Month (see http://www.nanowrimo.org) writing on fan fiction sites just off the top of her head, and felt pretty happy with what was flowing out of her as a first draft. Then, she said, came the day she decided to write ‘properly’ and create a novel that she would send to publishers. Her output fell to 500 words per hour as she agonised over every word, sentence, paragraph.
This is a classic example of what happens when you think too much, thereby interrupting the creative flow. In my experience, the best and easiest writing comes from planning meticulously (and being sure, before you write, that the end result will be a marketable book), and then turning off the part of you that’s thinking about synopses and covering letters and publication, and getting lost in the writing. Just trust the process, and write – fast. Don’t care about quality as you write, just get that first draft down. No one has to see this but you!
You’ll feel an enormous sense of relief once you write the last word of the first draft. Yes, there’s a heck of a lot of work to do now before the book’s finished, but you’ve laid the foundations. And, essentially, you’ve got past that place of worrying, ‘Can I write the book? How long will it take? How will it all come together?’
You’ve written the book. Now put your critical hat back on and rewrite it.