Well, my friend, you’ve done it. You’ve decided that it’s time to close Netflix, clear off your desk, and pursue your writing dreams (for real this time). Chances are you found Write Whale after searching on Pinterest for help writing a book. And, dude, you’re in the right place—welcome!
You know you have a story in you fighting to get out. You know you have whole worlds and characters in you because you’ve seen flashes of inspiration everywhere. From the creepy-crooked trees in your backyard to that guy with the funny hat who shares your morning commute. You know that you’re meant for more, and you know that writing is your way to leave a mark in this world.
What you might not know is:
Where to get started writing a novel
If you’re good enough to be a writer
If you know enough about XYZ to write about it
What the first steps are to being a writer
Where you can get help writing a book
Don’t worry, dear writer, I believe in your story, and I believe in you. Today, I’m going to share the best bit of advice I have in my arsenal if you need help writing a book. Let’s get started!
In celebration of Write Whale’s FIRST birthday 🎈🎉 , I created a podcast for you, dear writer! It’s called Just Wondering Writers, and here’s how it will help you:
Take control of your writing education and develop the creative writing skills you need to craft captivating stories with Just Wondering Writers. Join me, as I break down the stages of the writing process and answer all of your, “I was just wondering…” questions about writing.
So, take a listen–the first episode aligns with this blog post.
iPHONE USERS: You can find Just Wondering Writers in the iTunes Podcast App.
ANDROID USERS: Just Wondering Writers is also available in the podcast app, Stitcher.
The #1 Thing To Know If You Need Help Writing A Book
First off, we need to establish that if you feel any of those things listed above—those fears and anxieties—it’s completely, 100% normal. ~Like, so normal it’s boring.~ 💁 No, JK, JK. I’m not trying to be dismissive. These are genuine anxieties that every single writer faces at some point. Every. Single. One. We all needed help writing a book at some point.
So, the next logical question is: Where do these fears come from, and how do we stop feeling this way?
The short answer: You write. Write and write and write and, whatever you do, don’t stop.
Most of these fears come from the same place. Your inner-perfectionist. Or your inner-editor. Whatever you want to call it. Your inner-perfectionist is at its strongest when you’re in the planning/pre-writing/drafting stage of the writing process.
Keep writing—even if it’s lousy and your story runs off the rails. Don’t edit as you go. Get the entire first draft out of your head before you start revising and editing.
At the beginning stages of the writing process, perfectionism is Public Enemy Number One. It’s the reason you run out of steam five pages in your novel. It’s the reason you freeze up and put off writing for days or weeks or years or decades or centuries (if you’re an immortal vampire or something).
Your inner-perfectionist is what makes you think:
Writing well takes time. I’m too busy to sit down and write awesome things today—I need to do this instead.
I’m not a good writer—everything I write is crap.
What is this terrible writing?! I freaking-know that I can do better this junk.
So-and-so said I don’t know anything about writing XYZ. That means I don’t know enough about writing and I should quit.
These are all thoughts that have come out of my own head and the heads of other writers who write me emails or respond to my blog posts. Like, you, countless others struggle and need help writing a book—particularly at the first-draft-stage.
The moral of the story: You are not alone here, dear writer.
What Authors Say About First Drafts
The first-draft-struggle is real. In fact, TONS of famous and successful authors talk about it, so we know they’ve faced these same problems before. Don’t get discouraged. Here are some of my favorite quotes from authors about their inner-perfectionist and how they approach writing a first draft.
“Very few writers know what they’re doing until they’ve done it.”─ Annie Lamott
“I hate first drafts, and it never gets easier. People always wonder what kind of superhero power they’d like to have. I want the ability for someone to just open up my brain and take out the entire first draft and lay it down in front of me, so I can just focus on the second, third and fourth drafts.”—Judy Blume
“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”─ Jane Smiley
“It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.”─ Will Sheerly
“You can always fix crap. You can’t fix a blank page.”─ Christina Dodd
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”─ Terry Pratchett
“When you find yourself obsessively reworking and rewriting the first chapter, or few chapters, recognise the behaviour as a stalling tactic and knock it on the head, pronto. Bear in mind that your story will most likely change in the process of being written.”
I love her idea of the inner-perfectionist as being a “stalling tactic” 😍. When we recognize ourselves stalling or procrastinating, we’re able to stop and get back to writing.
Take The #WriteOfWay Challenge
When we think things like, “I don’t know enough,” “everything I write is lousy,” or “too much is happening in my life right now—I don’t have time to make my writing great,” our inner-perfectionist has taken hold of our thoughts. This way of thinking stems from anxiety about doing something wrong or what people will think if you fail. Dude, those thoughts have “perfectionist” written all over them.
Perfectionism is ~no bueno.~ Even if it disguises itself as a good thing, remember: Perfectionism is Public Enemy Number One.
Perfectionism may seem like a strength (and sometimes it is), but when writing the first draft, it undermines your writing. We might think our inner-editor is a strength (again, sometimes it is), but in the early stages of writing, relying on your inner-editor is actually a not-so-good-thing-to-do. Your inner-editor should come out in the revision and re-writing stage, but when you write your first draft, your creativity and sense of exploration should be in control.
There is a time and place for your inner-editor, but it is not in the early stages of the writing process.
Again, having self-doubting thoughts are normal. But if you want to write and commit to getting help writing a book, you need to let it go and just-write-already. Listen, dear writer, I know this is hard. The first draft is the hardest part.
That’s why I created the #WriteOfWayChallenge. This 20+ page, free writing workbook has exercises designed to help you overcome writing anxiety, build confidence in the skills you already have, and find joy in writing. I promise, you know more than you give yourself credit for. You’re a better writer than you know. The #WriteOfWayChallenge will help you process your strengths before your weaknesses. In turn, this helps you confront your writing weaknesses in a positive and productive way. Click the button below to grab your free copy so you can start writing now.
Write a “Discovery Draft”
So, from earlier, we know that the general consensus from writers is that every first draft sucks, BUT that’s okay. It can be kind of liberating because if you go in thinking, “I don’t know enough” or “I want this to be perfect,” it can make you freeze up and then you’ll never get writing done. Whereas, if you go in thinking, “it’s going to suck, but that’s okay because this is the first step” or “I can only get better,” you give yourself permission to make mistakes. AND then something great happens: These mistakes and fears become part of the writing process and they don’t destroy your drive or soul. AND then something even better happens: You start feeling brave and begin exploring and experimenting with writing techniques and styles. Take out the fear of making mistakes, and what you’re left with is limitless possibilities.
I struggle with taking my perfectionist out of the picture when I write first drafts a lot… Dude, the struggle is real. I’ve researched hundreds of ways to get help writing a book and get over the fear of the first draft. Until I found the concept of a “discovery draft.”
Simply put, this is a way of re-wiring your brain to work with you instead of against you when you need help writing a book. Instead of thinking of and calling your writing a “first draft,” call it a “discovery draft.” This sends a signal to your brain that it’s okay if you don’t know everything or if you’re writing isn’t as good as you want it to be.
When you call it a “discovery draft,” you allow yourself to think of writing as a process (or a journey or series of steps) that you discover. You are the one in control when you think like this. Not your inner-perfectionist. Not that guy who says you know nothing—that guy is ~the worst.~ Not those “other obligations” that, if we’re being honest, are little more than procrastination wearing a clever disguise (organizing your sock draw—am I right?).
You are the boss. You control how you spend your time and the story you tell. You got this, dear writer.
Be Kind to Yourself
You have a great story in you, dear writer! And you are in control. If you are still unsure about where to start writing, here are a few of my best blog posts to guide you:
What’s the best advice you have for those looking for help writing a book? How do you overcome your writing fears and anxieties?
Leave a comment below. Your story is important, and we’d love to hear it!