It must not be impossible, though, because thousands of tomes are created every year. Different writers have different approaches to reaching their goal. How do I handle it?
When I first started to write it indeed seemed a huge undertaking. But is it so different from painting a two-story house—or running a half marathon?
What? Writing a book is like painting and running!
Yes, at least in one sense. All three are big jobs. And how do you get a big job done?
You complete a series of small jobs.
You don’t paint a house. You paint a portico, and when that’s done the top half of one side, then the bottom of that side, then the window trim on that side, and so on until the job is done.
You don’t run a 13-mile race until you’ve trained to run a mile, and then two, and then four, and so on.
So the approach I take is this. I commit to a single doable task every day: Write for half an hour. No other goal. I don’t have to complete a chapter. I don’t even have to produce good prose. I just have to apply myself for 30 minutes. Often I wind up glued to my computer for one or two hours. Most days my output is two to five pages. But over time they accumulate to hundreds and an entire book is born.
Unfortunately, those multi-hundred pages usually are terrible. At this point I want to toss in the towel. I’ve spent months creating junk. I have no business doing this and am ready to give up. The story’s dull, uninteresting, full of holes. The dialog could have been written by a third grader. The characters aren’t three-dimensional.
Maybe this is too big a job for me!
But then new realizations surface. Sure, what I’ve produced is appalling, but at least I’ve proven to myself I can write lots of words. And there are some good sections in that awful mess. Time to move on.
I append “V1” (Version 1) to the document name of this first draft, create a new document with the same name except “V2” replaces “V1,” and start from scratch. This time, though, it’s easier. After all, I have some idea of what the story should be, and I can extract those good sections from V1. When I complete the book this time I’m still not happy with the result. But I begin to feel the smallest ray of hope.
Versions V3, V4, V5 follow, and with each I’m able to use more of the previous one.
Version V5, or whichever one is last, is the one I love the most and the one I hate the most. Much to my surprise, I now like the story. So what’s to hate? Because now I’ve got to make sure there are no unintended spelling and grammatical errors, or inconsistencies in the plot. I detest proofreading and, of course, I never find everything. But I try. I might wind up reading my baby 5, 10, maybe even 20 times. Finally I can stand it no longer and deem my creation ready for publication, feeling pleased.
I’m now on V1 of my next book.
I hate it!