You’d think things would be easier. I’m working on my sixth book. Actually, if you count all the stories sitting on my hard drive, this is my tenth manuscript. But it feels just as hard as the first one—maybe even harder, because I have higher expectations. Each project I start, whether it’s a new novel for children, a blog post, or a magazine article, starts as a fledgling—an empty screen, an amorphous idea waiting for me to bring it to cohesion. And sometimes it feels like I’m that fledgling as I work as well. My wings flutter with nervous energy, I second guess myself, I question whether I’ll be able to lift myself and the manuscript out of the nest so that we can both take flight.
I’ve learned a lot in the almost fifteen years I’ve been at this. Plot structure, point of view, character arc. They aren’t so much of a struggle anymore. But that weight on my shoulder, the one whispering that rejection lies around the corner, it’s still there.
The good news is, I’ve learned how to shake off that weight. I have a few tricks I’ve picked up from authors along the way—many of them at the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival.
Tip #1: Write a terrible first draft. It’s so much easier to work on a manuscript once I have something on the page.
Tip #2: Be consistent. Like exercise, the longer I wait between sessions the harder it is to get back to it. When I get up and write every morning, my brain expects it and each session is easier, if not always a pleasure. Also, like with exercise, I feel great after my workout, er writing session.
Tip #3: Be persistent. Learning to fly doesn’t happen in a day. Neither does getting published. My first book took seven years. Thankfully I’ve pared that down, but three years seems to be the norm for me. So I keep going back to the computer, writing one more page, one more draft, sending my work out for critique one more time.
And I have faith that one of these days, this #*^%$*ing manuscript will be ready for flight.
Sara Leach is the author of five children’s books, including Warm Up and Mountain Machines. She is looking forward to hearing Eric Walters, one of Canada’s most respected authors for young readers, speak at the Whistler Writers Festival.
Click here for tickets to the event.