Practice Makes Better

2:54 AM

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice.

How do you get...anything? Practice, of course. But you didn't need me to tell you that, right?

Practice makes perfect is so cliche and so obvious, it's almost painful. Of course, perfect isn't what we--as human beings--aim more. (Most of us, anyway.) We aim to be better. There will always be someone prettier, someone smarter, someone who can write prettier prose, or someone who can weave five subplots together and make us think damn, I'm not that good.

Since completing my second novel (I use complete very loosely here), I've learned a thing or two and I'd like to share it with you.

1. First drafts are meant to suck.
I already knew this, kind of. But then I participated in NaNoWriMo. I wrote day after day until I wanted to scream. I'm mostly a pantser, so I had a vague idea of what I wanted but so many times, I hit that wall. The "This is going nowhere. My characters are all standing around, looking at me like a crazy person." You've been there. You understand. Since I was under a self-imposed deadline, I knew I had to write something. So I kept writing. Things started happening. 

Finally, I finished my first draft. 

I started reading and editing it and you know what I found out? Yes, it sucked. BUT, not nearly as badly as my first draft of my first novel did. That was kind of awesome.

Moral of point number 1: First drafts will always suck, but the more first drafts you do, the better they will be.

2. Finding  an awesome critique partner is just as hard as finding someone to date. (Maybe harder.)
There's soo many people out there, looking for a partner. You want to find someone who will give you what you--and your story--need. Sometimes what seems like a perfect match at first, turns into something lackluster and boring. I've had a handful of CPs. Some of them have been--and still are--awesome. Some got kicked to the curb. 

It's so important to find someone who likes your story for what it is, at face value. I know this because when I find a story I like, despite its flaws and plot holes, I'm much more eager to read it. They get their feedback sooner and I get a story out of it. 

Moral of point number 2: The more you critique and the more you are critiqued, the better your feedback becomes. This equals a bigger, more satisfying payout for everyone involved.

3. Subplots help. A LOT.
My first novel didn't have any. Not really. So when I got multiple comments on extending the middle, I was left thumping my head on the desk. There was nothing else to expand on. I couldn't figure out why...

Until my second novel. I recognized the same issue. The middle was too short. It needed more character development. More things needed to happen before the climax. 

Insert subplot.

Boom. It was like magic. That's what my first novel needed and when I go back to it, that's what I plan to fix. 

Moral of point number 3: Read more books. Recognize the subplots. Some aren't always obvious. 

4. Write your query before you finish your novel.
Better yet, write it before you start. I waited until the end of novel one to write it. It was then that I realized the plot holes and my saggy, saggy middle. 

I wrote my "query" for book two shortly after I started it. It's changed since then. Many times. It's still not perfect. But by the time my book is query ready, my query will be too. 

Moral of point number 4: Just like I said, write your query before you finish your novel.

I will end with this video. It's short and powerful. It resonated with me as I think it would with any writer. WATCH IT.

If you noticed my tweet about cookies, I didn't forget your cookie. If you're a guy, you might like this cookie better though. 

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