1. Hunter56
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    Hunter56 Member

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    Is finishing your final draft the biggest obstacle to becoming a sucessful author?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Hunter56, Oct 31, 2013.

    Millions upon millions of people talk about writing a book. Most of those people never get around to starting. Far less of those people get around to finishing the first chapter. Even less make it through the first draft. And barley any of them actually make it to the finish line: the finished manuscript.

    I know that there are other gut-wrenching obstacles to get through — such as finding an agent and publication — but if you are able to get your final draft done, is the worst behind you?
     
  2. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Even the final draft is not the final FINAL draft, as your agent/publisher will likely make their suggestions to improve it and it is then up to you whether you agree with what they say.

    I think the worst is actually in the middle of the novel. It's when you're likely to run out of steam. But if you keep going through that, tweaking and polishing is a little bit like adding the finishing touches to your house once it's built... you're so exciting by the prospect of finishing it, that you can really enjoy the final stages.
     
  3. TessaT
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    TessaT Contributing Member

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    I would say no. I would say finding the agent is probably the most gut-wrenching, due to the rejection letters. How many people can you take, telling you that your BABY just isn't quite good enough?
     
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  4. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    But then some people can take rejection better than others!
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First draft...submission-ready draft...querying...submission...final-proofs...publication...promotion...

    When is the worst behind you? Depends on what aspect you consider "the worst". For some, it's getting their thoughts organized enough to begin to write, or screwing up the courage to start putting those thoughts down "on paper", or staying the course and ignoring distractions, unexpected life changes and other roadblocks to actually finish the first draft. For any of them, completing the first draft is getting the worst behind them. Then there are those who can't change anything once it's in, or who don't have the patience to weed out each and every SPaG error and poor writing habit, can't give up all that clever dialogue even though it does nothing to advance the plot, or those lavish descriptions of the Rue d'Rivoli in the winter of 1937, because it's just sheer poetry, or admit that while Mr. Scruffles is indeed an engaging and entertaining character, he, too, must go in the bin (perhaps to be reborn in a later work) and with him the accompanying subplot. For them, getting to a submission-ready draft is the worst.

    Then there are those who can't summarize their work, or who haven't done the legwork to discover which agents are best suited to their project and who aren't on P&E's badguy list, or who haven't bothered to read each and every queried agent's submission guidelines. For them, querying is the worst agony.

    I could go on. For my dough, there is no "downhill from here" point. It's all hard work until your work is on the shelves of bookstores, and even then it's not done, because nobody's work "sells itself".

    Hang in there.
     
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  6. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    Rejection wouldn't be the problem for me, neither is writing the first draft. I think the gut-wrenching part is editing, especially for the second and third draft, writing the first draft is something I like to do and so is writing the final draft because... well, you're getting something done.

    I think the first draft is the stage where you create the story and you actually create it, the final draft is finishing what you've been working on for... probably long. I know the drafts in between are at least as important, but I often feel like I'm not being productive when I'm editting - doesn't stop me from doing it though, editing is important.

    I've never been to a publisher with my work, but I don't think rejection would bother me, because I write to tell a story I want to tell, not to please other people.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    To be honest, I think that rejection would bother anyone who loves their writing enough to want to see it in print, and I include myself. The key is to take rejection and build from it, not let it throw you or defeat you.

    People are not made for defeat.
     
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  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    @EdFromNY you make it the whole process sound so appealing :)

    With regards to rejection, it took me a long time just to post bits and pieces here for fear of mockery or derision or just flat out rejection. Even when I see my piece for critique has 500 views but only 3 comments I start to think 497 people were to polite to say it's crap but at this point I think rejection letters from publishers or agents wouldn't hurt me that much - I'll just blame a bad query letter or imbecile screener rather than a bad or badly written story if the worst occurs. In my heart of hearts though I like to think they'll be falling over themselves for my signature!
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, I'm just reflecting what I've read people post here. Some of it ain't pretty.

    Or you could assume that 497 people were too overawed to find anything wrong with it.
     
  10. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like you said, people are not made for defeat, maybe we all doubt ourselves as writers - or maybe just me...
     
  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Isn't the whole point of an agent to avoid doing the grunge work? Yet you have to do grunge work just to get an agent. Doesn't sound fair to me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  12. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    As someone once said, "Life sucks - get a helmet!"
     
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  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say the first draft is only the first step on a long journey, that does not even end with the book in the stores. So compared to all the other steps, first draft to me is by far the easiest.
     
  14. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    The worst is behind you when you've written and published about a dozen novels. By then you should have a pretty good idea of how to tell a story without needing lots of rewrites or days of head-scratching.

    But, yes, completing a first draft of a novel for the first time is a pretty big milestone for most writers. The vast majority of people who 'want to be a writer' never get there.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The whole point of an agent is 1) to cut through the defenses and find an editor who is likely to be attracted to you work; 2) to negotiate your contract with the publisher and 3) to negotiate any other potential contracts, such as (dream on, why not?) film rights.
     
  16. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Well, if you've taken the time to learn the craft of fiction for the printed word; and if you have a good feel for what editors look at as salable writing; and if you've polished your skills by writing, editing, and putting aside the half million to a million words that the average writer takes to begin selling, then yeah, finishing that manuscript is the big hump to get over.

    But if you've just sat down at the keyboard, with your high school writing skills? Uhhh...no. :D
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to say the worst part is trying to get your head out of that first story and starting on the next one. The rest is just chores.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as ed put it so well above, there's no single 'biggest obstacle' that applies to everyone... for many, it's finishing the first draft... for others, it's crafting a successful query... and so on...

    my own conclusion, after decades of editing/doing rewrites for clients and mentoring thousands of aspiring writers, is that the biggest obstacle to becoming a successful writer of any kind is the inability to write well enough to turn out marketable material...

    sad to say, for most who want to be writers, it's an unsurmountable obstacle... the awful truth many who try can't bear to face is that few can write that well to begin with and fewer still can learn to do so, if they haven't some degree of talent for wordwork...

    the good news is that if everyone could, then writing wouldn't be an art form, would it?...
     
  19. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Finishing a draft is a definite hurdle cleared but there's still a lot more on a writer's horizon.

    Like for me, my biggest obstacle is knowing what IS the final draft and if it's good enough. I've finished a few novels in the past - multiple
    drafts for each one - and the last drafts on them don't look as good as my first drafts now. You don't just need to finish a novel
    you need to get some honest feedback on your work.
     
  20. Hunter56
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    Hunter56 Member

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    *Gasp* I am insulted! :p

    Honestly though, I think it's more about the story being good enough rather than how skilled you are at writing. There are hundreds of successful books that people constantly say are horribly written.
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's not exactly true. There're different types of good writing - literary and artistic are not the only types. Bestsellers have their appeal just as chick lits have their appeal. As far as I'm concerned, if it's holding an audience, then there's probably something in it we could all learn from!

    Amongst the traditionally published, the "worst" writers are still far better than the average wannabe-writer, I'd venture. People might pan Twilight and 50 Shades (I've read 2/3rds of the first and the first book of the second) but they're still better than some things I've read by some self-pub authors out there, and they in turn have usually still been better than some of the things I've critiqued. What I'm saying is, the "horribly written" published books are really not the worst out there :D If you don't write well enough, then no matter how good your story, it's not gonna get through. Who's gonna sit around and wait 200 pages before you got to the point? There's a certain standard you must get to - but there's definitely a spectrum within that standard.

    Also, of course, us writers harp on about good "writing" - but what we really mean is writing AND story-telling. Structuring and pacing a story is an art in itself and that's not defined by how well you can string up a sentence or an enticing paragraph. If the story is told beautifully but structured wrong, the reader may still put it down - but structure is a lot harder to criticise than writing and word choice, so we will often say "It's badly written" when actually, it's just structured wrong but we don't know it.
     
  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is why editing shouldn't be viewed as a chore, but rather a pleasure. I "told" my story in my fast first draft. Now, I get the luxury of restructuring it till it works for others.
     
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  23. Hunter56
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    Hunter56 Member

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    @Mckk

    Then why do people say it's horrible and bash it to no end if they don't really mean it?

    Also, I'm not saying that somebody that can barely put together a sentence can get published, I'm just saying that they don't have to be the next Mark Twain skill wise in order for their book to sell.
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I never said they don't mean it when they say something is horrible - I'm just saying that the "horrible" that we see is by no means the worst of the lot, and also that what we identify as "horrible" could be different from what's actually making the piece horrible.

    We are in agreement that you don't have to be the next Mark Twain to be published. I just said that you do still need to be a good writer. You only said "rather than how skilled you are at writing" (followed immediately by citing how poorly written books get published just fine) - it's fairly vague and I understood you to mean that "your writing quality doesn't matter as long as your story is good". Of course I could be wrong, and I thank you for your explanation!
     
  25. Hunter56
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    Fair enough. I was vague because I assume that if somebody sends a query letter out that they possess at least some skill in writing. That might not always be the case though.

    Also, I understand that for first-timers — sending a query letter out to an agent might be a bit more gut-wrenching than the writing process.
     

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