Eight Lessons Learned While Writing My First Novel

Please join me in welcoming author Samantha Davidson to the blog!

Writing is one heck of an adventure. One that’s designated for those with creativity bursting from deep within their soul, for those with wild imaginations, extravagant vocabularies and a serious case of self-deprecation. (If you haven’t experienced the latter, give it time!) Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe we need more writers in this world, but while writing my first novel, there were lessons – oh so many lessons – to learn, and which I feel it only fair to share with you now. You’re welcome!

First, I would like to thank Jade for letting me take over her blog this week. It’s always exciting being able to share your knowledge, skill, sarcasm, and sometimes slightly off-kilter sense of humor, with a new community. 

So back to my lessons. I am going to share with you, my top eight lessons learned while writing my first novel. 

1 – The hardest thing is getting started/passed the first 1,500 words

I thought writing was going to be a breeze. I spent *ah-hem*weeks plotting my first novel. I planned it all (in my head) and had this amazing idea that I just had to get on paper. I remember the first time I sat down to write, and the words just flew out of me. That whole adage of a blank page being the most intimidating place to start was nowhere to be seen. I sat down and wrote, and wrote,… and wrote! I spent at least four whole hours writing, and when I was done, I looked back to see everything that I’d accomplished, and couldn’t believe I had a whole 1,500 words! 

No, you’re not going crazy, and no, I didn’t mistype that – it was only 1,500 words. I don’t really know what I was expecting. I did know that the average novel was about 70,000 words, (I did my research in my weeks of outlining in my head) but I don’t think I actually understood how many words/pages it took to achieve 70,000 words. The first 1,500 words were quite the eye-opening experience for the journey I had decided to embark upon. 

2 – Perfection isn’t even in the ballpark. 

Everyone said first drafts were messy, but I kept thinking “That’s you – I’m going to have this nailed on the first try! I’ll put in a little extra effort as I go, and save myself the revisions!” 

I was wrong!

I hesitate to tell any aspiring author this, but your manuscript will never be perfect. Even once you’re done – even once you’re published – I promise you will still find faults, regrets, and things that could have been better. Don’t try for perfection, just write what’s in your heart, and then revise the heck out of it!

3 – I’m an emotional basket case, but that’s ok – so is everyone else!

I thought there was something wrong with me. There were days where I felt that my writing was Pulitzer worthy, and days where I wanted to throw in the towel and light my work on fire. Living a creative lifestyle, we have very high highs and very low lows… it comes with the territory. The moment I found out that other writers went through the same emotional roller-coaster, I embraced the highs, and the lows, and knew that at the end of the day, the story I had in me, meant something, and that was all that mattered! This video from Kim Chance was when I first realized I wasn’t going crazy.

4 – Community is everything

Writing is such a solo endeavor, and most of us are introverts, so the idea of mingling, and being a part of a community is, well – terrifying! But I’m here to tell you that a community is going to change everything for you, your craft, and your success. Find a group of like-minded writers and creatives (online, over social media, blogs, youtube, etc) Get started by joining Write with Intention or try Camp Nanowrimo next month. The right community will change your world!

5 – Coffee is my fuel!

Hey, I said these are the lessons I learned… that’s one of them! Find your fuel, and always have it handy. Some writer friends have snacks (some healthy, some very unhealthy) that they require when writing. For me, it’s an enormous cup of coffee. Sipping in between scenes, or chapters, or even lines of dialogue, help me to pause and recollect my thoughts. 

6 – You don’t need to know all the rules (but don’t forget them either!)

So often I would get caught up on the technical side of writing. I would get overwhelmed by the rules, and lose my voice. In a recent conversation with Author Kristen Martin, we discussed this same struggle. She found that her first trilogy didn’t have enough voice, because she was so distracted by the rules. She had lost the ability to tell her story.  That being said, don’t discard all the rules either – throwing caution to the wind may make revisions far more tedious than they need to be.

7 – Write now – Edit later

To expand upon the previous point, don’t edit while you’re writing. Creative thinking (ie: writing) uses the right brain, while analysis (editing) requires the left brain. It’s extremely difficult for experienced writers, let alone those of us starting out, to balance this tightrope of right and left-brain functions. Make it easy for yourself and only use one at a time! 

8 – Writing is hard!

No matter how you cut it, writing is hard, and writing is only the beginning of the journey. Once you’ve written the first draft, then you have revisions, critiques, edits, beta readers, more edits, query letters, agents, publishing, cover art, social media, criticism, branding, marketing, and the list goes on and on. 

Writing is hard but it’s worth every single moment. Don’t let it overwhelm you – learn from your mistakes (and mine) and push on. You’ll never experience a more satisfying feeling of accomplishment than writing “The End”. 

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Samantha Davidson is a world-traveled photographer, who began her career as an editorial journalist for a weekly publication in British Columbia, Canada. After touching many of the arts, her heart brought her back to the written word. She is currently working on her debut series – a young adult fantasy due to be published in 2019. Samantha offers mentoring and coaching services to “creatives” who are looking to build a career in writing, photography, or any creative business endeavor truly believing her purpose is to inspire aspiring authors and artists in their dreams of marrying their passions and career.