Writing a well-crafted novel is hard labor, like going through a struggle harder than childbirth. Some authors want to seek out a short-cut, a sure thing, or a fully fleshed-out plot that has been used successfully in the past. However enticing this short-cut seems, when people write stories based on another person’s plot, they soon find that the tedious part is writing out the individual scenes.
As an unknown author who does not receive the support of professional editors and writers, creating an excellent book is difficult and time consuming. But, if the idea is my own I have an investment in my work. This personal idea provides motivation to continue working. If the book is based on someone else’s idea of a good plot, I might simply give up when writing becomes too difficult. After all, how can I fix the problems with someone else’s concepts?
There is a tremendous amount of work involved in moving a finished piece to the next level, so it is ready for publishing. Often writers are tempted to dispose of their first effort after an extended time of struggling to write it. Advice to new authors often repeats the idea that the first novel is going to be bad. Should I finish writing it anyway? Yes. This bit of folk wisdom has been disproved many times–by people such as Mary Shelley, Ralph Ellison, Harper Lee, and J.R.R, Tolkien whose first novels have remained popular for decades. (The authors in this illustrious list did have some experience writing before completing their first book.)
Of course, all authors are not created equal. Some learn more rapidly and some work at the craft for years before they offer their work to the public. The truth is that writing is learned by doing it. This means the second novel will almost certainly be better than the first. Some authors, like Jane Austen, published their second novel first, and then returned to edit their first attempt based on insights they gained from that experience. So, the first novel may be the right place to use my best ideas.
I can study other’s novels and research the latest tools for writing. However, the type of computer, word processors, editing software, and internet sites used to glean information are not the most important part. I could write an excellent article using a pen on a notepad. (Of course, that would take longer as my handwriting is illegible and my spelling leaves something to be desired.) The thought processes that go into my writing––creating characters, choosing the viewpoints, setting up the action arcs, the pacing for the plot, and the types of elaboration––carry far more weight than the tools I use. When people say that a person must write to improve their writing, they are telling the truth.