Author Tayari Jones introduces us to 'Surviving the Draft'--How to push your book over the finish line.
People often ask me what the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been in getting my novels published. Without blinking I say, writing the book. Until the project is complete, the next step in your process is going to be to finish. Let’s say you are such a charmer that you end up with an agent and a contract based on your brilliant pitch alone. You still have to finish the book. Let’s say you save Oprah from a burning building. You’ll still have to finish the book before she can make you the star of the book club.
The title of the this column, “Surviving The Draft,” is inspired by a piece of advice given to me by my mentor, Ron Carlson. When I met him, I was a great admirer of his work and I hadn’t yet written my first novel. R.C. was such an excellent teacher and a beautiful craftsman that I would have done anything that he said would make me a better writer. Sometimes, I would ask him questions about process. I was writing with pen and paper, was that okay? And how often should I go back and revise? Is it okay to read other authors while I am trying to write? Finally, he smiled and said, “Tayari, do whatever you need to do to survive the draft.”
Surviving the draft is getting over the finish line however you can. I’ve written three novels and for one I sprinted across the line, for another I limped, and for the last one, I crawled, but the point is that I did it. Surviving the draft often ain’t pretty, but it’s always possible.
The way I see it there are two things that can help you reach your goal. One is arranging your life to be more productive. This column will offer tips that range from how to turn your home into more welcoming writing space to strategies for filling out winning applications to attend writers’ colonies. We’ll talk about ways to change your life and sometimes just ways to change your mind. All to help you survive the draft.
The second focus is the craft of fiction. One of the mysterious things about writing is that you never really know how other writers do it. Upcoming column topics include choosing names for your characters, pacing your novel, approaching revision and finding the right title. If it has to do with craft or process, you’ll find it here.
What you won’t find here is discussions about “book hotness” or “notness”, the implications of the ebook or endless discussions about what agents are looking for. Why not? Because this column is all about surviving the draft. The Kindle will not help you survive the draft and neither will looking hot in your author photo. Even the best agent can’t write the book for you. Knowing the details of another writers book deal won’t add to your word count. It’s not going make your character become better rounded and it won’t fill in the holes in your plot. “Surviving The Draft” is all about helping you connect with your story and helping your pen connect with a page. Once a week, we will talk about setting one word down next to each other, setting one chapter beside the next. In other words, this is a place all about getting it done.
Before we go any further, I would like to hear from you, SheWriters. When you've gotten across the finish line, what pushed you over? If you're not there yet, what would help you get there? What topics would you like to see discussed here? Help me help you to survive your draft.