The Writer’s Toolkit 2: Find Your Voice & Avoid Mistakes That Ruin a First Book | Simon Van Booy | Skillshare

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The Writer’s Toolkit 2: Find Your Voice & Avoid Mistakes That Ruin a First Book

teacher avatar Simon Van Booy, Author and Editor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (43m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Overview

    • 3. Class Project

    • 4. Developing Your Voice

    • 5. Releasing Anxiety & Judgement

    • 6. Tip 1: Eliminate Backstory

    • 7. Tip 2: Write in the Present

    • 8. Tip 3: Open with Conflict

    • 9. Tip 4: Show Don’t Tell

    • 10. Tip 5: Trim Sentences

    • 11. Tip 6: Think in Drafts

    • 12. Conclusion

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About This Class

I am really excited to bring you this class which follows on from my very first Writer’s Toolkit about the ‘Six Steps’ of becoming a writer.

This new lesson will help you achieve two very important milestones of writing which I believe are vital to success, both artistically and commercially. The first is finding your own unique voice as an author, and there’s a class project I have designed to help you do just that. 

The second vital skill is having the knowledge to avoid ‘Six Mistakes’ that I often see in a writer’s first novel or memoir which can really sink it. Although all creative writing is good practice, if I had known to avoid these six things at the start of my literary career, the first two novels I ever wrote might not be sitting in a box under my bed.

I’ve designed this writing class so there’s really nothing to remember or memorize. Once you grasp the concepts, you will have these skills for life!

If you’ve been writing for a while and feel you have discovered your voice, then this class will help you reveal much more of it. And once you apply everything you’re going to learn about the ‘Six Mistakes,’ your writing will hopefully ascend to the next level, where pacing, plot, character, story, and tone are all, finally working together to provide a seamless emotional experience for your reader. If you’re new to writing, don’t worry–it’s never too early to find your voice, and gaining this craft knowledge of the ‘Six Mistakes’ will give you insight into how great books come together.

The skills in this class will be most useful to experienced and new writers working on novels, memoirs, and short stories. 


Meet Your Teacher

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Simon Van Booy

Author and Editor


Simon Van Booy is the award-winning and best-selling author of 12 books of fiction, and three anthologies of philosophy. He has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and the BBC. His books have been optioned for film and translated into many languages. He lives in New York where he is also a book editor and a volunteer EMT. 


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1. Introduction: Welcome to my writing studio again in Brooklyn, New York. It's been awhile, a few years. I'm so happy that you're back. And if you're new to this writers toolkits that series and welcome to the family. I put this class together from my experience of writing 15 books and also from traveling as an author of a book tours, conferences, events, and being that annoying person who follows authors into the elevator and says, Yeah, What did you have for breakfast? You know what pencils to use? You have to have a special pillow before you write your finding out like what is, what makes other writers so successful, so prolific? So everything you're going to learn in this class is not just what I've learned, but it's what I've learned from other writers that I talked to. I'm really excited about this second class because it follows on from writers toolkit one, which was the six steps of becoming a writer and establishing a writing practice. This new lesson is going to help you achieve two really important milestone in your writing. And the first is finding your voice is like, Who are you on the page as opposed to in mind? Because remember when you write your sharing a part of yourself, that you're not sharing ordinary world. So the second thing we're going to talk about is avoiding six big mistakes that often, or first book, you want to spend years writing your first book for it not to work because of certain structural things. Which if you've watched this Skillshare class, you will know not to do. So these two skills, finding your voice and avoiding six big mistakes, they are vital, I believe, to your success as an author artistically and can commercially. I've designed the class so that there's really nothing to remember. There's no memorization. Once you watch the video and you grasp the concepts, then you'll have the skills for life. 2. Class Overview: In this class, the first part is going to be where we talk about voice. So I'm going to show you a way to reveal your voice as a writer. And if you feel like you've already found your voice, then we're going to use an exercise to enhance that. There's gonna be four things. The first is finding your voice. The second is the 20 book exercise, which you'll find under the Projects tab. Number three is developing your voice number for giving up anxiety and judgment. The second part of the class will be avoiding those six big mistakes we talked about that can sink a book. And those are six tips and the first one is eliminate backstory. Tip two is stay on the surface of the present and flashback versus backstory. Tip three, open with unresolved conflict. Tip for show. Don't tell. Tip five, trim your sentences and tip six, think drafts, not book. 3. Class Project: 30 years ago, when I really decided to become a writer, I wrote two books over a couple of years, and I put everything I had into them. I mean, I labored for hours and hours, hundreds of hours, maybe thousands. Then finally, I talked to an editor and she said, Yeah, you know, these aren't bad, but I don't think you've found your voice yet. And I was like, voice, like, what do you mean? She said, Well, every writer has a unique voice and I don't think you've found yours. And I thought, well, somebody could have told me that at the beginning then I've got to find my voice. So what we're doing now is so you can avoid that same pain that I went through. Why is it important to have your voice as a writer on the page? Well, a lot of music books are. The problem with it, is that it's not bad quality, but it's derivative of something else. Like a lot of singer-songwriters sound like Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell who bought Delano, Tracy Chapman. It's that unique sound that only you can recreate, that only you can create. That's what we're looking for. So I'm gonna give you an example now of some writers voices. First book is seven steeples by soluble. Pip chased the white cat. Pip chased the black cat. The cat's changed color as they ran. Their patterns blurred and reconfigured. Unlimited and renewed, transformed, becoming brown striped as they streaked through brambles, flickering into green as brambles met bracket. Sometimes the cats happened upon small Hawthorne's elders, willows and Claude their way up to the highest, thicker branches and pit, halted at the bottom and poured the Earth wind and jumped. She flowered into the canopy until hours have passed. Until night was starting, until she had forgotten what she was doing there beneath the Hawthorne or elder or willow in the half dark. So the second book or read from now is Buddy by Nigel Henderson. One of my, one of the first folks that got me into writing. Buddy stole money from his mother's purse just before he left for school. His mother was in the kitchen clearing up the breakfast things, and his father was still in bed. He tip toed into the front room and slip the purse out of her handbag. He clicked it open and took out a £5 note. A wave of disgust swept through him. Two weeks ago, he'd vowed to himself that he was going to stop shoplifting. And here he was stealing from his own mother. He hadn't done that since he was a little kid. And it's sometimes nicht the odd temperance, he was turning into a real thief. And the final example is from Chico, the Obamas orchestra of minorities, which is another of my favorite books. Insects dashed against the windshield and burst like miniature fruits until the glass was covered with small MCS of liquefied insects. Twice, he had to stop and wipe the mess off with a rag. But soon after he began again, the insects would rage against the pain with renewed force. But the time he arrived at the boundary of omega, the day had aged. And the lettering on the rusting pole with the welcome to Albia, God's own state sign was barely visible. His stomach could become taut from having got a whole day without eating. The three books. You just heard me read from our three of my favorite books. But you can tell that the author has a unique voice, even if they're writing about a different things, the voice is very, very similar. In each book, each of the authors books. So when you get one of those books through your mailbox as a first manuscript, you start reading it. You know, an agent or an editor will quickly realize this is very different from anything else that's out there. Now because your very different, your unique as a person. The key here is to find your unique voice. 20 book project, which is in the project section of this class, is really vital. And if you feel like you have some sense of what your voice is, this exercise will help you develop it more. Now, I actually still do this exercise if I haven't been writing for a while, if I'd been on a book tour or something, I will find a book. Maybe. I don't know the age of innocence by Edith Wharton. I couldn't get into that. If it's a favorite book, I'm sorry. I couldn't get into it. Maybe next year I'll try again. But the last book I first page I re-wrote was that book. So I rewrote it into what I thought was good. Even though it's great, writers won't mind if you do this exercise. Most of them are dead. So don't worry, just do it and you'll find your horse. 4. Developing Your Voice: So hopefully you've paused and you've done the exercise in the project section, and you've got those 20 pages to compare which any similarity is, is basically revealing your authorial fingerprint. Now, you might be wondering, will my voice change? In my experience as an editor, as an author, your voice will not change, but your style will change. What I mean by that is, when you're in high-school, you might be Goff and punk, But that's, but that's not your voice. Your voice is, you want to dress in a way that reflects counter-culture or disaffected youth. That will, that idea will stay the same, but you'll change clothes, you'll, you'll develop, you'll evolve. So to give you an example of that in writing, Here's a book by one of my favorites. Me between them is one of my favorite writers, Billy Ocala, and this book is for about 2008. In this book is from 2022, there's about 1415 years apart. Now the voice is the same. I mean, I know from reading these that this is video Callahan, but the style has evolved. And that comes with experience and just writing over many years. Now, if I show you an example of this in art, we go, Vincent Van Gough, one of my favorite painters. Now this was, this was painted in 1885. Now it doesn't, it doesn't look like what you consider Van Gough to be. Now, if we look at a lake, we looked at a later work here. You see the style is very different. The style has evolved because he's evolved as a painter. But the voice, the idea of human loneliness and isolation that's still there. That's part of who he was. 5. Releasing Anxiety & Judgement: It's really important when you are developing your voice on the page that you really give up worrying what people are gonna think mean if your voice is very intense and there's lots of curse word, that's perfectly fine because you're revealing part of yourself on the page that you ordinarily don't share with the world. When we speak, we use words and conversations, but when we write, we're using words in a slightly different way. The other way that people who go to church or temple or mosque, they will use wine like juices, fluids to symbolize something. But you can buy that maybe in a supermarket, but it's different. The significance is different because the context is different. So anyway, when you're developing your voice, you absolutely have to give up anxiety and fear about being judged. Because when you feel judged, you're not free. And you have to feel free in order to be able to write well. In fact, the imagination is one of the only places in the world where we can be free. So the key here is just be true to yourself and everything will fall into place. Anxiety is a big problem that is creatively inhibited as well. But there's a cure for writers worry. And that is action. When you're writing, when I find writers at their desks, they're not worried about anything. They're busy with their characters, the deep into the plot. So they're not anxious about, Oh, is this good enough? Am I going to fail all that kinda stuff? If you're if you're sitting in front of the work and you're not writing, it's easy to become upset because as a writer you're going to spend most of the time with total chaos and you're not going to feel good about it. Okay? It's in the very last stages that the project comes together. You feel like, wow, yeah, this is good. There'll be moments of inspiration. But most of the time you're going to feel like you're failing. That's the same for me. I mean, Ninety-nine percent of my day is dealing with a complete mess on the page that I've created. And I'm trying to fix. Another way to get rid of anxiety is to surround yourself with things that make you feel like a writer, your personal things to you. There could be a book of paintings, it could be music, it could be a sculpture. It could be photographs. Anything really that gets you out of your frame of mind, your fear frame of mind. So you might be wondering, are there some things that I keep around to stay inspired and to not feel anxious because I do feel anxious and I do worry. But I can't really work well when I'm in that mindset. So I keep my the ashes of my, my late first mouse Teiresias. If you'd met him, you would have had a very different view of mice. You'd have loved, loved them as much as I do. I keep pictures of Samuel Beckett and extra points if you know who this is. Solute, vague Vichtenstein. And I also, this is one of my absolute favorite books. And it's a first edition of four quartets by, by TSL yet, so I keep these things very close. Well, I'm feeling like, Oh, it's not going well, this book is going to be a failure. I think to myself, well, you know, these things, this is like food for creativity. 6. Tip 1: Eliminate Backstory : Now we've talked about voice. Let's go over and now the six big mistakes that often new writers make and that can sink their first books. The first one is to eliminate backstory. Backstory in the opening section of a novel or a memoir kills the pasting. Now, new writers are often a worried that a reader won't care about what's happening if they don't know what the backstory is. And that's anxiety about, well, people like this will people keep reading. But the truth, the truth is thankfully, that we don't need backstory. If you come across a car accident, It's immediately compelling. You know, everybody looks. You don't think, oh, I don't know who's in it and I don't know how it was caused. So I'm really not interested in seeing that car on fire. One doesn't have to know what caused a car accident to be gripped by the sudden drama of it, right? So to begin in the moment like that, not in the past is really crucial to the opening of any book. Dialogue often indicates that a book is not using backstory. Backstory implies that the narrator has learned everything already in his summarizing. So that feels passive for the reader. Now I'm going to give you an example of a backstory. And this is a book by HE Bates is one of my favorite writers. But remember there's no perfection in any art form. You make compromises and you do your best. Nothing is ever perfect, but you do get your book to a point where it is good enough to be published. The town had grown swiftly from a long stone street, 800 people and an open book in 1820 to a place a 50 Boot factories, ten chapels, staunch liberalism, and 10 thousand people in 1800s. And to a town of rho Tyrion and Masonic circles. Many gleaming fish and chip shops and a public library of golf clubs and evening classes of amateur operatic on winter evenings and sacred concepts on Sunday afternoons in 1929, long rows of bright red brick of houses roofed with slate, shining like Blue Steel and rapidly eaten their way beyond the shabby confines of what had been a village. Beyond new railway tracks and gas works. Obliterating pleasant outline farms and hedge rows of Hawthorne and wild rose to stop only where the river valley took it too steep, dip, too wide, flat meadows that were crowned in turn by the iron ore furnaces. I could see flaring at night along the eschaton beyond. Currently in a few generations of valley side had been C, It's good writing, but it's backstory and it feels like, okay, you know, we've been told this would be lectured. And that's not great to start a book with that. The second example, we're going back to body by Nigel Hinton. Now let's compare. This is not backstory. Buddy stole the money from his mother's purse just before he left for school. His mother was in the kitchen clearing up the breakfast things, and his father was still in bed. He tip toed into the front room and slip the purse out of her handbag. He clicked it open and took out a £5 note. A wave of disgust swept through him. Only two weeks ago, he'd found himself who's going to stop shoplifting. And here he was stealing from his own mother. He hadn't done that since he was a little kid. And it's sometimes niche, the odd temperance, it was turning into a real thief. There must be something the matter with him. First to shoplifting. He done it a couple of times with some other boys from school. They had stopped, but he'd gone on doing it alone. Now this you can see this is like the action is happening right now. We don't know where bodies living, we don't know how old he is, but there's actually stealing from his mother's handbag. And it's just much more interesting because it's active. Backstory is passive. So it's really important that you eliminate backstory from the opening pages of your book. 7. Tip 2: Write in the Present: So here in Tip two, we're going to talk about the alternative to backstory. And Vladimir Nabokov, who you might know as the author of Pale Fire, Ada Lolita. Now book offset that the author, like mortals belongs on the surface of the present, not in the ooze of the past. As an alternative to backstory. We're going to start in the action. That's how novels and then was really should start. This doesn't mean writing in the present tense, because most books are in the simple past tense. But it's a way where the writer feels that something is happening, like it's immediate. Dialogue helps with this because it's often spoken in the present tense. So I'm gonna give you an example of books that start on what no bulk of calls on the surface of the present and not with backstory. So this is by chaining quark passenger. Great book. This is how it begins as the cruise ship almost tipped over the horizon that once bisected my lovely balcony door rises like a theatre cook disappears. Now the C is the stage. I tumble off my bed onto the floor and roll like a stunt man. For now the ship has yet to fully flop. It feels like we're getting pretty close. Lucky us. The modern ocean liner is an engineering marvel equipped with technologies in sharing that it always stays up, right? We've been rolling dangerously during a nasty storm, but recover, enlist upright after each pounding wave threatens to capsize us. People's screams pierce my cabin walls louder at times than the clog. A broken kitchen equipment above. Water glasses fling themselves against my cabin door as if possessed. Code echo. Echo, code echo. A man's voice crackles over the PA system. So we don't know why this person is on a cruise. We don't know where they're cruising. All we know is that there's a bad storm and we don't know what's going to happen. So it's told in the past tense, I think remember, but it's happening right now. And that's what the bulk of meant by being on the surface of the present. A lot of writers worried that if they don't have the backstory of why this person's on the cruise, the reader won't care, but it's not true. If you start with action, you will immediately pull your reader in. Another example is not as physically exciting, is from a book by Ken hereof called ourselves at night, which actually became, became a film. Then there was the day when adding more made a call on Louis waters. It was an evening in May, just before full dark. They lived a block apart on Cedar Street in the oldest part of town, with elm trees and hack Barry and a single NAPL grown up along the curb and green lawns running back from the sidewalk to the two-story houses. It had been warming the day, but it had turned cool now in the evening, she went along the sidewalk under the trees and turned in Lewis his house. When Lewis came to the door, she said, Could I come in and talk to you about something? They sat down in the living room. Can I get you something to drink some tea? No, thank you. I might not be here long enough to drink it. She looked around. Your house. Looks nice. So what does she want to ask him? What is she going to ask where she might not be? Be in-house long enough to have a cup of tea. So it's happening right now. She's gone over to his house. We don't know who they are. We don't know where they are. We know nothing. All we see is action and things, things happening. So that's what I meant by staying on the surface of the present and that's where you should be, at least in the opening 102030 pages of your book. Now, backstory versus flashback, that's important. Backstory is passive and it's what we talked about. Flashback, however, is going back in time, but it's told on the surface of the present. So flashback has dialogue. It's like it's happening right now and that's fine. Flashbacks are okay. But the problem is when you're flashbacks are more interesting than what's happening on the surface of the present in the main part of the story. So you have to minimize flashbacks so that they serve what's happening on the surface of the present, not so they compete with it. Often you might be a really good writer, but you'll flashbacks are competing with the action happening on the main storyline, okay? So flashbacks are okay. There will be some backstory in a later draft, maybe 20% backstory, maybe 80 per cent surface of the present. But you really want to keep it minimal because the main story should be told. On the surface. 8. Tip 3: Open with Conflict: So now let's talk about Tip three. And that's opening your book with unresolved conflicts. Some editors say, this is like you're making a promise to the reader that if they keep reading, they'll find out what's going to happen. But I like to think of it as like unresolved conflict because we want to, the reader wants, their curiosity is piqued that they're gonna get pulled into the book. The first time I discovered this, this tip was actually the first story I got published. And there wasn't because the story was good. It was starting to be maybe in my voice. It was because of these opening lines, the power of these opening lines which simply pick the curiosity of the reader and made them keep reading. Here's the book. Snow falls and then disappears. My wife is Deaf. Once she asked me a snow made a sound when it fell and I lied. We've been married 12 years today, and I'm leaving her. So that's not a very good opening, but it's exciting. And it has unresolved conflict and the reader is going to keep going because we want to find out what y is the narrator leaving his wife after 12 years? It does her deafness have something to do with that? What's the significance of the snow and him lying? And so that's what I mean by starting with some kind of unresolved conflict. Let me give you another example from this same book by Cheney Clark. I think we got to the part last time where the ship is listing and over the loudspeaker we hear code echo Kodak. Kodak. A man's voice crackles over the PA system. Then after a loud bang, all is quiet. The heating vent size one last time and stopped his sake. The television screen goes blank. The ship means is if in slow-mo, it should snap back and write itself. I wait and wait, but we keep falling. And that's the first chapter. So it's exciting, like is the bulk and a capsize. What's going to happen to the author of people are going to die. So it's well-written. You get a sense of the voice of the writer. But it starts with unresolved conflict and that's really, really exciting. 9. Tip 4: Show Don’t Tell: So tip for I know. I know you've heard it a million times. Show don't tell. Now. It took me a long time to try and figure out what that meant. I just couldn't understand. And then when I finally did through writing, it made a huge difference in my books. So the fact is that showing, is when you show something, how a character is or what's happening and the reader figures out what the character is like telling is when you tell the reader this person's like this. And that again is passive, whereas showing is active. Now, I had a really hard time with this. I've actually got a couple of examples I'm going to share with you. Hopefully, you're, you're clever. The mesial pick this up quicker. So an example of telling, which isn't great, tellings, not great at example of telling would be the old man boarded the train slowly as people waited impatiently behind him. Now I'll read that again. The old man boarded the train slowly as people waited impatiently behind him. So that's telling, we're telling the reader that the man is old and that people are impatient. Now, we want to change that to two, showing, this is showing the train steps with steep Mr. Harris could hear people sign as he pushed hard on his cane, his arm wobbling visibly. Now, that's showing that's better because we're not saying, Oh, he's old. Saying that he's, he's pushing on his kay, arm is wobbling. We're using imagery to show that he's also, the reader thinks, Oh, we must be old. And we're not saying that people are impatient with saying that people assigning. The reader thinks people are getting impatient behind him. And that's really the joy of reading is figuring things out and not being told. And that's really showing versus telling. Now there is an exception to when telling is okay. That is in a first draft. Your first draft is going to be all telling. First, it's going to be backstory. And then when you identify what the story is and what the main scenes are, you'll convert that backstory to telling, because telling is the old man boarded the train slowly with people who are impatient behind him. That's happening on the surface of the present and that's great. But we then in a third draft, you want to convert the, the telling to showing. So we go from backstory to telling, and then we convert the telling to showing. And now your book, your story is really starting to get momentum. Another example of showing and not telling is, I'll use this book to demonstrate, but it's where you show how the characters are through dialogue. In this book, which again, is one of my favorites. You, we learned about the characters by what they say, not what the author tells us. She will have somebody to play with it in the lower end if this ladder of mine turns up this morning, Martin said that from the orphanage, the woman said, she think I'll allow my daughter to gala event with somebody's know. I'll not say the word aloud that maybe never saw his own mother and doesn't know his own father. No call to fetch him among decent people. Now, later on, when the lad turns up on the boat to the island, He's come from an orphanage. And the, the, the main character has talked to the orphanage and he's gonna give him a home and have them work on the farm. When he turns up and this woman actually sees him and he's listening to him, speak and get acquainted with the main character. This is what she says. That's a fine boy you've got there. She went on looking up at the lab. Though he might be to find for a windy place like this, you will not hold him for long. I warrant you. So that tells us now she's changed her mind. Thinks he's great. You see, so we're not told that she's like somebody who changes their mind constantly and she's Moody, which he is in the book, were shown it through the thing she says. But then we also know now that she's quite a negative person because whereas she now thinks he's okay and we'll let her daughter play with him. She says, Well, he's not going to stay long in a place like this. So don't get attached to him. She asked to find something negative to say. But you see how much more powerful it is when we learned about the characters through what they do, rather than the author telling us about. 10. Tip 5: Trim Sentences: Tip five is hopefully going to save you a lot of bother. And that is to trim your sentences. Now, when you get to a certain level of writing and you're quite good, you're writing well, your sentences are good. The imagery is there, the plot, the character development. And so cutting. When you're cutting, your cutting, usually like sentences that don't work, things that are poorly written. When you get to a certain level, you don't really write badly. You're sent everything is quite good. So then it feels counterproductive to cut anything because it's good writing. So this is a key point. You need to trim your sentences and trivial paragraphs so that you're, you're keeping only the sentences that relate to the main story, to the main idea. Remember that writing and writing a book a very different. So we want to just really not have anything in there that doesn't relate to the backbone of the plot or the character development. So you often that means cutting good writing and it feels weird. Good writing. You have to do it. You have to do it because otherwise, your story will just lose the pacing because the reader has a finite amount of energy to remember things. So you don't want to give them details and places and characters and scenes that are not integral to driving the story forward. Whatever the story or the memoir is, it's really important that you trim your sentences and only keep those that serve the plot. Now, how, when should you edit when you're writing? Well, the next tip is about thinking in drafts. Instead of a book in a first draft, you're not going to really do much editing. You might write for a day, right? Ten, maybe two to ten pages. And then maybe in the afternoon or the next day you might look over it. But don't spend hours man occurring every brushing the hair on your semi-colon, tying the tie on your preposition. Just don't make those final tweaks because you might be spending time on sentences, they're going to be cut anyway, because it's a first draft. You, as Neil Gaiman said, you're telling the story to yourself, you're exploding onto the page. It's gonna be mostly backstory in a first draft and that's perfectly fine. But we want to get to the end of the first draft. So you now know what the story is. You can go back to the beginning and you can start refining the story, trimming sentences. So when you get to a fifth, sixth, seventh draft, That's where you start really monetary. For instance, if you're an interior decorator, you don't go to a construction site and sweep up every night after the workers of left. Because the next day it's going to get dirty again, Z you're wasting energy. So just get comfortable with the idea that the book is going to feel unfinished and like it's fading for quite awhile, at least until you get to like maybe the second drop. 11. Tip 6: Think in Drafts: Tip six is hopefully going to save you a lot of heartache. And that is to think drafts notebook. When you're working on a book, it feels endless. I mean, even for me, it just feels like a nightmare. It feels like it's never going to end. It was like walking around a corner and you just keep going, right? And then you realize you go in circles, right? So if you think drafts, then that's a bit more manageable because you don't have to finish the book and it has to be amazing. You have to finish the first draft, which is not gonna be very good. If you look at the original of Laura by Nobel cough, which is he wrote mostly on index cards. He died before he could finish it. How unprofessional? Just kidding. But so that book is a draft of a book he was going to call the original of Laura, and it's terrible. It's not very good. No first draft is very good. But at least you're getting down the bones of the story, Right? So thinking terms of drafts, when I work as an editor and people come to me with their manuscripts and they say, it's not working. I don't know, something's gone wrong. Often it's because a third of the book is a third draft. A third of the book is a fifth draft, and a third of the book is first draft or an eighth drop. So the problem is, it's not consistent in quality or in editing. So think about, let's go with a five draft structure. With the fifth draft. That's when the magic is really going to happen. Getting from a first draft to a fifth draft is going to get it from 0 draft to a fifth draft is going to take quite a long time. Maybe a year, maybe a couple of years. But to go from draft five or six to draft 30 doesn't take that long because every time you go through a draft, It gets better and better. So you are going quicker and quicker. So if we look at this draft, 39 to get to to get to that. 39 took maybe a year-and-a-half. Okay. But the last six months I went from say draft ten to 39 because every time you read through it, it's getting better and better. So you're making less changes. Because it really lets talk about drafting is a five trough structure. First draft is going to feel terrible because you don't know what you're doing. Nobody does. You don't really know what the story is. The characters are still, they're not fully alive. So think about, I'm going to get through this first draft and I'm gonna give myself six months, seven months to do it. It can be a 100 pages. Because remember, if the first draft is backstory, the second draft is going to be surface of the present, telling the third draft is going to be surface of the present showing. Now when you get to draft for your really rolling, okay, So this, this is my new novel which, which comes out in November of this year 2022. And that was draft 43. So it took me a long time to get to draw five, maybe two years, maybe six months to go up to draft 43. Because you're just reading through editing. Editing, editing. So even though so don't think in terms of a book. I think in terms of drafts. Often you might send a book to an agent or an editor and get a rejection. But it's not because the book isn't, isn't good. It's just that you've sent them to earlier draft. You might've sent, sent draft to when really this book needs to go to draw ten here because it's complicated. So think drafts, notebook. 12. Conclusion: And so summing up, we've got the writers toolkit while near the first class I did a few years ago. And that's establishing yourself as a writer with a consistent writing practice. You follow those six steps and then you should be generating material. Now in this class, it's really important that you find your voice as a writer. So even if your manuscript isn't as polished as it could be, an editor or an agent is going to look at it and they're going to say, there's nothing else like this. This is unique, and that's brilliant. That's where we want to be. I want to hear exactly who you are. The world wants exactly who you are. Doesn't want you to be not copying, but too much like any other writer that's out there. So you find your voice, you practice it. You will allow your style to develop, but you can't really change your voice. Often a writer says the same thing over and over again, just in different books with different characters in different scenarios. And then if you can avoid those six big, if you can follow those six tips to avoid those mistakes that will often sink or first book, most books you pick up in a bookshop, they start with unresolved conflict there on the surface of the present. I'm here, they're showing, they're not telling. And then most of the books that go through agents and editors mailboxes. Backstory telling that passive rather than active. So if you can follow those, you'll really well on your way to writing something magnificent. But keep in mind that the goal here is not to like sell a book and to have people applauding you and giving you a Awards. That's not the goal of writing a book. The goal is honesty. It's authenticity, its uniqueness. It's a series, it's a series of compromises that you've accepted that work. This particular story can't do everything with one book. It's one story about somebody. You may be the character that changed over a certain amount of time. That's the goal, is that was this real, is this emotionally connected to who you are as a person? That's the goal of any book. Lot of the greatest books will never get published because they're not following trends or they were missed. But when you are old and you look at your book on the shelf and you think I wrote that it should be an example of who you were then. And it should tell that emotional story hundreds of years from now when people take down your book, whether it was published or not, and they start to open it and read, they feel who you were in the deepest sense. That's amazing that somebody can connect with you hundreds of years after you've died. That's the power and the magic of language and storytelling.