Listen to the voice inside your head – By Matt Mayr
Matt Mayr grew up in a small mining community north of Lake Superior, where he learned to hunt and fish from a very young age. He holds an Honours English Degree from York University, and attended the Humber School for Writers mentorship program twice.
He has traveled extensively in India, Nepal, and South America, trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp, and paddling deep into the Amazon Basin. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter, where he is working on his next novel.
Listen to the voice inside your head
By Matt Mayr
People sometimes ask me how long it took to write my first book. The answer usually floors them. A year and a half for the first draft, a year in revisions, and another six months in revisions for my literary agent.
Three years. That’s how long it takes.
Of course I had a full time job, and was only able to write in the evenings and weekends, but most writers work full time. It’s one of the true tests of being a serious writer: the ability to keep writing, diligently, along with everything else going on in your life—family, work, social life … but I digress.
And what you usually see, in serious literary authors, is an even longer timeline. I’m not saying you can’t crank a novel out in a year, but the tendency to rush out a manuscript before it’s ready is all too prevalent in new authors and even some experienced ones. There’s an irrational fear that your manuscript will get lost in the slushpile if you don’t get it out fast enough. This is something that needs to be guarded against.
During my second stint at the Humber School for Writers, I landed Joan Barfoot as my mentor. Her advice was invaluable and very simple: make sure you spend enough time editing. Never send your manuscript into the world until it’s as good as you can possibly make it. Because, inevitably, any publisher or agent who reads it is going to want edits, lots of edits, and so you have to be sure you’ve made it as good as you can, because anything less will look amateur.
A first draft of a novel is typically that, a draft. There’s a story inside you and you need to get it out, and you want to get it out as fast you can before you forget all your great ideas. That’s fine, that’s great. But once you’ve finished the first draft the real work of writing begins, because anyone can write a story, but not everyone can make a story professional.
So, when I say listen to the little voice inside your head, what I mean is if your story feels like it’s too wordy, if you’re afraid your writing has too many adjectives, too many adverbs, not enough description of setting, too much description of setting, too much dialogue, unclear character motivation, too much showing, too many digressions (the list goes on and on indefinitely), you need to pay attention to that voice. A well-read writer will know what works in other books, and therefore what doesn’t work in their own writing.
That’s what it comes down to, having read enough to know what works and what doesn’t and being honest enough to recognize those shortcomings in your own work, and most importantly, following through on those gut instincts. I’ve spent an entire afternoon on a single paragraph, trying to get it right, trying to find the right words because it just didn’t feel right, it felt amateur. And even after you’ve done everything you possibly could, there will be things you’ve missed, things that a professional editor will cringe at, but at least you took the time to polish it as best you could, because that will show too.
If you’ve got an inkling about a one dimensional character, or a plot twist that makes no sense, this inkling will be a glaring, obvious deal-breaker for any professional editor or agent. You need to iron out all those wrinkles, all those inklings before you send it out, no matter how long it takes. Have deadlines, but be flexible. Use a deadline as a motivator to keep writing, but be willing to extend it.
What’s another week, another month, another year if it means the difference between great work and mediocre work? Take your time, and always listen to the voice inside your head.
Connect with the Author on his website: http://www.mattmayr.com/ or on Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
Thank you, Matt, for sharing this experience with us! If you enjoyed the post, make sure to like, comment, and share on Social Media. Also, subscribe to my newsletter to get a Free e-book that will help you grow your Twitter platform, and receive monthly updates and my reading list.