The process of writing a book (4/6): Fill the gaps

All right, we’ve got our concept, our theme, and our structure. Now it’s time to fill the gaps. And the gaps between the gaps.

The best advice I can give you is to pick a piece of paper, sketch a normal distribution curve and identify the main parts of your structure. Every story has some major events along every act, so get the ones you did when you worked on the structure and write them down. Not just the three-act structure, but also the Hero’s journey.

Now, do you see the gaps in between each event? It’s time to fill them. Fill them on instinct. Don’t worry if you don’t get them right, just fill them.

What’s going to happen is that you don’t know how to fill all the gaps–that’s okay. Fill the ones you can and let your subconscious work on the rest of them.

Once you have your sketch, now it’s time to write your first draft. But before you get down to work, you need to keep in mind some important points:

  1. The first draft is for you. Nobody has to read that one but you. It’s okay if it’s sloppy.
  2. You don’t have to work on your story in order. Sometimes you start writing from the beginning to end. But there will be times where you will start at the end, or the middle–don’t fight it.
  3. Get to the end as fast as possible. When you take too much time you start doubting everything. Get it done, fast, on instinct. You’ll have time to edit, discard and add new stuff on the second draft.

The thing about rushing the first draft is that, once you finish it, it won’t matter how sloppy it looks because your book will be there. Your book is in that first draft, so the only thing you need to do afterwards is to polish it.

I’m going to emphasize this again: do not worry about the quality of your first draft. Think in multiple drafts–chances are you’ll have several (a bunch) of drafts.

And by the way, forget about research on your first draft. Once you enter into the writing process you’re not allowed to do research. Maybe just a book or two, no more. Research is seductive, and it can become a way to procrastinate. You’ll have time to do research once you’ve completed your first draft.

Before I leave, keep this in mind: work, work, work. Work is the only thing standing between you and your final book. Go.