Finishing the first draft

“You gave up what?”

I’ve always been a “write when I can” type of writer. In other words, it took me a long time to get anything done. But back in January, I made a commitment to write every day that month. I was working on the first draft of the YA contemporary novel I’d started last summer, but had put on hold while I revised another book. This seemed like a great time to get the novel done. So I spent January through March committed to writing every day. And except for two or three days each month, it worked. I finished the rough draft the first week of April.

To accomplish that I needed to give up a few things—keeping up with the bills or the laundry—and I only vacuumed when there was so much dog hair that I could knit a sweater. If I knew how to knit. But I digress.

The more I wrote, the easier it was to keep writing. I discovered I could fit in more of those daily activities I had given up. Except for one thing. Reading.

Yes, I know how important it is for a fiction writer to read fiction. My reading in previous years had averaged a book a week. But somehow, I knew I shouldn’t read while working on my current book. I felt terrified that I’d be sucked into someone else’s great story and would feel more pull to read than to write. I only read whatever my critique partners sent me and snippets of published books to see how other writers handled things like point of view or transitions within chapters.

My to-be-read stack. (Not counting ebooks or books I still need to get.)

In those down times, the moments where I normally would have read fiction, I read magazines or watched TV or played four-deck Spider on my cell phone in an attempt to ruin my eyesight. I created new habits. There’s only one problem. I read two books in January as I started this process. It’s now June and I just started the novel I’ll review for the Damsels in August.

I lost the habit of reading. And that just won’t do. Yes, I’ll have to give up watching television shows that are new to me because I didn’t watch them during the spring. And perhaps watch only one episode of MI-5 or Battlestar Galactica a week. But it’ll be worth it. My to-be-read pile is currently a foot high—not counting ebooks—so I have plenty of books ready and waiting.

I have no idea if I’ll give up reading when I write my next book. I’ll have to see what feels right.  So tell me—have you ever given up reading to finish a draft? If not, what things have you given up?

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2 Responses to Finishing the first draft

  1. Pam says:

    I am the exact opposite: if I’m not reading then I’m not writing. I went through a five month period where I had writer’s block and I realized that I wasn’t writing OR reading. I found a good book to get me back in the swing and voila my block was gone!

  2. Tricia says:

    That’s really cool, Pam! I usually read all the time. We’ll see if I can keep reading when I write the next book. 😀

    You also have a couple of little distractions in your house! ❤

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