How To Speed Through Your Novel’s Second Draft Like A Concert Pianist

Well, readers, good news: I’ve met my deadline for the year, and the second draft of my novel is finally finished! Yay!


Here’s the new tally:

Life: 0

Ollin: 2

And now for my annual celebratory walk. (This may take a moment.)

Booyah! Take that life! Ha! Thought you had me this time, but you didn’t, did you? Oooooh. Who’s laughing now?

Hey, Life… did you just get a diploma?

No? Oh, that’s weird because–YOU JUST GOT SCHOOLED!


Rufio-oh! Rufi-oh! Rufi-ooooooooooooooooooooooh!

Okay. Enough of that.

Let’s get to the part where I share with you a little life lesson.

How To Speed Through Your Novel’s Second Draft Like A Concert Pianist

Have you ever seen a concert pianist?

Have you ever noticed that a concert pianist never “stumbles” through the music they’re playing? No, instead of stumbling, they glide through the music. Concert pianists don’t resist. Instead, they remove everything that blocks them, they endure long years of intensive practice, and they marry their passion with their skill–and that marriage is what creates the wonderful music you hear.

Now, after I finished my second draft, I found that getting over my resistance to writing was actually the hardest part of the writing process. But, when I finally got past this resistance, I landed in a place where I could write as smooth and as graceful as a concert pianist.

Here are three ways in which resistance gets in the way of your writing, and how, if you blast through this resistance, you, too, can glide through your writing just like a concert pianist glides through the music.

1. Remove All Blocks and Allow Your Passion To Flow Through

Imagine yourself as a high-speed car going 100 miles per hour. You’re zigging, you’re zagging, you’re having fun. Then, suddenly, you noticed you’re approaching a small speed bump. You slow down your speed from 100 mph, all the way down to 25 mph. Now that you’re at 25 mph, you see more speed bumps down the road, including other obstructions that appear to be much bigger than mere speed bumps. So, you slow down even more. You go from 10 mph to 5 mph–until you bring your car to a full and complete stop. You can’t go forward anymore because too much is blocking your way.

That “complete stop” is what happens to writers when they’re experiencing writer’s block. And writer’s block is simply a form of resistance.

Of course resistance comes in all different kinds of shapes and sizes. Some forms of resistance take on the shape of a tortoise slowly crossing the road (like a Facebook addiction.) Some forms of resistance take on the shape of massive boulders making travel almost impossible (like an alcohol addiction). Some blocks are serious traffic accidents that bring you to a complete stop (like a divorce). But no matter what they are, all speed bumps, tortoises, boulders, or traffic accidents are just different types of resistance. Because, in the end, they all serve only one purpose for you:

They stop you from writing.

So how do you speed through the writing process as smoothly and gracefully as a concert pianist? We’ll, first you’re going to have to pin point exactly what’s getting in your way. What’s your “speed bump”? What’s your “tortoise crossing the road”? What’s your “massive boulder”? What’s your “traffic accident”?

Is it a family who doesn’t fully support your passion? Is it intense feelings of guilt? Is it an attachment to the end result? Or is it a bit more complex, like an existential crisis?

Whatever it is, realize that it’s all just resistance. Know that you’re perfectly capable, at all times, of going 100 miles per hour–even if the speed bumps down the road make it hard for you to believe that this is so.

2. Give Yourself Time To Become Skilled

The first draft of my novel was torture. It was all very new to me, this novel-writing business, and so I really hadn’t found my rhythm with it yet. There were days when writing was like clawing my eyes out. I simply had no idea how to approach it because I had never done it before. (I had written plays that went on to be produced, but never novels.) So, I made all sorts of mistakes and tried all sorts of dumb things that in retrospect were probably bad ideas.

Although it was incredibly annoying, it was an essential part of the process. This stage is what I will call “The Hump Stage,” and it is only when you pass The Hump Stage that you achieve true skill.

Let’s keep it real: you’re going to feel like a complete idiot during most of your first draft. And I think that’s exactly the point. No one can teach you what you can only learn by doing. If you want to learn how to write a novel, the best way to learn how is to simply go ahead and do it.

Many writers wrongly assume that being in The Hump Stage is proof that they’re not good writers. But I promise you, if you have the passion for writing, you need to keep going until you get past this Hump Stage.

Now, to return to our high-speed car metaphor:  once again, you are a high-speed car. After you’ve cleared the road of speed bumps, you’ve run into a steep hill. (This is The Hump Stage). Now you have to exert more force in order to get over that hill. But there’s so much gravity pulling you down, and, at this point, the other cars are reversing and trying an easier route.

But those cars will have given up too early. You, on the other hand, need to keep on pushing, you need to keep on driving up that hill. Because at a certain point–you won’t even notice until you’ve passed it–you’ll find yourself at the other side of that hill. Once you’re over that hill, you’ll find yourself driving twice as fast as before–200 mph now!  Past that point, you won’t have to exert as much force as you did before.

That is how it feels when you passed The Hump Stage, and that is how I felt near the end of my second draft.

3. Marry Your Skill With Your Passion… By Letting Go Of Your Mind

Once we allow our passion to flow freely through us, we’re in a great place. But passion still isn’t enough. We need to match this passion with skill. So we train, we study our craft, we work with mentors who guide us, then we practice, practice, practice. This practice happens during The Hump Stage, and after The Hump Stage, we acquire skill. But even though we’ve become passionate and skilled, we still have one barrier left:  our mind.

To help explain what I mean, let’s go back to you as that high-speed car:

When your mind sees that you’re going at 200 mph, faster than the 25 mph it has been comfortable with so far, it starts to panic.

As you travel down this new road without speed bumps, or steep hills, you start to jerk around. Your engine starts, then stops suddenly. You turn around in circles, then you reverse, then you turn around again, and go forward once more. You’re doing this because, unlike before, you’re completely in your control now. You can’t hide behind external writing blocks, or your “lack of skill,” anymore. So, desperate to cling to anything that will allow you to slow down to a more “comfortable” pace, YOU start putting on the brakes.

How do you put on the brakes? You allow your mind to take over.

Your mind is an expert at finding some reason–any reason–to slow you down, even if there’s no reason to slow down.

Many writers give up here, as well. For these writers, without any writing blocks, and without the constant (but validating) pressure of trying to make it through The Hump Stage, having complete control over their novel’s fate becomes too scary. They almost kinda liked it when stuff was always getting in their way, or when they were desperately trying to achieve a certain level of skill–not knowing whether they’d achieve it or not.

But these writers shouldn’t be afraid. They just need to learn one more lesson:  how to marry their Passion with their Skill.

How do you marry your Passion with your Skill? It’s simple.

Take your mind out of the picture. 

Stop listening to your mind, and simply start to trust that your Skill and your Passion, together, will get you where you need to go. When you allow your Skill and Passion to marry each other, they create the kind of effortlessness you see concert pianists exhibit when they’re on stage.

Once you let go of your mind, you’ll find that your passion already knows where to go, and your skill knows exactly how to get you there. All you need to do is sit back, and enjoy the music.

much love,


What helps you glide effortlessly through your writing, or your life? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!

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13 comments on “How To Speed Through Your Novel’s Second Draft Like A Concert Pianist

  1. Great post, Ollin. And you are right! I did, at times, feel like a complete idiot during my first draft. I did NaNoWriMo this year and finished with 50,000+ words. I then started to re-read it and after a few shudders, heard somewhere (Stephen King I think) to just throw it in a drawer.

    Second draft starts in January!

  2. Christina says:

    I love the analogies!

    I just have one thing to add – according to loads of bestselling authors, writing doesn’t get easy, it’s not effortless. Each book is different, some harder. And I think no one ever stops learning the craft.

    Have a great week:))

    • Ollin says:

      Hey Christina,

      There are three stages I mention here. The first where you are blocked, the second where you must practice your craft, and the third where you marry skill and passion. The first two, as I mentioned, acquire great effort. The last does not.

      I am not saying that the WHOLE writing process is effortless, you can see by my blog that this is not the case. Most of my posts talk about the effort one needs to exert. But I am saying that once you go through 1, 2, 3, writing does become “effortless.”

      Maybe I should have said it acquires the “least of effort”–but to tell you the truth, I would be lying. It does feel like the writing is effortless when I am at stage 3.

  3. spinx says:

    Pheeew………Ollin, Ollin…….Ollin.

    Boy did I need to hear THAT! Right now!

    (By the way…Rufio was really cool ;J)

    Ah, yes- the noobstage.
    I think we all have been there at some point or another. And it sucks- it really, really sucks. You think it gets better after a week, a month maybe? Certainly it can´t last a whole month!?
    But damn it- it can.

    Feeling like a loser is all but special. Especially when you see or read about other people who manage without a sweat. Now THAT sucks. And it bores you, and it hurts your head, and it is no fun- no fun at all.




    Two years ago, I realized one thing (hehehe- I am so smart for realizing so many things! I must be very special.). I am slow. Ohhh yes- I am. A slow learner. Borderline stupid when it comes to some steps- BUT- reaching your superskill the fastest, does not mean a thing!
    It may take me more time, but eventually, I will get there- and we will be even.

    My art sucked for ten years (I´m 25 now)- though at that time I still managed to get some very important basics down. Looking back, I can tell you exactly what stopped me from going somewhere special- somewhere out of ordinary.

    My mind- and idols.

    Yes- working hard is a good thing, but knowing where to put the work, something completely different.


    sorry, sorry- I have to go!!
    Be back later!!

  4. M.E. Anders says:

    I don’t know if I consider “gliding” through my writing the proper term for it. Exploring is more like my process at this stage in my career. I’m also learning how I work best with a writing/reading/researching schedule. It’s a delicate balance for me, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. For me, the journey is the reward.

  5. tashaseegmiller says:

    This was great and something I never thought about, which is really a little ridiculous because I’ve been playing the piano my whole stinkin’ life! Thanks for the post – new follower 🙂

  6. Echoe Jones says:

    This is great, thanks! I found it especially interesting because I actually do both — novel writing and concert piano, and never thought to put one in terms of the other. It’s true that the first time you play through a song, it often sounds terrible, runs painfully slow, and can be frustrating, but you practice through it knowing that eventually you’ll be playing that same piece without a thought, just pure emotion flowing from your fingers to the keys. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to do that with writing.

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