Writers Advice #3

In writer forums I have run across many novice writers who say they have a story but struggle with composing it.  They write it down and read through it and throw it away.

This leads to writer’s advice #3: “Writing is a process not instant perfection.”

My heart goes out to the young writers throwing away every draft.  Please stop judging your ideas so severely.  Most art manifests through a process, and writing is an art form benefitting from a lengthy process.  The story is sparked by an idea.  An author might know where it will end, a framework of the plot, and a few characters.  I’ve never met a writer who instantly knew each and every character, or their story cover to cover, first act to final, exactly what they would write.  I would be overwhelmed if one of my stories was one hundred percent in my head all at one time.  I am very content to see it bit-by-bit, scene-by-scene.  When you see the scene, follow it, write it and don’t judge it.  If the next scene in your mind doesn’t make any sense or flow sequentially with the last scene you wrote, that’s okay.  Keep going, write it down and trust you will flush out the details later.

“I know some things when I start. I know, let’s say, that the play is going to be a 1970s or a 1930s play, and it’s going to be about a piano, but that’s it. I slowly discover who the characters are as I go along.” – August Wilson

I’m a bad speller.  I own this, and I don’t care anymore I have this flaw.  I also don’t think about sentence structure and grammar when I am writing.  My spelling and grammar has gotten better with practice and time, but it will never be natural for me. I don’t think about these things when I write.  I care about the story, and the character.  Those drive me as a writer.  I could care less about word order, commas, and proper spelling.  If those are missing or mixed up in my draft I’m not worried.  It’s going to get flushed out and fixed up as I edit. If I miss it in the next draft, this doesn’t bother me either. Later in the process my draft will be in the hands of the right people who will help me fix all of my technical errors.  I’m blessed with a husband, friends, and Beta readers who have a talent for the technical.  Then later in my process I pay good money to collaborate with a professional editor.  Be the master of the story, and don’t let technical conventions hold you back.  Even the best writers have a process that involves working with technical and editing guru’s.  A good writer is not above eliciting help polishing their work.

If you are the writer who has a talent for the technical, hours of your time might be lost to formatting and sentence structure. You might benefit by letting some of this go. Stop thinking, let go, and let your story make it to the page.

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“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” -Ron Bradbury

Work on the pretty prose when your manuscript is done.  All the time you are spending fiddling with one sentence could be better spent flushing out an entire draft.  It is vain and ignorant to think your first draft will be one step away from perfection, great enough to publish when you are done. Sure there are writing savants out there, but I’ve never encountered one who worked off of a process that did not include several drafts.