The blank sheet of paper (I just wrote “blank sheet of failure”) is scary. It comes with an implied message that you, sir, ain’t manly enough to fill me with anything of quality.
Ignore it. A dozens of pages of embarrasing scrawl in your notebook may be humbling, but those pages are also tangible results of your work. Retreat from your desk with nothing in hand and the blank paper will be smirking behind your back before the door’s clicked shut.
Here’s my motto:
YOU CAN’T WRITE SOMETHIN’ IF YOU DON’T WRITE NOTHIN’.
Want to write something of quality? Get ready to murder some trees, because until you start filling pages with something-anything!, you will never achieve quality.
Take ‘er away, Chuck.
“You’ve got a million bad drawings in you; you better get started.”
― Chuck Jones
I’m a big fan of Julia Cameron’s practice of writing out 3 pages longhand every day. I don’t always do it perfectly, mind, but its purpose is to get you over the fear of writing bad, or the fear of “not having anything to say.”
As Seth Godin points out over on his blog, no one ever gets “Talker’s Block”!
As an author, your job is to
ruin complicate fictional lives. This is a way to do it.
In writing a scene recently, I saw 2 choices my character could make. The first one was The Smart Choice (don’t give your blood to untrustworthy magical lady X). The Wrong Choice (give your blood to untrustworthy magical lady X so she can create a magical entity that should kill off untrustworthy magical lady Y! Also untrustworthy magical lady X HAS YOUR BLOOD ON-HAND should she ever need it in the future for her own diabolical purposes!) was a choice that would introduce a lot of fun story mayhem and be very interesting to write !
Now, I’m a firm believer in allowing your character to make stupid mistakes, wrong choices, misunderstand others, etc., because perfect characters who never make mistakes are boring.
So I was a little nervous when I wrote the scene and saw the character taking The Smart Choice. when I tried to visualize the character taking The Wrong Choice, it wouldn’t flow–it was too out-of-character for him.
BUT THEN something else fun introduced itself. When my lead character made the smart choice, he did it in such a spazzy way that he alarmed and alienated all his colleagues and he made his boss extra suspicious of him!
The moral of this story? When your character won’t make a stupid decision, it’s OK for him to make a smart decision in an incredibly stupid way.
I’m wrapping up edits to my latest short-story. It’s been a while since I’ve edited anything outside of a classroom environment and I’m coming to realize that I’m harder to please than any teacher. I’m working on the fifth and final draft.
Before that I had:
- the handwritten draft, the typed version of the written draft (known as the “first draft”)
- the “aha, typoes-are-gone-let’s-send-it-off-to-my-Friendly-Readers” draft
- the post-Friendly Reader draft
and the dreaded
- “I read it all. OUT LOUD. To myself.” draft.
I’ve long heard that a project is never done, it is only abandoned (because hey, as long as you’re noodling on it, you don’t have to deliver anything)…so I was getting nervous. Was I, in fear of releasing this weirdo story into the world, noodling on this? Would I know the right time to call it finished?
Then Seth Godin posted How do you know when it’s done?, a useful post about this very topic!
It’s very useful if you’re a perfectionist (like me!).
My good writing pal Subs sent me this link (which happens to come from my favorite magazine of all time, Mental_Floss).
The first video shows Vonnegut diagramming some basic stories. The second lists his rules for writing a good short story.
View ’em at the Mental_Floss homepage! http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/89331
Draw? Write? Something else?
You’ve got to read this post, How to Steal Like an Artist.