The 3rd Annual Write Fifteen Minutes a Day Challenge has reached its last day. We made it!
How did you do?
If you did not write every day this month, do me a favor. Instead of beating yourself up, or lining up the excuses why you failed despite the best of intentions, take that energy and turn it into writing. Today. If you messed up, it’s water under the bridge. No worries. Start over.
I saved some of the hardest writing questions I received for last.
How do I weed out the “fluff”, to see the forest for the trees, so to speak, no matter how awesome the fluff may be?
It’s very hard. Putting your manuscript away for six months can sometimes help, if you can steel yourself not to look at it. When you finally take it out, you will have laser vision for the fluff.
How do you know when a story is worth the time of others for a critique?
You don’t. You take a leap of faith and ask the members of your critique group to be gentle.
How do you maintain confidence when success rate is like 0.1%????
If you quit, your success rate is guaranteed to be 0%. Which odds do you like better?
All three of these questions touch on a central element of the writing process.
It is uncomfortable to have this writing dream and not know what to do with it. So you try your hand at crafting a few chapters and they suck and that’s uncomfortable, too. So you try a different story or you revise what you’ve written, and while you might see some improvement, for the most part, reading what you’ve written is akin to dancing in hellfire. It usually takes years of work to write that first book that is good enough to be published. That is a very long time to be in discomfort.
This is one of the many, many reasons writing is like running.
Runners know a great deal about discomfort. (After yesterday’s run, I feel I might know more than most.)
It doesn’t matter if you are Olympic caliber or that funny-looking lady who shuffles down the street singing loudly (that would be me), if you are trying to run faster or run a longer distance, you are going to have endure some discomfort.
Notice I did not say pain. There is a world of difference between actual pain (hamstring tear) and discomfort (tender hamstrings from extra mileage). The runner learns to identify the difference if she wants to continue to move forward.
Writers must do the same thing. You have to live with the discomfort of less-than-perfect 24/7 if you are a writer. Even if you write a book that is published, you will probably have paragraphs in it that eventually make you cringe. Or you’ll look back at in 5 years and you’ll be stunned that people read it, because you are five years older and wiser and you have a new bunch of writing techniques that are sharp and shiny in your tool belt.
When you sit down to write, greet your discomfort like it is a slightly annoying office mate who smells. Stay upwind, if at all possible. You don’t want to engage this person in conversation because then you’ll hear about his diabetic gerbils and the bugs in his walls and the transmission issues in his car and… and… and… Grab your coffee, rush back to your desk and keep your head in your writing.
Singing loudly helps, too.
“The first draft is a skeleton–just bare bones. It’s like the very first rehearsal of a play, where the director moves the actors around mechanically to get a feel of the action. Characters talk without expression. In the second draft, I know where my characters are going, just as the director knows where his actors will move on the stage. But it’s still rough and a little painful to read. By the third draft, the whole thing is taking shape. I have enough glimmers from the second draft to know exactly what I want to say. There may be two or three more drafts after the third to polish it up. But the third is the one where it all comes together for me.” Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Set… pretend it is the first day, not the last
For the love of all that is holy, write out the creative dream that is in your heart.