Ann, not Annie, is tired of her nominal existence and has vowed to turn things around by dating the hottest guy in school, Jacob Waters. Easier said than done since Jacob isn’t even aware she exists. The truth is, due to Ann’s lively temper she spends more time in detention with the rest of the school rejects than she does fantasizing about Jacob Waters wearing spandex.
8 Things you wish every writer would know by Sage Steadman
- Your book is going to change drastically between your first draft and your last.
So, I watch a lot of Frozen these days on account of having twin three-year-old daughters. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it was a big deal when it came out, not just because of the catchy tune, but because they didn’t follow the typical Disney princess story line. Or did they? I’m a curious person so I researched it one day and I discovered that in the first drafts of the story, Elsa was essentially a typical villain. She originally didn’t have the dynamic story line or conflicted inner struggle that ends up leading her to sing the very popular song that will not be named or it will be stuck in my head the rest of the day. Essentially, if the first draft of the screenplay hadn’t undergone any revisions, we wouldn’t have all fallen in love with the story and Disney would have had a major box-office flop.
When you sit down to write the first draft the key is to just get it out of you. Don’t overthink it. Always plan on doing rewrites. New inspirations and insights will come in time.
- Don’t talk about what you’re writing.
The fastest way to kill your creative flow is to talk about your unfinished projects. Most people have this idea that if they share their goals it will put some sort of obligatory pressure on them to complete them. Maybe that works with some things, but creativity doesn’t like that. If you want to complete a writing project, don’t talk about it until you’re at least finished with the first draft. And then, I’d only talk about it with people who will be helping you edit and rewrite it.
- Clear your head before you write.
I see a lot of writers who spend a lot of time engaged in other activities when they wish they were writing, not because they don’t have the time, but because their brain no-worky when they sit down to write. I find the best thing to do for that is to clear my head. If you already have a system in place that works, then use it. I sometimes meditate, listen to music, go for a walk, or do some stream-of-consciousness journaling. I find that that last one tends to help me the most. I spend a few minutes before I write just allowing whatever random thought is floating around in my head to come out and then when I’m done with my emotional word vomit, getting in the flow of writing is easy peasy.
- You need input if you’re going to get output.
I always read that if you want to be a good writer you need to read. I’d agree with that. Reading always improves my writing. I also like to go to museums, movies, plays, or art shows. I find connecting in with anything creative can help me write better.
- Only get advice from people who can offer constructive criticism.
Some people are brutal when giving feedback. We all have to endure that first hump of someone telling us that we suck, but I find that non-creative types tend to be the most critical. When you’re in the revising stages of a document you really don’t want to hand it off to a beta reader. Wait until you’re closer to publishing. Beta readers who are non-creative types can be very helpful in a lot ways, but in the beginning you want someone who is creative and good at criticism, helping you. A creative person will be able to see your vision and offer constructive criticism on how to get there. A non-creative beta reader is simply going to tell you what they like and don’t like and it’s not always going to feel nice.
- Kill your darlings.
Ah, the old saying. I don’t think you can truly be a writer without understanding this because it will happen. You will write something so inspired and beautiful and be told again and again that it’s just not working. It’s a lot easier for me to delete things now then it used to be. I find that fledging artists often say, “They just don’t get it,” when someone offers them negative feedback. And maybe there is something to that. If the critic is not your target audience, and it’s just one person’s opinion, then just assuming they don’t “get me” might work. But remember it’s your job as the writer to make sure your audience gets you and what you’re trying to create. Creativity is so beautiful and broad, but in order for it to be digestible for your audience it often needs to be reigned in and managed in the rewrites. Finding someone who you can trust and who can help you with this is sometimes needed if you have a hard time doing it on your own. You need to be able to fulfill your vision, be innovative, but not too innovative, or you’ll lose the audience. It’s a tough thing to pull off, but when someone does pull it off, it’s pure magic.
- Hire a professional.
I’ve been guilty of not wanting to do this and seen others do the same. You’ve read your document so many times you’re certain there aren’t any problems with it. (There are, your brain is just correcting them as you read). You can ask for help from family or friends, or a friend of a friend, or an English major, but I find they’re will always be errors that end up haunting you. Especially if you’re self-published. You don’t need perfection. I haven’t even found that with big publication houses, but if there are a lot of grammar, spelling issues that get missed it’s going to affect how people experience the book. My creative self does not care about grammar (as some of you who are reading this may have noticed), so I benefit greatly from hiring a professional whose brain works that way.
- Enjoy the creative journey.
Remember writing is about the joy you experience in creating. Having readers connect with it is wonderful, but it will never feel as good as it feels to discover and tell an untold story that exists in your heart.
I think Amy Poehler summed it up perfectly when she said: “Your career is a bad boyfriend. It will never pay enough attention to you. It will always be mean to you…I just want to make the distinction between career and creativity. Because creativity is the thing that you love to do. And creativity is what makes you feel warm and fed. It’s like a wonderful Hispanic woman who laughs at all your jokes…she hugs you and she makes you delicious food. That’s what you should search out.”
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