This morning I’m sitting on the porch (much warmer today, thank goodness) drinking Arnold Palmers (leave a comment if you know what those are) with Author S. Evan Townsend. We’re discussing what he’s learned along his writing journey. Let’s listen in:
Over the years I’ve been writing I’ve learned a lot about, well, writing. No just the mechanics of it, the grammar, spelling, avoiding -ly words, and show don’t tell, but how to actually write.
You will talk to people and they say “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write. I have this story idea . . .” At which point I say “And what have you written?” The answer is nearly invariably “Nothing.” Then I don’t think they want to be a writer, they just want to dream about being a writer.
If you are going to be a writer, then you have to do one simple thing: write. “But it’s no good,” you worry. Doesn’t matter: write. Your first draft will be crap. Doesn’t matter, write it. You can’t improve your first draft if you don’t have a first draft written.
I’ve been known to say (a lot) “Just keep writing.” Different writers have different styles or methods. Some make it up as they go along (called “pantsers” or “discovery writers”). Some plot out every detail before they start typing a word (“plotters”). Some combine the two. It doesn’t matter how you write. It matters that you write.
So just keep writing and fix it later.
For example, in my latest novel, Gods of Strife, I introduced a new female character. This is what I wrote the first time:
“I’d often heard the cliché ‘face of an angel’ but in this case it appeared literally true.”
And I hated it. But I didn’t sit there for hours trying to get it right in the first draft. I didn’t let it cause writer’s block. I simply left it like that and kept going and wrote the rest of the novel.
But it gnawed at me. In the second draft phase, I changed it to:
“Her features were china-doll delicate, as if she would shatter if touched without care. Fair skin almost the color of freshly-fallen snow seemed flawless, without a mark or freckle.”
Much better! And if I hadn’t written that first awful version, I wouldn’t have this version.
But I still wasn’t satisfied. During another self-edit I finally changed it to:
“Her features were china-doll delicate, as if she would shatter when first touched without care. Fair skin almost the color of freshly-fallen snow seemed flawless, without a mark or freckle.”
I changed “if touched” to “when first touched.” And I really like that description, now.
The point being, I wouldn’t have had that lovely description, I wouldn’t have had a book, I wouldn’t have had anything if I had let my own bad writing stop me.
So just keep writing.
Thank you, Sheldon! That is the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think I’d add having patience to that as well. Take your time and get it right!
Thanks for joining me this fine day. You can find out more about Sheldon on my Porch Guests page.