11 October

Fear of Deleting Words You Fought to Write...

“Practice makes perfect.”

How many times have you heard your parents say that?

For me, that saying was right up there with, “We’ll do that (exciting thing) one day.”

And “No, we can’t wrap up your uneaten pork chop and send it to Africa to feed the hungry.”

Okay, yeah, I have parental issues.


What I’m trying to say here is that the first adage above is, sadly, right, and right with just about any endeavor you take on, especially when you write and then have to delete what you’ve written because those words were wrong… for the thesis, short story or book.

I get it.

You say, “But B.J., I fought like heck to get those words down on paper. It took me days, weeks, months to get up the courage to hit that keyboard with all I had, and now some prof or editor or best friend (the latter may be stripped of their ‘best’ classification) says that passage just doesn’t work.”

I know, dear weaver of words… I know.

You’ve missed the boat.

Your porch light is on but nobody’s home.

You’re a literary Christmas light string with dead bulbs.

And, for extras, you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.

(Oops, sorry, about that last bit… I have school yard issues, too…)


Here’s the deal, the reality check, the drinking of the plain truth java: If it takes a million words to get good at wordsmithing, it takes two million deleted words to get to that million.

I hear your groans and gags. Your disdainful spittle is hitting my face (need a washcloth, brb).

Yep. I know. You hate me now. Line up. Bring snacks. You’re not alone.


But there’s Good News!

The more you delete, the better you get at recognizing good sentences when you do write them, and over time, the keep pile grows as the delete pile shrinks.

The best way to go through these literary Growing Pains: don’t fall in love with those words you plunk down on the page.

Think of writing this way >>> if I weaved words once, I can do it again!


Do knitters when they drop a stitch, give up on that scarf?

Do welders when the solder bead doesn’t take, abandon that plumbing job?


Nope and nope. You know that.

Knitters keep on knitting. Welders keep on welding. And writers need to keep on writing.


And the more practice you get, the better you get. (See how I knitted and welded that first sentence way up there, all the way to here. Aren’t I a smart cookie. (It only took me forever.))


Those fought-for words aren’t divine. You only think they are because of the effort it took to weave them. You don’t need to become attached. It just feels like you should because that first attempt was so hard, took so long, and drained you mentally and emotionally.

But there will come a day in the not-too-distant future where the difficulty will ebb. It happens in an almost imperceptible way. The correct sentence structure will become more exacting, and the true meaning will shine through. But it will happen only through a ton of deletion. And the faster you delete those icky words, the faster you rewrite, and the faster you begin to keep a few.  

When I write, I delete or hit the back button without a thought. I know that first sentence attempt wasn’t right, so I delete and hit the keys again, and I’ll have a new take before my brain realizes I deleted the old. No muss, no fuss, no divorce papers.

Confidence: Knowing you can hit those keys again and again until you get it right. Knowing there's no word limit on your keyboard or inside your head. Realizing that plunking out bad sentences AIDS me in creating good ones. I wonder sometimes if I’m more of a wheat farmer than a writer for all the chaff I have to discard in favor of finding and keeping the wheat.

HOMEWORK: Drop the notion that if it took you blood, sweat and tears to write that first sentence, it’ll take the same to write another. It won’t. You NEED practice. For your next project, DELETE those icky words WITHOUT A THOUGHT. Do it. Hit that delete key. Punch that back button. The next keys you hit after that WILL BE BETTER. I promise you.

Look at it this way: Save the word marriage for later. Right now, you’re word dating. If those literary princes turn into sentence frogs, toss those croaking suckers, and keep plunking until you find that prince.


I’m putting this out here as food for thought: With the advent of supersonic jets and dry ice, children everywhere across North America should look into shipping their uneaten pork chops to Africa. I think it can be done. Just sayin’.

16 August

Visualize to Maximize Your Writer Words...

Skiing - you head down the slope without thinking about how you will guide your skis around the curves.

Tennis - you head onto the court, not knowing how your racket will meet the ball.

Cooking - you throw a bunch of ingredients in the pan, having no idea what the dish is supposed to be.

I could go on and on, and on, couldn't I? You know me by now. Oh, yes, I can...

Why then, as a teller of tales, would you not at least attempt to visualize the story before you pound the keys or put pen to paper?

This laissez-faire, carefree, attitude about writing a story has always baffled me, and if I'm brutally honest, is why writer's block is a thing for certain scribes.

There's a cure to that writer's block scourge. You want the cure?

It's stop writing and start imagining.

Whoa... heavy, huh? Astrophysicists everywhere are shaking in their pocket protector adorned button down shirts!

Yep, you read me right. Step away from that keyboard. Put down that pen. And conjure up your story world and your characters and the stakes which face them. Mind Craft, peeps. It's the pro writer's best friend.


Getty Images

I talk often about how Ian Flemming would lie on the beach in Jamaica and mind map the entire plot of his next James Bond book. Then, he'd amble up to his cottage, pour himself a Vesper Martini and pound the keys like the secretary he was because the story was already sewn in his mind. All he had to do was pound the keys.

I probably cite Flemming's process, a) because I'm jealous of his later life idyllic writer setting in Jamaica, and b) because it just makes sense. (P.S. He deserved all the paradise he could find after his heroic efforts to win the war, just saying...)

Ian knew there was nothing to type until there was a tale to tell.

He didn't need anything but peace and quiet any one of us can find, sans Jamaica, to weave a plot and inject the characters with their strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and stakes on the line. The Bond books were luscious From Here To There adventure tales, with handsome guys, sexy women and evildoers. Just add 1/2 ounce Lillet blanc aperitif, STIRRED, not shaken.

He knew he couldn't leave that beach — half suntanning, half dozing — until the story deed was done and dusted, and he had something to tell.

He visualized to maximize his time in the writer chair. That's simply what he did.

Yes... and then there are pantsers.... *enter horror movie muzak...*

There are two type of pantsers: 1) those who write themselves into vast plot black holes and edit those hopeless drafts until the cows come home; and 2) those who claim they write in the moment but have subconsciously plotted out the tales in their mind, beforehand.

Most pantsers are sadly No. 1

Ian Flemming was No. 2. And so should you be.

You don't need to be a disciplined plotter, but you do need to be a disciplined visualizer.

You need to experience the scenes with all your senses.

You should emotionally feel those scenes. If you don't emote — laugh, cry, rage, arouse — why would your reader?

HOMEWORK: For your next scene in your book, the one which has you stumped, thinking you are covered in Writer's Block bacteria, go somewhere peaceful and let your mind act out that scene. This is not the time to type or write. This is the time to imagine. And don't leave the conjuring until you can "see" the entire scene — its arc — beginning, middle and end.

Writers are conjurers, first. That is how most of us began our story telling, being kids and imagining all sorts... while swinging on swings in a park or picking daisies in a field or people watching at a grown-up party. We conjured the What Ifs that amused us. Why, oh why, should we stop that time-tested story-weaving magic now?

Stop. Drop. And roll your way to an Ian Fleming-like idyllic spot and get to The End in your mind before plunking out the Once Upon a Time on the paper.

It'll work. And if it doesn't, you've found a great place to chill and sip a new martini!

19 July

How Writing Every Day Made Me a Better Person...


If you think becoming a full time writer is all about typing words onto a page, and nothing more, you’re missing the literary boat.

Writing every day makes you a better person. Seriously.

Writing, whether fiction or non, is 80% psychological, 10% skill, 10% practice.

Anyone tell you any different, and they’re lying.

It takes a vision for your future, determination to undertake that vision and true grit on the days that the writing comes about as easily as walking through Flanders Field mud as the WWI bombs are dropping all around you.

How Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel Jon McCrae, managed to pen In Flanders Fields amid all the blood and death and filth and rats and bombs is anyone’s guess. Think of Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae when you decide to moan about your writing day.