23 November

First Page, First Line - Just Tell the Story...

Deep in the forest... tents are pitched around a crackling bonfire. Those who you love and trust are sitting on logs, eyes sparking, as they anticipate your story.

You lean forward, with eager eyes, and say one word.

Then, you say, "No, scratch that." And then you utter a whole sentence.

Then, you say, "No, I didn't mean that. I meant this."

And through your umpteen restarts, everyone has yawned, stretched, shook their heads in disgust, and gone to their tents.

Story time by YOU ended before it ever began.

Would you tell a campfire story that way? Nope. You wouldn't. You would just start to talk and keep talking until the story ended.

So, why should you start any story in that confounded way? There's no reason at all.

~~~

You've obviously seen your story unfold in your mind's eye. Simply tell it. Hit the keyboard. Imagine those loved one's sitting around you, and type out your story. No fitful starts. To take backs. Just begin typing what you see, and worry much, much later how it looks.

Too many new writers obsess about articles that push the need for that perfect first line, that perfect first page, and that anything less will make you a literary failure, to the point you freeze your mind and become incapable of telling that story at all.

Do you seriously think sculptors re-affix their chiselled-off pieces?

Do you think painters paint that first brush stroke, then, ad nauseam, keep wiping it off?

At some point, you have to trust your brain, your own imagination, and your ability to tell a story.

What you should wipe from your brain, if anything at all, are those so-called article experts giving you mental fits about creating that perfect beginning.

Art is messy. It's undefined. It has to be attempted, roughed out, before it can ever be refined.

Heck, come that last page where you type, The End, your outlook on the beginning of your tale maybe vastly altered from what you foresaw months, years ago, so why obsess at the beginning when your literary journey has only begun?

Don't. Just don't. STOP obsessing. Seriously.

Write what your mind's eye sees. Get it down on the page. Write one scene, then the next, and keep writing until you type, The End.

Your goal right now is to be able TO write, and finish that book. Don't let others mess with your vision, your creativity or your confidence by what they "think" you need to do.

HOMEWORK: 

a) If you're just starting out to write your book, write that first line, that first page, without thinking. Tell that campfire story. 

b)If you're past the first page, STOP returning to it and changing it. Write on. That so-called perfection can come after you've written, The End. (Spoiler Alert: Mr. Perfection will never show up. That sucker is always a no-show. Don't put out your fine china for that idiot. He's not worth it.)

16 November

Self-Edit Method - Set, Do, and Forget It...

 

Self-editing...

Oh, have I witnessed some horrendous, excruciating attempts by new writers... 

They pick and prod and backspace and retype and correct and search, and hem and haw... FOREVER. I literally grow old just watching the effort.

I get it. New Writer Doubt. You carry truckloads of that stuff on your shoulders, 24/7. It's a wonder you can pick up a pen at all. How do I know what's on your shoulders? Because I've had that very same pack sack on my back, and in no way does it help you go from draft to donesco with that manuscript.

Here's what you do:

You set a method in stone. You decide that there will be these editing steps you must undertake with each work, and you complete those steps, one step at a time. And when you get to the end of that list, you STOP editing.

I'll type that again...

YOU STOP EDITING. NUFF. NO MORE. ENDSCO. DONESCO. FINITO.

And once you are done, then you hand the manuscript over to a professional editor to gloss. The experience you have with that editor will be a learning curve as steep as climbing Everest, BUT you'll come away from that exercise like a brand-new writer, a GOOD one. You'll thank your lucky stars. Just be careful who you choose. As in anything in life, you get what you pay for.

Back to the Method...

You can arrange the timing/order of these steps however you want, but these steps are non-negotiable, if you want to do this self-edit right and not repeat ad nauseam. And those steps are:

  • an analysis edit of the entire manuscript with a professional program. I recommend Pro Writing Aid. If you're serious about this writing gig, get the lifetime membership. It won't break the bank, but it will save your bacon in all your future edits. In this edit, check for Glue Words, Sticky Sentences, Repeating Words/Phrases, etc. Any weaknesses you know you have as you write drafts. Pro Write has a vast Menu you can choose from as analysis tools.
  • an on-screen reading edit - wherever you stop in your reading or your attention trails off, there's a prob. Fix it.
  • a hard copy print/edit you ROL - Read Out Loud - yes, I know, you don't want to print out your manuscript, but you really should, so you can get away from that screen and see the book in a whole new light. And when you ROL it, gaffes will pop out at you like flying popcorn, and you'll wonder what drugs you were on when you wrote the draft! I recommend a hard copy ROL every 30-50 pages until you finish the MS. You CANNOT ignore the ROL, peeps. Yes, I know, it makes you feel like a weirdo. Fun Fact: You're a writer. Of course, you're weird! Now, that we have that settled, ROL, already!

HOMEWORK: Set up your self-edit method today. Arrange the time frame for those steps to suit you and your ability. And go through each until they're all completed, and then DO NO MORE. Seriously, stop it, already. You've done all you can do with that manuscript. Now it's time to hand it off to a pro. And after the pro is done with it, and you've made the appropriate re-writes, that baby is ready to be published! Really, no foolin'!

No more hemming or hawing, or second-guessing.

Your work is done, as done as humanly possible, as any work can be.

Now you have permission to enjoy the fruits of your labors, and start a brand-new work. Huh, fancy that. A second book. Whodathunk?