I often do blank-sheet evaluations of my writing (and my life) by literally covering the kitchen table with a piece of chart paper and scribbling ideas, lists, and figures on it.
This time, I just tried to remember who I was when I first got serious about writing, and then imagine what I’d tell that person if I had the chance. (The naive perspective often breaks away the preconceptions and reveals something fresh and new. Perhaps that the emperor has no clothes.) I formulated my advice without reference to previous posts, but I’ve dug through and found links where they were available. I hope those provide enough to pursue tips of interest for anyone who might need them.
- Imagine the audience for the work. If possible, think of one individual (not yourself). This will add specificity and make decisions easier.
- Be extreme. Going too far can be fixed in the rewrite. It’s easier to pull back than to get crazier.
- Write more than you need. It’s easier to cut than to embellish.
- For any big project (novel, screenplay), create a list early on (by the third chapter for a novel) of why you MUST finish this project.
- If it stops feeling fun, find a part of the project that you can enjoy and stick with it for a while.
- Purposely experiment with at least three scenes you won’t use for each major work. This will force you to look at new options.
- Stick to your Work In Progress until you get to “The End.” This means, for five days a week and fifteen minutes each day, text is added to the manuscript, moving it to completion. Don’t quit until it’s finished and you have a story. Even if it’s so bad it makes you squirm. No dithering.
- Set a timer. It makes a great starting gun for a writing sprint.
- Don’t rewrite along the way (looping). Get the story out.
- Find your pivotal scene(s). The climax would be one, but any big scenes (at the ends of acts, ends of sequences) may have concepts that suggest exploration.
- Know what you need to write the next day.
Drafting is about telling as story you love to someone you imagine would love it just as much. With a lot of forgiveness thrown in.
Next time, I'll look at revision advice for the callow youth I once was.