Writing Mis-Advice Reported as Facts #3
Number three in my mis-advice, and this one’s probably going to be a bit controversial. But all five relate to each in some way.
Give yourself permission to write crap.
First, I do get the principle behind his particular piece of advice. It’s “Don’t let yourself get bogged down by trying to be perfect.” Some writers will write the first chapter, think it sucks, toss it away, and start a new chapter, then toss that away, too because it isn’t perfect. I saw a writer do exactly this and never write anything.
The problem with the advice is the word “crap.” Most writers start out thinking their writing is terrible. It’s hard thing to overcome because we’re bombarded with so many messages about not being good enough. I had to get off the writing message boards because I kept hearing the negativity of “you’re going to screw it up anyway” and every other writer saying, “My writing is crap.”
If anyone starts typing in the comments that their writing IS terrible, stop and think why you’re saying that
Open with a hook.
This is focusing on the words and not on the story. Story is what sells.
Your first sentence has to stand out.
Also is focusing on the words and not on the story. Story is what sells.
Leave out the boring parts.
What does that mean?! Unfortunately, it tends to mean to leave the description out, which causing the next problem …
Revise, revise, revise. It’s where the true book comes out.
First, I’m defining revision as it applies to this piece of advice as finishing the book, and then going back and taking it apart by piece by piece, fixing big picture items like the entire plot, messed up characterization, or that the setting has been completely left out.
I’ve found that this is a terrible piece of advice. If the true book doesn’t come out on the first draft, I really screwed it up and no amount of revision will fix it. Worse, if I left something as major as setting out of the entire book, then the book is unrecoverable (I’ve had one like that).
The problem, I think, is computers.
I was in the Army right went we first got computers. We printed slides on paper and then copied them on transparencies. We learned to get it right on those slides. Now, because the slides are shown live, presenters continually tweak and make changes to those slides, even five minutes before giving the presentation.
So, with a novel, it’s easy to say, “I can’t figure how to do this, so I’ll leave it for the revision.” Because the computer makes it easy to go back and tweak files. I know. I remember saying that on a novel instead of stopping to work through the problem or go back and try something different. That single decision made a massive revision because it connected to other parts of the story.
So, picture this then, borrowing old technology: You’re on a manual typewriter, and you can only do one draft because it’s awful typing and takes forever. How would you change your approach to writing so you didn’t have to make major revisions like what I described above?
This is what the pulp writers did, by the way. They got so much per word and didn’t get paid for the revisions.