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Right

What panics a writer more than the daunting idea of writing a full manuscript to the “Done” stage?

#2 of the 3 stages of a manuscript – for writers who want to actually finish something – and for readers who want to know why writers are crazy.

 

Get it right the second time.

Get it right the second time.

In recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve described a working mantra that helps me get over my mental impediments and get a manuscript or short story to THE END.

The mantra is: “Done; Right; Good.”

It goes a long way to alleviating some of the stress and hangups of the malady Writophrenia.

What’s the deal with “right”?

What panics a writer more than the daunting idea of writing a full manuscript to the “Done” stage? Worry over getting the book “right” to avoid mistakes and embarrassment.

This may be a vestigial neurosis of our school days, when getting an “A” was the goal. “A” means that everything we did with that paper, test, book report, spelling quiz, etc. was 100% correct – according to someone else’s rules.

So, there’s a “right” way and a “wr0ng” way to do things – including writing your book or short story, right?

WRONG! Well, wrong and right.

First the WRONG:

When I set out to write my first manuscript (still in the drawer, but a great learning experience) I hid it from everyone. I didn’t know if I would be any good at writing or if I would ever get anywhere near finished.

About three months in, when I discovered that I really enjoyed writing and thought what was showing up on the page was decent, I told my wife what I’d really been up to those late nights in the den with the computer on.

She’s a good writer – a career journalist – and her opinion really matters to me. I told her one of my worries was that I didn’t know the rules for writing. In other words, I wanted to make sure I was “doing it right.”

She said, “There are no rules. You just write.”

Great answer for a creative-tempered guy like me. She’s a keeper!

Her words took a load off and freed me up to write the book the best way I could with what I had at the time and get it to Stage 1 – Done. In that sense: No, there is no “wrong” way to write a book. So, I’ve just taken away one of your writophrenic excuses for not proceeding with your manuscript. Sorry.

If you’ve read the post on Stage 1: Done, you know that there are simply no excuses for not sitting down and plowing through to THE END of you manuscript. You’re going to suck at first – we all do – and that’s OK. The first draft may be dreadful (probably won’t be that bad) but at least you’ll have a manuscript, which will distinguish you from [an unscientific] 90% of people who set out to write a book.

Now the RIGHT – the real Right:

There are some legitimate considerations to keep in mind when you hit Stage 2. Here are few:

Is it right for the Genre?

Audiences have expectations. Stories within a given genre have specific elements that must be included. As the author, you are obligated to deliver on the genre promise. Think, for example, of a movie trailer that makes the film look like one thing then you watch it and it’s something else. Bummer, right?

If you’re writing for a specific genre then you’re probably a fan and reader of that type of story. You may or may not be sharply tuned in to the crucial elements. Some of us don’t notice them until we start writing and ask, “Wait. Why isn’t this story working? It should be easy for me to write this stuff!”

But the good news is that many writers and reader/critics have deeply analyzed their genres and have codified the elements in books and articles. Find out what the requirements are and make sure they’re included in your story.

If what you’re writing is not right for the genre you love or your intended audience, then you’ll need to adjust the story or switch genres.

Are the Facts right?
Writers have to wave off the perfection gremlins.  - Johnny Depp stars as the troubled writer Mort Rainey in Columbia Pictures psychological thriller "Secret Window." (AP Photo)

Writers have to wave off the perfection gremlins.
– Johnny Depp stars as the troubled writer Mort Rainey in Columbia Pictures psychological thriller “Secret Window.” (AP Photo)

This is a step that blasts many writers out of the process before we even get started on a story – research, research, research, facts, facts, facts! We get so compulsive about it that it destroys our ability to get our first draft done.

WARNING: research can actually be counterproductive when done inefficiently, obsessively, or at the wrong time.

Author Steven Pressfield, in his great books for creatives, “The War of Art” and “Do the Work” sets a limit of 3 books for research before starting your manuscript – no more. This is because the obsession with getting it “right” the first time around blocks our creativity and flow – you know, the part of writing that actually gets the writing done.

Stage 2 is where I start to concern myself with facts, figures, dates, addresses, trash bin colors, etc. Now that I have a finished manuscript to work with, I can go nuts with the facts.

[One caution here: Allow close enough to be good enough. Don’t be lazy – do your very best – but don’t stop a project from going to Stage 3 and ultimately out the door by locking it into a research loop that you never leave. You will make mistakes, but it’s better than having no book to show because of fear of the details.]

Is it right for its Universe?

I borrow the term universe from the comic book world. It means the world, realm, reality that your characters live in and where your story takes place. This may or may not be your fantasy universe where the sky is purple and people walk on their ears. It might be a plastic surgeon’s office or the world’s deepest cavern.

I might want flying attack pigs using voice-activated lasers for my story, but I don’t get to have them if my universe is a realistic 1928 pre-crash Wall Street.

A minor example of this that annoyed me was a book by a writer whose series I really liked. In this murder mystery set in the late-1970’s/early-80’s, a crucial clue to the resolution was a digital date stamp on snapshots taken by one of the characters. I – and the author – are old enough to know that those digital date stamps weren’t common on consumer cameras until the late-80’s at the earliest. It was a huge disappointment to me as a reader and I felt kind of ripped off by the writer’s lack of research.

Wherever your story is set, you need to make sure that your characters act, and your plot progresses, and your technology works, and your wisdom is correct within the rules, limitations, and possibilities of the world you’ve chosen. You’re the writer – it’s your job.

Is the Story Structure right?

This is a topic I’ve been digging into quite a bit with my own writing lately – one, I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten quite right in all of my work yet. I will post more later on story structure because it’s a big and important topic for those of us living with writophrenia.

Simply put, there are classic (and, I suppose, modern) story structures that are standards in the storytelling world – novels, theater, film, TV, oral storytelling, etc. The writer has an obligation to understand the structures they intend to use and apply them properly and completely.

When story structure is ignored due to laziness, ego, inexperience, petulance (all of these affect us creatives), then the reader is left unfulfilled. Don’t complain that no one is buying or reading your books if you don’t fulfill your obligation to them. (Been there, done that.)

Know the story structure - no matter what the story is made of.

Know the story structure – no matter what the structure is made of.

Is the Grammar, Punctuation, Sentence Structure, and Vocabulary right – for your style?

Here’s a callback to the “no rules” lesson above. Sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary – including slang – should be correct for your style and the universe of the story.

I hear a lot of people say they want to write a book but never could because they weren’t good at grammar in school. Is this just a cover-up for fear or is it a legitimate worry for a creatively minded person? Either way, it doesn’t matter, because in Stage 2, you get to fix it or not fix it based on the needs and nature of the story. Don’t worry about it during the first draft. You’ll get to it now. Further down the road a good editor will have a say in it, too.

I’m tired and I have to get back to work.

So, those are some basics that demonstrate Stage 2: Right. It’s by no means a complete list, but hopefully it’s a starter that can help you proceed. You’re smart, you get the idea.

Now, I have to get back to work on my manuscript. I appreciate getting to burn some time with you – and I’m really starting to enjoy the fact that, for me, getting a break from writing means a different kind of writing. Pretty cool.

Next week we’ll circle the chairs and talk about Stage 3: Good.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 benefits of waiting until Stage 2 to make your manuscript Right:

  1. No one can tell you it’s wrong – Everheart said so!
  2. If you’re stupid enough to try writing anyway, you’ll need the extra time to study up.
  3. You can indeed include flying attack pigs using voice-activated lasers in every first draft – just for fun.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

Paperback amazon Delphi Deception

Delphi 2 kindle

Ingram Delphi Deception
THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!

 

Categories: Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Done

Done, Right, Good: Stage 1 – Done
#1 of the 3 stages of a manuscript – for writers who want to actually finish something – and for readers who want to know why writers are crazy.
So ... now what?  Get it DONE, that's what!

So … now what?
Get it DONE, that’s what!

It’s a dirty little secret that we writers start and stop a lot of projects before they’re finished. But in recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve described a working mantra that helps me get over my mental impediments – some natural, some unnatural, some perhaps supernatural – and get a manuscript or short story to THE END.

The mantra is: “Done; Right; Good.”

Part of my writophrenia – an insidious affliction affecting creative, wordy types – is the illusion that my creativity is all I need to be an author.

False! Look at a shelf in your local bookstore for an idea of how big a factor creativity is in the publishing world. There are lots of copycat authors, lots of publishers saying, “Hey, they’re selling a bunch of those XYZ books [we pros call these ‘genres’]! Let’s get some of our own!” That makes for heavy parity in the publishing business.

So, what really makes a writer an Author (capital-A) is not creativity on its own, but producing FINISHED written works.

Don’t get me wrong – developing your unique Voice is crucial if you want to be an Author (more about that in a later post), but first, you have to get yourself in the habit of taking y0ur ideas through to completion. Otherwise, you have nothing but a bunch of interesting story ideas to talk about with your other writer friends over coffee. [Trust me, I’ve done a bit of that myself and it goes nowhere.]

“What are the components of Done; Write; Good?” asks the writer who’s tired of brushing off questions about the state of their manuscript.

Today we’ll start with Stage 1: Done.

I’m glad you asked, fellow writophrenia sufferer. You’ve come to the right place with this concern.

Look, you’re already identifying yourself as a writer. When people ask, “What do you do for fun?” you shrug shyly as if you really don’t want to brag, but reluctantly admit that you’re working on a book.

“Oh! What’s it about?” they ask.

You oblige by rattling off the setting and the characters and the plot and the details of the world you’ve created and the wicked twist you’ve built into the story that makes it different from all the others of the genre.

Then comes the dreaded question: “When can I read it?”

This is the moment you wish you’d said that for fun you do something easier like extreme mountain skiing – you know, the kind where you jump from a helicopter onto a rocky ledge at 14,000 feet and barrel downhill too fast, nonstop, and out of control – because that’s where you’d rather be at this moment. It would be more fun.

“Well, it’s not quite finished yet,” is the best you can come up with.

Mercifully, the conversation quickly moves on to diaper changing or herb gardening or cyst removal. You’re spared – until the next coffee-klatch-mine-field when you’ll have to answer these cruel questions all over again.

So, how does a writer avoid such torture in the future? GET IT DONE!

You said you’re a writer. Believe it or not, this declaration comes with an obligation – writing something with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But the problem is you’re not sure that what you’re writing makes sense, is appropriate for a given audience, or is even any good.

This type of thinking is a symptom of writophrenia and actually has little to do with truly being a writer.

Let’s admit it – you’re not that good yet. You’re writing because you love it and you’re excited about it. You want to create something – a story that has not been written – so it takes some real work. And you can only start from where you are.

There’s a quote out there from someone way smarter than me: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.”

The art of sucking.

In other words, your first attempts are going to suck. The first draft of that book is going to suck. The first run at a short story will suck. Your dialog will be stiff and too obvious. You’ll have giant info-dumps that block the flow of your story like garbage in a mountain stream. Your characters will be 2-dimensional at their most fully formed. And you’ll be too nice to them, which makes for a boring story.

It may be painful to write it, definitely painful to read it, and nearly impossible to share it with anyone.

But here’s the good news: There is nothing you can do about that until you’ve plowed through the beginning the middle and the end. Then you can see it and admit how awful it is (and how good some parts are).

Why is that good news? Because sucking is an art that must be developed in order to become good. You just have to work through that stage of development – we’ve all had to do it. This and a lot of other benefits only come from practice – that means hours and hours of writing.

Yes, we all want our stuff to be good and to be read. Problem is, we put these concerns before any stage of completion of a project. These concerns are not necessary and they’re not practical, because, unless you have a completed manuscript, you have nothing to work through the next two stages – where you will get the chance to worry about the other issues and do something about them.

What does Done mean?
Tired, but Done!

Tired, but Done!

So, DONE means plow through it, get in on “paper” – beginning, middle, and end. Do it badly if you must, but DO IT, get it DONE.

[Hint: Even as an experienced writer, sometimes I sit at my computer and think, “I can’t do it – I cannot possibly write a good book today.” To get myself going further along into the 3 stages, I have to give myself permission to continue. “Then write the worst book you can today,” I tell myself. “Because if you want to be an author, a bad finished book is better than the best unwritten one.”]

Next week, we’ll discuss Stage 2: Right.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 other benefits to having a manuscript Done:

  1. You can prove to your partner you weren’t spending all those hours watching cat videos on the Internet.
  2. You get to tell people the book is done but, no, they can’t read it yet – artist’s prerogative.
  3. There’s nothing more satisfying that writing “THE END” – especially when you’re not experienced enough to know that you have 7 more drafts to do go before you’re really done.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

Paperback amazon Delphi Deception

Delphi 2 kindle

Ingram Delphi Deception
THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!

 

Categories: Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Writophrenia!

The new diagnosis for the old disease that’s sweeping the world – one writer at a time.

Writerphrenia affects the whole writer, evidenced by clouds steaming off the head.

Writophrenia affects the whole writer, evidenced by stiffly pointed toes, rigid spine, “Nosferatu fingers”, gritted teeth, and steaming head.

There’s a very frustrating affliction that affects us wordy, creative types, one that over time gets us worrying about diagnoses like Schizophrenia or fevered Malaria or worst of all, the dreaded Writer’s Block. In recent conversations with writer friends, I’ve come to think there’s a diagnosis that could explain a lot of our subversive insanity.

I’m coining a new disease – Writophrenia!

It’s a subtle and seemingly complex condition featuring loads of denial, volumes of rationalization, and resulting in self-isolation and crippling self-doubt. How do I know? I’m a fellow sufferer. But as the old saying goes, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

I want to make Brain Burgers a safe place for writers over the next few weeks, a place to unwind and open up about how Writophrenia has affected our lives and the lives of those around us. Readers might be interested in these little glimpses into a writer’s mind and perhaps develop a little understanding for the “suffering” of those of us who have one of the greatest jobs on earth.

I want to offer a brief description of the condition this week. Then we’ll move on and delve into the details, the twists and turns of the afflicted writer’s mind.

Keep in mind a guiding principle: One must be at least a little crazy to want to sit alone and write down stories of people and worlds and events that – until it’s in on their page – have existed only in their minds.

Here are just a few symptoms of Writerphrenia:

Talking too much about our story ideas.

We writers are creative, some of us cursed with story-a-minute minds. But talking too much about a story can have the negative effect of scratching the itch that makes us want to write it. Yet we do it anyway. Let’s discuss how to knock that off.

Starting and not finishing projects.

Having a great idea, a great scene, a great character, a great opening line – it’s all great, but what about finishing the thing we started? Nothing great has ever come from a half-done book. We need methods for finishing what we start – if we want to be Authors.

Worry over how “good” our work is.

Someone once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.” We’re afraid to suck at writing at first. We struggle against this monster in our own minds and it cripples our ability to actually write anything. How to get over this hurdle will be a big part of our little group.

Author envy.

Jealousy for other writers’ success is a natural – and unnecessary – pastime. I’ve indulged in this corrosive emotion myself and we can discuss it here to scrub it from our minds and enable healthy professional development.

Claiming Writer’s Block.

“Writer’s block” is an amateur’s affliction. Want to step into the Big Leagues? We’ll talk about what the block really is and how to stop giving it your precious energy.

Hiding from “Authentic Voice”.

There are a lot of risks to be taken in writing. Stripping away the influences and cliches and expressing your true, unique way of telling a story is the greatest risk of all. Let’s talk about how to step out and be willing to get hit by it, instead of hiding from it.

Ignoring classic story structures.

Every one of us wants to tell a “unique” story. Amateurs (I’ve been one myself) think we can bulldoze all the standards aside and tell it “our way”. Truth is, we have an obligation to know what story structure really is – and the education actually gives us more options and freedom, not less.

The first step is admitting we have a problem.
The meeting place will be ready for sufferers of Writerphrenia and interested observers.

The meeting place will be ready for sufferers of Writerphrenia and interested observers.

If you can identify yourself in these symptoms, please know that you’re not alone. I feel I can safely write about this stuff because I’ve been afflicted with Writophrenia and have overcome much – but certainly not all – of the symptoms to publish over a dozen books and stories. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t have some degree of Writophrenia.

I’m opening a Writophrenia clinic right here. If you like what you’ve seen so far and feel you can relate, come back for more group therapy. I’ll have the coffee pot on and the circle of chairs set. See you next week right here.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 quick remedies for Writophrenia:

  1. An old-fashioned, finely sharpened yellow No. 2 to the frontal lobe.
  2. Publishing a flop [not considered a permanent cure for the severely afflicted].
  3. Bribe supportive Mom and Dad to tell beginning author their books are terrible, breaking the crucial delusion of future success.

SPREAD THE CONSPIRACY – GET “THE DELPHI DECEPTION: BOOK II OF THE DELPHI TRILOGY” NOW!

Paperback amazon Delphi Deception

Delphi 2 kindle

Ingram Delphi Deception
THE DELPHI REVELATION: Book III of The Delphi Trilogy available October 2014!
Categories: Readers, Uncategorized, Writing, Writophrenia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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