Shoot Them Now, While They’re Happy
Posted December 2, 2013on:
I once worked at a small company where I was trained by three people—the outgoing employee, the owner of the business, and the wife of the owner. Not only were none of those people in the office at the same time to agree or disagree with what I was being taught, the rules seemed to change weekly. I never had a clear description of my duties. As you can probably guess, that job was neither enjoyable nor rewarding.
You may feel the same way about writing rules. Every famous author seems to have a different set of directives. According to James Patterson, we must make extensive outlines. But plenty of professional writers suggest we let our muse or the characters guide us. Patterson also says we should know our audience before we write. Stephen King says, “First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience.” Some insist we should write at least a thousand words per day. Others tell us to write every day but not to worry about word count.
Then there are the grammar rules. Always write complete sentences. Never begin a sentence with “it,” “that,” “and” or “but.” I’m an editor, so I’m a stickler about such uses, unless the broken rule works for the manuscript I’m editing. Always include at least three sentences in a paragraph. My high school English teacher imprinted that edict on my brain for time and eternity. But I have to say I like the rule because having a beginning, middle and end gives balance to paragraphs as well as full compositions. Again, there are times when one or two sentences, especially in fiction or creative nonfiction work just fine.
So, what’s a writer to do? Here’s my favorite rule: Read, read, read; write, write, write. The more you read, the more you’ll begin to feel the rhythm of good writing. And the more you write, the more that rhythm will flow from your pen to paper or from your fingers into your computer.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you get lost following your muse as it rabbit trails from one fold of your brain to another, try creating a simple outline or bullet points. If inspiration arrives without warning or regularity, keep a notebook nearby. If you tend to procrastinate, give yourself a daily writing goal with rewards as an incentive or find a critique partner who’ll help you stay focused on your projects. If fully developed thoughts don’t come to you as you write, give yourself permission to move on and rewrite later.
In other words, do what works for you. There’s no plaster mold called “writer.” Most importantly, find satisfaction and delight in creating something from nothing. If writing isn’t fun for you, then either God didn’t design you to be an author or you need to establish writing habits that fit your personality and style.
More quotes from those who’ve been there, done that are below. You are the only you, so tell the stories only you can tell (Gaiman), learn to trust your own judgment (Lessing) and enjoy the process (Moss). J
“Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it – and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of “writing rules” and advice. Do it your way.” ― Tara Moss
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.” ― Neil Gaiman
“Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.” ― Joyce Carol Oates
“Advice to young writers? Always the same advice: learn to trust our own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad – including your own bad.” ― Doris Lessing
“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker
Quotations taken from: