Turning a Corner with Your Writing
Posted April 1, 2017on:
Years ago, we knew a lady who never turned left when driving her car. She organized her travels about our small town so that all her turns were right turns. I thought of her the other day while making a left turn onto a busy street in the not-so-small town where we now reside. The way this city is laid out, I would waste a lot of time and gas if I practiced the right-turn-only approach.
Yes, right turns may be safer than left turns, but I admit I wonder what else that woman did to avoid risk. Planet Earth is a scary place, from germs lurking in public restrooms to stranger-danger, from slipping on ice to email scams, poisonous snakes and tsunamis. But unless we become monks or hermits, we have to buck up and face life. As Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but be courageous. I have conquered the world.”
Sometimes we writers also tend to use the safe approach. One writerly “right turn” might be to pen something and then store it where no one will ever see it and thus not be able to criticize it. I once knew an author who wrote book after book of historical fiction. When he finished a novel, he’d print it out, place it in a box, seal the box and set it on a shelf in his closet. As far as I know, he’s never attempted to publish his work.
Other writers only share their work with “safe” people, those who’ll tell them how wonderful their story, essay or poem is without saying anything bad about it. Those are the writers who are afraid to ask critique groups, beta readers, proofreaders and professional editors for input.
More daring creatives (yes, that’s a word these days!) might allow a critique group to read their writing, but they argue against every criticism and, therefore, gain nothing from the experience. Back when the indie publishing movement was just beginning to take hold, I heard of an indie writer who listed her book on Amazon, which was brave of her. But then she wrote scathing replies to reviewers who posted negative comments. I don’t remember her name, which is too bad, because I’d like to know whether her writing career progressed from that point or fizzled.
Some of us worry about offending readers and we shy away from the nitty gritty of a story or memoir. As an editor, I’ve discovered that authors often hint at a problem but they don’t delve into the intricacies of it, which can make for a boring, unsatisfying read. I’m not saying we should fill page after page with lascivious detail, but I am saying readers need to know how a person got into and out of a tricky situation, how they survived it. I’ve written a couple novels that include scenes related to sex trafficking. I understand the wisdom required to provide needed information without including gratuitous details – and I thank my critique partners for assisting me with that balancing act.
Maybe you’re someone who has thought for years of writing a book. You know the subject matter; in fact, you even have a title and some chapter headings or scenes in mind. But, all you can see are left turns. You don’t know where to begin. Where would you find the time? Writing is hard and the competition is tough. Your neighbor, the one who writes for the newspaper, would laugh at your feeble attempts to turn thoughts into written words. On and on go the excuses and the “I’ll never be a writer” right turns.
My advice to you? Be courageous! Go ahead. Turn left. Grab your laptop or pen and paper and start writing. Every worthwhile endeavor requires step-by-step effort to achieve the desired result.
Word by word, write your story, article or blog and with the help of savvy supporters, take it all the way to publication, whether for an audience of one or thousands. Your goal may be to write a song or a letter to your city council or to surprise your wife with a birthday poem. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.