Writing inspiration: too much advice
9 days until Christmas!
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Have you ever been so overwhelmed by all the experts, by all the blogs meant to help us, or by all the workshops with different (and perhaps contradictory) approaches to writing that you sit paralyzed at your keyboard? You’re certain that your WIP has committed every fatal sin listed by the experts, or you’re terrified that whatever does come from you fingertips can never meet up to all these expectations.
For example, if I’m trying to follow what Maass says in his Writing the Break-out Novel while also listening to Bell’s Plot & Structure and Kress’s Characters, Emotion, & Viewpoint; all before I’ve sort through Lukeman’s The First Five Pages and Browne & King’s Self-editing for Fiction Writers; and then finally I have to get my workshop’s and critique group’s respective advice…
Well, scheiße and OMG, I will never finish this book! It will remain a dreaded WIP forever. And, assuming I get the WIP finished, if I then have to listen to Larsen’s How to Get a Literary Agent; Applebaum’s How to Get Happily Published; Lukeman’s How to Write a Great Query Letter; and Bransford’s, Gardner’s, Reid’s, and Faust’s blogs about the correct query letter and synopsis…
Well, sheiße nochmal and OMG #2, I will never get my finished book out there.
Fortunately, I have overcome this debilitating fear of inadequacy. How? Well, it took me one whole book to figure it out. I used to read an expert’s take on the subject, and then I’d go through and edit my partial manuscript accordingly. I did this over and over again based on whatever new expert I came across. Needless to say, that’s a colossal waste of time and energy. Why, it took me over two months to get half a book written!
NOW, I just put it all aside to deal with later. I remember the basic critical aspects that everyone agrees on: conflict, conflict, conflict; make sure every scene propels the plot forward; develop your characters according to the plot while also developing your plot according to the characters (confused? look here); and just keep writing. These important lessons will get you through that first draft. As for all the other problems that the experts talk about (e.g. said-bookisms, too much back-story, poor pacing), I can fix that stuff in revisions.
For book #2, I just passed the mid-point yesterday. I started writing it 16 days ago. That’s more like it.
And ultimately, when I reach the revisions stage, then the query letter and synopsis stage, I won’t get bogged down by the overabundance of well-meant advice. I won’t be intimidated by that one line in that one book that says everything I’ve done is pure sheiße because, well…I can’t please everyone. I have to please myself, and I have to be confidant that I created the best darn book I could.
And you know what? Even if I never get published, writing a book I’m proud of is still one darned big accomplishment.
The moral of this story is: do your best. The experts are experts, but you can’t please ’em all. Holly Root of the Waxman Literary Agency laid it down very nicely here.
Best of luck, happy writing, and keep up the good work!
December 17, 2009 @ 3:29 pm
You are an amazing book-writing woman!
August 9, 2014 @ 3:29 am
Wow, I feel like I am exactly where you were at this stage in 2009. This realisation is awesome, and freeing, I love being able to allow myself to let go in my first draft knowing that I will catch all my errors in the rewrite stage. I find it oddly comforting to go through old posts, knowing that you made it and seeing a little bit of my process, and where I am at, in where you were at all these years ago.