Last time, I discussed the need to write faster in this ever-changing, always-frustrating, sometimes rewarding industry. Faster, faster, faster. Write Fast. That’s the mantra. It sounds great. Motivating for some, frightening for others.
But what do you do when things in your story don’t work out? How can you avoid stumbling along or worse, grinding to a halt? How, in other words, can you get the momentum running again when things fall apart?
If you’ve been writing for some time now, if you’ve completed a short story or three or maybe even a novel, if you understand the basic principles of writing a tale, then take this advice: Stop Worrying. Just stop it. I know that there is a huge difference between understanding how to construct a story and actually doing it. But as long as you have the knowledge, the rest is just a matter of trial and error via practice. And one of the cool things about writing is that good practice is done in the form of doing. So, when you’re finished practicing, you’ll have a completed short story or a novel that you can try selling.
Too often, however, we worry ourselves out of finishing. Our stories fall apart because we over-think the technical challenges we’ve set up. Instead, trust yourself. Don’t put that trust in your writing workshop, your writing crit group, your MFA, or even your vast knowledge of languages. Put that trust in yourself. Trust the part of you that knows how to tell a story because, like all human beings, you have grown up being told stories every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
From the moment we are born (and for some, while still in the womb) we are told stories. We are exposed to story-telling in the form of books, television, movies, and music. We hear it when our friends tell us what happened last night. We hear it in the classroom when a professor relates a tale to illustrate a point. We watch stories unfold across the internet as people take a bit of truth and comment, alter, and fabricate around it. We are read bedtime stories and told tales around campfires and hear stories on the radio as we drive to work. We breathe in stories just by living in the modern world, and we exhale them every time we share these tales with our friends.
So, you already know how to tell a good story. Stop Worrying. The next time you find yourself stuck, just take a deep breath, let it out, and imagine yourself telling your story to a group of friends. Don’t worry about being artistically eloquent, forget the fancy metaphors, drop the complicated sentence structure, and just tell the story.
When you’ve finished (and you will finish), rest easy — you have the luxury of going back, of doing revisions. You can add in all those juicy details, those little darlings, once you can see the actual flow of the tale. But none of that happens if you stall out and don’t complete the tale.
You want to write faster? Forget all you know about writing (for the moment) and concentrate on what you’ve been taught your whole life — how to tell a story.
Therefore, I’m revising the Mantra. It is now this: Write Fast. Stop Worrying.
I’m visiting family in California right now and while I will have access to a computer, my time will be limited. But I will respond to comments at some point today or tomorrow. Have a great weekend all!