December 7, 2011

how Dick and Jane can help an insecure writer

pardon this semi-recycled post, but i thought it was appropriate (that, and i completely forgot IWSG was up today).

as a new writer, i thought i was going to write a brilliant story right out of the chute. and because i thought it was brilliant, it was easy to write. i didn't care what anyone thought, so the words flew out of me.

now that i've had a few more years of practicing under my belt, i know that no one writes a brilliant first draft. but when i start a first draft, i forget and try to make it brilliant again. that's where Dick and Jane, and this great quote come in.

I was fretting too much over that opening sentence.
I worked on it scrupulously,
thinking that if I could only get the first sentence right,
the rest of the book would come easy.
That was a big mistake.

Weeks went by with my staring at blank paper
and getting nowhere.

One day I decided to just start writing
in the style of the Dick and Jane first grade readers.
Simple little words,
without bothering about style or polish -
just to get the story on paper.

I started writing,
"There is a little town on a hill called Santa Vittoria.
It is in Italy. The people in the town
grow grapes and make wine.
One day, not too long ago..."
and so on. It worked fine.

Soon I was writing like mad all day long.
The pages began to pile up and I felt better.

Robert Crichton

when i get stuck on a scene, it's usually because i'm trying to write it like a semi-experienced writer. when i put that aside and write like a first grader it starts to flow. let me give you two examples from my work in progress.

i was having trouble starting my project over again, so i thought, why not just tell the opening scene like a fairy tale. so i wrote:

Once upon a time there was a good king. He dearly loved his wife and his kingdom. The people loved him and the land prospered. 

it goes on for a few paragraphs. it got me over my writer's block for the opening. in the end, i liked it and i've decided i'm keeping this section. i turned it into a bedtime story for Kieran's daughters.

then later in the book, i knew i wanted to use a scene i'd written before about a fight in a tavern, but wasn't sure how to get into it. so i really did write like a first grader when i said:

Arathor was mad. He’d been mad before, but he couldn't remember being this angry. 

now go off and pretend you're in first grade again and the only sentence you can write is "See Jane run away from the bullies. See Dick save her."

if you need more encouragement, you can find the rest of the Insecure Writer's Support Group at Alex's blog. 


Lora said...

That is great advice. i get stuck revising.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Write simple. You posted that before, but it needed to be repeated. And this weekend, I'm going to try it.

Annalisa Crawford said...

That's great advice.

julie fedderson said...

I've always loved the KISS philosophy--Keep It Simple, Stupid! I use it often, because I love to drown in my own words sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Very good advice. Thanks for sharing.

Green Monkey said...

Thanks for the "life lived in fear.." quote! just what I needed.

Last spring I hired an editor/book developer that one of my blogging friends recommended. I emailed her chapter one. My opening paragraph was something I tweaked and retweaked.... and really over thought. But I loved that opening paragraph. The rest of the chapter was stacked full of details that I thought were necessary in setting up the book. When we reviewed my work, my opening paragraph was ripped apart. "you said office front porch, you need to tell the reader what type of business you have" said the editor. "But I say it in the second paragraph" says monkey me. "It doesn't matter" says editor. I sat with that opening paragraph all spring and late into summer. I finally gave up the whole idea of writing a book. Then a friend died and I wrote about it and it was good. A very close friend suggested I submit it as a short story. I have no idea how to do these sort of things so I contacted 3 agents. The first told me I needed to take a class. The second hasn't responded to my email and online form and the third signed me. When I gave her my Chapter one she loved the opening paragraph. Said its was "brilliant" .... This helped me learn to trust my inner voice and the writing is getting easier. Sorry this is so long... Time for me to write! Best, MonkeyME

Brianna said...

Great tip! I need people reminding me that it's more important to get the words out than it is to get the words written perfectly!