I found this picture on Selena Kitt’s Facebook page. I laughed out loud when I saw it, because a month ago my writing coach asked me to give him a run down of my story in fifteen minutes. I guess he was looking for the elevator pitch. At first I scrambled to find some notes that I had written, and then said, “aww man, fuck it,” in my head.
I started out slow as I tried to hit on the milestones of the story. The more I talked about the story, the more I saw plot holes. In my head my story is like the first picture. Telling it to someone else (who put me on the spot) is like the second picture.
Although my coach admitted he liked the story, I was not happy with what I had said. After my phone call, I did what I said I would not do until I finished my first draft. I went back and tweaked, rewrote scenes, and added a lot of missing details to my story. Is it better? Yes! But it hasn’t gotten to the stage of what I see in my head.
The following bit of advice from Ta-Nehisi Coates via Creative Writing Now makes me feel so much better about my writing, “I strongly believe that writing is an act of courage. It’s almost an act of physical courage. You get up and you have this great idea. Maybe you were hanging out with your friends — you guys were having beers, and you were talking about something, you had this idea, and they said, ‘Wow, that’s brilliant! Someone should go write it.’ You sit down to write it, and — almost always — what was brilliant before when you were sitting around, talking, is somehow not so brilliant when you go to write. It’s as though you have a certain music in your head, and trying to get that music out on the page is just absolute hell. So, you fail. If you’re doing it correctly, what happens is the translation of what you hear in your head onto the page will almost always come out really badly on the page when you first write, okay? But what you have to do is you have to give yourself a day, go back, revise over and over and over and over again until you get to something that is at least maybe 70% of what you wanted to do. You try to go from really bad to okay to acceptable. Then you know you’ve done your job” (Coates, a writer from The Atlantic).
Failure, Coates says, is intrinsic to the writing process, but the key is to persevere. “It’s not really that mystical — repeated practice over and over and over again, and suddenly, you become something that you had no idea you could really be.” I hope the above quote was helpful for new writers, and will help others who are struggling to feel better about themselves and their story.
Perseverance is definitely the key. I finally finished my first draft! I thought that I could write it in a month, but self-doubt and thinking about the mammoth task ahead stymied my writing. Some days I just did not want to continue. My blog also suffered. I did not know how to get back into the groove of posting short stories or excerpts of my novel.
I’ve begun editing my first draft! Second draft, here I come… 🙂
Photo Credit: Mary Pamela