Posted in Guest Post on April 17, 2013

I want to welcome author Ninette Swann to StoreyBook Reviews!  Yesterday I reviewed her recent release, Just the Messenger, and she was kind enough to drop by and share some of her thoughts with you.


Show Up

Writing isn’t hard. Well, it can be hard. It can be as hard as you make it, really. But a lot of people shoot themselves in their feet by staring at that blank page, afraid that any word they write down will be set in stone, unchangeable. And if that’s the case, well, it had better be perfect.

Since we’re not perfect, you can bet those words won’t be, particularly first time out, and that’s okay. That’s what edits are for, and read-throughs. Just start. Just show up.

Many people will get a few thousand words in and stop. It’s no good, they’ll think. There’s no continuity. I can’t make this flow. Wrong. The unwritten piece in your desk drawer could be written. You just have to keep writing it. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be good. The point is to finish. Write something, anything.

If it makes you feel better, know that many published writers have the skill of a third-grader writing on an i-phone. You’re not alone. They don’t know your/you’re, or there/their/they’re. They confuse then and than. Hell, they float body parts, and have scenes that don’t make any sense at all. That’s what the editors do. So if you think people who are published are handing in these polished works to publishers and agents, and making it big off their massive skills as wordsmiths, you’ve got it all wrong. You’re just gearing yourself up for an excuse not to write.

And that’s okay, too. Just because you start something doesn’t mean you have to finish it. But don’t rationalize your choice by knocking yourself down. You didn’t not do it because you suck at writing. No. You didn’t do it because you didn’t want to finish it. Take some ownership! Owning our decisions is hard, no doubt. It gives us the responsibility and power to create or not to create, and if we are not creating, sure, we could feel like failures. But to replace that ownership with something that automatically makes us a failure in our own eyes is missing the point entirely. Sure, now we’re not responsible for finishing. Now we just suck.

Is that so much better? Is that better at all?

How to finish that piece you are working on:

1)      Start small. Don’t start with your 80,000-word masterpiece. Do a 6,000-word short story first. See if you can finish it.

2)      Write something every day. Even one sentence. Do not let that project go untouched for a day or you will lose touch with it. It’s easier to walk away from something you haven’t looked at in a week. Every day, add a sentence, a word, anything.

3)      Don’t love your work. Start with something you are not personally invested in. If you are the type who gives up, thinking the work is not good enough, you’ll find it a lot easier to motor through it if you don’t give two tosses about the purity of the message. I know this one seems counterproductive, but it’s not. It helps you to practice the art of writing and the discipline of doing it regularly without putting your self-esteem on the line. It’s an excellent shallow end to this crazy pool.

4)      Make your friends look at it when it’s done. Remember, you don’t even really care about it anyway, so if they come back with harsh words, separate the criticism from yourself and attack that silly story you made, using their suggestions. You will make it better. And you will learn how to accept criticism when it counts, when it really is your baby on the line.

5)      Submit it. Who cares if it gets rejected. It probably will. By a lot of people. But sometimes it doesn’t. And the validation / rejection cycle is a really great way to stop feeling like an amateur sitting alone at your desk, and start feeling like a writer engaging in the entire process. Plus, you never know when someone will recognize your “genius.”

Long story short, the only thing that’s keeping you from writing or from being a writer if you want to be one…is you. So get yourself out of the way, and start writing. The most important part of any job is simply showing up.