Monday, August 1, 2016

Write It Bad. Just Write It. by Sandie Bricker



Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling  you to eighty-six all the how-to books, workshops you’ve taken, columns you’ve read, etc. Knowing the rules can make a big difference in making your writing better, stronger, faster… You get the idea. But as I’ve pursued a writing career, one of the neon sign lessons that overrides most of the others is this one:




When new or aspiring authors have asked me how they can become a better writer, I tend to ask them a couple of standard questions before responding:

1. How many manuscripts have you completed? Not started, not trimmed into a neat proposal or synopsis, not partials you’ve submitted in a contest. How many full manuscripts have you written and prepared for submission to appropriate publishing houses?

2. What is your typical daily schedule (day job, family obligations, health issues, etc.), and how does writing fit into it? For some aspiring authors, even just an hour or two a day at the computer putting words on the screen can feel like too much to ask. But what is a reasonable amount of time and energy to invest in what you view as your passion/professional goal?

If the answer to Question #1 is anywhere between zero and three, and if Question #2 is met with a blank stare … the solution is an uncomplicated (albeit, likely unwelcome) one.

Put the words on the page.

It doesn’t matter if they’re stellar or if the plot isn’t exactly flowing. It doesn’t matter if more research is needed or if the word count isn’t right. The most important thing you can do to become a better writer is to write.

You know how your mom told you in your school days that practice makes perfect? Her advice didn’t miraculously become brilliant overnight. She knew what she was talking about back then. Yes, there are authors who sell their first completed manuscript … and yes, you could be one of them. But the reality is that most people who write their first book won’t contract it to a traditional publisher. Furthermore, most of those that are contracted and published stand a good chance of never selling a second one.

If you’ve decided to self-publish, the odds change. However, so does the expectation of effort, expense, time, and talent. To self-publish, you still need to plunk down in the chair, fire up the computer, and put the words on the page. All of them. Not just a few golden chapters. Then there will also be the necessity of hiring an editor … a cover designer … learning the how-to of preparing and presenting the manuscript to the platform you’ve chosen to get it out there to your reading public. And I’m dramatically over-simplifying the process here.

Still … in the “inspiring” last words of murderer Gary Gilmore before he was executed by firing squad … words oddly lifted by a Nike marketing executive in the late 80s when searching for a lasting tagline for their brand … JUST DO IT. Even if it’s not up to par, put the words on the screen. All of them. You can fix them later. You can’t perfect what isn’t there.

Here are some important tips to remember:

  • The more manuscripts  you complete – draft + editing + revisions + more revisions – the better equipped you will be for activities such as writing-on-demand, meeting deadlines,  understanding your readers, and learning the rules (before you can break them).
  • Even if you only have an hour a day, three days a week … use them. Don’t give in to the temptation to make excuses, to restructure your day to accommodate other things, to wait until you’re in the mood or feeling creative. If writing is going to be your business, you’ll have to pull on your big girl/boy panties and learn how to do it whether you feel like it or not.
  • Countless writers spend an inordinate amount of time writing and perfecting those first three chapters that will accompany the synopsis when the proposal goes out. I once knew an aspiring writer who spent THREE YEARS on those first three chapters, working with various critique groups to get them “just right,” always with the idea of selling her book at the forefront of her efforts. When she finally met the editor who saw the beauty in those chapters, she wasn’t able to complete the book to the standard that the initial pages promised. Do the best you can on the contents of your proposal … but don’t forget that your target publisher is going to want to see the subsequent 60-80,000 words if you pique their interest. And they’d better be good ones.

The bottom line is that, if you’re racing into this writing thing with high expectations – or any expectations at all – you’re doing yourself and your book a big disservice. Instead, why not adjust your thinking so that it’s the actual writing you’re courting rather than the paycheck it may supply.

[Note: And the truth is … the paychecks aren’t all that impressive for a beginner!]

Just hone your craft. Learn as much as you can, and put it into practice at every opportunity. Write badly if you have to! As long as you write.




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SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rear view mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books . . . and a best-selling, award-winning author of Live-Out-Loud fiction for the inspirational market was born. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation and Jessie Stanton series for Abingdon Press, and she was also named ACFW’s 2015 Editor of the Year for her work as managing editor of Bling! Romance, an edgy romance imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. As an ovarian cancer survivor, Sandie also gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure.

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8 comments:

  1. Sandie, you must have been thinking about me. I did that with my first book, spending years -- yes, years -- on those first chapters. I was so frozen in trying to get it perfect, the manuscript was never finished.

    I finally learned to just get the story down on paper and then fix it. After all, you can't edit a blank page.

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    1. This is far more common than you might think, Angie. Especially for those new writers, aspiring to join a community that seems closed to them. Part of the DNA of a person called to the writer life is very often a deep insecurity ... which of course inspires really, really good storytelling! Happy you're moving forward and getting words on the page now.

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  2. Sandie, as usual you are spot on. We need to recognize our fears and plant our bottoms on the seat of a chair and throw words on the page...sort of how Jackson Pollack threw paint on a canvas. Writing is a process...first draft, self-editing, another draft, etc. I've yet to meet an author who can write a perfect sentence the first time. This would make a super workshop.

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    1. Funny you should say that about it making a good workshop, Barb. I pitched it just yesterday to a conference I'll be attending next year. :-) And thank you for the validation! Happy to see you here.

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  3. I just rewrote a manuscript to fit a particular publisher's requirements. But making the deadline for what I hope will become a contracted story would have been much harder if the manuscript wasn't already complete. Now I'm doing the same for the second story...just in case. :)

    Sounds like a worthwhile course in the works, Sandie!

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  4. Wise advise! I have 3 completed manuscripts in the drawer that will never be seen by the public, but they helped improve my skills.

    Because my brain wants to edit - and edit - and edit - I've struggled to break free of that tendency and focus on just getting the words down first. The first draft is the most difficult for me. Then I can get to the fun part of reworking and making it better. But it's so true that if you don't initially stop editing, you'll never reach "the end."

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  5. Sandie, I'm ok on completions, but awful about letting things infringe on my writing time. Then I end up binge writing. I think the lack of consistency hurts. Thanks for helping me realize that.

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  6. Great advice, Sandie! I'm working on rewrites but the advice to use our writing time wisely applies there too. Thank you!

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