Friday, May 27, 2011

It’s Okay if What You Write Stinks by Kaye Dacus

I struggle writing first drafts. (Dawn here) You too? I want to make it perfect—but in order to make any headway, I have to turn off the editor in me for awhile. Our guest author, Kaye Dacus, is not only encouraging us, she’s giving us permission to do just that.  To read more from Kaye, don’t forget to join us here on Manuscript Mondays in June for her four-part series on writing popular fiction.

It’s Okay if What You Write Stinks
by Kaye Dacus

Do you think Yo-Yo Ma sounded like he does today the first time he picked up the cello?

How many times do you think Evan Lysacek had to fall on that cold, hard ice before he could land a perfect quad and become an Olympic gold medalist?

How many drafts of novels do you think an author needs to write before her words are ready to be published?

What? You mean that even published authors write first drafts that stink? Even published authors have to agonize over word choice and plot arcs? They don’t get it right the first time?

Yep, that’s right. Even multi-published, bestselling authors aren’t going to get it “perfect” in the first draft. So why are we killing ourselves with the notion that our writing must be “perfect” in that first draft?

Remember the parable of the talents—the master went away but gave his servants a certain sum of money (“talents”). Two of them went out and put what he’d entrusted them to good use and multiplied the talents through hard work, risk taking, and possibly even some setbacks along the way. The third was afraid he might fail if he tried to do something with his talents, so he kept them hidden, to himself. And what did the master say to the two who put theirs to good use? “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

But what did he say to the one who gave in to fear of failure? “You wicked, lazy servant... Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

If you let the fear of failure—the fear that your writing stinks—rule you and keep you from writing the stories you’ve been given, you’re no better than that “wicked, lazy servant.”

Sure, it’s easy to stand in awe of published authors—those who’ve gone out there and taken the risk of putting their writing in front of others and faced rejection and won. But, you’re thinking, they’re great writers, they’re great storytellers. I’ll never be like that.

No talent comes out of the gate fully formed without the need for lots of practice, lots of studying, and lots of defeating self-doubt and fear that what we’re doing (writing, music, sports, art, cooking, etc.) isn’t good enough.

So allow yourself to write stinky prose. Allow yourself to write info dumps. Allow yourself to use clichés and ignore punctuation and write scenes of dialogue with only he-said/she-said attributions. Allow yourself to draw _______________ blank lines in places where you need to research something or you can’t think of the right word. Write longhand and scribble things out and ignore the margins.

It can all be fixed later.

Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters!
Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing and Harvest House Publishers. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and even though she writes romance novels, she is not afraid to admit that she’s never been kissed.

To find out more about Kaye and her books, please visit