“If you are willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.”
—Seth Godin

3 Traps to Avoid When Writing a Rough Draft

I’ve started a new novel—as in a blank “page one” in need of 275 to 400 more pages to be complete. I’m lucky, because this book is second in a series, so I already have the plot and framework in mind (sort of ). I just require about 70,000+ more words to fill in the blanks and have a finished rough draft.

It sounds so simple, but writing rough drafts can be so difficult to actually accomplish.

3 Traps to Avoid When Writing a Rough Draft

How to Write Rough Drafts

Fortunately, I’ve completed four other novels and will publish book number four later this year. I’m trying to apply what I’ve learned in the past to remain more sane this go-round. Let’s discuss three pitfalls I’ve learned with rough drafts.

1. Perfectionism KILLS Creativity and Productivity

Writing is messy. I mean, m-e-s-s-y. This is true whether it’s novels, short stories, memoirs or how-to’s.

That first day at my laptop, I wrote tiny snippets of at least a dozen different scenes. I typed as fast as possible, writing as much as I could about the characters, their dialogue and setting, but I also typed phrases like: describe the cemetery more here, research huffing hairspray later (I know, I’m sick and twisted).

When I hit a wall with that particular scene, I immediately switched to whichever scene struck me next. It was a hodge-podge of confusion, but it was still twenty new pages that gave me solid bones to my book. It also let me understand my story better.

By the end of that session, I rearranged those chaotic, unfinished scenes into semi-order.

Ten years ago, the perfectionist in me would have never allowed myself to cut loose like that.

Some people are truly linear thinkers and MUST write the story in chronological order. It’s fine if that’s you. If you find yourself stalled and don’t know what happens next, try other methods for a breakthrough:

  • Switch to free-writing in a notebook and interview a character to see what information they hold.
  • Open a new file on your laptop and list possible solutions to your plotting problem (1-2-3-4).
  • Go for a walk (or any repetitive activity) and stage a conversation between two characters in your mind and see what they reveal.

New York Times’ Bestselling author, Nora Roberts, says, “You can fix anything but a blank page.” (Share that on Twitter?)

Bottom line: Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and productivity. Give yourself the time and space to let your story be far from perfect in the beginning.

2. Doubt is Part of the Creative Process

Self-doubt, perfectionism, procrastination…whatever keeps you from writing are just fancy words for fear.

This is normal.

Fear will do anything and everything to stop you, make you start your book over (and over again), or quit altogether.

The good news about fear is the more you love your story, the more negative emotions you’ll experience while writing it. Fear is a bizarre, but useful gauge to show you how important this piece is to you.

If the thought of it doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you, then you’re wasting your time, effort and energy.

Bottom line: All kinds of doubt and fear are part of the creative process. Expect it, then write anyway.

3. You Don’t Understand Your Story Until It’s Written

No matter how much you plot, outline, or plan your work beforehand, you can’t comprehend it’s mysteries until you put pen to paper.

It’s exhilarating when you discover a surprise twist, or a dark secret about your character, or find the theme of your book.

If you won’t give your story the time of day, then your story won’t give its treasures to you.

Bottom line: You must commit time, heart and energy to your writing, before your story reveals itself to you.

What’s one trap to warn others about with their rough drafts?

PRACTICE

Today, I want everyone to focus on the same fledging writer. His name is Walter and he wants to write a novel. In fact, he’s dreamed of it for years. But he’s terrified to do so. He carries too many demons. What happens to Walter when he finally sits down to write the rough draft of his novel?

Take fifteen minutes to tell his story, then please share in the comments. Remember, if you post a practice, please comment on your fellow writers’ work.

About Marcy McKay

Marcy McKay is the “Energizer Bunny of Writers.” She believes writing is delicious and messy and hard and important. If you’ve ever struggled with your writing, you can download her totally FREE book, Writing Naked: One Writer Dares to Bare All. Find her on Facebook!

  • AliceFleury

    Oh. This is mememe. Thanks so much for validating ME.

    • Glad this is youyouyou, Alice. Chances are you’re doing MUCH better with your writing than your giving yourself credit for — get out of your own way and just WRITE. Good luck to you!

  • Luana

    Hi Marcy!
    Great post 🙂
    I was just reading this on perfectionism yesterday, and thought I would share: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com.br/2012/08/loud-ugly-wild-free.html

    • Hey Luana,

      Great post on perfectionism (that creative monster gives me FITS). Thanks for stopping by TWP and sharing.

  • Marcy, #3 belongs on a poster for the writer’s wall.
    In this online world of endless posts about story structure, reading that point was like a breath of fresh air. Structure has its place, but the story must be given enough room to express itself. Beautiful.
    Thank you. 🙂

    • Yep, I’ve watched this happened multiple times with both “pantsters” and “plotters”. Secret unfold when you give your story time and space to become what it’s truly meant to be.

      Great talking to you, T.O.. Thanks!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    I didn’t know how to proceed with an article, so I spent the last hour reading articles 😛 I am guessing fear did its number on me 🙁

    I care about this person a LOT, and hence don’t have the adequate words to represent her in a Profile Piece. So I am stuck – *sigh*

    Thanks for your honesty, humility and hope, sweet Marcy #HUGSS

    Kittp

    • Hey Kitto,
      No worries. You’ve realized what you’ve done, so it’s time to focus and get back on track. My suggestion would be pretend your at a coffee shop with a friend, telling him/her about this AMAZING person (your profile piece person). Just talk normally to fill up X number of pages, then go back and start revising/editing.
      You’ve done pieces like this countless times, girl. Let your light shine.

  • Mags

    Okay so my ‘story’ ended up light on plot and HEAVY on introspection. I’d continue but my time ran out…Enjoy!

    There was a rust-colored streak on the wall. Walter had
    never noticed it before, situated as it was only half an inch above the top of
    the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen. In fact, Walter probably would
    not have noticed it now, except that he was trying to look at everything in the
    room, anything in the room, but the type-writer in front of him.

    A type-writer? What the fuck?

    Yes. A type-writer. That’s what he decided to use, and that’s
    what he’s damn well going to use. He’s going to sit down and write this—wait,
    what am I writing again? He thinks to himself. I’m not a writer. What a
    frightening word. He shudders. Maybe I was just going to balance my checkbook.
    Yes, that’s it, balancing my checkbook. That’s something I need to do.

    He got up and went to the set of drawers next to the doorway
    with the infinitesimal rust mark above the door. He pulled the green check book
    from the drawers. As he flipped to the most recent page, he paused. What was it
    I was doing again? He wonders.

    The novel.

    He almost jumped out of his own skin. It was as though the
    voice had come from below, underneath the thick and very 70’s throw-back shag
    carpet beneath his feet. He’d even felt the vibration. No, he couldn’t have.
    But he did.

    Yes, the novel. The one he’d been dreaming of writing for
    years. The one he had imagined thousands of times, okay maybe hundreds—many times,
    okay?—the one he’d imagined many times, sitting on one of those tables right by
    the glass front windows of the book store. It would be tucked among great
    books, alongside Forster and Hawthorne, the break-out masterpiece of a new
    prodigy: Walter Green.

    Of course, he’d have to think of a pen name.

    A pen name! of course. He should definitely do that first. No
    sense in writing a novel if you don’t have a pen name. And then there’s still
    the title, and the blurb on the jacket, and the cover…

    Oh but he knew what the cover would look like. He knew
    exactly what the cover would look like. It would be dark, navy, with speckles of
    silver and gold like stars around the top corners. And you’d be able to feel
    them, little tiny, sparkling protrustions along the edge of the smooth cover.
    And there would be a moon, a full moon, lit up over a lake. And in the
    foreground, a little white house with a broken window. That’s what the cover
    would look like, with the title over the lake and his soon-to-be-decided-upon
    pen name in the yard next to the house.

    Oh, it would be a beautiful book. Not to big, but not like
    one of those tiny moleskin notebooks either. It would be just right, the kind
    of book you carried with you, the kind you threw into your purse and brought to
    work because you just could not bear
    to be parted with it. Oh, it would be lovely, just lovely.

    Walter leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples. There
    was only one problem: he had no idea what would be inside the book.

    All his life, Walter had worried what people thought about
    him. As a timid little boy, he had stood in corners and watched the other kids
    interact seemingly entirely without the kinds of inhibitions that kept him
    cowering by himself with his stack of books and notebooks and his internal narration
    of the events of other people’s lives
    around him—for his life had few events, outside those in his books. IN fact,
    Walter often had trouble remembering how old he was in certain memories, for
    there were no events to use as reference points. From his childhood through
    high school, he had done all the same things—attended school and lived in his
    family’s little white house and gone to sleep in his little room. Occasionally
    he could place a memory by the book he’d been reading at the time—but even that
    was rare. Surely he had changed and grown over the years, but there was no real
    way to tell—from the inside of one’s brain—that you are 12-year-old Walter or
    4-year-old Walter. Always, at every stage, every day of his life, from inside,
    he was just Walter.

    • Terrific job, Mags. I love what you did with Walter. I don’t think it was too heavy on introspection at all, you captured his doubt/procrastination/insecurity beautifully. Well done!

    • Great example of the lengths we’ll often go to as writers to do anything but work on the story in front of us. Funny and relevant.

    • darlingnib

      I really enjoyed this. Isn’t it crazy how we build up these things in our minds, these fantastic outcomes, when really we should be focused on the process?

    • Charlotte Hyatt

      I thought that was a perfect description of my lack of focus – the reason my book is still “forth-coming.” I know what my cover will look like too. Maybe I need a pen name?

  • Marcy,

    I am subject to all three trap. It seems I fall into them regularly. You’d think I’d learn!

    Fear is the big one for me. I’d never before thought of it as a gauge for my connection to the story, but in looking back at the stories that have inspired the most fear, I see they’re also the stories that pester me the most persistently.

    Perhaps now I can look at those stories–and the fears they engender–from a different point of view.

    Thanks for the post and best wishes,

    Carrie

    • Hi Carrie,

      If it makes you feel better, most ALL writers struggle with fear. And YES, amount of FEAR = amount of LOVE you have writing projects, so try to see your doubts as a positive. The key is KEEP WRITING, no matter what.

      Good luck to you!

  • How timely was THIS?! I’ve finally made it through 1 and 2 and now I’m dealing with 3. Thankfully, with the help of a wonderful editor who know exactly what questions to ask and how to poke me, I’m finding my story.

    Keep up these wonderful posts. SO helpful!!

    • Congrats. You sound like you are definitely slaying the beast of fear and writing. Plus, how awesome that you have a helpful editor guiding your work. That’s gold, my friend. Best of luck to you!

  • I struggle a lot with the first one. I’ll sit and stare at a screen, pondering what would be the best word to put next. It’s very frustrating because it only slows me down when I should worry about editing after I’ve written.

    For my Walter story…
    Walter was fed up with watching everyone around him succeed at thing the things they wanted to do most. He walked into his manager’s office and told him he was taking off the rest of the day. He was sick. Sick of silencing the words inside of him that have been screaming to be let out.

    He jumped into his car and drove home. When he arrived, he noticed his door was kicked in. Worry set in. He lived alone, but his girlfriend had a key and often came over during the day to do laundry.

    “Sam,” he called out as he stepped through the door. No answer.

    His cell phone rang in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw that it was Sam calling.

    “Baby, I’m glad you’re okay,” he said.

    “I’m not,” she said, her voice betraying that she’d been crying.

    “What’s going on?”

    Another voice came on the line. A man’s voice. Deep and unnerving. “You’re a storyteller, right?”

    Walter hesitated. “I…I try to be.”

    “Does trying ever get old? Wouldn’t you like to do instead?”

    “Where’s Sam? What are you doing to her?”

    The voice was silent for a moment, and Walter could hear the man’s breathing.

    “Where is she?!”

    The man laughed. “Perhaps you do have a little fight in you,” the man said. “Sam is dying, and if you don’t do what I say, you won’t be able to stop it.”

    Walter had to rest his hand on the wall next to him.

    “W…w…what do I have to do?”

    “Meet me in the basement.”

    Walter’s gaze moved to the door leading to his basement. He didn’t spend a lot of time there. A couple years ago, he set it up to be his writing room. But he never finished anything he started down there. Eventually, the crushing weight of failing to create something he could share became too much, and he just stopped going down there.

    And now there was a killer down there. With Sam.

    The call ended. Walter stared at the phone for a moment. His lock screen appeared, showing a picture of Sam. He felt his heart pick up pace. He couldn’t lose her.

    He rushed into the kitchen and pulled open a drawer. He grabbed the largest knife he could find and headed for the basement.

    He took the steps slowly, trying to wish the loud creaking that came with each step away. He reached the bottom, holding his knife out. He peered around the room, but didn’t see Sam or her captor.

    He caught a glimpse of his desk in the corner. The computer screen was lit up with a bright white, and a piece of paper was taped to it. He walked over and read the note:

    THIS IS THE WEAPON YOU’LL NEED.
    NOW WRITE. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, FINISH.

    Walter took a deep breath, realizing the weight of the task before him. He’d have to finish this time, and he could never abandon a story again.

    The End

    • Christine

      No, no…this can’t be the end! This is just the beginning. Don’t leave us hanging like this, Tom!
      Did Walter actually finish the novel? Did he rescue Sam from the evil villain? Was his book a best seller? Did the villain publish it and claim credit?
      If it was a success, did he create a series? Did Sam finally leave him because he was spending all his time down in the office writing novels?
      When you get finish this tale I hope you’ll publish it so we can read the rest. 🙂

      • Thanks. I honestly didn’t think much further than this. Hopefully it would all work out for him. I liked the idea of someone important to him being in trouble if he didn’t finish because sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to give my family the life they deserve if I can’t make this writing thing work.

        Thanks for reading. Maybe I’ll expand it a little more. I have a few ideas now.

        • Christine

          Good angle! Looking at it that way, I do hope you can make this writing thing work out.

      • Maddy

        No, no, he’s like Tyler from fight club. He doesn’t kill anyone but he’s still bad; but he’s good because he forces him to be happy and do what he wants. The guy doesn’t steal it, he just disappears after and Walter manages to write his novels; the guy will look for his work and check in sometimes to make sure walter is stll fighting. Or, that’s what I see. I could be wrong.

    • darlingnib

      I love it, “does trying ever get old?”

    • Wow, wow, wow, Tom. You took Walter to a place I didn’t expect at all. BRAVO. All of this rocked, but this line hit my gut, “He was sick. Sick of silencing the words inside of him that have been screaming to be let out.”

      Fantastic! Also, THANK YOU for leaving so many others comments and encouragement. That’s what The Write Practice is all about. 🙂

      • Thanks, Marcy. It was a lot of fun. I’ve felt that line many times.

    • Charlotte Hyatt

      I love it! That’s a great – no fantastic – start but you have to give us more!

      • Thanks. It was a fun fifteen minutes.

    • Anna Lauren

      Brilliant! Absolutely bloody brilliant! 😀

    • Pedro Hernandez

      That was brilliant! I did not expect Walter to suddenly be fighting for Sam’s life! Amazing job Tom! I guess you made the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” true in this case 😀

      • Yeah. I liked the idea of Walter having someone’s life at stake if he didn’t finish his novel. Walter seemed like he needed some serious convincing to sit down and get the job done. Thanks for reading!

    • Matt O’Berski

      Tom, awesome way to really start it off with a bang! WHAT emotion, it grabs at the reader. So raw, I love it. And the emotions you’re playing with are perfect. I always say that’s when you know good writing, it’s when it plays with the emotions of the reader. Nice work!

      • Thank you, Matt, for your kind words. I was definitely going for an emotional pull, especially with the emotions a writer might feel when he knows he needs to complete something, but struggles to find enough motivation. Thanks for reading!

    • Tea Serafina Pekkala

      It`s good Tom, really nice. I like it how the plot sucks you in immediately.

    • This is such a great piece of writing. Your writing style is reminiscent the that of Carl Reiner. I love the quirkiness about the main character. You’ve written this story in a means making the main character appear interstering. I love the way you bring out his personality. Very intense plot.

      • Thank you for your kind words. I had a lot of fun with this little piece.

  • Julie Mayerson Brown

    Great advice, as usual, Marcy. I like how each trap ends with the “bottom line.” Some writers have trouble getting to the point (fiction and non-fiction), and I appreciate your getting to the bottom line quickly and clearly. I relate to #2 – doubt, fear, insecurity. Sometimes I’m confident; sometimes I think I suck. Also, sharing what one writes can be more intimidating than showing one’s naked body. I’m opening up my head, brain, ideas, and intimate thoughts . . . (topic of my next blog post btw). Thanks again for your insight and expertise!

    • Hi Julie,

      I think you can thank my “bottom-lining” each trap from being a Public Relations major in college. I tend to think in sound bites.

      I so can relate to swinging between CONFIDENCE and SUCKAGE! The point is, we must keep writing, keep sharing, and keep growing. Good luck on your next blog post.

  • darlingnib

    Okay, so I gave it a go:

    Walter sat down at the computer but nothing came and the dread
    began to build again. Twitching his foot against the floor, he stared out the
    window and tried not to see the blinking cursor on the screen. It would come.
    It would come. It had to, all the writing books said it would… Walter shifted
    in the chair. It had been comfortable when he had sat down but now the cushion
    seemed lumpy, the height all wrong. He moved it closer to the desk. If he got
    up he wouldn’t be coming back, he knew that much about himself. He closed his eyes and put his hands on the keyboard, index fingers resting on F and J. The computer had been on all morning and the board was warm against his wrists, comforting. Keeping his eyes closed, he typed the first string of words that came into his head.

    It was raining outside but he would rather be out there than in here, listening to them argue again.

    Walter stopped but didn’t open his eyes, like a tightrope walker taught never to look down. If he did it would all be over. His palms were sweating a little. Pushing his fingers against the keys again, he wrote,

    He pushed his half-eaten cereal around the bowl with his spoon, staring at the cartoons on the TV screen two feet in front of him. The sugar on his teeth felt thick.

    Walter stopped, his shoulders dropping, feeling exhausted. He re-read the two sentences he had just wrote. He was about to backspace over them but then a voice rose in his mind, like his own but much stronger: If you erase it you’ll just have to start all over again tomorrow. A beginning is a beginning.

    Walter exhaled. Yes, he would be back tomorrow.

    • Good point. I love the way those few words were exhausting to him. It really feels that way sometimes.

    • Yea! A victory for Walter, no matter how small. I feel like I’ve been Walter myself (more than once). Great practice. Thank you!

  • Marcy,
    It seems I’ve been taking one slightly-larger stride than you suggest in Point #1.
    I’ve always got a MINIMUM of 5 or 6 Novels on ‘Simmer’.
    If I find myself against the dreaded Brick Wall on one of them I can lay it aside and concentrate on one of the others.
    Point #3. “You don’t know your novel until it’s finished.
    In a number of my books, one of the characters (in one particular case, a B-figure I’d introduced with the specific intention of killing him off!) will up sticks, change direction and gallop off into the sunset with the whole PLOTLINE slung over his shoulder, and I have to chase off after him!!! Sooooooo frustrating – but it does wonders for the plot!

    • darlingnib

      Wow, 5 or 6? I wish I had that many going, lol, for the exact reasons you describe. But since I’ve got all my eggs in one basket (though it’s an epic basket) I have to just keep climbing over that wall. It’s good practice, I suppose.
      I love your description of the character galloping off with the plotline over his shoulder!

      • Current state of play: Novel #1 political thriller 88k words, almost complete
        Novel #2 Global Warming disaster 95K words, needs c. 3 more chapters
        Novel #3 Drug smuggling/antiquarian books dealer as ‘mule’ 98K words, i or 2 chapters to finish
        Novel #5 2nd volume of trilogy (celtic legend/light romance)
        Novel #5 Sequel to historical thriller set at time of Black Death
        Enough to keep me busy!

        Plus completed MS (various genre) out ‘in circulation’ 🙂

        • LilianGardner

          WOW!
          You must be writing all day long to get so many words on each novel.

    • Hi Paul,

      Five or six novels at once? I simply cannot imagine. I’m a very monogamous writer, and seem to focus on one book at time. But, you know what? That doesn’t make me wrong, and you write (or, vice versa). Each of us is different and we must find what works best for us.

      I appreciate you sharing your comment with us. Best of luck to you.

    • LilianGardner

      Hi Paul,
      I breathe a sigh of relief to find someone similar to me.
      I have three partly written novels, three short stories, two poems to complete, but for the moment I don’t want to discard any one of them.
      I agree with #3 of Marcy’s article.
      I find it refreshing to leave aside one novel for a while, and carry on with another. The point is, with this method, I wonder when I’ll get one finished.

  • Christine

    Good points! My little tale will mainly emphasize the first one:

    WALLY THE WRITER
    The house was quiet. Wally had given his wife and children tickets to the Fun-Fan-Fare downtown so he could spend the next several hours writing. In his mind he’d plotted out the novel, written scenes, arranged details, mixed a bit of humor into the suspense. Now to “open a vein,” as someone said.

    He heard a scratching at the door, followed by a plaintive “meow.” He got up and let their cat in.

    And of course Tibbins led Wally straight to the kitchen and sniffed at his food dish. “Okay. Here it is.” Wally poured some Tuna Nutries into Tibbins’ bowl. “Now don’t pester me. Tonight I’m going to begin my novel.”

    Wally sat down at his desk and typed, “When Tommy poked his head through the fence that morning, he never expected to see a tiger glaring back at him.”

    Wally nodded. Great hook! But Tommy is such a common name, he thought. Shouldn’t my protagonist be have a more profound handle? He googled http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/decades/ and chose ‘names1960s’, seeing Tommy is supposed to be twelve and this story is set in 1978.

    Hmmm… Michael, David, John, James, Robert, Mark, William, Richard, Thomas. None of the others appealed, so Tommy he would remain.

    “Ouch!” Wally jumped out of his chair as he felt a cat claw dig into in his leg. He looked down. “Now I suppose you want out, Tibs?”

    Tibbins headed for the door, which Wally obligingly opened. For a moment the cat stood in the doorway trying to decide, then headed toward the hedge. Wally sighed and went back to his computer.

    He reread what he’d written: “…tiger glaring back at him.” But was glaring the best verb? He picked up his thesaurus and thumbed to the G’s. “frown, glower, gaze, look daggers, scowl, stare.” Hmm…

    Maybe I should begin with more details about Tommy. He tapped the keys enthusiastically. “When twelve-year old Tommy looked through the fence in his backyard—that is, the fence surrounding the bungalow his parents had recently bought in Canto, Ohio — he was surprised to see a tiger glowering at him.”

    Or is that too much info dump? If only I knew how much is too much, he thought. He wiped out that line and glanced at the clock. Half an hour and his first paragraph wasn’t done yet. He could hardly say he’d opened a vein; barely a drop of blood had splashed on the page yet. No wonder they say writing is so time-consuming!

    And Tibbins was scratching at the door again. “My next novel is going to be Who Murdered the Cat?” he mumbled as he got up to open the door.

    • Thanks for the smile, Christine. First, I love that you named him Wally. Secondly, I have a pug named Nick who sounds a lot like Tibbs the cat, so I really enjoyed this.

      Here’s my favorite line, “He could hardly say he’d opened a vein; barely a drop of blood had splashed on the page yet.”

      AWESOME! Thanks for sharing your practice with us.

      • Christine

        Thank you. I enjoyed doing it. As for the cat, we have three so I know whereof I speak. It seems a good part of my day is taken up being doorman and/or slave. When I work at the computer one of the cats seems to want some kind of attention.

    • Great story. Sounds like that cat would drive any writer crazy. Loved the last line.

      • Christine

        Thanks.

    • Anna Lauren

      Oh yeah, I can so relate to this 🙂 I have a cat and a dog.
      The Cat… “Let meowt…let meiiin”
      The pup barks once then bashes on the screen door until someone lets her in.
      LOL great name for a novel, Christine.

      • Christine

        May I should use it then? I’ve been thinking of writing a cozy mystery, so why not do that one? Hmmm.. But who could bear to read about a cat being murdered?
        People, yes. A writer can terminate half a dozen without a reader blinking. But a cat? Never! 🙂

  • Susan Barker

    I’ve got lots of creative monsters. I found a closet, shoved them into it and locked the door. Now I am getting some writing done on a story that has plagued me for years. Thanks to Marcy, I can now do what I need to do. 🙂
    Perfectionism is a giant threat to me. After reading Marcys writing naked book, which I still have a copy of to review when needed, I sat down turned off my delete and start over key (figuratively speaking of course) and I’m actually writing. I have a The End section now, for the first time. I have started this same story over I don’t know how many times in the past. It’s really MESSY and I have had to move some scenes around and added a couple that sort of helped themselves into the story. 🙂
    THANKS!

    • I’m so happy for you, Susan. I’m delighted Writing Naked helped you and that you’re just letting yourself get the messy stuff out. You can always make it pretty later…unless you let the blank page win.

      Kudos to you!

  • Susan Barker

    I’m enjoying my writing more now rather than being picky about what happens. I have also added questions into some of my scenes to help with the plot.

    • Fantastic, Susan. Sounds like you’re setting your perfectionism aside and just letting yourself write. I accomplish so much more and enjoy myself so much more that way. It’s nice seeing progress. Keep up the good work!

  • Gary G Little

    Walter grabbed his laptop, crawled up on his doghouse, sat down, opened and turned his laptop on and began:

    “It was a dark and stormy night.”

    Thunder crashed, lightning crashed, and down came the rain in buckets.

    “Now see what you done,” exclaimed the Anti-muse. “You’ve brought a storm!”

    “Oh shutup cried the muse and leave the poor guy alone. Let him write what a=and where he wants,” and with a mighty blow Muse silenced Anti-Muse, and Walter wrote.

    Words poured forth in torrents, in floods, in huge volumes. Paragraphs passed and still Walter wrote. Pages collated and still Walter wrote. Chapters were bound and still Walter wrote. The muse tickled him and Walter wrote. The Anti-Muse snored to be silenced by the Muse and still Walter. Finally Walter was finished. The Words ceased, except for the final two and finally Walter typed on the final electronic page, centered in Times 18 pt, “The End”. Walter was done.

    “Walter,” his agent asked, what is the title of this tome?”

    Walter, turning back to the title page, centered the cursor, set 24 pt Times New Roman, thought for but a few brief moments and then typed the only title he could type.

    “No,” screamed the Anti-Muse. “No, No, No, you cannot name the tome that, No no no please NNOOOO!!”

    Walter typed the last letter of the title for his book To Kill the Anti-Muse.

    • This delighted me, Gary. With your Walter, you had me picturing an angel/devil on each shoulder with your Muse/Anit-Muse. Great stuff. Plus, I’m glad the Anti-Muse got it in the end. 🙂

  • Naga Pramod

    It Doesn’t

    1

    Tick tock, tick tock. It was 3 am in the morning, Walter was
    up all night. Right there in front of his type writer, an unknown fear invaded
    him. He was forcing himself to write, he wanted to express his story on the
    paper, he was having an unending quench for writing, for telling something that
    belonged too much to him. Like most of us, he was afraid. He was preoccupied with
    how much “perfectionism” and “awesomeness” are important in the thing he does.

    “Walter, son you gotta be the best, whatever you do, you
    just have to excel”

    “The weak have no place, you gotta be the best and the
    strong to sustain and survive, strive Walter, be the best always”

    He was recollecting various things said by various other
    people to him over the period of his lifetime. He was too much psyched with how
    important it was to be the best and excel at everything goddamn thing one does.
    He was a teacher by his profession. He was sick of teaching English literature.
    He wanted to write his own. Random thoughts would come to his mind every now
    and then that always excited him like a child. But the moment he thinks of
    putting them down on the paper, a voice haunts him down,

    “Walter, is that good enough? Is that the best you can give?
    Is it really that good?”

    His own voice inside would kill him with self doubt,
    everything he wrote used to hit the bin most of the time… and now, he seldom
    types. His hands shake with fear and his mind shuts away with tension.

    2

    It was a lovely evening; Walter just finished his final
    class on the Shakespeare’s tragedy “Mac Beth.” Interesting story it was, he
    thought. Coming to tragedy, he had an idea. An idea for what he felt would be a
    heart rending story. That night…he went to his type writer, sat down for
    writing it. Then kicked in his inner voice, “Is it good enough?”

    He stood up and walked away from the type writer, it was
    rough. Days passed by, tragedies, plays, poetries, romantic stories, thrillers,
    crime stories and even erotica, what not! Nothing was able to survive under his
    strong voice of criticism; which shunned every story and every concrete idea
    that came by. Years passed, his age
    grew, his ideas came and went away and that coffee mug and the type writer were
    the only unchanging constant ones which were forever there. Untouched.

    One day, while at college, a guy came and handed Walter a
    paper, and asked him to proof read it for him. Walter agreed to do so. He took the
    story, started reading it. It was nothing new. It told the tale of a girl who
    came from Texas to Los Angeles to pursue her American dream. There was nothing
    great in the story. It was a tale told by him in his own subtle way. Next day,
    when welter asked the guy what his motivation and idea to write the story was.

    “Screw it! I don’t think so far Mr. Walter, I felt like
    writing something. I wrote it. Writing itself is a self sustained beauty which didn’t
    really need motivation or energy and special effort. It always flowed. Just like
    that. I was willing to put whatever came to my mind on the paper. I wasn’t in a
    crusade to write the next best seller or master piece. Masterpieces just
    happen, we can’t make them. What we writers do is just sit…and write. That’s all
    Mr. Walter, and I pretty much feel that you know all of this already. Thanks,
    bye. Have a good day”

    What that boy said stirred Walter, he found the treasure
    chest of wisdom on writing from his own student. Writing itself is an end. Perfectionism,
    fuck it…he thought.

    Tick tock, tick tock. It was 3 am in the morning, Walter was
    up all night. Right there in front of his type writer, an unknown fear invaded
    him. He was forcing himself to write, he wanted to express his story on the
    paper…

    Darn! I’ll just do this goddamit.

    “Once upon a time, there was a girl from…”

    And the story continued…Walter didn’t turn back. It wasn’t too
    late for doing what he always wanted too. And he then clearly understood…that
    perfectionism was not what he needed; putting pen on paper, writing something
    and creating something every day mattered, perfectionism doesn’t.

    • LilianGardner

      Hi Naga,
      I’m so glad Walter kicked aside his too critical inner voice in the end, and got satisfaction from writing non-stop.
      I have an inner voice which doesn’t urge me on enough, but happily, it doesn’t intefere with my decisions.

      • Naga Pramod

        Thanks for reading it Lillian, and yeah, inner critical voice is way too harsh sometimes

    • Hey Naga,

      EXCELLENT job. I love what you did with Walter’s story. It conveyed the passage of time and his longing. It took him a long time to finally let himself write, but I’m so glad Walter did. This was awesome, “Writing itself is an end.”

      Such a brief sentence, but so powerful. Loved it. TY.

      • Naga Pramod

        Thanks a lot Marcy, that was so sweet of you!

  • Morgan DeMuth Barnes

    I wrote this in word and then copy/pasted into this text box. For whatever reason the format is a little weird and it’s deleting words if I try to correct it, so here’s what I have (funky formatting and all):

    Walter
    stares at the blinking cursor in front of him. It’s flashing on, then off, then
    on, then off, extending an invitation to him to help solidify its being by
    giving it purpose. But, he’s having trouble accepting the invitation.

    Walter
    knows he has words inside of him, he knows he has a story within, but he doesn’t
    know how to make the words bubble to the surface. He reaches for the small
    tumbler on his desk that is now more water than whiskey from the ice cubes that
    melted hours ago. He takes a drink, grimaces at the lackluster taste, and looks
    at the clock. It’s eight in the evening. It had still been afternoon when he’d
    sat at the desk in the dim corner of the living room that made a halfhearted
    attempt to be his office.

    Another
    day wasted. Walter began planning his book in the summer of ’97. He was several
    years into a new career then, and felt as though he could take on the world.
    Now, 15 years later, he is several years out of a career and he still hadn’t
    written more than a handful of pages about anything.

    Walter
    lifts his head. What was that noise, a knock? He stands and walks to the front
    window. He draws the dusty plaid curtain aside and looks into the light cast
    from the single bulb hanging on the front porch. There is a small semi-circle
    of illumination framing the front door. There is no one there. Of course there
    isn’t, he’s not expecting any company this evening. He lets the curtain drop
    and heads back to his desk.

    Walter
    sits and resumes his task of staring at the cursor. He thinks of the time that
    cursor has taken from him over the years. How many empty hours has he spent
    doing this very thing? What could he have made of himself if he’d only
    dismissed the fancy and committed to something tangible, to something, or to someone,
    real?

    There it
    is again. What is that noise? It’s faint, but it is knocking. This time, Walter takes a few steps and crosses
    directly to the front door. Whoever they are, they are still timidly knocking. He
    plans to put an end to this post haste. Walter wrenches the thin wooden door
    open, intent on catching whatever trickster is so set on disturbing him this
    evening. There is no one there.

    Suddenly, it is he who stands in the
    illumination that he’d looked upon only moments ago. He has moved onto the
    porch without thinking, without planning to do so.

    What
    was that noise?

    He
    turns to go back into the small cabin. There are no prowlers in the bushes that
    line the front of the porch, nor are there any on the outer edges along it. He
    feels the burning red of foolishness creep across his face. The cabin is in the
    middle of 10 acres of forest and his nearest neighbor is miles away. Of course
    he’s alone, there’s no one around to play tricks even if they wanted to.

    He
    shuffles closer to the threshold and feels his foot strike something with a
    hollow “whoomp” sound. Sitting directly in front of his door is a nondescript
    brown paper wrapped box. It is tied plainly with a bit of twine holding the
    paper in place. There’s no card.

    How had
    he missed it when he walked out moments ago? Surely he would have noticed if he’d
    walked right by a box of its size. It must have been a two foot square, and the
    depth was at least half as big.

    Walter
    picks up the box and walks directly to his kitchen table. On his way, he pulls
    the pair of scissors he keeps in his knife block from the counter. The box is
    heavy, much heavier than he expected. He places it in the center of his table
    made for two, the table that only ever seats one, and cuts the twine holding
    the package together.

    The
    paper falls away from the box. Underneath the paper is a lid, is this a hat
    box? What sort of hat weighs nearly 30 pounds? Walter lifts the lid from the
    box it’s protecting and peers inside. There is a typewriter.

    A
    typewriter? He hasn’t seen a typewriter like this in over twenty years. It isn’t
    even the electrical variety. It’s old, but he isn’t sure how old. Walter runs
    his hand along the keys and is startled when they begin to type. The keys must
    be incredibly sensitive to depress this easily.

    Walter gently removes the typewriter
    from its box and walks it over to his corner desk. He folds the screen of his
    laptop down, nudges it to the side, and puts the beautiful machine down in its
    place. In his initial admiration of the antique, Walter has neglected to see
    that there is a piece of yellowed paper securely hugging the type roll. He
    depresses the lever to release the sheet of paper and gently pulls it from the
    machine.

    Hello, Walter.

    There is no other text on the sheet of paper.

    • LOVED THIS, Morgan. I this mystery of this…Walter’s thoughts….his cabin in the middle of nowhere…the surprised package on his doorstep. You rocked the house, missy. Congrats!

  • Madani

    Hi
    I am writing my fifth or sixth novel, laziness doens’t let me count because of the number of short stories, novels and tales in French and in Arabic. Now I am at page twenty-two of my new novel. I imagine the next 250 pages. I have the story in my mind, from A to Z as they say in French but I feel as if I am struggling in mud. I can’t take off.
    Sorry if my English is not clear enough.

    • LilianGardner

      I think you’re doing really well, especially that you write in two languages.
      Having the ability to imagine the next 250 pages of your new novel is marvellous.
      Wish I could do the same.

      • Madani

        Thank you for these nice words Lilian Gardner
        You cannot imagine how good it is to master different languages. The first books I read were in French (in my childhood) then I discovered the Arabic literature especially poetry. I propose you the following verse
        I translate:
        ‘Ah If the youth years could comme back…….I would tell them about the harm the white hair did to me’
        In fact I am sixty-two years old, that’s why I say this.
        The french culture is a world in itself and so is the Arabic, both of them marvellous. At the age of forty I discovered the English literature. I mean I started to read the english books in English. It’s another world that I discovered, a world which one cannot imagine only and only if one reads in the original version (French books read in French, Arabic ones in Arabic and English novels in English).
        The more languages one knows, the more he is a universal citizen.

        • LilianGardner

          I agree with you.

    • So good to hear from you, Madani. The fact you’ve completed six novels says so much about your perseverance. And please don’t misunderstand my humble beginnings of this new novel. When I say I have solid bones of the story, it’s more like solid bones of one hand…I still have an entire body to create.

      I feel like I’m in the mud myself, but the key is to KEEP WRITING. We’ll have moments of clarity again, then feel lost again. I believe in you Madani. You can do this.

      • Madani

        Thank you Marcy

  • Madani

    Hi,
    I am at page twenty-two of my novel and I can’t say That I have reached the solid bones of the story I want to write. This novel is in my mind from A to Z as they say in French but I still can’t take off. It’s like if I am struggling in the mud.

  • Pedro Hernandez

    I had a bit of trouble writing this story, but I hope you enjoy it.
    **********************************************************************

    Walter held the pen in his hand, poised over a blank sheet of paper he had pulled out from the drawer in his desk. He sat there, waiting for the spark of creativity that would transform this page into a story. He stared intently at the paper, as if the paper would eventually yield its story that it was waiting to be told. Walter spent many nights just like this one, waiting for the spark that would bring his story into life. And every night he gave up, put the pen and paper away in his drawer, and went to bed frustrated. Not today. Walter refused to give up in the middle of his despair. He needed to write. Walter would never forgive himself if he gave up again. Walter was frustrated that everyone around him seemed to have no problem finding their dream job. It was as if life had especially placed a barrier and laughed at Walters useless attempts to climb over it. The pen trembled in his hand with fear. Would anyone like what Walter wrote? Who would publish it? Would anyone pick his book from a shelf among thousands of stories? Walter was so tempted to put down his pen. Hadn’t he tried enough? Shouldn’t he go and find a real job? Walter closed his eyes for a moment, he tried to relax. He imagined all his worries were balloons. And he imagined himself letting each balloon go, sailing high into the blue sky above. Walter remembered that life would not yield its treasures if you did not fight. You fought for what you believed in, no matter how much it hurt or how hopeless it seemed. Didn’t soldiers from war fight for what they believed in? Didn’t the greatest men of history fight for what they wanted?
    Walters eyes snapped back open.
    He would write.
    And Walter put his pen down into the paper. It seemed to sigh as his pen flew across the page, and when that page was finished, Walter picked another page and wrote, and another, and another into the darkness of midnight.

    • Pedro!

      I love how everyone is expressing their Walter. Here’s my favorite line in your story: “It was as if life had especially placed a barrier and laughed at Walters useless attempts to climb over it.”

      Uggh! I’ve experienced that frustration and am pleased you gave Walter a happy ending. 🙂

      • Pedro Hernandez

        Thanks Marcy!
        I thank you for giving some time in the day to read this story! 😀

  • Matt O’Berski

    Hey all,
    This is my first time commeting, but I really liked this prompt and decided to have a go at it. I didn’t realize the italics wouldn’t carry over, so when you read it, whenever you think there should be italics (for the inner voice), there probaly are on my document, just not here. That being said, here is my Walter piece. Oh, and if you could please help me with working dialogue into my piece. I’ve always struggled with dialogue. Thank you!
    ___________________________________________________________________

    He didn’t realize it would be this difficult. Of course he should have realized
    it. He’d been telling himself to try for years and talking himself out of
    starting for equally as many year. Was it up to decades yet? Who are you to be asking? Was his age even that high? No, and it’s not appropriate for you to ask him questions. Walter doesn’t even know you.

    See this, this is what always happened.
    Whenever Walter tried to assert himself to something new, be it a new idea of a
    new job or even a new relationship, the demons in his head would speak up
    louder and more persistently than his own queebling one.

    You see, he wanted to be an author.
    Wanted to be one of the Greats, once upon a time. That was how it all started
    actually, with “Once upon a time…” Walter had always been so enamored by fairy
    tales, enjoying the this or that of the journey through another person’s fancy.
    It was fascinating.

    And then there was the doubt.

    Already he had a downtalking inner
    voice, but Walter also had a perfectionist spirit. When he used to write in
    middle school it would take him hours to complete what should have been a short
    assignment.

    Others call this perfectionism.

    Just understand that you’re no good. Know it. I do. Said the voice inside him.

    Only halfway done with life, in his mid
    40’s, how was he to change his mindset.

    It came like a breeze, unexpected and typically out of the East. Of course, when I say ‘it’, I could say she, and when I say ‘she’, I could Helen. But you wouldn’t care about that so much would you?

    Helen found Walter in the coffee shop
    one day, she a regular customer and he an extra-ordinary employee at
    “JustAnotherChain Coffee Shoppe”.

    “Hi!” she said.

    “…Hi,” came his hesitant reply.

    Well, he thought to himself. Here’s another person who will order me around and wait
    impatiently while I struggle making her extra foam decaf vente iced mocha latte
    double-shot.

    The mouthful of words would have choked
    him if it had been more than just thoughts. Appropriate thoughts. Typical
    thoughts. Typically correct thoughts.

    Almost done.

    “How are you? she asked, and she asked
    it in a way… it was with her eyes I think, that took Walter aback. He wasn’t
    used to people even seeing him. You know, really seeing him. She asked and she cared about the answer.

    Hurry.
    Say something witty. Make her uncomfortable. You’re not used to this. She’s got
    the upper hand. You’re always losing, win something for once. Cmon, speak for
    Walter’s sake! – it was his inner voice again. Doubt. Fear. Reality.
    Weakness. Jerking him about by the heart strings.

    • Welcome to commenting, Matt! Your story touched me. I’m a recovering perfectionist and really felt Walter’s yearning + pain. As far as your dialogue, it all worked for me….you nailed the kind of small talk you find at any coffee shop.
      Thank you for taking the risk to share your practice. Your bravery officially made my day!

      • Matt O’Berski

        Oh Marcy, thank you!! This was my first post, then I got addicted and my fingers kept tapping away at the keys. I wrote 4 more last night, only I think two of which were actually for this site. I was watching ‘Freedom Writers’ and used two different quotes about war to start two different 15 minute writings, as well. This whole 15 minute thing is so intriguing.
        Literally, I had NO idea this was where my story with Walter would go. And ‘Helen’? Yeah she popped out of nowhere as well 🙂
        I’m going to keep my eyes open for your posts!

        • Good for you, Matt. Isn’t it fascinating how fart those 5 minute prompts can take you? I’m so happy for you and I LOVE Freedom Writers. I love how your Helen addition just came out of nowhere…that’s the #3 I mentioned in my post.
          I haven’t seen it in awhile and may have to watch it again. 🙂

  • Doug

    Walter silently cursed himself. Why hadn’t he made a more extravagant lunch? Not only that, even the most meager effort could have resulted in having worn at least
    three more changes of clothes in the past 24 hours as well. Piles of junk mail could be waiting at this very moment to be given his undivided attention. But no. Here he was, dishes clean, laundry neatly washed, dried, folded and put away, and inbox empty.

    And the piece of paper sat across from him, glaring, DARING him to upset its pristine condition. He hated that paper.

    ‘In medias res’, he saw in his mind’s eye. But where!? They always leave that part out.
    He had had any number of completely viable scenes floating around in his head for months…years really; this story had been haunting him that long. Was that the cell phone? Nope, he had muted it.

    “I have to get something on the page”, thought Walter. He knew he didn’t have a ‘beginning’. But he did have a character; Gideon. He knew a lot about Gideon. Many 5 mile walks had revealed a great many factoids about the man. Nothing that really hung together as a story, but things that Walter found interesting nonetheless. For instance, Gideon was able to ‘hear’ information in his own mind from places other than his own personal experience. And as far as he knew, Gideon could not die, as he had had occasion to discover during several prior incidents. Those are cool, thought Walter. Can I just pick one of those and start telling about that? He didn’t know whether it would be anything more than background notes, but that paper was clearly about to start trash talking Walter’s mother and something had to be done about that. So Walter took a breath, sent his inner critic for coffee, and wrote.

    And wrote.

    And wrote.

    At the end of 45 minutes (really?) , Walter looked down at the gloriously messy page, smudged with ink from his crook armed, left handed writing style, and raised his fists into the air. There were maybe three sentences he could see that might have some potential, and he had come up with one particular turn of phrase that shed entirely new light on his protagonist’s frame of mind. But it was SOMETHING. Maybe these weren’t the words that would end up in his manuscript, but they were good words. And he liked writing them. He felt a small thrill at seeing those words flowing from his hand, with no blood drawn at any point in the process.

    Walter set down his pen, stuck the paper on the front of his monitor, and went to change into his walking outfit. It wouldn’t make much of a load of laundry, but somehow, that was ok now.

    • I adore what you did with Walter, Doug. Your guy is bit an order freak, but he fought past resistance and found his flow. He’s still a neat-nick, but that’s okay, because he got his pages written. Fantastic. Thanks for the great read.

  • Grace

    THANK YOU
    Thank you for this message. Honestly, I am a perfectionist so bad, it hurts. Everything has to have the same pattern, good order, can’t look sloppy, gotta be nice even though it isn’t a book yet, yada-yada-yada. I knew that rough drafts and planning notebooks/documents were supposed to be messy, but I didn’t feel like I knew what messy was supposed to look like. If I had known that I would be totally allowed to just write down whatever wacky note I held in my brain, just to get it onto paper, that would have been great. And now I do. And it’s great.
    For some reason, I guess I thought that messy had a set of rules or something, like it all had to be in order, or whatever. I mean, it couldn’t be TOTAL chaos, right (man, that sounds bad but it’s supposed to be a good thing)? That’s the way my brain works. And yet it can be a mess! Aha! Totally having a lightbulb moment. I never even considered that my plans for a book could be a mass of bizarre notes and snippets of work and random conclusions or interviews or sidenotes right as first.
    And now, I just have to get over my pet peeve of being an order freak, and it’ll be all good. Yay. (Relieved sigh.)
    Yeah, I’m weird, but still. This is awesome. 🙂

    • I’m glad to have enlightened you, Grace. I used to pick up any of my favorite books (fiction or nonfiction) and thought my writing was supposed to come up perfecto. On the first try. I was my own worst enemy.
      Creativity, writing…it doesn’t work that way. Yes, sometimes, it flows cohesively and beautifully, but more times than not it’s a big, gobbledeegook mess.
      You’re not weird. You’re a writer. There’s a difference and that difference is AWESOME. Good luck with this new info!

    • Robert Ranck

      Grace, I hear you. “Messy” for a first draft?

      I think we ought to change the emphasis on that. I’m OK with being a perfectionist or not, as you wish – it is up to you. Messy is PERMITTED, BUT NOT REQUIRED.

  • Robert Ranck

    “Crap”, thought Walter, as he sat at his little desk in the corner of the little hose
    he and his little family lived in, near the Steelyards in the sprawling enormity that is Cleveland. .

    “Just plain crap”, he muttered, under his breath.

    Frustration and exasperation welled up in a stinging clamor in his mind. “Crap”, he said.
    It didn’t help.

    Liking the way the word just sort of happened in his mouth and hurled itself out through
    his drawn lips, he said it again, louder and with an air of conviction: “Crap”. The frustration and exasperation waited, unchanged.

    To himself, he thought, “Just who am I kidding, a whole NOVEL? Four hundred pages? Of What?” Finally, in resignation and resolution, “CRAP!”, with power and authority this
    time .

    From the darkened bedroom came Sally’s petulant voice, “Dammit, Walt! Keep it down.
    You’ll wake Angie, and I’ll have to get up with her and that will make me lose my sleep, and . . . and I’ll have a tough enough day tomorrow, anyway, and . . . and . . . – ummmm.“ — Silence — Like the way her voice faded back into sleep, Walter segued from her distress back into the immediacy of his own.

    Being distressed was nothing new for Walter, neither was being without a job. Being
    layed off, from a theoretic viewpoint anyway, was certainly better than being fired, but in a practical sense, the mortgage would have to be paid,regardless. In an exercise of self-control and determination that he had learned from Sally’s yoga instructor, he cleared his mind entirely of all the mundane and financial details and focused directly on the issue at hand – he was finally going to write that novel. It was a yarn that he had been running through his mind for nearly a decade as he polished and refined its plot and characters until they were, to him anyway, as real as his wife and daughter or the people at the plant where he – WHOOPS – had worked.

    Going through the mind-clearing routine again, he looked directly at the computer. “Outline?” he thought. “Don’t need it. I know how this thing goes. Now is the time to
    begin.”

    Walter knew he could write. In High School he had excelled in language and literature
    courses. Though he had only one year in community college, his professors had
    complimented him highly on his developing skills. At the plant, he had been selected to write the procedure manuals, training materials, and safety instructions for a wide
    range of processes, and this had earned him a promotion and a significant increase in salary. He knew he could do a novel, if only he had the time and support. If only . . .

    The plant. The job. The mortgage. Again.

    “Crap!”

    Walter stood up. Maybe, he thought, he ought to put this writing “on the back burner” again and go look for a job. Sally said she didn’t mind working, she had worked all her life anyway, and besides, her boss had been asking her to work full-time which would nearly (but not quite) make up the difference between – woah!

    Glancing at the clock, he noted that twenty minutes had passed since he had first sat down, and still not a single character had been placed on the pristine blankness of
    the screen. Maybe this writing business isn’t all that easy. But the bookstore in the mall had literally miles of shelves, and each week there were new titles and new editions and, yes, NEW AUTHORS!

    So it can be done! Remembering his Dad’s second-favorite expression (“If any one man can do it, any other man can, too. He just has to want it badly enough to learn how to do it right.”), Walter straightened the chair, sat back down and reached to the keyboard.

    “In that part of Cleveland called the Steelyards, . . . “ he began.

    • Thank you, Robert. I think Walter was reading my mind this weekend because CRAP seemed to be my internal editor’s favorite comment + 20 minutes seems to be my current procrastination time before I get to work.

      BTW, I REALLY like Walter’s opening lines about the Steelyards and hope you will (if you haven’t already) write a story about that. Good luck!

  • i meant to chime in days ago when I first read this, and WOW, 80 comments in, here I go 🙂 This is a great – and super crucial – list to keep in mind when writing a first draft. I’m neck deep in my current WIP, but when I (eventually!) start my next book, I will be rereading this post. I really love #1 because I used to think it mattered what order I wrote in, and I love the idea of just getting 20 messy (and beautiful) pages written, in any which way, and sort out the logistics later. The thing that freezes writers up the most is that blank page, so the sooner you can throw down some words, the better. Thanks again Marcy!

    • You’re so right about that BLANK PAGE. It’s kicked my arse all weekend. I’ve eeked out eight pages, but it was painful. I’m hoping to shake it off and tomorrow will be better. I always appreciate your comments, so thanks for sharing!

  • Jack Strandburg

    I struggle with the first two traps each and every time I sit down to write, first draft or otherwise, and number 3 is a natural fallout of every writing endeavor.

    • Good to see you, Jack. The trick to all these is PERSEVERANCE. We must keep writing past the fear, doubts, procrastination, perfectionism. You can do this. I know it. Best of luck to you.

  • Jennifer Ott

    I tend to disagree with #3. Of course there will be twists and surprises that come up as you write, however if you don’t understand your story, how can you start writing, how can you develop your characters with the story arc. Not understanding the essence of your story will make future drafts that much more difficult because you will need to rewrite and edit areas that don’t work. You’ll have to rewrite characters that don’t fit the narrative of the story. I always work with screenplay structure when approaching a novel – basic three act with plot twists within. I know when my 1st draft is complete, I have a strong structure and not a bunch of meandering thoughts and themes.

    • Thanks for your two-cents, Jennifer. The screenplay structure is a great way to approach your novel. Glad you’ve found what works for you.

  • DJ

    I’m really getting scared..here’s my problem and I think I need help and encouragement. I had a serious hit and run accident Jan 17, the driver t-boned me and hit me on the side. I hit my head, neck and shoulder on the dashboard and somehow the rear view mirror. The driver went down the street and took off when he heard the sirens. I have lawyers but can’t get surgery until I get a surgeon who will work off a lien, so I’m in pain daily. I took on the contest because I was able to write with my iPad until the last 3 days. My neck and arm is in extreme pain. I’ve not been able to use my right hand. I have to type with my left hand. And I don’t know how to write with my left hand. I’m completely depressed! I thought the pain was not as bad as it is right now, it was getting better, until I start typing. I’m also worried about my story. I can’t download the book “Let’s write a short story” because it’s a zip file & iPad won’t let me. I want to just submit my story & let others critique it, I’m so worried about everything I write. I think that’s why I have never published anything. This is pushing me to do something with a disability which I never had before…I’m sorry if I’m sounding like a debby downer…I’m a fine artist too so you can see how it’s effecting me there as well. Thanks for everyone’s words below it does help, I just wanted to add how this is for me…

    • Hi DJ,
      You don’t sound like Debbie Downer. Life has literally collided into you. I think you have no choice, but to honor your body (ESPECIALLY if it hurts too much to write or type). Rest, heal, there will be other contests. Do what you need to do to heal and be healthy again.

  • Tea Serafina Pekkala

    10 a.m.

    Walter was feeling great. Sun was shining birds were singing.He just got up and decided to go for a morning walk to café nearby to grab some coffee. He had to. He ran out of coffee the day before yesterday and now he is reliving yesterday. I should start writing today. I do feel like its a great day to start.- he thought. But first things first I need to get my Coffee.

    10 minutes later he is drinking coffee in swansie café. I could have that Beagle- he though. He ate the beagle. I could go for a walk in a park now, its not even 11, ill start writing at 12, that will give me plenty of time to write today. Ill make lunch brake at 1.30.

    11.30 a.m.
    Phone rings.
    – hello- says Walter.
    – oh, hi Claire-
    – nothing much, just walking in the park, want join?-
    – what do you mean some people have a real job?! Writing is a job! If you think…-
    – yeah Yeah I know what you meant. You wanted to say…?-
    – I guess I could go on early lunch –
    – OK. OK. Meet you there in half an hour.

    12 o`clock
    – Hey Walt, thanks for joining me. Its been ages
    – Claire, if 10 days was ages I would be (mumbling while counting) how much is 32 times 36,5
    – Why bother its not even a good reference- says Claire rolling her eyes
    – Just say it, I know you do it easily
    – 1168
    – Well I would be 1168…ummm… units old if 10 days was ages
    – Walt you scare me sometimes, I would like to have one waldorf salad- talking to a waiter
    – I`ll have pasta pesto.
    – So what have you been up to? Writing much, yes?
    (They ate lunch.)

    14.00 h
    What to do now?- Walt was wondering- I can’t have lunch but I’m not in the mood for writing either, talking to people can really suck out energy even if its your one true love. Or maybe even because of it?
    I should go and pay my rent. I will write in the evening.

    Phone ring- who now?
    – Yes?- says Walter
    – O hi there Jane
    – The book?
    – The book is fine…
    – I have been working on this story…
    – what do you mean how many pages did I wrote..?
    – I know that..
    – Yes I know..
    – Yes..-
    – Yes, I will deliver first 100 pages next Friday
    – Yes I’m aware that its in 8 days, I`ll just have to give my best
    – Well you cut and edit most of my sentences so I don’t think that`s even an issue…
    – I will not slack off, I will do it as it should…
    – I`ll polish the sentences later, the most important thing is the story..
    – You don’t get it, the story exist in my mind but it`s still growing
    – OK. OK. Talk to you on Monday.
    – Sure, thanks Jane, you too.

    Walt hangs up and sigh- Publisher huh?

    • I LOVE the exchange between Walter and Claire. Poor guy, he gets no respect. I also like that you didn’t use quotations for the dialogue. I never do that, but it struck me and really cool here. This totally worked and I hope Walter gets his first 100 pages turned into his publisher on time. Thanks!

  • In His Attempts To Write, Walter…
    By Kiki Stamatiou a. k. a. Joanna Maharis

    After struggling for so long to write his novel, Walter finally sits down to write. He hears the cracks in the floor as the thumps from footsteps grow louder and louder.

    “I think I’m letting my imagination grow wild, its running away from me,“ he said in a shaky voice while his fingers carelessly hit the keys of his typewriter.

    He stops for a moment, leans over his chair, putting his hand up against his ear to listen more closely to the chattering sounds coming from his attic.

    “Why does this house mock me?” He cried while his hands and entire body shook in fear. “Maybe if I took a break for a little while, my nerves would settle, and the fears of my entire being will subside.”

    Just as he got up from his chair and walked into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee, he heard a voice coming from the first landing of the stairway. “Walter. Walter Graves, I want you to hear me, and hear me good. You owe me a voice to make
    my mark in the world.”

    Dropping the pot of water, sending it crashing to the floor, while he trembled, Walter replied, “Who…Who…are…you…a…and…wha..what…do…y…you…wa…want…from…me?”

    “Just what I told you. I want you to tell the world my story. Tell all the people of this planet about my ventures in the wilderness, how I tackled a wild grisly bear. I defeated him. Tell the world about my epic journey over in France. Tell about…”

    “Oh, will you be quiet, Edgar?” Came another voice in the house. “The boy doesn’t want to hear any ranting about your flamboyant tales. He needs to know about the
    realities of life. Now, my good man, I wish to comply with your demands of silence so you can write to your hearts content.

    The room spun, send Walter’s legs collapsing from under him. “I think I need a drink,” he cried, while pushing himself up from the floor, and running over to the liquor cabinet where he removed a bottle of whiskey, opened it, taking several swallows.

    Walking over to his desk, setting the bottle of whiskey down next to his typewriter, he began writing whatever nuances came into his mind, filled with a kaleidoscope of imagery. He began telling about his inner fantasies, how he was the knight who captured two intruders who broke into the palace of the French King. He tore them to shreds with his sword, relishing in the delight of blood dripping from it, laughing devilishly to himself, “I’ve captured the essence of man and his sunder. Now, to wipe the blood carefully, allowing it to drip into my special cup.

    In the middle of his writing, he passed out in a drunken stupor.

    © Copyright, Kiki Stamatiou, 2015

  • Thomas Furmato

    Maybe you’ve known someone like my brother Wally. Sometimes, I would hope I didn’t. I’ve tried for years to get his head wrapped around something solid, like landscaping, or auto mechanics, but he’s got a lot of things running around in his head. When we were young we’d drag our kite down to the park and I’d run from end to end, while he just leaned against a tree on the edge of the woods.

    Things like that were okay when we were kids, we didn’t expect much of each other. But, now he’s married, he does have a certain charm, and he’s been working at the same warehouse for the last few years, almost running the place; but he’s killing me. I watch him struggling on the edge of life, like he’s still leaning on the tree, while everything else is just running around, doing things.

    I’d like to claim that I don’t know what’s going on in his tiny little head, but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve found his old notebooks, of half written stories, of outlines that have never been fleshed out. I’ve encouraged him to take some time off work, go away for the week, just a quiet excursion, but I think he’s afraid. I don’t know what there is to be afraid of, just grab the end of the string and run with it, I tell him. It’ll fly.

  • Connie Terpack

    My biggest problem is #1, I correct and change before I finish writing. I lose my train of thought or the impulse, and even though I know better, I still do it no matter how many times I tell myself no to!

    • LilianGardner

      To Connie.
      This my weakness, too, especially if I go over a manuscript after a month or more. I can’t help correcting the errors.

      • Connie Terpack

        I doubt there’s an easy fix for us. 🙂

  • Sorry, but for me (and many other UK writers of “a certain age”) WALTER will forever be the archtypical “wimp” and ‘fall guy’ victim of a certain comic-book villain of the 50s & 60s by the name of “Roger the Dodger” – don’t know if this comic strip ever made it Over There???
    MY Walter, therefore, sits at the breakfast table nervously polishing his (National Health cheapo framed) glasses, staring at an ancient (manual, not even electric) sit-up-and-beg TYPEWRITER (Kenwood or Olympia). He is terrified of hitting the first key. The typewriter is an overblown monster on the table, it is doubtful if weedy Walter has the strength to hit a key hard enough for it to strike the blank page in the roller.
    The door bursts open: Roger races in, and Walter’s neat, tidy bedroom is instantly reduced to chaos and disorder, chairs overturned, vases containing flowers spill on the floor, etc. Roger starts hitting random typewriter keys (with his toy gun/catapult/other object from his capacious pockets) forming non=words on the page. Suddenly they are interrupted by a Soviet spy (wearing the bog-standard long raincoat and a hat which conceals all but a single eye). He is out to kill either (or both) because they’ve ‘broken’ the latest Russian secret code …
    How’s that for starters?????? 🙂

    • LilianGardner

      You’re right. Walter will always be a ‘wimp’ figure, like the old comics of ‘Sad Sack’. Does anyone remember Sad Sack?

      • Wasn’t he the “butt of all jokes” in a comic strip centred on life in the US Army? Central character a ‘slob’ with one large tooth and a pot belly?

        • LilianGardner

          That’s the guy. I enjoyed those army jokes, but poor Sad Sack!

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