Daily writing produces a kind of experience and writing practice that is irreplaceable. But what if I’m writing every day, but my writing is still falling short of where I want it to be? (I’m asking for a friend.)
Do I push away from my writing desk to get better? Do I need a university course? Should I pay an editor? Sacrifice my first born child or a kidney?
Write more! I tell myself. But writing more is not enough. (Insert exasperated sigh.) Isn’t it hard enough just to write? What else do I have to do?
Practice differently. This is the secret to becoming the writer you want to be as quickly as possible.
Subtext is the underlying message in a scene. In The Godfather, when Don Corleone says, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” we know someone (and a horse) is in serious danger. When I tell my kids, “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse,” I probably mean “Do your chores or I’ll shut down the wifi.”
Same statement, different subtext.
My family moves a lot. Beginnings are often stressful, disorienting things, while endings might be joyous, grief-filled, and everything in between. Funny how stories are like that too. It’s often so difficult to know how to begin a story or how to tie it up at the end. Why are beginnings and endings so hard to do well in writing and life?
A little over ten years ago, I had almost a decade of English teaching experience, a couple years paid freelance writing work, several creative writing university courses under my belt, and a few small publications in poetry and nonfiction. A friend’s mom, Mae, had written a query letter for her second novel. She asked me to read it and give her some writing feedback. What could go wrong?
When Mae asked, I had not attempted to write an entire novel or a query letter. I had read thousands of novels and a few letters, but I had not studied the structure and requirements of each. I assumed writing was writing. Surely with a degree in English and a little experience, I was qualified to give good feedback?
Nope. Not even close.
Whether I’ve blown it at work or reacted poorly at home (hypothetically of course), I often need a fresh start. Why? Because I’m human and I have a tendency to get in a rut. Sometimes my ruts are grounded in bad habits or faulty beliefs.
It’s not great for me as a human being, but it’s terrific for fiction. The first step to making a fresh start for me or my characters? Figuring out our default settings.