To find Rules 1-4 click here. Otherwise, here’s part 2!
Number Five: Revise, Revise, Revise
If you have made it this far, you have in all likelihood finished a draft. Congratulations. Seriously. You went out there and finished a draft. I’m giving myself a self high five in your honor.
So now what?
Well, barring insane deadlines, take a few days away from your creation. Yes, it’s marvelous and glorious and you love it and stuff, but you’ve also been in the trenches awhile. Get away. Read some books, watch movies, date your significant other, whatever. Just do something else for a few days. The work will be there waiting when you get back.
When you do come back, you will have a fresher perspective and now is the time to revise your draft. This is the point where you can say that your draft isn’t perfect. It’s no longer a luxury – you are now a surgeon or a sculptor, cutting away pieces of unnecessary prose, inserting words in new places. This process is a vital part of taking a great idea and making it an engaging piece for readers. It’s probably going to happen several times which leads to…
Number Six: Repeat rules one through five as necessary
Because as you revise, new ideas come up, and the story becomes more polished and that gem of an idea you now is a hard diamond of literary excellence. Again, there is a fine line between polish and unnecessary revision, and as a writer you need to respect that. After a couple of drafts or so, I recommend letting someone else read the work. No matter how many times you walk away from a script, there are always going be things you miss. Writers are too close to their own work. We can’t help it, so try to pass it on to someone that will be honest with you.
Hmm, that is six writing things. I don’t think I’m going to make ten, but I have two more things to mention before I go.
Number Seven: Listen to your characters
Now some of you are hardcore plotters, and some like me tend to fly from the seat of the pants. The truth is, writers are a mixture of both. If we plot too much, we don’t let the story breathe, and if we don’t have an ending in mind, pantsers tend to wander on youtube too much because we have no idea where else to go. But something I’ve learned is that the characters I’m writing about know where they are going better than I do. Let them guide you. Don’t worry. They won’t steer you wrong most of the time. Don’t force their path when they do this. Let them lead you to their own promised land.
You don’t have to take my advice here. That said, I found in the case of Stormdancer that it worked out far better than I imagined. I had this idea that Kristen and company would end up in jail. I had no plan on how they would escape. Kristen had severe anger issues before ending up in prison and had no way to release those emotions. I didn’t have a solution to her anger. She told me she could use her anger to escape this place. I trusted her, and realized the symbol of her being in a cage not just on the outside, but in it. Jailbreak in Stormdancer is probably one of the strongest chapters I have written, and it wasn’t me. It was all her.
Number Eight: Write from the heart
On my own webpage (http://www.joshuapantalleresco.com) I talk about this rule the most outside of rule one. It took me fifteen years to realize that all my plotting and fancy ideas meant nothing unless I had a story that connected readers to it.
The human heart is one thing all of us share. Art in any form is about expressing it. People understand pain, anger, laughter, tears. Good writing brings those feelings and experiences to the forefront. If you can’t expresss what is in your heart, in my view you are not ready to be published. What do you care about? What do you believe in?
What matters to you?
Express it. Because the one thing you can’t fake is what it is inside you. It’s the most genuine part of you. And if you can tap into it, you will find readers that will resonate with your work. So be genuine on the page. I don’t care if you’re writing about a jar of dirt or a quest to save the moon from the evil martians; what in this story are you saying about you?
There you have it, my eight something or others about writing. I hope this helps you. Use what works for you, discard the rest. There is no set formula to this other than rule one.
Joshua Pantalleresco writes fiction, poetry and comics. He also lo
ves to do interviews. He has written columns for comicbloc and allpulp and currently does so for comicmix. The Watcher is his second book of poetry. He resides in Calgary.
He has a blog you can follow here.