This morning, gentle readers, I shall dispense a short lesson on how not to progress your writing career. This lesson could bear many titles: How Not to Pay Attention to All the Good Advice on Writing To Be Found On the Internet, maybe (though that’s a little wordy). How to Be a Total Eejit and Let the Panic Take You Down would do for another.
Or, perhaps we could simplify things by titling today’s lesson thusly: Finish Your Stuff.
I was in the middle of a new draft, as I told you all here a short while back. It was going well. Then, the wheels began to fall off and the chassis began to rust and I began to lose my love for what I was doing, just a little. Bits of it were still working fine, but other bits – yeesh. Reading over my work was giving me a serious case of the ‘what am I doing-itis’, and I allowed myself to fall into a trap.
The oldest trap in the writing book.
The one which looms around anyone who likes to create stuff, like a gleeful black hole.
The one I have repeatedly preached about avoiding (to other people).
The Trap of the Shiny New Idea.
It’s when you’re at your lowest that a new idea, which seems like a balm and a way forward and the best thing you could possibly commit to paper, will pop into your head. Of course, it may be all of these things – but more often than not, it isn’t. It’s just an idea. It might be okay, but it could be utter rubbish. But because you’ve had it while you’re feeling pretty bad about yourself, this idea takes on a sheen like no other. Then, like a kitten chasing a spark of sunlight up a wall, you go for it. You pounce. You write a thousand words in a fever of excitement, and then you realise that things aren’t going to be as easy as you thought.
A good idea is a vital start for any piece of writing, sure. But you need more than a good idea to make a story. The one thing bound to kill off a good idea before it has a chance to develop into a good story is getting stuck into it too soon, or too quickly. Ideas are like cheese: they need to ferment, and ripen (and some even need to get slightly mouldy), before they’re worth anything. Last week was, for loads of reasons, a bit of a writing disaster for me, so this week will be about damage control, tactical withdrawal from battlefields I’m not yet ready for, and a chastened re-approach to my original WiP, with a view to finding all the good in it and bringing it to the fore – and, crucially, committing to it until it’s done.
Finish. Your. Stuff. Rule number one when it comes to writing (besides ‘Get A Chair With Decent Lumbar Support’). And so said, here endeth the lesson. That’s all from me for today: S.J. O’Hart, making the mistakes so you don’t have to, signing off.