Like most writers, I want my work to shine. I’m not particularly interested in awards or acclaim, but I do want it to be the best it can be.
And now for the disclaimer …
I want the first draft to burst forth sparkling like a perfectly cut diamond.
I know. I know. Not going to happen!
So what can we writers do to make sure that at least some of what glitters truly is gold?
Speaking of “oo, shiny”—I am easily distracted. How about you? While I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved, there comes a time to reign in those wandering thoughts and firmly affix the blinders.
No matter how many projects we have on the go, we can only work on one at any given moment. It will take a long time to get anything done if we don’t learn to ignore the distractions and focus on the work at hand.
Part of focusing is actually allowing our mind to wander within established parameters. These parameters must be narrow enough that we’re not thinking about what to have for dinner when we’re plotting our novel or outlining our nonfiction book. But they must be expansive enough to allow our creativity to take us places we never imagined going.
Plotters and pantsers alike (I am definitely the latter) must formulate a plan. While a plotter may know every twist and turn before they write, “Chapter One,” even a pantser has to have a rough idea where they’re going.
And whether you formulate a plan for a specific writing project or simply make time for writing in your schedule, don’t neglect this important step. (Talking to myself here. Feel free to listen in.)
We have to make time to write. We have to arrange our lives in such a way that putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard isn’t always at the bottom of our list of priorities.
Not only must we make writing a priority, we most also arrange our schedule in such a way that we have time to revise and rework our piece. This is the only way it will shine.
This leads to the last step …
Since our writing doesn’t burst forth brilliant and dazzling, we must fix it—sometimes over and over and over again.
We must do the best we can to make it shine, then enlist the help of others: beta readers, editors, proofreaders.
That vein of gold or hunk of transformed carbon bears little resemblance to the treasure it can become.
Are you willing to do the backbreaking work it takes to remove the treasure from the rock?
Are you willing to spend countless hours chipping away at the impurities and subjecting the raw material to almost unbearable temperatures?
Are you willing to polish until every visible smudge is removed?
Are you willing to ask for help once you’ve done all you can do?
If so, you will have a piece that dazzles.
Oo, shiny indeed!
Steph Beth Nickel is the coauthor of Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books. They are currently working on a follow-up book, Still Living Beyond My Circumstances. Among other things, Steph is a freelance writer and editor. You can connect with her at email@example.com … on her Facebook author page … or on Twitter (Photo Credit: Stephen G. Woo)