How Do You Do That?

Recently, after I revised a manuscript for a writing student, she asked me, “How do you do that?” By “that,” she was referring to the apparent ease with which I cut, moved and added prose to her existing scene. I don’t have any special abilities, I told her. Just a lot of practice.
Writing Tip for Today: The key to this whole question of “How I do that” is to realize that even my own writing doesn’t start out polished. I’m a big fan of writing crap–to discover what I think, what I know, what I need to be illustrating. To all writers who are trying to learn the secret of “how to do that,” I offer these tips:
  • Writing Crap Isn’t Easy. It’s simple, but not easy to write what your mind insists must be garbage. Yet garbage gives you a place to start, a lump of clay that can be shaped. You can’t edit a blank page. A draft is a wonderful thing. It is the prototype of something bigger, grander, more profound. If you truly turn off the editor, you can tap into your subconscious mind, where all the good stuff hides.
  • Keep Your Distance. The words you write on any given day are not indispensable. Don’t guard them like Gollum or spend time defending them. Ask yourself what you wanted to show, and leave a day or so between creation and revisiting of your draft. You may decide to build on what you wrote, or you may decide to scrap it and start over. It’s OK. Words are like Doritos: you can always make more.
  • To Get Better, Read and Write, A Lot. Any writer will evolve as long as he/she writes a lot of words and reads widely and well. This is the discipline we writers gripe about. You have to show up. Read the best stuff you can get your hands on, and read also in the area where you hope to publish. I don’t think reading will make you “copy” another writer, as long as you don’t do both at once. Every word you write brings you closer to YOUR voice, your style, your polished prose. Now, go write crap.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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