The conversation went something like this:
I’ve signed up for another writing workshop. Big name teacher. Spent a lot of money. I’m going to meet all these really cool best-selling authors. Ya-dah. Ya-dah.
That’s great! So. How’s the novel coming?
Oh. (clears throat) Well, I’ need to figure out how to start my Romance novel -- again.
Oh, you know. I got another idea.
(Knowing that this is the fifth re-write of Chapter 1 in two months) How about Chapter 6? How did that scene with the villain work out?
Uh . . . (sounding sheepish) I know I SAID I was going to write Chapter 6. But I got really busy outlining my plot (again.) And then I used the templates to write a Romance character interview (again.) And I created this really cool, color-coded grid for all my subplots and secondary characters . . .
Hey, as a fiction teacher and book writing coach, I’m not anti-workshop. Or anti-outlining. Or anti-character worksheets. Heck, I’m not even anti-vacay.
But writers write.
Sure, you can take workshops about writing. And read books about writing. And design all kinds of breath-taking graphs, charts, and sticky-note-boards.
But that’s not writing.
Maybe you’ve spent the last week busily TALKING to all your friends about writing great characters. Or maybe you're talking about plotting your Romance novel again. Unfortunately, none of that’s writing, either.
I hate to break it to you, folks: Writers write. It’s as simple – and as daunting – as that.
Feeling terrified? Of course you are. You’ve set your standards so high, not even Earnest Hemingway could live up to them.
Are you blurting crap? Join the club. Books aren’t written, they’re RE-WRITTEN.
Are your scenes messy? Are your characters out of control? Hooray! You’ve achieved the vaunted state of CREATIVITY. (If you want neatness, organization, and anal logic, work a math equation.)
The bottom line is this: characters are organic. Plots are organic. They rarely "behave" like a writer's original vision. With every scene, they pose a new challenge for the writer. That’s why a writer needs to keep trusting the creative process.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a "one tool fixes all” for every book?
Well, that’s not going to happen. No matter how much you outline, interview characters, and make pretty charts, you will NEVER anticipate every problem that can crop up in your manuscript.
So stop wasting time.
Sit down and write.
By the way: Your first manuscript is a teaching tool. It may never see the light of day. (My first THREE novel manuscripts never saw the light of day.)
However, your first manuscript will have served its purpose if it teaches you how to structure a novel and craft well-rounded characters. You simply cannot master plotting, characterization, and novel structure until you immerse yourself in fiction writing. Repeatedly.
The more you write, the more you’ll master the foundations of fiction, developing “tools” that you can apply when your manuscript suffers from bloat, contrivance, stampeding, or any of the other Writing Sins.
Yes, my friends. Writers write.
Which camp are you in today?