I’ve been talking with my wordy friends lately, and some are struggling with moving forward. They are stuck on a word that, personally, drives me nuts: perfect. They want page one, chapter one, this character, that character, the setting…perfect. STOP! Perfect ain’t a thing. So, quit stopping yourself from laying out your story.
Let’s go refill our favorite cuppas with whatever it is that fills you with power. Get that nibble and join me on the reading rug for a chat about a topic I have been helping other writers with.
GET IT DOWN.
Clear the way and build the foundation.
You cannot build a house until you have cleared the plot and laid the foundation. It ain’t gotta be pretty it just needs to be strong enough to build on. Take a look at the foundation of your home. Seriously. Go down and look at the cinder blocks, beams, bricks, and concrete. It’s not pretty. Yes, I know many of us have finished basements but hidden behind the pretty is the ugly foundation.
What I’m saying here is, get it down. We can and will make it pretty later. We can make a finished basement when we get the rest of the house in place. You can’t paint a wall that doesn’t exist. You can’t edit a page you didn’t write. This is where you start to lay down your foundation. Collect all the words and put them down to fix later. Yes, you will have to go back and fix them later cuz perfect ain’t a thing.
Once the foundation is in place, which is the entire story in all it’s ugliness, you can go back and fill in the blanks, flesh out some scene, build your characters, and paint the walls. This will not be done in the first pass. There is a reason we use editors and beta readers. Changes will continue until the work is at it’s best.
Even at the point when everyone thinks it is perfect, you won’t. You will continue to find something somewhere that is not up to your standards. Let it go and move on. I have read amazing books that have had errors in them but if the story is strong, it doesn’t distract me. We all want that illusive moment where we wrangled a collection of the most perfect words and created magic, but sometimes we must move forward. Come on, maybe there are more perfect words waiting on the next page or the page after that. You’ll never know how amazing your story could become if you are stuck on page one hoping for perfection.
Build your foundation. Clear the plot. That means you have to prepare by doing any research you will need for your story to move smoothly. Create your character profile sheets. Your characters will grow and change. Keep track of that on these sheets. Nothing bugs me more in a story than when a character’s eyes change color seven chapters in. Argh! Keep an eye on your character’s and their descriptions.
Once your way is cleared, place one brick on top of the other. Build the framework for wall after wall, room after room, until you put the roof on. Once you are protected from the rain and your entire story is down on paper or glowing from your computer screen, that is when you go back and paint, hang art, and lay the flooring. Go back to page one and stumble closer to better. It may take more than one editing pass, but it is soooo worth it.
Just get it down. Get your words from your head to the page. I recently wrote what I call the 44 pages of ugly. Let me tell you- They. Are. Ugly. It was a complete story dump. It was all the words swirling around and getting caught up on my dinner menu and tangled into plans I was trying to make. I hadn’t written much in a while so this was my brain’s way of pushing me to do it. Wow, it is nasty bad. LOL But now I have clarity in my mind, and in the story, and can work on what I purged.
I’ve been where you are. I’ve struggled and persevered. I learn with each cinder block I placed. It is a journey to get to the end but a journey worth taking- one wall at a time. Don’t struggle alone. Find a like -minded person- a writer if possible and work together to build beautiful stories from the foundation up.
Until next time…