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Beginning…Again


 

 

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

 

 

It’s been two years since my last post, though I’ve visited this blog several times just looking for whatever inspiration I had back when I first created it. I still haven’t found it. Back then I was doing cartwheels, I was filled with such excitement over the prospect of finally writing my first novel. I wanted to share that excitement with the world. But then life happened. Or I should say I happened.

I have a tendency to stand in my own way when I write. But I know I’m not the first artist to do so. We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform, and to perform well. We are so afraid that we will produce something terrible or mediocre that we end up not producing anything at all.

It’s got to stop. I’m saying this to both you and me.

Afraid of being a failure? You can’t fail at something if you don’t begin it in the first place. Besides:  Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

We learn from our mistakes. We see when something isn’t working one way, so we start over with different tactics. And over…and over… until we finally accomplish the goal. We are not omniscient. We don’t know everything. (I may not know everything, but no one needs to know that, right?) So, we have to try, and try again. We can’t learn anything if we never make those mistakes.

Therefore, if you’ve got a project that’s sitting around untouched and unfinished, pick it up again. If you have an idea, outline, manuscript or some other project, even if it’s not artistic, dust it off and make it a new beginning. And do it for you, no one else. Act like you are the only one in the world who is going to see it.

In Steven King’s book On Writing, he wrote:

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.

So, let’s begin…again. Let make some mistakes. And since it’s just us, in our own creative space alone, let’s have fun while we do it!


 

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Beginning

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

—Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

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Okay. Lewis Carroll said it the simplest and the truest, and if we apply this method to writing, it makes perfect sense. However, in our reality things are not that simple. We only wish we could write a novel in one shot like taking a drive through the city with no map, streets free and clear of roadblocks (Writer’s block), sharp turns, and traffic.

Yeah, right. Not gonna happen. We do encounter these unfortunate obstacles, but it all depends upon what kind of driver you are. (I’ll leave it to you to extend the driving metaphor, just for practice. I’d like to hear your thoughts).

What I’ve heard teachers and writers suggest the most is to create an outline. Yet, I’ve also read about authors who don’t use outlines at all. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says (and I’m paraphrasing) that he doesn’t outline, he just starts at the beginning and keeps going from there. He has also recommended not stopping in the middle of your story (or the page your on) just to look up information on the web (or elsewhere); just make it up and go back to it later.

On his website, Dean Koontz writes,

I don’t do a written draft. I work only on the computer and I do one page at a time. I work on a page 20, 30, 40 drafts, whatever it takes, before I move on to the next page. That way I feel that I’ve done as much as I can on that page and have left nothing to correct later. So that when I get a draft done, it has had so much reworking during the course of it that I don’t need to go back and revisit things. I do this because I operate with a lot of self doubt and my way of handling the self doubt is to rework a page until I’ve got it as smooth as I can get it and then to move on. Then the self-doubt starts up again on the very next page, but I deal with that page as a separate unit.

(Please check him out at www.deankoontz.com and read his Q & A for some interesting writing tips. His books are awesome too with great plots, detailed characters, and a stunning writing style.)

Personally, for one of the novels I’m working on called Timeless, I wrote an outline several years ago, but I have found that I had to revise it too many times. As I write, the characters drive the story, and they actually tell me what they want to do. (No wonder I hear voices.) They surprise and dazzle me with their ever-evolving personalities. New characters crop up all of the time, and as of recently, the world itself has shifted on its axis.

I have a pretty good memory, so I don’t have to look at my old outline anymore. I keep that in the back of my mind, and mentally edit it as the story goes. Overall, the general landscape (the world building) looks great, and I think it is as solid as it will get. I’m going to take The King’s advice from Alice in Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” The trick will be driving around the roadblock instead of stopping at it.

Hmm… maybe instead of driving, I’ll grow a pair of wings….