I’m on tour in Canada this week, so today’s Nano Tip will be a blast from the past. This post is from early 2005, when this blog was young and tiny. (It got a whopping seven comments, and I was well pleased with that.) And yet its ancient caveman wisdom is as true today as it was then!
So here it is again . . . “Write Your Way Out.”
People in writing groups often ask me, “What do I do when I get conflicting advice? How will I ever decide which way to go?”
My answer is: “Try it both ways and see which works! Donâ€™t just write one ending, write three!”
It’s a medically proven fact: Writing the same scene several different ways won’t kill you.
Take a cue from visual artists. They make a hundred pencil drawings of a subject before even starting with the paint. They paint the same dang pot of flowers a dozen times, with only slight variations. They doodle in their sketchbooks all day, making stuff no one will ever see. But they rarely sit there and just complain about a compositional problem without putting their hands on a brush/pen/piece of clay.
In my second novel, Fine Prey, I actually wrote a scene that I knew wouldn’t be in the final draft, just so I could visualize what had happened “off screen” in the story. Weird, but it worked.
In another case, I lost a short story and had to write it again from scratch. Then I found the original again. (Argh.) Guess what? The combination of the two–taking the best elements of each–was better than anything I would have reached by fiddling endlessly with that lost original. And the experience of writing a story twice and then comparing the two versions helped me understand it in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.
You see, paper is magic: Making marks on it changes your brain. So, donâ€™t sit around trying to think your way out of problems, write your way out of them. The best place to find answers is on a piece of paper or a glowing phosphorus screen.
Of course, thinking about writerly issues in the shower or while jogging is a fine habit to get into, because otherwise that’s just wasted time.* Please understand that I’m not against thinking; I’m only against thinking that thinking on its own will get you out of a hole. Shovel also needed.
*Except for the being hygienic and fit, which is somewhat useful.
So there’s my blast from the past. Don’t forget to check out Justine’s excellent tip from yesterday, and she’ll have tomorrow’s tip as well. I’ll be back on Saturday.
Ottowans and Toronto-ites, don’t forget to come see me, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare tonight and tomorrow night. We have buttons!
with special guest Keith Thompson,
illustrator of Leviathan
Thursday, November 5th 7:00PM
47 Rideau Street,
Friday November 6th 7:00PM
Trinity St. Paul’s United Church
427 Bloor Street West
(Because this is an off-site event, admission is five Canadian bucks. You can buy the tickets right here. You can also pay at the door, if there’s any room left!)
And over the weekend, I’ll be appearing on my lonesome back in NYC:
Sunday, November 8 1:00PM
Thalia’s Book Club
Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre and CafÃ©
2537 Broadway (at 95th Street)
New York, NY 10025
The Symphony Space series is aimed at young writers. There will be a discussion, a few slides, a short reading, and a creative writing prompt. Then lots of Q&A. I’ve never done one of these, but it sounds like a cool format. Go here to buy tickets.
Want a free ticket? Write me and say why, and I’ll see what I can do.