By: Editorial Intern Zoe Andrews.
Welcome to Writer’s Anonymous, where we help authors who are struggling with moving forward in their works. Please state your name and affliction. Now that we have that out of the way, I am here to tell you that unless you can accept these 3 immutable facts—although nothing is always true in creative writing, another immutable fact you must learn—you are forever going to be stuck on that one paragraph, or word, or detail that you are sure will unlock the wonders of your story.
- The First Paragraph Stinks
For most authors, including myself, the first paragraph you write is very exciting! It is the beginning of your story, the tale you wish to tell, full of all the passion and glamor that a new idea brings. Now, if you are anything like me, you would have started this paragraph with absolutely no research, too excited to watch your idea be born to care about anything else. I’m here to tell you that your first paragraph, no matter when it takes place in the story, stinks. I’m sorry to break it to you like this, but it’s true, no matter what your mom says. I can guarantee within that first paragraph, sometimes more if you wrote multiple pages in your first sitting, one or more of these things is present—too much information, not enough information, unclear character introduction, unnecessary or clichéd character introduction (i.e. “He looked into the mirror, his blond hair tousled from a sleepless night and his baby blue eyes dull from exhaustion”), or too much narrative. This is just the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure if you scrounged around you could find more, so keep an eye out and rewrite it. You’ll be thankful you did.
- Minute Mysteries
By minute mysteries I mean the small little details that the reader is supposed to intrinsically know or figure out, like the fact that the otherwise insignificant hotel manager’s name means “one who is slain” and he is the victim of a murder a few chapters later. Maybe the flowers the victim kept in his home symbolize tragedy. These are details that an author can spend hours researching, I know from experience, and ultimately they do nothing for the overarching story except make it a pain to write. Unless your reader is a botanist or a master of onomastics (the study of the meaning of names) they are not going to know or even think to inquire about the meanings behind your small decisions. Unless the hotel manager’s name holds a specific significance that progresses or strengthens the plot, or the flowers help the detective solve the murder because only one flower shop sells those flowers, stick to simple names like Roger or Sally.
- Writing is a Hassle
This is a simple one. The process of writing is tedious. It’s a fact. No one enjoys sitting down and hand writing or typing up their stories. If you told an aspiring author that there was a way for their stories to write themselves from their thoughts, most, if not all, of them, would jump for joy and ask for two. So don’t make things harder on yourself by trying to edit while you write. You will sit there for hours on one paragraph until you hate it and don’t want to look at it anymore. You won’t remember the word while banging your head on the table and you will never be able to see what is wrong until you know what comes next. Wait until after you are finished (at least with the chapter) before you begin to edit. Until then, just let the words flow and let your hands be that magical tool.
Now that you are aware of these painful yet helpful facts, I leave all of you aspiring authors to flourish.