I love it when a plan comes together.” –
Hannibal Smith, ‘The A-Team’
(television show originally created by Stephen J. Cannell)
Over the last three days I’ve begun to get a handle on the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project and damn it feels good. Granted, I’m only into the first chapter but I can see where it’s going. The writing is rough and there will be a lot of editing down the road but since I’ve never written book-length non-fiction before, it’s a good start. I’m not feeling the twinge-thought of ‘Oh, I’m not too sure about this’ and here’s why:
It’s not just the fact that I’ve got some structure points to use as writing prompts, but also because I’ve told myself length doesn’t matter. I know I shouldn’t have thought about length at all in this early stage of writing but sadly, the dumb thought crept into my mind and stayed until I kicked it out again.
The writer Annie Lamont wrote that you have to give yourself permission to write crap sometimes. I take exception to the word ‘crap’ because I don’t feel the need to label rough and unedited writing as crap. Because as my favorite romance writer Nora Roberts said, ‘You can’t revise a blank page.’ And because you have to have words to revise, I don’t believe all words written are crap. They just need to be revised and edited so my saying here is this: ‘You can always revise later.’
I also feel like I don’t know if a particular direction in my writing will work until I write it out. Because last night I was looking at my first chapter on my novel and realizing the way I’d worked the first scene wasn’t the way to go. I saw that when I thought about what I needed in the next scene. So needless to say I deleted lots of words and now need to write it back to what I’d done before. This happened because I’d let doubt creep into my mind and thought I had to do something a certain way. But in the end, I know my initial instinct on this was right.
So why do writers get doubts like these in our minds?
We’re human, and prone to messing up like everyone else would be the first line of defense-answer here. Which is why I know of writers who try to isolate themselves as much as possible from any outside influences when they’re writing. We sometimes refer to this as retreating into the writing cave and with good reason. But retreating there won’t get you away from the thoughts pinging around inside your mind. Hence the reason for thought-cleansing mantras that are more than just good advice.
I’ve said this before but I won’t apologize or call myself ten grades of idiot for saying it yet again. I honestly don’t think I was mistaken in writing stuff I’ve later deleted, because I wouldn’t have known if it was good or not until I wrote it. You can’t judge whether or not something will work if there isn’t something there in front of you to begin with.
For something to come together, you’ve got to do the work, make mistakes, and go off in directions that don’t always work for you. And if anyone, even if it is the doubt-demon in your mind says otherwise, don’t listen to them because they’re not the ones doing the writing and revising.
Or to reply to Colonel Hannibal Smith above: they’re not a part of your plan and they’re not going to make it come together.
For more by Michele Sayre, please visit www.michelesayre.com