I’m getting ready to start a quick informal round of Fast Draft at the end of the week. I’m not ready and I haven’t prepared, yet the Fast Draft invite issued by Nigel Blackwell called me.
Why am I helpless before the siren call of an informal Fast Draft session?
- I’m an extrovert so the daily contact of Fast Draft flips my creative switch.
- In Fast Draft, you MUST write and report back to your team. Lack of either of the above lets the team down. So, I drag my hiney to the keyboard. No. Matter. What.
- The breakneck pace makes me turn off my Little Miss Perfect. What does that mean? It means that my Fast Draft goal of 2500-3000 words/day is a hell of a lot for me and I can’t be “done” and “good” at the same time – I’m just not that coordinated yet. Fast Draft forces me to accept “done” over “good” because of the speed.
Like most writers, I don’t just want to end up with words on a page. I want to end with a framework of good words that I can (hopefully) fashion into something great when the dust settles after the writing challenge.
Here’s a quote I used at work that applies to us crazy writer types:
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
~ Kenny Rogers
Most of you know I’m a software trainer (aka “Training Goddess”) by day. It’s my job to get my students out of their comfort zone and enjoy the process of learning new things.
Below are five points I presented in a seminar called, “Are You A High-Value Employee?” I’ve adapted them to writers since we’re our own boss and employee. In my humble opinion, the most important task we writers face is to get out of our own way.
5 key growth areas of high-value writers:
1. Writing Relationships:
The ability to connect and interact with fellow writers, publishing professionals, and readers.
You and I are building a relationship right now.
I post thoughts, you read them, then we discuss (because hopefully y’all will cavort in the comments section). If we enjoy the process we do it again, either here at More Cowbell or over at my group blog, Writers In The Storm.
Perhaps you’ll come find me on Twitter (@jhansenwrites) or Facebook. Maybe I’ll come find you. Relationships will build naturally if you’re open to them.
I’ve got writing friends who’ve been on Twitter for years and have yet to send a single tweet or monitor a single hashtag. They’re not involved in writing challenges or Facebook Groups or word sprints.
They’re not forming a wide variety of relationships.
As much as we all love to play with words, writing can be a cold, hard endeavor when it’s not going well. Relationships with supportive friends can help brighten up the process and keep you from getting stalled. Building relationships is essential to a writer’s success.
The ability to extract the key critical factors of a specific situation.
While accountants get all zippy and hopped up on the word “analysis,” most writers experience an odd yearning to search out split ends or iron their underwear each time they hear that word.
Analysis, to most creative people, means numbers and spreadsheets and pain.
Here’s what analysis really means:
The process of separating something into its constituent elements.
In writer-speak it means “good Craft” and deep edits. We spend a lot of time learning 3-Act structure or creative use of Setting in the hopes that it will seep inside and flow through our fingertips to the page. Those are good goals.
To be a “great” writer, we must be able to revise. If you’re like me, you might be thinking things like, “I don’t wanna!” or “I’ll just ‘know’ what belongs there when I see it.” That kind of whining will let you be a good writer, but probably not a great one.
We must know why we’re adding or taking away from a scene, which means we have to analyze our scenes for what they’re missing (and learn as much as you can about Craft).
The ability to design solutions to effectively solve problems.
Writers are incredible innovators.
We build people and worlds and invent entire stories. Are we bringing our full innovative powers to bear when we do this? Spending the time and energy to move beyond the nice and easy, to the far-flung limits of our imaginations?
I’ll confess, some days I’m lazy and I just don’t feel like stretching my “what-if muscle.” On those days, my writing is usually OK at best. It’s definitely not within a mile of great. I kick myself later and wonder why I didn’t take a walk, or a run through Twitter or slug down some coffee. All those things give me a boost.
Finding out what gives you a boost will help you bring your Innovator to the page.
Depth of understanding and applying bodies of information.
This is where the ever-present research comes in. Some writers love it; some don’t. All of us are going to be doing it sooner or later and it seems everyone’s got a different way to go about it.
For some, research is an in-depth journey; still others research by watching reality TV. You need to find out what works best for you. Your end-goal is to know your subject well enough that you can describe it in just a few words.
The ability to function competently and confidently at appropriate level, having performed in numerous situations and demonstrated task or job fluency.
The same as in your day job, “writing experience” is directly related to writing practice.
The more we write and the more books we complete, the greater our confidence and level of skill. I’ll never figure out why it’s OK to learn job skills slowly, but the same speed for a writer is cause for angst.
Perhaps it’s because the writing means more to us than our day jobs.
Most writers will tell you they started to hit their stride about the time they finish their third manuscript. I know some of you are shuddering right now, thinking of all that “wasted time.”
I have a question for you perfectionists:
Why is it acceptable for multiple attempts when learning to ride a bike, or dance the tango, or knit but it’s an “epic fail” to write a few books before you get good at it?
Lots of first novels remain unpublished for a reason. They were practice for the other books. It takes years to learn the piano, and hours of practice. Maybe you could cut yourself some slack the next time you sit down at the writing page.
Enjoy the journey…have some fun: You’re gaining on-the-job experience.
The beauty of being a writer is that we don’t really have to “get it right” the first time. We just have to try our very best.
Eventually, with study and practice, our best becomes GREAT.
What do you think makes for great writing? What online tool do you like best for networking and building relationships with others? Do you participate in goal-based groups like ROW80, Fast Draft or NaNoWriMo? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!