By Lynda McDaniel
Last October, while I worked on final edits of my latest book, the Northern California fires swept through my hometown. I was lucky. My home didn’t burn—but my concentration was shot. Somehow, a dangling participle or misplaced modifier just didn’t matter.
It’s a slow technique, but, hey, it takes time to write well. I’ve been known to say that bad writers just stopped too soon. Keep at it, and the writing just gets better and better.
So why do I see so much emphasis on speed these days?
If your inbox is like mine, it’s chocked full of tips on how to write a book in a weekend—or a day! Or how to get my books out before someone beats me to the punch, as though my creative ideas are so fragile, so like everyone else’s, I’d better hurry before I’m outfoxed.
I thought my job was to publish the best writing I could.
And, of course, writers are an impatient lot. We’re eager to see our words in print. We work hard and get tired. Before you know it, we cave. It’s good enough, we tell ourselves, dismissing the power of the 10th (or dare I say 20th?) edit.
Instead, we need to ignore the inner and outer chatter and stop. Stop writing. Stop editing. Walk the dog. Watch a movie. Throw a party. When we’re not writing, our stories will tell us what they need. They’ll send us messages that are impossible to hear through all the noise, but come through loud and clear when we slow down.
Recently, I received such a message while taking a break: WCapturing ideas and developing dialogue and denouement are only step one. Step two is crafting a great story. Once all those words find their place on the page, make sure they coalesce into a story that: 1) grabs readers from the get-go, 2) develops conflict and complications, 3) resolves them, and 4) offers a satisfying ending. (By the way, that last point doesn’t mean everything is tied up neatly. As the late Sam Shepard wrote, “The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning.”)