October 22, 2018

Writing, What’s the Rush?

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.

To get back in the groove, I decided to take it easier and edit only one chapter a day. That worked so well, I plan to use it from now on. The slow pace helped me zero in on every sentence, and I caught way more inconsistencies, repetitions, and errors (and a misplaced modifier or two!). I found my brain didn’t get lazy with its “yeah, yeah, I’ve read this a million times” attitude.

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: Writing and storytelling are two very different skills. Capturing 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.”)

The writing process is just that—a process. It’s not write-edit-publish. Rather, it’s more like write, rest, write, stroll, edit, play, edit, listen, and edit some more.

Sure, all those steps take time, but, hey, what’s the rush?
Lynda McDaniel’s writing career started at the end of a gravel driveway lined with tall pines and sun-dappled daffodils. Although it was more than 30 years ago, she says, “I still recall that day with the fiercest clarity: walking up to the massive oak door with a hand-forged handle, tugging on its surprising weight, and entering a world of art and craft, music and writing. I was visiting the Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, where I got a job writing newsletters and press releases, articles and ads. Once I saw my first published article, I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since.​ “I’ve gone on to write more than 1,200 articles for major magazines, hundreds of newsletters, and dozens of blogs. I'm proudest of the 17 books I’ve written, including my Appalachian Mountain Mysteries trilogy: A Life for a Life, The Roads to Damascus, and soon-to-be-published Welcome the Little Children.  ​“Other books include Words at Work, which I wrote straight from my heart, a much-needed response to all the questions and concerns people have about writing today. (It won top honors from the National Best Books Awards.) Since then, I’ve written two Amazon Bestselling Books: How Not to Sound Stupid When You Write and Write Your Book Now! (with Virginia McCullough). Since I moved to California 10 years ago, I've also enjoyed serving as a writing coach to clients who wanted to write their own books.” WEBSITE:  www.lyndamcdanielbooks.comBLOG:  SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

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