|illustration by Gabriel Hardman|
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Writers Keep Writing
Writer? Screenwriter? Novelist?
I won’t mention writers of shorter pieces because that’s not what I’m going to focus on in this post.
The crux of the matter here is do you have a couple of half-finished novels on your hard drive? Screenplays maybe? You get going with lots of steam and a great idea that’s exciting and motivating, but somewhere along the line something happens. Maybe it feels like the original premise hits a dead end or the writer gets confused about where the original destination was or it just isn’t coming together the way it was hoped. Regardless of what it is that happens it gets agonizing. It’s a wrestling match between writer and story. Many times the writer will beat his or her head against a way for a while and then just gives up.
When it happens it can cause the writer to feel worthless. It can cause the writer to believe he can’t write. It’s flat awful.
So what can cause this? There are a number of things that can cause a writer to give up, not finish script or novel, not complete the story.
First, it’s possible there just wasn’t enough story there in the first place. What to do? Give yourself a break, stop beating yourself up and learn to think your story idea through before you start. That doesn’t mean you need to create every little tiny detail of the story, but it does mean you need to consider where that story idea you came up with is going. Don’t just jump in and start writing script or novel. Create some sort of synopsis or treatment that takes the story from beginning to end and weed out things that don’t make sense or don’t carry the story forward. Take it seriously. Don’t leave yourself in the middle of the lake without a boat so to speak. Create that plan and the solid sense of story and the knowledge of craft, novel or screenwriting, you need to carry you to the finish.
If you have a strong premise and you’re still failing to finish consider how you feel about your writing. Are you afraid that when it’s complete and you put it out into the world that you’ll be rejected? That that rejection is failure? You’ve heard it before, read it, and had it shoved in your face in every way conceivable. To be a writer is to face rejection, feel that terrible humiliation, and learn to live with it in some fashion. The very best get bad coverage, terrible reviews and premises that are ripped to shreds by editors or readers. That’s the way it is. If it’s not for you, if you can’t handle it maybe you need to be doing something else.
But keep in mind, many may pass on your manuscript or screen script, but you only need one yes. If you really are a writer and can handle that inevitable rejection and you can’t find a single yes on one project, it’s time to start another. And when you finally get that yes from publisher or producer you know you finally measure up to industry standards. That means you, as a writer, learned not to take negative comments personally and used rejection to learn and do better.
Embrace rejection. Learn from it. Move forward. Take classes, find readers, keep submitting. Keep the faith and keep writing. It takes focus and serious effort. The one shot wonder is just that, and who wants to be a one shot anyway? Dump the self-pity that can accompany rejection and the whining, “it’s-not-fair”, curl-in-a-ball and hide stance of the abused victim.
Be proud of your rejections – it means you’re in the game.