Our Text For Today

While I’m rather fond of the idea of blogging in general, it has some serious limitations and now and then you wonder if the time couldn’t be spent more productively somewhere else. The very thought of which makes me realize that I’m enjoying this, and so probably won’t stop to do something more productive, for I am a sybaritic creature by nature. Besides, if one is in the mood to get up on a soapbox as I am at the moment, there’s no substitute.

I’ve been thinking about and remembering what it was like when I was trying to get started. And how I wished there had been someone there to lay down the basics for me. I don’t mean Heinlein’s 5 basics (and if you don’t know these, you should. Practice your Google-fu), I mean the other basics. It would have saved several precious years of floundering around. To that end, I’m going to post my list of the Five Things I Wish I’d Known Then:

1) The Idea (premise) is a starting point. It is not the Story.

2) The Story Matters, not you. Don’t write to try to be clever or to show off. Write to tell the story. As to that —

3) Yes, it’s called storytelling, but “tell” only when you have to. “Show” is better.

4) Work. Get it Down on Paper/Disk is the Whole of the Law. First drafts do not have to be Good. They have to be Done. Because —

5) Writing is Rewriting. If you don’t remember anything else, remember that. You’re a better, more experienced writer after each completed first draft. Now use what you’ve learned to fix the mess you just made and learn even more.

These are things I wish I’d known a lot sooner, but are they everything? Of course not. “The best things cannot be said” as the zen masters put it. More than half of what any of us knows about writing cannot be expressed at all (which is why I insist I don’t know anything, because it’s true), because it’s not process per se. It’s instinct and quirks and things you do without realizing it and things you know without knowing that you know. All good foundations look pretty much alike, but the buildings that spring up are of infinite variety. But, no matter what sort of architecture you’re going for, it needs that good foundation. I just wish I’d started mine sooner.

4 thoughts on “Our Text For Today

  1. Thank God (I mean this most sincerely!) that first drafts do no have to be good–they just need to be finit! Just scribble way, LIVING in the story, SHOWING the story–editing and polishing and repolishing and re-editing comes later, thank heaven!

  2. “…The Idea (premise) is a starting point. It is not the Story…”

    Ideas are a dime a dozen. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. Me, I have ideas, but I couldn’t write a story to save my life.

  3. Pingback: SF Tidbits for 5/8/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

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