Last summer I wrote a post called The DON’Ts of writing. I liked it, and my recent series naming some DO’s of creative writing got a lot of positive feedback, so I decided to start another series of related posts giving some creative writing advice from what I’ve learned through the years: focusing this time on the pitfalls to avoid. Each one of these entries will get its own post in the next few days with a bit of elaboration, so don’t miss them!
- DON’T worry whether you might have to cut something from your draft in the future. Not during the writing phase. There are few surer ways to stall your progress than thinking, “I’m just wasting my time getting these words down. This scene sucks and I won’t use it anyway.” Even if you do cut it, it’s better to write than not to write. Sometimes you got to get some preliminary stuff down to understand what you really mean to be writing. It’s not waste. It’s preparation/grunt work.
- DON’T fiddle with one paragraph for too long. When you start changing things back and forth, and you have to reread the words four and five times because you just can’t focus, it’s time to take a break. Continuing in that condition is only counterproductive.
- DON’T be afraid to try something unorthodox. Break the “rules” of your genre. Go ahead. If you have a great idea, and you want to see how it works, don’t let a fear that people won’t want to read it prevent you from writing and figuring out if you’re on to something. Maybe you’re not: you’ll realize it once you get going. Maybe you totally are, and what you’re doing is unique, fresh, and inspiring to others.
- DON’T be afraid to put your characters through really tough stuff. I know you care about them. They’re like your kids. You want to protect them. But don’t insult them by treating them like porcelain dolls. They can handle tough stuff because they’re made of tough stuff. People love reading about how the human spirit overcomes. Because you know what? Your readers are dealing with some tough stuff themselves.