• Good Advice Meets Practical Application

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Strategies     Comments 2 comments

    Time for those how-to books to sink in

    Two years spent suffocating in a creative stranglehold and I am so over it. My characters and bare-bones plot, conceived in July 2009, are long past their gestation period. That’s why I set a new, simple goal for my story: 1,000 words a day, no excuses. I’m on day three, and I feel more motivated than a steroid-fueled jock.

    Besides my drive to push past writer’s block, there’s one other thing that makes my goal feasible. I stashed my inner critic in the deepest recess of my psyche. I’ll let her go when it’s time to revise, no worries. But in the meantime, no more nitpicking sentences or wondering if my characters sound lame. For me, this first draft is an opportunity to approach writing with a childlike attitude and an eye for possibilities.

    Dialogue comes more easily since I marooned my inhibitions. The less I scrutinize my dialogue, the smoother it flows. It’s much harder to change the cadences of whole sentences, and I’m shamefully inclined to write stilted, academic prose when I’m self-conscious.

    Moreover, I stopped trying to inject symbolism into everything. At first, I felt pretty dirty, like I was writing pulp. However, painstakingly injecting metaphors into your first draft wastes time. Plus, I think literary devices come naturally for many of us fiction junkies. It’s a language we learned as readers and emulate as writers. For instance, have you ever skimmed over your manuscript and found that you inadvertently used alliteration, hyperbole, irony, or symbolism? It’s like that old adage “You are what you eat,” except we write what we read. Relying on your subconscious to use literary techniques makes writing a first draft downright tranquil. That way, you’re clear to focus on the big picture.

    Goal-setting and shushing my inner critic allowed me to take off on my first draft. I’m more excited about writing than I’ve been in years―not because I had an epiphany or read a book by a writing guru. Instead, I followed the advice I’ve heard ad nauseum for years: one, write every day; and two, it’s a rough draft, not a perfect, polished draft.


    In addition to writing for WriteByNight’s blog, Jenna Cooper writes for BE Mag and a blog called FemThreads.  Aside from writing, Jenna served as an AmeriCorps Member from 2008-2010 and will start her M.S. in Information Studies in Fall 2012.  She graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas.

    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of

    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    David Duhr

    July of ’09? That’s nothin’. My novel-in-progress (and by “in-progress” I mean “not-really-at-all-in-progress-these-days”) is based on a newspaper article I clipped in February of 2006. My goal is to finish chapter one before the newsprint dissolves.

    Sounds like you’ve perhaps gone from basher to swooper (http://secondlanguage.blogspot.com/2008/12/swoopers-and-bashers.html), yeah?

    Glad to hear you’re excited again. How about sharing some of that mojo?


    Loved the link–never heard of the terms “basher” or “swooper” before :D

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x