By Jenny Hansen
Based on the title of this post, you might think I’m going to talk about plotting or character arcs or 3-Act structure… That’s a big fat “Nope!” to all three. There’s a lesson that comes before all those things and it has taken me a long time to get it through my head.
Here it is: When it comes to writing, “Done” is better than “Good.”
Now, some of you might disagree with me, so let me share a conversation I had with one of my tweeps, Natalie Hartford, who’s just getting started on the writing road. Like me, she enrolled in Round 4 of ROW80 – the writing challenge that knows you have a life – and her goals were a flurry of planning, studying, reading…and not WRITING.
The other day, we had this chat on Facebook:
Me: Oh, one last thing…OF COURSE you’re going to write a great book. But you’re stalling with all this prep. Just start writing all willy-nilly and see what comes out. Pretty please? I KNOW you have an awesome book inside of you. But we all have to write like 3,000 lines of crap before our book comes out.
Natalie: I know eh?!?! What’s with the stalling?!?!? It’s getting a wee bit frustrating. So you say “just start writing” – but what?!?!?
Me: Start writing a conversation between your character and someone. Or start writing an interview with your character that includes YOUR voice interviewing and THEIR voice answering.
Natalie: LOVE THAT!!! That’s perfect!! I will….thank you for the push Jenny – I need it!!
I was up till nearly 1 am last night brainstorming. (I am driving MYSELF batty with all this brainstorming…) I will definitely just start playing around with my character…interview, background…I decided last night that maybe that’s the missing piece to the plot issues.
Me: No one has a masterpiece on the first run. The key is to start writing. Remember, done is better than good. You can make your “done” into “very good” MUCH easier than you can make a little bit of good stuff into a finished novel.
We went on a bit longer, but I’ll just sum things up and say this conversation was really about fear. Like all writers, Natalie was floundering out of the gate because she felt like she had to get some “BIG IDEA” to run with.
There’s only like six story ideas on the planet so we all need to chill and just write. And never, ever forget that “done is better than good.”
My favorite quote from Nora Roberts, Goddess of the Bestseller list is:
I can fix a bad page but I can’t fix a blank one.
Here are some other recommendations I gave Natalie for getting started:
- Quit dinking around and just write some scenes.
- Describe your character’s office/bedroom/kitchen and figure out what they do there.
- Ask simple questions in the interview, like: Does your character have a dog? What kind? What is the dog’s name? Does the dog do any tricks?
- Enjoy yourself.
If you’re looking for more brainstorming ideas, you might also enjoy this post.
If you don’t believe me that it’s all about putting one word after another on the page, listen to the late great Stephen Cannell, creator of The Rockford Files, Baretta, The A-Team, and a myriad of other shows (plus you might recognize him from the poker table in Castle).If you look at his IMDb Bio, you’ll be amazed at how much this dyslexic man accomplished:
Do you agree that “done” is better than “good?” Which one is a bigger writing challenge for you?
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.
When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and here at Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.