Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Newbie Writer Sins

by Linda Robertson

I'm guilty of a multitude of newbie writer sins, some I know of, some I probably still don't know of, and some that make me cringe in memory.

I used to get soooo hung up on an outline. I used a typewriter--yeah, remember those? I've been at this a LONG time. And it wasn't just the outline, it was making the perfect outline, neat and clean, with the right format and Roman numerals. I spent more time on the outline, retyping it for each new idea, finding more details to fluff the points, than I did on the writing.


Imagine a competitive bicyclist making sure they have all the right equipment, the best shoes, aerodynamic helmet and clothing, the sleekest bike, spiffy tires...and but never getting on it and training for the race.

Yeah...I wasn't learning my craft when I should have been. I felt that, if only I had a perfect outline, the writing would come effortlessly, guided flawlessly...I'd be sure to succeed.

Not so much. Not without a completed manuscript.

There are things that you can only learn, only overcome, by doing the actual writing. And I now firmly believe that pinpointing every detail robs you of the creative license to discover the "moment," to live and breathe the excitement of your story as it unfolds before you, to feel the "heartbeats" of your story unconfined to a rigid structure. No, some of the details should flow out of you as spontaneous and undeniable as a mountain stream.

Trust your instincts, trust that your creativity can flow like this, and trust that it won't always be good.  Sometimes you have to write badly, and see it, to know what not to do. You won't do that at all if you're not writing.

So sure, scratch out so main points, but be open to altering your process, to stretch your writing muscles and try something new. It will strengthen you. I promise.


  1. Interesting - I've never been able to outline ahead of time, so I always go the "follow the hearbeats" route. Not sure I've heard of anyone else going from pre-plotting to a looser style. Very fun!

  2. Heh - some of this sounds very familiar. Before I actually took the writing plunge, I bought a LOT of "how to" writing books and a bunch of workshops...but I did very little writing, for some reason. I guess I felt as long as I was researching the process that was somehow good enough.

    (But it's not, of course - just another way to avoid doing stuff and therefore avoiding rejection...)