Outline? No outline? Seat of the pants?
Karleen Koen, instructor for That Damned Rough Draft at the Writers’ League of Texas summer writing retreat at Sul Ross University in Alpine, says there are no rules for writing. And she never said the phrase, “We don’t need no stinkin’ rules.” That’s my inner child cutting up.
She said she wouldn’t teach us to write, but would help us learn how to play. If you play, your inner child, your subconscious, will make itself known and your writing will be the richer for it.
And another thing. Writing a novel is hard–real hard.
We are adventurers, embarking on the quest of a lifetime, daring everything on a wild, reckless throw of the dice. Fame and fortune. Or maybe no one will pay attention at all.
According to Koen, a writer’s tools are her words. An artist has brushes and canvas, a sculptor his clay. We have only words to bring a whole new world to life, a world of our own creation. We must lure and seduce readers to enter our world with our use of words.
Not Rules but Suggestions:
Don’t talk your story away. Energy you need for the story goes out at the mouth.
Writers are looking for affirmation. We never get enough.
Grant yourself permission to write badly. The point is to be writing.
Poetry helps writers with their voice. Karleen Koen always reads poems before class begins.
Writing the rough draft is not a time to perfect your prose. Let your subconscious work with you. A rough draft is not linear. The novel is hard. You have to willing to commit to the marathon. Not the sprint.
Nobody can see our hard work if we’ve done our work right. It looks slick. Bumps come with writing novels.
Our suffering is invisible to everyone but us.
Magic and alchemy are part of a story. They take the reader to another world.
You need time and space to create.
Don’t compare. Everybody feels bad when you compete
I need to know what I don’t know. I want to get the story finished. Have I bitten off more than I can chew?
What makes a novel? Hook, plot, tension, character, dialogue, scenes, ending, middle, beginning–magic.
Painters have color
Sculptors have clay.
All writers have are words.
Karleen suggests these daily exercises to tempt forth your magic, muse, subconscious, inner child, whatever makes you tick.
Keep a writer’s diary and write about your writing self every day.
Write three longhand morning pages first thing when you wake up every day, no editing. Don’t think. Just write whatever comes into your head.
Don’t let your editor subdue your creator, even in revision.
Don’t share writing with just anyone. Writing is part of our inner child. Too much criticism shuts you down.
Your first reader is very important. All you want to ask the first reader are three questions about your manuscript:
- What did you like?
- What do you want to know more about?
- Where did I lose you?
This will help shape the novel and show where you are off pace.
Cool down between drafts.
Learn to play with words. Be creative and loose.
Find a niche that’s well calibrated to your interests and your talent.
You can only develop your voice by writing.
Enter your story and take us with you.
Know how your hero/heroine is going to be transformed by the end of the novel.
Sometimes revision can lead to beating a dead dog. You’ve been to the well too many times.
You adventurer, you.
By Gale Albright