Read an extract of Crystal's debut novel Bird here!
Writing, for all practical purposes, is the journey of getting down your inner life onto paper. What do I mean by inner life? I mean your joys, your pains, your experiences, your (perhaps unfulfilled) wishes, your whispered thoughts you tell yourself before you go to bed at night. All of that matters, and all of it somehow gets incorporated into this wonderful mishmash of story, this conglomeration of you-and-larger-than-you.
The writing process and the inner life are so closely connected that usually, what’s good for one is good for the other. This is what I mean:
Drafts. Your work is a draft, yes. But even more than that, you are a draft. You are constantly being edited, crafted, refined, if you choose to make the edits. Need more discipline? Make the edit. Need to tame that control-freak nature? Make the edit. And as you know, editing is a process – you don’t make all your edits in one round, or in three rounds. We all know exactly how many rounds of edits our manuscripts take, and if that’s what they take, how long will it take the human heart? But the opposite –not to make edits on yourself – would be even worse. Then, you’ll be working with an eternal first-draft version of yourself (and we all know what first drafts look like).
Critique partners. You need critique partners because you get too close to your manuscript. You need people to tell you when your chapter is too slow, when your characters aren’t sounding authentic, when the setting is just plain missing. It’s not good to take just anyone’s advice, because then you could be editing for the worse, but solid, trusted critique partners are worth their weight in gold. Likewise, you need close confidantes – hopefully more than one – to give you a different perspective when you get too close to your own life. You need trusted people to let you know when you’re doing something too brash, too anal, or when you’re being too fearful. These are the people who see you, critique you, and love you. And love you. And love you.
Kill your darlings. This one is really hard, as writers know. That awesome line, that poetic description, that hilarious scene, that amazing character…no matter what it is, if it doesn’t serve the story, it needs to go. It takes courage to axe out the things that we cling to most, things that we’re afraid that without it, the whole story will go down in flames. And sometimes in life, we also need to let go of the things we cling to most. That fear of the unknown. That relationship that straightjackets our hearts. The fear of rejection. If it doesn’t serve our best interests, it needs to go.
Stay tuned for part two for more awesome tips from Crystal!