by Joel Smith
(he’s my assistant this year!)
As humans we often make the same mistakes over and over. As writers that is no less true. Often times we make mistakes in ignorance, and sometimes we intentionally make the mistake, whether out of weariness (a nice way to say lazy), or out of not knowing a better way. All mistakes provide an opportunity to learn, but only if we choose to do so.
In my writing a mistake I often make is focusing on the plot instead of the characters. When I first began writing I did this in ignorance. I didn’t understand that a story doesn’t make a character, but a character makes a story. No matter how exciting the story, if the character is flat it won’t hook readers.
Now I know I make this mistake. The effort of really fleshing out a character leaves me feeling daunted, or I don’t feel like putting the time into it. Instead I want to dig into that plot, to explore the idea I’ve nurtured for some time. While this may not seem like that big of a mistake since I can work on characters later, I’ve found that often getting to know my characters causes significant changes to the plot. I’ve done this over and over, throwing away huge sections of my manuscript as each character I round out changes the dynamic of the narrative.
A shorter, more immediate mistake I make is opening up my web browser and loading YouTube. I lament all the time I’ve wasted watching the most random, odd videos to be found. Sure, they’re funny and entertaining, but wouldn’t I rather be writing? The answer after the two hours I’ve spent watching that stuff is “Yes! Why have I squandered my time?”
So what do we do? For me the two above mistakes stem from not wanting to put forth the effort. For characters I need to cultivate my patience and diligence to dig down into the character and figure out who they are. It’s much shorter in the long-run, so I must persevere. The same thing applies to YouTube. YouTube is a quick avoidance of doing something hard, to be easily entertained.
In the same way any mistake we can make in writing can be learned from, and we can make that repetitious mistake a strength.
Thank you, Joel! Very nice post. I expect to see beautiful characters come June!
For those who are interested, there are a few classes left. Go to http://www.wifyr.com
Also, take note of our mini workshops. We have some fantastic people speaking. And keynote this year is James Dashner!