Writing in Gulps and Sips

drink

It really gets on my nerves when I take a sip of water and it dribbles down my mouth, chin, and neck. My mom used to say, “Do you have a hole in your lip?” When I stop to think about why this happens, two reasons come to mind.

  • Drinking too fast
  • Giant cup vs. small mouth

This “Dribble Effect” applies to writing, too.

Are you drinking too fast?

Writing is not a race. It may feel that way when under a pressing deadline from your publisher. But, while drafting and revising, it’s best to slow down. I’m sure this is not the first time you have heard someone suggest that you put your draft on a shelf or in a drawer and let it rest. Chances are, you will look at the draft with new eyes when you pull it back out. Allowing this process to take place before seeking out professional advice or critique group feedback will assist you in putting your own authentic stamp on your work.

May I suggest:

1) Write a first draft.

2) Put it away for a week or so. Read some mentor texts.

3) Take it back out and revise. Then, walk away again to occupy yourself with a fun activity.

4) Fine tune your story one more time before sending it out for feedback.

5) Read the feedback and take note of what resonates with your inner editor. Allow yourself to be internally defensive with all other comments, if need be, then walk away until you feel ready to receive the feedback with an open mind. The instinct to defend your work can be strong and keep you from growing. Don’t let it overpower you or leak into your verbal interactions with others. Depending on how stuck you feel with a story, it could be a couple of weeks or even months before you feel ready to tackle revision. Write something new and read some mentor texts. It will fill your cup with inspiration.

6) Come back with a fresh mind and new eyes, ready to revise. Refer to your feedback. Listen to your gut: What resonates with your inner editor? Are there similar comments from multiple people? Does your feedback come from a trusted, educated source? -OR- Revise in the form of many different rewrites for growth and comparison, changing POV, character focus, plot and other elements if needed.

7) Repeat the process as necessary. This formula is not exact and your timeline may look different. When inspiration strikes, go for it! But always realize that there really is no rush unless you are meeting a deadline.

Are you drinking from a cup that is too big?

I am all for revising oneself as a writer. Investing in classes, written resources, and joining writing groups are all great things. However, there was a time when that cup was too big for me. I was taking more than one class, reading two different writing craft books, and trying to keep up with multiple online writing groups. What suffered? Well, a lot of things, but mainly, my writing, and I stopped reading mentor texts, too. There was no focus and too much information coming all at once. KEEP revising yourself, but start with a smaller cup. Never stop reading mentor texts, but reflect on what you are writing and which mentor texts would compliment your current goals the most. If your cup is too big, you’re bound to get drenched.

With a the right-sized cup and a little patience, you’ll experience a lot less dribble and a little more absorption.

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11 comments

  1. Carrie, thank you for your excellent post and reminder to drink it all in slowly and enjoy the process. Because of you and ReFoRe I will usually check out a picture book and look for plot points and inspiration whenever I am feeling inundated!

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  2. Carrie Im well and truly drenched. Read too many how to books, taking many classes and reading far too many mentor posts. Time to get back to the basics, one course Editing my draft and then take it from there. Thanks for the great advice.
    Kath.

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  3. Good advice, Carrie. Now if only a pill for patience existed. I’m guilty of trying to do too many things at once—ironic since the family word for 2015 is focus. I find myself overwhelmed with all of the information every other month or so. Then, I make myself limit craft research to one day per week (today!). It gives me time to write more thoughtfully and read mentor texts which ultimately makes me happier.

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    1. It is so hard to be patient, Mary, isn’t it? This business requires so much of it, no matter which step of the process we are at. Slowing down can mean better stories which in the looooong run can mean great news. 🙂 Best wishes!

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    1. You are right…It is so easy to forge ahead, Kirsti! Especially when we are excited about something. Funny how when we look back on the things we once thought were great, our newer grown selves sometimes laugh and say, “If I only saw then what I see now.”

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