There is no secret to doing something well. You simply have to do it, do it consistently, and do it often. I have been reading more and more about the craft of writing, most recently “The Getaway Car” by Ann Patchett, which is included in her book This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which should be at the top of the list of required reading for serious writers, if such a thing exists.
I am committed to improving my outlining. It’s something I didn’t do enough of with my first novel, and felt the repercussions of when I went back to revise. I’ve read about Save the Cat! and the Heroic Journey, and I’m trying to apply them to the new ideas I have. And you know what? It’s hard. But as I tell my three-year-old son, it’s good to do things that are hard, because then we know we can do them. And then we do them again, and again, and again until we can do them well.
My writing assignment today was to complete an outline for a contemporary YA novel I want to write. I’ve tried a couple of times in the last few weeks, but let myself get distracted when it got hard. Not today. No internet, no editing, just spit it out until it’s done. I allowed myself the out of adding in aliens, if that’s what it would take to get it done.
Once I sat down with a focused goal—finish one draft—it wasn’t so hard. I actually wrote two separate versions, because I wanted to add in another aspect to the first, but couldn’t let myself go back and rewrite. I knew if I did, I’d never finish. And I didn’t even need aliens!
Three years into it, I’m finally noticing growth in myself as a writer. I am more willing to just keep going to get a draft out and then start all over again next time I sit down, if that’s what I need to get the story out. I’m not worried about what I throw out, because I know the ideas (mostly) get better the more I work on them. I’m still a little terrified of one particularly ambitious project, but as Patchett writes, only the writer herself can make herself get any better.
Head down, power through. Repeat.