The other day my dad and I were talking about the importance of timing in a writer’s success. I found myself telling him this story and afterwards being reminded of one of the most damning disabilities I have as an author hopeful. Here was the story as I told it to him:
Well did you hear about that guy who wrote a book-he spent like years writing it and it got horrible reviews, it was not well received at all. Or maybe he hadn’t published it yet ::big pause:: and he just got awful feedback about it. Anyway, he wrote this book and put all of his energy and his whole life into it and when no one else liked it he killed himself. Anyway, his mom took his novel and like a few years later or twenty years later or something found a publisher, so I guess it hadn’t been published yet (this is me remembering that he hadn’t)and published it. It went on to win the nobel peace prize! If that guy only would have stayed around for a bit longer, he would have seen his book win the nobel peace prize. Can you imagine that!?
There are multiple problems with this paragraph. The overarching realization that I hope you, dear readers, picked up on, is that I cannot tell a story to save my life. Think Marlon from Finding Nemo “There’s a molusk..”.
Not only that but half the time I don’t have my facts straight from the start so it’s a rambling, backtracking adventure that no one besides my dad would stick around to listen to. Add on the fact that I love to repeat myself thinking that it will somehow have a greater impact on the hearer if they hear it again. Like I said, multiple problems. And a lot of times it worries me because:
How can I be a “real” author if I can’t even tell a proper story!?
I wonder how many of you suffer from this problem. I would think that for most of you it’s the opposite, that you have so many great stories to tell, it’s about finding the right channel to make them seen. Am I alone in this?
At times it used to makes me so insecure that I’d toss in the towel on writing with the reasoning that I was so bad at storytelling.
I complained about this once to a dear friend, about how I’m “like, so good at creating the world I want the story to take place in, and complex characters but then I have no idea what happens”. She wisely and succinctly said (no rambling, no backtracking). “You can fix that, read a book on plotting.”
A light came on at the end of what was a dark tunnel of despair. There are people out there who are so good at what I am not. And they’ve written books on how to be more like them.
So, without any more rambling or backtracking, here are four solutions to any story disability:
1. Read as many how-to books as possible on your area of weakness. Have trouble with dialogue? There’s a book for that. Want to know more about pacing? There’s a book for that I guarantee it.
2. Cultivate an appetite and understanding of good_____ (story telling, interesting characters). It’s why one of the two more important things a writer can do is to READ. Look for ways the author does what they do best. Look for formulas. Learn how to recognize when an author does it right so you’ll see in your own writing when you get it wrong.
3.Fake it till you make it. Steal, borrow, copy other writers’ story spices-their themes/tools/methods. Aay they crafted such a bad A bad guy. Why is he great? His humanity? Put it in your book.
4. Practice. It’s boring, yes, but sound.
What are your writing weaknesses? Have they ever made you throw in the towel? How did you overcome them?
Photo Cred: Flickr by Jeeebus HERE