The blog of author Harper Alexander

Attention Disgruntled Writers: This is Your Pep Talk

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Hey, you. Yes, you with the pen and pathetic blank paper. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and plunk down some words. Is your ink dried up? I didn’t think so.

You are a writer. Creator of worlds. You can do anything – literally anything – that you want, any time you please. You can make anything in the entire world, anything in your wildest dreams, happen in an instant, at any given moment. You can write it into existence. Bam.

Every bestseller was once a blank page. You have it in you to write the words that will be the next bestseller. They’re just words. Words that could be yours. Those words – they’re out there, floating in the stratosphere. All you have to do is claim them and write them on your paper. Say, that word is mine. That word, and that word, and that word. They’re mine, and I’m putting them on my paper. Then do it.

And keep doing it. Don’t stop, except to hydrate that impoverished brain of yours that’s 75% water, and to pee. Eat, if you must. But keep putting one word after another. That’s all it takes. 50,000 times. Maybe 100,000 or 200,000. Big deal. (Do I hear you complaining? Do I?! Drop and give me 20,000.)

What’s that? You dredged up some words, but they’re just not good enough? I don’t want to hear it. Not making forward progress is what’s not good enough. Rough drafts are okay. In fact, they’re crucial. How else are you supposed to go back and find the gaps to insert awesome plot twists and scenes that you dream up later, sparked by the atmosphere you’ve scarcely allowed to germinate? If, like me, you suffer from being a perfectionist, you will write a draft that is too neat and tidy to add anything to, and, let me tell you, neat and tidy do not make an end-all momentously awesome story worth bragging about. Ideas for awesome supporting scenes and plot twists thrive in the cauldron of Hindsight, when you’ve laid the groundwork (the bones that shape the beast) and can add muscle anywhere you want to support it and make it strong. Make it fierce. Make it a complex creature to be reckoned with.

Not allowing gaps for the muscle will stunt the beast’s growth. It will stifle its function. Do not do it.

Making everything seemingly connect and flow perfectly the first time around is actually hugely limiting. So for goodness’ sake, write a bad first draft. Please.

That’s not a request.

Drop and give me 20,000 more!

You don’t know where your story is going? Perfect. Then it doesn’t matter, does it? You can make it go anywhere. Literally anywhere. Easiest problem ever.

You hate your characters? Good. Make them hate themselves. It will give them some definition. Make them relatable.

Your plot is stupid? So are the plots of dozens of bestsellers. Don’t let that stop you.

You got a bad review? So has everyone else. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and write something better. (And haven’t you ever heard of any publicity is good publicity? Sheesh, stop being so picky.)

You didn’t meet a deadline? Get over it. Writers are infamous for that. All the more reason to write with gusto now.

You’ve written a first draft, a second draft, a third draft… You’ve poured your heart and soul into this thing, and it still isn’t cutting it? That’s what beta readers are for. Stop believing you should have all the answers. Gosh, how conceited are you?

Everyone hated your book – not just some people, but everyone. Now you know what not to do. (If you’re writing for yourself, who cares, and if you’re writing for an audience, take the criticism and use it to guide your next story. Or, if you’re a self-published author, simply rewrite the book. You have the power to do that, you know. No playing the victim.)

Drop and give me 10,000, at least!

Your story just keeps dragging on, longer and longer, with no end in sight and you wanted to have it published so you could be making money off of it already… Congratulations, you have enough material to split it into multiple books, and make more money than if you just sold it as one. Keep going. You may just have a whole series on your hands. When all of your fellow aspiring-author buddies proudly publish their debut novel, you’ll publish five. Boo-yah.

There are no excuses, Writer. You have a responsibility to the characters who are calling you to tell their stories. There are no dead-ends. Only periods at the end of a thousand-thousand sentences. There is no giving up. There is no stopping. Only pausing to lift your drained pen, and dip it again into the inkwell.

The pen is mightier than the sword. You are an ink-slewing gladiator, sitting intrepidly at a typewriter in an arena of demons and imaginary foes. They can’t touch you. You can kill them all with the stroke of a pen. They will fall at the feather-light touch of your quill.

So slay them, Writer, and use their blood for your ink.


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