Changing Mediums

I’ve written on similar topics in the past, about how learning to write for the stage and the screen can sharpen your novel writing skills (and vice versa). I really can’t stress enough how well-rounded it can make you, forcing you to acknowledge setting and action in a new way.

I know as a primarily novel writer, I tend to become complacent with my fictional elements. I think I know all there is to know to establish a scene, enhance the tension, insert more writer-y lingo here. But whenever I feel like my head is getting too big for my story (or if I get incredibly stuck on a particular scene and can’t figure out the best way to play it out), I realize it’s time for a medium change.

pexels-photo-27008And that change in medium is to write it like a movie.

There are some great sites out there that can teach you how to write a screenplay (Adobe Story is one of them). That’s not what this blog is for. This is really to explain the process your mind goes through as you transfer your readers from their imagination to yours.

When you write a screenplay, your action is direct. The actor needs to know exactly how you see them in this scene – crossing to the door, dropping a plate, laughing uncontrollably.

Sometimes as writers we can get lost in the literary clutter. We try too hard sometimes to make things sound fancy when they really just need to be clear. Stripping down your work to the bare bones gives you that chance to find the skeleton of your story. Once you’re there and you know what you want your audience to see then you can spice it up.

Now the dialogue. That’s the hard part in writing a script for me. There’s not really direction tagged with the dialogue in a script, so your writing needs to make it clear to your actor how the character is feeling. They should be able to pick up on the cues of how to act through what you’re having them do.

The same should be true when you write a novel.

Gasping, crying, laughing, shrieking, murmuring – they’re all wonderful words to describe your characters voices. But are you overusing them in place of expressing those same words through other actions? What if instead of crying out, your character clenched her fists in fear? What if instead of smiling, your character felt the warm bubble in his gut that made his words drip like honey?

This is a lesson I’m learning heavily now as I edit Part 1 of my MG novel and begin writing Part 2. My writing had become stale in the last few chapters. Rather than create a detailed work of art, I had created a sketch, a rendering, of what I wanted my audience to see.

That’s not good enough for me.

Practically, I’ve just transferred my work from a Word Doc into Scrivener by scene. As much as it pains me to do, I’m going to go back, scene by scene, and mentally write my story into a script. Break it down to build it back up.

It’s going to be a painful process, and honestly, I’m going to hate most of it – does anyone really love editing? – but if it produces a better story in the end, I believe it will be worth it.


Inspiration vs. Dedication

Most people consider inspiration to be the driving force behind writing or any other kind of creative work. I think I speak for all artists when I say that if we waited for inspiration to take the lead on our projects, nothing would ever get done. If you want inspiration to drive you, don’t expect to make it to your destination.

Being creative goes far beyond a muse. It’s a conscious effort to get to where you want to go. Don’t confuse inspiration with dedication.

I’ve watched extremely talented people lose their will to fight for what they love, simply because they don’t feel like fighting anymore. These people have never learned how to work without feeling inspired, and because of that, the world loses.

So here are a few thoughts I have on the whole inspiration vs. dedication deal:

Set a goal.
This ties into my post on Monday ( about developing plans for your writing. You need to develop your thoughts and ideas in order to make your time more efficient, but you also need to decide what you want to accomplish with those thoughts and ideas. Set realistic and measurable goals that allow you to work outside of feeling inspired.

Honesty time: I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to write tonight. I was originally going to do a Buzzfeed style post on awesome libraries, but then I realized you’ve probably seen a billion of those. As I was sitting here trying to come up with alternatives and debating quitting, I realized I was too caught up in trying to feel inspired. Inspiration can help you, but it can’t control you.

Don’t let the small things defeat you.
If you get caught up in the little battles you lose, you’ll never be able to see the bigger war at hand. So I may forget to write a post here or there, or maybe my post totally bombs and not a single person looks at it. Those defeats do not define me. I am a writer, and as long as I’m writing, I’m winning. Now of course we both want the writing to be good, but if my goal was to get coherent words on a page and I’m doing that, then I’m getting somewhere, even if that place is off the couch and into my desk chair.

An old teacher of mine used to say “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” Remember that.

Just keep swimming.
Need I say more? If you think you should quit because you “just can’t anymore,” then you should probably keep going. If you think you should quit because you’re going to kill everyone in your story because you’re so hungry, then you should take a taco break and get back at it afterwards. The biggest challenge here is to push yourself. Train yourself to go beyond what you think you can handle. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself and the quality of work you can put out when things become more difficult.

Writing is hard. You have to work at it and it most likely won’t come easy. But funnily enough, we often appreciate things more when we have to work harder for them. So I encourage you, don’t let inspiration be your guiding force. Love your craft and work for it.