Today I’m excited to welcome my author friend Victoria Grefer to Words on the Page. Victoria has a great blog on writing, The Crimson League, and she posts something informative and entertaining every day (yes, every single day!! I know, right?!). I’m thrilled to have her join us. Make sure you check out the links at the end of the post so you know how to follow her on Facebook and Twitter, too!
The Three P’s of Creative Writing
I’ve done quite a bit of writing through the years. I’ve drafted handful of short stories, some of which I like more than others, and five novels I really like, though not all of them have turned out to be “good” novels.
I’ve discovered that successful writing requires a lot of things, a number of which are related to mechanics. A good author needs grammar, a knack for pacing, solid character development, and a cohesive style that’s all her own. The mechanics of writing, however, are the surface-level requirements, and they aren’t what I want to reflect on today.
You see, mastering the mechanics requires many things from an aspiring writer emotionally. The building blocks of creative writing have building blocks of their own, and those are the things I want draw attention to, because it’s often tempting to focus on the mechanics—on wanting to improve our writing, on recognizing where we lack—without thinking about the mindset we need to make improvement possible.
On that note, I want to give you my three P’s of writing. These are emotional goals to set for yourself, because they are at the root of all completed novels and all authorial success: perspective, pride, and perseverance.
Perspective is always key. In fact, writing quality fiction requires various kinds of perspective.
First, you need to adopt an outsider’s perspective, as much as you can, and evaluate your work in an unbiased manner. Don’t put on rose-colored glasses and gush over your work, and don’t become defensive when you get constructive feedback from beta readers and editors. Their comments, advice, and respectful criticism are the best tools you could have to improve your writing.
Secondly, you need to keep your progress as a writer in perspective. You should recognize that other writers may be further along the road than you, so it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to them, their success, and the quality of their work. They may be twenty years older than you and have been writing for fifteen more years than you have. Expecting yourself to “match up” to that is unreasonable and detrimental to your motivational mindset.
Remember that writing is a skill that takes time to develop, and each milestone you reach, each step along the way that constitutes an improvement, is something to be celebrated. Don’t expect to jump from stage one to stage eight, and don’t be upset you’re not at stage ten yet. Try to be excited that you’re advancing steadily from stage two to stage three.
This leads to:
Develop a healthy pride in your potential and in the accomplishments you have under your belt. That first draft? It’s a genuine accomplishment, so don’t cheapen it because it’s not great, or not something you think you can ever publish, no matter how much work you put into it. You need to keep your confidence up to keep stretching and growing your skills.
Whatever you do, don’t be ashamed of your work—and especially your early work—because it needs improvement. Writing’s never about being perfect. It’s about continual development.
You will never be motivated to keep developing if you can’t keep your eye on the prize. Know what you want to achieve with your writing, and shoot for that goal. Advance with baby steps if you have to; that’s still advancement, right?
Perhaps you want to write something worth publishing: great! Perhaps you never intend to publish and you write for yourself, as a hobby, to relieve stress and provide yourself a creative outlet. That’s perfect too. You can celebrate the joy of finishing a chapter, of getting that outline done, of connecting with and learning from your characters.
The trick is to keep writing, and reading as well. Remember how writing’s all about continual development? You can’t grow if you aren’t writing. Which leads to the fourth P, the P all the others lead to.
Write. Just write. Maybe you’ll reach your ultimate goals, and maybe you won’t. You won’t, for sure, if you don’t keep writing. You’ll have no chance.
If you keep things in perspective and realize that writing a novel is a long, hard journey that involves stops and starts and blocks for everyone; if you take pride in your small accomplishments and advances; and if you persevere on the days you don’t want to write and through periods of self-doubt that perspective and pride will help to minimize; then you will keep writing. You will practice, and practice some more. While in this case practice can’t make perfect, it can most definitely get you where you want to go.
Victoria Grefer is from New Orleans, Louisiana. A lifelong student and avid reader, she has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English and a master’s degree in Spanish literature from the University of Alabama. She has taught Spanish and tutored, and now is establishing herself as a freelance translator and perhaps editor as well. She is the author of the Herezoth trilogy, sword and sorcery fantasy beginning with The Crimson League and ending May 31, 2013 with The King’s Sons. She blogs daily about creative writing and marketing fiction at www.crimsonleague.com.
She is soon to release a writer’s handbook entitled Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction, addressing aspects not only of mechanics and style, but the emotional barriers that can impede aspiring writers (and even experienced ones) from making progress with their work.