word craft


When you sense something is wrong

worried manYou are work­ing on a project and you have a nag­ging sense that the book is not going well. You work on your text, and you change, this, that, and the oth­er thing. Small stuff, real­ly. Been there. Done that. The neg­a­tive nag­ging per­sists. If you are a reader—and I do not know how you can be writer with­out being a reader—your intu­ition tells you that some­thing is still wrong.

I vote for trust­ing your intu­ition. If you sense some­thing is wrong, I am bet­ting some­thing is wrong, miss­ing, not writ­ten. Still, you do not know what to do. This is why soci­ety has priests, psy­chol­o­gists, part­ners, spous­es, best friends, book-writ­ing groups, and edi­tors. You can deter­mine your own order of importance—for insight into your work.

Because here comes the hard part. Some­times you need to make a BIG change. As in life, so it is in writ­ing: big changes are hard to make. What kind of changes? A fun­da­men­tal shift in plot, char­ac­ter, end­ing, begin­ning, mid­dle …. Some­thing BIG is need­ed. Believe me, such changes—as in life—are very hard to do. Been there. Tried to do it.

Years ago, I was teach­ing a writ­ing class and a stu­dent wrote some­thing tru­ly banal. I said to this writer, “Is this any­thing like life? Any­thing like your life?”

“No,” the writer whispered.

I said, “Why not make it like life as you have tru­ly expe­ri­enced it?”

There were tears in this writer’s eyes. “Because no one ever gave me permission.”

Per­mis­sion granted.

The next thing this writer offered me was terrific.

3 thoughts on “When you sense something is wrong”

  1. Wow! What a great post! I think you hit my prob­lem right on the head. I sup­pose my job now is to hire a priest or a psy­chol­o­gist! Yet you have done so many books you must have a trick to unstick? I think we all have to look where we feel ashamed to find the answers? We are not risk­ing enough. Just a the­o­ry. ‑Eri­ka


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