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Writing Tip: Eugene Yelchin

I’ve invit­ed a group of top-notch writ­ers to share their writ­ing tips with you this sum­mer. Look for a new bit of learned expe­ri­ence each Tuesday.

Eugene Yelchin: The most use­ful writ­ing advice came to me from Frank Daniel, a Czech-Amer­i­can screen­writer, and my writ­ing teacher at the grad­u­ate film school at the USC. He was teach­ing us how to write screen­plays, but I have been apply­ing his wis­dom to writ­ing fic­tion as well. The advice has to do with the often-lengthy peri­od of revi­sion. The steps to his advice are as follows:

  1. You came up with an idea for your sto­ry. The idea is so bril­liant, so unique, and so impor­tant that you have no doubt you will cre­ate a mas­ter­piece. Your final work will change you, change oth­ers, and change the world.
  2. Take a sheet of paper and write down how you feel about your idea, why it is so bril­liant and so impor­tant. Don’t be shy— no one will read it—put down your feel­ings as hon­est­ly as you can. Fold the sheet of paper, put it in the enve­lope, seal it, and store it out of sight.
  3. A year or two lat­er, your atti­tude is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. You are exhaust­ed by the revi­sions. The idea seems stu­pid and use­less. What was good in it you had man­aged to kill by your inep­ti­tude and lack of tal­ent. You are ready to quit.
  4. Open the sealed enve­lope and read what you wrote before you began writ­ing. Your for­mer excite­ment will sur­prise you. It might make you feel a lit­tle ashamed for being such a cow­ard. You see what was so spe­cial about your idea that got lost in the process.
  5. Next, at least in the­o­ry, you will return to the writ­ing desk with the renewed energy.

Try this at home. It saved a cou­ple of my books which were lat­er suc­cess­ful­ly pub­lished from cer­tain aban­don­ment dur­ing the process.

Please vis­it Eugene Yelchin’s web­site, where you can learn more about his books, illus­tra­tion, fine art, and char­ac­ter development.

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