Today it hit me. What hit me? Patience or at least the realization that patience with my writing is a skill I have been missing, lacking, or on the low-side. Patience with writing is…necessary.
Recently a friend asked me for some help writing fiction and I gave my usual advice:
Characters: Have compelling characters who have their own motivations and world view. Compelling is based on the writer, what I find a compelling character may not be compelling to another. Regardless compelling characters are easier to write. Characters need to have a motivation not related to the plot, my thought at least. A character who’s motivation is to complete the plot is less interesting to me and has a shorter lifespan than a character who has a motivation outside of the plot and tries to interact with the plot. I.e. a detective who’s only goal is to solve the plot of the week is less interesting to me than a detective with a drinking problem, a desire to become wealthy, and motivational issues who is tossed into the plot of the week and has to deal.
Villains and Obstacles: Villains need to be as compelling and interesting as the characters, in some ways more so. A lackluster villain who the character defeats is not memorable. A villain as rounded as a character is interesting in their own right and makes for compelling/interesting reading. For me, and this is a me thing, villains are plot generators. Villains want something or to do something and some how the characters get involved and that is where the conflict arises…unless your characters go a different direction…nothing wrong with the villain winning because a character moved on, missed something, or life got in the way.
Locations and/or Environment: Put your characters in interesting places. Interesting does not mean unique. Interesting means providing enough details to make the location/environment seem alive and not a backdrop for the characters to act in front of.
Let everything grow: While writing if staying true to a character they will occasionally do something that is not what the writer had in mind or they should. If allowed to go off script, characters grow and become more interesting. This is a hard concept to grasp, as the writer don’t I have complete control? Yes and no. Yes, I put the words down, but there are times when I see a character doing something other than what I was writing and I re-write the scene going with what the character does, even if that puts the character in greater danger or removes them from the story altogether. Life is like that. I like my characters to have those not-so-perfect moments.
Good advice, but I forgot one thing and I did not realize I had forgot it until this morning when working on another revision, patience. Ripping off a story is easy. Going back and crafting that story is hard. All of the skills that go into taking a rough draft and turning that into the next draft, and next, and so on require patience.
A writer needs to have the patience to let the writing unfold. Ripping off a story and working on it later that day or the next is not the same as taking a day or two or even a week before coming back to that story. The difference for me between working on a draft the next day and week is immense. The next day I fill in the blanks I remember I forgot to put to paper. A few days later, I see the holes, I see the errors, I see the places where I can expand for interest, clarity, or remove altogether. Patience.
Waiting is difficult especially with writing where things tend to come in bursts. A burst of writing leads to another and another. Seeing all the words on paper or screen leads to thinking you did something and you did. Now take a few days off from that work. Work on something else or just take a break and read. Then come back. All of that work can be made better because you will have fresh eyes and thoughts will have had time to refresh.
Patience is that missing piece.
Need an example: Check revisions of the stories I have been posting or in a few days come back and I will have a better version of this rip and run up. Patience. 🙂