This post was previously published on August 6, 2013
Skip the tips.
Forget everything you’ve learned.
Put down your copy of 100 Fabulous Secrets to Better Writing Now!
Move away from the stack of books you slowly acquired ever since you first had the thought that you might want to write fiction. (Spoiler alert: all those books pretty much all say the same thing. They are as repetitive as magazines about how to swing a golf club. Or how to diet.)
Forget it all.
Put it aside, shove it to the back of your brain or, even better, scrub the whole mindscape clean. Lesson-free, worry-free, anxiety-proofed. Silence the inner coach.
Oh yeah, one more thing: don’t even think about your favorite author or some writing style you’d like to emulate.
There. Got it?
Now, tell me a story. Only, pretend I’m in a soundproof room and you’re going to have to slide me pages under the door as the story unfolds—as you write it down. In your writing voice. With your words.
Okay, there you go.
Here’s what I want: I want to know your character—inside and out. And, well, it would be pretty cool if something actually, you know, happened.
There must be a reason this is a story and not just an account of some random, meaningless day. Or week. Or series of connected events.
My point? My point is sometimes you have to get back to basics. And those basics are:
1. See clearly.
2. Describe honestly.
3. Keep things moving.
Sometimes (drum roll, please) you just have to write.
And write some more.
(Of ALL the writing advice you’ve received over the years, isn’t that the most common refrain? “Write every day.” “Keep on writing.” “Write, write, write.” “Write a million words.” Or some such variation. Has one writing coach or respected elder of the writing community ever suggested that you think more or suck your thumb harder? Didn’t think so.)
And after you’ve written, have some other readers check what you’ve written, to see if they get the story you’re trying to tell.
Your voice, your words, your damn story.
It’s bound to be one of a kind.
But if you do need a jump-start or if you’re looking for that one magical moment of inspiration, come to Colorado Gold, RMFW’s massively brilliant three-day conference in September in Denver.
For more information about the conference, visit the RMFW website.
I can promise you one thing: you won’t starve for advice.
Mark Stevens is the President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the author of the Western hunting guide Allison Coil mysteries Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan.