Making Your Story “Less Lame”

George Saunders wrote the following paragraphs in the Guardian and I’m posting it here to remind us all how writing is all about re-writing. And how important it is to edit your own work rather than just assuming that the first draft is the final draft just because it’s written down. And how to add specific details to really delve into the minds of the characters.

(It’s not kid lit related, but relevant nonetheless.)

… “When I write, “Bob was an a**hole,” and then, feeling this perhaps somewhat lacking in specificity, revise it to read, “Bob snapped impatiently at the barista,” then ask myself, seeking yet more specificity, why Bob might have done that, and revise to, “Bob snapped impatiently at the young barista, who reminded him of his dead wife,” and then pause and add, “who he missed so much, especially now, at Christmas,” – I didn’t make that series of changes because I wanted the story to be more compassionate. I did it because I wanted it to be less lame.

But it is more compassionate. Bob has gone from “pure a**hole” to “grieving widower, so overcome with grief that he has behaved ungraciously to a young person, to whom, normally, he would have been nice”. Bob has changed. He started out a cartoon, on which we could heap scorn, but now he is closer to “me, on a different day”.

How was this done? Via pursuit of specificity. I turned my attention to Bob and, under the pressure of trying not to suck, my prose moved in the direction of specificity, and in the process my gaze became more loving toward him (ie, more gentle, nuanced, complex), and you, dear reader, witnessing my gaze become more loving, might have found your own gaze becoming slightly more loving, and together (the two of us, assisted by that imaginary grouch) reminded ourselves that it is possible for one’s gaze to become more loving.” …

To read the full article, go HERE .




There are a lot of wannabes out there.

And Maybe if I had the time…

And Someday I’ll…

I’ve talked to quite a few people lately who say that they’ve always wanted to write a children’s book. That they have a story inside them. But that’s where it ends. They talk about it, think about it, complain about it, dream about it — but don’t DO it.

Why not?

Fear about not being good enough? Fear that they don’t know how? Fear of feeling silly or stupid or dumb?

There is really only one way to get over all of those anxieties.

Use the immortal words of Nike. Put the fears to rest. Just do it.

And yes, you might feel stupid, and yes you might think your story is dumb. But nobody starts out perfect. And to be honest, nobody ends up perfect either. I have nearly fifty children’s book manuscripts that I’ve started — thinking they were amazing ideas — and then realised that some plot detail didn’t work, or the story had been written before and wasn’t unique, or I just fell out of love with the idea.

These are not failures. I might return to some of those manuscripts in the future, or use bits of them in other stories. But if I hadn’t written them down I would have nothing.

Don’t have nothing.

Get those stories down on paper. Out of your head. Crap or not.

(The mantra above my desk is a not-so-child-friendly Anne Lamott quote: “Sh*tty first drafts.”)

Stop being a wannabe and start being a writer. And maybe nothing will happen with those stories –you’ll put them in your desk where they’ll languish for years. Or maybe something wonderful will happen, and you’ll be reading your books to your grandkids someday. But you’ll never know unless you get out that pencil or quill or keyboard and write it down.

Just do it.