Peggy Bechko Gives Us Our Writerly Marching Orders

But she says it so nicely, with such…OMG!…class:

Three Helpful (I Hope) Writer’s Decrees Readers May Find Interesting – by Peggy Bechko (Peggy’s Blog)

Your Space, Research and Revision

There are a whole lot more than three of them, but well, I don’t have the time to go into all of them right now, or the space on my blog, or the typing finger (I just sliced it open while prepping food for Thanksgiving and the finger really  hurts when I hit a key). So, at great sacrifice I’m typing this up for your reading pleasure, edification, education, whatever you choose to consider it

Decree number one. You, as a writer, must find your space to write, daydream and create and you must shut the door. It doesn’t have to be a large space, perhaps even a closet with a good light and space for a small desk (hope you’re not claustrophobic).

Depending on circumstance it might not even have a door in the physical sense, but you have to create one for yourself anyway. A means to shut out the world and yourself into the world you’re creating. Somehow you must arrange it so you’re not constantly interrupted or distracted. You have to shut off your cell phone, the land line, the TV, any distracting video games (you might consider not having these on your work computer) and make sure your internet access is something you have to go to, not automatic running in the background.  You might need it for research, but your don’t want it constantly clamoring for your attention. And if you’re not actively engaged in research, shut it off. Email too.

Give yourself a break. If you seriously want to write, you need to commit to the environment that allows you to do so to avoid frustration, self-anger, and never getting anything accomplished.

Decree Number two: research. You know, that thing I just mentioned above, the reason you might have your internet access running. You’ve read lots of books (um, at least I hope you have). You know there are writers who do a heck of a lot of research and then create page after page in their story parceling that newly discovered information out. Some do it well. Some not so much.

Research is a tricky devil for writers. If you’re writing about something you know little to nothing about then you’re going to have to research. But, once you’ve done the research pick out the plums and spice your story with them. Research always must take a back-seat to the story. The story always comes first and should never be overwhelmed by all that great research you’ve done. All that stuff you found out is really cool. And you may have waded through a morass of text to extract exactly what you need, but don’t let that become the star of your show.

Story always comes first.

Decree Number Three: Revision. Ah, yes, the biggie. The one writers really don’t want to face at all and yet it it is at the heart of good story telling. It’s part of the process.

And the process for me, is this: slap the story down on paper, writing unleashed, not editing! Put it away, let it rest. Later, come back with pen in hand and start reading and making notes. Look for character discrepancies, large logic holes or plot gaps, whatever jerks the reader out of the story. Then open the door to my writing room a crack and slip the manuscript out to First Reader. Get comments and reactions. Then revise some more.

Now this process can be different and take different amounts of time for every writer. The first part can be hardest for people who can’t resist editing as they write. It’s a matter of style. I highly recommend not editing as you go, but some must. If you MUST, then do so, but try to keep it minimal and in the background as the story goes up on your computer screen.

The waiting period can vary wildly as well.  Writer Stephen King says leave it marinate/fester/mold/whatever for a minimum of six weeks in that drawer or on that shelf. Really? Six weeks? I can’t wait that long, but if you can perhaps while you get some new ideas down  on paper or crammed into your computer, then have at it. If you have to get to it sooner, then do it, but do give it a rest between finishing the first draft and thinking about revision.

Oh, and when you come across all those ‘mistakes’; plot gaps, character gaffs, logic jumps, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re a writer, you can fix it, and your readers will be all the more thrilled for the flotsam they never saw.

And that First Reader, that ideal reader you hand your manuscript to trustingly for opinions and input? By all means, listen to the suggestions and comments, digest them and make adjustments, this is your trusted reader, the one who’ll give you the most honest input whether you want to hear it or not. But don’t think you have to respond to every little thing the reader suggested. Work with it and you’ll come up with a better manuscript or screen script.

Who’s your Ideal, most Trusted Reader?

 Have you over-researched?
Do you have an unusual or beloved writing space?
I’d love to hear about it. Put it in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Peggy Bechko Gives Us Our Writerly Marching Orders”

  1. I have a much simpler plan for those who really want to write. It’s served me well for over a half century. “You say you wanna write?” Then get yourself a piece of paper, slide it into the typewriter. “TYPEWRITER?! WHAT TH’ F…’s that?!”
    And begin to write. To tell your story. To share your story. To create a story-world all your own. C’mon, I bet you have hundreds of stories wildly running about in your head. Time to put ’em on paper. Time to set ’em free. And yourself. gs

  2. LOL, can’t really argue that, Gerald – you can write on the bus, the subway, in the park or standing on your head when you really want to write, but the space does help ad to focus.

  3. Unless you took writing lessons from RINGLING BROS. I’d pass on the old “Standing on your head bit.” Okay — maybe once in a while. But seriously, Peggy Bechko — write your story, play, movie from the character’s mouth. Put two characters — or however many you want — and have them talk. “Talk about what you ask.” About what they’re DOING INSIDE YOUR PLAY, MOVIE, ETC. You see, YOU put them there…now give them life. I’ve always believed the CHARACTERS MAKE THE STORY, and not the other way around. Still, you obviously must have one narrow as a snake, yet attractive, appealing, character — male or female — but lost in the world, and trying to find a way out. Trapped but desperately wanting freedom. Write from the inside out, my fellow writier. The inside out. gs

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