Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 258 of the 365 Days of Blogging

The author, Dane F. Baylis


There are any number of writers out there. (Don't duck behind the guy in front of you. You've been seen already.) There aren't that many authors. You guys should all stand up so we can get a count. It won't take long.
What is the most common thing that prevents the first from becoming the second? In my opinion, it's lack of preparation that leads to fear and culminates in paralysis. That's why you should learn to write like a prize fighter.
Nobody just turns around one day and says, I think I'll fight for the heavy weight championship of the world tomorrow. Your chances of success at that endeavor would be a little sketchy. Fighters go through years of training, fighting their way up through the ranks. Studying each opponent as they become more accomplished. Finally preparing mentally and physically for the title match.
The night of the bout, they take all of that knowledge and planning and step into the ring. They're as ready as they're going to be. When the bell sounds, there's no turning back, it's time to go to work.
That's how you should approach writing. Learn all you can about the craft. Figure out where your strengths and weaknesses are and work on improving your skills. Study the genre or market you're interested in entering. Get to know the players and what they mean as far as competition. Then sit down at the keyboard and start hammering away like the keys were on fire!
Set a quota and stick to it. Don't look back more than to revise the day's production, just like a fighter and his corner men review what happens in each round and how to best approach the next. Answer the bell every day and give each round your best. Like my boxing coach told me, "Never let up. The fight's not over until they cut the tape off your hands!" In other words, keep pushing ahead with the story. It's not done until the final period after the words, "The End."
Will it be pretty? Probably not. Will it have gone exactly as you envisioned it? Uh-uh! In the ring they say everyone's got a plan until they get cracked on the beak. Writing is like that, too. Sure, you sat down saying, "I'll do this, followed by that, and finish there". Good luck with that. Your perceptions and ideas will change on the way to your desk. You will get to the conflict and realize it just won't work the way you anticipated. Four characters will be too many, or too few. You will make adjustments as you move through your tale. But, just as it goes in the ring, the fight quite often goes to the competitor with the stamina. The last man standing.
So now you have your story. What's next? Take off the gloves, go for a walk, and, when you sit down to rewrite that masterpiece, slow down. Now is the time when you can run a word search and find out you've used the term 'epic' three hundred and eighty times in seventy-five thousand words. Or that the heroine needs to be darker. Not just her hair color, but her demeanor. Maybe the whole thing works better in Kuala Lumpur then it does in Los Angeles? These are the decisions that are best made cold and calculated.
Any fighter contemplating making a name in the game spends far more time figuring out what was wrong with the last fight and fixing it than they did fighting it. That's the way your writing should be. Fast, sweaty, and with a punch that will take a reader's breath away going in. How you figure out the best way to deliver that punch is by being methodically focused. Just like a chess champion, you will look at what is presented on the board and, with strategy, ruse, and deception, take your opponent down the road you have prepared for them.
That is what editing and fine tuning a story is all about. It is about building in the surprises, but not being so overt about it that your reader finds the whole thing predictable. You also don't want to be so obtuse the reader can't follow your lead. You allow the reader to think they've got you figured out and then you drop the hammer!
It all breaks down to four simple steps. Prepare, plan, execute, review. Just like any good competitor, this is what will separate the winners from the also ran's. Remember though, you can't spend all your time in a gym talking about what you're going to do. You can't win the bout unless you climb in the ring.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------, love, write. Now go take five miles!
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Dane F. Baylis

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