Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just Write

by Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant
I’ve been writing for several years now, and I constantly hear people make the same statement over and over again; “I have a story to tell, but I don’t know where to start.” My advice is usually not to make it a bigger deal than it has to be. If you have a story, just start writing it. Several people have also made the following comment to me: “But I wasn’t great in English.” My response: “That’s what editors are for.”

Look, the most important thing to do is to just write. Whether you use pen and paper, use a computer or tape yourself telling the story, just get the basics down. It has been my past experience that the longer you wait to put your ideas down , the better the  chance that you will lose the information.

I, myself, am an electronic and sticky kind of gal. I like to see the writing flow onto the screen as I type, which makes it easy for me to go back and make changes. Have you seen my handwriting? I also keep a tablet and a pad of sticky notes in my night stand, next to my bed. That way if I awake in the middle of the night, I can immediately jot down my idea, because chances are, I won’t remember it in the morning. It’s not a bad idea to keep a small tablet with you in your purse and/or pocket for those times when you are on the road and need to write down your idea. A tape recorder is also an excellent idea.

For now, don’t worry about putting your writing in any particular order. Just get it down. You can always go back later and re-arrange parts so that they flow together. Then your editor will work with you to make sure that the grammar and flow is going the way it should.

Speaking of editors; if your intent is bypass and editor on your project, bad idea! One has to understand that although we think we can edit our own work, which we do several times, we will almost always come up short. Allowing an editor to have the final say in a manuscript is key. When an author edits his/her own work, it will flow as the writer remembers the story in their mind, which makes it very easy for a writer to miss errors. It is always good to have a fresh set of eyes to go over your work. And when I say fresh pair of eyes, I mean an editor and not your cousin Louie. I speak this from experience. There are several short cuts one can take in publishing their book, but editing is not one of them.

So put that anxiety on the back burner and ‘get to writing’. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Trust me, you’ll have plenty of time to worry about in the later stages of completing your project.

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