I don’t recommend taking bets on what questions will be asked at a book signing. Not only is it frowned upon in respectable establishments like bookstores, if I’m in the pool I’d win nine times out of ten. Why? Though the voices and faces may change, the questions are often the same. The one I hear the most is “what is the most important advice you were ever given?” The most common answer? “Write the story.”
Now, I’ve asked my fair share of questions. Surprisingly this hasn’t been one of them. I have a good work ethic so sitting down to write has never been a problem. The part that gave me trouble was in the doing. I would stare at the screen for hours thinking about how I wanted to phrase a particular sentence or searching for the perfect adjective. I still finished the story. I just took forever doing it. My output made George R. R. Martin look like Brandon Sanderson.
For years I was convinced that it wouldn’t matter what trick I tried. I was a slow writer, end of discussion. It wasn’t until a dear friend sat me down and said four words that I realized how wrong I was.
What were those words?
Well, I can’t repeat the exact words in polite society but the nice version would be “write the freaking sentence.” I’ve abbreviated it to WtFS.
While the concept is very similar to “write the story”, the primary focus of WtFS is to stop dithering over vocabulary, sweating over punctuation, and even (Gasp!) leave the incomplete sentence alone. The sentence doesn’t have to be perfect, and likewise the story as a whole doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be on the page. When it’s complete there will be plenty of time to dither, sweat, and correct.
I applied this concept to my writing in January of 2013. Within a week my wordcount increased by a third. By the end of March my count had doubled. It was incredible and liberating and if it hadn’t happened before my eyes I never would have believed it. If I had received this wisdom in high school I could have finished that YA paranormal I started Junior year. (Don’t laugh. I was ahead of the curve. No one was writing that in 1996.) If someone told me to WtFS in grade school I could have finished that Rose Petal Place fanfic. (Seriously, don’t laugh. That show was awesome!)
Okay, so both of those would probably still would have been cast into the proverbial trunk — buried at the bottom, in shame — and that’s okay. They would have been finished and I wouldn’t have spent half my life with that ridiculous limitation in my head. Because you know what? The words I’ve put down since starting WtFS haven’t sucked. I made my first three sales this year on stories that had little or no revisions. Good things can happen when you trust your instincts and simply write the freaking sentence.