Writing Academy, Memoirs, Novels, Short Stories, Book Proposals

New York City Writing Coach

Gay Walley

When you’re not sure what you’re writing about….

As I write this, I am spending the day going over a novel that I am writing where I have not had a real clue about the narrative. Just one character’s situation fascinated me. The rest is like walking to Montana from New York without a roadmap.  I have been patient with myself, writing each day, sometimes deleting, but pushing on, sometimes wondering if I should be given a room in Bellevue Hospital for the Insane.

But today I am reading the sum total of this walk to Montana. And strangely, at least up to page 63, where I am now, it is making sense. I am sure it will fall apart shortly but we know 1/3 is okay. Why am I telling you about this? Because I have noticed, in my coaching that, for many people, the uncertainty, the messiness, the frustration of not quite knowing what you are doing is very painful.

And it is in ways. Writing is not productive in the capitalist sense of the word. You go forward, you go backward, you toss out, you begin again. A touch frustrating. What they say Edison did when inventing the light bulb. So what advice do I have for you adventurers out there? For you embarking on stories you are not sure of?

* Stay with it. Be prepared to throw some or many pages out.

* Stay open to new ideas. I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for friends. I got a phone call from someone whom I find very interesting. I never speak to this person much. It gave me an idea to put someone like him in the book. I may do it, I may not, but I am open to the possibility.

* In a strange way, what you are writing will be better than you think. There is a spine to the book which is your own mind, the way your mind is putting these ideas together.  There is a logic there you cannot see.

* For the first draft,  THROW OUT THE OVERLY CRITICAL VOICE. Find the wondrous child in you and open up.

* Don’t compare your book to others. Who wants a copy cat? If you are feeling something is original, stick with it. Don’t throw it out.

* Trust your inner voice. That is always the key in writing. It won’t essentially let you down. Yes it will have to be edited, constrained, informed upon, cleaned up….but it’s the gold.  Your inner voice is the creative one.

Make friends with it.

When you meet someone you might fall in love with, you don’t know what the story will be but you give it a chance. When you do anything, you are taking a chance. So why not be as kind to yourself in your writing?