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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writing to your strengths

I attended a great (and funny) workshop with Lisa Papademetriou, author of Accidentally Fabulous and Sixth Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me (among others!) on Saturday, May 16 at the New England SCBWI conference in Fitchburg, MA.

She talked about maximizing your potential.  The thing I wrote down and underlined was this:

Write to your strengths, Revise to your weaknesses

I think Lisa means you should focus on the things you're good at while you write a first draft.  Focus on your story, focus on getting words on paper, focus on the positive.

So, what does it mean to me?  It means I have permission not to revise as I write.  Not to be perfect at the skills that aren't my strongest while I'm first drafting.  Not to stress that it's not perfect.  Because a first draft (or second, really) isn't perfect.  It sucks actually.  Focus on what you're good at.  If you like dialogue, work on that first.  If you like description or character analysis, do that.  Write to your strengths.

When you're done writing your first draft, put your manuscript away.  Leave it alone for at least two weeks.  Then you can start revising, but not before then.  Go back and fix the things that don't work.  Fix the things that you missed the first time through. Fix the rough patches. Work on stuff that's not your favorite, work on the things you thought you hated, work on what doesn't work.  Revise to your weaknesses.

My hat is off to Lisa Papademetriou - I want to thank her for her words of wisdom.  She's a very busy, smart, talented and funny lady.  And I want to be just like her when I grow up!

What good advice have you received lately?

23 comments:

Ansha said...

I was with you during Lisa's workshop, so I must agree that bit of wisdom will stick with me.
I think another bit of wisdom I gleaned recently was from talking to the very newbie writers at the conference. Many of whom would make excuses for being a writer, for not being good enough and not being published yet. If you write, you're a writer. Don't make apologies for your craft. Be proud of the work you do!

Cyndy said...

I'm reading "Writing your Dissertation in 15 minutes a day" by Joan Bolker. She admits that 15 minutes/day won't be enough to finish in one lifetime. But she agrees with Lisa, that the point of the first draft is to get words on the paper, to avoid self-censoring as much as possible, and to just write volume - at least a little bit each day. Then you can go back at a later date and cull out what is usable. I tend to keep paragraphs that I have cut in a separate file, because I might need them later for a different chapter or a different purpose. Those extra paragraphs are good seeds for that.

Kris said...

Ansha - good advise! Don't sell yourself short. Give yourself permission to be a writer! Whatever stage you're at!

Cyndy - writing a bit every day is also great advice. Keeps your mind on your work, and your writing muscles flexed. I also like the idea of saving your "cuts" in a file. That way you don't have to stress about losing everything!

Jonathon Arntson said...

I am srsly in love with that phrase!!!! My mind has gone into a brainSTORM OF ideas and, uh, oh.... Okay, one of my weakness is getting too hyped up by a new idea, so I'll work on revising that. :P

Kris said...

Jonathan - I think it's okay to get hyped up by a new idea if it helps you. But in small portions. Too much of a good thing, you know.

Kris said...

Thanks to the WIBIJ folks for spotlighting me today! Love you guys! And I love my poem. I want to frame it. *hugs*

Crystal Cook said...

That is some great advice, 'write to your strengths'. . . I haven't started revising a whole lot yet, but I am loving that line.

And hey, you . . . you're playing WIBIJ on your blog. :) Very, very sneakiness :)

Kris said...

Yes, yes I am, Crystal! I'm not normally sneaky! Nice to play WIBIJ w/ you today!

Sarah Mullen Gilbert said...

What a great quote! One thing I learned at our Iowa SCBWI conference is "if you slap a cute dog on any cover, it'll sell like hotcakes." And lots of good writerly things were learned too :)

How awesome that you're playing along with W.I.B.I.J.! This was my last clue to figure out and I saw your picture up top and was like, hey, she looks familiar :)

Kris said...

Hi Sarah! Thanks for playing (and commenting!)

Kate said...

I've often heard of the first draft as the "down draft" cause you have to just get it down. Then the second draft is the "up draft" because you clean it up. I think your write to your strengths, revise to your weaknesses moto fits in with that. It's all a process and nobody can expect it to be perfect in the first go around.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, that's great advice. The best thing I've heard recently is "You can do hard things." It's something I tell myself every day.

How lame am I, quoting myself? LAME.

Heather Kelly said...

Kris--this advice made a ton of sense to me, I like the way it makes me think about my revising! Thanks for passing on this info about your workshop! I haven't truly blogged yet about the NESCBWI because I didn't want to give away all the wibij stops--because I would talk about you all!! Oh, the things I do for this game!

Creations By Lyndsay said...

Well, this sounds great! No pressure writing. I like that:) Thank you for sharing.

Serenissima said...

hey, wait a minute
you had to find your own blog?
a conspiracy! ;->

Kris said...

Kate - I love the "up draft" "down draft" idea too. Thanks for sharing!

Elana - If I were you, I'd quote myself too! Awesomeness! ;)

Heather - There's plenty of time for blogging about the conference. No statute of limitations. I'll be saving some of my gems for future blog posts! Thanks for letting me play today!

Serenissima - I found it, didn't I? I'm good! No conspiracy!

Dena Daw said...

Okay obviously all of my writer friends are in New England. Where the crap are all my REDNECK writers?!?!?! Seriously?! All of you guys are up north!!

GREAT advice about putting away a manuscript for a couple of weeks. It's crazy what a difference that makes. It's like I'm looking at it with fresh eyes!

Nandini said...

Hi Kris,
I have the same line underlined in my notes from Lisa's workshop!! That, and "Do these pants make my butt look big?". Ha! She knows how to make a point so it stays with you.

Kris said...

I'm testing. Counter says there are 18 comments, but it's only bringing up 14. Will this one post or not? That is the question.

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Kris, what a gracious wibij host you are!! Love that reference in your comment! And I think Dena is so funny. Maybe just because I feel like I am one of her Northern friends.

And the sneakiness of the game! Yes a few have sussed us out. Maybe someday you will find your own blog too! So tricky...

Anna said...

This is such excellent advice! And since I'm writing a new draft of one project and revising another project, they both apply. There's something kind of reassuring about knowing you don't have to focus on your weaknesses until later.

laurapauling said...

I love that quote!!!! I've been trying to remember that while writing my wip. In this one dialogue seems to be flowing, so I'm going with it - I'll add bells and whistles during the revision - that being more sensory details, grounding my characters in the setting, body language - stuff like that! Super awesome post! I love it.

Kris said...

Tina - Thanks! I loved being a host for WIBIJ! Thanks for having me!

Anna - I'm glad you found the post helpful. I actually find it pretty freeing to tell myself this!

Laura - Thanks! I should type it out and tape it to my wall. I need to remember it constantly.