Who loves ya, baby? Why, it’s that little voice in my head which never seems to have any other place to be. Writers call it their inner critic, and this last week, mine seems to have settled in for a nice long visit. I can’t get those little love songs out of my head; like Who Cares, What Kind of Fool Am I, and Hot Mess. In the shower this morning, instead of singing Chaka Kahn’s Tell Me Something Good, I found myself channeling my inner Linda Ronstadt, belting out You’re No Good. That bad vibe has got a hold of me.
I know that this happens to everyone, even the best writers. I know that this early draft of my latest WIP bears no resemblance to the New York Times best-selling story I intended to write. It needs fixing, big time. And we aren’t talking about a trip to Barney’s for a new wardrobe, either. I’ve gone back to my favorite teachers for advice. Steven King, Elizabeth George, Lajos Egri, and Ray Bradbury. None of them talk much about the ol’ inner critic, interestingly enough.
I finally found something that helped from the guy who inspired me to consider writing as a career in the first place. James Scott Bell’s book, Plot and Structure. He offers a 6-step plan that always makes me feel better:
1. Get Motivated. Surround yourself with inspirational quotes or photos of your favorite authors, success stories, whatever it takes.
2. Try Stuff. Keep learning new stuff and try it. Right now, I’m developing first, second, and third dimension characteristics and character arcs for my WIP protagonist and antagonist. Writing them down. Developing a template for future work.
3. Stay loose. Bell says that writing in the grip of anxiety is never any good. Take a break, if you need to. Do something different to break out of the routine.
4. First get it written, then get it right. I’m working on this.
5. Set a quota. Writers write. Make a word goal and stick to it. At the end of the week, if you’re not making your goal, do better next week.
6. Don’t give up. Bell says that the main difference between successful writers and unsuccessful writers is persistence.
Just writing this blog today has put me in a better frame of mind. Enough of my inner critic already. It’s time for a little Chaka Kahn…