Just like kings and generals and politicians, every writer needs a group of advisors. I’m so grateful for mine—and the fact that I didn’t need to look beyond my own household to find them. I can bounce ideas or vent frustration at any time of any day.
Maybe that’s not always the kindest thing. But they haven’t ever told me they were quitting.
Writer sits at her desk and puts pencil to lined paper. Writer holds pencil there and takes a sip of latté. Writer writes one word, furrows brow, and erases.
Footsteps approach. Pencil falls as Writer looks up.
Blunt Interrogator: “With what?”
Writer: “This scene just isn’t working.”
Blunt Interrogator: “Why not?”
Writer: “Well … I don’t know. I’m just stuck. I don’t know if what I’m writing is realistic.”
Blunt Interrogator (reaching for paper): “Let me read it.”
Writer (gasping as she clutches the paper): “No! Not yet. I need to edit it first.”
Blunt Interrogator: “Well, I can’t help you if you won’t tell me what it’s about.”
Writer sighs. “Okay.” Writer hands over paper and shifts uncomfortably as Blunt Interrogator reads.
Blunt Interrogator: “So what’s wrong with it?”
Writer (exasperated): “I don’t know!”
Blunt Interrogator: “Then why do you think something is?”
Writer rubs forehead.
Writer sits in passenger seat watching scenery.
Writer: “I need help. I’m not sure what should happen next that is important historically and thematically.”
Unfailing Listener (eyes on the road): “What last happened?”
Writer gives details of last scene. “I’m trying to figure out the midpoint. It needs to be something big. I wanted to write about a raid, but I’m not sure it fits with the theme properly.”
Unfailing Listener asks more questions. Writer answers, asks questions of her own, and answers those ones too.
Half an hour later …
Writer: “I think I got it! Thanks for helping.” (grins sheepishly) “Sometimes I just need to say things out loud.”
Writer sits on her bed looking glum.
Blunt Interrogator walks in. “What’s wrong?”
Writer: “It’s not working. I’ve started the same scene three different ways and I don’t like any of them.”
Voice of Reason (sitting in top bunk): “Maybe you should write a different scene first.”
Writer: “But this is what’s supposed to come next!”
Voice of Reason: “You don’t have to write them all in order.”
Writer heaves a sigh. “I don’t know why I’m so stuck again. I thought I had made it past the worst sections.”
Voice of Reason: “Maybe you should go to bed. You’ll probably feel better about it tomorrow.
Writer thinks, Yeah, right.
Next morning …
Writer: “I’m going down to my desk.”
Voice of Reason: “Do you know where the story’s going?”
Writer smiles. “Yeah.”
Writer enters a room of advisors.
Writer: “I need an occupation for the protagonist’s dad. Does anyone have ideas?”
Three advisors throw ideas around as writer finds objections to all of them.
Comic Relief enters.
Writer: “I need an occupation for one of my characters.”
Comic Relief: “Maybe he’s a bootlegger.”
Writer (laughing hardest of all): “That doesn’t fit. He’s a Catholic—”
Comic Relief: “Maybe he’s a Catholic bootlegger!”
Writer writes busily at her desk.
End Result Seeker approaches.
End Result Seeker: “What are you working on?”
Writer: “Editing my book.”
End Result Seeker: “Haven’t you done that already?”
Writer: “Yeah, but it takes multiple edits …”
End Result Seeker (exasperated): “When will you quit editing and get it published?!”
Writer sits down with Gentle Analyst.
Gentle Analyst: “As I was reading your book, I thought maybe [such-and-such] was going to happen.”
Writer (nodding): “Mm-hmm.”
Gentle Analyst: “What you had was fine—don’t feel like you need to change it. But I wondered if it would be more meaningful if you worked it differently.”
Writer (sighing inwardly at the thought of more edits): “Yeah … it could. I could change that.” (nodding) “I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you!”
Writer: “I need a name for a character.”
Comic Relief: “Inkenbooper.”
While the dialogue is part fiction (due to my lack of memory), these seven situations give you a taste of the varied advice my group offers. One advisor focuses on a specific aspect, another points out something completely different.
God gave us families and friends to help us in all aspects of our lives. Writing, while some consider it a lonely path, is only as lonely as you make it. And I’m sure there is a group of advisors out there waiting to give you a helping hand.
Just a warning: take advice with a degree of discretion …
I’m not so sure about Inkenbooper.