The first problem is length: the first draft was 600 pages! I then chopped it down to 487, but that’s still really long. Obviously, the first goal was to include as much good stuff from the blog as possible, as well as lots of new rules you haven’t seen yet that were naturally suggested by the gaps that occurred when I tried to string the pre-existing stuff out in a straight path.
But the most troubling note that I’ve been getting is one that flows from the other: the double-barrel shotgun blast of advice is just too intimidating. Most of my early readers (my screenwriting group) said that reading this really energized the drafts they were writing, but one said that it crippled his process!
This caused a longtime blog reader to confess that reading my blog blew his mind, which sounds good, but the result was that his writing process was somewhat paralyzed by a year and a half! …And this brings us to the biggest admission: Hearing this made me admit that this blog has never really achieved its original goal of supercharging my own writing process. My own advice has too often intimidated me out of starting new projects.
This problem is somewhat natural: greater awareness of what you’re doing wrong can stop you from charging forward, which is both good and bad, but the goal has never been to fill good writers with so many worries that they can’t write.
So I’ve considered possible solutions, and feel free to vote for one or more:
- Simply rephrase what I have in a less negative or intimidating way.
- Re-brand the book (and, by extension, the blog) as rewrite advice, maybe even calling the book “The Rewrite Book”. This was generally recommended by my group, and I’m seriously considering this.
- On the other hand, I could do something I’ve been considering for a while: coming up with a “short list” of the only things you should worry about before you write, and then making it clear that the current checklist is only for the re-write. Perhaps this would be accompanied by a new series called “How to Dive Into a New Project”
- Can you identify questions on the checklist which have inhibited you?
- Which questions have you found to be the least helpful?
- Are there questions that have made you think “Ugh, I can’t think about that until the rewrite, or I’ll go crazy!”
- On the other hand, which have you read and think “That’s the one thing I wish I’d thought of before I began!”