Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Throwing Out the Kitchen Sink

April's theme is house-keeping the writer's way here on the Cabinet, which some of you may think means no house-keeping at all! lol Thank goodness we're not talking about organizing your closet and decluttering your kitchen--my personal take on that sort of thing is leave it til the next move or the next flood, which I guess is one reason to be thankful I've always moved so much!

No, this theme deals with de-cluttering your writing life and tossing out those old habits that are standing in your way. Here we are in April, the fourth month...how are those New Year's resolutions coming? Are your writing goals on track? If you suspect that your writing habits are hamstringing your progress, maybe we can help!

First up this month is knowing when to toss out old writing habits that aren't working--also known as being willing to write garbage. This is difficult as a beginning writer, but I think is even more challenging once a writer has been around the block a couple of times. You have a reputation to keep up--maybe even a readership that you don't want to disappoint. It might feel kinda like looking at your kitchen, and knowing that the flow from the sink to the cupboards to the table isn't working well, but also knowing that changing it all up will make a big mess and totally disrupt your life. And what if it doesn't work? You will have spent all this time, effort and energy in pursuit of a rapturously efficient and truly transcendent kitchen, only to end up with the same old boxy space where you hit your head on open cupboard doors every time you load the dishes. And that's assuming you can even find your sink.

Well, I can't tell you how to fix your kitchen (we established that I'm no expert there, right?) but I can tell you that being willing to shake up your writing habits may be the only way to progress. Of course, an increase in skill isn't likely to come without some less than graceful stumbles. You may feel like an idiot. Your writing group may think you've been body-snatched by an imposter, and your readers may abandon you. But how will you ever discover the beauty in your voice-driven story if you won't let go of plot and try pantsing it--at least for a few scenes? How will you hear the first-person character who is trying to reach you if you keep shoving him back into third person pov?

This last is my challenge right now--my latest middle grade project is first person pov, something I've never attempted before. It feels really weird sometimes--but other times it sings. And that's the thing--a transcendent kitchen may not be your goal or be worth the effort, but excellence in writing is. Go ahead, pull the dishes out, make a mess. Your writing is worth it.


  1. Yeah, it's tough to let go and try new ideas--risk making a worse mess of a story. But it's a great way to add tools to the old writer's toolbox.

    The mess I'm allowing myself to make right now involves changing the physical appearance of one character and the personality of another. Hopefully, this will add clarity and tension. Worse case, I'll go back to the old versions.

  2. I appreciate your advice. I've had to do the opposite and outline more since i've been more of a discover writer at this point, but I did have to learn not to edit as I go on my first draft and that was hard, but helps me get through that first draft which is one of the hardest part of writing for me.

  3. What an interesting question. You're definitely right about how we always need to be challenging ourselves as writers. For me, that's come through topic, challenging myself to write about more unique, high concept ideas, rather than the same old same old.

  4. I've always been a pantser and am learning more about structuring a story before I write it. I've always preferred revising to writing the draft, so maybe I don't even like pantsing as much as I thought I did. Anyway, learning and trying new things keeps enthusiasm up, I think.

  5. I love this post - being given permission to do things differently. Sometimes we need to do that for ourselves.