Monday, January 14, 2013

Making Mistakes and Getting Messy

Hi there! I hope you had a great weekend! Since it's Monday, the beginning of a fresh, new week, I'd like to share some writing tips with you. I've been thinking for a while about what I wanted to post today and I finally decided. Today I want to talk to you about mistakes.

One of my favorite shows to watch while I was growing up was The Magic School Bus. Among the many scientific facts I learned from that show I also learned something that applies to just about everything, especially writing. Ms. Frizzle, without fail, taught the kids to "take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!" I can't think of a better rule to apply to writing. If you jump into a new manuscript or blog post, or really anything you are writing, and you expect it to be a walk in the park, think again. Writing is all about taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy. 

Now, most writers are working towards a goal, and to reach that goal their manuscript or piece of work needs to be "perfect." Too many writers think that perfection is going to come the first time around. That simply is not true. There will be typos, and there will be horribly written lines that make you want to give up entirely, but I have something to tell you: Just keep writing! "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. . ." Sorry, I couldn't resist! In all seriousness though, just keep writing. 

Easier said than done though, right? Yes. I don't know anyone who does not have a problem with this, and we all have different ways of keeping ourselves in the game. Here are some tools and techniques that I use to keep myself from hitting those harmful backspace and delete keys:

  1. Turn off spell check. I have found that this helps tremendously! It is a lot easier to keep plunking down more words if you don't see red, green, and/or blue squiggles plaguing the words you have already written. Take away the distraction. You can always turn the spell check back on later when you are editing.
  2. Use the strike-through tool. The first time I used this was in the last book I wrote, Through the Paper Wall, and I plan on using it from now on, especially during NaNoWriMo. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get 50,000 words written, not to get 50,000 good words written. I saw several of my fellow nanoers forget this fact in 2012. If you aren't happy with the words you've got down, don't delete them, and don't chuck your whole file! Instead, if you type something you find particularly revolting, hi-light it with your mouse, and apply the strike-through tool, which you will see next to your bold, italics, and underlining tools. It works like this! Great huh?  That way, you still have your original words, which gives you the word count, and it allows you to see what your original thought was when you come back to edit.
  3. Sprint. One of the greatest things you can do to keep yourself writing, and so many writers will testify to this, is to do a word sprint (also called a word dash, or word war). Get with some other writers, or even do this on your own. Pick a start time, and how long you are going to go for, then during those minutes write as fast as you can. A little competition can do wonders for your word count and also force you to think. 
  4. Practice. Of course one of the best ways to get used to not going back and fixing things in your manuscript is to practice. It will he hard, sure, but you can do it! I've seen so many writers, including myself, overcome the urge to go back simply by just pushing onward. Always remember that your first draft is probably going to be crappy and there is nothing wrong with that. Best-selling books are never the author's first draft.

There will be bumps in the road while you are writing your way to the goal that you see at the end of the tunnel. There may even be gaping holes that take you a good amount of work to get across, but whatever you encounter in your writing, never give up. The only thing you will get from giving up is not getting to where you want to be. Perfection is something you attain after the writing process and many more steps. So, what are you waiting for? Get motivated, get a good group of people to support you, and get out there! Take your own chances, make your own mistakes, and by all means gosh dang it, get messy! 

- Heidi Nicole Bird


  1. My son is a huge Magic Schoolbus fan! And yes, Ms. Frizzle is spot on when she says to make mistakes... I'll have to try your strikeout idea. Never considered using that that way, though it is nice to see where the original thought was supposed to be going...

    As for spellcheck... I actually ignore it most of the time. So many of my character's name trigger that little red line that I've become immune.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree about the spell check. Most of the time I just leave it on too :) That's just something that comes with the practice tip I think!