Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Big Lie

"Writers are born. You either have what it takes or you don't, and if you don't you'll never get it." - James Scott Bell, from Plot & Structure.

Bell calls this The Big Lie. He'd always wanted to write, but didn't think he had what it took. Then he immersed himself in books on craft, putting techniques into practice. He wrote screenplays, which were optioned. He wrote novels, which were published. He proved The Big Lie was just that...a lie.

If we want our writing to break through, Bell offers the following tips for coaching ourselves to publication:
  1. Get motivated. Write an inspirational statement and tape it to the computer. Read books and author bios and imagine your picture on the back cover. Take writing seriously.
  2. Try stuff. Reading about writing won't make us better writers. We grow when we learn how to do something, then actually do it.
  3. Stay loose. When we're anxious about our writing, it shows on the page. We need to loosen up and let our creativity have its way with us.
  4. "First get it written, then get it right." For me, this makes all the difference in the world. Our job with the first draft is to get the story down. Author/Agent Mandy Hubbard wrote a great post about this here.
  5. Set a quota. Bell suggests a word quota instead of a time limit, since minutes can easily tick by while the writer stares at a blank screen. He quotes Peter DeVries who once said, "I only write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired every morning at 9 a.m."
  6. Don't give up. We've all heard that the difference between successful and unsuccessful writers is persistence. Bell reminds us to keep writing.
I used to believe The Big Lie, but not anymore. How about you?

Now that you've read Bell's encouraging words, check out why you probably still suck as a writer over at terribleminds.com. Read it all the way to the end...there are some gems in there!

photo credit: flickr

42 comments:

  1. Hi,

    Couldn't agree more with Bell. Writing is all about writing, experimenting, stop whingeing and a get-on-with-it attitude!

    There's another guy (scriptwiter)who promotes chucking "How To Books" out of the window. His url is: http://deadwomanshoes.blogspot.com

    BTW I've entered the Mills & Boon New Voices contest, can't think why - must be mad!

    best
    F

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  2. That's all great advice. Gosh, if I'd listened to my eighth grade english teacher, I'd never have done it. Phht. If it's inside of you, burning to get out. Then do it. Never give up. And most of all, keep working and learning and growing. Then you will get somewhere. Okay, off my soapbox.

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  3. Not giving up is SUPER important. It's been said the it's difference between amateurs and pros.

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  4. GOod post. I think Stephen King said the same thing-ish in his book "On writing". I thought, then why am learning from you if I'm just going to be horrible, like you say?

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  5. Ab. So. LUTELY! My mantra is "It doesn't have to be good. It just has to be written." I know that if I get it down on paper (or screen), I can fix it later.

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  6. Julie,
    Nicely done. I spent a gazillion hours believing THE LIE. Mostly because my younger self experienced ridicule & rejection of the worst kind. However, I have found my voice again & I'll be hornswaggled if anyone will keep me from doing that which makes me happy.
    Patti

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  7. This is great advice, thanks! I love the quote about being inspired every morning at 9 AM.

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  8. A whole latte great advice here. I'm a firm believer, too, in owning it. Owning the decision to write, or sing, or paint, whatever your passion, by having it be central to your life. It's amazing how even our attitudes can help the craft become who we are.

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  9. Just what I needed to read today. I'm currently outlining a WIP, so when I start writing it, I won't feel as lost. But yeah, I know I STILL won't get it right :)

    Awesome post!

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  10. thanks, Julie! These are supergreat tips. I used to believe I didn't have what it took to be a novelist. I knew I could write, but not a BOOK!

    Now I've written three! :D now to get one published... persistence, right? ;p

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  11. I love this writing series you've been doing. It's so incredibly motivational! I just want to stop working right now and write! Yes, I'm supposed to be working but I'm blogging, too bad, that's important too.

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  12. I think if you do something enough, you eventually become good at it. Like Stephen King says - the first million words are just practice!

    Thanks for posting these tips!

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  13. Julie, I'm counting on number six, and hoping I don't reach 50 before I'm published. :)

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  14. I love number four! Thanks for sharing, this is very motivating. :)

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  15. Great post. Never heard of the author, but I may have to check him out now. And I like the whole "my inspiration is up at 9am" motto. My inspiration is still grumbling in the coffee maker at 9am. Ah, well. ;)

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  16. #5 is hysterical. This sounds like a good book. And it's true, we can read only so much. We need to write. The more I write, the better I get.

    Thanks for the great post!

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  17. Love this post. I need to stay loose! I can't keep "the rules" out of my mind and it clutters up my ability to think creatively. Thanks for this, Julie!

    Marissa

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  18. I think Stephen King said that hard work wins out over talent any day of the week. I believe that 100%.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  19. Loved the advice, need lots of encouragement at the moment..

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  20. I am not giving up!! There is in day, an opportunity, and I don't want to miss it.

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  21. Yes I used to believe the lie, and no I don't anymore. Thanks for sharing all of his other tips!

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  22. I like to believe everybody can write SOMEthing, just not that everybody will want to read it.
    But he's right, don't give up.

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  23. This is a great post Julie! Very very motivating!

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  24. Ahhhh, such good advice! I love #4...I need to chant that to myself as I'm writing!

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  25. I believe in creating destiny, and there's nothing we can't accomplish if we believe we can. Focus on the dream not on the obstacles to get there. This is the age of opportunity for writers.

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  26. Very inspirational. And true. Sometimes you just have to let go, before you can get any writing done.

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  27. All of that rings true. Plus, I think that if you're drawn to something (e.g., writing), it's for a reason. That doesn't mean that it will come easily, but, in a way, it means that you were born to do it.

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  28. Julie..I used to believe the big lie...but not anymore. I agree with #4 ..but I feel all the points apply to us writers. Thanks for the reminder via this inspirational post.

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  29. Yes, I believe anyone can learn to write. But I do also believe that talent plays a role and a person's creativity and how much they read...the journey might be shorter for them.

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  30. oh - this is so awesome and inspirational.

    i love the bit that says to play around and loosen up. sometimes i get anxious about all the stuff i'm learning about the craft that i just freeze up. so, youve finally (after so many awesome quotes from this book) convinced me that i need to read this book!

    thanks

    x

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  31. Bell always has something good to say! I totally agree with him here. Writing is far more about passion than talent, much more about discipline than ability. It's one of those happy artforms that be learned almost entirely!

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  32. It's a lie and it's not. Writers are made, they aren't born. I believe that. But I also believe some people are born with the drive, determination, and what it takes to make it as a writer, and some aren't.

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  33. Great tips!
    Sorry you missed the blogfest on Monday. I think everyone had record blog visits that day.

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  34. James Scott Bell's writing advice is brilliant! I love his books on writing. I really like his "nifty 350" routine: writing 350 words first thing in the morning. I haven't tried that yet because the first thing I do is exercise or I'd never get to it, but I think the nifty 350 is worth a try!

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  35. Wonderful list! I used to believe the big lie too. More to the point, I believed you had to have upper creative writing degrees to get published as a novelist. When all is said and done, writing by experience has longer than my doctorate for biology took to get! I guess so in a way it's a street degree and well deserved by all of us who don't believe the big lie and train ourselves.

    Have a great weekend, Julie!

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  36. I NEVER believed that lie. Never! Everyone has unlimited potential. Everyone. Some just have to work harder at it than others.

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  37. I've learnt that we're all capable of so much more than we think we are. But you gotta sit down and do it to find out. It can be really hard, sometimes it seems impossible, but you only progress and learn by doing.

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  38. Sometimes I wish I could get an inspiring email from James Scott Bell every morning. I think I'd be much more productive! I guess I'll have to settle for re-reading his books. :-)

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  39. Oh my gosh, that post on terribleminds.com was priceless. (And makes me realize how much I still suck. LOL)

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