Working with writers as a script editor, I seem to spend just as much time counselling them (like an agony aunt!) as I do talking about writing craft!
That’s okay. I like being an agony aunt and offering encouragement and moral support. As I’ve written on this blog before, sometimes a writer’s biggest obstacle is confidence in themselves. I’ve felt this way too. I get it.
BUT — BUT –BUT …
… Just as often, it’s not about confidence, but GUTS. Let me explain the difference.
Writers frequently come to me, wanting to make a statement. It’s all they can think about. They have a remit, belief or message they have a burning need to get out into the world … and they’ve decided to do it via the medium of storytelling.
And why not: it’s a great way to get that message out!!
Guts = Attention
These writers will often get my attention because they want to write about gutsy things. Things the average writer might want to write about, but ultimately shy away from. Or they can only do it a half-assed, two dimensional way and give up because they were never truly sure what they were doing.
The writers that get my attention are the ones who KNOW what they’re doing. They’re courting controversy and they relish that idea. They want to take an idea and twist it, so it becomes something we’ve never seen before.
They even know there will be people out there – readers, viewers, even other writers – who will think they are WRONG to write their story. They’re okay with this. Bring it on, they say.
Guts = Bravery
In other words, these writers get my attention because they are BRAVE. They are also realistic, because they realise their story will not be for ‘everyone’. (If that sounds basic, congrats! You have no idea how few writers realise this and know it’s all about audience).
But there’s still one hurdle to overcome. You got it. It’s the …
So, these writers can talk the talk, but they find themselves paralysed by the blank page. It’s like the heavy weight of their story and the ensuring controversy they know it will create holds them back.
Sometimes, these writers will plead writer’s block. But more often than not, these writers will write something — shall we say — fluffy. Undernourished. A little vague.
I’ll blink in surprise and confusion. I’ll ask them, where’s the hardcore, hit-you-between-the-eyes MESSAGE you wanted to convey?
Instead, the story will make its point in a roundabout sort of way. It feels … well, two dimensional.
Guts = Bull’s Eye
And this is the thing. If you have a MESSAGE, you can’t tiptoe around it. You don’t want to get up on your soapbox either, but you need to find a happy medium in which you can convey it. It literally doesn’t matter how you do this, it could be anything. But this is why planning is important.
To hit the bull’s eye — that perfect place where your MESSAGE and story go together — you need to take that bravery and get it on the page. You can’t shrink away from it, suddenly concerned about inflicting pain or discomfort on your characters, or even on your imagined audience.
So, take it from this agony aunt. As I frequently say to Bang2writers:
Go for it or GO HOME!
It’s the only way forward. Have the guts, take it through all the stages … From planning to page to whatever lies beyond.
Or seriously, don’t bother.