Outlined Advice - A Piece Of My Mind
I give myself, sometimes, admirable advice, but I am incapable of taking it. - Mary Wortley Montagu
Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind. - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Over the years, I’ve had some writers email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell me that I have given great advice to them. It seems not to matter what format it has been in. I have a variety of formats including workshops, a radio show and this column. In their mind, in some way I have helped them. I am grateful that something I may have said helped them in some way. I try to be practical in any advice I give. I’ve been writing in many forms and formats for almost thirty years including newspaper columns, magazines, plays, books and the internet. So in all that time, I must have learned and now know something.
I bring this point up today because of an email question I received a few weeks ago. This person sent their email with the words WRITING QUESTION in the subject line. It was in both bold and in caps. This step seemed to be slightly overboard. However, to me, I figured this was important to him. I can respect that
Dear Mr. Pomerantz I have been reading a few of your Piece of My Mind columns. They seem good advice you give (Bennet note-Buttering me up does not hurt at all. It won’t get you anywhere, but everyone likes their ego stroked, just a pinch). I have a question that been on mind, maybe you can answer this.
Usually when I get an email like this, I get a question like “What's the name of your agent?” Or “I just wrote a book, can I be a guest on your ANYTHING GOES radio show?”...Or “What are the best publishing houses I should send my just finished manuscript to?” I never get a question like “So what is your recipe for Yankee Pot Roast?” Maybe one day someone will ask me that question.
Then next paragraph from the email shocked and surprised me.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO WRITE BEFORE YOU GO AND WRITE IT?
It was an intriguing inquiry. It was an interesting question and moreover it was like the immortal question: “Was it the chicken or the egg that came first?”
I have been on both sides of this fence. I have planned and outlined a short story down to the last scene with no surprises. There was no stream of thought, it was blocked out in full before I started to write it. Following the outline like a road map, I did not free style the piece at all, just took the outline as gospel So I did not attempt to sway off road with my musing from my stated, stiff directions/outline. Did it work as a finished work? YES. Did I rewrite it? Yes!
However, I also have opened a blank page in my spiral notebook (yes I start in a spiral notebook and work to a computer) and wrote a short essay (about 600 words) in one sitting (about 90 minutes to two hours). For anyone's information, I was talking the first draft only. Spelling and grammar mistakes were abounding, you can trust me on that. Again it did work as an essay column and I did rewrite it
So the question is, do I know what I plan to write? To me, it leans 70% I do, 30% I fly by the seat of my writer's musing.
Now the question comes to creativity. I have ideas and concepts floating in the air all the time. I have a few notebooks filled with musing, ideas, concepts and even research. Also wedged into the notebook are cocktail napkins, yellow stick notes, etc. with written ideas that struck me at the moment.
So do I know if one of these ideas from my notebook will strike me or take a flight of fancy with something to write? I have no idea.
I have ideas and concepts for a play I was writing from ten years ago that still lurk in my notebook and have not yet been unearthed for the life of day. That is a work in progress that I played with over the years.
Now let me digress and expand on this idea. I have heard too many writers assume the finished first draft should be the final finish piece of work. If you assume that, you are sadly mistaken. I find a first draft a true beginning. It’s something you can expand on and find a wealth spring of creativeness.
A good friend who is a writer as well as a publisher once told me, “The amazing part of any writing is its editing process. That is where any good work can become great with polish.” For example, with me, I cannot speak for others. I can write a column in about two hours’ time. However, after I have finished the column, I have mulled over columns for two to three weeks, tweeking its words from thesaurus, fixing the grammar to additions and subtractions with moving whole paragraphs from the beginning to the middle of the piece. There are a few times I have missed deadlines due to this.
I will let you in on a personal secret. In my perfection, even after I have sent my finished column to the editor for publishing. I usually am still tinkering with my piece. So those of you reading this column as it is printed never really see the finish work…because it is never finished. So in a way, I am over doing my job.
It drives my family and friends insane. A few family members have remarked “Bennet, why can't you leave this alone? “ My off the cuff answer is “Because I am a writer…that's why!”
THE PROMPT OF THE MONTH
Since this is award season for films, if you won a major award (Oscars and Golden Globes come to mind) for writing, who would you thank and why? Why would you snub or omit in your speech and why? Would you wax poetic or just get to the point of thanking everyone quickly?
So until next time, reach for the Stars!
Columnist: Bennet Pomerantz has covered the Audio medium for the last 20 years. He has syndicated newspaper columns, AUDIOWORLD and "Movies of Your Mind", in Affaire De Coeur Magazine. In which he showcase his vast and diverse knowledge of the spoken word medium.
He is also known as a media review critic (books, music, graphic novels, DVDs, CDs) in his weekly syndicated newspaper column "A Piece of the Page". He also is a ranked media reviewer for Amazon.com. http://www.facebook.com/bennet.pomerantz1 / E-mail: email@example.com