Thursday, October 20, 2011

Janni Lee Simner on "Telling the Wrong Story"

This is from Rachel Ann Hanley's interview with the wonderful YA author Janni Lee Simner.

"The first draft is the one where I pretty much tell the wrong story. By writing the wrong story--and seeing why it's the wrong story-- I learn things I need to know about the right story."

This is so true for me! I need to hear it over and over again, because the gremlins that live in my brain insist that I have to get it right the first time. If I listen to them, the result is the most insipid pap you can imagine, because I'm terrified of making a mistake.

Somewhere I read that Dick Francis wrote his early novels in ink in school composition books. He didn't know that you could change things, so he worked hard at thinking through every sentence before he put it down. If I did that, I think I'd get maybe one or two sentences into the story before I freaked out. I used to think this meant I would never improve as a writer, that I was terrible and hopeless and would never produce anything that wasn't drek. Where do such notions come from? I'd like to have a word or two with whoever's responsible!

For some reason, this reminds me of something my calligraphy teacher, Lloyd Reynolds, used to say. He wanted us to hold the pen softly, to create a supple and responsive connection between the center of our bodies and the words on the paper. Isn't writing like that? We want to be fluid, sensitive, nimble in the sense of being able to perceive the deeper promptings of our creative selves and then to act on them. He said that the clenched fist cannot receive any of life's gifts -- only the open hand. Only the open heart.

Thank you, Janni, for reminding me that not only is it okay for me to write the wrong story, but that it's a necessary step in the process of writing the right one!

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