Writer’s Quote Wednesday

Writer’s Quote Wednesday is a weekly feature where I delve into famous writer’s words of wisdom and share how I have interpreted the meaning for my own creative endeavors to maybe help inspire yours!


image urlWritersquoteAnneLamott


Very Few writer’s really know what they’re doing until they have done it.

If seeing is believing then for a writer being must be conceiving.

I mean can you really ask anyone going about living their life what’s going to happen next?

Sure they could make a guess or have a plan, but really it can only ever be a generalized idea, because there are any number of things, momentous and subtle, that can change the entire trajectory of their answers outcome. You can never know with complete certainty – no matter how well you may map out every detail – where anything is going to lead you until you stand at its destination.

The same can be said, and should be considered, when conceiving a story. I mean the more real you can make your story for the reader the more it will take hold of their imagination and engross them in your world, making your characters more then just fragments of description but as flesh and blood as anything else that relates, invokes, and resonates as realistic response.

So in my opinion it’s imperative that story should unfold like real life and that means making it come about as organically as possible. Too contrived and it comes across as too…well…contrived!

You shouldn’t try to account for all of your stories – or characters for that matter – twists an turns until walking they’re winding path yourself.

That doesn’t mean you have to go out and do the very thing you are writing about – let’s face it that’s just plan impossible for many genres – and, after all, that would be your life and your experience, and that doesn’t always translate into the characters. If every writer based every character on themselves, well their protagonists would get damn repetitive fast!

I’m talking more about emerging yourself in the creative process of storytelling by allowing your characters to tell you their story themselves.

Why not look at your writing as an immersion sport, a creative exercise in improv where you are given the bare basics of what makes up any story:

Purpose, Placement, Situation, and Action/Reaction of endeavor.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Purpose – you have a reason for doing anything that you do, no matter how benign or banal, you have a reason for getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, walking your dog, etc, etc. but let’s face it your tale is going to be a wee bit more entertaining than that…I hope.

Placement – each of these tasks takes you somewhere and once there anything or nothing could happen, i.e. right/wrong place, right/wrong time.

Situation – well a catalyst ensues, however loud or subtle, thus beginning the incidental fate of your story.

Action/Reaction – no matter how insular a being you try to be you are in a world with more than a billion other free thinking individuals who’s actions and reactions, however big or small, will effect you in one way or another. This is the butterfly effect and where the real magic of not knowing comes in.

When writing a story all you really need to have is your main character, let’s call her Tina, who they are, let’s just say she is a struggling actress, what they’re doing, looking for a part-time job well she tries to land an acting gig, and why they are “here” – let’s say a magic shop – doing it, she wants to distract herself and always liked magicians. That’s it.

Now play with it. Put your character there, in this very situation and see what unfolds. It may turn out that Tina is just a catalyst to a bigger event, or the long fated soul who houses an unknown power of the universe that will reveal itself in the form of some immortal treasure in the next week because the planets are aligning and some crazy warlock after it so that he can become the supreme being but it’s a good thing she came to this shop because the man who owns it just so happens to be the wizard who is going to help her discover her destiny, or maybe – just MAYBE – the shop is just cover for a secret society she stumbles upon and overhearing some nefarious plot gets caught up in the middle of international intrigue that goes all the way back to King Arthur’s court! Who knows!

That’s the fun of this kind of immersion storytelling, and because you are allowing it to develop in real time you are allowing for a more human experience to unfold. Real reactions and more natural transitions.

Yeah I know it may sound crazy and like something that could get out of control, but if you have a basic understanding of story development, of plot, and structure then you will find yourself naturally adhering to its condensation. I can remember going so far when starting up and establishing this style of mine – which involved physically enacting the story, as the characters, in the situations, and from multiple points of view – as setting things up for specific audience reactions, as though I were already filming! It’s part of the fun, I mean who doesn’t imagine their movie trailer even before they’ve written the book it’s to be based on?

This is what the first draft is all about. It exists as a playground for all of your ideas. As the template for the magic that will become your third or forth! In the second you can tie all the strings, tighten the dialogue, add what was missing, and gain a bigger picture overall perspective, but it’s the synchronicity of the first draft that will see you through the “I think I can” phase and straight into the “I know I can!”

Not only does it lend authenticity to your skills it lends vulnerability and excitement too! The reader takes out what you put in, and if what you are putting in is the thrill of your own unknown, well then they’ll just have to keep up until they reach the end…

After all you did!

Action begets action to inspire reaction, interaction, and creates a story to tell! And most come from something happening to us that was out of the blue that takes us out of our normal, and we rarely stop to ask ourselves whether or not it will make a good one when in it, it kind of just happens.

So start your story and let it just happen. Let it take you for a ride…let your characters tell you their story so that it can make one of yours!

Very few writers really know what they are doing until they have done it.

So revel in it!




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