By Nancy Holder
There is a secret at the end of this blog post.
Over the years that I’ve been teaching, I’ve found that the most difficult skill for most students to develop is revising. Revision means to take what you’ve got, give it a long, hard look, and then to see it a different way—to re-envision it.
This is not the same as editing your work. That means to make changes to what’s already on the page. Shifting the point of view from first to third is an editorial change. Rewriting the material so that the protagonist becomes a secondary character and the antagonist becomes the protagonist is a revision.
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is, and it’s even harder when getting the words down in the first place is a rather new and arduous task—or when you’re on a deadline to get a packet to your mentor. Drafting can come very slowly, especially if you’re feeling uncertain about what you’re doing, or worried about being judged, or simply hesitant about sharing what may feel too private. I know that when I’m not feeling confident about my work, my production slows nearly to a standstill, and Facebook becomes my very best friend.
This is where blogging comes in, because it can be a better friend.
In his 2007 book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell looked at high achievers—the Beatles, Steve Jobs—and attempted to discern what made them so super-successful at what they did. One of the commonalities he discovered was that they put in hours and hours at their chosen vocation, and that there was a demarcation around the ten-thousand-hour point that boosted them into this top echelon.
Blogging gives you another way to accumulate those hours without the intense scrutiny of mentors, fellow workshoppers, or (God willing) agents and editors. Since your blog is published on the web, and therefore public, it does give you some measure of pressure to conceptualize a topic and string together coherent sentences on that topic. It also does some other important things:
Blogging breaks the ice. You are now writing. You’ve revved up your engine and you’re moving forward.
Blogging helps you develop the practice of writing. If you blog every Monday, for example, you will train your mind to come up with topics to blog about. You will learn to think (and act) like a writer on a regular, sustained basis.
Blogging decreases your sense of isolation. When I first started writing, I was so shy that it would take me days to call someone on the phone. I couldn’t wait until I had an agent so I would never have to talk to anyone again except him.
I’ve discovered two things about being a writer: the longer you write, the more you will have to interact with other people, and the more you will want to interact with other people. It’s good to have colleagues and friends who understand that you are working hard when you’re staring into space, or that, while you were sure you were on the right track yesterday, today you’re convinced that you should just stop writing forever.
Blogging helps you network…and can help you get work. Whatever you choose to write about—dog obedience, writing, fairytales—your blog post can lead to an invitation to do a guest blog post, get it linked via Twitter to Facebook, and result in a request for another post, a review, an article, a poem, or a short story. And that’s what you want, right? To be writing?
The honest answer is “Not always.” It took me forever to write this post. I kept starting and stopping. Then I would “forget.”
Here’s the secret I promised you: I finally sat down and said aloud, “This is a blog post. That’s all it is.”
And then it took me less than half an hour to finish it.
Nancy Holder is a New York Times bestselling author of approximately eighty novels and over two hundred short stories, essays, and articles. She has written material for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Teen Wolf, Hellboy, Smallville, Saving Grace, Highlander, Sabrina the Teen Age Witch, Nancy Drew, Zorro, Sherlock Holmes, and many other “universes.” She writes and edits pulp fiction, graphic novels, and comic books for Moonstone. She has received five Bram Stoker Awards, a Scribe Award, and a Pioneer Award, and co-writes with Erin Underwood.