Monday, November 8, 2010

Excuse Editor Troubleshooting Guide: Successful Writing

Hunter 22460 The Astoria 52-Inch Five Blades Ceiling Fan, Brushed Nickel with BowlI have a fan in my home office. It seems to be working ok now, but what if I flicked the switch and it stayed immobile? Or it started making a noisy racket every time I turned it on?

I have a few choices for either of these scenarios. If it didn't rotate when I wanted it to, I could suffer with a stuffy office. Or I could go blow some money on a back-up floor fan. If it was noisy, I could try to distract myself with a different noise, or I could, again, suffer with a stuffy office.

Or I could troubleshoot--and FIX the problem. If I wasn't sure what to do to cure my fan, I could dig up the manual and flip to the section called, curiously enough, "Troubleshooting."

There's not one simple manual to keep your writing in working order. But one thing is for sure, it takes constant maintenance, because without attention, the problems start to swell. Any quick fixes begin to pile up, creating patches that disguise the evidence that you are an active writer.

Is it time to troubleshoot your writing setbacks? Instead of suffering through the "same ol' problems", doesn't it make more sense to take a role in getting to the next level? For a few of the common obstacles, use this quick troubleshooting to guide you to active solutions.

Excuse Editor Troubleshooting Guide: Successful Writing

Problem Possible Cause Corrective Action
Computer/pen functioning, however words/full sentences not appearing on page. 1. User not in the chair with functioning computer/pen.
2. User not sufficiently warmed up.
1. Butt in the chair!
2. Three page free-write before intended assignment.
Story/article stuck. 1. User has not created a path for story/article to go down.
2. Another part of the prose needs immediate attention.
1. Carve out one direction for story and follow it. The path will have already been beaten should it prove to be the wrong one.
2. Back off of the road block and create a new destination, to be joined together with prior road at a later time.

Thick layer of dust on finished work. 1. User contracted stage fright.
2. Missing piece of submission puzzle.
1. Clean up work with fresh edit to remove dust and prepare for the next "stage."
2. Reference Writer's Market and Excuse Editor's Scoop to keep shaking the dust off--keeping work in motion resists dust.
Submission returns with rejection notice. 1. Submission was sent out without adequate preparation.
2. No room for submission.
1. Compare submission with guidelines (word count, deadline, genre, theme). Eliminate discrepancies between the two when it is sent out to next market.
2. Find the next market that may provide a better 'fit'.

The most important element for any effective fix: You. You have to take action. Discussing what is broken, constantly complaining about past failures, or waiting for someone to discover the hidden beauty of your work is the same as accepting the broken switch. Without some kind of movement forward, you cannot expect a new result. Certainly, you may need help to change out a switch, and that is fine--as long as you make the call to get the help, and then use that help to keep that fan running.

Here's to a week of flicking that switch and energizing your writing! Ready, go!

Thanks to Christina Katz for inspiring today's post!


  1. A ceiling fan--what a fantastic analogy to writing :-)

    For me, the problem is that the words are not appearing on the page. Sluggish. Non-productive. So--I'm off to do a 3-page freewrite! It's worked before but I've kind of forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder...

  2. Love it! My current problem is #3: thick layer of dust on completed manuscript. Now I know what to do to fix it!

  3. Here's to smooth writing and swift editing success! May a cool breeze of inspiration hit you from your properly working "fans". Ha!


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