Monday, April 29, 2019

If Writers Write the Way Drivers Drive

by Alycia W. Morales     @AlyciaMorales

Everyone knows we have stereotypical ideas about the drivers who live in the states surrounding our own residences. Right? It's okay. Admit it.

Well, what if we wrote like we drove?

Forgive me, but I'm going to use the states I've grown up in or currently live near as examples. I apologize in advance if you don't like the preconceived notion of the drivers in your state. And I admit up front that NOT EVERYONE DRIVES LIKE THE STEREOTYPICAL DRIVER in your home state. So please don't hate me... ;)

New York
Drivers in New York are rushed. Because that's the pace of the area. Hurried. Not afraid to cut you off, requiring an abrupt application of the brakes while you pray you stop before you rear end them. Because insurance companies love rear-end accidents, where you are blamed for the accident, rather than the lovely driver in front who cut you off.

Writers, it's important to avoid rushing your work. Don't be like a NY driver. When we hurry our work and try to put it out into the world too soon, it can cost us. Like the driver who ends up rear ending another, we can find ourselves losing our shirts over sloppy or unfinished writing, because it won't be accepted for publication as it is. That editor's eye, agent's approval, or contract may pass us by if we don't take the time to polish our work. Or, we may end up spending the money to self-publish a book no one wants to read when they notice all our spelling errors or that we're telling the story rather than showing it. Or the character arc is missing or she falls flat.

Slow down. It's better to take your time and have a book that's refined and ready to be presented to the world than to rush it and miss out.

These drivers also like to take the parking spot you've patiently waited for while the person using it prior to you took their time putting their groceries in the car, putting their seatbelt on, shifting into reverse, and pulling out of the spot.

Writer, be careful not to think you're entitled to that spot in the magazine or that book contract or any other dream you are pursuing. We don't have to have the first spot. Our work may not be ready. We may not be ready.

When the door closes on the spot you were certain you were qualified for, take it with grace. There are other spots in the parking lot of the writing world. Some are closer to Barnes and Noble. Others are a little farther away.

One day, the right spot for you will open, and it will be an answer to all your prayers. Take courage, and keep seeking the one designed specifically for you.

North Carolina
North Carolina drivers are cautious drivers. They rarely drive over the speed limit. Case in point: I am driving a Yukon XL pulling a 12-foot U-Haul trailer on my second move to South Carolina. I'm on a major highway just north of Charlotte, and traffic is moving and is bumper to bumper. The left lane is traveling at a few miles per hour over the speed limit, as most law-enforcement officers will allow. The right lane is moving just as quickly or maybe slightly slower. Like, the speed limit. Where most North Carolinians I've found myself behind like to travel. There's nothing wrong with that. If the driver is in the right lane, where most go the speed limit. But this guy was in the left lane. And he Refused. To. Move. And I'd been on the road for twelve hours and had another hour-and-a-half to go. I wanted to be driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit. And every chance I had to get around him, he sped up.

Maybe God was keeping me from an accident. But this guy was bringing out the NY in this transported southerner. I wanted to get around him so I could get where I needed to be. Home.

Writer, there's nothing wrong with being cautious and taking your time and obeying all the rules to get where you dream of being. It's safe. It's secure. It's well-planned and honed. It's practiced.

But sometimes, it's okay to break the rules, when you know how and what's allowed.

And sometimes we need to step out of our perfectionist tendencies and take a risk or two. To step out of our comfort zones. To live a little and take a chance with our writing.

South Carolina
There's a little wand on the left side of our steering wheels that makes a little lights on the fronts and backs of our cars blink. This notifies other drivers that we are planning on turning shortly. It warns those behind us that we are going to be slowing down. It gives those around us time to plan ahead, instead of potentially causing another of those rear-end accidents where the person who isn't to blame will pay the cost.

Writer, no one wants to be utterly surprised because they didn't see something coming. Not everyone likes a surprise party. In our writing, we need to be sure to foreshadow, to let the reader in on what's to come. Yes, we want to keep them guessing, but we want to give them hints along the way. Not write a bunch of mumbo jumbo to distract them and then suddenly slam on the brakes and set off a chain reaction. Don't be the one who didn't use their turn signal.

Let the reader in on the secrets. Make sure they know what's coming. And then give them a satisfying surprise that they may be able to guess but contains a plot twist. They'll thank you for it. And they'll keep reading your books.

I'll never forget the first time I was driving in Alabama, shortly after we'd moved there for a construction project my husband was hired to work on, and I ventured out to do some shopping. This section of road was interesting. Shopping lined up on each side of the street, and a median running down the middle of it. It was like a mini highway, with entrances and exits for stores and shopping plazas. And it could be busy. Like, impossible to enter the road busy.

Alabama drivers have a slower pace than New Yorkers. But they drive at a steady pace, just slightly above the speed limit. And they recognize the use of turning signals

In Alabama, when I used my turning signal, the car to the side of me slowed their pace enough for me to move over into the lane I needed to be in. No horn honking. No road rage. No speeding up so I couldn't merge. They invited me into the traffic pattern and allowed me the opportunity to get where I needed to go.

Writers, we need to invite others in. We need other writers in our lives who are ahead of us in their craft so we can learn from them. We need other writers who are willing to slow down enough to let us into their world so we can be lifted up and encouraged. We need other writers who have been where we are headed so we aren't blindsided when something comes from behind and tries to take us out.

Don't isolate yourself, dear writer. Find someone to make the trip with you. Find someone to share their wisdom and show you another direction to go. 

What state do you live in? Is there a stereotypical driver? We'd love to hear your comparison of driving and writing in your state. Share your brief story and how it applies to writing in the comments below.


If writers write the way drivers drive ... what would writing be like in your state? @AlyciaMorales takes a look at the states she's lived in or traveled through & shares some #writing tips. {Click to Tweet}

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