September 5th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
Don’t save the good stuff

There are two rules of writing. Don’t save the good stuff, and the corollary: there is always more good stuff.

I recently ranted on Twitter about writers who might have had something worthwhile to say in their books. I’ll never know, because they saved all the good stuff for the book and left it entirely out of their promotional content. I won’t buy those books in the hope that good stuff might be between the covers when I haven’t seen anything from the authors to make me believe it, and neither will editors, or readers browsing in a bookstore.

Don’t save the good stuff. Put it right up front, in your first sentence, in your first scene, your first chapter. Put it in your query and your synopsis. Put it, for the love of bookselling, in your excerpt and your blurb. Show me, don’t tell me that good stuff happens later.

And it’s okay to put your best stuff right up front, because there is always more good stuff. Creativity is a fountain, not a dried-up well. You don’t have to fear that you’ll be scraping bottom by the end of your story. Every time you write, the “jug” of your writing is filling up continuously from the fountain and never runs dry. Write a great sentence, go ahead. Don’t be afraid there’s no more where that came from. There is an endless supply and you have to have confidence in that, and never hold back, never save it for next time. Give it your all every time.

If you have the ability to write a great sentence, a great paragraph, a great scene, a great line of dialog, the ability doesn’t evaporate once that bit is written. It’s there. It’s yours. Sure, some days are better than others. But at the heart of creativity lies a sort of generosity. Skill is meant to be used. Art is meant to be shared. Hoarding it goes against the nature of the creative act, cripples it.

If you find yourself holding back, thinking you need to save something for next time, stop. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another. Let it out. Do you keep holding your breath so you will have some oxygen for the next one? No. You have to exhale to make room for more oxygen to come in.

Exhale in your writing. Let it out. Let it fill back in like a deep breath and keep going. Don’t save the good stuff, put out nothing but good stuff. It’s okay to do that, because there is always more. Your skill and your art deserve nothing but good stuff, and so does the world. We all produce weak words. We don’t need to keep them as filler. Ruthlessly cut them to make room for more good words and let the good stuff continue to flow. The aim in writing shouldn’t be to string readers along with the promise of good stuff, it should be to deliver it in a steady stream.

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2 comments to “Don’t save the good stuff”

  1. Widdershins
     · September 5th, 2012 at 4:23 pm · Link

    Now, that’s a concept worth spreading around!

  2. Aaron Dennis
     · September 5th, 2012 at 4:30 pm · Link

    Perhaps, if the whole book isn’t “the good stuff”, one might consider rewriting one’s novel. This is why I use my “just get the story down” approach. Once the story, which is good stuff, is down, I can fill out the transitions and other areas with more good stuff… it’s all good stuff dammit. Good post.

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