04 Jul

5 Writing Lessons from the 4th of July

Posted in Process, Tips, Writing

In light of today’s holiday, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the 4th of July means.  In doing all this thinking, I realized that there’s a lot we writers can learn from the 4th of July and the founding fathers.  Here are a few things I learned this weekend.

1) Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. We hold these truths to be self-evident… What the founding fathers were really saying when they wrote that was: “What we’re about to say is brutally obvious, but it bears repeating anyway, so listen up.”  They weren’t afraid to state the obvious, and we shouldn’t be afraid either.  Remember, while you may know the world of your story inside and out, your readers aren’t privy to all those details unless you tell them.  Don’t be afraid to give your readers all the details they need to get immersed in your world.

2) Keep it short and sweet. At the same time, don’t go overboard with the mundane details.  Remember the Declaration of Independence is a one-page document.  OK, so it’s a big page, but still it’s not a tome the size of a dictionary.  The founding fathers knew to keep their writing short and to the point.  If a detail is not important to your story, take it out!  Who was it that said “Kill your darlings?”  Well, pull that revolver down from the mantlepiece and start shooting.

3) Put it in writing. The founding fathers didn’t just sit around talking about freedom and independence and all that good stuff; they made decisions and wrote them down.  The same is true with our own writing.  Sure, we can get together with writer friends and chat about craft or talk about our stories, but sooner or later we have to shut up and write.  Remember, you can fix just about about anything in revision, but you can’t revise a blank page.

4) Give it room to grow. Even our beloved Constitution wasn’t perfect the first time it was written out.  (Um, that’s why we have amendments, right?  The founding fathers didn’t get it right the first time so they tried again.  And again.)  If the Constitution had been drafted as a perfect, flawless document, it would be static, stuck in time and not open to interpretation.  As we have it, the founding fathers implemented a way to make changes and gave the Constitution room to grow and evolve.  Give your own writing that same gift.  Sure, it might seem nice in theory to draft a perfect novel on the first try, but if you give it room to breathe, you’ll discover something truly wonderful that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

5) Celebrate with fireworks. At the end of the day, writing is hard work and when you hit a milestone (the end of a chapter, the end of a section, the end of a draft) you have to celebrate.  When all is said and done, light some fireworks (metaphorical ones, of course… I don’t want anyone messing up their writing hands) and celebrate!


Comments on this post

  1. K.M. Weiland says:

    Fun post! I’ll particularly second #3: Put It in Writing. If we’re not writing, we’re not writers. Ideas need room to breathe and grow, and I’ve found that, for me, I often have to avoid writing ideas down before they’ve had time to properly germinate. But once they’ve reached fruition, if I don’t write them down, I’ll lose them. Nothing worse to a writer than losing a good idea!

    1. Misha says:

      hehehe well spotted!

      I only have one thing about #1. If it’s obvious enough for the reader to spot on his/her own: DON’T STATE IT.


      1. gabi says:

        Ooooh, good call Misha! Definitely leave stuff out if the reader can figure it out on his/her own. Thanks for adding that.

        KM Wieland — I totally hear you about writing down ideas. That’s why I sleep with a notebook next to my bed, in case a good one comes to me in the middle of the night.

        1. Ghenet Myrthil says:

          Great tips! A few of these really rang true for me this weekend as I finished my first draft. Now it’s time to do #5 and celebrate.

          Happy 4th!! 🙂

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