Monday, December 21, 2015

You Already Have Everything You Need

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Birch House Press). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

The singer wanted us in the audience to participate during the chorus of the song.

I'm excellent at listening to music. I like to sing along (if no one can hear me), but this guy wanted us to not only sing a line of the song, he wanted us to dance too. That dance  all rappers seem to love where you stick your hand out and move it up and down with the beat? I was supposed to do that while singing. I can't even clap to a beat while singing.

I wanted to fold my arms over my chest and just enjoy the music, but everyone else was into it. As uncomfortable as participating made me, not participating made me even more so.

So I stuck my hand out. I sung the line. I moved my arm mechanically up and down, noticeably off rhythm.

The next time, I focused on moving my arm at the same time as the others around me. I forgot to sing until about half way through the line.

The third time, I managed both the arm movement and the lyrics, but I could feel my face heating as I wished the moment away. I knew I looked completely stupid. That the people behind me could tell I was doing a terrible job. That those next to me could see my utter lack of rhythm and grace.

As the rapper moved about the stage during the next verse, I relaxed and enjoyed the beat of the song, the punch of the lyrics, the pulse of the bass. My body naturally began to move in time with the music, Nothing crazy (I'm still me, of course) but a little bending of my knees, a little swaying.

The chorus returned. I begrudgingly held out my arm ... but this time it was different. This time, because the rest of my body was already moving with the beat of the song, it was easier to keep the right rhythm with the motion of my arm. And because my body was moving by instinct instead of by my command"Now move up. Now move down."I found I could sing too. And that I was having fun.

Growing as a writer can feel much the same. We've covered a lot of topics this year. Here's a quick overview:

When you try to bring new techniques to your manuscript, you might feel like I did that first time I tried to participate during the song. You're having to focus so hard on the mechanics of it that there's no rhythm, no fluidity. "Oh, gosh, I'm terrible," you might even think. "What if somebody actually reads this? What will my parents think?"

Good writing, like good dancing, is about more than just the mechanics. Great dancers have to know the dance steps so well that they can do them without thinking. When they've practiced steps so much that they're more like a reflex, that's when a dancer can bring the beauty, grace, and rhythm that the art requires.

What we teach you on this blog is like dance steps. Knowing them won't make you a great writer. And if you try to think about them as you create your storyI can't use that adverb ... if I write it this way it's an info dump ... I can't do that because it was on Jill's cliches list you're never going to find any kind of rhythm.

As odd as it seems, the best thing you can do after studying the mechanics of writing is to put them out of your mind and write by feel. The more you write, you'll find yourself naturally incorporating techniques you've learned. And even if you don't, even if you get something wrong, unlike dancers we have the privilege of being able to edit. So:

Write like no one is watching. Because they aren't. 

Write like you don't have to get everything right the first time. Because you don't.

And write like you already have everything you need to tell your story. Because you do.

Sure, maybe you have some research to do before you can write that battle in a believable way. Or maybe you're still finding your voice or figuring out how to write multiple narrators. I'm not saying you already have what you need to write a perfect story that will make editors fight over you. I'm saying that you won't get there until you put words on the page. And now is the perfect time to start.

Go Teen Writers will return January 4th. Enjoy your holiday!


  1. Oh my goodness, I've needed this post for so long. I haven't written consistently in months (partly because of school but mainly because of fear) and I'm just starting to get back into it. And it's going well, and I love my book, but there are still those thoughts of, "What if I can't do this? What if I hit a roadblock again and stop writing? What if I don't really know how to do this?" This post helped so much.

    1. I'm so glad it helped, Emily. We all go through times like that, and you'll be a stronger writer for having pulled through it.

  2. Thank you so much for this, Mrs. Morrill. I'm such a perfectionist and I always feel like I have to get everything perfect. But the first time, I don't. I have to remember that. :) Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, folks!

    1. I struggled with that a lot when I was a young writer, but I had to get over it before I could really grow. Merry Christmsa, Linea :)

  3. Thank you for this post! It's easy to get overwhelmed by writing advice, but sometimes the best thing is just to forget about that and write.

    And thank you for so many awesome posts this year, Jill and Stephanie :) Have a Merry Christmas!

  4. Thank you for this :D I get how it feels to try to balance everything. One chapter has great description but tells everything. Other chapters have great dialog but everything else stinks. Thanks for the encouragement and thanks for the helpful posts this year :D Merry Christmas!

  5. I've been loving the last few blogs that you've posted, they hit home and are super inspirational! I know that without this blog I would not be where I am in my writing. Thank you Go Teen Writers!

    1. I'm so glad, Lauren! Thanks for hanging out with us!

  6. Thank you for this post. Advice I could definitely use :). Happy holidays!

  7. This post has some really great advice, Mrs. Morrill, thank you for posting it! And thank you so much for all you do here at GTW, you're wonderful :). Merry Christmas!
    ~Savannah Perran

  8. Oh wow, what an encouragement this post was! Thank you so much. You always have just the words I need to keep pushing on.

    I hope you and all the GTW staff have a wonderful Christmas! I'm so grateful to all of you. <3

    1. I'm so glad, Christine! We're grateful for awesome people like yourself who choose to hang out with us :)

  9. Thank you so much for this post! Sometimes, it can be so hard to remember that you don't have to get it exactly right the first time, and that if what you're writing right now is horrible, it's okay because you can totally fix it later. So thank you so much for the reminder. :D



  10. This. This is so perfectly what I needed to hear. Thank you. <3