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Pep Talk from V.E. Schwab

photo of V.E. Schawb

Dear Writer,

Look, I of all people know how hard it is to put words down on paper. To overcome the dread of the blank page, and the fear of writing something that isn’t perfect. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to exist so you can make it better.

The act of writing a first draft is the act of taking a story idea, a perfect ball of potential, and having to throw it. It lands somewhere far away from where you’re standing, and it gets kind of smushed and misshapen by the fall, and you think, "That’s not what I had in my hand, that’s not perfect and smooth anymore."

And it’s not. But that’s what revision will be for. Right now, you have to take that story idea, and you have to risk throwing it, not knowing how it will land. Writing the draft is an act of faith. It’s faith in the story, and faith in yourself, and that’s scary. But once you have something, you can make it better. The only thing you can’t fix is a blank page.

So you’re going to write a story. Not a book. Don’t think of it as anything so formal. You’re just writing down a story. Something that you will have ample time to make better, once it’s done. And I know it’s hard—trust me, I know. Because the moment you start writing it down, you begin to see all the flaws, all the shortcomings, all the things that aren’t perfect. But you’re also writing down everything you need, your raw materials.

I love metaphors, so let’s try another one. Something a bit more macabre.

You’re not making a whole body. You’re making its bones. You don’t need the muscle, the sinew, the skin. You certainly don’t need the makeup or the clothes. You just need bones. Something to work with. Something to build on. Something to make better, make whole. And you know the general shape of this body. You’ve read books, you like stories; you might not know every minor bone in a hand, but you know the big ones, the skull, and the spine, and the ribs. So go and make a body. There will be time to make it pretty later. But what good is smooth skin without a skeleton beneath?

Go make something. Go shape it. Go carve out or dig up or mold together something out of nothing but ideas, because you can. That’s why you’re here.

Victoria “V. E.” Schwab is the #1 New York Times, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

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