Probably one of the biggest mistakes writers make is not going deep enough. They just skim through the scene, the emotion, the scenery, the problem, or the resolution.

Not going deep enough comes in two forms:

  • Writing quick drafts

  • Not getting to the meat of what is needed

The first problem is rather easy to deal with. I’ve had many writers tell me they write fast and don’t include much detail in their first drafts. The problem is not that they don’t go off on tangents (which is a really good thing to do in your first draft to see where these little journeys take you), but that they don’t spend time grabbing hold of descriptions of characters or places. I can sympathize; I often have to go back and add in the details, because when I’m first writing, I’m just trying to get the story down quickly as I race behind my characters and try to catch their shenanigans. When I work on the second draft, then I make sure I find a quiet time and space to sit and let the details wash over me and try to capture them on the page.

The second way of not going deep enough is the real problem. We get to emotional sections in our writing and back away, unable to give them adequate time and attention because it makes us too uncomfortable. This is especially true when we are writing about something based on or similar to a personal experience.

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, says, “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” It is in the middle of the fear that the truth resides, where stories come alive. When we can be honest about our own emotions and allow our characters and narrators the strength of theirs, we create stories and poems others want to read.

But it’s not just about our characters; it’s about being true to ourselves in our writing, trusting that what we feel has power. “Along the way we discover that the more we are ourselves, the closer we become to others, whatever our differences; and that giving up whatever façades we’ve been wasting our energy on creates the kind of atmosphere in which writing breakthroughs happen naturally,” says Rosemary Daneill, author of Secrets of the Zona Rosa – How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women’s Lives.

The best advice for going deeper is that when you come upon a section of your writing or a moment in your life that makes you want to shy away – dive deeper. Go for the guts of it. Risk everything to see where it takes you. If you don’t want to do it in the middle of your text, grab another sheet of paper or start a new document and just start writing, without stopping, to explore what is going on, why you are resistant. Be as open and honest as you possibly can. Then see if what you uncovered is helpful to you as a writer or whether you can use it to create depth in the story or poem you are working on.

For more advice, tips, and inspiration on writing, please visit MY BLOG

And don’t forget, April is poetry month. I’ll be writing about poetry for BookPleasures and on my blog.