Don’t be a One-Bullet Barney!

I’ll admit it- I love the Andy Griffith Show, and particularly the early episodes when Andy and Barney were at their- dare I say it- “hillbilly-est”! If Andy and Barney’s southern drawls got any deeper during those early days the audience would have needed subtitles just to understand what they were saying. Of course I don’t have a problem catching their southern vibe since they sound a lot like many of my North Carolina and Tennessee relatives from a long, long time ago. Right y’all?

Barney’s famous “one bullet.”

But I digress. My point is not the southern silliness of this dynamic duo. It’s really about what’s in Barney’s pocket. One bullet. Just one. One single bullet of power, that, in Barney’s mind, is all he ever needs to take out all the criminals that infiltrate Mayberry on a daily basis (not that there ever were very many, but still). So the purpose of today’s blog post is to ask you, the writer, one serious question…”Are you a one-bullet Barney?”

What I mean is, what have you been doing since you wrote your first novel, picture book, poem or non-fiction piece? Is your first work your only work? If so, you may be guilty of being a one-bullet-Barney. But what’s wrong with that you ask? Well, if you’ve got a minute to pull up a chair, lean way back and pull out a piece of whittling, I’ll tell you:

  1. Your first piece of writing, although a great accomplishment in its own right, is most-likely not your best. If you have one novel in you, chances are there’s more. If you had one great picture book idea, then you have two or even 22. Stopping after your first work is like saying you’ve already accomplished all you were meant to accomplish when it comes to writing, and for most of us, that simply isn’t true.
  2. Your first piece of writing may not be where you eventually land as a writer. If you pigeonhole yourself into one genre fresh out of the gate, you may not discover what genre is your true passion. For example: you love rhyme and that’s what you’ve written. But you may not be as good at rhyming as you think. You might spend years trying to sell that one rhyming piece rather than opening up your mind to the possibility of prose. Figuring out what where your strengths lie takes time and many, many tries.
  3. Your first piece of writing needs lots of work. And this is just the plain truth. If you write it, stick it in an envelope and start submitting without the proper vetting from critique groups, paid critiques at conferences and professional editors, you’re still sitting on nothing more than a first draft- and a really rough one at that.
  4. Your first piece of writing will probably not be the first piece you sell. I still have yet to sell the first picture book I ever wrote, but I’ve sold others as well as magazine articles and poems long since I wrote the last words to number one.
  5. Your first piece of writing does not reflect who you are now. You have evolved since your first work- or at least I hope you have. We all change every day. What you bring to your writing today is so much more that what you brought to it last year. If you stop now and do nothing more than try to sell what you have, you will never develop your truest writer voice.

So don’t stop with that first story. Don’t be a one-bullet Barney! Did deep, learn your craft, and be willing to take chances with your words. I promise you, you’ll be glad you did.

Sensibility- Good writing takes time, patience and the knowledge that not every story you craft is perfect the very first time.

Sense- No matter how many great first drafts you think you’ve written, don’t stop. What you write today is not the end of the story. Keep expecting more from yourself each and every day.

Take a look at the first story you ever wrote. How would you write it differently now?