“Jane the Virgin” is kind of a one-stop-shop for everything you could ever want from a TV show — it’s got soap-worthy plotlines (an evil twin just got impaled!), great acting and writing (the show just nabbed some well-deserved Critic’s Choice nominations), and one of the best love triangles currently on air (shots fired, “The Vampire Diaries”). But you know what it also has in spades? Uplifting writing advice! Over the course of the season, Jane’s made major in-roads on her writing career — it’s quickly gone from secret hobby to full-blown pursuit, and along the way, she’s learned a lot of lessons that the rest of us writers can benefit from as well.
And hey, when you think about it, these writing tips actually come care of showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman and her crack team of writers, and who doesn’t want to hang on their every word? They know what they’re talking about (and they’ve got the award groundbreaking award nominations to prove it). [Spoilers for “Jane the Virgin” Season 1 follow.]
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1. Take the leap
When Jane first met Rafael five years ago, part of what made their meet-cute a meet-cute (besides the fact that she made him her signature grilled cheese) was the fact that he was the first person she ever told about her dream to become a writer. Fast forward to five years later, and she’s simultaneously being offered a writing internship with her favorite telenovela (hey, a little nepotism never hurt anyone, right?) and a steady teaching job — guess which one she chooses? Writing’s never a sure thing, and we don’t know where Jane’s career will end up yet, but if you love to write, take a leap of faith every now and then.
2. Turn to real life for inspiration
Remember when Jane was tasked with the hefty job of writing her father the best death scene ever? She struggled with writer’s block for pretty much the entirety of the episode, before recalling a small moment from her childhood that helped her write, well… the best death scene ever. She remembered an incident when she borrowed her abuela’s earrings and promptly lost them. Fearing Alba would never forgive her, Jane was surprised when her grandmother told her, “You are my flesh and blood. Nothing you could do is unforgivable to me.” Now, parlaying that line into a scene where Santos gets stabbed by his long-lost son? Nothing short of genius.
3. Write for fun
Even when things aren’t exactly going swimmingly on your novel, screenplay, collection of poetry, or whatever you happen to be working on, sometimes it’s important that you can take a break to write for fun — after all, even Jane takes time to write her boyfriend good, old fashioned erotica. Now, this is “Jane the Virgin” we’re talking about, so you can bet it accidentally ended up in Rafael’s hands instead, and helped to catalyze their relationship — so the upside of this whole “writing for fun” business is that you might unintentionally snare the heart of a handsome hotel magnate along the way…?
No, but in all seriousness, if writing’s ever starting to feel like too much of a grind, write something that excites you (however you decide to interpret that word).
4. Set realistic goals…
Jane’s the type of person who quits her waitressing job about a month before her due date, then resolves to write an entire romance novel in the short weeks before she gives birth (hey, with 10 pages a day, that’s totally reasonable. Right?). It took some setbacks to make her realize that putting too much pressure on yourself can be just as damaging as not putting enough pressure on yourself.
5. …And ask for help when you need it
Whether it’s joining a writing group, enrolling in an online course, finding a mentor, or going for the gold with an MFA, support comes in many forms — and it looks like Jane’s going to go the MFA route (girl doesn’t do anything by halves). Now, seeking a higher form of training in writing depends a lot on the person and their situation, but when you’re Jane Villanueva, and you thrive on being prepared (and sometimes even over-prepared), an MFA program might be right for you. Somehow, when she announced to her family that she’d be preparing to apply to grad school in the coming application cycle, everything clicked — it just made sense.
6. Positive feedback is important, too
Jane seriously stepped in it when she came to a positive-feedback-only writer’s group armed with pages of constructive criticism, as opposed to the requisite compliment cards. Luckily, her notes ended up helping her classmate, but there’s nothing quite like an ultra-supportive writing group — and let’s be real, compliment cards are just plain nice. It may sound counter-productive and coddle-y, but you’d be surprised.
7. Look to yourself for validation
In most situations, Rogelio de la Vega is probably the last person on this earth that you would want to get advice from — but don’t let his rampant self-obsession and skewed world-view fool you. Like most actors, Rogelio struggled for many years before hitting it big — he was already in his forties when he landed the life-changing title role on The Passions of Santos, and though it may not seem like it, he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings. After dealing Jane some surprisingly harsh (constructive-ish?) criticism on her first-ever telenovela scene, he gave her some seriously good advice: “You can’t look to others to validate you. If you choose to make a living in the fine arts, you must believe in yourself.”
Cheesy? Sure, but it’s got a ring of truth to it.
“Jane the Virgin’s” first season finale aires tonight on The CW.