I have been writing for most of my life. Which is a relatively short time considering that some authors don’t publish their first novel until they are 80. Now I don’t know everything about the craft, but there are a few things I know. Or rather I think I know. Or at least might help out and give you a bit of knowledge on the subject. These are by no means a way to live your writing life. But just tidbits here and there that I’ve picked up along the way.
This will be broken up into multiple posts too for shorter readings. As I think up more I will add more posts. There will also be specific posts on some of these subjects in the future. I don’t really have any authority on these subjects or reason to think I know what I’m talking about, but I like to think I do and share what I know.
Write A Lot and Often
If you wish to be a writer, write.
This is probably the most important one to do and to know out of all of these. Write, just write. Anywhere, everywhere. Anything, everything. Play with setting, genre, characters. This is especially important, I believe, when you’re just starting out. This gives you a chance to grow, practice, and hone your skills, all while finding out where you best fit in this crazy writing world of ours
Write a journal or a short story. Just write something. It doesn’t matter if you write on a bar napkin every night about the regulars. That’s character development, and it’s also writing.
If you can, write every day. If not, set times aside for yourself to just sit down and write. No interruptions or distractions. Just you and the words.
Most important, like I said, especially if you’re just starting, is to write as much as you can about anything. You can stick to one story, or play with a few ideas. The point is you’re getting words down and practicing.
Read A Lot
I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
Probably the second most important “tool” in a writers kit is the ability to read. Now these are the two rules on most writer’s “Things To Do To Be A Writer” list, but its because they are very true and very helpful. If you’re not reading, how can you expect to write? Or rather, write better than you currently do?
The main point with writing is to have someone read your novel (If that’s what you’re after of course). So if you’re not reading yourself, how can you expect anyone to read what you write?
I suggest you read as much as you can. Always bring a book with you. When you’re not busy or writing, be reading. Read all types of genres and age ranges. This will keep you out of, or in the cliches of your selected genre depending, and also has the ability to give your prose a well rounded feel, plus the possibility for genre cross overs.
Like the romantic love story set in space after a zombie apocalypse and their only way home is through a magical unicorn named Big Sister.
Writer’s Block (Writer’s Stuckness)
You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a
Having writer’s block is a very common problem among all types of writers. Some say it’s actual writer’s block, some kind of stoppage in our creative form that prevents us from moving forward. Others say it’s just laziness and procrastination. Both could be true, and I can see both sides.
But I like most what Janice Hardy had to say in her blog about writer’s block. She say’s that she doesn’t get blocked, just stuck. We’re writers. We know how powerful words can be. She goes on to say that “stuck is a temporary situation. Stuck is a delay. Blocked is more permanent. Blocked is being forced to stop.” Like you’ve hit a wall rather hard and cannot move. Being stuck on the other hand is a short term problem that can be fixed with a few tweaks or days off.
In our writing group we now say “I’ve got writer’s stuckness.” Although it doesn’t sound pretty, it makes it a lot easier. Because being stuck requires just a simple fix or a slight changing of a scene or plot point. And then you’re good.
I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.
Having no ideas to write with feels just about as bad as having writers bloc–… Writer’s Stuckness, if not worse. At least with the stuckness you have a plot, you have a thought of what’s going on and what might be happening. Whether it works or not, you have something.
The easiest way to fix this is to just listen, feel, and see the world around you. Literally everywhere you go there’s a story just waiting to be told. I’d suggest bringing a small notebook and pen with you everywhere. There’s also numerous places online and books that provide writing prompts. Most are for short stories, but they could be turned into a novel with the write plot and patience. Possibly check out some of these sites:
Also, one of the easiest ways to get over not having an idea, is to just write. Free write. I can be completely gibberish, but always your putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard?
Too Many Ideas
I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.
Too many ideas, the opposite of No ideas. You have so many bestsellers floating around in your head waiting to be written, you’re just not sure which one to start with.
The best advice I can give is to go with your heart. The story that calls to you the most and that you think you could have the most fun with. Maybe the one with the most fun world building process, or funniest characters. Perhaps the one with the silliest plot twist. Whatever it may be, it’s the one that interests you deep down the most.
You could also bounce all your ideas off a friend, see which ones they’re most interested in. It is nice to sometimes know what your audience would like from you.
Another way is to get a notebook and fill it with every idea you ever get. No matter how silly or stupid you may think it is. Getting it down on paper can help you figure out what you want to do with it. It can also be a good reference for when you have no ideas. You’ll have some place to come back to for ideas.
You could also write every idea down on a separate piece of paper and throw them all into a hat. Pick out the paper, and go with that one. Or more than likely, in that brief second before you pulled out the paper, you realized which story you REALLY wanted to work on first. Pick that one.
Deadlines and Word counts
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Sometimes not having to worry about a deadline is quite nice and relaxing. You can spend as much time on the fun stuff and with your characters as you want. And save all the boring scenes and such for later.
Having a deadline is nice though. It creates pressure, and pressure gets you moving. It gets you motivated and it lets you break through that creative barrier.
Set a time limit for yourself, try just writing for five or ten minutes at a time, writing as much as you can. Then take a short break and repeat.
Word count goals are also nice to have because without them deadlines really wouldn’t work all that well. Try setting a reasonable and reachable goal for yourself. But one you’ll have to work towards.
Daily word count goals can really help maximize production and creativity too. These goals mixed with a timed writing session can yield some pretty surprising and successful results.
Inspiration and Motivation
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
By far one of the hardest things for me is finding that inspiration and motivation to sit down and write.There was a time where if I didn’t feel the muse whispering sweet nothings into my ear, I wouldn’t write at all. This didn’t turn out well and ended in many an unfinished project.
Most muses are snarky, elusive, vengeful bitches. They show up at the most inopportune times, and unless you’re there and ready to write, they, along with whatever idea you had, can be gone in a flash.
My best advice would probably be to say screw inspiration, and force yourself through the motivation. You don’t need either to write, it’s not some mystical recipe that requires a muse, inspiration, motivation, creativity, and eye of newt. It really just requires butt in chair, computer on, and start writing.
The Big Three (Twitter, Email, Blogs)
By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his
chosen goal or destination.
I have fallen victim lately to the social media monster that makes up The Big Three. I never thought I would, but alas,here I am.
All three can come in mighty handy at times though. Especially when you are a new author and trying to make connections. Also, once you have your first book published and wish to market the shit out of it.. Which some people do. (I wouldn’t suggest over marketing though, kind of a turn off.)
They let you keep in touch with other writers, agents, and editors. They let you share your information about current WIP and published books. And creates an online presence that your readers can see and interact with.
The problem comes with all the time and effort in can take to constantly upkeep one of these monsters. I’ve spent many an afternoon reading my favorite blogs, checking email, and twitter instead of writing.
So my advice is to use these wisely, but be careful they don’t swallow you whole while you’re still working on your Manuscript.
Write First, Publish Later
It can be depressing when no one takes interest, and a lack of response makes
the writer question why they’re writing at all. To have one’s writing rejected is like
you, yourself, are being rejected.
I know that most writer’s goals, those just starting out included, are to be published. This is all fine and well, and it might just happen some day. But worrying about it now, especially if you’re new to writing or just getting into writing novels, isn’t a good idea.
You’ll end up over thinking and over analyzing everything. This is not good. Right now just focus on writing your book and finishing it. Right now focusing on getting to “The End” is a lot more important than getting published. You can’t be published if you haven’t written anything.
Don’t think about what’s popular in book stores right now. Don’t think about what editor, agents, and publishers are looking for. Don’t even necessarily think of what the readers really want. For right now, just focus on yourself, your writing, and finishing your book. I’ve written a bit about being a selfish writer here before. More to come in the future.
But being a selfish writer is a good thing. Write for yourself and write the stories you want to write, and you want to read. Just write it.
I hope these topics, tips, and tricks were somewhat helpful to some of you out there! Let me know that you think and the next installment should be coming soon.
Is there anything I missed you’d like to see in the next post? Any tips you have for new and veteran writers alike?