I’ve been writing something recently. It’s going better than anything else I’ve written, but still- let’s not get our hopes up here. It may or may not reach completion, I may or may not ever get around to those sequels. How and ever, I have noticed a few things that help and hinder my writing process and I thought I should share them with WordPress World. I’m at a very early stage of my writing so feel free to ignore any and all advice I offer. I realise I’m not exactly overqualified in the area but these are the things that work for me:
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First and foremost, I write everything down. Scrawl notes on post-its, list character traits and bullet points in the back of your notebooks and if a good friend happens to give you a snazzy notebook as a present, it can be a great help to have a designated story notebook just to keep all of your ideas for one project in one place. Only recently I was musing on the end of my story (it’s a long way off yet) and I was unsure exactly what the final scenes would entail when I flipped through my story notebook only to find that Past Rose had already written the ending for me at some indeterminate time since forgotten! Even if something occurs to you and you think, “oh, that’s good, I must use that- I’ll definitely remember that,” write it down somewhere. With so many random thoughts and associations floating around out there, it’s highly likely that you’ll lose one or two minor elements of your story unless you keep proper track of them.
Secondly, take a while to figure out what works for you. Some people write better in silence, some with music, some can’t write at a desk, some can only write outside, some will want to be inspired and write by the sea, some will want to handwrite and type up later- there are innumerable ways to write a story so don’t listen to anyone who tells you that their way is the best way or the only way that works.
Thirdly, when it comes to getting ideas for your stories and poems and whatnot, everyone differs there too. It can come from a particular phrase that you dwell on, from an image you invent a back-story for, from a film with a plot-hole you think you can improve. Anywhere and everywhere, depending on your mood and the day of the week. But tip #3 is, do not try to write at someone else’s instruction. “Oh, you should write about this thing I read about last week,” “You know, you should write about me, let me tell you about myself a bit-grab a pen there, you’ll want to take notes,” “Why don’t you write about your life?” Personally, I think writing about my life would bore the pants off anyone reading because while I’m interesting, I’m not that interesting. Maybe you are, but do not hop on somebody else’s idea train unless you are actually excited and interested by their idea.
Fourthly, do not panic and do not edit. This one is tough, but I keep reminding myself that if I start to rewrite scenes, I’ll just get bogged down in wording and wit. Don’t panic if your setting isn’t as clear as you’d like it to be, don’t panic if your dialogue isn’t as engaging as it should be, don’t panic if your characters aren’t as relatable as they should be. This is what second, third and twentieth drafts are for. Concentrate on draft one. Do not edit, do not spend hours staring at single descriptive sentences or deleting and re-typing variants of the same scenario. Finish the thing, all else can wait.
Fifthly, you may find it helpful to write a bio or a list of details for your characters. The last section I wrote needs a drastic rewrite because I accidentally made one of my characters act and speak in a distinctly out-of-character way (note- edits are allowable and sometimes necessary in a scenario where the scene error will change the arc and tone of the book going forward, but try to avoid those because it’s just a pain). I think an author should know their characters back to front. You don’t need to tell the reader irrelevant bits of information or retell childhood scenes that don’t impact the story, but you should know them. Know why they think the way they think, know why they react the way they react. It will help a lot in avoiding silly out-of-character moments.
Sixthly, when you turn on your computer to write and you open up MS Word and the few documents you may or may not have spread your story across (I have a few different versions of some scenes so I like to keep them in separate docs), please do not open Google Chrome or Firefox and think, “I’ll just check my email and my Facebook first.” You will lose hours. By the end of your world-wide-web scavenging for anything funny or new, you might not even feel like writing anymore. I’ve already written about this, but since I’m putting together a list of things to do and avoid right now, the point warrants repeating.
Seventhly, have a good friend or two that can give you some gentle feedback. It’s a bit of a lifesaver.
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As of now, that’s all I’ve got but I’m picking up little tips and learning new things with every page I write. And when I don’t quite feel like writing, writing about writing helps ease the guilt a little bit