5 Tips For The Writer-To-Be

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Droemar's avatar
By Droemar
EDIT: If you like this journal entry, check out The Sarcastic Guide to Writing ebook www.amazon.com/The-Sarcastic-G… for exclusive content on world-building, character, and dialogue!

So my last five tips on writing were rather well received. I thought I’d do another round.  I just completed my rough draft for the first book in the Hoqikep Trilogy. The Bone Path was started Halloween night and finished up yesterday, the 20th.  I logged about 95k words in about seven weeks, so all you NaNoWriMos can eat yer hearts out.  But despair not, because I’m here to offer tips on how to successfully complete a writing project.

You will NEVER “find time”. Not ever, ever, ever,  EVER.   You MAKE time to write or you do not write.  Period.  People who write get to call themselves writers, and credible writers really, actually do have completed stuff in their portfolio.  Just like artists trying to make it professionally have completed, polished stuff.  I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met who whinge and whine about “Oh, I’d have the next Harry Potter if I could just find time.”  That is the blatting of an undisciplined wimp, and I don’t really have the patience for it.  Stephen King says find a place that has a door you can close, because it helps you focus and tells the rest of the world to leave you alone.  Considering the number of times I was interrupted by my mom with chores as a teenage writer, I sure wish I’d had a place like that.  I can guarantee you that no book, anywhere, was completed in a cozy forest nook where baskets of S’mores were delivered quietly on the doorstep, while kind but firm overseers coaxed every word gently from the writer’s mind.  Just ask J. K. Rowling.

Try to write at the same time each day.  I think everyone has their ideal times of day to write.  I am a night owl, so most of the time, I feel the urge to write anywhere between 6PM and 9PM.  I can’t operate when I have “things to do”, so the evening is the best time for me, when everything is out of the way.  I swear I can have writer's block up until that time, and then I sit down and start going.  Writing around the same time helps to develop the habit.  I’m not saying ascribe to the  exact time every day and then feel guilty when you’re five minutes late; I mean just attempt to sit down close to the slot and see what happens.  When I am working on a project, what I call “novel mode” I will feel a ping in the back of my head when its time, like a dog that knows he gets a treat the same time every night.  When I’m out of “novel mode”, I will still feel this ping from time to time, and when I feel it once too often without getting it out of my system, I get cranky.  Usually short stories fill the gap between projects; I’m still plugging away at winning Writers of the Future.

Just WRITE. I recently had to come to terms with this one, because I was suffering existential pangs of “not enjoying the process” and “not feeling the flow.”  In other words, I was being a whiny artiste’ .  Art of all kinds is work, as anyone who is as artist will tell you.  Other people coo and think its cute to work in oils on canvas or work in game design, but the folks there know that they work as hard as an architect, a doctor, or a lawyer.  In some ways, we might have it a little harder, because so much of it depends on our own self-discipline. I had a pair of short stories I had to complete before I was allowed to start work on my novel.  So I sat down, every night, and just typed something.  Whether or not it sucked, I wrote it and left it there.  And finished two 17k short stories in about two and a half weeks. And when i went back, they didn’t suck.  I’m not saying they were perfect, but they were much better then I recalled when I was pissing and moaning at the keyboard.  It taught me the lesson.  Just write. That’s all that matters.  Get the words down and worry about herding cats later.

The first draft is for you. So you might as well have fun with it. I know a lot of people,myself included, who sometimes freeze up at the idea of an audience.  Whether it’s your friends who think its rad that you write and can’t wait for your next installment, but might get pissed if a character does something they don’t like, or thinking about the Christian Ladies's Book Club and what they’ll think of your book with all that cursing in it.  Or, hell, the fact that you’re writing about talking dragons and teleporting spaceships, and what a shameful genre you write in. (Word to the wise: every genre feels this way about itself.  Writers are incredible, self-deprecating bastards.  If you don’t believe me, talk to someone who writes romance, especially chick-lit.)  So when you’re just struggling to get words on the page, you don’t need to be worrying about this stuff.  Don’t put the cart before the horse.  It ties in with the ‘just write’ rule, because sometimes its better to lumber along and crush everything in your path then to try and
dodge every obstacle you can come up with.  All it will do is drive you away from the keyboard. The first draft is for you; all subsequent drafts are for the reader.  Keep the gate shut until the time has come.

Do not share a first draft. Yeah.  I know.  You just finished.  You can’t wait to run out there to show everyone.  But guess what?  You can’t.  That’s right.  You’ve never heard the saying “writing is the loneliest profession?”  Well, now you know what it means.  Granted, this is my opinion, but show me a writer with a rough draft and I’ll show you someone who’s about to get crushed.  I particularly am a savage, brutal bitch when it comes to critiquing manuscripts.  Mean editors make good books.  (I’m sure Paolini had a very nice editor even when he got to Knopf.)  Rough drafts that have not had some plot points rearranged in the hopes of garnering more tension, had some adverbs axed, or even looked over for typos is like walking out for a beauty contest half-dressed.  You are doomed to fail.  And most often, the harshest critic of the writing is person who wrote it, and all we’re doing is holding it out, cringing and saying, "Please validate me!”  It won’t happen.  I firmly believe that all writers have to get to a point where they themselves are confident in their own ability.  It’s too easy for that fragile aesthetic to get crushed, and most often, it happens because the person was not ready for critique. They didn’t like themselves enough yet, and tried to find someone who would reassure them.  But that scenario, even when it works out, doesn’t help anybody.  (Ask Paolini!)  You have to toughen yourself up first.  When you start thinking you’re Shakespeare, then you’re ready for critique, because your confidence can take a few blows and still limp back with enough impetus to write some more.  I do not show my first drafts to anyone.  For me, it’s more like my third or fourth, but that’s not an every-rule.  Let the completed sit, long enough for the words to be strange and alien to you.  (For me, that’s about six weeks.)  Read back over it, and let the rewrites begin!
© 2009 - 2021 Droemar
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nekofluffybutt's avatar
I agree with a lot of tips given in this journal. Mainly with 3rd rule or... um tip? I just feel so frighten whenever I pick up a pencil and start writing and it's for just about everything, journals, essays, poems, addreess, phone numbers everything involving writing ( I do like rp-ing though) but if I picked up that same pencil ad started to draw I am at absolute peace and everything is fine! I have bette results doodling than in serious writing.

But thank you for the advice here, and do you have any advice, tips... rules for getting over this fear writing. I have a comic planned but like I said I rather draw the character and mentally imagine it because I can't seem to write it out. I really don't want to sound like I'm whining but it's nerve-racking at times.
Droemar's avatar
The only real answer I have for getting over fear of writing is to write for yourself. Don't sit down with the intention of writing for someone else, don't sit down with a bunch of negative thoughts, and don't write with the intention to show it to somebody. They call writing the loneliest profession for a reason, and if you're not writing for yourself and only you, you're not going to get very far. By and large, writing rarely gives any other reward than personal satisfaction. I don't show my writing to anyone unless it's had a rewrite or two. Expecting your writing to be perfect enough to show someone on the first try is a dream; it doesn't happen that way. Writing is rewriting. When you're satisfied, then try showing it to someone. But that may take a while; I wrote 5 novels before I was willing to show my writing to someone else for critique.
nekofluffybutt's avatar
Thanks :) I'll try to someday. And yeah your right but I doubt I ever thought my writing would ever be good enough first try, perhaps for clingy support. I doubt I write five novels in my life though better for crit sooner then xD
BeaBae's avatar
I have to say, even though I've read very similar pieces of advice before, you put them in much better terms and made them much more entertaining to read.

"When you start thinking you’re Shakespeare, then you’re ready for critique, because your confidence can take a few blows and still limp back with enough impetus to write some more" < -- we had a whole class one day on how much Shakespeare probably had to go through to get his plays out. I think it made everyone in the room feel much better about themselves.

But now that you've called yourself a brutal critique-r I really have to ask if, those who feel they've stopped taking baby steps in writing and would like help learning to run, would you be willing to lend a critique or two?
Droemar's avatar
I wish I had the time to critique, but I'm afraid I can't. You might try posting on the A forums that you are looking for a serious crit partner. There are lots of people out there just as serious about getting good as you are. In fact, I found one my best friends that way.
BeaBae's avatar
Aw, well. Thanks at least for the advice. I've been trying to find someone to seriously critique my work for a while and it's getting to the point where I'm about to give up. ^^; I'll check out the A Forums, though. Thanks.
sarch's avatar
Echo-impulsivesound's avatar
this helped thankyou
MimozaBlooming's avatar
Can you post your 5 tips series as deviations? Would be so awesome to be able to collect them...
Droemar's avatar
I posted them as news articles, but that's about it. ;)
darkn2ght's avatar
thank you, for sharing your words of wisdom! i very much appreciate it, as now and then i have been feeling frustrated over progress and quality of work.am saving all your 5 tips class into my notepad.and yes, i do agree with you on your point to just do it and bugger pundits! -_- they are...an obstruction to progress and development at times...XD
Ashien's avatar
RE: #5, somewhat #4.

That relies on how good a first draft you produce, no? Then there's the skill level of the writer, and the company you share it with.

I know people with pretty good first drafts, and bad, and I've seen them share both; the community I'm with isn't going to tear a story - and a writer - apart for the sake of it. Whilst the good first drafts still needed some work, and the bad first drafts needed a lot of work, some of those people wouldn't have known what to work on without sharing it.

In my opinion, good responses to first drafts offer suggestions; people who say, "this is how you should do it" when talking about the story are not good responders.
Droemar's avatar
Stephen King recommends not showing a first draft ; I ascribe to that rule myself. I've found that for the most part, by the time I take my six week hiatus and read back through things, I know what I need to fix. Therefore, it's not necessarily productive for me to get a second opinion when they're just going to point out the stuff I already know. A second draft, however, is where my certainty ends and the reader's opinion starts to have some weight. Conversely, introducing new problems to solve when you don't even have typos or something like character consistency in hand is asking for trouble; you're already herding cats, now you're just asking them to stampede.
If someone feels their first draft is worth showing, I'll show you a writer who's about to get slammed. It's one thing to ask for help with a story problem; something else entirely to plunk a draft down in front of readers and ask them to solve story problems the writer should've at least tackled twice or thrice.
But that's just my opinion. None of these rules are hard and fast, and whatever works for a writer works. Who am I to question the process?
Utaunna's avatar
"your confidence can take a few blows and still limp back with enough impetus to write some more."

Haha, so true. And I like the tip about not writing the first draft for yourself. I don't write a lot of stuff 'cause I'm paranoid of what people will think if they read it. Not because I'm afraid it till be bad, but 'cause maybe, just maybe...I might write something a bit bolder than sunshine and daises. And I don't like offending people (a double standard of mine 'cause I also don't give a flying donkey's butt half the time; can't seem to pick a side or even a middle ground, lol).

And...I don't have the time to write. XD rofl Maybe I'll get off my lazy butt and make the time this year. I left my job, yay! Though...usually people write while they're -on- their butt. So...maybe I should stay on my lazy butt and write? XD
Alex-Duma's avatar
Duly noted. I don't write, but these tips seem really useful. Maybe I'll give writing a try sometime.
krystle-tears's avatar
Why do I have sudden, horrible flashbacks of my DP posts on Kiara's Sahifa?
Droemar's avatar
Hey, if you sucked, I was right there with ya. Half the reason I forum RPed was to improve my writing!
krystle-tears's avatar
:P The good ol' days.

Or was it the bad ol' days.

Neither would surprise me.
Droemar's avatar
I'm inclined to say it was both. :)
fanatical-chick's avatar
I find the fourth rule is possibly one of the most important. When I wrote a short-story excerpt from my novel for a class, it came out TERRIBLE, because I was constantly worried about whether it would offend people at first. Even after I decided to say "fuckitall," it still came out pretty badly, because I was just so concerned with whether my protagonist couple would make people frown at Tech even though I was trying to write for myself. Conservative West Texas isn't such a nurturing place for themes that don't fit in with what they see as the norm.
Droemar's avatar
Ha! When I went to my agents and editors conference this last summer, there was a guy at our round-table pitching session who had a book about gays in the military being secretly set up by a homophobic general and senator. The general was the protagonist of the story, and the guy sounded like he was from deep West Texas. Needless to say, he got a lot stunned, blank looks (this is Austin, TX, and we, uh, like-a da gays, so to speak) and a lot of the agents cut him off about halfway through. One lady was like "I don't like him. I don't wanna read about him. Next!"
So, if it's any comfort, they can be fish out of water, too.
fanatical-chick's avatar
oh, L.M.A.O! At least that gives me confidence that maybe when I finish it and start looking for a place to publish, it won't be so "OMGRACY!"

Speaking of Austin, are you in Austin, now? I just moved here last winter, and I have to say, I'm looooving the more-liberal atmosphere. I didn't think it was that bad in Lubbock until I moved here.
Droemar's avatar
You poor thing! Yes, I live right outside of North Austin. I went to Texas Tech University for 2 semesters, and it was pretty shocking. The liberal atmo is sooooo much nicer. We're like an island.
Redmagesalyre's avatar
The first one is always something I actually had big time, especially when I was working half time at stores with weird hours. Especially during the Holidays, I could never write or I would get something and forget about it in the next couple of days or I would have someone look over my shoulder when I was trying to write or have someone ask "ohh, what are you writing/what is it about/maybe you should do this or that" it can get on the nerves and it hurts. Probably serves me right for trying to write during breaks.
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