5 Tips For The Writer-To-Be

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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!
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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.