Something happens when you force yourself into a writing vacation, things seem clearer and muddled at the same time. My students know this as ambiguity.
After completing NaNoWriMo, I forced myself to not write for the entire month. Not even a blog post though part of me started posts and never finished them. I’ve been working on the same newsletter entry for weeks but I told myself that I needed to take a break.
But a recent blog post on another blog took me away from my vacation. Of course, I’m not one to throw mud and start a blog war. That’s not my style but I will say that I found a post bad mouthing NaNoWriMo and its participants to be pretentious and self-serving.
It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you think you are, never bad mouth others who are on a writing journey.
Yes, I’ve described this writing thing as a journey. It is. No one wrote a perfect short story, novel, or poem the first time they did it. It’s a journey to get better, to become better, to become storytellers. This is a craft and an art, the more you invest in it the more you get out of it even if it’s to write crazily every November to have nothing, something, or everything come from it.
So, in the vain of other writers who are WAY better than me, I’ll give you some my my writing tips, which are more like lessons. Some I’ve learned recently while others I learned the hard way. Afterall, not only is this blog about my writing journey, it’s about yours, too. Whatever lessons I can give you I will gladly share.
Ten years in newsrooms has showed me that writer’s block is a myth. No, not a luxury but a myth. When you have a deadline staring you down, there’s no room for writer’s block. You sit down and you write.
I know that I’m lucky to have had that reporting foundation. I’ve drawn from that well several times in my writing. While I’ve had to relearn some lessons as a fiction writer, some reporting skills still hold water. This is one of them. You can’t have something that doesn’t exist. Sit down. Write.
2.) Find stories or be in a position where they find you.
This means being open to writing about things you don’t know anything about but are willing to experience or do the research. Part of writing is learning and you need to be constantly learning, whether its a language class or learning bee keeping, getting out of your comfort zone from time to time opens you up to a story you won’t have written otherwise.
3.) You’re always writing, even if you’re not writing.
This lesson here came in part from reporting and in part from one of my advisors. The story behind it is when my advisor was sitting on the couch doing nothing, she was upset because a neighbor interrupted her. She was writing though she didn’t have a pen and paper in her hand. She was thinking, mulling over what she just written, listening to herself. That’s so important to know that even when you’re not in the physical act of writing your brain is still writing and digesting.
This is something I learned as a young reporter. After covering an assignment, the drive home would be for thinking out the lede–the first graph or couple of graphs that hooks the reader. In the 20 or so minutes it would take me to drive back to the office, I’d have an idea of what to write for my lede and, if I was really good, I’d know the structure of the article I was to write.
Have no doubt that your brain is in this writing thing with you!
4.) It is not about word count or page number — but it is!
There’s some thought out there that one shouldn’t focus on word count or page number. I agree to a point. Yes, you should focus on the quality of your work. However, because the first draft is about getting that bad boy on paper, a word count and page number is an amazing thing. It gives you a physical manifistation of your goal.
Unless it’s something like NaNoWriMo, I don’t have a word count or a page number goal, but I like seeing my progress and I’m happy to say that I completed five pages or 2,000 words. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Although the number doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, to me it means progress and triggers something in my head that says yes, you are actually getting stuff done. It’s the analytical part of my brain that needs to be feed once in a while.
So, because your first draft is just one big word dump…
Books are written in revision. I completely believe this. Having a plan will help with the revision. I’m developing mine and change it a little more each time I use it.
I’m not a fan of revision, so I have to…
6.) Push through it.
When I didn’t want to write, I did it anyway. When I wanted to quit, I tricked myself into writing even if it was 500 words. Forget the folks who tell you that they write when inspiration hits them, write when it doesn’t. Writing is a discipline, a muscle, a verb. Inspiration doesn’t get words down on paper, siting in the chair and writing does. Push through whatever is blocking you and get it done, even if you think it’s garbage. You can’t revise something that doesn’t exist.
There you go, folks. Six piece of knowledge that I’ve learned and relearned and have severed me well. Hope this helps! Write On!