Monday, September 23, 2013

Writing Things, Note 1

      I write quite a bit. Anyone who knows me realizes that I'm not afraid of the blank page. Why should I be? These are only words, and I decide if anyone else sees them or not. Failure? There is no failure in writing except not to write what calls to you out of some misplaced fear that it won't be perfect and right. Does that mean writing poorly is acceptable? No. But it doesn't mean that perfection has to come with the first draft.
No artist becomes good at a craft without practice, and that includes writers. Practice does not mean being purposely sloppy. You have to try to write well, but know that you won't have the real feel of writing until you do it. Afterwards you look at your weaknesses and keep writing.

Here's the great part. It doesn't matter if you have trouble with the story because you get to redo anything that doesn't work. Unlike the portrait artist who has ruined the canvas, you get to erase parts and reword sections.

Being prolific means a person cannot be afraid of words or even what others will think of those words if they ever see them. Don't expect everyone to like your work, no matter how near to perfection you manage to get. It's easy, of course, to pull an 'angst-filled artist' tantrum and destroy the imperfection of your work, drawing all the sympathy you can from friends.

That won't make you a better writer.

A person doesn't have to be prolific or fast to be a writer . . . but the person does have to write. Traditional or Indie, it doesn't matter. If you do not put the words down, finish and edit, you are not going to reach your goal.

So what is the secret to actually sitting down and writing the things in your head? The trick is to sit down and start writing. Yes it really is that simple to start. No, it is not that simple to get good at writing, but until you apply yourself to the art, you won't know how to do it. You can read every book on writing, you can ace every grammar test, and you can quote every good bit of writing you know -- but until you sit down and work, you will not be a writer. This means writing complete stories, not just little tidbits of perfection that don't add up to anything.

When you start out as a writer, you don't always need a plan. That's right -- this is me saying you don't have to outline your first stories. Some people are intimidated by outlines and others simply don't understand how they work. If you are the type who works well to a plan, go ahead and work one out. If not, or if you aren't certain, let the words flow. Get used to putting things down on a page and seeing how writing looks and feels before you worry about anything else.

You cannot ruin a story by not writing it perfectly the first time. You get to write and edit and rewrite until you get what you want. Sounds boring? Well, get used to the fact that your work will not be perfect in the first try and then start embracing the idea that it's fun to edit, because it is. Oh, I know -- another one of those 'angsty author' things that I'm going to ruin. Do you want to know the worst excuse I've heard for not editing? The person said they couldn't stand to read the story once it was done.

Well, if you hate the story so much you can't even read it, how can you expect anyone else to like it? Why did you even bother?

So get out there and write. Learn to enjoy the process of creation just for itself. Write just for you. Don't worry about the audience at this point. You are your own first reader, and if you can't write something that you enjoy, how can you expect anyone else to want to read it?

Learn to enjoy writing. That's your first lesson in how to be, if not a successful writer, at least a happy one.

Go have fun.

How about you?  What are your thoughts?  Is writing too much work or too much fun?


Loyd Jenkins said...

I want writing to be fun. Too often it seems to be work. But I get grumpy when I don't write for very long.

It seems that once I start a story, it becomes different than I thought it would and the fun is gone. Any advise?

Zette said...

You might try setting up small goals for each day, or several days a week. 250 words won't take you long, and the writing will get easier -- and easier to fall back into the story -- the more often you write. Small goals can help you feel that you are getting story work done without it turning into work.

One thing to always remember: What you see in your head can never be totally recreated in words.

The second things is remember that writing takes a lot of practice to get as close as you can. The good thing is that you can rewrite a story any number of times until you get the feel you want.

You might also write down a few notes on where you want the story to go and what you want from it, and not let yourself go leaping off in new directions. Those are other stories to tell at a different time.

Mostly, though, just keep writing and pushing through the hard parts without giving up.

Loyd Jenkins said...

Thanks. Small goals, some notes, keep at it.

Just read this quarter's Vision. Glad you are doing better.

I'm taking you workshop assignment. For this year's Nano, I will have a detailed outline for the story.

Zette said...

Good luck getting ready for NaNo. I'm working on my outline as well and hope I have everything done in time!

Loyd Jenkins said...

Wanted to let you know that I am the most ready for Nanowrimo than I ever have been. I have a outline on the scene level, and the first part (out of five) detailed. It is not a phase level, but it will have to do. Thanks for your encouragement and have a good November.