January 27, 2020

I responded to a question about writing and motivation…you know, I can hear you giggling from here. Pay attention.

Anyway, if you’re interested in starting a story of your own, here’s a few things I’ve encountered:

Being an author ain’t easy. The first thing to know is that you have a limited amount of willpower available. Seriously, your brain runs out of willpower energy after some time. Don’t be afraid to take a break and walk around the block. Find your own schedule when your willpower is at its strongest (early AM for me for example) and be ready to get to work on that schedule.

At first, it’ll be a hard habit to form. But it gets easier as you go, just like exercising your will power. It’ll be hard at first, like everything else. You’re forming a new habit and it’ll get easier in time.

Keep a notebook or similar nearby. Take notes on story ideas that pop into your head whenever. You’ll forget about great ideas otherwise. Trust me on this.

Develop your world as far as you can. Why are things one way and not another? Your readers might not need to know why there’s always Salisbury Steak served on Tuesday, but if you know the background of that decision, it makes living with it (and working around it) much more natural feeling (which equates to easier).

Research writing! There are a lot of good and not-so-good books out there that focus on writing. Read what you want, decide which rules you want to follow and which rules you want to break. Pay attention to things like outlining vs. freebooting, and methods like The Snowflake. I would recommend having a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on hand. While you can tell your story in any way that you like, there are technical rules that most people need to follow. I’d also recommend On Writing by Stephen King. If nothing else, you’ll learn about the time his babysitter sat on his face. Seriously.

Get used to research, your work will have a more authentic feel to it. You don’t need to data-dump in your story (please don’t) but it’s like developing your world. The more you know about the pocket universe you’re creating, the better.

As you press on with your story, be prepared to learn more about yourself than you might be comfortable with. Know that however good it looks now, there are always more edits and rewrites. You’ll be surprised at how much you learn, even between the beginning and ending of a single work. Don’t rewrite endlessly however, that way lies madness. Just be prepared for the fact that everything you write will be better than the last thing you wrote.

The mental/spiritual side of writing is hard. You will probably suck at first but it’s not important. Everyone sucks at first, keep going. You will be self-conscious in new and exciting ways. Letting others read your work is like sending a defenseless child out into the world. Prepare your word baby as best you can so that it can thrive.

Beware, metaphors ahead: Don’t be alarmed when your main character starts talking back to you. It means you’re doing the right thing. Listen to what they’re telling you because they’ve got a better sense of your story than you might have. They’re in the middle of it after all.

Quick personal story for the last point. When I was writing my first novel, I had to characters named Steel Eye and Petra that were supposed to begin a sub-plot affair. I could not force them into it somehow. Their beginning dialogue always went off into the weeds and I kept putting it off and putting it off. Finally, one night at about three AM, I woke up realizing that Steel Eye was gay, Petra was more of a sister and anyway, she preferred someone else.

Do NOT call your significant other, three states away, at three in the morning to relate any breakthroughs you’ve had dealing with imaginary people. It’s things like this that eventually make people single in middle age.

Writin’ ain’t easy, so cover that blank page with words like it owes you money.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s