Just because I found myself dispensing this advice to no less than three friends in the last couple weeks I thought it might make a good blog to review some of the basics of basics in writing. For the people who don’t even know how to start writing that very first page. Or who don’t know how to get past the first 30 pages. Or sixty. Or whatever.
I’ve been writing a novel a year every since I graduated sixth grade so I know how to finish things. I’ve also got two books published and a literary agent so I don’t think I’m necessarily the worst writer in creation either. ;P
So, for those folks who don’t know how to start, or anyone’s who’s stuck and might need a new approach, I present these common sense tips that I actually, personally, from my very own experience, know to work:
1. Set a word or page goal for yourself. Don’t set a time limit.
This is because in my experience, it’s very easy to run out the clock if you impose a time limit (vs. a page goal) like “I will write for two hours.” But then you check facebook and your email and pinterest and…and…before you know it two hours have passed and you haven’t written anything. But if you tell yourself you can’t move your butt out of the chair until you’ve written 1000 words then you are much more likely to produce something.
2. Write every day. Even if all you can squeeze out is 30 words.
The psychological value is immense. “At least I did something.” But, on the other hand, if you skip writing one day it’s so much easier to not write the next day and the next. Before you know it it’s been months, maybe even years since you’ve written anything. The flip side of this coin is “planning” or “researching”. You can spend years planning a book or researching a book and it don’t mean a thing if you don’t actually start writing. So start writing!
Addendum to above: Track how much you’re writing every day.
This is another tool so you don’t end up kidding yourself about how much work you are actually doing. And I only started doing this myself this year. But it’s amazing how motivating it can be. When I realized that there were 15 days last month that I didn’t write I was shocked. Writing is my second job and I took half the month off?!
When you track things and write them down you can’t lie to yourself, and it becomes more imperative for you to actually write. Especially if you’re on a good run. Right now I have almost a perfect two weeks where I haven’t skipped a day. I don’t want to break that streak. True, they haven’t all been great writing days, but those 62 words I wrote on Wednesday are still 62 words of forward momentum.
3. Don’t edit as you write.
This is a bit more of a personal choice thing. Some people can edit their stuff and still be productive writing new stuff. I can’t. If I look back too much I end up polishing and re-writing and my story ends up stalled at 30K words. Just get the first draft out (there are many names for this type of first draft: the vomit draft, the don’t look down draft, the brainspew, etc, etc).
You can fix anything but a blank page.*
Get the words on the page first, worry about making them pretty after that.
All right, and that’s all the advice I got for now. Feel free to chime in on the comments with any of your own helpful strategies. Or questions. Questions are always fun. 😀
*That’s a Nora Roberts quote. She’s a smart lady, and do you know how many books she’s written? It borders on the ridiculous. I suspect she doesn’t sleep.