Ten Things I’ve Learned About Writing

POSTER10thingsi'velearnedaboutwriting

1.   Form a Habit (It’s easier with a routine). Distractions are everywhere. There is always something else to do, somebody you need to talk to, somewhere you need to go. Finding time for writing can be difficult. So it is important to set aside some time on a regular basis. Write everyday (or, at least, as often as you can). Get up early, go to bed late, set aside your lunch hour. Regularly setting aside some time to write can help you to more easily ‘enter the zone’, pick up where you last left off, and more effectively progress to a completed manuscript. It also helps to find a dedicated writing space, if you can.

2.   Reading is Important. Reading helps to expose you to new styles, ideas, inspirations, writers, characters, images, motivations (and motives), descriptions, and more. It keeps your writing and your mind fresh, inspired, and is a good way to relax/de-stress. Read a range of different books, in different styles, by different authors. Read as many books in the genres you are writing as you can find. Then read something completely different. Reading is absolutely necessary for good writing. But even if it wasn’t, it’s a great idea.

3.   Don’t Edit while you Write. Or, as my Creative Writing tutor used to say “Wear different hats”. This is so hard to do if you’re used to editing as you go along. If it works for you, then go ahead and skip to the next point. If you’re like me, the separation of writing and editing into two distinct stages – though difficult – is a much better way to write and benefits the overall story. For example: don’t worry about perfecting your last sentence, just get it written. You’ll come back to edit it later. All that matters at this stage is the general gist, and getting that first draft onto paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s for the edit. As screenwriter Tony Grounds once said, “Don’t get it right, get it writ.  And then worry about getting it right.”

4.   Everything Counts (Never throw anything away). Editing (or redrafting) your work is bound to result in passages that you feel are best filed under ‘Recycle Bin’. However, it’s worth keeping these passages in a ‘scrapbook’ or ‘archive’ folder for future reference. That the passage doesn’t work for your current project doesn’t mean that you might not be able to use it with/in a future project. Perhaps you’ll never use it. Perhaps it will inspire a new work all of its own. Either way, you’ll never know if you just delete it.

5.  Be Enthusiastic about your Writing. It’s always a boost to get a positive reaction, or review, from someone after showing them a project you’ve been working on. Negative comments however can have the opposite effect. Not everybody will like your story. Not everyone likes the same things, after all. Just because Mandy Smith happens to enjoy reading zombie period drama doesn’t mean that Mitchell Shaw will like it as well. In the same way, Mandy Smith may not like the sci-fi pirate romance novels that Mitchell Shaw likes. It doesn’t matter. At this point, all that counts is that you enjoy the story you are writing. Your enthusiasm and interest in your work, and your enjoyment while you are writing, will shine through in your work and make for a better overall story than something you are yourself quite bored with.

6.   Carry a Notepad and Pen.  Better yet – also carry a dictaphone, or other digital voice recorder (most phones/tablets have this as an option). You never know when inspiration will strike. And it’s far less embarrassing to explain a notepad with scribbles on it than pen or eyeliner words scrawled all over your body (trust me on that).

7.   Take a Break. Don’t forget to take some time to relax – give your brain and eyes a rest, and go outside for an hour or two. Maybe take a walk, or go for a run, etc. Do something you enjoy. If you feel better your writing will also benefit.

8.   A Support Network is Really Useful. Writing can be a solitary affair, so it helps to have people around you who understand – or, at least, support – you in your creative quest. If friends or family aren’t right to talk to about your writing, then maybe find a local writing group. Or an online one. Or even just one fellow writer you connect with. Not only can these people offer you encouragement and support, but they can also provide helpful feedback on your work.

9.   Always Back-Up Your Work. Fairly self-explanatory, but very important. Ensure you don’t lose your writing by keeping it safe.

10. One Section at a Time. The prospect of writing a story can be daunting, particularly if you are unsure about the direction you want your story to take (or if your characters are rebelling against your carefully planned plot). I’ve found that breaking the story into smaller sections, or segments, can help to ease the pressure of writing. Tackle one small, manageable chunk at a time.

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6 thoughts on “Ten Things I’ve Learned About Writing

  1. Seriously true. I like the common sense approach. I especially believe in the everyday motto. If you’re crunched for time, write a single paragraph, do a little research on your piece, or work on the outline. Eventually it all gets done.

    Even when I’m on vacation, I’m on the look out for material: pamphlets, articles, weird characters, strange isms, local ledgends, raw data…etc.

    I don’t understand people who say they wrote a novel in one month or a hundred pages in one day. That’s got to be a load of crap. Sorry nano writers. I just don’t see the benifits.

    1. I’m the same – I’m always working on my writing, whether I’m at my desk or not. It’s fun to look back at all of the noted ideas every now and then – some I probably won’t ever use, but some are quite exciting to think about! Sometimes I make notes of other, more random bits as well – snippets of dialogue, things, same as you. They can be quite funny to read back on also.

      I’m a nano writer – but I agree with you about the quality of writing over just the one month. I’d be mortified if anybody ever read my nano drafts! I don’t see the point in spending all of that time writing if it’s something I’m not particularly interested in though – so the planning and editing stages are hugely important for me, that’s when the novel really takes shape. The writing month is just about getting the basics down.

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

    1. I can relate. It took me such a long time to stop editing as I went along – correcting at the same time as writing. I’m afraid there’s no easy ‘do this and hey presto’ method though, or if there is then I am not aware of it. No particular way to tell that perfectionist part of yourself to take the day off. It’s more a ‘trial and error’, and then repeat until routine type of thing. Keep practicing really, and it should become automatic (more or less). That is so much easier said than done, but – eventually – it does work. If it helps – break your writing down into smaller sections, and write and then separately edit those sections. Ie finish writing one chapter, then edit it before moving on to the next one. It’s sort of a middle step that might help ease the way.

      The other thing to try is different ways to ensure you are regularly motivated to write – so that it is easy to get straight into the ‘writing’ part of your story whenever you sit down to continue it. Somebody once suggested to me that whenever you finish a writing session, leave the final sentence unfinished – that way it’s easier to pick up and get straight back into what you were writing at your next session. It’s a good idea.

      Editing later, separately to the writing part, does provide you with a different perspective when you come back to read through your work. You get to see a rougher, less polished initial draft than you would have if you had amended bits as you went along. At the same time, it might show/give you a slightly different interpretation of your story than you would have had if you had already edited it. It’s great looking back at early drafts and finding bits you remember not liking at all when you wrote them, but absolutely loving them now that you have come back!

      I came across this (below) blog post earlier while looking around for some more tips – there’s some really good ideas on there that might be worth trying too.

      http://www.publicationcoach.com/7-ways-to-stop-editing-while-you-write/

      I hope this helps – let me know how you get on!

      Emma 🙂

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