Top 7 Writing Tips

What it says on the tin aka this month’s WriYe blog topic. I didn’t do last months because it was on balance and hahahahaha I do not have any. Seriously none, zip, nada, no freaking clue. Anyway, I thought I would give this one a stab. I also thought I would try and go for a bit more of the “weird and wacky” rather than the standard. As I read Kandy’s post this morning, which expertly covered everything I would otherwise have said, and I felt like I should at least make an attempt to be different.

So without ado!

Tip #1 – Trackers are your friend
I get down on myself all the time and my brain likes to lie to me. So have some concrete evidence. Now this can go horribly wrong as that evidence can be twisted into a weapon BUT facts are facts. It’s like glass half full, glass half empty, but at least you know for sure how much is inside. So record how many days you write for, record how much you write, go further and time yourself if you’d like. That way when the brain lies and says “you haven’t written in forever and you suck” you can go “nope actually I wrote for 20 days this month” (or whatever the truth is) and that’s better than nothing. Progress may be slower than you’d like, but the progress is still there and it is measurable.

Tip #2 – Don’t fight fate
Kinda ties in with the “track everything” idea, in that patterns will emerge! I know, I super love patterns too. They are very cool except when they are harmful, and I have a pattern that hurts me. Inevitable due to, shall we say life events, I often have a week or so in the month where my head is just not in the game. I get so mad at myself and I’m all “you were doing good, what the hell is wrong with you!?!?” but through tracking I realised the correlation. Now it still irritates the hell out of me but I’m a bit less mad now as I know why. There are things in life we can’t change. If the words aren’t coming, there’s probably a reason for that and that reason might be out of your control. So for instance if you are trying to write and getting frustrated on Sunday’s, then maybe that’s a day you skip. Save yourself the aggro. Less frustration hopefully equals more productivity on days without those issues.

Tip #3 – Write with JOY!
This should probably have been the #1 tip as it’s the most important in my opinion (but I’m writing them down as they come to me). I get mad at myself for “writing the wrong things” as I write fanfic, and that’s not going to get me anywhere. I should write original only, it’s not like I don’t have ideas. But the thing is I ENJOY writing fanfic. In my current fandom I barely have any readers and not going to lie sometimes that bugs me, but not because I want praise – I want community really and people to squee with about what I love – but anyway I digress. I keep writing in that fandom a) because I love it so much, and b) because I ENJOY it. I’m my own audience AND I enjoy the journey to get there. Sure there are days when the writing is like pulling teeth but with fanfic there is less stress, and so generally I enjoy the act of writing. I am sort of almost reading it as I go, and smiling as I watch the story unfold in my head. I still fight with myself constantly that I ‘should’ be doing only original but enjoyment matters. What do we really do things for if not because we enjoy them? Don’t let the world steal your joy.

Tip #4 – Embrace the literary abandon
That’s a paraphrased quote from Chris Baty’s book ‘No Plot? No Problem!’ and I have a NaNo poster on my wall that has a quote “the first step in writing a good book: giving yourself permission to write a bad book”. I didn’t write much in 2020. I signed up to WriYe, got ready to start in January and then promptly had panic attacks every time I opened my documents. I had terrified myself so much with the thought that I would ‘never be good enough’ that I couldn’t even start. There’s another quote I like “you can fix a bad page, you can’t fix a blank page” – basically write something, write anything! You can work on it when it exists, you can do nothing if it doesn’t. So embrace the fact that it’s probably going to be shit and do it anyway. I know far easier said than done, and I do sympathise, but it’s the only way. Just write.

Tip #5 – Always have writing tools to hand
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I’ll remember that” because you really won’t. If you get a snippet of dialogue when you are half-asleep in the morning, write that down because by the time you’ve done the normal morning routine and sat at the desk to write – yup you guessed it, it’ll be gone. Whether it’s pen and notebook, a phone, a tablet, the corner of a napkin, the back of an old envelope, post-it notes – it doesn’t matter! Just, if you get an idea, WRITE IT DOWN. If something is flowing, let it flow, and just record it for later. I wrote 2 scenes on my phone the other morning because they just popped into my head and it was before 7am and I was doing the morning chores. I love that feelings when words bubble up. It doesn’t happen often so make best use of it when it does. WRITE IT DOWN!

Tip #6 – Roll with the punches
Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition and life will throw curveballs. This year right, April didn’t go exactly as I wanted so I made plans for May, June and July accordingly. Broad strokes my intent was I would finish up the novel I started in April during May, and then have June to plan the next novel I would start in July. However, May didn’t start off that great and then life threw a curveball. Mum’s PC broke and it was her busiest time of year so she needed it for work. I gave her mine and I was without a PC for three weeks. I found I couldn’t work on my novel on the tablet as I like to have all my planning documents open, and it was just not workable. So I wound up starting a lot of fanfics and I like to finish what I start. That meant I didn’t finish the April novel, didn’t plan another one, and then definitely wasn’t ready to start a new one in July. I got upset about this change in plans, very down on myself because I felt like I’d broken a promise I guess. I had my plan and I’d failed. But the thing is life happens, and I promise you as someone that does this all the time, the more angry you get with yourself, the less you’ll actually do. So don’t get mad, just roll with it, adjust accordingly and keep on trucking. It might take a little longer with the road being all windy, but you’ll still get there.

I said above that I like to do that but here’s why it’s important. First there’s the obvious feeling of satisfaction and that’s the reason for finishing fanfics. However, the most important reason for original work is so you can learn stuff. Repetition by itself is actually not the best teacher. I joke sometimes that my “university of writing” was a novel called Perfidy. I wrote that, ripped it apart in revision and rewrote it, about half a dozen times. I learned a lot from the revision part. Now I know a lot of people groan and hate ‘editing’ but editing is not the same as revision (this is a pet peeve of mine). Editing is grammar and punctuation and pretty word choices. Revision is the guts of the story, the plot and the characterisation and making sure the story makes sense. Always revise before you edit because there’s no point in polishing something you’re going to toss, but I’m getting off topic again. You can’t revise something effectively that is only half-written because you can’t see the big picture. You need to see the entire story from beginning to end to get an accurate read on what works and what doesn’t. If you try and fix it as you go, then it’ll be covered in band-aids and probably still fall to bits. Write the whole story, and then fix it. Trust me it’s a more efficient use of time and it’s a great learning exercise. Even if, as in the case of Perfidy, you wind up tossing the entire manuscript more than once and starting from scratch. Sure there’s despair but hey I learned a way not to write a novel. There’s that lightbulb quote “I didn’t fail, I just learned 1000 ways it didn’t work”. You won’t know what works, and what doesn’t, until you finish the damn thing.

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