On Writing

No, this is not a review of Stephen King’s book (though that’s coming, once I’m done reading it).  I merely wanted to write something about writing and most post titles on my blog begins with ‘On’.  Not much you can do with that.  Maybe I should start thinking up more creative post titles…

But what I wanted to say is, writing is hard.  I was told when I started out that it took discipline and perseverance, and that I must develop a thick skin to deal with critique, criticism and rejection, and that it’s a lonely road, and that success isn’t guaranteed, but no one actually said it’s hard.  Even if you enjoy it, it’s hard.

I finally finished the second chapter of my novel yesterday.  In fact, I wrote most of it yesterday.  I had started with it in the middle of February.  Many days passed when I wrote not a single word; when I did not even open the file on my computer.  In spite of everyone who’s anyone in the writing business saying “Write every day.”  I didn’t.  It’s hard.  (If you haven’t guessed it yet, that’s the main reason this blog is also so very sporadic.)  I could blame it on my studies, but that would be a lie.  Because in truth I don’t have the discipline.  I’ve always been able to achieve exceptional results with minimum input.  Writing doesn’t work that way.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy writing, and I would love for it to become my career, but anyone considering it, know:  it’s hard work.  You’re not going to go sit behind the keyboard and in a few weeks chug out a bestseller that will make publishers and agents break down your door (okay, okay, there are people like that, but we don’t talk about them…they’ve probably been body-snatched by aliens).  If you’re anything like me, you could write a measly 300 words in a few weeks and you’ll probably end up deleting them because they’re total rubbish.  You’re going to spend days agonising over a character’s name and then take the easy way out and not use the character.  You’re going to need help.  Or maybe not…’cause you’re an alien.

If you are in an area with a writer’s group, I sure that can be a huge help.  But that involves sharing your work with others (the horror) and getting feedback (…), so that might not be your cup of tea.  You should read a lot (mr King specifically says if you don’t read you’ve no business writing), both good fiction and books/blogs about writing, and at least learn the difference between a noun and a verb so you can avoid using adverbs and adjectives (wait…that doesn’t sound right…).  And all these are very useful, but two things stand out for me above all else.  One I had actually been taught about at a writing course last year and have seen it repeated in many writing blogs and books.  The other I saw mentioned in a blog and decided to give it a try.

First, use dialogue.  A lot of it.  I wrote 2000 words yesterday.  Effortlessly.  More than three-quarters of it was dialogue.  Most my second chapter is dialogue.  I think it’s much better than the first.  Sure, here and there I noticed repetition of phrases, or struggled with attribution, but overall it was fun.  There was drama and conflict and emotion, and I think quite a lot was revealed about some of the characters and their relationships.  I’m happy enough with it to sign it off for now and carry on with the next chapter.

See, we talk every day.  We listen to people every day.  (That is, unless you’re a recluse or have taken a vow of silence for religious reasons.)  Let your characters do the same.  Let them talk.  Let them react.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly the pages fill up and how the characters come alive.

The second is an egg-timer.  No, this is not some exclusive writer-slang (they apparently only let you into the club where you learn that once you’re published), I’m talking about that thing shaped like a little alarm clock (or an egg, mine’s green) on the counter next to your stove.  (Not the ones that are little hourglasses, as they only run for three minutes at a time and don’t go ‘ding’ when they’re done.)  If you don’t have one, get one.  If you’re an undisciplined soul like me, I cannot suggest a better writing aid.

I set mine for 45 minutes at a time.  During that time I don’t allow myself to go on-line (even for ‘research’), my phone is on silent and I’m not allowed to leave my seat.  I must write, or stare at the screen.  It’s boring staring at a screen with nothing on it, so I write.  And as I write it turns into a race against the clock.  I have to finish this scene before the egg goes ‘ding’.  The ‘tick-tick-tick’ of the timer taunts me and I produce, because I can’t let a green plastic egg get the better of me.  That’s how I got 2000 words done in one day, in between doing the dishes, two loads of laundry and catching an episode of Mythbusters (they rock!).  I’m using it when I study as well.  It gives structure and routine to my day and it works.  Get one.

I hope you find this helpful.  Happy writing.

(By the way, did you notice the insane amount of brackets I used in this post?  I wonder if it says anything about my personality (not that I believe in that hokum (probably invented by the aliens (pretty sure Freud was one of them)))))))))) (did I put enough at the end?)

2 thoughts on “On Writing

  1. Fantastic post! You’re right, we think writing should be easy, whether it’s a blog post, short story or a novel it is like some kind of myth that appeared from think air. So if we are finding it difficult we think well, I must not have what it takes because I am not instantly brilliant, lol, or at least I feel that way often. Of course In reality it is anything but easy and like most things you really have to work at it.

    I’m loving the egg timer idea, I might have to try that. 🙂

    P.S. I’m pro brackets.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Maybe writing is not so much hard work as discipline. As everyone keeps on saying, you’ve got to do it every day. Even when you feel like doing something else. That’s the bit I’m struggling with most. (I’m glad I’m not the only one (still doesn’t rule out the possibility that we’re both insane, though))

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