In my last post, dear readers, I wrote how ideas come to me in the middle of the night and squawked about JUICINESS, CULTIVATION and RESEARCH. Now I will discuss writing habits and how its good to have them to keep you going when the book starts getting tough to write and you think its worth nothing more than to be used as your next roll of toilet paper.
#1 Read what you want to write
You can’t write well if you don’t read. Reading books teaches you how to write. Sit down and take your favorite books and dissect why they are your favorite books and identify the themes of that book. If your having troubles, look up the book on TVTropes. Learn to read and watch with a critical eye.
#2 Read what you won’t write
Or less catchy: Read outside of your genre, you’ll be surprised with the kinds of things you’ll get into given that you have an open mind about it. I found a lot of new authors and ideas I wouldn’t have found if I did not try.
#3 Write every single day or most days
Try to write consistently, preferably at the same time every day. I write in the evenings, with headphones on after homework is done. Practice writing everything. Practice often. Practice, practice, practice. Nobody starts out perfect, everybody starts out as a shitty writer, you get better if you keep practicing. Don’t stop writing.
The age old adage is true: If you really want to do something, you will find the time to do it.
#4 Don’t believe in writers block
I don’t believe in writers block. I think its an excuse wrapped up into a convenient package for people to whine and complain about how they’re not getting any writing done. If you’re serious about writing: treat it like you would a job. Show up, write it down, do it. Your ‘muse’, kah, genius, inner self is not a fleeting precious thing to choose a time when you should write when you’re in the mood. Don’t feel pressured thinking that all the genius words comes from you, it might drive you to drink.
So keep showing up and doing the work. It adds up over time. Treat it like a job and not just a fanciful fleeting art. You might go down the tangled thorny path of a Speshul Snowflake.
#5 Find out what works for you and change it when you need to
Basically: Be flexible. Try everything that sounds like a good idea to you. If you feel like you would do better another way, go with your gut and if it doesn’t work at least you know what not to do next time. If you’re the type like I am that changes their approach to a book depending on the project then thats alright. I have done both pantsing and full detailed outling. All methods of approaching a book are valid, don’t let anybody tell you that the way you write a book is the inferior way.
I will also put: Read what other people say about writing with a grain of salt. Keep fresh batteries in the bullshit detector. Every writer takes to writing differently. With how awesome the internet is (really, I wish I could live in it) and how much free great advice there is out there, personally I don’t see the need to spend large amounts of money to go to workshops to learn how to write. Since I analyze what I read and watch with a critical eye, I learn what makes a story click.
#6 Keep a pen and paper on you at all times
Ideas hit me all the time, everywhere I can be and the worst thing in the world is to come up with a fabulous idea and not write it down and forget about it. The more creative stuff you do, the more ideas you have.
#7 Do not delete your words, back up your work
Copy+Paste them into a new document+save and place into a new shiny folder called: Graveyard. You will be eternally grateful for doing this and amazed that the turn of phrase you really liked in the last book fits perfectly in the next book or later in revisions. Back up your work monthly. Do not stick all your eggs in one basket. I have an online storage place, my email and a flash drive that holds copies of my books and WIPs.
#8 Keep challenging yourself and revise
After you get a chunk of text out, let it sit for a while and work something else. Look over your work and dtermine how you can make it better. A stronger turn of phrase? Got some purple prose? It happens to the best of us. Learning how to edit well is the difference between the casual writer and someone who has a fighting chance at getting published. Its a lot more than just spell checking.
Next week I will discuss the nitty gritty about how I go about the drafts, tips and tricks I use to make notes in the text and explain how many phases I go through before I think a book is complete. For non-writers, you’ll definitely see how long the process is from an idea in one’s head to a finished and polished book ready for the perusal of others.
Until then, I go back into the depths of my own zero draft of this Zombie novel.