01 Mar

How do you write?

Banner - Fountain PenHow do you write? Not now and then. Not because someone forces you to. How do you write, as often, and as productively, as you would like?

Fun, plain and simple.

Removing the “must” part from “I must write,” turning it into a simple “I write.”

For me, fun is what made that happen. No pressure, no self-recrimination, no “the world should be this way, and I should be that way with it.” Just plain fun.

I doodled. I world-built. I threw down stories in a single sitting, and I removed all the boring, difficult, stressful parts.

Editing? I don’t edit. Rewriting? Gone. Outlining? Why on earth for.

I write, because that’s what I find enjoyable. Everything else, I’ve tossed by the wayside.

The effects of this are threefold:

  1. I write. As in “I don’t procrastinate.” (Well, I do, but that usually means that I’ve got a plot problem that my subconscious hasn’t figured out yet, so I write something else and come back to that story later.) I like sitting down to write, so I do it.
  2. I write a lot. Both as in BICHOK which boosts my productivity and that I’m actually a lot faster because I don’t waste time on the slow, difficult, boring parts. Last year was slow, due to RL issues. I only wrote 85k words. Year before that was 225k. This year (in November 2020) is 194k so far.
  3. I sell. As in 44 seven stories sold over the past four years, 30 of which to pro-paying magazines. (I don’t really sub to semi-pros or fanzines, only a handful that are on my shortlist of places I like and then only occasionally.)

Two things helped me get to this point:

  1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Great book on finding the courage and will to write.
  2. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith. Great book on being a pantser and writing intuitively.

Will this solution work for everyone? No. It works for me, because that’s how my brain works, with my training, and my memories and experiences.

I have writing friends who abhor the “putting words on paper” part. They do a crap draft and then spend time editing, which is what they like and how their brain works.

I have other writing friends who outline heavily, finishing their novels in their heads before they even put a finger on their keyboards. That works for them. Both categories have successful (as in long-term selling) writers in them.

The key is to try lots of variations, and figure out what works for you. Maybe you’re not the routine type of writer. Maybe you’re a burst writer, who, when the conditions are right, can cram out a 100k words novel in three days (like Michael Moorcock – go read the interviews on his novel-in-a-weekend method). Or maybe you’re an inspiration writer, one who needs lots of input, until everything is flowing over and then can write.

Whichever method you find yourself gravitating towards, remember that there is no wrong way, there is only what works, and what doesn’t. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you, or anyone else. Your job as a writer is to find what works for you.

You do this by:

  1. Reading (listening to, watching, etc.) a lot of books on craft.
  2. Trying the different methods. Not just for a single day, but for a couple of days. You need to get over humanity’s ingrained resistance to change in order to give a method a decent evaluation. Nothing will work at first, unless it’s very close to what you’re doing right now. You need to practice it enough to see how well it works for you.
  3. Changing. Change the way you write. Change the where you write. Change the how and on what you write. Some writer friends produce the best when they’re in a coffee shop, or a library, or writing by hand in an un-lined notebook. Don’t get into a rut, or choose a method and stick with it come hell and high water. Try different things even when you’ve got something that works, because you never know when you’ll stumble upon something that works better. Or fusion a new method into your old, creating something uniquely yours.

But first and foremost, you need to to two things:

  1. Discard the notion that there is a right way to write.
  2. Overcome your fear. Of change. Of writing in a wrong way. Of trying something new. Everyone’s afraid. It’s how you handle that fear, and whether you acknowledge it, that decides how you will proceed, and how far.

And last but definitely not least, acknowledge that in any pursuit that’s at least partially dependent on chance, like writing, or submitting, or finding the right inspiration, method, mentors, or mindset, there will always be an element of luck.

Your job is to minimize that luck by trying, and trying, and trying again.

Never give up. Now go try.

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