Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writing tips, because I apparently do not suck ;-)

It's been pointed out to me recently that I write rather a lot, in the 'many words in a short time' sense. At the same time, others have pointed out that the stuff that I write is actually relatively good from a grammar / spelling / typo point of view. (Thanks to fellow author Maynely a Mystery and editor Kate Richards respectively for the compliments!) The second means I'm not just getting hypergraphia of the keyboard in the first, and Maynely asked for a few tips, and I realized that there ARE some things I've picked up, so here goes...

A quick note before I start - these are in no particular order. There is no 'Silver Bullet'. Every person who sets out to write has challenges; any of these tips may overcome any particular challenge, or none of them may overcome the particular challenge you're facing at the moment. tl;dr, ymmv. Some I've come up with on my own, some I've distilled from others, some I've stolen entire.

- In the words of Mr. Spann, 'perfection is something made up to scare people'. Don't be intimidated. If you can't find the perfect word, put some wrong ones on the page. If the ideas behind them are good, those ideas will shine through anyway. I can't count the number of pages where I was disappointed by some prose, but other people were wowed.

- Writing every day makes your word count go up. I found out during NaNoWriMo that my average word count per hour goes up drastically when I'm writing every day. Instead of spending time fooling about, I put words on the page. OK, I still fool about, but the fool about to writing ratio gets better.

- Distractions are fine as long as you keep getting back to the writing. Sitting down with NO distractions might be an interesting idea, but it's both hard to manage and if you're not 'in the zone' leave you nothing to spark your creativity. Have some toys nearby, electronic or otherwise. Try to avoid mentally intensive chores, but physical ones are ok unless they're all-day, no-break items. Laundry is good if you use machines. Type 30 minutes, cycle laundry, rinse and repeat.

- Avoid physical writing distractions. I'm working with a very sticky keyboard right now, and it's dropping my writing speed by about 25-45%. Mostly due to the space bar requiring a serious MASH to detect a space bar stroke. Any type of ergonomic or physical distraction needs to GO.

- Plot things out beforehand. My fellow NaNo writers tend to sit down and write. Because of that, they have NO idea where their plots are going, which means they write themselves into corners. A lot. They complain of writer's block. A lot. And they can't get started. A lot. You don't even really need anything formal. I was reading this fabulous interview with Ted Chiang today, and I work similarly to the way he does; I have all the key scenes in my head before I start. If you have those, it's just a matter of hooking them together. Note that key scenes are typically big, important, 'if the movie doesn't have this the fans will riot' scenes. They aren't usually deathless prose, because the ideas in them are so strong.

- Practice active writing meditation with multimedia support. OK, that sounds like marketing jargon, but it's not. When you can't be writing because, say, your hands are full of a car steering wheel, but you aren't mentally engaged because, say, you drive this route every day five days a week, think about your story. Those key scenes? Play them in that little mental movie theater. Same with good dialogue. Same with plotlines. Workouts are another great time for this. The 'multimedia' part is simple; get music that puts you in the right mood for the story and play it while pondering, then play it when you sit down to write. It will help you get back in the same head space as you were when all those good ideas came to you.

OK, that's about it for now. I've got to get the kids to bed, work out and get some more words on the page tonight (possible marathon tonight / tomorrow). Hope some or all of this helps!

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