I understand. I really do. I think most writers here know that pain as well. It’s hard to be a writer. It’s hard to write. It’s that voice in the back of your head going: “You’re not good enough”, or that other one going: “You’re too inexperienced, you’ll miss something important. Wait for the perfect moment.”
But listen to this:
You cannot wait.
Really, you just cannot wait. I imagine most of you wish to be writers one day. That’s wrong. If you write, you are a writer now. Most people say that they want to begin, but blame their confidence. Other somehow imagine they’ll read themselves buff before starting, or that they’re waiting for that perfect moment.
Others wait for inspiration.
And it’s crucially important that you never fall into this hole. That you never ever say that you wish to become a writer, instead of starting right now. That you never wait for this inspiration, or that perfect moment, or some muse that’ll inspire you.
Inspiration is the deadliest thing. It’ll kill you. It’s horrible, because there are two sneaky ways of writing. Everyday-writing, and inspirational-writing. Think of it like two progress bars: first one is empty, you’ve got nothing in it. Second one though, is half full.
When inspiration hits you, you’ll write like a god. It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done. You’ll want to show your friends. You’ll become the next Hemingway or Salinger. You’ll fall into the trap. You’ll wait for that moment to come again, to carry you. It won’t.
Then you have the everyday-writing. It’ll be dull, difficult, horrible sometimes. But this is the real you. This is how good you are at writing. This is your progress bar, and guess what? It’s empty. When asked how good you are, this is what you have to show.
But see, your goal should be to make your everyday-writing as good (or better eventually) as your inspirational-writing. That’s why everybody is telling you to start writing everyday. That’s why you’ll never be a published author unless you do so.
Perhaps you’re just starting out with your first novel. Maybe it’s your third and you’re struggling to meet a deadline. All of us, at some stage, need to regroup, reconnect and refocus on our writing projects. To make it a little bit easier, here are five approaches that can speed up the process.
- Writer’s Card. Write down your goals. Do this even if you’ve written them down before. It may be a good idea to write it down on an index or post card so that it’s portable—that way you can keep it in your bag, as a bookmark, or pin it to the fridge. This will be a daily reminder of your writing goals. Try to make them as realistic as possible, even if it’s a page or paragraph a day.
- Claim a Corner. Virginia Woolf said a woman needed a room of her own if she was to write fiction. A study or library of one’s own—male or female, fiction or non-fiction—is great. But all you really need is a corner of your own: a little dedicated patch somewhere in the house to keep your laptop, pencils, and notepads. Keep all your stuff in one place and it will be easier to reconnect with your project every day.
- Favourite’s Shelf. Sometimes we forget why we started reading and writing in the first place. Make a shelf of just your favourite books—look at your list of Top 26 Books in Writers Write. They can be novels, non-fiction books, children’s books or books on writing. It doesn’t matter as long as they serve as a tangible reminder of a long-held dream.
- Time Away. Once a week, take yourself out to a coffee shop, a bookshop with a reading nook or even a quiet park or garden. For at least an hour, immerse yourself in a reading or writing project—it could be free writing in your journal or catching up on a novel you’ve been dying to read. By immersing yourself in a quiet place and a single project, you will teach yourself to focus.
- Creative Fuel. Every artist or writer needs support from other creative souls. They share our energy—and feed our creativity. Another writer understands the little triumphs and the major disappointments. You may want to join a writing club or circle, go to an author evening or book signing to meet other writers, or simply go for a coffee with another writer. The race is always easier when there’s a voice on the grandstand shouting your name.
by Anthony Ehlers for Writers Write
superpowers ➽ fire manipulation
users can excite or speed up an object’s atoms, increasing their thermal energy making it ignite, not necessarily objects, but also air particles. they can control and move the flames, including the shape, heat and even color; that said, pretty much everything with this power comes down to: burning. this is very aggressive power as well as one of the strongest, allowing several powerful attacks, but it is some ways the most vulnerable as well, given than fire doesn’t exist in itself and needs other elements.
Muse can be a fickle thing, and none more so than a writer’s. Inspiration can come from anywhere and dwindle away before you even realize it. Are you looking to pen the next great novel? Well, here…
Some friendly help on finding inspiration from our editors over at illusio & baqer—click to find out some suggestions on where to look when you’ve hit a writing slump.
The first time I participated in Nanowrimo I was a freshmen in High School and had never completed a novel in my life. I had written a few short stories and thirty-thousand words of nonsense but Nano was the first time I was sitting down with a goal: to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Too bad it was the wrong goal to have.
Whether this is your first or seventh time competing in Nano your goal should be to close November, not with a finished manuscript, but as a better writer. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t get there by just writing every day. You also need to spend November reading and deconstructing published works.
This means picking a book and not just reading but noticing how the sentences and chapters are structured. Notice the pace of the plot and dialogue and how the characters develop (or stay the same) throughout the novel. Notice how the author crafts their world, how they play up the rules of their genre or how they break them. Notice how the tone shifts and how certain words make you feel. Then take everything you’ve learned and apply it to your own writing.
When I was in college one of the exercises I was assigned was to read a book and then mimic the author’s style of writing. It was frustrating, especially when dealing with a style I didn’t particularly like (wordy Virginia Woolf anyone?), but there’s no denying that at the end of the course I was a much better writer; because mimicking another author’s style means inspecting their work with a magnifying glass and picking up on things that you never would’ve learned otherwise.
And that’s my challenge for you, fellow Nano-ers. To pick up a book this November and try to learn something from that author while you’re speeding towards 50k.
Ricky Gervais shares a story about an early creative turning point that forever informed the way he writes and works. It has to do with a teacher, a cheeky kid who maybe watched too much TV, an elderly neighbor and an unexpected creative lesson. Of course, it being Ricky Gervais, he delivers the story with some inimitable extras. Watch it here.
Neil Gaiman’s Advice To Aspiring Writers
- "If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not “inspired.” … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written."
- “The process of writing can be magical — there times when you step out of an upper-floor window and you just walk across thin air, and it’s absolute and utter happiness. Mostly, it’s a process of putting one word after another.”
- “You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
- “If you like fantasy and you want to be the next Tolkien, don’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies — Tolkien didn’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies, he read books on Finnish philology. Go and read outside of your comfort zone, go and learn stuff.”
- “Tell your story. Don’t try and tell the stories that other people can tell. Because [as a] starting writer, you always start out with other people’s voices — you’ve been reading other people for years… But, as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.”
Last year I had occasion to read a batch of ten page manuscript submissions in a hurry, one right after the other. What I noticed was startling in its consistency.
All of the writers had clearly spent time learning their craft. All of them had something to say. And all of them, by meticulously following what they’d been taught, had rendered their stories mute in the exact same way.
It was heartbreaking, given the talent in the room.
So, using this as a cautionary tale, let’s take a look at the three seemingly common sense rules they diligently followed, and explore why the result was the definition of irony: rather than hooking the reader, they locked the reader out.
The rules are:
- Start with a bang, leap into action.
- Give us specific details, especially sensory details, to bring the story to life.
- Hint at crucial information, but don’t reveal it right away, the better to lure the reader in.
So what was the problem?