Imagine a spark. This tiny spark, a short moment of brilliance that fades in an instant. Now picture what happens when that insignificant spark touches a piece of combustible matter: the world fucking explodes.
Thus, writing was born. Once upon a time, some dude got a spark caught in his hair, and then his head was on fire; his buddy saw him, had a dark sense of humour and thought to himself, “hey, what if my buddy was actually a monster with a flaming head?” So began the first story about a dragon being killed by a knight in shining armour (I’m betting this asshole wanted to get the hot people in his group to fuck him, so he played the handsome knight….look at him, getting laid because his friend died. Such innovation).
Things aren’t much different today. Sure, the murder bit gets cut out of the creative process most of the time, but all stories start with a spark. Sometimes the writer in question will allow that spark to catch fire; sometimes s/he will not. For our purposes, let’s assume the spark has become an inferno, an obsession that is slowly ruining your life because your brain is now on metaphorical fire 24/7. How do you transfer that blaze to paper?
Well, the first step is to give your messy flame some structure. Practice firebending, an Avatar: The Last Airbender metaphor that roughly translates into outlining. As I explained in my Bob the Builder post last week, outlining may slightly restrict your creativity while writing, but it also alleviates writer’s block, and results in a cleaner rough draft. The next step consists of just…writing. Fanning the flame. Not letting it die on you.
Believe it or not, it takes effort to write a book, and that really burst my bubble when I was writing my rough draft. You see, in the media, or even just reading a book, it seems so effortless. What’s so hard about writing- you sit down , start typing, and voila! A story comes out of your ass, gets bathed in the rainbow of your imagination and then rides off into the sunset on the back of a unicorn. Therefore, when it’s your turn at the wheel…your brain just kind of…explodes into a shower of radioactive sewage. Because it’s fucking hard. And you weren’t expecting this. And holy shit, why is this so hard?
The reasons it’s hard, in my experience is because:
- You lose the magic. That pretty spark that convinced you that this big-ass project might be a good idea. This can happen in one of two ways:
- You overplan everything, so your creativity while writing dwindles into a little fart and cough…and then it completely disappears, resulting in complete and utter boredom, because you already know every little detail that’s going to happen, so what’s the point of writing it down? For other people’s pleasure? No one is that altruistic. Or that masochistic.
- You underplan everything, so your creativity spikes, and then you hit a block with no end in site, so you decide to just wait it out…and while you’re sitting there, twiddling your thumbs and hoping that your imagination will come knocking with a brilliant idea, you slowly, gradually forget about it. Interest is gone. Game over. Another possibility is that you refuse to quit trying, so you write every day regardless of inspiration. Trust me, you will still get tired of struggling to over come all the blocks, and give up in favour of a new story, which you swear you’ll finish.
- You’re just an incredibly lazy person…in which case good luck with pretty much anything. I ended up getting pissed off at my laziness; so, to snap myself out of it, I blackmailed myself with a carbs-free diet if I didn’t write every day. I think it’s pretty clear where my priorities lie.
- A book is super long. You would be inhuman if you could think of writing a 60-90K word manuscript without flinching a little. Ergo, when you begin writing, and the progress is slow because you haven’t developed a skin thick enough to ignore your own horrible prose; you feel discouraged, to say the least. You may or may not stop at this point, depending on how bad your self esteem is, and how stubborn you are.
Given all these challenges, you may be wondering how an unimpressive person such as I managed to actually finish writing a draft. Bear in mind, this tip is going to sound tremendously unhelpful at first: write. Write everyday. Write in different places. Write in different styles. Write online, or with a pen and paper. And when you physically can’t write anymore, read books in your genre, because then you know what the hell you’re getting yourself into. Also, cliches are a thing, and if you read enough books from your genre, you start to notice some very suspicious patterns in relation to character and plot types…You might want to avoid using those patterns; I hear agents and publishers both enjoy originality.
Now, most writers that I’ve met seem to reach a consensus on the perks of setting aside a specific time and place each day to write. I tried that method- it didn’t work for me. I’m a student; my work schedule and travel schedule and study schedule are all over the place. Following are some things that did actually help to keep me on track:
- Deadlines. I set my deadline for October first, and then I told people about my deadline. That way, if I didn’t finish my draft by October first, I would be humiliated.
- Deadlines part 2. I told myself to write five pages/day. It seems like a lot, but I staggered my writing throughout the day, so it didn’t feel so bad.
- Awesome characters. I found that if you like your main character, and truly know him/her inside and out, it makes writing easier, because it’s fun. It feels like hanging out with a friend who just happens to be an animated, rude puppet with an R-rated vocabulary.
- “Voice”. Personally, I find it to be more fun to write if your character has a very pronounced “voice”…might be just because my main character has toxic levels of sarcasm emanating from his soul though. I like sarcastic people- they’re funny.
- Outlining beforehand. I already ranted about this on multiple occasions. Not going to repeat myself again.
- Word count. Basically, ignore the fuck out of your word count. It will stress you out and intimidate you and force you to stop and have a panic attack. Stick with page numbers- less frightening. Besides, once you reach fifty pages, it’s easier on your self esteem.
I hope you enjoyed these tips, and let me know in the comments about your methods for getting through the rough draft!