Outline, outline, outline with some pantsing
I’ve attempted to begin writing at many points throughout my life but found myself giving up after ‘something magical’ didn’t happen whenever I stared at a blank piece of paper. As I have to do in my job, I need outlines. That’s been a super helpful thing that I’ve learned about myself over the last seven years in my comms / PR job.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that I restrain myself to the outlines, I can still let magic happen. There are chapters in my novel, the Camp, that came out of nowhere that I think are the strongest parts of the book. There’s a need, for me, to outline each part of my story but I let my fingers type what they want once I get going.
Writing vs re-writing
For my first draft, I use the Scrivener app on my iPad. I find it very easy to use, free of clutter, so that I can quickly add in ‘scenes’ and other elements before bashing the keyboard to get the first draft done.
Once I’ve done the first draft, I’ll let it sit for a long while. I fill this time with reading and writing/editing other stories. I need to give it space so that when I come to read it again, I have more of an objective view.
I use Word for my rewrites. Since onedrive is super awesome, I find that I can easily edit a few sentences here and there when I have a few spare seconds on my phone and then do a deeper edit on my iPad. I always use track changes and each edit is a sea of red but that’s only natural, right?!
Writing a first draft is one of the best feelings I’ve felt. I feel as if I am on fire and everything is possible. I have such fun. If writing is heaven, rewriting is hell. There is noting worse than feeling great about your first draft only to revisit it and see it for the crumbling mess that it really is. That being said, I like taking a chisel to it and fixing it. Writing really is more about rewriting.
It always happens when I can’t write it down
My ideas always, without fail, strike me when I’m far away from my note-taking device (phone). I get a large amount of my ideas in the shower for some reason and have to do my best to remember them so I can jot them down as quickly as I can before it escapes, usually in my notes app. An idea hasn’t ever struck me when I’ve willed it to.
The wisdom of Bradbury
Ray Bradbury, the greatest scribe of short stories ever and one of my favourite authors, didn’t invent the technique I sometimes use but when he wrote about how much success he had with word association exercises, I thought I’d give it a go. It works. It’s awesome.
Each day, I scribble down a bunch of random words or sentences that just pop into my head and review them, seeing if any catch my eye. If something does, I’ll mull it over for a few days then an idea might be born of it. Two of the four things I’m writing right now started this way.
Word association exercises are also super useful if I’m stuck when writing. I highly recommend it.
Time is an issue, as it is for everyone. I simply don’t have the time to write every day. I find I work better, and harder, when I can allot myself time every second day. I’ll use the other evenings to read. I don’t get myself caught up in word count targets as I don’t want to put myself under pressure but I can usually get 13,000 words done per week like this. I’ll never be able to do something like NaNoWriMo but that’s okay.
I need a huge mug of strong coffee before I start writing. It’s not surprising as that’s also what I need when I work.
As John Irving, author of the fantastic Prayer for Owen Meany, does, I find that reading out my work does wonders. I do this myself or by using the Voice Dream app. It’s super useful and makes such a difference.