I’ve officially been writing for six months now, although I’ve dreamed of doing it for longer than I can remember. I thought I’d share some thoughts now that I’ve neck deep in the writer’s world. Let me know your thoughts, too.
Outline, outline, outline
I’m an outliner. I’ve sat in front of a blank page numerous times in my life, and the thing that helped me actually begin was to outline the story. As I’ve gone on, I realise that I’m a major outliner, although I still believe in allowing yourself to get drunk on writing and letting whatever is buried in your subconscious out.
If you find yourself struggling to start writing, maybe you are like me and need to outline it first? These days, I don’t touch a story until I know how it’ll end.
A lengthy lesson
Write short stories, they said. It’ll help you master the craft before you write a novel, they said. Well, I did but the first short story I wrote turned out to be 67,000 words…
Now that I have written actual short stories, I have a much better grasp of what word count a particular idea should roughly hit. Now, I average at 3,500 per short story, but it differs. This is one of the reasons why in order to write, you must simply write and see what happens. You can only learn these lessons by actually writing.
I’d love to write flash fiction, but I don’t think I have it in me, but who knows?
Short stories are important
And on short stories, they are crucial to a writer’s development. You get to try out so many different things, and if they fail, you’ve only wasted a short amount of time.
In the six months, I’ve been writing, I can already see a marked difference in the quality of my work. I look back at the first story I wrote, Dark Days, and cringe.
I’ll never stop writing them, and I can’t believe that in today’s society short stories aren’t more popular. People say they don’t have time for a book, but a story that you could read in 15-20 mins would surely appeal to the Netflix generation?
Also, a short story a day keeps the blues away. There are tonnes of great publications out there for you to enjoy, I heartily recommend them all.
Find what works for you
It’s important not to feel pressure from outside sources; lord knows you’ll pile enough of that onto yourself. So, when you see everyone on twitter saying that you need to write every day, or that they’re disappointed because they’ve only written 5,000 words today, don’t fret. You have to find a groove that works for you.
I don’t write every day. I do think about my stories and future ideas constantly, but I tend to write one evening and read the next, and repeat. Having a full-time job and simply enjoying reading mean I can’t. And I find giving myself a little distance helps.
It can be expensive
I paid for Scrivener which I always use for my first drafts. Word is an industry standard, so I pay for a monthly subscription to that, plus google drive. Along with reading my stuff out loud, I bought VoiceDream, which reads out your stuff in a number of robo-voices (helps to catch any weird sentences).
I subscribe to two monthly writing magazines and a number of short story publications/magazines. All of this is before editors (I use an editor for everything), which can run the gambit from cheap and helpful, to expensive and brilliant.
There are courses I’ve paid for (which I’ll write about) and festivals which I’ll be going to (Cymera, AyeWrite, etc.).
Writing can be very expensive if you’re serious about it. And if you’re going down the self-pub route (I’m not (at least for current WIPs)), you need to factor in design and marketing, etc.
It’ll be done when it’s done
Nothing happens at pace. One of the things I have struggled with is my impatience. Stories take as long as they take to write, editors turnaround times vary, the submission process takes a while, and then responses take an absolute age.
I have tried to play the volume game, but it affects the quality of my work. I now take the stance that I will not send out a story to an editor until I’m happy with it. This may take a week, it may take a couple of months. It’ll be ready when it’s ready.
Forward planning is scary in the writing world
I recently stacked up all my ‘great’ ideas (books that I could start writing today). I have 30… eep!
To make sure I had some kind of plan, I’ve come up with a plan to write my next four novels, which are all set in the same location, and under the same genre (horror). This will take me into 2024. If I manage to fly through them, I’ll get to work on some side projects.
My point is, it’s important to have a plan. Once I get the second draft of The Camp done and then work started on my next (Sceptre), I can start to put the work into approach agents, who will appreciate me having a plan and a consistent stream of books with the same audience.
As much as I want to write it, my fictional version of the NFL will just have to wait.
I’ll never look back
I’m a writer. I’ve taken that step, and it was the most natural thing; it was like flicking on a light. It can be hell, but it is great fun and something I was born to do.
In the six months, I’ve had one short story accepted (Left Behind). That might seem like a poxy amount, but I’m happy with it. I’m over the moon, in fact.
Keep on writing.
And if you haven’t started yet, begin.