Why don’t you?
is the question that has been teasing my mind quite often since the day I first heard about how so many people want to be writers but don’t read a book in years, don’t study about the craft and don’t remember the last time they worked on their novel.
This would all be fine if those same writers wouldn’t complain about how hard it is to write [or to re-write!] [or to edit!], without doing anything about it. There are many writers that never read a book on creative writing or grammar and are brilliant in their work, but all of them do at least two things: they read and write everyday. So, do you?
When someone says to me “I have a dream” but never did anything about it, I’m lost for words. So I guess this post is my way of doing something about it (it being – my muteness).
But who am I to lecture anyone? I have my own sins to live with. Better to listen to others and talk about what works with me, than to think I’m above the crowd or it might bite me on the ass someday.
So here’s a list of the 5 crucial things I’ve learned so far:
1. Everything is an excuse
No matter if it’s a good or a bad excuse, if it takes you away from your writing when you thought for a second “Now I could sit and write” it’s because it’s just an excuse. Leave the house dirty, don’t take that bath (yet) and please find a way to record the series you love to see. Avoid all things that run into your mind the second after you just thought “Now I could write a bit” – sit your behind on that chair and WRITE! ’till you reach your daily goal (or until something crucial – like your baby needing you or your stinking smell for lack of a bath – urges you to stop).
I can imagine how many excuses you’ve been saying to yourself because I’ve said them to myself as well. I used to aim for the perfect housewife first and I would only sit and write afterward. Then I got over it (and still have time to clean).
2. There are no muse hours
I’ve read on several books on creative writing and other author’s websites the idea that each writer has his own best hour – or time of the day – to write. They say you must discover what’s yours and it will be when you feel most inspired. I believed it.
My opinion? The best hour to write is when you look at the chair where you usually sit to write and think – should I write now? If your brain thought about it, go ahead and do it. I can’t imagine you thinking about writing in the middle of an emergency or if your kid is waiting for you to pick him up from school.
I used to write only after lunch, around 2 o’clock, until my husband got home. I was very proud of myself and thought I was doing the best I could.
I was just lazy.
Now I get up at 8 o’clock. Do all major tasks for two hours. And at 10 am I sit down and write. But I can adjust that schedule if necessary – the point is I write everyday no matter the hour.
3. A novel is just a group of scenes
I didn’t know what a scene was before I studied about the craft of writing. And maybe you’ll say that the definition of scene is irrelevant, all it takes is to write and than the editor can call it whatever the hell he wants.
Knowing things about the craft and about the business of writing helps me understand what it is I’m doing, and eventually find ways to deal with what I have to do everyday on a less stressful way. Knowledge always gave me the power to be calm about things.
When I read that “a scene changes when time and/or space changes” (brief definition) my daily task of writing a novel (something between 150K and 18oK) didn’t feel as scary. I still have a set goal of 2000 words a day, but as I write the story I can think about it one scene at a time. I can also think about if a scene is important or it could be reduced to one transitional line or a white space.
Another aspect about knowing what is a scene and where each one of them are in my novel, is that I remember myself about another thing I’ve read about: every scene must have a conflict of some kind. If it doesn’t, add conflict to it or cut the scene out to another folder.
4. Set yourself an honest goal
It’s important to have a goal so you don’t get lazy but the real good reason about having a goal is: you’ll find that even when you feel you gave it all, there are still several good paragraphs in you.
You can start low, like 500 words a day. But you should also be honest with yourself and ask if you could push harder. Maybe 1000 sounds like a lot, but you’ll never be sure if you don’t try. Think about the brain like a muscle that gets better with practice. If you’ve been writing 500 words a day for a couple of months now, try setting yourself a bit higher every week until you double that.
My goal of 2000 words is painful even for someone with a lot of time like myself, because it’s not about the time you have, it’s about the experience. But I tried it when I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and discovered his goal is 2000 words every-day. The first day it took me only 3 hours to reach my 2000 words.
That was a good day. Now I know it usually takes me more, but I know I can do it so I never stop until my word processor displays the magic number. If I have to stop for some crucial reason, I continue as soon as I get back and before that day ends.
If you are a serious writer you don’t read just for pleasure. And I think that if you are a serious writer you already know why you have to read as often as you wish to write. Before you thought you could be a good writer, you were a reader.