You’re going to get frustrated
…and that’s okay. When you’re first acquiring your own style, you’re going to struggle to find the right words. A sentence isn’t going to play out the way you want to. What’s worse is when you don’t know what a better sentence would be. All you know is what you’re writing is wrong. It is up to you to find your strategy around it, whether that’s leaving it for another day or writing different variations of the same sentence until you get it right. Eventually, your early frustrations will dissipate as you get more experienced. Don’t let the first draft of your first novel turn you off. Just like playing an instrument, you need to struggle with it for a while until you grab that expertise. Then, the headaches will start to pass.
Writing isn’t a hobby; it’s a habit.
If you want to get in great shape then you have to make a habit of going to the gym; it just can’t be a hobby. That means setting aside specific time and doing it whether you’re feeling it or not. Skipping one day means you’ll be more likely to skip another. Just as this wisdom applies to your workout, it also applies to your writing.
Few people can just sit down, out of the blue, and put gold down on the page. It takes hard work and training to accomplish that. Setting up habits is, in my view, the best way to do that. Once you get the routine and the accompanying mindset down, writing will become much easier.
Writing is Acting (Maybe)
To quote Miyamoto Musashi: “You should investigate this thoroughly.” Take this tip with an especially large heaping of salt, for I’m not even completely sold on my reasoning. But, here it goes.
When you create a character and put them on stage, with personality, emotions, dialogue and movements, you are doing it through the lens of your own self. Every character has a part of you inside, and it is you who is acting on that stage of your mind. I’ve found that it helps to assume the role of your character as you write. Get mad as they confront their nemesis. The narrator will get mad too. Then, the prose itself will radiate that emotion.
Verbs are your fuel
Take that last sentence:
Then, the prose itself will radiate that emotion.
Radiate. I could have used any number of other verbs, some boring, like “show”, and some not, like “bleed”.
Then, the prose itself will show that emotion.
Then, the prose itself will bleed that emotion.
What’s the difference between the two? One’s simple, almost too simple, the other more complex and titillating.
Verbs are your fuel. Use good ones and your writing will smash, obliterate, erupt and decimate to another level. At the same time, lowing the octane of your verbs will relax the prose, which is necessary from time to time. It’s not either or; both are tools to be used as necessary. It’s up to you to understand which to use and when.
Watch out cluttered words:
Always do a Ctrl F for these words and make sure they’re not being overused. Just as verbs are your fuel, these words can clog the prose of your story. Use them sparingly and they may enhance your story by giving the reader a more natural narrator, but doing it too much will produce unnecessary clutter.
Most of Your Work Comes in Editing
Sometimes it’s just freakin’ hard to put the right words down. Maybe you’re writing in first person and just can’t get the character’s language right, or maybe you can’t get the perspective down from a third person narrator. Sometimes, your brain just broken.
Good thing about writing is that most of the changes happen in the editing stage. Any section can be built upon, or even torn down and recreated. You’ll write the first draft and get ideas on how to enhance a scene weeks later. Go back and edit.
P.S. I have a twitter thing now. Follow me if you’d like. I’ll be posting articles and music I find.