Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sherry's Writing Rules

Dreaming of writing the next great American novel or at least crafting a story that has been kicking around in your head whenever you get the opportunity to be still?  Writing is all about allowing your imaginary friends in that genre to talk to you and tell you what they're going to do and where and when, and then doing the research to put them in their place for those occasions when you're not on speaking terms. 

So...how to begin? 

10) Sit in the chair. Yes seriously this is the hardest part for many, for writing cannot be multi-tasked, it is a singular experience.  You can have music on in the background but sooner or later if you are writing, everything else falls away.

9) Have a word limit, but unlike a speed limit, this is your daily minimum.  Make it low enough to meet but high enough to push you on occasion.  I write a poem a day regardless of whether I blog or not, just to keep the brain moving. 

8) Banish the "But what if it's no good" sentence from your brain. You're right, a lot of what you generate will be less than perfect, less than golden, but it is process that generates good quality material. We are working towards improving, rather than perfection.  Inner critics are never pleased, never stated, never satisfied and seldom complimentary. I send them rejection letters all the time.  It is very satisfying.

7)  Corollary to #8, be unafraid and be true.  No one ever got excited by someone who held a tepid opinion. If you're going to write something, make it beautiful, make it about something that matters to you. Otherwise, you will grow bored and stop writing.

6) Addendum to #7 Be unafraid to have fun.  That means, you can make things up,  you can go nuts. Take notes on your life and craft slices and elements into your stories. It's cathartic, it's calorie free provided you don't snack while at the computer, and it allows you to breathe into your characters greater life.  People watch and notice one thing about each person that passes by as you sit at a park bench, make up the history of that item and why it is important.  Airports are awesome for this sort of thing, just past the security check point, when people are putting themselves back together.  Yes, I do this sort of thing and think it fun. That may be why TSA did a private pat down of me last time I passed through the screening.   

5) Edit.  Writing is not a 2nd or even a 3rd draft business. It is a Edit until you hate the damn thing but it sings business.  There's no magic number, but it is always more than 1 and is only less than the number that makes you hit Delete. 

4) Read.  Pay attention to how things are written.  You will start to notice distinctive phrases, cliches, points of view, writing crutches, etc.  You will become aware of the writer, though good writing, really good writing flows such that you only hear the image created by the words.

3) Join a writer's group and/or forum. It will help sharpen your writer's ear and improve your craft.  It will also  help you to grow a thicker skin.  You will discover you can survive the experience of something other than praise.  You will also learn the business part of writing and that can lead to submissions and even (huzzah) paid work. 

2) Read aloud your own writing. Be advised, this is a wounding experience. Ack!  Wooden dialogue...must...stop...Captain...Kirk-like mannerisms.  It's like looking in the mirror in the fitting room, you know where and why you need to hit the gym.

1) Don't quit.  Keep writing. Keep editing. Keep reading, keep rewriting.  There's only one way to guarantee failure, don't try, don't even start. 

1 comment:

LarryD said...

I was going to write a comment, but I edited it so many times, I just gave up.

Great list!

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!