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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nine tips for new writers that make me the worst writer alive.

Not "worst" as in "putting out slop," rather "worst" as in "not doing it the way everyone says it should be done." There are a lot of rules out there for new writers. There are a lot of writing "do's" (dealing with getting writing done, as opposed to style) that seem to keep rearing their ugly heads time and again. I just put the following list together from memory and 10 minutes of looking at articles about top tips for new writers (my thoughts in italics):

1) Outline before you begin. I tried outlining once. Once. It felt too much like work. Then, as soon as the story I'd written dictated a major change, the outline was toast. Not good. I'm 100% discovery writer now, and it's a blast.

2) Write every day. Otherwise knows as "Good luck with that to parents and people with rotating work schedules tip A..."
3) Write at the same time every day. ...and B. I'll allow Spider Robinson to address #2 and #3: "You are writing; you're just not typing yet." Unless your brain is otherwise occupied by vital matters, you should be thinking about what you're going to get down on paper at the next opportunity. Do this, and I bet that your quality output will equal...or more likely, outpace...that of writers who only consider their story when they're sitting down at their computer.

4) Have a dedicated writing space. This is why I have a netbook. I wrote 80% of ORPHEUS whilst crammed behind the wheel of a tiny pickup truck. Would it be nice to always write in a comfy chair with perfect lighting and a steaming cup of coffee at hand? Of course. Does life let that happen a whole lot? 

PS Half of this post was written in the parking lot of a Friendly's.

5) Write in solitude, turn off your TV, phone, etc... I have no idea who came up with this one, but deciding to remove all other sensory input (especially music, which has been proven to stimulate the brain and expand thought processes) while attempting to create is beyond me.

6) If you're blocked, sit at your space and force yourself to write something, anything. I'll be honest: I don't believe in Writer's Block. I think that writers who "suffer" from an extended bout of it haven't done a good job preparing themselves, but that's just me. What some call "Writer's Block" I call "just an off day." That's the main reason I scoff at the next rule.

7) Don't write multiple projects. Take a look at the "Works" tab of this site and see what I have going. One project complete and ready for publication, one nearly complete, one needing some tweaking before it's complete, and two others at least 25,000 words along. If Writer's Block is a disease, then having several irons in the fire is the treatment.

8) Don't edit as you write; do it later. I won't even allow a debate on this. If you want to be a professional writer, act like it all the time.

9) Don't show your work to anyone else until you've completed it. Here's another one that blows my mind. If I'm writing trash at 20,000 words, do I really think that writing another 60,000 words will make it better? Or would I rather know early so I can rewrite/restart/burn the project?

I don't want to say that any of these are bad tips per se, only that none of them apply to every new writer, or even the majority of them. They'll work well for certain people, and not at all for others. About the only general tip that I'd feel comfortable applying universally would be: "Read. A lot." This one is thoroughly non-negotiable.

I'll bottom-line it. All tips aside, if you want to be a writer more than anything else, you'll make time for it, without excuses.

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