Hey guys! Happy Writing Wednesday, I hope all those participating in Nanowrimo are surviving and thriving under the pressure! Today, seeing as your probably drowning in your own word count I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite tips from famous authors and wise humans that might help you in your future writing endeavours.
1. Learn the boring stuff
I’m taking about grammar, I’m talking about sentence structure, I’m talking about tense. If you don’t know your yours from your you’re it’s important to address it before someone redresses it for you. If you want to be a successful writer this is none negotiable. However, if The Elements of Style puts you to sleep like a magical witches potion, there is still hope. One of the greatest ways to learn how to write is to read as much as you can. Challenge yourself to read outside of your comfort zone and identify what works or doesn’t work for you in a novel. Reading teaches us what to avoid when we put pen to paper and it has a silent but immeasurable impact on the way write and view the world.
2. Inspiration doesn’t come without you calling it (and even then it might not show)
If you’re not investing the time in your writing you’re not going to get a thunderbolt of divine inspiration whilst watching Netflix. If you haven’t picked up a pen since college and then you do get a great idea, you’ll have made it incredibly difficult for yourself to execute it. Elizabeth Gilbert (Author of Eat, Pray, Love) does a great TED talk on creative genius and where it comes from, she explores the idea that it’s a being outside of us that comes and goes at whim. I also love Stephen King’s idea of inspiration. He describes it as a middle-aged guy who sometimes shows up looking unimpressed and just smokes a cigarette while he writes. It’s clear that inspiration is what we make of it, but we can’t make anything of it if we don’t first do the work.
3. Look at the bigger picture, and then concentrate on the little things
I was listening to a podcast with Jordan Peterson who is a psychologist / professor type human. At one point he was talks about the daily struggles people have. He says that many people do something dreadful everyday. He uses examples like storms of tantrums every night when trying to put the kids to bed or having a miserable dinner with a partner. What he said is that these small things, are the things you have to fix. It’s the small things you do everyday that have the biggest impact on your life. The same idea can be applied to writing. If you watch cash in the attic for an hour everyday for a year. You’ll have achieved nothing but a bizarrely well-rounded understanding of antiquities. If you spend that time writing, you’ll have done more than a million would be novelists have ever done and be so much closer to your dream. Managing the little things we do everyday is what makes the big things achievable and that includes working on your craft.
4. Just Get it Down
The first draft is always going to be fairly shocking and that’s absolutely fine. Don’t spend too long worrying about whether you’ve contradicted yourself or if it make sense. Just get it down! Kazuo Ishiguro (author of remains of the day) claims to have written his world-renowned novel in four weeks in a recent interview with the Guardian. He goes by the idea that you should have your idea, do the research and then shut off distractions and commit to your draft. It’s far better to have a draft to edit, than to have three perfect paragraphs sitting in a drawer. With this comes silencing your inner critic. We all have times when we feel like writing is too hard, or we’re not good enough. You have to work through the demon. If you’re saying to yourself you can’t write, sit down and write. If it’s no good, put it away, get it out in four weeks and then keep writing. You’re in control, even if it doesn’t feel like it, the only way to defeat self-doubt is to prove it wrong.
5. There’s a time for writing and a time for rest
I’m a huge advocate of self-care, sometimes we all need to give it a rest for the sake of our mental health. You have to know your limits and give yourself permission to take some (carefully managed) time out. Many of us try to cram in our relationships, jobs, writing, blogging and reading and it’s not always possible to do it all and do it all fantastically. The page will still be there tomorrow and if your readers are loyal so will they. Plan in a break, but put an end date on it. If you don’t look after yourself first you’ll never be able to work effectively enough to achieve the things you want to achieve. At the same time if you give yourself a break everyday it’s easy for a day to become a week and for a week to become a month (I should know!) So try to schedule and plan in your time, this also makes it easier to break down your goals in to manageable pieces that can prevent putting undue pressure on yourself.
I’d love to heard your favourite pieces of writing advice in the comments and whether you’ve undertaken Nano this year?