Monday, May 5, 2014

Just start already!

"Ideas seem easy to come by," some of my friends and students who would like to write have told me, "but when it comes to writing things down, I just don't think I could do it" or "I don't think anyone would want to read what I have to say." Then, they ask me the inevitable questions, "How do YOU do it?"

Well, people seem to be under the impression that those who write (or publish) seem to have some special power or gift, or perhaps something that drives them to put their stories into the world for public consumption. I've given a few pieces of advice that I think should help anyone who has even the remotest interest in putting words to the page. Mind you, these aren't the be-all-and-end-all of words to listen to, but it might help some of you "on the fence" writers.

STEP ONE: If you have ideas, write them down somewhere. Having an idea or a story you love doesn't mean you have to publish it. Writing should ideally come from the enjoyment of it, so if you just like telling stories, keep a file of them on your computer. Maybe, share a few with friends, people you don't mind seeing into your mind a little. Don't just dismiss the idea because it won't matter. You never know where your story concept might go. Fire up Microsoft Word or pull out a legal pad. It's a win/win situation, I promise.

STEP TWO: Not every idea you have will be good, so don't be afraid to delete something. There, I said it. Just because you like to write doesn't mean your ideas are any good. Raw ideas rarely are "gold." Anything worth writing down needs time to become the best it can be. You have to play with the language, tease the meaning from the words, and sometimes (you know what I'm about to say, and it frightens you)... sometimes, you have to delete what you've written. Every single author you know or know of (yes, including Stephen King or JK Rowling) has had backspace over what he or she thought was so good when it first came out.

STEP THREE: While #2 seems counterintuitive to writing, it actually helps clear out your mind a bit. So,  the next little tidbit is: just keep writing. Once you start, you'll find you want to carve out a few niches in your schedule (or, if you're like me, you'll want to take the whole day off) to write. It's addictive. If you get stuck, just write what you're thinking. Eventually, that clog will clear itself.

STEP FOUR: All right, so you've broken the barrier and started writing. You've deleted some things, kept some things, and you've managed to make some semblance of a schedule. Now... are you sitting? If you feel the least bit apoplectic after what I'm about to say, then just breathe into a paper bag. The next step is to let someone you trust read your work. Yes, yes, I know. It scares the HELL out you to do that, especially since you've probably just started writing. However, sharing your work with someone you trust (I said it twice for a reason) helps to find the spots that need some tweaking. And, for heaven's sake, pleeeeeease ask someone who knows a thing or two about grammar, spelling, and general English.

You've gone from being "the idea guy/gal" to "someone who writes." It's not that hard to do. Make it a goal. An hour a day? A few hours a week? Weekends? Just make it part of your routine. I promise you that you won't regret it. If nothing else, you can just write that novel or collection of short stories just for yourself. Talk about an accomplishment!

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