I’ve been writing for a long time, and I thought maybe it would be beneficial for me to look back over the things I’ve learned about it. It’s my favorite pasttime. It’s my life, honestly. It’s what I do for work. It’s what I do for fun. And surely in all these years I must have learned something about writing that I can share with others.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just the first few things that popped into my brain. Here’s Part 1. Part 2 will be up next week.
1. Writing what you know is fun.
You’ve heard that, right? Write what you know. It’s true. If you decide to write about something you already have a working knowledge of, you’ll find that you’re less tied to Googling and other forms of research. That frees you up to dive into your scenes without worrying you don’t have the information you need to make it believable. And that’s fun!
2. Writing what you don’t know is hard work.
It’s absolutely fine to write about something you don’t know. In some cases, that’s why people choose to write about topics they don’t understand. If you want to understand something, write about it. But you have to research. That means hours and hours (sometimes days and days…or maybe weeks and weeks) of Google searches. You might even need to go to a library. You might even need to sit down with someone who has had first-hand experience on your subject of choice. But one thing is certain, if you’re writing a novel that needs a lot of research, you’ll be an expert on it once you’re finished.
3. Writing what you make up is even harder than writing what you don’t know.
So what if you want to write something that you don’t know but you don’t want to do the research involved? Well, that’s where fantasy comes in. Or if you’re writing something akin to Doctor Who, you can break all the rules and still be perfectly fine. But what you’ll find is that it’s surprisingly difficult to make stuff up believably. That’s the key word: Believable. You can only push your readers so far before they’ll give up on what you’re writing and declare it nonsense. Now, if you have the gift of writing nonsense believably, that’s different. If you can convince people to believe it, more power to you, but they have to believe it.
4. Writing on deadline helps creativity.
Nothing spurs me to action like a deadline. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing a novel or an article on engineering a plumbing system for a soccer stadium. If I have a deadline, I work. The best thing you can do for yourself as a writer is work deadlines into your writing schedule. They don’t have to be crazy deadlines, but having a definite end point is a good idea if you don’t want to keep writing the same book for the rest of your life. Set your deadlines based on word count or page count or by date. Whatever works for you! If you have a day coming where you’ve promised yourself you’re going to be finished, you’ll have something solid to work toward.
5. Writing without deadline increases artistry.
The one downside to deadlines is that they can sometimes stifle the beauty of your writing. If you’re rushing to get scenes done, you don’t slow down and take the time you need to bring out the character or the setting to its full potential. If you realize that about yourself, it’s a good idea to work in time to do a rewrite. That’s how I work. I set deadlines for myself to finish the first draft of a novel, and then I go back over it once I’m done and rewrite. I fill in the gaps. I flesh out the details I didn’t have time for on the first round. But if you can figure out a way to keep the art of your writing intact while working on a deadline, go for it. That’s the best of both worlds.
Those are the first five. Check back next week for the rest of the list!