Don’t share work-in-progress with non-writers. Indeed, don’t even discuss it. Think of work-in-progress as an egg around which the shell has not yet hardened. I told my wonderful husband, a newspaper editor, my idea for a scene I wanted to write. ‘It sounds like a cliché to me,’ he said. I winced—but as an editor on a daily deadline, his job is to derail weak ideas before they waste anyone’s time. As a fiction writer, mine is to trust my ideas, follow them around dark corners and see what turns up. Thankfully, I wrote my scene. The story won a prize that took me to Russia, ran in a top literary magazine, and was published in my first book.
― Dylan Landis (via mttbll)
Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.
― H. Jackson Brown Jr. (via observando)
Behind the Pages | Three

I think I’ve got so caught up, recently, with trying to get published / worrying if my book is going to be any good, that I’ve lost of sight of how much fun writing should be, and why I even like writing in the first place.

It’s starting to feel like a chore, which it never should. I used to love losing myself in my little fictional universe and watching it grow on the pages in front of me, and I want to rediscover that feeling. 

I think I need to say ‘screw it’. Forget about being published, forget about worrying if anything will come of my writing and just write (haha, oh how ironic). 

How To Write When You Have No Reason To

We’ve all been victims to it: Procrastination. It gets worse during weekends and long breaks. When deadlines are our own or don’t exist at all, when inspiration has run out, or when our interest is elsewhere, it strikes. As the summer nears an end, I look back on all my precious free time wasted in front of the television or on the internet instead of writing and wonder what I could have done to write more. Everyone has their own excuses for not writing more, so I’ve designed some of these tactics to be customized to you. Do what works best for your specific needs, but write. Just write.

Time. Do you have it? Maybe you’re a single parent working three jobs while you upgrade your degree. Maybe you’re an unemployed dropout living in your parents’ basement whose unfinished manuscript is the one thing keeping you from getting kicked out. I don’t know. Either way, here are your solutions:

  • No time. You’re super busy? No problem. Make it portable. Put it on a tablet that fits in your bag or in a notebook so that you can sneak it into classes. Every spare moment on the bus or during class if you’ve finished your work early, take it out and work on it. Trust me, as someone who did most of the first draft to her first novel on the school bus to and from school (and during boring math classes…don’t tell anyone), you’d be surprised how much you can get done between things.
  • Average amount of time. Maybe you’re just not very good at putting aside time for writing. That’s okay. Try this: Write for an hour every weekday, two hours weekends and holidays, and an extra fifteen minutes before bed every day. You can adjust it according to your schedule, but when you have stuff to do and time to write, it’s just a matter of recognizing your time to write and taking advantage of it.
  • Too much time. Yes, it’s possible. Your life has no structure and you don’t write because all of your time is spent doing nothing. You know you should write, you just don’t. You need structure. You need goals. So make some. Try writing two chapters per day—or whatever you think is reasonable—and spend a minimum of two hours writing per day. Or try writing three hours per day, a minimum of one chapter daily. Race yourself and see how many words you can write in ten minutes, and keep track of your high score so you can aim to beat it. Every ten chapters or whatever you think is reasonable, treat yourself to a movie or something (preferably not a video game or something that will distract you from writing for too long. The exception is books. Books are good).

Motivation. Writing without motivation is like breathing without oxygen. It just doesn’t work. You may be lacking it for a variety of reasons. You’re bored, things are too predictable, you’ve been working on the same thing for so long, and writing has become (*gasp!*) a chore.

  • Write on location. Does your story take place in New York? You might not have the resources to go there, but take a little satellite tour of your setting using Google Maps or read books that take place there. Everyone knows books transport you places. But your book takes place in Ancient Greece? Go to a toga party. Take a “Which Greek God/Goddess Are You?” personality quiz. The story takes place in the far off future on a planet you made up? Build a diorama of that place! Make a toothpick sculpture of your protagonist’s home. Immerse yourself in your story’s location. Better yet, go there if you can. Sit on the bench where your protagonist had their first kiss and write. Sometimes, all you need is a change of scenery.
  • Simplify it. Our stories can overwhelm us from time to time. Pretend you’re in sixth grade again and do a book report on your own book. I’m serious. Make a poster with the title in block letters smack dab in the middle. Draw out the main characters and glue their pictures on the board next to each of their descriptions. Come up with all the ridiculous English-teacher-symbolism you can get from your writing, whether you meant it to be there or not. Think as a twelve-year-old and list the things about your work the twelve-year-old you would have loved or hated. Map out the plot on a very much simplified plot line to the best of your abilities. All those complications, false climaxes, and flashbacks are suddenly boiled down to beginning, middle, and end. If you want, you can look up book report ideas for elementary school online and do those. I remember doing diorama projects and paper bag book reports in sixth grade. Keep it creative.
  • Entice yourself with the tools you use. If you write longhand, choose a notebook with a cover you’ll never get bored of or decorate the cover as if it were the cover of your published work. Use new pens that write in crazy colours or that have feathers coming out the end that make you feel like some fancy-pants writer. Because screw it, you are. Maybe even use a typewriter for the satisfying *ding!* you get at the end on every line. If you use a laptop or computer, get a cool keyboard that looks like it’s made of wood or put some keyboard stickers on. Do something that makes you want to use your tools of the trade more.
  • Surround yourself with the right things. If you’re lacking in creativity, a messy desk will help. If you need structure, a neat and organized desk will work better. If you’re writing a scene set in the Sahara Desert and there’s five feet of snow outside, change your computer background to camels and turn on the extra heater while you play with that weird sand-dough stuff that can be found everywhere and is meant for children ages 3 and up. If in your next scene your main character is going on a romantic date, light a scented candle. If you’re writing about vampires, pour yourself a cup of cranberry juice and pretend it’s blood. You can take sips during the messier scenes.
  • Get excited. Before you start your next chapter, think about what you look forward to writing in this scene. Are you introducing a new character you really like? Is the drama going to make you cry as you write? Is a planet going to explode? It’s going to be good, and you just can’t wait to get it all written down. If you only listen to one thing from this article that I spent a whole three hours writing, make it this. If you aren’t excited about writing your next scene, your audience won’t be excited about reading it. It will be too forced. It just won’t work. I’ve told you how you can get interested in writing again, you really don’t have to do much more. Just get excited and write.

     I hope these tips help you out. When you think about it, time and motivation are all you need for a lot of things, including writing. Now you can go on your merry way and write!

     If that didn’t help you, here’s a piece on Writer’s Block: 

Behind the Pages | Two

The ‘just write’ illusion, and why it annoys me.

Any advice for aspiring writers, in interviews, magazines, blog posts, wherever, always seems to be; ‘just write’.

Just write?

As if it’s the simplest thing in the world. As if you can carve out an hour of your life to sit down and produce 500 words, and that within six months you’ll have a novel. In principle this seems like a good idea. The practise however, I always find to be impossible.

Novels do not let themselves be confined to an hour a day.

To create an interesting, realistic, compelling, fictional universe and author must carry that round in their head all day. Ideas must be allowed to marinate, ruminate, and be mulled over. Nuances and intricacies must be plucked from aspects of all life; the idiosyncrasy of colleagues, sweater patters from people on the tube, architecture from side streets. You cannot expect these inspirations to be confined within a single hour of a single day.

The problem is that all of this thinking rather gets in the way of everyday life. Unless you’re a professional writer being paid to think all day, the likelihood is that you have a job or a family or another time consuming commitment which is supposed to take front and centre stage of your mind.

So what to do? Because I’m finding that juggling even my job and my writing is difficult, I can’t image adding other commitments on top of that too. But quitting my job and trying my hand as a starving artist isn’t all that appealing either, especially when the average writer can only hope to rake in £11,000 a year.

Dedicating my full time to sit down and just write is therefore not only impossible, it’s also laughable.

I understand that in order to be a writer, you do have to actually write. What annoys me about this particular piece of advice is the way that it undermines just how difficult a task this actually proves to be.

There is no ‘just’, or ‘simply’, or anything ‘easy’ about writing. It is not something which can be partitioned off into a corner of one’s mind and wheeled out when there is a convenient time for it.

Without carrying your novel around in your head all day, how are you expected to be able to produce anything worth writing when you eventually find those elusive moments to put pen to paper?

Writing is hard.

And this throw away comment doesn’t do it justice. If anything it deflates me. It’s uninspiring, and demoralising. Because if I can’t just write, does that mean I shouldn’t write? Perhaps it means I’m not cut out to be a writer after all. Now, what sort of encouragement is that to budding writers?

So instead, have this;

Write hard. Get struggling. Because if there’s a story that you need to tell, it will be told one way or another. Whether it takes six months or six decades to get written. Persevere. Don’t give up, don’t expect it to be easy, and don’t be discouraged. Not by the world, not by other commitments, nor by the pretty bleak outlook. We’ll just have to hope that it’ll all be worth it in the end.