Notes to Self
- Sometimes I get frustrated and panic.
- When I panic, I can’t concentrate.
- It’s useless. I’m the furthest thing from a writer there is.
- It feels like I’m running around without getting anywhere.
Excerpt from Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them
Leave It Alone
Don’t do any actual writing (for yourself) on the other days of the week. (Unless you get a brilliant idea in the middle of the night that you must write down! And since this is when your Muse can contact you best, listen! Make those morning notes! Your Muse has been busy while you slept.)
Don’t Fuss over Stuff You Can Fix Later!
I know it’s rude to scream, but DO NOT EDIT YOURSELF as you go along. If you can’t think of the right word, type in the wrong one, or the same one, or just type [word]. Go ahead and call everything very big or toss in some kind of tree or have a million justs in your writing. Now is not when you should be worrying about all those there wases. This is only the first draft!
When we write, we get — or should get — into the space where our characters live, where we see and hear and feel and taste and smell what they see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. We should be right in there with them, inside their heads. In there, we are mostly in our right brain where concept and dreams run free. There are no “guard dogs”. (I dislike using the word should but sometimes it’s necessary.)
We need to let the story flow out of us as we perceive it, as our characters react to what we’ve thrown them into and to what they’re throwing at each other. We need to record everything as fast as we can type. That’s all we should to do at this stage. Our Muse contacts us through our right brain and there ain’t no dictionary on that side, no grammar rules, only concept, so we don’t need to go around thinking that what our Muse says is lasered into stone, that we have to get it right on the way out of us or the sky will fall. Nu-uh. The Muse can only give us the idea and we can only describe the idea by using the concrete language tools (words, grammar, etc.) available in our left brain’s databanks. Our Muse can’t tell us anything using words we don’t already know. (Didn’t think you were that good, did you?)
Read It Later
Don’t re-read it from the beginning every time you get back to it. If you must, then re-read the chapter or page or preceding paragraph. I hope I don’t need to explain why, but I’ll give you a hint: If you have only two hours to write and you’re going to be re-reading 200 pages . . . Let it all go, relax with it, work in chunks until the very end. Then set it aside for a couple of weeks, go out and partay, partay, partay — celebrate! You’ve just written a book!
Then after those couple of weeks go by, pick up Your Book and start to edit. You’ll be surprised at how good it actually turned out to be. Sure, you’ve got some spellos, and some grammar mistakes, and you’ve used the word just an unbelievable number of times, but, hey. It’s not too shabby at all.
Some Harsh Words for Die-Hards
I know some of you out there — purists — find it difficult writing on a computer and prefer to write everything out in longhand or to use a typewriter. Please refer to the section on The Lizard Brain [p. 3] and stop doing that! It makes writing so much easier to be able to use the Search function for something you wrote, but can’t quite remember where it was. For example, you are on page 427 of your first draft and you need to reintroduce that woman on page . . . Uh. What page was she on? And what name did I use for her again? I’m lucky to have a somewhat eidetic memory, but because of the writing process even that gift doesn’t always help me find what I’m needing. When we write, our right-brain (concept side) takes over and we get into that world — some of us more deeply than others — and it might be impossible to remember exactly where we threw that minor character in with her all-so-vital one line. It’s a great red herring to be able to waste our time re-reading our whole book looking for something . . . and finding mistakes that drive us to correct them and then seeing something else we could add to our story and “Hey! This part’s really good. Did I write that?” — You’ve lost your way. You aren’t writing, you are editing. Tsk. Tsk. Naughty writer! Not yet! You have a book to finish!
When you have it on your computer, you need only CUT something out and PASTE it somewhere else if you want to rearrange what you’ve written. If you change your mind, you can click UNDO and what you just moved will go back to where it was. (Too bad rearranging furniture wasn’t so easy.)
Get a computer. Learn to write with one. You’ll save yourself hours of messing around with stuff other than writing. Fight The Lizard Brain’s reluctance to do anything different. Things change. If they didn’t, we’d still be twirling sticks in little piles of shavings every time we wanted to reheat something.
Next Post — My Boss is a Tyrant 3
Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: http://www.amazon.com/Really-Stupid-Writing-Mistakes-Avoid/dp/1479308226
… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction): http://www.amazon.com/Death-lAcadie-Kesk8a-Sherrill-Wark/dp/1511501154/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8