Shall we start this post off with some disclaimers? Let’s do.
Disclaimer #1: I have never had anything published, and therefore, have no advice to give on how to get your writing published. I am simply someone who writes often and studied English in college; therefore, I have unlimited experience with writer’s block and getting out of it, especially under pressure of deadlines.
Disclaimer #2: There is no “right” way to write. Your process is entirely yours. Whatever you find works for you, works for you, and no one can say you’re doing it wrong. Only you can analyze your own writing process and change it according to what you have observed works for you over what does not.
With that being said, here are some writing tips I can share with based on what I have found works for me and my own style. If you’re looking for a new approach to your writing or are simply interested in trying something for a creative boost, maybe these will help. I’m just looking to share the writing love!
1. Don’t hold in the word vomit.
I’m the type of person who likes to type first drafts. I am a fast typer and therefore can keep up with my own brain better as it thinks of ideas. You are often your biggest obstacle when it comes to your writing; feeling as though every sentence you craft in that first go-round has to be perfect can cause you to stall. Perhaps you have an endpoint in mind, but are struggling to get yourself there.
The most freeing piece of advice I have ever received about writing was that the first draft is allowed to be absolute crap. Instead of focusing on quality, just focus on getting from Point A to Point B, no matter how messy the road. I’ve literally written, “Some time passes and now this character is in the forest,” when I’ve found myself stuck. What matters is that I made it to the forest and can now continue my story. The rest can be filled in later.
NaNoWriMo introduced me to the concept of “word sprints.” These can be however long or short you would like, often ranging from 10 to 40 minutes, and you spend this entire time writing. It’s writing stream-of-conscious style, simply making sure you keep typing the entire allotted time, not worrying about whether it’s good but getting any ideas that come to you out of your head and on to the page. This is especially helpful for longer pieces (not necessarily novels!) when you need some help getting your word count up. They are even more fun to participate in when you have a friend to do it with you. That way, you can keep each other accountable. You can also follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter for some extra virtual motivation. They moderate word sprints all day long during the NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo months. You can tune in whenever you need to get some writing done and share word counts with other participants! Or simply, set your own stopwatch and go from there.
2. Change the color of the document.
This one has nothing to do with the actual creative process of writing. However, if you often experience tired eyes after working a piece, even for a short time, part of the reason can be from staring at a stark white screen. I personally like to change the background color on my document to a lighter, pastel green to minimize strain, especially if I know I will be working for an extended period of time.
Also, when I’m bored, I switch up fonts, too. It keeps me entertained. (Honestly, it really doesn’t take much to keep me entertained).
3. Keep a small notebook on your person.
This is especially important for forgetful people like me. “Mental notes” are a myth to me. Never have I taken a mental note of something and been able to remember it later. I experience what I like to call “half-remembering,” meaning I can remember only the fact that I had an idea, but not what it was. Hence, I try to take a small notebook (one that can fit in a pocket or a purse) everywhere I go. I like to have a physical notebook, too, not just the notes app on my phone. This is because I have experienced countless instances of notes being accidentally deleted or times when my phone was dead or lost. Pencil and paper are always my ol’ reliables.
4. Read constantly.
The best writers are readers first and foremost. Many successful writers consider it part of their job to read as much as possible. Not only is it important to read as much as you can of the genre you write, but you should also be reading multiple genres in order to be exposed to multiple styles of writing. Soak them all up like a sponge. Experiment with different voices, mimicking those you’ve been reading every now and then to try something new and keep your creativity up. Take what you’ve learned about building suspense in that mystery novel you read and implement it in your fantasy novel. Experiment with the elevated language and forms in those poetry collections and try your hand at it in your literary fiction.
Even if it’s simply listing the things you’ve done that day, journaling is an exercise in observation. It shows you how well you have paid attention to your surroundings that day and tests your ability to write down the happenings with as much accuracy as possible. You can even use that small notebook I mentioned early to record simple observations, even if they mean littler in terms of overall life impact. Later on, you’ll be happy to have this small observations. They’ll help with creativity down the line and develop your eye for detail, making your writing more personal and relatable.
Truthfully, this post came out of my own writer’s block. I was trying to work on a short story but instead found myself talking about writer’s block. In fact, there’s bonus tip #6: write about something else for a while. It’s annoying perhaps to not get anything done on one project, but sometimes you need to write in a different voice, or from a different perspective in order to ground yourself and and prove to yourself you actually can write, you just happen to be in a different headspace at the moment.
I hope these tips help. Now, I should probably go work on that short story.