I’ve been writing fiction since 2004, when I felt strongly inspired to write a novel. The idea was good, the writing was pretty damn good…for a novice, but I puttered out around 50k. I couldn’t figure out how to bridge to the ending. It was ambitious idea, and the idea had come of age. And if I didn’t write it, someone else would. And someone else did, many someones. A flurry of metaphysical, new age spiritual, redemption stories showed up on the shelves and in the theaters before mine was even done. And wasn’t I riding the wave like writers like James Redmond had started? I quit when I found a novel at Target with the same exact title, “Fly By Night”. Time to let it go…for now.
But I learned two things,
1.) I have a lot to learn
2.) My method has some merit
Sure, I’m no novelist (yet), but I believe elements of my method have helped me produce freshly conceived, interesting, emotionally authentic stories. I established some very strict rules for myself, and I still follow these rules.
- Don’t wait for an idea to write. Just start writing. We are all filled with ideas, we just don’t always carry them in our consciousness. Your fingers will find them before your conscious mind will some days.
- There are no mistakes. When writing, and you take an unexpected turn in your plot or your phrasing or your dialog, don’t assume that you’ve made a mistake. Go with it. It will make your story far less predictable and far more unique. Sometimes your fingers want to tell a far more interesting story than your mind does.
- Be emotionally present or “in the moment” when writing.Approach writing as an act of mindfulness and expression. Don’t shy away from your feelings and honest thoughts about things. Be fearless. We all have feelings and thoughts that we made not deem appropriate, and that’s exactly why you should put it in your writing. Readers want to identify with your writing in characters in anyway possible; not just the appropriate ways. Great warm-up for mindful writing. When driving, at work, at home, wherever…try to notice something that you’ve never noticed before.
- So yeah, be honest. Can’t write that, it’s sexist, racist, insensitive, inappropriate, irresponsible, and too revealing. Suck it up. Being honest doesn’t mean you have to reveal all the intimate details of your life….well, not exactly. Its about authenticity. Is your character maybe too good to be true? Who relates to that? Put the real stuff in there. You’ve experienced the real stuff and witnessed it. And we want it!
- Just write it.Doesn’t make sense? Redundant? Poor grammar? Not sure where it’s going? Fix it later. But just write it first. This relates to number one. But the point of both is that sometimes the intellect is the block. There’s more to a writer than the intellect. Write with your cravings, your sexuality, your experiences, your emotions, your soul, you weakness, and your strength.
- Allow yourself to be surprised. If you don’t give yourself permission to be surprised by your own writing, how do you expect to surprise anybody else? Don’t try to control the story so much. Let it just happen. Don’t plan it out so much that there is no room for surprises. Much more fun!
There’s nothing new here, true, but sometimes its helpful to remind ourselves of what works. Maybe you’re a novice, like I was, and you’ve found something new you want to try out. Or, maybe this will inspire you to develop your own method for writing. We make the rules, friends. There’s no writing nazi out there forcing us to adhere to their rules…is there?