At the end of June, this blog will be one year old. Happy first birthday, Getting The Words Wrong! This has been a year of valuable lessons, and therefore worth a quick recap.
One of my greatest challenges this last year has been finding time to write. I’ve tried writing on the van on the way to work, writing on my lunch break and writing at night after work. A lot of days I just scribble notes in between meetings.
For a time, I tried writing before I left for work, between four and five am. I discontinued this practice after discovering that sleep deprivation makes me… unpleasant. And by unpleasant, I mean I become a female Bruce Banner who has lost her shit, turned into a raging green humanoid and is going “HULK SMASH!” all over the nearest metropolitan area.
Informal essays, like this one, are fun and easy. Fiction is a totally different beast. A friend of mine told me that learning to write fiction is like training for a marathon. I’ve been running for a few years and have done my share of training for long distance races. There are definitely similarities.
I’ve been reading books on the craft of writing. To date, my favorites are Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines, and, because I’m incapable of having a “favorite book list” that doesn’t include his name, On Writing by Stephen King. If you are looking for books on writing, you could do worse than to start with these three.
For a while I struggled with, quite literally, how to write. Writing in longhand has a romantic quality, but typing is faster. I censor myself less in longhand, but I dislike having to copy handwritten notes into an electronic format. A big pile of handwritten notes doesn’t look like a creative work of art. It’s more like a smelly mountain of dirty laundry that requires weeks of sorting, washing, and reorganizing.
I finally realized there is no perfect method. The “how” of writing doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it gets done.
I didn’t know what “kind” of writer I was. In the world of fiction, there are two different types of writers: Plotters, who construct a full blown outline before they write a word, and Pantsers, who write a story like you would fly by the seat of your pants. I don’t fit neatly into either bucket (I doubt anyone does), but now I know which way I lean.
I prefer the Pantser’s approach to storytelling. I enjoy playing a game of “What if…” As in, “What if I put Character A into Situation B?” Then I like to watch them work their way out. The problem with this approach is that I don’t see the holes in my story until I’ve got a fully formed first draft that reads like literary Swiss cheese.
I like parts of the Plotter’s approach. Plotting keeps me on track. I can identify holes in my story before I end up with fifteen pages that need to be rewritten (or worse, thrown out). But plotting frustrates me, too, because I want to quit outlining and get back to the good stuff. Namely, writing the goddam story.
I struggle with getting past the first draft of a story. First drafts are fun to write. More than fun. They’re exciting. Even writing the rough draft of this blog post was a kick.
But first drafts are mortifying to read.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King covered how to handle problems with a first draft. He said, “If you spot a few of these big holes, you are forbidden to feel depressed about them or to beat up on yourself. Screw-ups happen to the best of us.”
I love the theory. I’m still learning the practice.
But the most valuable bit of information I have picked up in the last year is this: Advertisement timing is critical.
How do I know this?
If I put a link to a new blog post on Facebook at seven o’clock on Tuesday night, my post is virtually ignored.
If, however, I post the same link at ten o’clock the following Wednesday morning, when everyone I know is supposed to be working, I score big in the likes and comments.
Timing is everything.
And you are all so busted.