If there is one aspect of my writing method I’ve struggled with over the years, it is my tendency to edit as I write. Actually – it’s not so much a tendency as it is an obsession. I can’t bloody help myself.
As a result, I spent an inordinate amount of time fretting over getting it right from the outset; of having a draft that is close to my idea of perfect – (it rarely is) – rather than allowing myself to get something – anything – down on paper.
I thought this was the way I was supposed to do it – the only way I could do it.
I’ve invariably thought of myself as a pantster rather than a plotter but that’s bullshit. I’m the worst iteration of a plotter – an anally retentive plotter who actually sucks at plotting. This is at the heart of why my writing output week to week is nowhere near what I would like it to be; what I believe it ought to be.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘Hang on – haven’t you written like, fours novels? Shouldn’t you have realised this as a fraught strategy three ago?’
And I would tell you that’s a fair observation. I guess I’m nothing if not wedded to my eccentricities and I’m terrible at changing my ways.
Recently though, I’ve tried to take a different approach to my writing, particularly as it pertains to my current work in progress.
Instead of trying to get sentences, paragraphs and scenes just right in the drafting phase, I’ve attempted to unshackle myself by writing free form, in an almost notational style.
There’s a lot of short sentences where I’ll place two or more ideas in the same paragraph with a clear note to myself that these will change, morph or be dropped entirely in future. I’m running multiple iterations of dialogue in the one scene, with more than one character name written in brackets beside them along with a question mark in case I want to change who is speaking later. I’m making a lot of ‘notes to self’ – suggestions to consider. Or I’m asking myself questions about what may or may not happen in a scene – particularly when I don’t know what is – or will be – happening in a scene.
I’m writing “Something will happen here” alot.
I’m also telling myself, “None of this is set in stone. Just write buddy. Write it all down!”
It’s messy. It’s unwieldy. It’s chaotic and I’m starting to love it!
I love it because it’s pushing me to move forward much faster and not get stuck in a rut.
I’ve struggled with writer’s block for years and, I believe, it’s due to my obsession with getting it perfect from the start – the scene, the chapter, the dialogue. I haven’t truly allowed myself the room to just play. To play with ideas, with character or motivation. To play with the art of writing.
The first draft of anything is supposed to be terrible.
I’ve heard that piece of wisdom told over and over again but, for the longest time – perhaps for my entire writing career – I wasn’t allowing myself to embrace that very truth.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Virgo.
My method has always been to start with a notebook and pencil (it must always be a pencil) to scribble and doodle and brainstorm. That’s been the time where I’ve been free to wander in my mind. When I’ve come to transfer those notes to my laptop, often I’ve tried to mold them into a final product right away.
From now on, I’m going to try this different route. The notes in pencil on the page will become the exact same notes in pixel on the screen. Once, they’re there, that’s an achievement. In doing this, something a little magical starts to happen.
I’m shedding my fear of writing utter shit.
What have you done to shed your fear of writing shit?
Let me know. I’d love to start a conversation on this one.