Starting to Write

Begin to Write Something!

Writers block happens. Not knowing how to start, happens - and it’s okay. When I’m unable to find my groove for what I’ve set out to write, I change tactics.

For twenty to forty-five minutes I’ll open a new document and simply write something.

It can take me a decent chunk of time staring at the page, adjusting my playlist, starting to write, deleting what I wrote, starting to write again, looking back at some other words I’ve written, etc. before I find a flow.

I’ve found in recent years that if I start writing - often a totally different piece than the story I’m working on, and do that for half an hour, I’m able to get in the zone. When that happens, I conclude at a natural place and switch to the main piece I set out to write initially. More often than not, I’m able to continue my stride and hit my targets, whether they be word-count, scene completion, or something else.

In the past I observed progress to be random day to day. Some days I’d write 500 words I was happy with, while others I’d exceed 3,500.

Since adopting this tactic, I can easily accomplish 2,000 words in the same time 500 words used to take me. Occasionally I’ll surpass the 4,000 count in the same time I used to write 3,500.

Adding Is Easier Than Cutting

It took almost a decade to understand this about myself. I wrote as much as the next student for academic projects in college, but I wasn’t writing fiction. It wasn’t until 2011 that I began to devote downtime to some of my ideas, and begin flirting with the notion of writing a story.

As I look back on the past decade, one of my biggest takeaways is that it’s much easier for me to finish a First Draft if I err on the side of too little and plow through to the end.

I would find myself resisstant to cut entire scenes and lines of dialogue after feedback from alpha readers. Sometimes it was a worry that my final wordcount would be too short. Others, it was because I had become attached to the scenes or phrases.

I began changing the way I drafted my stories. I much preferred feedback that suggested I expand upon certain scenes, details, or dialogue. It’s fun to write, and in this way my editing and revising included more of the enjoyable aspect of writing, and less the disappointment of cutting.

I do still cut, but significantly less so with this approach. It has a positive psychological impact on my making progress that I appreciate.

Playlist It Up - Set The Mood

Very rarely do I write in silence if I’m in the comfort of my own home. I queue up music without lyrics that fits the mood of the scene, environment, character, or world I’m working on at the time.

Movie and Game soundtracks dominate these playlists.

Note To Self: The Baroque Era Is Over

My default writing style is Baroque - which is to say, excessively wordy for no apparent or inherent reason, other than to satisfy my own need to ensure any interpretation on the part of the reader is effectively supported on all sides by enough description to ensure the point I’m attempting to make survives the journey from my mind to their eyes.

The previous sentence is a perfect example of Baroque writing.

I still have to remind myself to counter this. I mentally prepare to catch it as I write it. When I glance back at a sentence I ask myself: “What can be removed to complete this?”

Here is a made-up-on-the-spot example:

She sprang to her feet, hands balled into fists, eyes darting wildly left and right as she sought the poor soul that would become the target of her righteous anger and suffer the heat of her burning fury.

That sentence is ridiculous! A brief bit of analysis suggests that it should at least be more than one sentence. Perhaps I should even cut some of it. It’s rather silly, after all.

So, I rework it:

She sprang to her feet, balling her hands in tight fists. Her eyes darted back and forth. Someone here would pay. Someone would burn in the heat of her fury!

This could still use more work, but I’ve taken a single sentence than is 38 words long and created four sentences with the longest running wordcount clocking in at 11. This is much easier on a reader’s eyes.

Some folk like Baroque writing styles. It all comes down to intended tone, subject matter, and target audience. If I’m writing a story about the composer Bach, from the perspective of a contemporary of his who studied under him, a Baroque style may well fit the tone.