I’ve never sat down at my computer and thought to myself, “How should I write?” Is there a proper way to put your thoughts on paper? Surely, what you’re writing needs to be plotted well, pacing needs to be spot on, characters have to jump off the page so the reader will believe in them and feel something. For me, there’s no proper way to write, as long as I feel I’m still achieving these goals.
One of my early mistakes was attempting to create long and detailed outlines so that I had something to follow, so at least the path was lit, even if it was a little dim. Sure, it got me from point A to point B and kept the narrative on track, but at the same time I often found myself becoming bored with a strict roadmap to follow. So I tossed out the idea of outlining and went with my approach instead: reckless abandon!
Now this is not to say I just sat down and thumped away on the keyboard without any real direction. I know where the story is going, and I always keep little notes and items of interest so that I don’t forget something. If at all possible, I don’t know where the tale will end until I get there – this keeps the writing fresh for me! If I know the ending before I start, the details in between suddenly become less important and I tend to lose focus. One thing to keep in mind: if you make notes, make them clear. I’ve already gone back to “amazing” ideas only to realize that my note was so obscure I forgot what the hell it was meant to say in the first place.
With “The Darkening”, I went through many edits and re-writes, cutting thousands of words for the final product so that it flowed a little more smoothly. This may be the one downfall of writing this way – I repeated myself a bit as the story progressed, almost as a placeholder so I knew where I was headed. The editing process fixed this issue and I think the finished product is much more streamlined. I guess I’ll let that decision up to you.
Short stories are a little different. The nature of a short story almost means that you should have a complete idea in your head as you start writing. I enjoy the art of trying to get novel-length ideas into 20 or 30 pages, but therein lies a different set of issues entirely. I tacked on two different short stories at the end of the novel, not only as bonus material for the readers, but also to see what they think of them. Maybe short story telling just isn’t my thing – maybe it is! Again, time will tell!
So, there’s really no right or wrong way to get your ideas down, as long as you are getting them down! Write every day, set goals, don’t read over your previous material and get bogged down in editing as you write. This is going to slow you down, and take it from me, it does! You’ll never look at your own work and describe it as “perfect,” but it doesn’t have to be perfect through your first 2 or 3 edits! That’s what edits are for! Set writing goals and stick to them, but don’t be frustrated when a two thousand word goal becomes a two hundred word day. If the muse isn’t working, don’t force it, or your writing will sound forced and you’ll end up going back and erasing what you fought so hard to get done in the first place.
I believe writing needs to be just as much fun as reading – so whatever you do, write to have fun and write because you have stories to tell! The rest is easy!