#WriteTip: Writing Your Way

Sam av

Hey guys!

I want to introduce you to my writing process, but I first want to protect your own ego and sensibilities before we talk about the insanity that ping-pongs around in my brain.

One of my favorite things to do involving writing is to encourage others to step up and give it a try. There are oodles of people that want to write, enjoy writing, but think they have no talent. We tend to be our own worst enemies, plaguing ourselves with so much self-doubt and perceived judgment from external sources. Writing is difficult and deeply personal. It is because of this that our natural inclination is to put up as many barriers between our the spark of an idea and a finished manuscript. We’ll start by thinking our idea is stupid, throw excuses up along the way, look at the words and think the words are terrible, etc., then delete it and try to forget this ever happened.

It will end with a rejection. Either you will reject it or the publishing cogs will.

What I love about this blog is that we can be honest with each other. I am going to talk about all of the things that I love and all of the tiny fragments that contribute to my brainscape. My hope is that you’ll derive something from the mess I’ve presented that will aid you in your own journey, no matter where you’re at along that path.

So here’s the pep talk.

You’re going to have thousands of ideas, and most of them are going to start out bad. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing…you should think about them as long as they are entertaining to you.

You’re going to create even more characters than ideas. Every character should be real. Whether or not they are good or bad makes no difference. You will, along the way, figure out that some characters need to be deleted, added, gender-swapped, changed in age or ethnicity, changed relationships, etc. to make the story right.

You will have instincts that tell you things. You will have to learn when to trust your instincts and when to understand that they’re just being jerks that are getting in your way. “That character wouldn’t say that” is an example of an instinct you should trust. “This whole story sucks” would be something to ignore.

You will start and abandon more stories than you start and complete. Some ideas will never leave your brain. Some will grow to 50,000 words before you throw them out. Some might be 200,000 words and edited 400 times before you realize it just isn’t working. It’s life. This happens to people and their relationships, too, so it should feel familiar to some degree. All of the stress, fighting, attempts to ‘make it work,’ etc. will feel the same, too. Being good at life means knowing when to fight and when to quit. Writing is the same.

A lot of killer, badass plots are already in existence. You should both actively ignore them and vigorously pursue them. Don’t rewrite blockbuster masterpieces. That has been done. But there’s no shame in deriving some inspiration from them, ESPECIALLY if you’re just starting out.

You can and should write anything and everything that feels right at the time. No law exists that says you have to share it with anyone or attempt to get it published. Writing is a discipline and an art. You need practice. If you’re dying to write a smutty scene but don’t want anyone to read it, write it anyway and hide it away. If you write a scene and decide it’s terrible, scrap it and save it.

Never delete anything. As I’ve mentioned, you don’t have to share it or try to publish it, but you should save it. Some day, you’ll find it again and reread it. You’ll either think “Wow, I’m actually pretty good!” or “Wow, I was a terrible writer back then!” Either way, saved scraps are great for boosting confidence later. You’ll definitely be able to see how you’ve progressed since you wrote it.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone except for yourself. You are a collection of millions of personality fragments that color the words you write. You are both better and worse than an existing writer. You are wittier and more boring than an existing writer. You are darker and cheesier than another writer. Unless you are THE best or THE worst writer out there, you are doing just fine. Shittier novels than the words you put down have made millions of dollars and become films. Greater novels than anything you could ever write if you tried for fifty years have never been bestsellers.

No one is doing it right. And, no one is doing it wrong. Writing is this strange art form where you blurt everything and then fix it where you messed it up. Whatever you have to do in between the spark of the idea and the completion of the manuscript is the proper way to do this. If that means sitting down one day and just writing until it’s done, do that. If it means writing 150 words a day that you spend all day making perfect, fine. If you’d rather plan it out from start to finish, make character sheets for every single secondary character first, do that. If you have an idea and want to stew about it for a year before you attempt it, do that. If you want to write it a scene at a time and skip from the beginning to the end and then to the middle, the end, and the beginning again, do that. If you want to write three beginnings for the same story and continue all of them until one emerges victorious, do that. If you just want to write short stories, or poems, or 300,000 word epics…do that.

There are degree-holding masters of the written word. They are, however, a slim minority of people who write words. And yes, they are EXCELLENT writers and should not be diminished for the accomplishments that they’ve achieved. But you don’t need a degree to write. And you don’t need a master author telling you the right way to go about a story. There are grammar rules…and strong, strong suggestions…that you don’t necessarily have to follow.

As a writer, all you need is a reader, and sometimes you don’t even need that. Think of it like a network of millions of conversations between a writer and an audience. Some people are whispering in the corner while someone else is on stage giving a speech. There is value in all conversation, no matter how small. Your 2000 word short story might change someone’s life. You might be responsible for the one sentence that resonates with a person who needed exactly that at that moment in time.

Be free of all the bullshit.

When I was first starting out on my own path, attempting to write something to publish, I drove myself crazy with the ‘requirements.’ I read dozens of articles about the words and phrases and tropes to avoid. I gobbled up articles about how to be a writer. I lost my love for the craft for a long time beating myself up about my work.

And yes, I got rejected.

But you know the thing about rejections? Great writers also get rejected because the books that are accepted are the books agents know can sell. Agents are experts in the trends and the market, and they shouldn’t be diminished either.

Except, I know I don’t love to read what’s on the market. I like a niche category of dark books that shatter the mold and push the boundaries on what is acceptable. Risky books that sell to smaller audiences because they aren’t palatable to the masses.

But I’ve had all of this fan fiction published for years, and although it’s a crude art form that borrows ideas, it reminds me constantly of what’s important. While I keep working on originals, my existing stories are just there…and people are still reading them. And occasionally, I get lovely reviews that remind me of what’s important. Like this one I got two weeks ago:

I’ve been binge reading this today, and I must say this is indeed my favorite fucking chapter of any fanfic ever. Well fucking done.

There are people that like what I write. As long as there’s even one, I’m happy. I like to write and they want me to keep going.

Don’t be like me.

Don’t be like any other writer out there. Be like you because you’re the best at that. The story that you envision is not a story that anyone else can write. If you don’t tell it, no one will, and someone out there needs to hear it.

In the near future, I’ll start talking about the way I approach my stories. Pay attention and listen if you think it will be helpful, but don’t think for one second that just because I do it one way that it’s the only way I think will work. It’s the only way that works for me. 

You’re a writer. Write however you want.

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).



About oneofthedragons

Samantha K. Balk and F. R. Donaldson met on An Archive of Our Own, one of the many fanfiction sites online, when Sam asked Frankie to illustrate the fanfiction that would one day lead to Sam's first novel. They've been friends ever since! This blog was created as a way to share the oftentimes difficult journey any new author experiences on the uncomfortable quest of an introvert for attention to his or her most personal work. It is meant to remind you that authors don't just appear fully fledged like a George R. R. Martin, that all of us start out unsure and feeling inadequate. Feel free to ask us anything. Sam: sammykaye9@gmail.com Frankie: reluctant.fraggle@gmail.com

Posted on August 12, 2016, in #WriteTip and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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