“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit”
– Ernest Hemmingway
Ernest there, telling it like it is. Everyone needs to find their own method for making it happen but one thing’s for sure: the more you write, the more chance you have of writing something of merit.
I always begin by reviewing my previous day’s efforts. I’m currently writing in free verse, which (apart from being a huge risk) takes me a little longer than writing prose – and so I probably don’t have as much to review as a lot of other writers would. However, I don’t do massive re-writes at this stage: I change the odd word and mainly just help myself to get back in to the flow of the story.
“Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day”
– Norman Mailer
Like everyone, I have good days and I have bad days. But I’ve learnt that, no matter which of those I’m living through, if I want to be a writer then I need to, you know, write. Not just talk and think about it. I’m not going to pretend… I don’t actually manage to write every single day but, if necessary, I force it even if I’m feeling uninspired and that there’s no point in my putting pen to paper.
And that’s another thing. For me, the first draft of anything is hand written. I find it a much more organic process that way… things just flow much more easily.
“Nothing magical. You just sit there and keep typing.”
– Stirling Silliphant
You keep writing and sometimes stuff happens. I started off writing screenplays (and I want to do more of that): I wrote a couple of short film scripts and was half way through a feature length script when something unexpected happened… I found a three-page synopsis I’d written a few years ago as the basis for another screenplay. It grabbed me all over again – this is what I wanted to write about – so I decided to write up a fuller version of the synopsis. And the words just started coming out in verse… all by themselves. Honestly, that’s the way it felt. And it’s turned in to the novel I’m writing at the moment. Whether it ends up working or not, whether it turns out to be a foolish experiment, it’s something that I completely believe in.
Anyways, that’s rambling ol’ me.
I’m always interested to hear about what other people go through to get the words out. Let me know if you feel like sharing…
Nice little reminders from the greats. I’ve been trying to squeeze inspiration lately and feeling a little mentally fatigued. This helped, cheers. 🙂
Glad to have helped! And good luck. I really do think it’s sometimes a case of just getting some words down, even if you’re not feeling them… just keep moving forward if you can.
I mentally plan out the chapter sections I’m going to write that day and just go to it as soon as I finish my morning routine. I do about 3-4 editing runs, so my goal on a first draft is to get the basic ideas and structure on paper. I’m realizing that the more I do editing and writing, the better my first drafts looks.
Thanks for sharing Charles. And yup, it’s only since I’ve started posting excerpts on this blog that I’ve realised how important the second draft is going to be. I hadn’t read back over any of my first draft until then… luckily, I’m looking forward to it.
It’s a great blog post and very honest. I work in a similar way and I don’t over edit when I reread my work the next day. It’s all an evolving process which ebbs and flows. It can be tough and dry or thrilling and exhilarating. You never know what will strike each day.
Thanks so much. And yup, I’m still learning – but I’ve got to the stage where even on the bad days, when I’m not happy with my writing, I know I feel even more unhappy if I’m not writing at all.
Doing the work on a bad day is something I need to remember…and writing when I may not feel like it at all, or feel blocked, or discouraged. Your blog/your updates and writing, they really help keep me going – thank you so much! (Also, loved the video link inclusions).
For me, trying to keep up my blog helps a lot…it is like a calendar reminder, a deadline a day, to keep me writing. It can be a distraction at times, too, from my actual novel, but a worthwhile one (I think/I hope). I make endless playlists that I write to, I keep notebooks in my bag and write at random times/places, I steal moments when I can. But…I still get terribly frustrated, and have had way too many stop/starts.
It helps to have a community of other writers for support, for inspiration, and to not feel so alone in all this with – it is appreciated, and needed. A support group via the ether of the internet/blog world/etc.
I just try to keep reminding myself that even when it is tough, to keep writing, because it is truly the one thing I love doing, even when it feels like it may murder me.
Well it’s amazing to think that I’m helping anyone – but that’s really kind of you so thanks. I think that writing every day (whatever it is that you’re writing) is a great start. So many wannabe writers fail at doing that. But if you do have a specific, big project (novel) that you believe in and that you want to complete then you have to find a way to not let the other writing take over. http://fcmalby.wordpress.com/ said earlier that she was going to put the Mailer quote up on her wall – and it’s one of the lines that I look at regularly to motivate myself too. Repeat after me… 😉
Repeating…thanks. Now back to writing 😉
Love the Ernest Hemingway quote! Kind of ironic considering what I posted. The rest of what you wrote is good too! 🙂
Ah yes, I didn’t think about the link to the Hemingway quote! Lovely. But thanks – glad you liked it!
Impressive that you write your first drafts by hand… I would never have the patience for that. Would love to see a sample of your handwriting… I agree that, to be a “writer,” one has to write—often… all the time. Sometimes the writing comes from the living for me, though. It’s then that I write in my head.
Thanks Jessica. But my handwriting is really, really ugly… it’s turned in to a scrawl over the last few years. I think that comes from the fact that I’ve used a keyboard so much and it’s been so long since I wrote anything but ‘rough notes’ by hand. I’m actually embarrassed by how messy it is – but I will post a page at some point. And thanks for sharing.
Just about sums it up.. Sadly I am a panster and just write what comes in to my head as it comes… I couldn’t plan a shopping list even if I tried… Cool blog…
Thanks – glad you like it! And yup, it can be a struggle to stay focussed on such a long form piece of work… but it’s actually proved to be really rewarding.
If that *stuff* that happens isn’t magical, then I don’t know what is. Great post!
Ha… well it’s coming from somewhere. But I’ll only believe in magic if what I’m writing turns out to be any good!
My handwriting is awful as well. Good thing my goal is to become a doctor I guess. Love your blog so much.
Thank you so much – that means a lot coming from you!
My handwriting would definitely get me in to the doctor’s club, it’s just that I’m not great with blood!
I love paper,its smell,the way ink hugs it , all my first drafts are on paper,i like to keep it that way,
unless my paper loves it,my laptop doesnt get to see it..
So glad i came to your blog,lovely write up, one has to be true to their craft to shape their thoughts so beautifully
Wish ou a great Sunday 🙂
That’s really nice of you to say – thanks. Have a great Sunday too.
First time checking out your blog, I actually saw you commenting on a couple of film blogs. Enjoyed checking out your stuff… Love that quote by Papa.
Thanks – appreciate it. And yeah, I’m a film geek but I don’t really post anything about film on this blog (although I wrote some notes about something film-related last night so it might be on here soon).
It’s a great quote. I’m a bit obsessed with quotes – it’s a daily struggle to stop myself posting them all the time.
I can’t follow 3 guys 1 movie through wordpress… is that intentional?
hmmm yeah to tell you the truth that is not my department at the blog. I think we currently use feedburner but I heard some talk that may be changing. sorry for any inconvenience.
Nah, it’s cool. Just makes it a little bit more difficult for me to follow. But no biggie.
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