According to WordPress, this is my 900th post since I started this blog after I graduated from college in May 2010. I didn’t start this blog with the intention of writing that many posts or of accumulating a huge number of subscribers. I started because writing is what I live for. I honestly didn’t think that my random thoughts and musings would resonate with so many people. In short, starting this blog was one of the best things I did since graduating college.
I’m often asked whether blogging is hard, and I’d be lying if I said it was 100% easy. Yes, it’s easy to get started, to pick a layout, and to write whatever comes into your head whether it’s coherent or not. For me, the hardest part of blogging is remembering that although I have a much larger audience than I did when I started, I still need to write what I want to write and not what I think people want to read. It’s also hard to grow a thick skin (I’m still working on it) and to develop five viable blog ideas each week.
My experience in the “blogosphere” has taught me so much. I have learned to look outside of my tiny little niche in the world and understand what others are thinking and why they think that way. I have learned that trolls are unavoidable. I have learned that the two most important things about blogging (in my experience) are being courteous and being consistent (not unlike what’s important in real life). I have learned that posting my goals in a public place has made me more accountable for them.
Thank you to everyone who comments on, reads, or likes my posts; everyone who has subscribed; and everyone who has my blog on his/her blogroll. I appreciate all of you.
When I first started writing, I had a problem with finishing first drafts. Midway through, I’d lose sight of where the story was going, or the story would take off in a completely different direction from what I had intended. Back when I was in fourth grade, I started writing a story about a dog, then I began to lose interest. But I made myself keep writing. I remember that I would make myself write one page per day until the story was finished. Sometimes writing the story felt like torture, but I was really proud of myself when it was done. (I believe I still have that draft floating around somewhere…)
First drafts were forced drafts until I discovered NaNoWriMo and the power of setting a deadline instead of telling myself I would write X pages or words until the story was complete. First drafts are no longer difficult for me.
Second drafts and editing are now the difficult parts; it’s ironic because my official day job title is “editor.” With a first draft, you can discard the “rules” of writing, just as long as you get something down on paper. When you finally do let your inner editor out of the box, he or she has a tough job deconstructing the story and putting the pieces together into a logical order.
I don’t agree with copyediting a first draft (i.e., looking for grammar and minor style issues). I would rather read the entire draft and make notes about major problems like plot holes and scene order, then go back and copyedit once I have written a second draft that actually makes sense. But within the second draft, there still may be major problems, so sometimes you have to repeat the cycle of substantive editing, then copyediting.
How do you edit your first drafts? How many drafts do you usually go through before you have a finished product?
I think everyone’s heard that song that’s on the soundtrack of practically every movie and commercial in existence: the one that goes, “I get knocked down, but I get up again / You’re never gonna keep me down…” (If I got it stuck in your head, I apologize.) But I suppose part of the reason it’s so ubiquitous might just be its message.
Lying down is easy, but most of the time, the easy thing isn’t necessarily the right thing. Too many people give up on their dreams because it’s easy to lie down in laziness, complacency, depression, or defeat. Fighting for what you believe or keeping up with a tough goal can be daunting, especially upon the dawn of those inevitable days when you “just don’t feel like it.”
Don’t lie down!
Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down. –Charles F. Kettering
It’s been two weeks since I finished XIII. The blank feeling upon realizing I was done is beginning to clear up, and I am starting to feel relieved (and happy) that it’s over. But I am far from forgetting about it.
When it comes to writing, it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. A lot of writing teachers and writing advice books say that once you finish one project, don’t let that be your only project. Don’t spend all your effort and all your energy on polishing it up and making it pretty because you may come to find that you put all your hard work into what is essentially a dud. It’s good to have at least one other story in the works that you can use as a fallback option.
XIII was basically the first story I wrote with a serious intent to get published. But it is a bit of an oddity in that it is largely based off another person’s ideas and characters. Its genre isn’t even my preferred or favorite genre. The writing itself is entirely mine, so I guess you could almost call it fanfiction, but with fanfiction, the world is pre-created. In XIII, I was essentially building the entire world. Because XIII is not 100% mine, I am unsure of whether to publish it, which makes me glad I did not focus all my writing energy on it.
I have a host of other novels that I have been working on between drafts of XIII, and I am glad I have them. I have been waiting to turn my attention to them for some time, and I feel like they are much more publishable because they are entirely my own work.
tl;dr — Don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on one project.
Here’s some things that don’t work for me as a writer — I see these things mentioned all the time in writing advice books and articles, but for whatever reason, they never work out for me.
1. Blocking out time to write. Some writers divide their day into hours and block out spaces of time to write — an hour here, a half-hour there. I can’t split up my time so neatly. Life is way too random for that. Setting a word count goal instead of blocking time has been more advantageous.
2. Writing by hand. Scribbling down notes in college caused my handwriting to become almost totally illegible. I don’t see the purpose of writing an entire draft by hand if it’s just going to be entered into the computer at some point anyway.
3. Using writing software (e.g., Scrivener, Storyist). I’ve tried a few different kinds of writing software, and to be honest, I’m not patient enough to learn them. Plain old Microsoft Word (and sometimes even the lowly Notepad) has always worked for me, so why fix what ain’t broken?
4. Writing in coffee shops (or any public place). Many people find inspiration in coffee shops and concentrate better while writing in public. I usually end up staring at people who fascinate me instead of staring at the blank page. Plus, I don’t have a laptop or tablet, so I’d have to write on paper, which I don’t do.
5. Re-reading what I wrote in yesterday’s session before I start today’s session. If I write something, I don’t look at it until I’m completely finished with it. I wait until I have the entire novel in front of me before I go back and start messing around with it. If I start looking backward, I lose my momentum.
What writing techniques just don’t work for you?