Do you know what I have found to be the hardest part about writing fiction? The physical writing.
In general I am a particularly fast typer and can usually sit before a blank word document and fill it in no time flat. I can write rambling blog posts, or emails to friends, or posts to forums or any number of things, but when it comes to writing fiction? BUH-BOH.
I’ve self-studied writing in quite considerable depth over the past few years and have come a hell of a long way in my understanding of writing mechanics. My original problem was a lack of ideas – something that troubled me back in my school days. I felt that I could never come up with ideas unless someone gave me a prompt. I remember effortlessly writing a story during one of my English exams back at school, a creative writing piece where I was given a line about some guy standing there, looking across the plains his cape swirling about his shoulders (or some such). And the story just came out. But in the years that followed, I drew blanks. I couldn’t think of anything to write about and was frustrated by it.
But part of my study of writing craft involved developing ideas and in particular the development of conflict. These days I find myself overflowing with ideas and if I am quite honest, some of them are pretty damned good too!
But my problem lies in the actual writing. I’ve tried both outlining and free-writing (pantsing) and find myself hitting those same problems. The act of placing fingers on keyboard and just writing towards a specific end – it kills me.
I’m into my early 40’s now and I think that one thing I’ve picked up in my older years is a bad habit to over-think things. It definitely affects my writing. The act of writing a particularly shitty first draft, I understand why people say it and agree that you really can’t edit a blank page – but just letting myself write in that way engages every mental roadblock my mind can find.
To boil down some of the most common writing advice that practically every source will touch upon looks something along the lines of:
- Write every day.
- The first draft will be terrible – allow yourself to write terribly.
- Write X amount of words every day.
- Remove all distractions (particularly internet and phone related).
- Close the door (Thx S.King).
I most definitely don’t have a daily writing habit yet – not where i’ll sit down and focus on writing 500 words, but i do tend to write a lot daily. When I’m not writing, I’m also thinking a lot also (which might be part of my problem).
I’m currently working on a novel length story in which I am chipping away at the details. The characters are slowly becoming real. I’ve been increasingly using a bit of a ‘dear diary’ type system to get inside the heads of the characters, particularly when I don’t yet know the characters. Some characters I know very well, but others remain somewhat mysterious. And so I’ll sit down and just write:
“My name is Marcus and I find myself frustrated in my ability to sit down and write. I often look out the window and wonder what the hell is holding me back…and then usually pad off into the other room to watch TV. When I was young I used to spend a lot of time….blah blah blah”
Like this, but from the point of view of my characters. I guess I could count the words in each of these as they usually come in around the 500 word mark and I pretty much write them without thinking and instantaneously. But man oh man how i wish i could do what i do above, and do it towards the actual novel length story. Now THAT is the bit eluding me.
In summary: GRAGH!