Development, Planning, Writing

“Just shut up and write”

This is just as much a message to me as it is to other writers out there. I spend a lot of time reading over comments, blog entries, and just about anything else on the subject or writing that I come across online. I’ve been noticing something lately that’s bothered me a bit, and this somewhat relates to my last entry: “I want to write X, but how do I do it?”

This is a seemingly innocent question, and, really, asking the question isn’t what bothers me. What bothers me is that people tend to get so caught up on the idea of “how” they’re supposed to write, that they completely ignore what should be obvious from the start: if you want to write this story of yours, then write it!

“But I’m not very good!” So? Do you think any writer was blasted from the womb with the ability to write a Pulitzer-worthy work? There are very few prodigies in the world, regardless of the field. Your first piece of work isn’t going to be good. And let me save you the anticipation and say that your second won’t be either. As Hemingway said, “The first draft of everything is shit.” Get out of your head and just write the damn thing.

“But I don’t know how to properly [insert verb]!” This is one of the biggest offenders I see, especially when it comes to screenwriting. Some newcomer who really wants to write the next great American film stops himself from doing so because he’s so caught up on ensuring every little formatting detail is absolutely correct that he gets about two pages in before calling it quits. Stop it. You’ll have plenty of time to edit it later.

“But I don’t have the time.” Yes you do. Even if you only write a page a day, there is always time. This is more an excuse writers tell themselves when they feel guilty for not having done any work that day, but I see it with newcomers as well. You don’t need to — and shouldn’t — quit your job to dedicate your time on writing. There’s always time to write.

I cannot stress just how thankful I am that I didn’t have internet access when I first started writing. I was good enough at convincing myself I sucked, that coming across such varied (and often contradictory) advice on the subject would have done me in. What’s difficult, though, is that even after all these years, I still struggle with these thoughts. I have told myself all three of those phrases above so many times I’ve lost count.

But if I’ve only learned one thing over the past decade, it’s that the experience I gain from just ignoring all of those thoughts and actually writing is unbelievably valuable. It’s important to remember just to shut up, sit down, and write. You can spend all your time wondering how things turn out when you eventually write that next great piece of fiction, or you could just write it and find out sooner than later.

People, me included, need to stop worrying about such details so early on in the development stage, because while they may be important down the line, the most important thing to do at this moment is actually write it. Until that happens, nothing else matters.

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Development, Outlining, Planning, Writing

There is a method behind the madness

Every writer has their own process for taking their idea and putting it on paper, and you will often come across some writers who are damned determined to tell you that their process, and theirs alone, is the correct process.

First, there is no such thing as one correct writing process, no matter the medium. I often view the varied ways a writer prepares their project in the same way athletes psych themselves up prior to a game, each with their own, sometimes strange, “good luck” rituals.

The truth is, the only correct writing process is the one that works best for the individual. In the end, no one will care how you got the words down; a studio isn’t going to drop an option because the writer failed to follow a specific outlining process. Any time you come across a writer who insists that “such-and-such” is the correct way to plan and outline a script, you can be sure it’s because that process works best for them, but that doesn’t mean it will work best for you.

So, I thought I would take a bit of time to explain my own writing process, as I have been asked a few times recently what that exactly entails. While this applies mostly to screenwriting, I have followed something very similar when I was working on my novel, so some of the ideas can be crossed over.

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