17 April 2016

How I Tricked Myself Into Finishing a Thing or Twelve

I’ve had some serious down time over the last month so I decided to wage war on my writer complacency. As I’ve connected with aspiring writers, I’ve discovered many of us have a funny flaw in common; we struggle with making ourselves write a little every day and we have huge piles of unfinished longer projects. Because REASONS. I don’t know about you guys, but REASONS are getting in my way. I made a list to tackle the problem (and because I like making lists).

  • Writing about nothing for 15 minutes every day is hard
  • Writing without a clear goal for what I’m writing is hard
  • I compulsively edit as I go, which slows everything down
  • I get bogged down on my long projects, lose track of the goal, and burn out
  • I don’t always feel like I have the time

Skipping to the end first, the time problem is basically an excuse, barring unusual circumstances of a “Life, why you gotta be such a dick” variety. Even when working 80 hour weeks, I can still squeeze in 15 minutes of writing a few days a week. Besides; it’s at the end for a reason; it’s my last ditch effort to justify slacking off on my own dream. This is stupid. So I crossed that one off.

Next up is that daily writing exercise; sit down every day and just ramble; don’t worry about it making sense. It’s the universal pieces of advice given to us by the writers we admire (literally, ALL of them). It’s one of the first things most creative writing classes will make you do. And lots of us hate it. Because REASONS.

But, who says I have to write about nothing? I have 20 pages of science fiction related prompts on my computer; just pick one and go. Or I could follow a twitter account that regularly posts links to images and music for inspiration (look at #writingprompt and you’ll find tons of them). Sure the first few minutes will probably be terribad word vomit but that’s what editing is for, right?

And if I’m going to be editing later anyway, who says there can’t be a clear goal? I’ve always avoided writing flash fiction (100-2000 words) because I imagined myself a would-be novelist. So I was basically a would-be writing snob? This is stupid.

There are lots of publications that feature flash fiction, and many of them pay. If I do a writing exercise every day, and edit two or three of those a week into something coherent, I’ve got two or three finished pieces of flash fiction ready to submit for publication. Let me say that again. Finished stories ready to submit. Isn’t that the whole idea?

Compulsive editing is a trickier problem and I had to meet the obsessive part of my brain halfway on this one. I’ll allow myself smaller edits (backspace, delete, and typos) but when I realize I’m starting to highlight entire phrases or sentences then I need to move on. I can list some bullet points if I can’t think of how to phrase planned events in prose. Or I can skip to the next part with a quick note (“lol this sucks” is in pretty much every daily write I do). Or I can just keep rambling.

OMG that last sentence was terrible and I need to delete it. And then he hit his head on a tree root.”

That was in a daily write I did last week that went from 1500 words of verbal diarrhea to a 101 word flash piece that I’ve just submitted for publication. I have no idea if it will be accepted but it’s done. It’s a completed piece of fiction and it’s out awaiting acceptance or refusal.  This week I’ve submitted 10 different pieces for publication, 8 of them to paid publications. I feel pretty bad ass, right now.

All of these tiny pieces helped with longer projects, too. My motivation is high because suddenly I’m completing stories regularly. I stop working on the novel when I’m stuck and shift focus to one of the shorter projects. It’s giving me the distance to not get bogged down and burnt out. I’m getting better at not editing as I write. All combined that seems like it would slow progress but instead it’s had the opposite effect. I’ve written 30,000 words in two weeks and only about a third of that is in my organizational documents (character charts, scene lists). The rest is actual story.

So I played a prank on my silly brain and it worked. Neat trick, that. I won’t lie though; listening to my writing playlists on my new speaker certainly isn’t hurting the inspiration any.

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