I read an essay by Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuk, which was linked on Twitter, which was titled, very simply, “13 Writing Tips.” Partway through reading the essay, I got to thinking that there were some really great points made which I felt could be expanded upon. so, without further ado:
. . .When you don’t want to write, set an egg timer for one hour (or half hour) and sit down to write until the timer rings. If you still hate writing, you’re free in an hour. But usually, by the time that alarm rings, you’ll be so involved in your work, enjoying it so much, you’ll keep going. . . .
I have found, time and again, that the hardest part of writing is not knowing what to write, but sitting down and getting it on the page. Going along with that, during that awkward period after you’ve sat down and started to write but before you’ve really gotten into it, there’s the problem of looking for a million reasons not to write. For my part, I’ve been able to mostly isolate and eliminate (or at least curb the effects of) these problems.
Writing on the computer is great because there’s so much that a computer can do, but that’s also problematic. Twitter, blogs, comics, Wikipedia–the list is a long one. Even if you can just focus on your word processor, there’s all sorts of nonsense to distract you: spell check, fiddling with formatting, playing around with fonts, checking and re-checking your word-count to see how much progress you’re making. I turn off the automatic spell-check while I’m writing, and that helps turn off my internal editor a bit, but sometimes that’s not enough.
Plug Time: Focus Writer is cross-platform and free. When it’s running, it goes full-screen, so you can’t even see the twenty tabs you have open or your Twitter feed or anything like that. It’s great. There are a lot of features that I could go on at length about, but I won’t. I’ll just say that the second half of the novel I recently finished went a lot faster than the first half in large part because I had many fewer distractions in my writing environment.
Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don’t be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. . . .
Worrying if you’re being too obtuse, especially in a first draft, is a huge distraction that you should just ignore. Please, have some faith. You can always go back later and say “what the heck was I thinking?” and cut and change things to your heart’s content, but please, before you do any of that, put whatever you’re working on in front of someone else. A fresh pair of eyes and some new opinions are rarely a bad thing when you’re writing anything from an essay to a multi-volume epic.
Before you sit down to write a scene, mull it over in your mind and know the purpose of that scene. . . .
If a scene you’ve written doesn’t do anything, then it never, ever belongs. Period. Half the time, if I’m getting bogged down in my writing, it’s because my story is trying to tell me that I’m not going anywhere with the scene I’m writing. Asking yourself what you’re trying to achieve with a scene is a good question to ask yourself any time you sit down to write, but it’s especially important when you’ve been sitting, staring at the screen, or the page, or the typewriter for the last ten minutes without even feeling inspired to write a word.
Also learn to recognize when you need to be writing a different scene, even if it isn’t the next one in chronological order. In my recent novel, there were a number of places where I just left a note to myself to come back to a scene later when I had a better idea of what it would be doing so that I could jump ahead and write the action that I needed to write right then. I know for a fact that those scenes which I left and came back to later are much stronger than they would otherwise have been because I let them sit at the back of my mind and develop for a while.
Check back in a few days when I’ll be going over the next few tips, and in the mean time, feel free to share in the comments any experiences you have relating to any of the above points.