From the Vault: Just Write, Stupid

snoopy_writingPeople often ask me for advice about writing. I’ve even given talks about writing to would-be writers. But I don’t think people really like what I have to tell them. You see, a lot of them are members of “writer’s groups” where they swap stories, critique them and go into re-writes. I don’t really believe in those because they’re an example of why a lot of people never manage to finish that novel they’ve been working on for twenty years: they spend too much time talking about writing and not enough time writing. I once infuriated a room full of folks by saying that nothing was scarier to me than somebody with an English degree and a passel full of “How-To” writing guides.

Because that English degree person is probably never going to write a damned thing. They’re going to spin their wheels, talking about this and pondering that, instead of sitting down at the keyboard and pounding the keys.

Look, I’m not the world’s greatest wordsmith. But I write. I write a lot. I don’t sit around on my ass and say “Boy, I’d love to write a book.” I wrote a book. And then I wrote another one.

There’s no “one way” to do it, either. If you like to do 80 page outlines and that works for you, do it. If you like to have a swig of beer, unbutton your pants and then start writing without any clue where you’re going with the story, do it! Never ever, ever, let someone tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Hell, if you’re in a writer’s group and it helps you (ACTUALLY WRITING), then do it. It doesn’t work for me and I can count on one hand the number of folks I’ve met that it did work for, but hell, there are exceptions to every rule.

And by all means, DON’T FEAR WRITING CRAP. Even if you write the worst novel of all time, you’ve still written a novel. That puts you way ahead of all the Charlies and Nancys who spend their lives saying, “I always wanted to write a book!” Besides, you won’t be the first person to write crap and you won’t be the last. Enjoy the fact that you completed a project and then get to work on the next one, so you can move up to mediocre the next time around 🙂

But my main advice to wanna be writers is this:

1. READ. A lot. Look at how things are written and dissect them. Think to yourself, “I like how writer x does that… HOW does he do that?” and try to learn from it.

2. WRITE. A lot. You get better the more you write. You really do. But don’t navel-gaze so much. Finish a damned project and then do some revision but then MOVE ON. Keep going forward. It will never be perfect. Accept that.

3. NETWORK. You need to meet other writers and make friends with them. You never know who might help you someday. How did I become a professional writer? Because a friend of mine worked for Marvel Comics and recommended me for a job. I didn’t submit anything to them — Marvel emailed me, on the basis of my friend’s recommendation. It went from there.

So… here’s my suggestion for today. Stop reading this blog. Stop flipping through that Stephen King book on writing. Stop over-analyzing the act of creation.

And then go CREATE.

3 thoughts on “From the Vault: Just Write, Stupid

  1. Great advice! I used to be in an exchange group on Wattpad and it was one of the worst decisions I ever made. Instead of actually writing and getting real feedback, I found the critiques just pointless “who do we really like and not like.” Never again, especially not on Wattpad.

  2. So true…

    My friend has a whole detailed, meticulously researched (He is a mathematician and historian) Urban Fantasy universe inside several old notebooks, random Word files on his computer, whole epic saga for his hero planned for first five books of the series, two volumes of short stories, planned crossover with his SF/Horror Visual Novel, as well as with his Transhumanist Space Opera…

    And so far he has about eight pages of a single short story. That he was trying to write for eight months. And the universe it takes place in had existed in his head, and notes for about a decade…

    I am guilty of it too, as I’ve been trying to write my own New Pulp for about two years, but can’t really get it off the ground…

    And there is that idea for Urban Fantasy series in my friend’s universe I was supposed to write alongside him, that so far consists of several pages of notes, and unfinished parts of text…

    It’s just too easy to procrastinate I guess.

    • Yup, been there, done that, too. But I’ve also been writing a lot for many years.

      And lately I figured, why not build my worlds through writing stories set in them, even if they’re very short? It’s good writing pactice, and lets me learn more about my characters and also what works and what doesn’t. Most of that writing never gets read by anybody, but that’s not the point anyway.

      I have to say, though, I found that stories, especially those set in large, entirely or mostly invented universes, do improve a lot by letting them age a few years. That stuff is a lot of work and does take a lot of time to figure it all out. You’re building entire worlds, after all, that’s quite a bit of heavy mental lifting.

      I think the art is finding the right method and balance. Perhaps I should blog about that. Hm.

      As for the post itself, I completely agree. Thanks for great (if often unpopular) advice!

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