I’ve mainlined 4 seasons of Writing Excuses so far. I’m currently on season 5. So what have I learned?
One. How I write is not wrong.
I knew this deep down already but there was always a little worry at the back of my head that was saying that how I worked was somehow wrong. I don’t have a hugely detailed notebook that has entire character histories in it. Every detail of each scene is not planned out in minute detail…in fact, when I tried this I kind of froze up when it came to the writing. It really surprised me when it happened because every preconceived notion I had about ‘how you should write’ said that the words would just flow from me after I’d planned it all out. I now know why that wasn’t the case.
Apparently I’m a discovery writer.
I let my characters talk and I write as they go through their lives. I let them lead me in the direction that they want to go. This does have the drawback of them occasionally derailing me and sending me in a direction I really shouldn’t be going, so every now and then I’ll reign them in, but it works for me. I feel my way through my writing. And that’s OK.
I do need to know where I’m heading though, so a small outline is good (otherwise the possibilities are a bit endless and the void tends to suck me in) but too much detail is bad for me.
Two. What’s the conflict is now my go to catch phrase.
Every scene has to have some sort of conflict. That doesn’t mean it has to have huge arguments or world ending issues – it could simply be that your character has lost their shoe and has to find it – but there has to be some form of conflict to keep things both interesting and moving forwards.
Three. My first books probably sucked ass and that’s OK.
In order to get better at writing, you have to, wait for it…keep writing! (I know, it was shocking to me too.) The guys on the podcast actually analysed the opening paragraph of one of their first books and shredded it, but in a good way. They used it as an example to show that no one is ever good at writing the first time they try it and that having a sense of humour about this will go along way towards keeping you sane.
Four. Feedback is good. Get someone to actually read your work, critically.
They created their own writers group (that’s how they got to know each other) and in doing so helped improve each others work. Having someone look at it with fresh eyes who is actually willing to be honest in order to improve your writing, is a good thing. Discussion is good, brainstorming is good and listening to someone else’s take on your ideas is good. So, if you see something you think I can improve upon, please, feel free to let me know!
Also published on Medium.