Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Fighting the foibles

If you could easily change one writing habit, what would it be? Starting earlier (or later) in the day? Become a plotter or pantser? Rush through a first draft or edit as you go? 

by Dietrich

Since I started writing, I’ve been aware of some good writing habits and some bad ones too, and I’ve spent years adapting the former while weeding out the latter.

It’s always been my nature to get up early, and that’s the best time of day for me. It’s when my batteries are fully charged, and I always feel set to go. I did have to get past the temptation of googling the day’s headlines and peeking at my social media accounts before I got started. That distraction could suck up a good deal of writing time, and it had to go. These days, I sit at my desk like I’ve got blinders on— write first and google later. Nothing sadder than commenting on a post when I should be working on a chapter. 

When I first took writing in earnest, I brushed up on the grammar I had once learned back in school. Getting an armload of texts on the subject, I relearned where to stick the commas, and not to begin with conjunctions or to end with prepositions. When the time came to submit my first manuscript, I wanted it to be polished and shining. While I’ve retained enough of the grammar from those self-imposed lessons, it wouldn’t hurt to dig out my notes and bone up on the finer points once in a while.

Since I was a kid, I’ve enjoyed sticking my nose into a good book, and since I began writing, I’ve been reading more than ever. There’s just so much inspiration to be found in a good book. That’s maybe the best habit of all.

Another favorite habit, I listen to music while I’m writing. Something I started doing early on to shut out the white noise, but it really does more than that. It helps me find the groove. I’m not sure why, but it works.

I try to keep an open approach, willing to try something new. I’ve written in first person, second person, from the perspective of young and old, the opposite sex, side and from multiple POVs. I’ve set stories in various times and places — going for whatever I think will work best for the story at hand.

I’ve tried it, but generally, I don’t outline my stories. I like starting with a single idea and seeing where it will take me. One idea springs from the previous one, and I like going on an unmapped adventure. Working this way allows ideas to come to me that I could never have pre-planned.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve tried other things that didn’t work so well for me — like writing to a daily word-count. Being self-driven, I don’t need that kind of push or pressure. When the muse is gone I stop for the day. Writing fiction’s not like a grind job, so I accept that some days I write more, other days I write less. What matters is that I’m happy with the words that landed on the page. And that generally means it will be easier to come back to it the next morning. 

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