When you spend enough time around writing, you reach a point where the tutorials don’t teach you anything new. At best they offer inspiration, and at worst, are a source of frustration for those reading them.
I’ve got a few books on writing, though can’t recall the last time I read through one and was struck with clarity because of a specific lesson, or found some great revelation about the right way to finishing a novel. “I already know this!” you think, so what’s the problem?
I know why I’m not, though it will vary for others.
The first of my reasons has been space. Without a proper writing space, I get distracted. It feels bizarre saying that, when I’ve been able to do it in the past whilst standing on a train, or occasionally lying on a bed. Those were always more about the need to write overcoming the obstacles I’d set in my own way, and found that sitting comfortably was always closer to a guarantee of having words come out of my pen. I could occasionally manage some typing at home, but having a laptop balanced sideways on the side of a couch was not the greatest writing environment.
I knew what I wanted for my writing space, but I had to make it happen.
For a while, the spare room at home was the place we put everything we hadn’t sorted out yet. There were boxes we hadn’t yet unpacked, a spare mattress, a dresser, and a general poor use of space. I staked out a corner, put a desk in it, and threw a chair in alongside. Simple, right? It still took another week for me to actually move my laptop into the room (where it has remained ever since).
I’ve definitely noticed a change in my writing habit as a result. Previously I would write some stuff by hand during the day, and type it up in the evening either whilst watching TV, or in lulls in whatever game I was playing at the time (another reason to hate surprise QTEs!). I’d rarely add more than what I had, and it was out of my mind once I closed my book. Now? I have a cut-off point for the TV/Xbox. After that, I go to the spare room, turn on the computer, and start writing.
A consistent time and place does wonders, putting my brain into a sort of routine where the thought “I should be writing at the moment” comes up more often. Is it fully adopted yet? No, but it’s improving. I still always take my notebook and pen out with me at lunchtime, though obviously that little splash of time is not going to get any of my novels written. Most of that time gets taken up with me handwriting my challenges anyway (yes, all those challenge result posts, usually handwritten – occasionally edited. Most recent, definitely edited).
One of the other reasons my writing hasn’t been consistent, is because it hasn’t been consistent. There’s no momentum behind my writing at the moment. It’s not fresh enough in my mind, because I’m only doing it every now and then. The challenges themself take up a bit more time than I’d expected, though the blogging side of things takes comparatively little of my writing time. I remember the stories I want told, but I’m not as close to them as I need to be right now. I’m keeping it at too much of a distance, and don’t yet have the setting settled.
The one I’m working on at the moment (Trail) always had a contentious start – introducing the world, the characters, and such in a natural way is difficult. I’m convinced that this rewrite of the first chapter is the hardest. Right now there are too many options with how to approach some of the ideas, and I feel like the story doesn’t know what it is yet. It should be closer once the week is done.
Writing advice comes in many formats, but there’s more to the process than the words you put on the page. How they get there, when and where they emerge, these are all big parts of writing – knowing when to use exposition and when not to will help with the flow of what’s written, but not the act of writing. For that you need to build your habit, make it part of your life. If you require a physical space, make one. Need music to direct a wayward brain into your pen or keyboard? Set aside some time to make a list. Find your rhythm, if it’s handwritten or typed. Respect the process, even if the words come easily. Most of all, allot the time or be content with only dreaming about filling libraries.