Guest Post: Writer's Advice for a Writer
|What follows was written by my fiance, Cameron.|
I've asked him many times about different topics that all have to do with writing.
This is me asking him what kind of advice he would give to another writer.
(All pictures + art by Cameron!)
The format's somewhat inspired by 'The Five things I've learned..' over at terribleminds.com (link at the bottom).
I'm a writer. I'm not yet published, I don't get paid for it and I have to rip the time to write from teeth of the universe, but I write. I write short stories, flash fiction, poetry, tabletop RPG stuff. The big time sink for me? My book. It's the roughest of rough drafts currently in its larval stage. My work in progress is hitting around 75,000 words of about 110,000.
Writing this novel (that started out as a short story, then got out of hand) has taught me a great deal about storytelling. How much? More so than most of the advice and classes I've ever taken. (Experience isn't everything, but it covers about 98%.) Because of this I've become more comfortable with the varieties of tools at my disposal as a story teller. Outlining, story beats, plotting (both the devious and story structure type). I've both learned and am still learning my writing voice. It's been a unique experience.
The absolute best piece of advice I've learned, and the one that gets repeated the most by pros but ignored by amateurs: Writer's write. Sit down and write. Nothing will get done if you don't do it.
This seems like a no-brainer, yeah? Apparently not.
I've talked to other writers to get their view on the matter. it's split between those who approach it with their sleeves pushed up, ready to get to work and then those who spend more time complaining, than simply working. ( I suppose this is true for many in life.)
It has also been a test in patience. to see my work progress over a period of months, like a time lapse of a stream creating a canyon. It's different than drawing, where a drawing can be changed or grow within seconds. Writing feels like sculpting or carving, where you have an idea of what you want but the more you chip away, the more you realize your original vision isn't as good as what your creating NOW. ( or vice-versa for that matter.)
Writing makes one more appreciative of how stories are structured. I watch movies and read books with both enjoyment and an analytical eye. Always asking why the writer chose that dialogue, or that plot device. I'm not focused on critiquing, simply being aware of the choices made by the creators. This mind set helps enormously with both creation and function.
I've learned that the community of writers can be both awesome and um.. not awesome. A small portion of writers go into writing because they think they will strike it rich. They are quickly (or very very slowly for that matter) disappointed. It's not glamorous. It can be time consuming and frustrating at times. Despite this fact, many people want to be writers. Millions of people all wanting to tell stories and share ideas. It's pretty awesome to think about.
Yet another thing I've learned: How-to's on writing. There are a LOT of How-to-write manuals; Each one passing out writing advice like it has a gold weight ratio. Some are good, some are even excellent. Others....ehhh...not so much. I've found writing advice is best with a pinch of salt. Take what works best and ignore everything else.
There is no ultimate manual. there isn't a step by step instruction booklet to let you know how plot device A fits into Character Arc B. Many books will say there is a predisposed map you HAVE to follow. These would be blatant misconceptions. There are structures you can use (eg. Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey), but they are not prisons for story; they're play grounds. These structures are the jungle gym that doubles as a pirate ship or the inside of an alien planet. No structure can map out the most important element in story telling. What is that you may ask?
Whatever you write, A book, a play, a blog or a dissertation on toilet seat repair, make sure you put in the key ingredient. Your manuscript is no more than the back of a cereal box if it doesn't have You somewhere on the paper. That being said, the best five things I've learned?
The Muse tends to be 1% inspiration and 99% excuse.
Writing is writing is writing.
Your work ethic is your own.
Inspiration and Ideas
On the occasion that someone asks where I find my inspiration. The answer? the same place you get your inspirations from Inspiration comes from everywhere. It comes from the things you love: movies,music clothes, stories, what have you. It can also come from things you don't like: movies,music,clothes, stories.... find something and free your thoughts from ambivalence. You simply have to pay attention and ask weird questions. Everything can be story fodder. Bad day at work, hangnail, political strife, weird guy on the corner, etc. I've found one can take any small aspect of something and extrapolate it. Or take something major and condense it.
The necessity of structure.
Structure, beats, plotting, etc. all are kind of awesome. These are the things that make a story a story.
Without these, ideas would be like wallpaper without a wall. It can exist separately, but it's much more useful when hung.
Times to write.
All the time.
Seriously. In this day and age, with the prevalence of technology, finding a device to type with is easy.
The availability of devices to turn digital kinetics into digital type is no longer a problem for the modern human. If you're really desperate, you can buy a tracfone/net10 for 20 bucks. It can send and receive emails and has a notepad program. You could even go old school-- I like to do this sometimes-- and use good ol' pencil and paper. A small notebook and a graphite stick are awesome things. Point being, writing is always an option. I do a majority of my writing on my laptop, but I've written at least 19,000 words on my smart phone. The reality is that it's slower than actual typing, but it gets the job done.
Yes, it's work. But damn it's enjoyable. So remember to enjoy the work. 'Nuff said.
Sooooo yeah. that's about that. Write. everything else can be learned.
Here's some advice from some Pro's:
Chuck Wendig's curse strewn, whiskey soaked blog on writing advice.
An ever helpful book by a true professional writer. Doesn't matter what you're writing, This book dishes out gads of writerly tid-bits.
This book delves into the mechanics and the importance of characterization.
And last, but in no way least, the incomparable Neil Gaiman on writing.