If I could only give a young writer one tip for combating writer’s block and becoming a better writer, it’s giving yourself permission to have a bad first draft. For perfectionists, this is a tall order. The first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page will never be good enough. You’ll keep writing and re-writing in circles.
When I first started writing, I wrote a paragraph and erased it. Wrote it again and erased it. Rinse. Repeat. Like I said, I didn’t get anywhere. I never finished my stories and had nothing to show for the time I put into them.
Then, in a very deliberate and concerted way, I gave myself permission to have a bad first draft. I said, “It’s okay all of this is really bad. It’s going to suck. That’s okay.”
I embraced the bad first draft. Since then, I haven’t looked back and I actually complete my work.
You can, too.
For some, this might not take much effort. It might be second nature to just throw down words and not give a second thought. For others, it might mean saying out loud, “This will suck and I’m fine with that.”
Whatever it takes, it’s the best way to move forward. Otherwise, you’ll be a hamster in a NaNoWriMo wheel.
Break the wheel.
At first glance telling you to “just write” is an obvious statement. “Isn’t that the point of NaNoWriMo?” you say.
For some, writing is the singular most difficult to thing to do. Putting words down on paper feels to them like an impossible task. For others, of course, it’s as easy as spreading warm butter over bread.
Writing is also a past, present, and future experience wrapped into one process. Beginning writing for NaNoWriMo can be the largest hump while for others it could be to keep writing.
If you’re sitting in front of a blank word processor page for longer than five minutes and you haven’t written anything yet, just write.
If you’ve written over a thousand words but you got stuck at a certain point in the story and you’re criticizing your own work, just write.
Don’t worry about making the perfect first sentence. Don’t worry about details. Don’t worry about anything other than to write.
A helpful tip I read from Stephen King (Maybe you heard of him?) in his book On Writing was something he heard from his teacher. Write with the door closed and edit with the door open.
In other words, this is your first draft, so just write. Close the door literally and figuratively and write whatever comes out of that beautiful, colorful, and creative skull. There is no time for self-reflection. No time to critique your thoughts or your imagination.
Now is the time to play, be free, and just write.
So get to it, pendragon!
Is it weird I need to even mention this? NaNoWriMo isn’t supposed to make you a crazed killer ala. The Shining. If you’re writing, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” then you’ve got a problem.
Don’t be Jack Torrance. Have fun!
Writing is work but its also a ton of fun. It’s easy to let the work aspect get in the way.
But, frankly, writing isn’t supposed to be a chore. If you aren’t having fun while you’re writing, then maybe you’re in a bad mood or, honestly, hate to say it, but writing isn’t for you.
Most writers start because it’s a wicked good time. It feels good to create worlds, rules, stories, and characters and like reading it teleports you to another place. You get to feel and tap into emotions lying dormant. You get to be all these different people. Most of all, you have control.
Writing is the ultimate choose your own adventure. If that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is. So, if you’re stressing, stop it.
Allow yourself to hop in and enjoy the ride. Once you get loosey-goosey and you’re having fun, you’ll be so addicted to writing you won’t want to stop.
I write for a living. Writing and reading are what I love to do most. So I figured I’d throw down some of the most important books which changed my thinking and shaped the writer and man I am today. There isn’t a doubt in my mind I forgot a book on this list but these are the ones that rose to the top first.
Many successful (and unsuccessful) authors have to make a choice about what camp they’re going to sit in. Usually, though, that choice is made for them. When an author writes a fantasy book, and it becomes successful, he’ll forever be known as a fantasy author. It would behoove him to keep writing fantasy if he wants more success. These genre authors are usually scoffed at by elitists and pretentious writers. Which, I shouldn’t have to say, is pointless and cruel.
However, when I first began writing, I never intended to be pigeon-holed, come hell or high water. There are writers who love a genre so much they never want to leave. Others, like myself, would rather just be a writer and leave it at that. But most writers start out not wanting to write one genre but are forced into like I mentioned previously.