When I Write


How many of you out there write stories? If you have, than I’m sure you know all can identify with these problems:

“I can write the story in my head, it’s just when I come to type it out, it comes out totally different!”

“I know what I want to write, but it simply WON’T come out! I sit and stare at the computer screen for fifteen minutes before I move on to something else.”

“I like writing, but some things are more fun and with school/work, I’d just rather push the story aside for another week to do other things.”

“I HATE EDITING!”

*gets nervous when people try to read over shoulder* “No, no, this is a first draft! Nobody can see this trash! Go away! I need privacy! ….. stop staring!”

It’s like a typewriter in the face:

These below that I’m about to share aren’t rules, but they are invaluable tricks that I’ve learned to use when writing my short stories. I thought I’d share them and my real-life experiences.

Your first draft will not be a masterpiece. Don’t expect Shakespeare to come out the first time round. First drafts are always messy with loose threads that need to be tied in and many, many paragraphs to be completely rearranged or rewritten. Don’t try to write your finished draft on the first time—every time I go into a story trying to write the finished product, I get very frustrated because it never comes out the way I want it the first time. Like I read somewhere in some writing book, “Nobody has to see your first draft anyway.”

Force the words onto the paper/computer screen; any words at all. With the last three short stories I’ve written, I’ve come to the point where I’ll literally tell myself, “Just write anything; I don’t care if it sound stupid, just get something onto the screen.” I’ve found that once there is a horrid sentence staring back at me, it becomes way easier to go back and quickly fix it to what I really wanted it to say.

It’s okay to take a break. It is NOT OKAY when the break becomes permanent, but it certainly is okay to put a pause on your work. I took a break on one book that lasted over a year, but I did go back and finish it. Sometimes your brain can burn out, or you might just not be sure where the novel is going or if you like how it looks. Sometimes long term breaks can really help because when you come back, you can get a whole new perspective on the story.

Positive accountability is invaluable. The best place to find a positive accountable buddy is in one of your friends who’s shown genuine interest in your stories before. Having a good friend ask you, “How’s the story coming” and holding you to your writing is wonderful. Better yet, promise them to let you read it when it’s completed and they’ll also keep on you so they can do just that. They’ll also give you feedback with what they have read or with the finished product. Feedback is essential to writers. If you are simply a blogger, than you know the truth behind this. It’s encouraging.

Deadlines are demanding, pressurizing and can make you scream, but they DO help. I was working on a short story several months ago and I kept working on it… a little bit here, a little bit there… not very much. But I did know that I wanted to have it completed and printed out by a certain date so I could send the story home with a friend. So, I told myself, “Jamie, you either get serious about this and you finish this by next Thursday, or you are going to be one pathetic excuse of a writer.” I’d taken enough breaks; I had to use the top two tricks to finally have something to work with as the days ticked to my finishing date. Having pressure to finish the story on a certain date helped with my need to get things out onto paper.

When on a serious deadline, SLEEP. BECOMES. OPTIONAL. You are horrified. But I’m serious. And I wouldn’t say this if I hadn’t already done it myself. During that last week of writing the story above, I set my alarm clock to go off at 5:00 in morning several days of the week, and the other days I got up at 6:00 in the morning. I knew from the day’s schedule that I needed to get in extra hours of writing to finish on time, and I knew I wasn’t allowed to stay up super late. So I knew I needed to get up before the sun to do my writing. And I. HATED. IT. I love sleeping in! But I made myself do it because I knew I needed that story completed, and not using those extras hours could sink my boat.

In all honesty, even though I was writing like a demon and was waking at 5:00 in the morning, I seriously thought, “There is no way I’m going to get this done. No way. I’ve never done this before. How can I get everything out and then rewritten into the way I want it and it to be presentable to the public?”

But guess what. 11:45 on Thursday, I did the final read-through of my story and was satisfied. I leaned back and was happy. It was something that I was willing to print out onto paper and let someone else read. It was something I’d worked hard on and had actually accomplished right on my deadline. I’d done it.

Not every story will go like this. Let me tell, the second time I used the deadline trick, I melted the second day and I’m still on hold with that one. I’m still thinking it through. But I do know that when I’m ready, I’ll be able to complete it. Because I’ve done it before.

How about you, fellow writer? Have you? If you haven’t, than I suggest giving it a try.

~Jamie