Writing about writing. It’s a little meta over here.
I figured that I would talk about creative writing today. Remember how I told you last week I am now taking a creative writing class? Needless to say, things with my writing are about to become a lot more serious. (Yes, there is a shorter internet way to state this, but I shall continue to refuse to exchange my descriptive skills for extremely nondescript slang.) This is not me, alone in my room, typing away at my laptop anymore. Now I have to read my writing back to fellow students and writers and at the end of the year I get marks for my work. I have to get enough to pass, or I am in BIG trouble. There is no such thing as “no pressure” or “no judgement” for my writing anymore. Now, everything is pressure and everything gets judged. So let’s talk about writing, practice, planning and writer’s block.
Periodically (usually just after I mention doing NaNoWriMo on here), I get emails from people asking me “How do I write?” or “How do I become a writer?” or “Where do I start?”
I am no expert on writing. I haven’t even been published! The only creative writing accomplishments that I can write behind my name is that I have completed NaNoWriMo three times and that I got a gold medal in a national creative writing competition when I was in high school. (The gold medal doesn’t mean I won. Everyone in the Top 100 got gold medals.) That is my only claim to fame. However, I am pretentious enough to answer when people ask me how to become a writer. (I’m even more pretentious for stealing this answer from someone who once commented on this blog. I will always be grateful to that commenter.)
If you write, you are a writer. Claim the title for yourself. You are not an amateur writer. You are not an aspiring writer. Writers write. Do you write everyday? If yes, you are a writer. Now start calling yourself one.
That was more or less what that person told me. The day I received this anonymous advice was the day that I changed my sidebar bio. I started calling myself a writer and it has made a world of difference.
Thankfully, the area of writing every day is something that I feel more qualified to talk about. I’ve often extolled the virtues of 750words.com on here. 750words is a site that encourages you to write 750 words every single day. 750 words sound like a lot if you are not used to writing and it is not something that you can sneeze out in 5 minutes, but it is also surprising how soon you will get used to the amount. When I started, it could take me up to an hour to write 750 words. My goal was to be able to do it under half an hour. I did not expect to be able to do it any faster. (My initial goal was also to write every day for 30 days. That seemed realistic. 30 days became 31, which became 60 and then I stopped thinking about it. I am now nearing 1,000 days in a row.) My average time is now 750 words in 15 minutes. I can do it in ten if I must, but then I make typos. I was fresh into my second year at university when I started this writing dedication thing. I am now approaching the end of my fourth year and am still writing uninterrupted. I’ve written close to 800,000 words all together. (Guys, that is way more words than there are in The Lord of the Rings. More words than in that brick.) My typing skills have improved radically since starting. (I touch type now, not something that I expected was within my reach.)
My conclusion from all these stats? 750words is a great thing to do for anyone interested in becoming a writer. You don’t need to use the actual site. It has recently become a pay-site. You get 30 days for free and then it’s $5 a month after that. I gladly pay this for everything that 750words has meant and still means to me. I’m not saying that you have to be able to afford this. I am saying that you have to sit down everyday and not get up until you have written your chosen amount.
I also like Writer: the internet typewriter (partly because of its typewriter sound; I love typewriter noises) and Write or Die (which is indispensable to all of my NaNoWriMo writing). Both of these services are free.
I have to confess that I don’t often do novel-writing in my daily writing. However, I consider that journalling or freewriting is still writing. You are still practising your skills of expression and voice and turns of phrase. The greatest part of writing is practice. You have to make the commitment to write every day with no excuses. You owe that to yourself.
Now, what has all this drivel to do with taking a creative writing class? I don’t know. That was in answer to everyone who want to know how they can become writers. That was my advice how they can write everyday in order to practice enough and learn enough to become a writer. That’s what I do and that’s how I intend to continue practising to one day become an author.
Last week I mentioned having a really bad case of writer’s block. I had to have some piece of writing to take along to class on Monday and I was stumped. After I published my last post I got into bed and read some Neil Gaiman. Mr Gaiman’s writing has this strange effect on me: it makes me want to write. I have never encountered this with any other author, but as soon as I read something by him I have this terrible urge to start telling stories of my own. I thought that this would be a surefire way to break the block and start writing. But… nothing happened. I was as uninspired before reading as after. The only idea that I still had was for a fantasy-type novel, but as I can’t use that for class, I still needed a new one. (I’ll put that fantasy one on the back-burner for this year’s NaNoWriMo.) All week I worked through my Pinterest writing boards to no avail. I visited plot generators and writing prompt websites. Still nothing. By this time it was Saturday afternoon and I was strongly considering just using the fantasy idea and take the chance of lower marks. (I can understand why it is discouraged. It is very hard to write original fantasy. The entire genre is built on clichés and tropes.)
Sunday came and I was about to get really desperate. Then I started thinking back on my past holiday. I remember seeing the most beautiful house that I have ever seen. I took a picture of it and I decided that I would one day write a story for it. Suddenly I thought, “Why one day? Why not now?” So I had a location but I didn’t have a plot, except for a vague idea that this time I would like to explore the relationship between two female friends. That’s not something that I’ve ever written on. I started considering options. By the time I had a vague outline of plot in my head, I realised that this is an extremely personal story. I’ve always shied away from anything recognisably personal in my stories. I quailed at the idea of reading this to my class until I realised that no one would ever know it is personal unless I say it. It is really just another story, because I am just a story.
It is not auto-biographical or even semi-autobiographical. But perhaps it is about a quarter autobiographical. I will not be sharing any of this story online as with my other stories because I suspect that it is not allowed. Maybe after exams, though. I can tell you that it’s a story about mental illness. Not about having it, because I wouldn’t venture writing about that, but about the impact it has on the people around the person who is affected. This will be a dark story, just like my previous one. The strange thing is, I was a paragraph into this serious and sensitive subject before I started with the half-humorous, half-obnoxious tone that I’ve noticed in all of my writing for a while now. I’m just going to go with that. If it wants to be written in that style so badly, I’ll oblige. I do not seem to be able to write in any other way. Maybe I’m just listening to Joss Whedon…
Now I have a location. I have some plot. Pantsing is not going to work for class. I will have to be more prepared than for NaNoWriMo. If I run out of ideas, I can’t just have someone stung by a random scorpion that fell from outer space. I will have to plan. No pressure. I signed up for mural.ly recently so that I can plan plot lines and mood boards. So far, it seems to be very effective for what I want it to do.
Also, if anyone wants to make use of the information on my Pinterest writing board, here it is. Of course, there is always a link to my profile in the sidebar. I also have another board devoted to inspirational pictures that I use for writing. Do you have Pinterest writing boards or other writing advice? Please, share it with me!
Here’s to happy writing, and remember:
This entry was posted on July 31, 2013 by Elana. It was filed under Meta-writing and was tagged with 750words, creative writing, how do i become a writer, inspiration, metawriting, motivation, nanowrimo, national novel writing month, writer, writer's block, writing.