I know a lot of writers and authors get that question a lot. Usually, there’s just no satisfactory answer for people who don’t write. They seem to be mystified by the writing process, and for the writer just starting out, the process is frustrating. They’re waiting for inspiration, a muse, an idea that will be colossal and add to the Zeitgeist.
Yeah, good luck with that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (because people don’t learn, damn it): if you wait for a muse, you will never produce anything. It’s really that simple.
Now, I’m not telling you that there won’t be days where you’re too tired, too sick, too whatever to write. It happens. You come home from a long day of work and you’re exhausted because not a single thing went right that day. That being said, don’t let that become a habit. If you do, you’ll fall into the muse trap, and then that bitch has you by your short hairs. You think I jest? I would never!
So even on the days when you’re drained, write 1000 words. Write 500. No? Okay, start with 100 and then see how you feel. If you’re still too tired after writing just 100 words, then you can cry off for the day. But get back on it tomorrow. Tomorrow, you’ll need to write a minimum of 200 words.
This, my dear readers, is where you’ll get your ideas. You may have one already. Great! Then sit down and write it. There are a couple of methods you can use to get it done.
- By the seat of your pants. This is the method most often recommended by the wonderful human beings at The Office of Letters & Light, hosts of National Novel Writing Month. You set a daily word count (say, 1667-2000 per day), and write to meet those targets. Take your rough idea (and if you don’t have one, generate one with a writing prompt) and just write it. Worry about continuity later. You can fix your world in edits.
- Sketching an outline. If you need more structure, make an outline of your novel. What do you want to have happen throughout? You still need to make that daily word count, but this way, you can fit it into a skeleton so that you don’t go rambling off in a totally different direction.
Either method works, and I know, I know, I’ve said all this before, but you JUST KEEP ASKING ME the title question, don’t you? So I’m going over this one more time. It’s really simple: if you write it, ideas will come.
They will. I promise. I know because I don’t wait for a muse. I told her to hit the road a long time ago, and when she tried to interfere, I punched her square in the nose, wrapped her unconscious body in tarp, threw in some rocks, and sank her deep into the sewer system of Nowhere. And I’m glad I did, because her abuse was controlling my life. I know she’s still alive, though, because apparently she bothers a host of other people, too. I encourage all of you who are tortured by a muse to get rid of him or her. Write even when she doesn’t want you to write. Eventually, she’ll get the hint and go away.
No more waiting on a “muse” who’s a complete bitch and won’t tell you what to write. You are in control. You tell the characters what to say, who to kill, how to hide the bodies, and who catches them. You craft a place where painted rocks are currency and the waiter never gets your character’s order right. You make a space where fallen soldiers return from the dead for a final revenge on their Brigadier General. You, and only you.
This is your world. You are the master of it.
Show us what you’ve got.