Did you read last week’s question? Are you just dying to know what’s up next? Serious writers, professionals, amateurs, etc. get these questions often enough that they could probably write answers to them in their sleep. I know I am, because I am too fucking tired to write a blog post today. But I’m doing it anyway because I always see a project through to its bitter end.
Still with me?
When I tell people I’m a writer, I typically get a slew of questions. Aside from “are you published?” (yes) and “where can I buy your books” (here), I’m tackling the most common ones that people seem to like to ask me, how I feel about those questions, and which ones you should never ask of any writer.
- Where do you get your ideas?
- How much money do you make?
- What’s your writing/book/short story about?
- What is your writing process like?
- I want to write a book about [x]. How do I do it?
- Do you ever get writer’s block?
- Why do you write horror? What’s wrong with you?
- Why don’t you write like Harry Potter novels or something? Those make lots of money.
This is a question I typically get from young writers who are struggling to find their own process for writing. If you’re a casual reader, you won’t understand it. Not because you’re a stupid asshole (though you might be, I don’t know you), but because you lack the experience from this side of the keyboard. So if you’re interested, keep reading. If not, move along. Go read one of my books so you can see the end result of my writing process.
If you’re a new writer, keep on reading. This might help.
My process is pretty simple. I keep a general outline of what I want to happen in a story, and then sit down to write. I tend to be a lean first-draft writer because I’m eager to get from one point to the next. Sometimes the story will take me in a longer direction, but I’ve learned to just let it go and do what it wants. I’ll get the story out eventually. My editor tells me where my points are too lean, and where it’s too heavy and needs to be trimmed.
Currently, I am rewriting a whole chapter for my upcoming novel because the old chapter didn’t fit and the ending fell flat. So the missive from the editor was, “take this out and write something else.”
If you have a good editor, they aren’t afraid to be brutally honest. When you’re a new writer, that can be intimidating. Well, tough shit. Rip that bandage off right now because if you really want to get published, and you really want your book to be good, then you need to build up some serious tough skin. That doesn’t mean they will insult you, but it will feel like an insult at first. Why? Because your writing is your brainchild, and it’s an intimate process. A lot of people get attached to their work and they don’t want someone coming in and tearing it to pieces. But if you want your work to become the best it can be, you have to understand that the feedback is not personal against you as a writer.
Your editor spends time on your work because it’s interesting and they see the potential in it. If you don’t care about something, you won’t devote time to it. Simple as that. I’ve seen professional editors on-hire who reject manuscripts because they just don’t see how it has potential.
The potential of your script begins with your process, and my process might not work for you. But there are elements to it that might help. Eventually, you will get comfortable writing, and if you develop the habit, you will discover your process—one that suits you.
My advice is pretty easy to follow:
- Commit to a word count per day or a set amount of time per day that you write.
- Keep an outline if you have trouble getting from point a to point b.
- Let your first draft be what it is. All first drafts are shit. Write and revise later.
Just keep writing.