Since reading Part One, you’ve learned how to become inspired and how to hone that drive into a more focused idea. Now it’s time to start writing something. But what to write? Where to start?
Here are the two best pieces of advice I ever got about writing: First, write where the energy is; and second, keep writing even when you don’t feel the energy.
When I say “energy,” I’m just trying to describe the feeling of writing is fun. You’ll learn to recognize the energy pretty quickly because the truth is that writing can be hard and boring. Most of the time you spend writing, you actually spend staring at a mostly blank word processor page with only occasional waves of fun or inspiration. So when those waves come, ride them as long as they last. That is, write where the energy is.
When you have an idea, sit down and start writing. Write anything: a first line, a final line, a snippet of dialogue between two characters. Whatever seems like fun to write, even if it doesn’t seem like it will end up in the story. No one sits down a writes a book from beginning to end.
If outlining and structuring the story is where you feel the energy, then by all means, write an outline. Maybe you just want to get to know your character. Not everything needs to connect at this point. Much of what you write might not even make it into your actual story. The point is, whatever is fun to you should be your subject, because the more fun you’re having, the better the writing probably is.
In writing Candy Monster, the first fun part for us was thinking about what a candy monster would look like. Kristin and I wrote dozens of candy monster descriptions just because it was fun. Only a fraction of the descriptions ended up in the book, but all of that writing was instrumental to figure out who Sam was and what kind of monster he would turn into.
The second lesson I’ve learned is to keep on writing. It is inevitable that the wave of inspiration will settle to a lull. The inspiration might last a few minutes or a few weeks, but it will slow down. So what if you don’t feel any energy about your project?
That’s when you just sit down and write something anyway. Every day.
While we wrote Candy Monster, we had a schedule: after kids went to bed we spent an hour or so working on the book. And even if I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired and 90% of what I wrote on a given day was garbage, I was still making progress. The next day I might delete the 90% garbage, but I still had contributed a line or an idea that laid the foundation for the next night’s energy.
None of the projects I have ever written (including this post) would have gotten finished if I had only written when I was feeling brilliant. Inspiration will come more often if you cultivate it by keeping your mind working on the story.
As you write (both with and without energy), you’ll continue to get a firmer and firmer idea of what the story will be like. We’ll talk about that in upcoming posts, so don’t stress too much about the final shape as you begin. Just start writing on your project on a regular schedule and follow the energy.
Look for Part 3: coming soon.