Writing Q & A: Your Questions Answered!

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The journey of writing can be difficult at times. There are so many twists and turns in the path, moments of uncertainty and trepidation. I know how difficult it can be to navigate these areas! So I’ve decided to share with you my advice for your writing questions. Try them out for yourself and see what works for you, but know ultimately that with time and practice you’ll find what works for you and be able to navigate these challenges yourself.

Do you have a word count or page count that you aim to reach?

The way I do my writing is a little unconventional. Essentially, I write only to a time limit. When I write, I time myself for either 30 - 60 minutes depending on what I’m doing that day or how inspired I feel. Then during that time I turn my phone off and completely focus on the writing. I don’t usually do extra research (although sometimes I have to google a word or find more information and that’s OK as long as you don’t spend too long on it), I use the time to focus on moving the story forward.

So I don’t track either how many words or pages I write for this reason: it’s easy to fill up a page with words, or fill up a document with written pages, but are those pages and words counting towards your story? Are you really making progress with your story or are you just waffling to meet your word count? Also, if you don’t have much time and you’re struggling to do say a thousand words, it’s not going to motivate you to keep going with your story. If anything, you’re going to put it off when you’re short of time and that leads to procrastination and not feeling inspired to write.

You will have a book at the end of the process, and that book is measured on the quality of your writing, not the word count. How many great novellas have you read — like Breakfast at Tiffany’s or The Great Gatsby? Focus on the quality of your story and research, the word count and pages will take care of themselves.

How do you write? Paper, type or both?

Both! It’s not what you’d expect though.

I start with my notebook, always, and plan out ideas on paper. These are usually initial sprouts of information and inspiration like a date, a colour that comes to mind, a location, a character’s personality or name or even, a great event that the book will focus on. Then, I do my research and take notes.

I’ve found taking notes by hand is crucial for this reason: when you pen down your notes, you focus on putting the research into your own words and you’re less likely to include information that’s irrelevant. If you’re copying and pasting into a word document, then most likely you’ll have 100 pages of material that is difficult to wade through and you won’t end up using.

As for the actual writing part of the story, I type everything up. When I go to a location where my story is set, or a place that has to do with my story, I take notes when I’m there on paper so I can accurately capture the feeling. This is always rewritten though to go into my novel. Sometimes I write outdoors on paper when I feel drained for ideas, but this is more to get the inspiration going again.

Typing your story up will make it easier to keep track of what you’ve written, and will also back it up so you never lose what you’ve written. I think it’s more practical to type the main part of your story and use paper for ideas, notes and inspiration.

Do you write every single day?

Yes and no.

In the past I’ve had a predictable day to day routine and have written everyday in the morning for about a month or two, and it was great! I really got into the flow of writing and each day I would get idea after idea and to be honest with you, I think it’s the best way to go. I started doing this when I was right at the beginning of my story so if you are just starting your WIP too, then I would advise you to commit to writing everyday.

Nowadays, I found that my mornings are precious and I need to make the time to exercise too. I made the decision to exercise three times a week in the morning, which means I don’t have time to write before my day begins. So now, I write every morning that I’m not at the gym. My writing week would go; 3 days gym, 4 days writing. It’s a healthy balance and it helps me a lot to both stay committed to my writing practice and my health. I space these days out too so I have plenty of ideas when I next sit down to write.

I would find a balance with writing that works for you if you’ve been writing for a while. The point is each week you have to be able to see some progress towards completing your WIP. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re doing a good job.

How do you not edit as you write?

Good question! This is something everyone struggles with in the beginning. I think to be able to allow yourself to leave your work unedited, you have to understand the reasoning behind it.

When you start a WIP, you have no idea what direction the story is going to go in. You’re finding your feet, figuring out your characters and setting and climatic points — it’s all too easy to get swept away with it all.

What really helped me was having this analogy in my head.

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
— Shannon Hale

When you write your first draft of your WIP, all you’re doing is putting the pieces into one area. You don’t need to know it chronologically, or even know what your characters will do, you just need to follow them and keep going.

The easiest way to not edit as you write is this: write what comes to you, what needs to come out, then leave it. Don’t attempt to make it perfect because as you write, you’ll find out new things about the beginning of the book, and then you’ll have to go rewrite it anyway. When you’re writing, just keep going, sifting through that sand, and then in your editing phase when the whole draft is complete, you can make sandcastles.