Sometimes you just have to write garbage

Hello all, do you ever find yourself sat in front of a blank sheet of paper or stark white word processing clean slate and wonder…..what now? It is very common to be thrown for a loop or even terified by the thought of producing something when you don’t know what you are doing.

Never fear though, today your uncle Elliot has got you covered with some solid tips to beat this!

First of all I will ask if you are writing a novel? If yes, have you already begun? If yes then this is nice an simple. To never again face the fear and uncertainity of a blank page when you sit down to begin writing for the day do as follows:

Always leave yourself a jumping off point. That is to say don’t finish writing at the end of a chapter or scene, write to half way through or if you do finish a chapter or scene write the first few sentences of the next one. If you really don’t have time for this then at least write a sentence remding yourself what is happening next. It makes things much easier if you can jump back in when you already know what is happening.

Now to the title of this post and indeed anyone who is starting an entirely new project or the above just isn’t enough on any particular day, what for it…..go and write some rubbish gumpf down. Have you done it? No….well I was serious go and write it down, just anything, utter tripe if you wish…done? Good well then we can continue.

Did you see what happened when you did that? You wrote, you created and though most if not all of it was useless crap you still created. You can always edit anything rubbish but you cannot edit a blank page. Writers block is just fear of creating something not worthy of being read, if you take away that fear  by giving yourself permission to write something rubbish and unreadable and unintertsting or even nonsensicle, then suddenly the block is gone.

Some days I Just cannot get started and the only way forward is to write rubbish, one day during NanoWriMo I sat for nearly thirty minutes without writing a single word. Then I allowed myself to write down the thought process I was having, it looked something like this:

“I don’t know what to write, I do….not have a blooming clue! What if spaceships came down and took the characters prisoner? What if the main character discovered he was actually just a ghost…..or his cat? Am I writing this as just an excuse to increase my word count? Probably yes, but then some of these ideas may not be that bad….yes believe your own shit….good”

You see by writing down what was going on in my head I was already writing and it just made it easier to keep going, after a few minutes I was ready to write the actual story again and it didn’t feel half as scary.

Sometime you just have to write crap, and the good stuff will be revealed.

Until next time.

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Finding time to write

At this time of the year it feels very appropriate to discuss finding the time to write, especially given this is the first thing I am writing in about three days!

As the nights draw in and Christmas creeps ever closer it is very easy to let your schedule slip and allow writing to take a back seat. We all want to see our friends and families, we want to go out to parties and drinks or snuggle up and watch festive movies. With all of this going on and the sad fact that many of us still have full time jobs to contend with on top of our writing which we cannot put to one side, writing is usually what we let slip. Assuming you agree with what I have written so far, I shall keep this post suitably short. Without further ado, please find my top tips for still writing when things get busy.

1) cut,cut,cut! What I am about to say might sound harsh to some but this is all about priorities. Do you have other hobbies you like to do? Maybe you knit, sketch or crochet and if you do December is not the time to do it. PRIORITIES, remember guys? Unless you aspire to make a living from these hobbies and not from writing the busiest time of the year is the time to drop them. Come back to your scarf or next painting in January when you have more free time, for now every spare minute you can muster should be dedicated to your writing. Let’s face it, if writing wasn’t important to you, you wouldn’t be on this blog so just do it.

2) Turn off that TV! Ok, ok I know I said you might want to watch festive movies but seriously….how many times have you watched that old family favourite? So many people make the excuse they ‘don’t have time’ in regards to many things, it may be writing or working out or anything inbetween. Then if you ask that person to write down exactly what they do for a week, hour by hour honestly, you will likely see at least a few hours (and that is being very kind) sat watching TV. How much of your current project could you get done in a few hours? I generally write for 1-3 hours a day and in that time I can hammer out around 10-15K words a week, a few hours go a long way.

3) Get up earlier….maybe? For me this one is a last resort, I will go right out and say I do not do this. I get up at 6AM for work everyday and that is quite early enough thank you very much. That being said I know some people who really do have very busy lives and the only time they have spare is 4 or 5AM until they go off to work at 7 or 8AM. It may seem difficult and I would certainly say it does but think about this fact for a moment. If you finish work at 5PM you then have a world of things you could be doing. You might go to the gym, to the pub with friends, dreaded christmas shopping or even just making dinner. If you wake up at 5AM and you usually get up at 6AM you only have one alternative to writing at that time, sleep. You have addedd a whole hour to your day as if by magic, think how productive we could all be with an extra hour in every day. 

Well I think I will leave it there, I could go on and drag this to five but I think three is enough….don’t you? December is hard, it really is but if you prioritise and remember how important your craft is to you, then you will get the work done that you need to get done.

Until next time my friends.

How long is a novel?

​I want to muse with you today if you would be so good as to let me, I would like to contemplate the novel and it’s place in the publishing industry.

I would like to put a foreword here that as of yet I am unpublished and as such my knowledge of the publishing industry is limited to what I have gleamed from conversations, articles and conferences. As such please take this purely as a commentary by an outside and not an expert. 

So on with my point, we shall start by examining the novel. A novel is a single work of fiction, not a collection of poetry or stories but one singular story that fills a book. A Book which is almost always 80,000 to 120,000 words. There are many notable exceptions to this with certain genres in particular, leaning towards slightly shorter or longer books. However looking at an average we can pretty much say a novel is a 100,000 word story book. 

Now let us consider the publishing industry. The publishing industry is a business that makes money by publishing and marketing books to the mass audience usually via big chain bookshops and major Ebook providers. It is certainly worth reiterating the point that it is a business, as per any business, no matter the intention it was started with it’s primary goal is to make money. An author or writer is an artist whose primary goal is to create art that people will appreciate and take joy from. 

Now I put it to you that the reason that a novel can be easily described as a singular story book of 100,000 words with about twenty six chapters is because that is what the BUSINESS of publishing wants it to be. The format of novels for the most part has remained unchanged for many, many years and probably will for many more. This is largely because the industry knows how to sell stories of that length, how to market them and who too, they know most people will read them and understand that usual formatting. 

While their is nothing fundamentally wrong with a book of 100,000 words it does pose certain problems. It is the way of business in general which I would point out is very similar to the following: Most office jobs work on a daily eight hour window of work, whether you are a graphic designer, an insurance salesman or a recruitment consultant MOST jobs will ask you to work eight hours a day five days a week. Again while their is nothing inherently wrong with this, I believe it is ridiculous to assume that all jobs require the same amount of time to do. The truth is many workers have very pressured days trying to cram everything in and others spread the work out across the day because they easily could have done it in four or five hours. This is exactly the same for books in my opinion, not all stories require 100,000 words to be told. While some people might boo my idea and say ‘Well that’s what short stories are for’ while I agree in part I do not in total. Even great and famous writers such as Steven King have often spoken about the difficulty of getting a 20,000 or a 30,000 word story published. It is too long to be a short story and it is too short to be a novel but why? It is a piece of art, something interpreted by the mind of an artistic individual and there should be no such limits placed upon it. Would you tell an artist that he could only sell a painting if he kept it to A4 paper size?

This is the problem I see with leaving a business in charge or art, until someone proves that people will buy and appreciate and love stories of 20,000 words and stories of 700,000 words then artists will continue to struggle to get the work out there. The world may be being deprived of some excellent stories because of business acumen and that just seems wrong. On the flipside I would add that many stories that would be fantastic at a shorter length are drawn out to 80,000 words by needless and dull subplots or filler just to reach an arbitrary page count.

What do you think friends? Answers on a postcard and until next time I shall leave you with this thought. Dune was the longest published sci-fi story when it was released, it went on to become one of the best selling and most well loved and known sci-fi stories of all time, all because one intrepid business who cared about the art took a chance on it.

So you want to be a writer?

​Do you want to be a writer? I mean, do you actually, genuinely want to be a writer? It may seem like an odd question and most of you are probably saying…yes, of course I ACTUALLY want to be a writer. To give you a full explanation of why I am putting this question out there I think we need to have a little story time.

A long time ago there was a young boy, he was probably around seven or eight when he first decided he ‘wanted to be an author’ but little did he know, he was far from ready. All throughout his Primary School life he would enjoy writing short stories whenever he was given the chance to do so. As he grew up and became a teenager he would spend hours pacing up and down his bedroom thinking up plots and characters and daydreaming about fantastical worlds in which to base his stories. A few times he would even start to write and might get one to three chapters written down before he lost the drive and put the story in a drawer to gather dust. Then he lost the spark, for many years he didn’t even think about writing. He got a ‘real’ job and started to earn money, he paid bills and did all the other boring adulty stuff that adults have to do. He went through a series of hobbies and jobs that he didn’t really enjoy but rarely thought back to those stories he used to write. Then one day when he wasn’t such a young boy and in fact was discovering his first few grey hairs sneaking onto his head while he slept he started to think about them again. A little while after that he started writing, writing in a disciplined and regular fashion. He finished his first complete manuscript for a Novella and then finished two more.

As you might have guessed that young boy turned out to be me, the nearly thirty year old who can now say one hundred percent honestly, I WANT to be a writer and I am a writer.

Since making the decision to really become a writer and actually make this a reality do you know what I have done? You guessed it, I have written, a lot. I have joined and visited many writing groups, I recently participated (and won) in Nanowrimo and at the same time penned short stories for competitions and wrote this blog (This post and a few others, which you have rightly guessed I have since edited to reflect the later posting). One thing I have noticed from spending time with more people who ‘want to be writers’ is that most of them do not want to be writers. Most people who say they want to be a writer just want to dream about being a writer, they like the idea of making stories but they don’t want to actually do the work to make it happen. I have spent time at these groups astounded to hear that people who told me they wanted to be writers say things like ‘I haven’t written any prose in two weeks’ or ‘I never managed to finish nanowrimo, I did write 5000 words last November though’.  

Luckily I have also met some very talented people who say things like ‘I get up at 5AM everyday and write for the same amount of time because then I have to go to work’ and people who have written multiple books or published some short stories. Do you see the difference that I am getting at here?

Many people dream of having written a book but not many people actually want to write it in the first place. If you want to make a career as a novelist then you are looking at writing anywhere in the realm of 1000 to 5000 or more words a day. Let me repeat that so that it settles in, you will write more than one thousand words EVERY SINGLE DAY. Yes there might be the odd day in which you genuinely cannot make it to the keyboard but for the other ninety nine percent of the year you will sit down and write, and the day after the day you missed you can bet your bottom dollar you will be working to catch up with lost time. 

Now I grant you that being a novelist is only one possibility, maybe you want to write magazine articles or poetry or even short stories. Whatever the case you still need to build a consistent writing habit and until you do so you will not be a writer.

So I shall repeat my question, do you want to be a writer? If the answer is yes then go and write, write whatever you enjoy writing and never look back. Don’t let rejection stop you, don’t let people saying it is a pipe dream stop you…and most definitely don’t let reading this stop you. Now go, go and do some writing!

Until next time my friends, I shall leave you with this. To paraphrase Ronnie Coleman ‘Everybody want’s to be a writer but ain’t nobody want to do some heavy ass writing!’