The Secret to Writing

Most writers will tell you the secret to writing is simply to put your butt in a chair and write.  Just write.  But what good are all those words on a page if you don’t actually finish?

Published authors already know.  But those of us that may be just starting out and unpublished need to learn the dirty little secret.

When I started writing my first book, I worked on it now and then when inspiration struck.  Although I’d get stuck (because I was a pantser with no outline or clear path to follow), I’d eventually get unstuck and plod on.  It would take days, weeks, sometimes months to get unstuck, but eventually I would, only to get stuck again.  Time away from writing just left the manuscript languishing, alone and forgotten.  Two years went by and for some reason the drive to finish the book struck again.  This time, I would stick to it.  This time would be different.  And it was.  What made it different this time?  A deadline.

The RWA’s yearly Golden Hearts contest for unpublished authors was opening for entries in November.  Now I had a goal, a deadline.  Although the contest was opening in November, it wasn’t closing until January 3rd-ish.  However, the way my brain works made me fixate on the November date.  This became my deadline, and all the excuses and distractions that had previously kept me from writing were swept aside.  I wrote furiously and at every opportunity, and in two months I wrote more than I had in the two years previously.  More importantly, I finished the manuscript in time to enter in November.

Then I started another book, but I was mostly dealing with Christmas and the whirlwind that ensues when you have a busy life.  As this second manuscript cried softly in the dark, dusty corner of my desk drawer, I searched Amazon for something good to download to my Kindle, and kept seeing Christmas romances.  It was too late for me to pull off a Christmas book, even a short story, so I thought ahead to the next holiday (and I use that term loosely here), Valentine’s Day.  This became my new deadline.  And so the Valentine’s Day story was written and self-published February 13th.

And then I started another book, my current WIP, and once again I’m floundering with no deadline to push toward and a busy life stealing away my precious writing time.  For me, lighting a fire under my (writing) butt only occurs when I have a self-imposed deadline.  When you’re not writing for a publishing house, you are your own boss, and bosses expect you to deliver your projects on time.  Setting a random deadline may not work.  Look for contests that have a realistic but specific deadline, and commit to it.  THEN put your butt in a chair and write.  Just write.

10 thoughts on “The Secret to Writing

  1. I had to have an outline before I started. I bought a cheap small journal book and sketched out the basic outline and character descriptions. A bunch changed along the way, but it kept the pace going without me getting stuck too often.

    • I’m beginning to see the benefit of that. A couple of days ago I read this fabulous article, “How I Plot A Novel in 5 Steps” by Rachel Aaron, which totally inspired me to try plotting. I’ve stopped writing my current WIP and won’t continue until I’ve followed her steps. I’m very excited to try it. Goodbye pantsing!!

  2. What an inspirational and true post!!!! The two of us battle with so many of the same issues 🙂 glad to know I have a writing twin out there.

  3. I had a similar experience when I first started writing, except I had three or four partially finished manuscripts languishing. In fact there are still a couple I hope to finish, and two others that need some serious revisions. I’m going to give myself a hard deadline for each task. Thanks for the great post.

    • I find it very hard to go back to an unfinished MS when there’s so many shiny new story ideas to write. And I’m sick to death of revising my current WIP. Set a hard deadline for me too, please!

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