Bookfox: Writerly Questions #5

Hi. I hope you had a lovely New Year and that you’re all pumped and ready for another 365 days of authorial mega-bossness! For my part, I had hoped that I would have a finished first draft by now but that’s still quite a way off. This year, I will definitely have a finished manuscript to send out to agents. What goals have you set for yourself, this year? Finished draft? Finished Manuscript? Another three novels up on Amazon?

Now that the resolutions are out in the open and we have all committed ourselves to being the star of our own writing boss level, let’s dive into the fifth entry in our little Bookfox Questions series.

Question: What are common traps for aspiring writers? (Question found on Bookfox’s blog, here)

Answer: I’ll start by saying that I feel like a huge fraud for even attempting to write an answer to this question as I am, as yet, unpublished in any medium. My answer is, then, based on some things that I have learned since I first told myself that I am a writer.

The first big pitfall that I have noticed myself falling into is not writing for long periods of time. I have a bad habit of driving myself away from my keyboard just at the point when I am building up a good head of steam. I tell myself that it’s not my fault. Work, family and even the dreaded relaxation are all perfectly valid reasons for thinking that I can manage or deserve a day off from work and writing. Whilst all of these things are vitally important for any writer to stay sane, there is merit to the maxim “find time to write every day”. It is important to make sure that you write something, a blog post, diary entry or a few hundred words of the novel, every day. It is crucial that you make your brain work creatively for an hour or so every day. Otherwise, as I said in last week’s post, it gets harder and harder to get back into writing.

Another bear trap I have stumbled into is to try writing more than one thing at a time. When I first started looking for ideas for novels, I kept an A4 book of ideas. Each story idea had a couple of pages of brief notes or a really ragged-rough draft of a scene. I would then take each idea and write a few hundred words of each story as they came to me and just run with whichever one felt like it had some mileage at the time. Pretty soon, I had five stories on the go and no clue which one I was writing at the time I sat down in front of my laptop. What you should do is work on one thing at a time and any idea you have that does not feed directly into that can go into that big notebook. Instead of jumping on that big, white horse and riding into the sunset, the idea gets saved for later. If and when you go back to that idea, you might remember what you wanted from it. If it still seems like a good idea, you will know it has legs. More importantly, though, you can concentrate on the most important story: the one you’re writing right now.

My real rebellion-crushing, Admiral Akbar-shocking, quite operational trap has, in the past, been this blog. I have spent so long working on this blog in the past, trying to make it interesting and engaging, that I have neglected the work-in-progress. That is nothing short of criminal. How can I call myself a writer if all I am doing is pretending to be a writer? I have written about this in a previous post, when I said that it is nice to have imaginary conversations with myself about having made it. And I stand by that. Those little moments of make-believe can be a huge motivator. The interviews you hold in your head with your future self can help you to keep focussed on how you go about writing, they remind you when you’re not doing enough and allow you to work through other story ideas. They can be really important for me if, like me, you don’t have any other writer-friends with whom you can talk about these things. The danger, though, is that you get stuck in it all, spiralling down into the wishing well and getting stuck. What is the point of having a platform if you have nothing to say? What is the point of an audience if you have nothing to perform?

The advice to take from this post is that new writers should write every day and focus on one thing at a time; whilst a blog and a diary are fun and can be helpful, the work-in-progress should never be neglected. Keep those creative muscles working and you can welcome everyone to the literary gun-show.

What traps have you found yourself falling into? Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.

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