E-Literate: Writing Advice

Get the pen to the pad when you can.  Photo Courtesy: Sharon Drummond

By Ethan Harmon

Being a writer is not always easy. Sure, some ideas just flow from you and are easily written. Sometimes, it just does not work that way. Writer’s block happens, you can get stumped by little details, some parts of the process can be grueling and frustrating, coming up with new ideas can be irritating, the list goes on and on. It can be difficult, especially if you are new to writing.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone here. In fact, if you want to be a writer, I completely encourage and support it. Writing, to me, is the most rewarding thing in the world. Nothing feels better than seeing your ideas come to life, whether it is within a novel, a comic book or an article. And that’s the point of this article. If you are a writer, or you want to become one, I have a few pieces of advice to push yourself toward your goal:

1. Don’t get caught up with your outline – Outlining is important, don’t get me wrong. It is essential to log your ideas, especially if your writing is for creative purposes. But it is easy to get stuck outlining and not move forward. New ideas will always pop up, sometimes you may want to change the structure or progression and you may want to go a different route when writing characters. That’s fine. It will happen no matter what, trust me. Instead of constantly changing the outline, simply get a basic understanding of what you are writing; get the main points down and move on. You can change the story/article/screenplay/whatever as you write it, or later on when you are editing. Don’t lose yourself in the little ideas and never put pen to paper.

2. Don’t worry about every mistake in your first draft – I know quite a few friends who cannot move onward until certain errors are fixed in their first drafts. Fixing mistakes in your first draft is fine, but don’t get caught up in it. You can fix everything while you edit and progress to your final copy. You just need to focus on getting everything down first. Write out everything: dialog, setting, action, etc. Only after you are one-hundred percent finished with the first draft should you worry about fixing all the errors.

3. Editing is important, but try not to overthink it – Grammar counts. No one will take you seriously if your writing is flooded with tons of misspellings or misplaced punctuation. And editing can be a frustrating process, due to the fact that you may have to not only fix grammatical errors, but also change certain passages that you have already written. It is hard to take a red pen and mark out certain sentences or paragraphs. It is hard to change dialog or character interactions. I know, all too well. But don’t overthink it. Just make the changes you feel are necessary. Don’t hinder your work by spending weeks going through a few pages, constantly changing and fixing everything. Just make sure that it reads well, the writing flows and you don’t have any obvious mistakes.

4. Get your final draft finished – After you are done editing, finish up the entire thing. Write the final copy and don’t look back. If there are any last minute changes you need to make, do so and move on. Write your piece to the fullest and stay true to your original ideas. Just finish it.

5. Try not to look back – It sounds weird, but this is important. When you are finished with your work, don’t look back. New ideas may enter your brain. You may think of something else you could have written. Your brain might start telling you, “I could have done blank instead of putting in blank. Maybe I should re-write that.” Don’t. Accept it for what it is. As you keep writing, your abilities will grow and you will progress. Instead of thinking in the “what if” mindset, stay true to yourself, start another project and be happy with what you have completed.

6. Write when you can and try not to force it – I’ve read many articles stating that good writers write X amount of words every day. Anything less means that you are not cut out for your dreams. I think that is not true. Inspiration can come at any time. You can’t force yourself to come up with good ideas on the spot. Sometimes, it just needs to come naturally. And I do not believe that you must write every day. You can write every day. If you can, more power to you. But forcing yourself to write can occasionally be a bad thing. If you aren’t feeling it, you can produce some terrible stuff. Write when you can, write often and write what you want. Take breaks. Don’t force anything. As long as you keep at it and stay consistent, you’re fine.

I hope that this helps anyone who has hit a wall, wants to start writing or needs a little help to complete that can’t-quite-finish-it story. If you enjoy it, if you love it, if you need it, if you have an idea and just want to get it out there, write.