We all have moments where we think to ourselves: “I’m a bad writer.”
We have a bad writing day, or week, or year. We type the same word wrong five times in a row and end up swearing at the screen. Getting 500 words out feels like climbing Everest. And we all produce first drafts that look like they were written by a four-year-old.
But the thing is, it’s pretty much the same for all of us.
I remember someone – I think it was George R R Martin – saying that sometimes, writing is just you and the words, alone, in a dark room, and you have to confront them. In those moments, writing can feel terribly isolating.
So I’ve decided to start cataloguing my writing process. When things go well, I’ll tell you. When they go badly, I’ll tell you. And hopefully you’ll find some encouragement from the fact that, for most of us most of the time, writing is like trying to fight a boxing match with a blindfold on. And you’ve never boxed before.
At the start of the year, I promised myself I would write more fiction in 2020. I didn’t say I was also going to start a blog, but that happened too. Welp. Here goes nothing, I guess.
As the first month of the year comes to an end, how did I do?
In short, I’m pleased with my progress. I don’t think I wrote a single word of fiction in 2019 (I wrote plenty of other words though – mostly for Listverse), but in the first month of 2020 I’ve written over 10,000 words of short story material. This doesn’t mean it was plain sailing though – no, a lot of it was messy.
I was apprehensive at first. I was worried my fiction might have lost some of its edge, or I might have forgotten how to plot a coherent short story. So my first story of the month was almost a mad dash to prove myself wrong. From conception to completion it took three days and came in at around 3,000 words – not too shabby. It even included some subtle hints of romance, which I’ve never been able to write well.
I gave it to a second pair of eyes expecting them to tell me it was OTT and melodramatic – but to my surprise, they were impressed. I trust this person to tell me when my stories are bad (a very important trait in a beta reader), so that was nice!
The second story was a bit more work. I started it the day after I finished the first one, not anticipating how much longer it would take. It took me six days in the end and finished at 3,700 words. I had to print it out twice to annotate and edit with my trusty pen because the plot was giving me a lot of trouble. It required more worldbuilding than the first story and the scenes had to be tighter to get the plot to work properly…. but I got it done after a eureka moment where I realised a particular scene shouldn’t have been there at all. Phew.
I still haven’t got a second pair of eyes on that one. For all I know, it could be garbage and I’ll have to dive back into the editing trenches. Let’s not think about that too much.
I started the third story the following day and it was immediately freeing. The main character’s voice was much stronger and I had a good idea of how they’d react to things early on, so I could let them do a lot of the heavy lifting plot-wise. The words came much quicker but I could also see that I was using more words than before to get plot points across. I could tell from the start this was going to be a longer story than the other two – but was by no means a bad thing.
This third story was interrupted by a cold. I spent those couple of days tidying and feeling sorry for myself, not doing any writing at all. But on one of the nights the writing bug bit me and I spat out a 350-word piece of flash that I’m not quite sure what to do with. Oh well.
I’m pleased with my January progress, but the vast majority of it is still first draft and hasn’t been looked at by beta readers. I could be standing on a house of cards – but for now, I’m happy.
Which brings me to the end of January! It was a good month, a productive month, and I’m happy to be back writing fantasy again. I’ll worry about feedback and polishing later – for now I’m forging ahead.