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How do you write?

edited January 2018 in Writing
I used to think that writers sat down and a work of art would spring forth from their fingers fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. I know now that it doesn't work like that, yet I'm still in the process of trying to corral ideas and plots; get the laundry done; write down this amazing idea that I know I won't remember later, do the washing up; read a few stories and take notes; get everyone fed, walked, and watered, and then I can finally sit down and.... blank page.

What are your habits and routines? Do you have any tips for a relative newbie like myself?


  • Keep a notebook with you, either old school pen paper or use your phone, to capture 10 minute thoughts here and there throughout the day.

  • Agree with Dora. And if you see something that inspires you take a picture, or cut out the snippet and stick it into a folder or big envelope. That way you always have something to start you off.
  • Carol's picture idea is a good one. News items too can give you that 'what if'moment.
  • You need a decision first of all on your subject/theme etc. Before you have that, you can't set your brain to work. Then while you are walking the dog, feeding and watering your mid will be at work on some level. Then it's easier. It's easier again when you start writing, even if it isn't what finally appears in the finished thing... just sit and write. If you get stuck write the last word you did write over and over till you can start again. Don't take your pen off the page and carry with on the subject and eventually an idea maybe a different one will start to emerge. It's very freeing. It's much easier to change what you are writing or edit what you have written and see a different way of doing things if there is something there to begin with. I often write something rubbish and then something good after.
  • When you start, don't worry too much about anything - just get some words written. If you're fretting over your spelling, or sticking to a theme or anything else, you just make things harder for yourself.

    I forget who said it, but there's a quote which goes something like, 'A first draft is just shovelling sand into a box, so that later you can build castles'. I totally agree.
  • One of the key things when you're starting out is to experiment with different forms of writing while you're learning your craft.
    I used to get so hung up because I couldn't even think up a topic for a short story let alone write one and my desire to write was always just a wistful dream.
    One day I saw a travel writing competition and discovered that I could write real life stories with ease. I became a published travel writer. The fiction came later but non-fiction will always be more my thing.
  • Thanks, everyone. I've realised that I tend to come up with a lot more in the mornings, usually in the shower of course, which is very inconvenient for writing it down. I'm listening to Book Club on the iPlayer and I'm coming to understand that it's very much a piecemeal affair and a journey of discovery which helps to know.
  • The only advice I'd like to give -which I needed and need to follow now-is to finish what you start. Even if you think it's terrible because it's better to have finished stories than a lot of unfinished ones. Pinterest is helpful for storyboarding and hunting for inspiration. Happy Writing
  • Someone rang me, Writers' Group leader, the other day.
    'I want to learn how to write precisely,' she said but didn't turn up to the meeting. Presumably, she found a dictionary!
  • Bear in mind also that no writer - no matter how famous or well-published - writes perfect prose effortlessly. Every famous book will have gone through the hands of several other people, especially editors and proof-readers. So write: find your voice; find characters you like and tell their story, in your own way, and see what happens.

    My novel was inspired by finding an 18th century gaming coin in the soil in our garden; while gaming is mentioned, and the inn that used to exist next door where it would have taken place makes an appearance, the story has very little to do with that - but that was the spark. You'll probably go off at a tangent from where you thought you were going, once the characters take hold of their story, but don't worry. That's all part of the process.

    One last thing - definitely make notes. No matter how good your memory, you'll forget the one thing you really want to remember - it's guaranteed!
  • edited April 2018
    Totally agree Mrs Bear i had an amazing idea for a new novel - at my usual inspirational time 3am - thought to myself that's so good I'll never forget that and instead of tapping the basic premise into my phone like I usually do, when rudely awoken by a middle of the night idea, turned over and went back to sleep. Needless to say when I woke up the next morning - completely gone. That'll teach me.
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