To those of you who don’t know:
Discworld is a comic fantasy book series written by the English author Terry Pratchett, set on the fictional Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A’Tuin.
Isn’t it perfect? How many fantasy books are out there with their own worlds? How many weird, made up names have authors created? Yet none are so memorable as the Discworld. None match its creative simplicity. Why is this? I think there are three reasons:
- The absurdity of it – (see above description)
- It plays on the silly idea of a flat earth – (Any flat earthers in the house??)
and perhaps most crucially:
This last one I find the most interesting. Go up to someone and say ‘Discworld’. They may well tell you to fuck off, but at the same time they’ll get an image in their head, perhaps not of the turtle and the elephants, but of a disc shaped world. It marries two words that people understand: ‘disc’ and ‘world’ and builds something amazing around it.
How can a writer match that?
In my current novel: ‘Proper Magic’, I have a fantasy world. I have a concept that I hope will set it apart from its peers, but it still needs a name and I can guarantee it’ll be no Discworld…
Ah well, aim for the stars. Who knows: you may hit an elephant.
Perhaps you’ve read that title and gone:
‘Well, duh! I’m writing a hundred things!’
‘But all my effort is going into this one project!’
Neither response is wrong and we all have our own systems, but if your answer was the latter then might I suggest having two projects on the go?
Back when I focused on one thing at a time I got mired in the effort. This is partly due to forcing my storytelling into one particular type of story, even when my mood was elsewhere because ‘I have to focus on this to get it done.’
I don’t suggest writing loads at once. Having a dozen novels on the go leads nowhere and you end up drowning. But have two stories, or like in my case I have the Death Echo series in the background while working on my novel, Proper Magic.
It helps clear out the creative cobwebs which turn up after too long spent cleaning the living-room but ignoring the attic!
When you hit a block in one project dive into the other. The less wasted time the better, and the more you’ll learn about your writing.
You’re a writer! You must be really good at spelling!
You’re a writer! You must get really annoyed when some has the wrong grammar!
You’re a writer! That’s so intellectual! I could never write a book!
I’m pretty bad at spelling, I have a real concern that I might not understand commas and I mostly write about wizards with silly names (and death, a lot about death).
I’m making it up as I go along. So is every writer. Don’t worry.
TL;DR – Don’t overthink it, just do it! Overthinking is for the editing phase.
That title is a bit misleading. Every writer is a struggling writer. If you’re not struggling then you’re not writing!
Below are a series of tips in no particular order. Some may not apply to you at all, but some might. They’ve helped me!
- Write a little every day (even a hundred words is a hundred words in the right direction!)
- Never force the words (If the words aren’t coming perhaps you should do some…)
- Research, research, research (We all have google – it’s easy)
- Set BIG goals (This year I want my novel written!)
- Set little goals (This week I want 2000 words written)
- Don’t be scared to delete (Just because we’re sitting on our asses doesn’t mean our writing should be bloated)
- Try writing short stories (I put this off for too long!)
- Read your genre(s) (Duh)
- Learn from what you read (Others make mistakes so you don’t have to)
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes (Fear stops people from achieving their dreams)
- Treat writing like a job (You HAVE to read up on dragon lore before the end of the week or your boss will be on your ass [you’re the boss])
- Enjoy your job! (Oh boy, dragon lore!)
- You don’t have to pick a side when it comes to self publishing and traditional publishing (You can do both – just not with the same manuscript)
- Be brave (Don’t be ashamed of what you’re writing! Embrace it!)
- Write from the heart, edit from the brain (Some things need passion, other things need logic)
- Don’t overuse words (Yet again I used yet one too many time… yetyetyet)
- The ‘Find’ tool in word is your friend
- The ‘Replace’ tool can easily become your enemy
- Be Patient (Good things take time. Take a deep breath.)
- Don’t be bitter (Don’t hate others for their success)
- Give a story time to breath (Put it aside for a month, reread it)
- Every correction you make is a lesson (Learn that lesson!)
- Back-up everything you write (email, hardrives etc)
I often see fellow writers on twitter post about not being able to write, and I’m guilty of the same posts.
This got me to thinking – how hard do you all find it? I always feel like I don’t have enough time, like whatever I do there’s always more to write. I tend to have a few projects going on at once and chip away at them. Nearly every free moment is spent working on them – research, planning, editing etc.
There’s so much more I know I could be doing, but there’s only so many hours in the day. Like many writers I dream of a day my writing will support me financially. Would I be more productive with every day spent writing? Or would all that free time be detrimental?
Perhaps I’ll look back at this period of working two jobs and writing and think ‘Damn I was motivated,’ or alternatively: ‘How did I ever manage to get any of it done?’
I think I DO find writing easy, because I enjoy it. I love editing paragraphs down, making them slicker, I revel in finding my own mistakes and restructuring scenes so that they flow better. I love starting a new short story, I love deleting pages of unnecessary text.
I just wish I had more time!
Most of my characters didn’t DO romance. Which is weird because I’m all about love. Between partners, family members friends. Love is very important to me. Yet in writing I struggle with it. I realized a few days ago why I avoided it – I was afraid of it! Or rather, I was afraid of doing it wrong.
After spit-balling some ideas around with a friend I decided to take the plunge with writing romance. Hold up, Seb, you just said you struggle with it – why dive into romance? Well, random voice inside my head – when you struggle with things it usually means you’re having to learn something NEW. Learning is cool.
Learning IS cool, right?
Here’s the beautiful bit, though: by pushing myself into one project outside my comfort zone I’ve been able to re-evaluate character relationships in another, far more developed story. I’ve been able to let my guard down and really get into the nitty gritty details of their imperfect, unlucky, but ultimately beautiful love.
I’m not sure if there’s a moral here.
That’ll do for now. Anyway, I’m really happy that I have this whole new window open to me. I’m not afraid of it any more. THAT’S IT!
Don’t fear the unknown, embrace it.
Death Echo: Vol 1 is out there and accruing some lovely reviews. But as ever with creative exploits one must drive forwards and not dawdle.
Death Echo: Vol 2 is most definitely underway and if things go well it might even come out before this year is done (no promises!). I have a huge amount of ideas as to where to take the series and the feedback has been massively helpful.
But enough about that! For the time being it’s back to novels for me! I’d like to introduce my next big project:
A Kingdom Obscurer Novel
I wrote Proper Magic last year and it came to around 65,000 words. By the end of it I was happy with the characters, the world, and most of the events, but I found the story itself lacking. I felt like I hadn’t done them justice. An important part of writing is knowing when to delete and rewrite your work. This was one of those occasions.
So I set myself a task – now knowing the characters and the world I had to do it all over again, but with better pacing, action, development and world building. I just reached 15,000 words and it feels amazing. I feel like this could be the one, not to jinx it or anything…
Proper Magic is a sword and sorcery/heroic fantasy with a comical, quite often subversive edge. So expect related blog post to be coming from me about the process. I’ll be going into more depth about the characters as things develop with this second run.
That’s all from me for now. Oh, and Happy Easter for Sunday!