Write fast and dirty is my motto for first drafts.
There’s nothing pretty or polished about the first run-through of a story. The biggest obstacle to writing is finishing what you started. So write fast and dirty and finish that draft!
I can’t even tell you how many students (and veteran writers) I’ve heard say, “I can’t finish a story.” If the writing world had epidemics, this would be one.
Learn how to finish what you’re working on without going down the rabbit hole and being distracted by multiple projects at once.
The late Jay Lake was known for being a blazingly fast writer. His rules for writing aren’t for everyone, but if they resonate with you, you should definitely give them a try.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re struggling to finish what you start, you should also give them a try. If they sound counterproductive to you, try them for at least a month (28 days to make a habit, right?) before you declare this a failed experiment.
Ray Bradbury says you can’t write 52 bad stories in a row.
Basically, if you write a story a month for a year, you’re bound to hit pay dirt at least once.
For more advice from Bradbury, go here. They’re pretty fabulous … and spot-on.
In that vein, let’s get you writing.
Or at least, let’s figure out where you do your most productive writing. You’re going to need something to jot down a few notes with so at least a pen and paper or the notepad function on a phone or computer. Or leave your answers in the forum for your classmates to chew on.
Here are the things I want you to take note of:
What time of day are you the most productive?
What time of day do you write?
Do you write in long stretches or short bursts?
What does your writing space look like?
In what environment are you the most productive (ie. a desk, a soft bean bag chair, complete silence, blaring rock opera, cat on your lap, cat locked out of the room)?
What genre do you most enjoy writing?
What genre would you say you’re the best at writing?
What is your preferred length of material (short story, blog post, Tweet, novel, etc.)?
What length are you best at?
Now, take a look at your answers. And answer these:
Are your most productive writing times overlapping with your actual times?
Why or why not?
Is your writing environment set up to be your most productive?
Why or why not?
Is the genre you enjoy writing the same as the genre you’re good at?
Is the length you enjoy writing the same as the one you’re best at?
What other overlap do you see that you did or didn’t expect?
Where are you missing opportunities to optimize your writing productivity?
Big caveat: Don’t get overwhelmed.
You’re not perfect. You’re not supposed to be. Most writers are halfway to cuckoo-pants on a good morning and all the way there by evening (I love you all anyway). We’re all on this journey together and it’s only by taking a good look at ourselves that we’ll be able to grow both as people and writers.
Pick one area where you have an opportunity to optimize your writing. It might be cleaning up the clutter around your work space or realizing you work best at night instead of forcing yourself up a half hour early only to slog through half-hearted drafts because you hate being up that early.
Make a note in the margins of your document somewhere about how many words you get written this week. Or how many chapters you edit. Whatever your unit of measurement is, note it down.
Next week, I want you to change one more thing. That’s it. No more big changes. Maybe try investing in a pair of decent noise-cancelling headphones (I bought the $70 pair and they work just fine) or letting the kids watch Minecraft videos on Youtube for 30 minutes so you can have a bit of peace and quiet to write. They won’t die. I promise.
Make another note in those margins. How’s your productivity? Getting better?
My guess is that it is.
Before you know it, you’ll be finishing stories. And that’s the secret to selling.