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Writing is hard. Ironic, considering how many posts I've written and how much I read - you'd think it would be easy for me to write. But that's partly what makes it so hard. I know what I consider to be good writing versus average, and I often convince myself that whatever I put on the page will never be good enough. It's a self-fulfilling, imposter syndrome-induced prophecy, but I am no longer trying to abide by it as I work to finish a novel draft.

I don't like calling it writer's block, because that's not quite what's actually stopping me from getting words down. It's my fear of writing badly, but I've been *trying* to do this long enough that I may have picked up a trick or two.

  1. Don't limit yourself to writing one specific way.
    What I mean by this is, don't just solely write in a notebook, or type on your computer/phone. Sometimes, inspiration strikes at the most random of times, and it's not always feasible to grab for your computer/phone/notebook. In fact, a lot of my writing recently has been done at 3 in the morning with the notes or Google Docs app on my iPhone, because it can be synced to my computer. When I'm in that mode, my only thoughts are to get my words down as quickly as I can before I lose them again. Looking back over them later, I'm rarely disappointed - even my half asleep drivel is better than nothing.

    I know myself well - meaning I know the best way for me to write (usually) is with my laptop, but there are times when the words flow better when I write them down in a notebook (I have a "master" one for every work-in-progress I have - more on this in the next tip), or when I'm typing on my phone. This has probably been my most helpful and most recent discovery, and if you don't believe me, I'll tell you - I've written over 30,000 words in the past couple of weeks on a draft that sat untouched for years. Are they good words? No idea. Because that's not what's important right now. Getting the words down is.

  2. Have a "home base" for your writing.
    For me, this is a large dot-grid Moleskine notebook (specifically called the Moleskine Lined Professional Dot XL Hard Classic). This is just my personal preference, and I was inspired by Sarah Mae Sutton, who is a YA romance author I discovered through TikTok. She has a similar notebook that she covered with stickers, which is also something I did. I currently have two works-in-progress that have their own notebook, and to help me get excited about my stories, I covered them in stickers from Redbubble that I thought fit them very well.

    And don't forget, this notebook (or Pinterest board, or document on your computer, etc) is for you. You don't have to make it pretty or organized - no one else is going to see it but you. Of course, if organization helps you, go for it. For me, I can get pretty in my head about these kinds of things, so I just write down whatever comes to my mind - character details, snippets of scenes I want to finish later, plot outlining, etc. Just anything that I can think of. And these details can exist in more places than just your home base - I have a note about writing details in my phone as well, for whenever I can't readily get to my notebook or if it's just faster to type things out.

    You can use sticky notes to help plan out and move around scenes, or you can print out pictures and make collages to help inspire you. My next two tips will go more into detail about how you can get inspired.

  3. Make playlists.
    I used to never make playlists - I just download whatever music I'm in the mood for and play it until I get sick of it. But recently, I've been curating a playlist for one of my stories that helps me so much on my long drives where I have a lot of time to spend in my head. They can help set the mood, so I have mine playing whenever I'm writing in case it's hard for me to remember whatever I came up with in my car.

  4. Make Pinterest boards.
    This is related to my last two tips. I love Pinterest because the algorithm means I can start saving pins to boards for my characters or make aesthetics, and the next time I open the app, I may be presented with more pins on my feed.

    Sometimes I have a general idea of what I want a character to look like, for example, but Pinterest can help me narrow that down to enhance my descriptions. Or it can provide lots of text posts that describe them, or their relationship to another person, or the overall theme of my writing.

  5. You can't edit a blank page/First drafts are supposed to be bad/Kill your darlings.
    My fear of writing badly has me deleting words like nobody's business. And if I'm constantly backtracking on myself, I never go forward. The point of a first draft is to tell you yourself the story - no one else. It's you figuring out things and seeing just how far off the rails it can go from your original plan. You can't edit and make it better if you don't have anything written down.

    Here's a quote from author John Steinbeck's East of Eden that I think is particularly fitting for this tip: "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."

    You may also find during the editing stage that you want to change everything about a chapter - which is good. If it wasn't written in the first place, you wouldn't have realized what needed to be changed.

    Related to this point is "kill your darlings." You may be attached to one part that just doesn't fit in your story anymore now that it's written. You have to cut it out, but don't delete it completely. You never know what might be useful to you later. I have a document of rejected bits from my work-in-progress that still have potential, either in this project or another one.

  6. Take edits/criticism with a grain of salt.
    You don't have to put in every single edit a critique partner/editor/beta reader gives you. They don't know your story like you do, and that can cause them to suggest things that are probably good, but not for your particular story. Obviously, take criticism constructively, and don't let it bog you down. At the end of the day, these people are in your corner, and they want you to have the tools you need to get the job done and get it done well.

    But sometimes, what they're suggesting isn't where you want the story to go. A general rule of thumb that I definitely did not come up with on my own (but have no idea where I was exposed to it) is that you should pay more attention to common themes in your critiques. Did only one person find a chapter slow, or did a lot of them? Again, you don't necessarily have to incorporate these things into your writing, but it is something to look into.

  7. Don't forget why you started.
    Along this same line is write what you know. For me, this is probably what keeps me going when I just want to give up and trash my drafts. I write my stories for me, because they're what I want to read, and no one else can do it the way I envision. They may come close, but no one else can tell your story for you. I'm writing the stories I wished I had when I was younger, in the hopes that someone who needs it will find it.

    You don't have to write with the intention of publishing or sharing it anywhere - just write because the words exist and you need to get them out. The rest can come later.

    Again, this writing is for you, and that should be your biggest priority. Other people are going to have their own opinions, but at the end of the day, it's your work, and you decide what happens with it (if anything at all).

    And this goes for any sort of writing - be it a story, a fan fiction, a blog post, an academic paper - it doesn't matter. Words just need to get down, and they need to get down for the right reasons. That's what got you started, and that's what's going to help you finish.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I'm sure by the time it goes up I will have yelled at myself for forgetting something, but the lovely thing about that is - I'm not the only one who's ever struggled to write, and there are lots of places you can find writing tips and inspiration.

Sarah Taphom

Oglethorpe '22

Communications Major | Women's and Gender Studies Minor HC @ Oglethorpe Marketing and Recruitment Director | Twitter Admin
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