Writing Tips from Someone Who Struggles to Write

I've been Struggling™ to finish anything that I have written when it comes to longer pieces of work. Maybe I was just meant to spit out some mediocre short pieces, but I highly doubt that. In my attempts to write something longer, more involved, and not as unpublishable, I have devised some tips that I am forcing myself to follow in hopes of finishing just one (please, just one) novel.

  1. Start with something that is very exciting. I'm not talking about an idea that makes you want to jump for joy, but I'm really happy for you if you get one of those right off the bat, but something more like a tv show, random conversation, or character from some sort of media that made you really happy. For my most recent piece, I selected the BBC show, Merlin. My story doesn't include dragons, my main characters are girls, and there is a romantic relationship (based heavily on Merlin and Arthur's actions around each other but that's beside the point), but I started with the shell of the plot. It makes planning side stories and the basics of the plot much more manageable.

  2. Make the outline within your scenes. As someone who hates having multiple documents open just to work on one thing, I've started putting what I want inside brackets in between the scenes I want it to appear. I'm sure people have been doing this forever, but I used to force myself to write out a full blurb or portion of a scene in order to get my point across. It was draining and took away from the part I wanted to be writing and had inspiration for at that moment. By doing this, I don't have to worry about forgetting, but I also am allowing myself to do the bare minimum and trust myself to go back to it.

  3. Dialogue and vague action first. Imagery is fun to write, and it helps build your world, but sometimes it's easier to write what the scene needs to advance before filling this in. This allows me to be sure that the scene is propelling the narrative forward rather than just being something that I wrote because I wanted the place to be pretty, which I find I do often. It's also a good way to see whether or not your characters feel like cooperating in that given moment. There's no reason to waste time describing a gun when your character is far too dramatic to select such an easy weapon, choosing instead a letter opener or some other dumb thing they didn't think through (yes, my characters are being assholes again).

  4. Commit to overt characteristics. Every character should have one thing that drives them that comes across no matter the situation. This makes it easier to determine what each is doing at a given point in time and helps develop every single one into an independent character who isn't just a slightly different copy of another. It also helps with writing action during moments when the dialogue flows and everything else is at a standstill. The character is a flirt? They try to stand close to others and smile when they make them uncomfortable. Nervous? Have them play with their hands or hair. Stick up their butt? Make them stand up straighter or roll their eyes.

    5.  Actually fucking write. You heard me. Open that word document and write something. 200 words are better than nothing.