Writing less to write more

This year, as some of you may have noticed, I’ve managed to stick to a schedule on this ‘ere blog by posting something every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

The aim was to keep myself writing, regardless of quality or length, in the hopes that it would carry over into my other creative writing exploits elsewhere.

Alas, in the latter regard, it hasn’t really worked.

I think because the process I use to craft (ha!) a blog post and how I approach longer fictional writing differs quite dramatically (pun intended) so, despite them being essentially the same sort of thing (write some words), I don’t seem to get any flow from one format to the other.

In hindsight, it should’ve been obvious. I mean if it was just about churning out words then surely tweets should count and be part of the contribution? Not to mention the countless (endless!) emails, presentations, and documents I produce at work. Alas no, there is a different focus, a bigger world I need to step into when it comes to writing creatively and no amount of cheap words will do.

I say that not to cheapen what I offer here (I doubt anything I say here could do much to cheap the bulk of what I have published!) but the process I use for each format is telling.

Most, if not all, of my blog posts this year have been quickly drafted whenever thought and keyboard collide. I’ll revisit and re-edit most of them once, occasionally twice, and will happily reach for ideas wherever I can get them. For a random focus-less blog that’s just fine, the writing is allowed to vary in style, pace, prose, and content as much as I want (although inevitably it’ll all come out sounding like me anyway). Yet for a longer piece… say, a chapter for a novel… well things get a little more complicated.

Lessons learned abound and I now know that leaping straight in to writing a long piece of fiction with the barest bones of an idea is probably not the best approach for me. It works to a point, and discovering the characters and their traits as I write about them was oddly beguiling, almost maternal as these strangers emerged into people before me. But once I’d bashed out 50,000-odd words (thank you NaNoWriMo) I realised that whilst I liked the premise of the story I was trying to tell, it was falling short of how I wanted to write, and that’s not to mention the style I had seemingly adopted which on reading sections back felt oddly foreign at times. Did I really write that LIKE THAT?

I wrote a lot of words but as I’ve started to pick my way back through that first draft – which will never see the light of day, so don’t ask – I find myself peeling everything back and staring at what’s left in utter bemusement. Eventually I start to re-write, filling in the gaps as best I can until the shape of the very thing I’m trying to sculpt has twisted into something entirely else. All well and good for one chapter but slotting this newly carved piece into the jigsaw of the whole soon becomes a matter of futility, so it’s on to the next piece, and then the next, and soon you aren’t building a jigsaw at all but learning how to water-ski. It’s very off-putting.

Which means that returning to the short form simplicity of a blog post becomes very freeing and the next thing you know, despite starting out to write about how you might be taking a wee break from the blog for a week or so, because you have utterly no idea what to write about (and your recent vomiting bug is very much best left un-discussed) you find yourself realising that you’ll always have something churning about in your brain, you just needed to coax it out into the light and (still) the best way I have of doing that is to just start writing.

And lo I did write, and waffle, and meander through a topic that is specific to me but may be familiar to some (and hey maybe even helpful to another? I can but dream!).

This all goes to say, in as many words as possible (although I do end up boring even myself at times) that I want to congratulate you if you’ve made it this far. God knows I’d have given up several paragraphs ago. Maybe think on it this way; only the few (fool)hardy souls who have ventured to this point will know that I’m now taking classes and learning how to water-ski properly.