Monday, May 26, 2008

If You Can Talk, you can write

I hate to write! I love thinking about writing, talking about what I'm going to write, and telling people that I am a writer. But actually sitting down and producing anything? I never really did. The hardest thing about writing, really, is starting to write. Sure, I had good ideas and a notebook to keep them in. I had a good writing style, a word processor, and a copy of writer's market. When I took a writing class and was forced to write, other people loved my writing and encouraged me. Still, I did not write.

Just because I was not writing, doesn't mean I stopped reading about it. I love reading how to write books how to write mysteries, how get your work published, how to break into magazine writing. There are thousands of writing books out there. If you spend a lot of time reading them, you won't have time or energy to write. I didn't. One day I read a book about writing that was different. It was the last one I ever read. After that I started writing.

The name of this book is If You Can Talk, You Can Write. It's written by Joel Saltzman.

The main premise is that anyone can write. The important thing is just to keep the words coming out. Even if what you are saying is garbage. If you can't think of anything to write, write something anyway. You could write a description of what your kitchen sink looks like, or what you wore to school in third grade. The act of putting words on paper leads you to what you want to write about.

However, if you leave your writing in that form, it is going to sound like self indulgent garbage. The other half of the equation is edit, edit, edit. But don't edit until you get to the end. If you keep editing as you go (like I used to) it's hard to get anywhere. Write the whole thing through. Then let it sit and go back and edit. Think of the writing as the big picture, and the editing as the little details. Once you get out what you want to say, you can go back and tweak it. If you keep going back and messing around with what you wrote in the last sentence, it's difficult to get any momentum going.

One problem I had with my writing was excessive use of the word "I". Much of my writing is based on my personal experiences. The word does tend to pop up when you are writing about yourself. I would obsess over finding ways to say what I wanted, without using the dreaded word. That made my writing jerky and awkward.

Now I just write, not worrying about making the perfect sentence every time. I say what I want and then edit it later. A lot of my sentences get deleted in the final editing process. Why waste time making each sentence perfect when there's a good chance it won't be in the final version anyway?

If you are a frustrated writer, I recommend getting this book and reading it. It really does make you feel like writing. Also, it's quite entertaining to read. The writer uses a good mix of examples, amusing stories and quizzes to explain why his method works.

Here are a few other things that have helped me write more.

1. Don't tell anyone about what you are writing. I used to love to talk about the book I was working on. The problem was, it was all talk. There was no writing. Telling people what I wanted to write took away my need to write it. So if you want to write, shut up and write!

2. Find a situation where you must produce writing. Try a creative writing class or a writer's group. If I have a deadline to meet, that makes me write. The more I write, the more I get in the habit of writing on a regular basis. Telling myself I'm going to post in my blog every day helps too.

3. Remember that your writing will improve with practice. The more you write, the better you get. This is something I have a hard time remembering, but it's true. I read something I wrote and I swear it sounds like it was written by a precocious eight year old (an an annoying one at that). But I just have to keep on going and editing.

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