I DON’T KNOW HOW TO WRITE! – THE WRITING PROCESS

ImageWhen I started writing my book I was terrified and confused. I had no idea what I was doing. I never learned anything about writing in school. Never had any desire to write anything.  There was one class where all we did was learn the Excel spreadsheet program. I was shocked at all the stuff Excel could do. As soon as the class was over I forgot everything I learned about Excel. I actually never learned anything in school and I graduated from university with decent grades.

I just started writing. The first two pages came out easily. I recounted what it was like to get pounded by an avalanche that I never saw coming.

Then it became difficult to write. It took me 6 months to write the first 10 pages of my manuscript. Even for me that is slow. I needed some help, some advice, on how to write. I can’t remember where, but I read something that recommended Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I’d never read Stephen King, he didn’t seem like my style, but I gave the book a shot anyway. I’m glad I did, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I learned a lot about the writing process. I learned to leave a little blood on the page. The most important thing I learned was to do the work, to get my butt in the chair at the same time everyday and write.

Strunk & White’s short book “The Elements of Style.”, is a must read, even if you never plan on writing a book. This is where I learned:

-omit needless words
-do not overwrite
-do not explain too much
-avoid fancy words

I then proceeded to break all the rules because I didn’t know what was doing and I forgot many of the helpful pointers.

Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”, is fantastic. This is where I got the encouragement to carry on with the project I’d started.

I read a bunch of James Altucher’s stuff. I read many of the posts on his blog and I read several of his books. Altucher is good at encouraging you to write and he gives many examples of how he learned to write. This is where I got the idea to self publish.

There are many other great books and resources out there to help you learn how to write. The internet is a great source for finding information on writing. But all the reading in the world only gets you so far. The difference between Theory and Practice is an ocean of experience.

After 6 months and only 10 pages I was overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I could complete a “shitty first draft.”

Then I forced myself to get my butt at the desk at 5:30 am everyday. A year later I had almost 200 pages. Terrible and unedited pages, but I had them. This is the most important thing when you start out writing, to write. To put in the seat time. You can only get better by doing. I want to get better at writing because often when I’m proofreading what I’ve written, I hear a monotone voice in my head reading the words. That’s means it’s boring and needs to be deleted. But this is the only way to get better. There was someone, I wish I could remember who, that said you have to write 10 pages of crap, to get to 1 page of quality writing.

You gotta put out the crap first. This is the only way to get better. This is the most important lesson I learned about writing. You have to write. A lot. And a lot of it’s going to be crap. Once I got into a regularly scheduled time in the morning, the volume of writing began to accumulate.

You can’t write a book until you write a shitty first draft. This was an important lesson, learning the discipline of getting my butt in front of the computer.

After staring at my computer screen for so long I wanted to finish the damn thing. I didn’t know it at the time but the story wasn’t over yet. Over this last winter (2014) I lived the last 2 chapters of the book.

The first draft was complete 2 years after the avalanche. As I proofread it for the second time I felt like hitting the delete button and getting rid of the damn thing. The writing is terrible.

The question is, “Can enough of the garbage be taken out that leaves something worth reading?” I don’t know. I would like an unbiased person, someone that doesn’t know me or the story, preferably a professional editor, to look at this thing. I need some constructive criticism.  This manuscript needs a knife or probably a chainsaw to cut, cut, cut.

This is the next part of the journey.

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