The Writing Comes First
By Lazette Gifford
We have all been in this situation: the
story is building in your head and you're anxious to get to it and let the
characters run frolicking through the minefield of trouble you've created
for them. You look forward to the havoc, the angst and the final victory.
Only every time you consider sitting down and working on this wonderful
opus, you end up doing something else instead. (Like writing articles,
rather than writing the story... but we'll just ignore that part for the
I'm proposing a new writing rule:
Writing Comes First.
Okay, it cannot come before some real life
things that must be done. You can't ignore family, work and school to write
first. Well, you can, but it really doesn't help in the long run. Real
life will always catch up with you.
However, when it comes to that precious
free time, writers need to start looking at why they are spending more of it
watching TV than they are writing. Is writing important to you? How
All my writing sucks, so why
I have a story I want to
tell, but I'd like someone else to write it for me
It's a nice pasttime, but I
have other things to do
I love to write
I want to be a published
If you picked number one, get over it or
find another hobby. Anyone who has stories to tell can learn how to write.
It takes work, but every author who has been published had to learn those
skills, though they come easier for some than for others. If you want to
write stories well, then take the time to learn how to do it. If all you
want is to moan and groan about the horrid world of writing, building angst
to a new level of art, then go for it -- but you can't fool the people who
know better. If you want to write about something other than yourself,
start working at telling better stories.
If you picked number two, I suggest you
stop being so lazy. Besides, finding someone to write a story for you is
far more work, and far less rewarding, than creating the material yourself.
You have stories to tell, and the best way to do it is to sit down and do
the writing. It's not hard.
If you picked number three the chances are
that you're happy where you are. Writing is a nice hobby, and you likely
enjoy the level of work you're already at. You tell your stories when you
want, but writing isn't the consuming quest of your life. In some ways,
you're very lucky.
If you picked number four you are a good
candidate for the Writing Comes First Campaign. You might already be trying
to figure out how to write a novel in a reasonable amount of time and not
alienate everyone around you. You want to write more than you do, but the
time gets away from you.
And if you picked number five you are
someone for whom 'Writing Comes First' should be a mantra. Any other
approach to getting published is going to take longer and be filled with far
more trouble than it need be.
Okay, so what is the Writing Comes First
It's all about attitude.
When you sit down at the computer, instead
of kicking on Instant Messenger or any of the other distractions like chat,
your favorite website, or a game, you are going to write 200 words. A mere
200 words written every day will get you 73,000 words in a year, and most of
the way through a good sized novel -- or more short stories than you can
You are going to write those 200 words
before you do anything else. There are rules to what you write though:
They must be on a current WIP
(Work in Progress), not just random words that come to your mind.
They must be actual writing
and not notes to friends. If you are working toward being a published
author, it must be work on an original piece of fiction or nonfiction, and
You can write outlines, background notes
and worldbuilding, but for no more than two months. After that you must
start work on the real story. Keep a record. Using a program like Excel™
can be a great help in keeping track, and making certain you fill in those
days with a few words.
The first few days this new regime will be
difficult, but it will get easier as you get used to the writing. Chances
are, in fact, that you'll find you write more than 200 words. Once you get
used to this exercise, you may even want to up the number of words. At 300
words a day you'll have 109,500 words in a year -- a good sized novel.
You must commit to doing the writing, and
doing it before you do anything else -- because it's too easy to put off
writing and never get the time for it. Oh, you say, a day or two won't
matter -- but eventually those days add up. The story is no longer as vivid
in your brain, and you've lost interest in it. You have also lost the time
to write another story.
You do not have to do a lot of writing, but
it has to come before anything else that is not absolutely required of you.
Some of you will balk at the idea of writing on your story every day, and
that's all right. Maybe it's just something you want to do on the
weekends. Set up your timetable to work that way, but don't skimp on it.
Make the writing the first thing -- not the last -- that you do on your
There are days you are going to feel like
doing something like drawing instead of writing. Drawing is not going to
get that story written, even if making pictures of your characters will help
you visualize them. After you've written those 200 words, though, you can
do anything you like. Write more or not, draw, watch TV, chat with your
friends, critique other stories -- whatever else you want to do.
This is also a good plan for people who
edit as they go. 200 words, even edited, will not take long to write.
Writing to a schedule, rather than whenever it happens, also keeps stories
at the forefront of the brain, helping the ideas stay clear and alive from
But writing must be the first thing you do
when you have the time, and not the 'I'll get to it later' idea that never
really arrives. The idea of Writing Comes First, aside from the actually
getting words down, has some other added benefits. First is that while you
are doing those other things that must be done, you can be thinking about
what you are going to write. Since it will be the first thing you do after
the necessities of life, those thoughts will be fresh in your brain, and it
will make writing far easier. In fact, you are going to use the mindless
stuff (like cleaning, washing dishes, doing lawn work) as pre-write time, as
well. If you can start considering what you want to write next, rather than
waiting until that moment when you sit down, those 200 words are going to
come far more easily. Knowing that you are going to write next, and not at
some indefinable time in the future, will help you concentrate on what the
This isn't a difficult proposition. 200
words are very few when it comes to writing. In fact, if you count the
words in these last two paragraphs you will find over 200 words. Are you
going to tell me you can't take the time to write that much on the story you
want to tell?