Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


The Writing Comes First Campaign

By Lazette Gifford
© 2006,
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 moment.)

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 important?

1.                  All my writing sucks, so why bother?

2.                  I have a story I want to tell, but I'd like someone else to write it for me

3.                  It's a nice pasttime, but I have other things to do

4.                  I love to write

5.                  I want to be a published author

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 Campaign?

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 probably sell.

You are going to write those 200 words before you do anything else.  There are rules to what you write though:

1.                  They must be on a current WIP (Work in Progress), not just random words that come to your mind.  

2.                  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 not fanfiction.

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 weekends. 

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 day-to-day.

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 story needs.

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?