Writing is one of the greatest forms of communication. It brings people of different eras, countries, and languages together. It reveals the bonds that unite humanity and expresses the universal plights and pleasures of the human condition.
For me, completing a final chapter heralds the last few steps of a magical journey. As I finished writing the Confessions of a War Child trilogy, I couldn't help but reflect on both the ritual of the writing process and what I have learned along the way.
Wanting to share my knowledge, last November I tweeted a collection of tips during National Novel Writing Month (I love their motto - The World needs your novel) that helped during my writing process.
Well received, I would like elaborate and share these observations - sourced from a multitude of connections including personal experience, mentor and editor contributions.
Let's begin with a connection, or rather a disconnection!
1. Disconnect from electronics to connect with your characters.
This is the hardest part for me as a social media addict who asks for an outlet for my phone charger in the same breath as I order my first glass of wine. But it is essential to bar out these distractions--each time your phone buzzes, you lose your focus and your brain has to work to reconnect all over again with the characters.
2. Don't put your beverage too close to your electronic devices - even paper isn't safe.
Self-explanatory. But extremely important.
3. The first chapters are the hardest.
It does get easier, I promise.
4. Write as if your readers are beside you, listening to the story unfold.
I found when I got hung up on a passage of the story it would help to step back and just explain it, simply, out loud. Imagine you are explaining to a friend how events unfolded, and write it down verbatim. This helped me get over writing "humps," and moments where my prose would get convoluted.
5. Writing can be viewed as an alternate form of meditation.
Detach from your surrounding and dive into the world you are creating for yourself, and for your readers.
6. Your characters should remind you of the people you have met in your life.
Use writing to heal past wounds of those who have harmed you, or to celebrate the wonderful people who would never. There is always reality behind fiction, find it for yourself.
7. Let yourself fall in love with your characters, even those you might not like.
Your characters are your creations; like God is believed to love all his people, writers need to learn how to like all their characters.
8. Ensure a deadline doesn't distract from your creativity.
This one is not a popular one with my editors. However, I strongly believe that because writing is a form of meditation, there should be no room for stress.
9. A good writer should listen to constructive criticism.
I have always been open to criticism, and it has been the single most important thing that has allowed me to show noticeable improvements in my third novel compared to the first. When some people pointed out that my English vocab was limited, I got myself to read more and take an online vocab course. Criticism is the first step to expand your knowledge. Like Winston Churchill once said, "Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things."
10. Quality over quantity
You might have to keep an eye on the word count but remember, it's more about quality than quantity.
11. Even though you might feel like giving up - DON'T.
This may seem contrary to point 3-- really, it is all hard. There will be bumps. But you owe it to your characters, your audience, and most of all, yourself, to finish the story.
12. If you don't feel like it, don't write.
Do something else you enjoy or, like me, take a nap! While some people think it is important to write every day, just connect pen to paper or hands to keyboard no matter what comes out, I find that if I associate writing with a chore or an obligation, I lose the magic. Only write when you are in the mood--by that same token, when you are in the mood, go with it. Let it all flow out, for as long as it can, and let nothing take you away from it.
13. Having a mentor is crucial to your writing career. Having a mentor that can edit, is a blessing.
This is arguably the most important observation of all. Behind every good writer is an even better editor, lovingly re-framing the jumbled words and conveying the meaning of your story better than you can alone. They are your best ally. There will be times when you don't ever want to look at your writing again, and your friend, mentor, editor, or possibly all three-in-one, will be the reason you pick it back up again.
I end these tips with a quote from author Neil Gaiman: "This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It's that easy, and that hard."