First, write something.
I write a lot here about games. I write here about game development. I write about art. I sometimes even write about movies. I write about all of these things, and even though I have been writing about them for about ten years, I never really write about something I spend a lot of my time doing. Writing.
It’s tough. I feel like I know a fair bit about the subject of games. Games and movies are absolutely the entertainment mediums that I have spent the most time in my life enjoying and analyzing. While they may not always be great opinions, I do have opinions on those forms of art. That means it’s pretty easy for me to rattle off a thousand words or so about some game or movie. The thoughts are all right there on the surface. I rarely write about writing because I don’t really feel like I have a lot of expertise in the field. I have opinions, but I am absolutely not an on the subject.
All that said, here are some thoughts on writing. At least how I do it. You can do it any way you like. If you have been thinking that you would like to write something but didn’t know where to start, this post might give you some ideas about how to get going. And more importantly, how to keep going when you feel stuck.
If you read this page at all regularly, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I don’t edit these posts very much. I read them over (usually). I fix major mistakes (usually) but I don’t pore over them. I don’t test and compare word choices or sentence structure. These are stream of consciousness posts, for the most part. When I write stories though, that is an entirely different beast.
When I write stories I like to get a first draft out of my head as quickly as I can. I stick to the concept and sort of see where it leads. I have been informed that this is the panster method. As in ‘by the seat of your pants’. The opposite of the pantser method is the plotter method, where you plot out every beat of your story before writing. So I suppose I am sort of a pantser-plotter, because when I edit, I like to plan.
Once the first draft is down and out of my head I feel like I have stuff to play with. Some paint to smear around. Some clay to work into shape. It gets fun, but also a little frightening. What if I plop the wrong paint daub down or lop off the wrong bit of clay. Something that was working might now look like a heap of word trash. That’s the fear and adventure of editing.
I open up a new document, or several new documents, and start making plans. I write out timelines. I gather research notes. I write short character biographies. All of this stuff will be only for me. Then I start working my way through the story pulling out parts, changing them, moving them around the timeline, clarifying them, and weaving them back into the rest of the story.
I take most of my inspiration from film so I tend to write in scenes. This is helpful for me since I can usually pull a scene out, change it, and put it back without disrupting the scenes around it. At least not too much. When I plan, each one of these scenes is usually represented by one or two lines that sum up what happens, and why the scene exists. The “why the scene exists” part is especially useful when it comes to cutting or removing scenes. Lots of times changing one scene will make another scene redundant and it becomes easier to pull it out. Of course I never just delete a scene. I cut it out and paste it into my orphan scene document, where all the ideas I liked but didn’t work go to spend languishing in digital eternity.
All of this is probably pretty standard editing workflow stuff. I’m sure there are tricks and techniques that authors use all of the time that dwarf my feeble nonsense. I’ll keep adding those tools as I carry on learning to write.
I think that might be the part I like about writing. There will never be any end to it. There will always be something new to learn. Some way to get better. Some new way to string one word after another to tell a story, or describe a process.
Really, I just bang out my thousand or so words here once a week and then write a few thousand more in the times between. That makes me feel like I accomplished something. It might never grow to anything larger than that, but I suppose that is okay too.
While writing this post, I removed two full paragraphs that didn’t need to be here. I changed a few dozen sentences, and several hundred words. That’s about as stream of consciousness as I get. So that distills it. My advice on writing anything. First, write something. Then read it to see if it makes any sense. Then change the parts that don’t. That may sound too simple but it’s that first step. The one that starts everything. First, write something.