Spent all day today writing. Head felt like a disjointed mess, not from anything external, merely because I was writing. Squeezed out just over 1k words.
Disappointing progress to be sure, especially since I wrote barely two pages during the last nine days of straight work, but some good came out of it I feel. My failures tell me about my technique. I feel that the reasons for today's low wordcount were:
1) I wouldn't let my writing style be my writing style. That is to say, I wouldn't let the words flow out like they do as I write this. My 'natural' writing style, if you will.
I usually find discussions of writing styles — as in, writers talking about how they write rather than people talking about how specific authors write — cliched and unproductive. The advice almost always boils down to a bog standard 'be yourself!' schtick straight from a mother's reassurances to her children before the first day of school. It seems inadequate in two directions. At one end, 'no duh.' You're a writer. Of course you should write in your own style. Telling a writer to write in the style they are comfortable with feels like telling someone that the most crucial part of receiving a blowjob is remembering to enjoy it. At the other end, a personal writing style feels just as nebulous a concept as personality does.
Like, if I read my own stories and tried to describe my writing style, it'd sound like this: Heavy on dialogue. Likes playing with characterisation. Loves worldbuilding, especially through 'snippeting'. Not big on lots of description. Fairly simple sentence and paragraph structure, not much ornamentation. Wide vocabularly, but 'slangy' rather than excessively polysylabic (*COUGH*YA*COUGH*).
But that's not really my natural style. It's not my style like the style I'm writing with now, the one that flows from my fingertips and writes things like 'flows from my fingertips.' I supress that style when I write, because it's full of flaws. My natural style is dialogue-heavy but focuses entirely on the words, with very little action other than basic facial expressions. I'd happily write a ten-page conversation with no words outside the "" tags but names, pronouns and 'said'. My natural style loves convoluted phrasings and words like 'convoluted' and run-on sentences and short, oddly terse ones straight from RagingSemi's playbook instead of nice, crisp compromises between the two. My natural style will happily write trite, dying metaphors and phrases instead of fresh ones.
I infer that when advice-givers say 'write in your natural style' they don't mean THAT natural style, since every other one of their writing tips is some variation of 'don't do that thing that you do when you just let words flow' whether it be disembodied dialogue in a white box or overcomplicated words or whatever.
But I've realised today that I should be writing in my natural style, warts and all. For one thing, I'm a big boy and big boys are in fact capable of editing and revisions. Big boys (and girls) can go over their own work, change vocab from needlessly complex to euphonious, add description where needed, replace hackneyed cliches with fresh imagery and all those other things. In fact, it's easier to do that rather than struggle to get every single thing right as soon as it hits the page. For another, when I'm writing naturally like this, words flow as water down a brook, not the stilted dripping of a leaky tap. Slow progress makes me lose focus and motivation.
2) Allow myself to suck specifically. Ties into the stuff above and stuff I've mentioned in previous blog posts. Basically, it's one thing to say 'I'll let myself suck so that I'm not staring at a blank page' and another thing entirely to do it. The reason my polished style reads like it does is that I've trained myself to hate using dying metaphors where I see them, and hate needlessly long words or clunky sentences. I have a strong aversion to doing these things. To counter this, I need to tell myself where I will suck specifically.
For instance, I will tell myself that I will be happy to write dialogue with nothing but 'said' and pronouns, and the same three facial expressions repeated over and over. That way, the dialogue is done and I can do the tricky bits later, when I have the mind and energy for it and don't have to split myself between tasks.
I will tell myself that I'm fine with phrases like 'toe the line' and 'crux of the matter' and anything else George Orwell would scowl at, because they are fast to write, easy to find and I can dig them out later.
I will tell myself that I'm fine listing only two items in a list, rather than three or more, because I can simply leave a comment at the side telling me to come back to it.
But most importantly, I will tell myself these things. I will write them down, and remind myself until they become second nature and I am penning my stories like I pen this blogpost. When I wrestle, I must prevent my opponents from escaping my toeholds. I do not do this simply by throwing myself into groundwork/rolling over and over and hoping I improve by accident. I do this by drilling my toehold escape-counters with a partner, and then testing it in groundwork. Same goes for my writing. Isolate, improve, incorporate.
3) plan plan plan. This is the odd one out; it's the reason I got as far as I did today. Did lots of planning notes, and let the planning notes grow into the full fic. I've been thinking 'EITHER plan everything until it becomes perfect when it finally hits the page OR plan bugger-all and spew words onto the page, improve later' when, y'know, I'm quite capable of both.
Now, onto where I'm at and what you guys can expect. Currently working on a SpikeMac story trade for Darf, who you should all be reading. No idea when my side is coming out. I'm very much getting used to working around a full time job (which doesn't allow me time to think about writing while I'm there, let alone do any) and still in a painful period of adjustment. I hope to be back on top of my game soon enough.
However, I'm going to aim for far more regular blog posts. I think one thing that stymied my writing was simple disuse, and the more I get used to putting words down and knowing 'yes, I CAN get down 1k in an hour rather than a day' should help my writing-writing.
In any case, I miss all you hoes and hope to get more delicious work out soon, but until then you can dine on my hopefully not-awful thoughts instead. Comment, argue, ect.