I Have Learned To Write

Posted by Shannon Haddock on March 24, 2017 in Rants, Writing process |


So, after years and years of perusing writing blogs and forums, I have finally learned how to write.

First, I must keep an inspiration board filled with images that I think might, someday, inspire me to write something or to create a character or whatever.  I also need to have a special notebook that I carry with me at all times to write sudden ideas in — with a special pen designated for this purpose.

Second, I must read nothing but “how to write” books . . . except when I’m reading whatever the best-sellers in my genre are to know what’s currently popular.

Then, when I finally get an actual idea . . . or decide to do Nanowrimo because someone I know is, whichever . . . I must make a special inspiration board just for pictures relevant to this story.  Then I have to get another special notebook just to put my worldbuilding stuff in . . . or I can use Scrivener.  To worldbuild, I need to answer questions found on worksheets about worldbuilding so I don’t forget anything.  This is how all the real authors do it.  The sites promoting these worksheets say so!

After I’m done worldbuilding, I’ve got to get another special notebook . . . or I can use notecards, or, again, Scrivener . . . and answer all sorts of questions about every single character that might appear in the story, no matter how minor.  It is vitally important that I know things like what clique the character was in in high school.  Even if they’re fifty.  And on a world that didn’t have high schools.

Next, as far as I understand things, is when I should’ve started a writing blog, where I cover such pressing, little talked about topics like “how I create characters” and “my favorite writing books”.  This is very important to establish early on so I can build my brand which will help me land a publishing deal.

Then it’s time for more worksheets, these about the plot.  For some reason I’m supposed to use ones designed for writing movies.  I think this is so I’m more likely to get a movie deal after my book is published because my book will be so easy to convert to a movie script.  Or I’m supposed to use confusing ones that use the word scene in a way completely differently than any other English speaking person . . . though I’m really not sure how anyone uses those without taking the expensive classes telling you what all the specialized terminology means.

Once I’ve gotten my plot all worked out, it’s time to turn it into an outline!  It is absolutely crucial that I have a detailed outline.  No serious author ever writes anything without one.

Then I finally get to write!

Writing, despite what some people say, isn’t as simple as putting your butt in your chair and your fingers on the keyboard and writing one word after the other until you can’t do any more that day.  No.  Before I start each writing session — which needs to be at the same time every day so this becomes a habit — I must light my special writing candle, put on my special fingerless gloves so my hands will stay warm, get my special writing snack, and make sure I have my reward close to hand for reaching my goal for the day.  It’s also utterly essential that I write the same number of words every single day . . . even if someone close to me died that day or I have pneumonia or appendicitis.  If I miss one day, I’m likely to never, ever write again!


And I’ve run out of momentum, or I’d continue this through revising and submitting. I really don’t get people making writing this goddamned complicated!  But, then again, I’m the person who realized she wasn’t a Wiccan because the whole doing rituals thing just seemed like way too much goddamn work.

My method, for those just tuning in:

Suddenly have random snippet of scene in head, sometimes — but by no means always — prompted by something I’ve heard or read.

Try to ignore it because I always have way too many works-in-progress already.

Keep getting revised versions of it in my head while I’m trying to do other things.

When I feel like there’s a page of stuff knocking about up there, type it.  I’ve learned that if I can get a page, odds are I’ll get at least 2000 words before I need to stop and really think, but if I’ve got less than a page, then that’s likely all I’ll ever have.

Characters and worldbuilding are done on the fly, interrupting my writing to do research if necessary.  It’s usually not . . . or at least not serious research, more like five minutes of googling sort of stuff.  I’ve got years and years of reading everything I can get my hands on to draw from.  I’m the only person (as far as I know) to ever beat my grandfather at Trivial Pursuit.  This pretty much means I’m one of the best in the world in knowing random shit.  (Okay, so I only won because my final question was about The Hobbit, and Grandpa couldn’t roll the right number to land in the middle, but still . . .)

Also I GMed for years for a pair of players who had such a knack for wrecking my carefully crafted plans that my house rules for two different systems include a standardized reward for outwitting me and/or the module.  I had to learn to make shit up on the spur of the moment.  This is case where practice makes perfect, for sure, because I used to have to retcon lots of stuff for the sake of keeping the feeling of a setting intact, but that’s not nearly as often the case any more.

I have issues with the “you must write every single day!” advice that is the closest thing to holy writ modern writing culture has.  That’s probably a whole post on its own, honestly.  One I may have already made, come to think of it.  Does anyone recall whether I ever did a post on how fucking ableist that advice is?  (And, yes, I really did see someone say that even if someone close to you died, you still have to write that day!  And on the day of the funeral.)

Anyway, because I’ve discovered it’s the best for both my writing and my mental health, I only write three or four days a week, usually.  Or try to.  Lately I’m only hitting one or two . . . always the same ones I totally ignore social media and the news.  I think there might be a connection there . . .

I do seem to have started writing at about the same time on the days I do write, but that’s not a planned thing.  It’s also the time I play Pokémon on days I do that, so I think it’s more that it’s just a few hours that are great for doing stuff that I’m going to lose track of time while doing.

I don’t do a set number of words per day, nor amount of hours, but, again, a norm has developed.  Usually I write for two hours and get about 3500 words.  I quit when my brain and/or fingers are starting to rebel too much.

As for what I read . . . here’s the last ten books I read (according to Goodreads.  I think there’s a book or two missing.):

  • Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire — a paranormal romance/urban fantasy
  • The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse — an Edwardian comedy of manners
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin — the best “soft” science fiction novel I’ve ever read
  • The three Miss Peregrine’s Children books by Ransom Riggs — YA fantasy
  • Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin — a writing advice/exercise book
  • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer — a memoir
  • Reilly’s Luck by Louis L’Amour — a Western
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott — one of the best books ever written, uhm, I mean, a Victorian girl’s novel/YA classic.


Oh, hey!  There’s a writing book on there!  It’s one of two I’ve read in the past year, both because they were interesting, not because I was trying to improve my craft or whatever . . . though I will be doing some of the exercises in that one at some point for that purpose because they look like they might actually be useful for fixing some of my weaknesses.

Out of that list, the books that have the most influence on stuff I’m currently working on are the Wodehouse and the L’Amour, despite both being pretty goddamned far from my genre.

I don’t know what I’m “supposed” to be doing in a space opera right now.  All I know is that I can’t get into much space opera these days, so I’m not interested in doing whatever it is they’re doing.  I’m doing my thing; they can keep doing theirs.

Anyway, this got rambly.  I don’t know why I mention that since my posts almost always do.  It’s 3am, so maybe I should go to bed.

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