Monday, 25 February 2013

How do I writing?

Writing methods are something deeply, deeply personal, and I honestly don't think that what works for one person will ever reliably work for another. When I see posts or stories that say "this is how you write", they annoy me. It annoyed me in school when people told me how I should write an essay, or a poem, or anything for that matter. I have always done those things my own way, and, while it's not perfect by any means, it works for me. So I'm not going to preach and say that this is how you should or shouldn't do things, that this is a sure-fire way to write and write well, but I will run you through my writing secrets.

The secret to my writing is that there's no secret. That's the big reveal, and I'm sorry. I don't have any cunning tricks, or any clever methods, or any method at all, really, for general blogging at least. Academic writing is a little different, I do put more work into that, but I keep it simple the rest of the time. 

Step 1: Think of something to write about. This is often the hardest step. I write a ton of content, usually four or more posts a day, including three columns per week that are supposed to be 1,000-1,500 words. They're usually more, but for me the battle is always thinking of something to write about. I draw a lot of inspiration from twitter, from facebook, from in-game conversations with others, from readers' comments on my posts and on others, and just occasionally from the darkest recesses of my own brain. 

Step 2: Write it down. This may seem facetious or overly simplistic, but it's what I do, and there's a bit of a dual meaning here. Write it down before you forget it. I often have ideas as I'm falling asleep, and forget them the next morning. It's incredibly frustrating, so I write them down. 

The other meaning of "write it down" is just that. I've got my idea, so now what I'm going to do is word-vomit everything I can think of about that idea onto virtual paper. Sometimes this turns into a column, quite neatly, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I have a vague structure in mind, particularly for review posts and the like, but generally I don't, apart from wanting to say a few things. I keep a notepad next to my computer, because, as I write, other ideas will pop into my head, so I scribble them down before I forget them. If you want to give this method a go, don't worry about a beginning, a middle and an end, don't stress about conclusions and layout and structure, just start with the first thing that comes to mind and go from there. The wonderful thing about computers is how easily you can shuffle and reshuffle and correct. 

Step 3: Hone, perfect, adjust. Step 2 is the longest step here, and if you manage to get it all down in a semi-structured way then you're golden. Often I'll simply write down everything I can think of, read it back, and it'll actually be fine. Then I'll proofread it, because I typo a lot, and then I'll tweak and pull and remove words and adjust style and the like. My editors are wonderfully patient, and occasionally are good enough to say things like "stop doing this so much", so I adjust for that, too. I have to Americanize everything I write, pretty much, so there's that to do, as well as putting in far more commas than I really want to.

The biggest and only tip I'm going to offer is this: when proofreading, don't use whatever you typed the piece in. If you use WordPress to write, preview your piece and check it there. If you use something else, just do whatever you can to get a different view. Your brain skips over errors when they're presented in the same way it's become used to. Change it up! And get a friend to read it for you. The internet often proofs things for me: it's far easier to spot others' errors than your own.

And that's it! The biggest thing I think I do differently to others is not creating a structure, or a plan, or anything along those lines. It works for me, for my jobs at least, but what works for you?