In today’s episodic blog posts about how writers should spend their time, I discuss the third stage of writing, that of “already written.”
The first phase was to read. You should have done this already, but if you hadn’t, I told you to go read a lot of books to understand story structure and genre better.
The second phase was to write with reckless abandon. Write all over the map. Write in genres you’ve never written before, write about topics you love, topics you hate, write about everything. This should have helped you zero into what style of writing you like, and you should also begin to have an inkling of what type of writer you are. Do you write in sprints? Slow plodding? Do you correct as you go or can you let the typos sit there while you continue on into the depths of your story?
All this self-knowledge is important. Every writer is different and thus will need to know where they fit in order to know where to go from here.
This third phase I want you to write something to completion. You may have done this already in phase 2, but phase three is specifically to actually complete a writing project. Short stories are a good place to get your feet wet here as well. In fact, story stories are so perfect for this phase that I recommend you write those first, as they are complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end, and learning to write them successfully will most assuredly help you on your path.
By completion, I mean write the first draft of something, I don’t care if you are a pantser or plotter, this method works well for either type or someone in between. Then edit it fully. I have other blog posts about this specific topic, but I want you to find all the flaws you can in your work. Edit it based on the phases I’ve discussed before. Alpha, Beta, Gamma.
If you can find someone to beta read, preferably a writer, have them do so, and listen to their feedback. In fact for this first story, if the person is someone you trust to prove honest feedback, and they are someone who understands story, just this one, do everything they suggest. It’s a short story so it won’t take you very long to implement all their suggestions. Keep in mind that anything we write right now is practice. You are not going to publish this short story. You are practicing.
You are learning your chords, getting a feel for the keys, learning to dribble a basketball, learning how to not fall on your ass when you skate.
So, you completed your first short story? And you followed all the phases in editing? Great! Now do it again.
Learn from the things you did in the first story, and from the advice of a trusted advisor, (critique groups work well for this, there are tons on Meetup.com,) and do it again with another genre this time.
Once you’ve got about five to ten of these fully completed practice short stories done, it will be time to move on to your next phase. Each one will improve your skills a little bit. If people are constantly hounding you on your stilted dialogue, or your first paragraph info dumps, you hopefully have been able to improve those issues with each subsequent story, but the important thing is to see each story through to completion.
This is important because writing is not just drafting your story, it’s outlining, drafting, editing, more editing, and even more editing. Then and only then do you correct grammar, punctuation, and polish your writing. You need to practice all these phases with each story, so you get a complete education in the process.