Thursday night/Friday morning. 3am. Once again, I wasn’t writing. I badger myself about it and really try to push myself, yet it always ends the same: feeling guilty about not writing and irreparably lazy. It was the perfect time to come up with alternate ways to make myself feel better about this whole ‘writing concept’. Fortunately, I did find ways to get things done and go easier on myself.
Write Like You Watched Everything Unfold Before Your Eyes
The first book I’ve begun to read in a long, long time is Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out Of The Shadows. After a mere 9 pages in, I realised it’s written in a casually professional way, like the writer witnessed the events first-hand and wrote the story in that perspective but was careful not to turn it into a first-person narrative in the process. What was a realisation for me was likely ‘Novel Writing 101’ to a lot of other writers, but no one had ever explained it to me quite like that before. Casually writing a 1st draft instead of trying to write professional instantaneously decreases any self-pressure and unwillingness, which can make for a happier, more productive writer in the long run.
Know Your Characters Personally
Again, kind of stating the obvious. However, has anyone actually stated it like this before? This also falls into the category of working casually professional. Wherever you feel it’s necessary for the story, talk about your characters like you’ve known them since childhood, or like you’ve known them briefly, etc. and using as much or as little detail as you need to sell this aspect of writing should take the edge off things.
Use a Name Generator
If you already have names in mind for your most important characters, ignore this. If you don’t, this way can be quite efficient. You don’t even have to go with the exact full names you’re suggested, simply keep generating names until a surname clicks with a forename in your head. Some see this as being lazy, but you can’t say it’s not a timesaver. And who knows, maybe this is how you’ll come up with one of your favourite character names yet!
Notes, Notes, Notes!
In my opinion, taking out a notebook and writing down the notes that pop into your head before you forget them isn’t work. It’s natural brainstorming. Pages upon pages of notes could be written and it would still by far be the most relaxing part of the process. Zero pressure, zero stress, zero strain. Your mind flows naturally even if you’re doing nothing at all. Go with that flow with food/drink in hand until you have enough to put a rough story together. That’s really when the aforementioned ways come into play.
Add Details Later
The hardest thing to accept about those dreaded 1st drafts is they’re never going to be good. They’ll be a shell of your finished product. However, that’s exactly how it should be. Start off with the basic telling of the story, then do one form of editing, then another, etc. until you’re done. Give yourself a break from trying to do everything at once. Take it in little steps at a time. Details later, always.
If these ways are merely stating the obvious for you, then you’ve been taking the less stressful approach the entire time. Relax! You’re doing just fine. Otherwise, these are great ways to alleviate the stress of creating compelling arcs. There will always be work involved, but it’s your choice whether you’ll be working hard or smart and smart will mitigate your brain.