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Fiction Friday: The Work That Makes Good Writers

It’s October. Finally. We’re in the home stretch of this god awful year, and one of the few months that fills me with joy. Fall is my favorite season, and even though it is still in the 90s here in Los Angeles, I am eagerly counting the days until I can wear my jeans and flannels and leggings and jackets again.

Fall is clearly where I thrive.

I’ve been trying to have a rough plan for posts every month, since there’s three posts a week and that means roughly 12 posts a month. It’s a lot, and though my process of “winging it until the night before/morning of” hasn’t really bitten me back yet… maybe some forward thinking would help in this whole process.

Obviously the ones I struggle with the most are these Fiction Friday pieces. I know they are largely for me, trying to tell stories that I have sitting in me, that have been sitting in me, for a while and that I finally have an outlet for.

It’s still hard, to let myself be this vulnerable in this space. To put something that I care a lot about, that I feel reveals more about me than anything else - even when they’re fictional characters, make believe worlds. Every element of fiction has an element of truth in it, though. That’s what makes it believable, makes it so that we give ourselves to it sometimes. We like these stories because we see humans dealing with extraordinary circumstances, through fantasy, sci-fi, horror, thriller, mystery, romantic comedies, historical fiction. You name it. To quote one of my favorite fictional characters, Game of Thrones was so popular “because they’re telling human stories in a fantasy world.”

That’s part of this project too, to help myself get used to being that vulnerable again because honestly, none of the pieces I want to do will ever get anywhere if I can’t bring myself to share them with people.

The comfort comes with the continued doing it. With the routine, with the exercise. These muscles are old, they are out of shape, out of practice. I used to post fan fiction giddily when I was younger, share it with friends I trusted. And then somewhere that girl grew out of that — I stopped writing fan fiction for one, but that’s just because I haven’t really been that deep of a fan of anything to want to write fan fiction (except for the odd joke about writing Jordan Henderson fan fiction).

Good writers will constantly tell you to make writing a habit - you don’t have to do it every day but write something, anything, as often as you can. I try to take a lot of advice from one of my favorite writers, V.E. Schwab, and even she has taken a lot from writers she loves like Neil Gaiman (whom I also love). Schwab likes to do sprints by word count, giving herself a word target for the day and once she hits it, she stops. Much of her job is taken up by editing and planning, as well, because those are also tougher for her. I know that my process is often less editing — catching a stray typo here or there, finishing sentences I had left hanging — and planning with outlines and such is often too restrictive for me. I know that much about my process, at least. She’s also got something like five million projects going at once, with one of them finally coming out next week (I preordered it in March and I am VERY excited).

Good writers also consume. They read, a lot. They think about what they’re writing, a lot. They plan, they analyze, they pick things apart. Even one of the things that Schwab has said is that she has made sure that thinking about her work, thinking about her pieces and oftentimes not actually writing, is work enough. Writers are the only ones with their stories, after all, and only we know how we can tell them. And a writer can’t really know how to tell their story without exposing themselves to the stories they want to tell. It’s how I know I probably wouldn’t be a great mystery writer — though I have an idea for one — because I don’t read or consume enough mystery material. Musicians are the same way - you have to know the nuances of what you are trying to play, and that’s why so many of them have such varied tastes. (This is me telling myself what I need to read more of, honestly).

I am, obviously, only a baby writer. Even though I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember, have been collecting nuggets of advice from writers I admire to use eventually for myself, there is still so much for me to learn. I’m only going to do that by working on what I struggle with. I feel like I’ve gotten better, have done better, and I want to keep that up.

I have to take my own advice, but I know that my current process isn’t sustainable. I want this to be my full time job, someday, or at least get paid for it again one day. I’ll get there, it’s all baby steps, one mission at a time, one post at a time. The groundwork is here though. The foundation, the framework.

Thank you for sticking with me.

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