“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
– E.L. Doctorow
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Writing well takes time to learn. One doesn’t sit down for a couple weeks and suddenly produce a bestseller.
The time needed to produce 85,000 words of even bad writing takes longer than it takes most skilled painters to finish a work of art.
I can teach most people reading this the basics of juggling inside 30 minutes, but learning the basics of writing takes much longer.
There aren’t too many shortcuts — There’s not a very fast learning curve.
You really do start with nothing and learn as you go.
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While Doctorow’s quote seems to be about learning how to write, it can also apply to the act of writing.
Some writers love spending time creating individual character sheets, down to knowing what kind of soap the characters use.
I know writers who can’t begin one word toward their manuscript until they have a very detailed outline done. They find maps, gather photos, and accumulate a pile of information so they are ready when they start writing.
They learn as they go in that gathering stage. When it’s time to write, they know exactly where they’re going.
I’m the kind of writer who gets a vague idea and jumps in head first. Sometimes I’m under so long that I run out of breath and think, “That’s it — I’m drowning this time!” But then I find a reserve bit of air, or find a way to kick my way to the surface and see that it all makes sense.
I take the line in this quote about exploring to heart. I like being surprised by the story; with little more than a beginning, a middle, and an end, I learn about the story as I’m writing it.
I love seeing it all eventually come together…or fall apart and realize I still have a lot of work to do.
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Whether you’re taking another big step in honing your craft, gathering all you need to get started, or knocking out a chunk of a story that you’re still not completely sure of, I hope you learn some great things this week!