A step by step guide on getting your ideas from rambling journal entries to a polished story.
Most people say it even more believe it.
"I can't write".
Trust me, you can. And I am going to give you a step-by-step guide on how I write.
Stop comparing yourself to that published article on your newsfeed, your timeline, or that author friend who writes all the time.
The truth is, no one gets it right the first time. The thing no one sees is that most work goes through countless revisions and repeated rejections before becoming something worth publishing.
The biggest hangup comes when we compare our incoherent first drafts to that polished tailored piece on your feed. What you're seeing on your friends timeline has probably been hacked out and pieced together over a series of revisions that make it that great piece you read this morning.
Good writing just takes patience, a lot of grit, and a lot of self love.
Almost everything I share has sat in my journal for weeks--sometimes months before I take a whack at it. Sometimes I read it and I want to throw it out the window, sometimes I wonder what I was even trying to say, sometimes I scrap 90% of it and start all over.
Just get it out. Get messy. Get honest. Get real. But write (and don't worry about if it's good or bad).
Start with that thing thats been on your mind. Or start by writing stream of consciousness. Just let it flow. Don't worry if you're making any sense, if your spelling ins't correct, or if you're changing your tense. It's absolutely fine.
It's going to be messy, its going to be incoherent--be proud! You just completed the hardest part. Getting it out. Most people get stuck thinking about writing their story.
Everyone everywhere will tell you "don't edit" during a mind dump but I would be lying if I said I didn't. I believe that when I force myself to ignore that nagging thing it really funks up my flow. But I am careful not to over edit. I focus more on getting the story out rather than editing what I have written.
Take a break.
If I catch myself reading and re-reading and editing I know it's time to step away. My brain needs a break from writing to make room for new ideas and new approaches to looking at my story.
I take a few days (sometimes even weeks) to let my brain forget so that I can come back to it and let my ego step aside.
Edit, edit, edit.
After some time away I come back to my stories. I read them out loud. Do they flow? Is there anywhere that I get caught up and stuck in reading? Did I get confused by what I was trying to say?
I check spelling and grammar, punctuation, and rearrange chunks to make sure that the flow is there. I love the thesaurus (especially if I am repeating the same word over and over or I want to build the image of something throughout a piece) but I am careful to make sure I understand the words before just plopping one in. They are not interchangeable, they are just alike.
Repeat the last two steps until you're out of things to edit.
This one takes a bit of letting go of perfectionism. If you find yourself reading and re-reading obsessively, you need to step away. Ask someone else to read it.
It can be easy to cross into obsessing. It will hold you back. Don't let it. Know when you're reading and re-reading is productive and when its time to let get out into the world.
Ask yourself, does it move you? Can you feel it?
Do you get emotional when you read your story? Do you feel it in your body? Or does it sound like you are reading an essay for your high school english class? Do you hear the sounds, see the sights, feel the emotions?
I pay attention to the flow of things, does the pace move fast or slow? Do the words feel hard and short and staccato in my mouth? Or are they soft, flowing and full of breath and air?
Especially if you are writing for someone other than you. Ask someone who is in your target audience. Ask for honest reviews of what you are writing--even if it's personal. Most of the things I share I have a friend or my boyfriend take a look at and guess what? Most of the time they find something I missed. No one is perfect.
Tips, tricks, and tools.
I always carry a journal with me. Both a physical notebook and an app on my phone. I've got a thin small journal that fits in my purse and takes up next to no room. I had an ex who would keep a pocket sized book in his back pocket (although I can't say I ever actually saw him use it).
My favorite go to journaling app is Day One but I've also used Journey to help me keep my thoughts straight. I swapped to Day One because it's multiple journal feature lets me keep things organized. Sometimes I write in the Medium app--I've got countless headlines and drafts lined up so when I find myself with a few minutes (like waiting in line, or in the drive thru, or on the toilet) I peruse my stories and go with what grabs me.
One of the best things you can do is read. In order to be a good writer you need to understand good writing. My favorite app is Scribd which gives me access to thousands of books for a monthly subscription (its like Audible except I don't pay per book).