This is a companion post to Writing is a War of Attrition, but it’s also a cornerstone post for ALL fiction writers. Non-fiction writers, you guys are in a slightly different boat.
Writing needs to be fun.
Not should be fun or can be fun. Not writing is fun sometimes.
Writing needs to be fun.
This isn’t some repetitive job or trial and error puzzle you can brute force your way through. Writing is a creative endeavor. Something that you need to both be present for and get out of the way of. Ideally, it spills forth from some deep seated place in our subconscious, creating itself as we go along–like laying the tracks down in front of a runaway train.
I’m not going to get into the merits or pitfalls of plotting, outline, or writing into the dark, but either way, writing needs to be fun.
If you get too critical of your sentences, you’ll bog down. If you start questioning whether people will enjoy your story, they probably won’t. Think too hard and you’ll get in the way of your story. Think too hard and you probably won’t even get the damn thing written.
We writers are our own worst enemies and our own worst critics.
We forget why we started telling stories in the first place. To have fun. To entertain.
If you’ve got a story that you’ve been working on forever and can’t seem to finish because it’s not quite right or it’s missing something, then take a break. I want you to write the most absurd idea you have. You know, the one that’s not marketable or maybe you got it from a plot generator, or thought of it on a 3am binge.
Write that absurd idea. Write that instead. Pretend nobody but you is going to read it and then finish the damn thing. Have fun.
Then realize how much easier it was to simply have fun. That’s how it’s supposed to be, by the way. Keep writing like that–it will get easier and you’ll become less critical of yourself.
I tried publishing a superhero story almost ten years ago. It was the first book I ever wrote and needed more work than I could’ve known at the time. I spent a large chunk of the last decade rewriting it into oblivion–obsessing over it. I wanted it to be something, to mean something. It was supposed to be my love letter to the superhero genre.
Writing that story stopped being fun. In my mind it became work and I worked on it less and less because of it.
So I started writing other stories, eventually settling on a serial that was almost just a Dungeons & Dragons game. And you know what, it was absurd, it was freeing, and it’s going pretty damn well seven monthly episodes later.
I wrote a novella that crossed the reality questioning premises of The Matrix and Inception.
I wrote a book about special forces soldiers going on a mission to Hell. It turned into a retelling of Dante’s Inferno, and it’s now one of my best received stories.
I’m still going to rewrite that superhero story. One day.
But right now I’m having fun and finishing stories.
What about you? Are you having fun?
What story are you going to work on?