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An Alternative Approach to "Just Write"

An Alternative Approach to "Just Write" (self.writing)

submitted 6 hours ago * by Manjo819

I have no credentials.

I've struggled with the advice to "Just Write" for a long time, and have recently found more success with it.

I'd like to share my perspective.

When a seasoned author receives questions on how to improve productivity, it makes a lot of sense for them to recommend 'just writing'. They have practice constructing passages. They have an idea, whether through training or instinct, of what goes into a good opening sentence, what kind of arc a passage wants to take, how soon the setting needs to be described. To such people 'just writing' is an action comprising much more than simply putting pen to paper.

Most of us are not these people.

I tried and failed recently to teach my younger sibling to drive. I wanted to start her off with what to me was a single easy movement from one parking space to the next. To her, of course, this meant foot on the clutch (left pedal), stick into first gear (top left), foot on accelerator (but just the right amount), slowly release clutch, try not to shit yourself at that jerk you weren't expecting, keep pressure on pedals uniform, foot on clutch again, apply brakes (but gently). Beyond the difficulty of trying to hold all these steps in her head, she hadn't yet been told what they were, nor how many.

If you've ever sat down to just write and found yourself staring at that smug little blinking line wondering where the feck to start, you can probably understand how she felt. The thing is that as with driving a manual you don't need to learn where to start solely by trial and error. You can watch how other people do it, you can ask them, or you can google it.

The allegory of the driving lesson ends here as there is only one way (to my knowledge) to drive a car. The question of how to 'just write' can't be answered as specifically. Everyone is going to have a different process. What I would like to propose, though, is that 'just writing' is significantly less futile if you equip yourself with some idea of what your process is going to be.

Let's focus on the first couple dozen characters behind that smug blinking line: Let's take a look at your opening sentence:

"'People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles'" (Less Than Zero)

This is a fairly straightforward example of an opening sentence that performs at least the triple function of introducing theme (fear, disconnection), characterising setting (LA as urban metropolis, rather than beach-side paradise for example) and initiating action (it's the beginning of a conversation).

Do you want to introduce theme, setting and action in your own opening sentence?

If yes, were you thinking about it last time you sat down to 'just write'?

You don't have to have this specific idea in mind to do so, but you'll get a lot further if you have an idea in general. Acquiring these ideas can be difficult, there aren't many people who'll stop you in the street to talk about how the opening passage of Fight Club (deliberately or not) compounds the 'narrative vertigo' effect of In Medias Res with the literal vertigo of leaning over the edge of a building to achieve the overall effect of 'really throwing you into the action'.

If you have trouble starting to write from nothing, try in a timely fashion to figure out some guidelines so that you're not really starting from nothing. A little planning goes a long way, though in the 'just write' spirit I do mean a little.

A lot of basic ideas about what you want you could answer yourself, if only you were asked the right questions. I would recommend asking yourself what you want to do with, among other things, your:

First chapter (eg. introduce main character, describe his living situation, hint at motivations for his coming actions so they seem believable)

First paragraph (eg. you want a progression from A to B within chapter 1, so you show the audience what point A is)

Opening sentence (eg. introduce main theme, convey main character's dissatisfaction with his job as a freight sorter, provide a basis for the point A you will elaborate on in the rest of the paragraph)

General theme/topic of discussion (your book is about grim perseverance, so in your opening sentence he's moving grumpily forward against some wind or some shit)

Character development (where do they start, where do they end, how do they get there, how do I show each of the above?)

Style (eg. you you hate it terribly when adverbs are used copiously and redundantly, so you substitute words that combine both intended meanings eg. ran angrily -> charged)

Once you have a few criteria in mind the task of 'just writing' becomes a whole lot less obscure.

The words "Just Write" fit into all this in the sense that if you spend your whole time deciding what you want to say, you will never actually say anything. If finding the perfect criteria for your opening sentence is going to take ten non-consecutive hours of brainstorming, then just find a single criterion and make a sentence around it. If you can't figure out what should happen between paragraph 1 and paragraph 3, write 1 and 3 and think about what's missing to get from one to the other. "Just Write" means that whatever else you are doing, if you are not applying pen to paper you are doing it wrong.

Also if you hate starting from page 1 try the Snowflake Method [https://proactivewriter.com/blog/see-how-easily-you-can-write-a-novel-using-the-snowflake-method] or something comparable.

I've seen a lot of posts here asking for more specific advice than 'just write' and the response has most often been 'just write, dude'. I've explained why I think people give this advice above and you're not wrong. This is just an alternative approach.

I am not under the illusion that I wrote this well.

TL;DR: Just Write means doing more than just scrawling on paper, it helps to have specific considerations, whether overt or instinctual, that shape your writing as it comes out. As you get more comfortable considering and scrawling at the same time, your definition of 'just writing' will expand.

You know, I think you are completely over thinking the meaning of "Just write".

Just write means EXACTLY that. Only this and nothing more.

It DOES NOT mean you have a plot in mind or any clue what to write.

It means, you sit ass in chair and write the very first thing that pops into your head no matter what it is. Write what your desk looks like, write about your neighbours who won't stop yelling all night long, write about that annoying crack in the wall that is distracting you... just write.

It's known as "free writing". The idea is to write lots of nothing about anything and everything, to loosen up your brain, and get all the emotional blocks out of the way.

THIS is what authors mean when they say "just write". I can't even begin to imagine how it is you translated it to mean anything else.

It's a type of exercise. You wouldn't play football without doing warm up exercises would you? Writing is the same way. I don't know of any professionally published writer who doesn't do daily free-writing warm up sessions before getting to work of whatever assignment they are supposed to be doing.

In most cases after you've done this for a couple of hours, you find yourself taking what you are writing and subconsciously turning it into a story. A story you had not planed or prepared, but rather a story you didn't know you had in you.

Scrawling empty nothings on the page is EXACTLY what "just write" means.

I've never started out with a plot. Never knew where the story was going to go.

Have you looked into a thing called "beat sheets". It sounds like that's the sort of writing method you are looking for. Beat Sheets are fill-in-the-blank outlines, that are similar to the mad libs game, but designed for novelists. They are usually about 10 pages long, 1 page for each chapter and are used as a jumping off point for people who need some sort of guidance to write.

If you go to Harlequin's site, they have beat sheets listed for each of their book lines, because in Romance authors are required to stick to a strict formula (thus why it's called formula writing - character MUST do this on page 8, and MUST do that on page 24, and this must happen then, etc) Beat sheets are how Harlequin authors publish a new novel every single month like clockwork. Formula writing with beat sheets gets pretty easy if you do it a few times and get the hang of it. Barbara Cartland used beat sheets and she published 801 novels before she died. (she has the Guinness World Record for the most novels published by any one person).

There's an example of beat sheets used for Monster Porn short stories here: https://www.eelkat.com/writing-monster-porn-beat-sheets.html I use them when writing short horror stories because it helps me keep the story under a certain word count by keeping the characters on track and not letting the story wander off on it's own. That sort of thing might help you out if free writing is too loose a method.

Another beat sheet I've used is the one by Jami Gold, here: https://jamigold.com/2012/11/write-romance-get-your-beat-sheet-here/

My favourite beat sheet is the Lester Dent one from the 1930s: http://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html

There's others but I can't think of where they are off the top of my head. I had those 3 bookmarked. I had another one bookmarked too, that had 50 beat sheets, but the link goes to a 404 page now and I can't find a replacement page for it, Looks like it got taken down.

When I'm doing the 52 stories in 52 weeks challenge, I've found those beat sheets to be very helpful. Beat sheets is how I've been able to publish a story a week for years. Its why I can just write so many stories without having any plot or characters to start out with. Beat sheets are amazing if you like using that sort of thing. A lot of writers don't like them and call them cheat sheets and won't use them, but most every big name author whose putting out 4 or more books a year uses them. They free up a lot of time and make the writing process go a lot faster and smoother. It's definitely something to look into if you are having trouble getting started on a story, because they are incredibly helpful and keeping the story on track,

For novels, all I do is free write though. No plotting. No planning. No beat sheets. All 130 novels I've published since 1978, not one has ever been pre-planned. All just pure free writing with no clue where the story will go or what's gonna happen next.

I do like the Snowflake method. I'd tried it a few years back. It's sort of a, free association style of writing where you write this and it makes you think of that, so you add that too. Stan Lee said once he used the SnowFlake Method when writing Spiderman.

Some people say building an outline helps. I used to do that decades and decades ago, but I found whenever I outlined the story, I never wrote said story after. It was like I already knew how the book was going to end, so I was not motivated to write. I think of writing as a discovery. It's more like I'm reading WHILE I write, so I never know what is going to be on the next page until after I've written it. Outlines just plain gum up my ability to write so I don't like using them, but perhaps drawing up an outline before you write is the method that'd work better for you?

There's lots of methods of writing, I think all you can do is try each method one at a time until you find the one that is the best fit for you.

Hope that helps. Good luck with it.

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The Top 202 Most Visited Pages of 2017

Seeing how on October 15, 2017, we reached 10,000 pages, I thought it'd be fun to update the Top 100 List and see where were were now.

Top 202 Most Viewed Pages Of 2017 So Far
(Out of 10,000 pages)

(January 2017 to October 2017)
(Excluding the Home PageAbout Page, and Site Map Page, which were the top 3)

  1. Amphibious Aliens: The Story of Etiole & The World's Most Haunted Car
  2. The GoldenEagle: An Auto-biography of the World's Most Haunted Car
  3. Medieval Servants: Their jobs and their place in historical fiction.
  4. How Long is 50,000 Words?
  5. On being a handicapped CosPlayer at PortCon Maine 2017
  6. Stephen King's The Thinner and The Gypsies Of Old Orchard Beach, Maine
  7. Writing Mute Characters
  8. Flamboyant Nipples: The KKK's New Gay Hating Site About Old Orchard Beach | The Site That Makes Fun of Terrorist Hate Crimes
  9. Writing Dares Random Generator
  10. Don't put flyers on people's cars...
  11. The Saco River Curse
  12. Our Primary Site Topic Is Small Penis? Reaching #1 on Page 1 of Google.
  13. Help FBI End Anti-Gay White Power Terrorist Attacks of Old Orchard Beach
  14. Creating Character Profiles | Meet The Characters | Who Is Quaraun?
  15. Introduction To The Quaraun Series: aka Too Gay For Old Orchard Beach
  16. The Dazzling Razzberry aka EelKat's Autism Awareness Car
  17. Autism, Asperger, PTSD, & Mad Cow: Writing Clinical Insanity Accurately | What is wrong with Quaraun? 
  18. Quaraun Free To Read Online Complete Chapter Index In Chronological Order
  19. Necromancy: Fact Vs Fiction; Or How Can You Be A Necromancer In Real Life?
  20. 600 Pages: Epic Big Super Sized Novels and Why You Should Never Write One
  21. Why Crude Adult Comedy and Pink Humor Yaoi Is Not Erotica
  22. The FBI In Old Orchard Beach, Maine Trying To Capture A Domestic Terrorist
  23. One Gypsy's Review of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding
  24. The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach - page 1 (Online Release of Banned Book)
  25. Autism, Asperger's, And The Danger of The Self-Diagnosis
  26. Spell Casting Side Effects: Magic In Quaraun's Universe | Author Interview
  27. What Type of Music Does A Gypsy Listen To? My Top 10 Favorite Bands
  28. Beware of White Men In Gypsy Clothing: Fake Psychic Scams
  29. How long does it take to hit 1667 words?
  30. How to Write A Kiss
  31. Phookas
  32. Creating Character Profiles | Meet The Characters | Who Is GhoulSpawn?
  33. Albino Races - Moon Elves In The Quaraun Series
  34. Daily Writing Prompts (June 2017 Archive)
  35. My 30th Anniversary of Being Transgender
  36. Why Are The Quaraun Books Rated M18+
  37. How to Write Hot Sex - Tips For Erotic Romance Authors
  38. The Zaharam-Chapelle-Parunas Ethnographical World Building Questionnaire
  39. The Jiggler & The G-String Teddy Bears | The Adventures of Quaraun The Insane
  40. What exactly makes an Elf an Elf? (What is the definition of an Elf?)
  41. Online Income: The Reality vs The Fantasy
  42. World's Most Haunted Car Merchandise
  43. I Am Not GhoulSpawn | Excerpt From Rose Garden of The Pink Necromancer
  44. Old Orchard Beach Hate Crimes
  45. BoomFuzzy Chapter 1 (Novel Excerpt - Quaraun The Insane)
  46. How can your books have gay transvestite characters and not be Erotica? or Why are gay haters beating up elderly woman for wearing pink for breast cancer awareness and saying she's a transexual because only transexuals wear pink?
  47. EelKat's Guide To NaNoWriMo Featuring The 13 Step Method To Writing
  48. Autism and the Stigmas - Why Can’t You Accept Me As Me?
  49. Maine UFO Sightings
  50. Page 11 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach - The Scottish Traveller Crime Family
  51. Psychedelics In A 'High' High Fantasy World (High Elves Getting High)
  52. KBoards, The NaNoWriMo ML Rumor & The Vindictive Stalker
  53. Writing Racist Characters VS The Ku Klux Klan In Old Orchard Beach, Maine
  54. Captured By The Lich Lord | The Night of The Screaming Unicorn
  55. How To Build A Magic System
  56. I've everything but a kitchen sink. Wait, how'd that sink get in my pocket?
  57. Stephen King's Thinner Gypsies & The Ku Klux Klan of Old Orchard Beach
  58. Autistic Characters In Fiction
  59. City of The Slushies | Chapter 7 | Quaraun The Insane
  60. Manuscript Reading Services or Will You Read My Book and Tell Me What You Think?
  61. Suicide, Rape, and Abuse In The Quaraun Series
  62. Wizards vs Witches vs Sorcerers: How are they different? | Writing Fantasy Books
  63. FRED: Google's Most Deadly Update Ever?
  64. How To Write A Novel: Question Everything Before Putting It In Your World
  65. Content writing: How long do you spend creating a quality blog post?
  66. SBI: To Review or Not to Review? That Is The Question
  67. Twerking Dragons: The Joys Of Writing A Novel With A Voice Recorder
  68. A Day At Witch Pond & Fleeing To The Forest | Summoner of Darkness
  69. Transgender, Transsexual, Transvestite, or Intersex: What Is Quaraun?
  70. Sheep | GhoulSpawn The Crazed & The Rose Garden of The Pink Necromancer
  71. Colour Magic - Gypsy Style
  72. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas (Where Do You Get Them?)
  73. Keywords & Pigeons: How I Do Local Business Marketing
  74. Quaraun & Autism In Fantasy Novels
  75. The Signs Of Old Orchard Beach & The FBI Investigation Of The Town Hall
  76. Tom Addams & The Warrior's Forum
  77. A Field of Poppies On The Road To Witch Pond | Summoner of Darkness
  78. An Elf and a Lich in the Gingerbread Pit | The Night of The Screaming Unicorn
  79. Markiplier Jacksepticeye and Pewdiepie Play Resident Evil 7
  80. Santa Claus: Lich Of The North Pole (Includes NSFW 18+ CBT Yaoi scene)
  81. A Motorhome named 'No Hurry' becomes Rosebud & The Story of Ten Kidnapped Cats
  82. Create Original Content aka I Hate Jackass Gutter Scum Thieves
  83. Lost In a Space That Isn't There: Going North To Head South
  84. An Elf Gone Mad: The Rise of The Pink Necromancer
  85. Aspergers is NOT Autism
  86. Is The Quaraun Series Erotica? - No! Here's why...
  87. Summoner of Darkness: GhoulSpawn and Quaraun Trapped With A Phooka
  88. The Dungeon Master & The 1974 AMC Gremlin
  89. The Lich's True Form Revealed | The Night of The Screaming Unicorn
  90. Using work you already started for national novel writing month?
  91. World-building In The Quaraun Series: Creating a Fantasy World
  92. Books in Vacationland 2017
  93. BoomFuzzy's Gingerbread House From Hell
  94. Lets Playing Is No Longer Fun
  95. Santa's Floating Dead Body | A Scene From The Summoner of Darkness
  96. The Banshee Sisters: Bean-Nighe and Ben-Neeyah In the Swamp of Death
  97. The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach - page 2 (Online Release of Banned Book)
  98. What vlogging equipment is needed to get started as a YouTube vlogger?
  99. April 2015 Update: Too Gay For Old Orchard Beach: The Kidnapped Cats
  100. Betta Fish Aesthetic on Pinterest
  101. Domain Name Branding: Should You Put Your Brand Name In Your URL?
  102. Life As A YouTuber: How To Earn An Income From Making Videos
  103. Making YouTube Videos: How did you decide what content to make?
  104. Page 4 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach
  105. Twighilight Not Twilight
  106. YouTube Index
  107. Amphibious Aliens: My health since the stroke and Etiole . . .
  108. Are You A Satan Worshiper?
  109. Average Typing Speed
  110. Custom Leggings - Designs By EelKat
  111. Ernest Hemingway Style of Writing Literary Fiction Used In Epic Fantasy Novels
  112. Google Flagged Your Site! What To Do? (Help For Web Masters)
  113. How valuable is a writer’s group?
  114. Lives Destroyed: Amphibious Aliens 10th Anniversary Update
  115. Lost In a Space That Isn't There: Santa's Letter To Satan
  116. Summoner of Darkness: Quaraun Meets The Gremlin
  117. The Terrorists of Old Orchard Beach Put My Dad In a Coma
  118. Using Yahoo Answers to promote your book and author website.
  119. What Is This Site?
  120. You Stole My Idea - I was writing a book, but you already wrote it 10 years ago!
  121. City of The Slushies | Chapter 1 | Quaraun The Insane
  122. Creative Writing Story Prompts: September 2017 Edition
  123. Dungeons and Dragons: The Joys Of Calculating Gold Weight In AD&D 2ed
  124. Fabric Designed By EelKat
  125. My Fave YouTubers Play: Dream Daddy - The Yaoi Dad Dating Sim Otome Game
  126. Necromancy: How will resurrection affect society as a whole?
  127. Page 7 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach
  128. Pink Flowers Aesthetic on Pinterest
  129. The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach - page 12 (Online Release of Banned Book)
  130. What will a traveler encounter on the roads in your world?
  131. Are you insane? Am I? Let's Find Out...
  132. Becoming A Better Writer: How to write interesting dialogue.
  133. Character Creation
  134. Copper Cockeral Cards & Gifts
  135. Elves, Drugs, and Opium: A Look At The Drug Use In The Quaraun Books
  136. How To Stay Motivated To Write | Writing Fantasy Books
  137. Jewelry Fashions in Moon Elf Culture | World Building | Writing Fantasy Books
  138. Keyword Marketing - What to do when your best keywords are low demand
  139. Magic Systems and How to Build Them | Writing Fantasy Books
  140. NaNoWriMo Overachievers: How did you do it?
  141. Quaraun Cover Art Gallery | Fantasy Novel Book Cover Art
  142. Quaraun The Insane : Zebulon's Captive: The Last of The Moon Elves
  143. SEO Advantages of Embedding YouTube Videos On Your Website
  144. Summoner of Darkness: A Tavern Scene - Chastity Cages, and Whores
  145. Summoner of Darkness: The Return of ZooLock (free to read online)
  146. Twighlight Not Twilight Part 2
  147. Vanishing Books Update - Why 27 of my books were deleted off Amazon
  148. What is a God in Your Universe? | World Building | Writing Fantasy Books
  149. Writing Maine: How To Write About Maine Life Accurately
  150. What the Ocean Gives Me (How Things In Your Life Affect Your Writing)
  151. City of The Slushies | Chapter 14 | Quaraun The Insane
  152. February 10, 2008 - Harassment Continues in Old Orchard Beach, Maine
  153. How does a bestselling book become a bestseller?
  154. Marriage in Moon Elf Culture | World Building | Writing Fantasy Books
  155. People are not interested in long winded copy
  156. September 26, 2017 - The Latest Attack By The KKK on The Thinner Gypsies
  157. Spending Money To Make Money Online? Should You Do It?
  158. Summoner of Darkness: The Demon Cultists and The Coming of The Darkness
  159. Summoner of Darkness: The Map of The Town (novel free to read online)
  160. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY | Completionist Run: Episode 01
  161. Trespassers: April 2007 Updates
  162. Turning Scenes, Into Stories & Writing Travelogue Style Fantasy Books
  163. Where To Get Endless Ideas For Short Stories, Novels, and Articles
  164. Writing Controversial Books: Political Correctness & White Supremacists
  165. Are Bad Reviews Good For You?
  166. Branding Yourself While Avoiding The Scams | EelKat On Content Writing
  167. Child Sacrifice in Fantasy Novels | Writing Fantasy Books
  168. How to Handle Writing Fantasy-Horror That Features Violence Against Children
  169. How would you explain your Fantasy world to a stranger?
  170. Page 6 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach
  171. Summoner of Darkness: HellBorne The Evil, Lord of Black Tower
  172. The return of Friends Are Forever - Banned and Burned it's about to be reborn!
  173. Why do Lovecraftian beings come to earth?
  174. Writing Prompts Syndrome?
  175. Autism = The Crazy Cat Woman of Maine
  176. Autism: Understanding what is really going on inside the child’s head.
  177. But what exactly IS a full time income?
  178. Content Marketing & writing: How I write content for my website
  179. Do you write a novel start-to-finish?
  180. GhoulSpawn and The Lich Lord's Lover: How To Kill a Lich
  181. How is it that the church leaders are claiming you do not pay tithes?
  182. How To Write A Novel: In what order do you create your world?
  183. I loved my children but I loved BoomFuzzy more | From Quaraun The Insane
  184. My Two Favorite People: FarDarrig and The Baby That Never Should Have Been
  185. Need help writing characters of color | EelKat on racist white readers
  186. Quaraun and the Amazon Adult Filter
  187. Quaraun GhoulSpawn and The Lich Lord's Lover: The Lover's Triangle
  188. Summoner of Darkness: Where Are You Hiding That Horse?
  189. Tired of people who don’t care. :( Tired of the harassment. :(
  190. What would happen if an Elf adopted a Human baby? | Writing Fantasy Books
  191. Page 10 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach
  192. Page 3 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach
  193. Page 8 - The Gypsies of Old Orchard Beach
  194. SCRIPT FRENZY 2010: I WON! & Psycho Stalker Attacks
  195. Wristlets, Wrist Bags, Mini Clutch, Cosmetic Bags, and Designer Mini Purses
  196. Writing Your Novel: Do you save chapters as individual files?
  197. Are old AD&D adventures still any use to current players?
  198. Autistics Have Feelings Too & Diverse Books Rant
  199. Be True To You: YouTube Gamers: "Faking" a personality until you make it?
  200. City of The Slushies | Chapter 10 | Quaraun The Insane
  201. HEA in Erotica (Should You Write Happily Ever Afters?)
  202. Stephen King's Thinner Gypsies

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“Karma comes after everyone eventually. You can't get away with screwing people over your whole life, I don't care who you are. What goes aroMy Two Favorite People: FarDarrig and The Baby That Never Should Have Been

Need help writing characters of color | EelKat on racist white readers

und comes around. That's how it works. Sooner or later the universe will serve you the revenge that you deserve.” 

― Jessica Brody

"By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space." 

— Steve Silberman

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