Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Worst Best Practices

Wow, I feel super busy! Well here is the next instalment of the DIY MFA book club discussion.

Today I am looking at "best practices" as shared by other writers.

Us writers are pretty fickle. When things start to slow down, we start looking outside of ourselves for the answer and try everything that other successful writers have done or are doing.

And when you read up on others' processes, you soon realise that it is not possible to do the same as them.

Now, if you work in a pub, there is only really one way to pour a pint. Yes, you might stand with your feet together, your knees bent, your back bent, standing to the side of the pump...but essentially, the technique is the same. And so it is with writing. The actual technique of telling a story is the same for everyone - the inciting incident goes near the beginning, the words need to be typed onto an appropriate word processor, you have to make sure the words are spelt correctly - but the process of producing that book is different for all of us. Some of us may prefer our knees locked and feet shoulder width apart. Just like pulling that pint, we have all been taught by someone how to do it. And when we started off, we did exactly as they told us. Then we started to lax a bit and find our own comfortable position.

Stephen King finds 2000 words per day comfortable. For others it will be more or less.

Julia Cameron suggests 3 pages of 'morning writing'. I wish I could do this, but I can't. Does this make me an incapable writer? No!

I've tried writing every day - then the house got unmanageable. I've tried writing when I felt like it. When you have finished sniggering, you can tell me how you think that worked out.

I tried writing at different times of day, in different places.

What I have learnt is the same thing that Gabriela learnt - there is no "best way". Yes, we all have to follow the rules, but how we get the end product out there is really down to us.

For me, I like outlining - but will happily stray from it during the first draft.

The biggest killer for me was (and this is the first time I have made it public) that the first draft of my novel is only 30,000 words long. I am not even sure I can call it a draft. To some, this will be a shock. I will get told it isn't worthy to be called a novel. But my process is basic story down first. I am in the process of redrafting. I will add the sparkle, colour and improve the sub plots. And hopefully it will grow.

The way I get things done, is by setting goals. This way, if one day I can't or won't write for whatever reason, I am still moving forward. But I work in the way that is best for me.

I haven't found my true process yet, I am still on the journey of discovery. But it is working for me so far.

How about you? What best practices bring out the worst in you?


  1. Love this. I've been writing since 2007 and I haven't found my "best practices." My novel first draft was about 45,000 words. Fleshed out it's now 102,000 words. Like I've learned, there's no perfect writing rule. So make your own.

  2. It seems that there are many writers out there who don't get the full word count down first time, but when you read up on editing, it is all about cutting words!

    Keep at it. I don't think any one of us will ever find perfection, because as our situation changes we need to review how and when we write.

  3. I totally believe in a 30K first draft... I do that too. I even handwrite these drafts and then add bits as I type them in, so... I understand this process pretty well. (Though, forgive the snigger, but... been there, done that with respect to writing when I feel like it too... so laughing with you, not at you)

  4. My first draft of the current novel was 53k, and I was getting worried when the word count went down on the second draft, but now I'm on the third draft the words are flowing upwards again.
    Regards good and bad practices, it has to be pantsing for me. I wish I was a plotter, because then I would know everything, but then I think nooooo, where is the fun in that?

  5. I'm feeling loads better, thanks to all your comments! I am glad to see I am not alone!

    Thank you for your comments. Eden - I'll forgive you for sniggering, and I am guessing it worked out as well for you as it did for me :D

  6. I'm finding that my process is always changing, and that what got me through one project may or may not be helpful for the next. Each writing project is its own puzzle. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and leave a comment. I try to reply to as many as possible.