Sling Words on a Blank Page

It's not easy being a Hot Tub Crime Machine. It's mainly all guys. Lots of empty beer cans. Loud drunken debates about oxford commas and the use of ellipses. What I'm saying is, it's nice to have a lady around once in a while. They bring a different vibe and certainly liven the place up more than the usual crew of degenerates. Which is why we are ecstatic to welcome author Courtney Cantrell back to the Hot Tub. She's venturing into the bubbling water to tell us all about slinging words. Take it away Courtney! 

Hile, Wordslingers!

Whazzat? Why, yes. I’m talking to you, writers. Wordslingers. Today, it’s all about slinging words into your story until all the slinging is done. This is also known as putting in your butt-to-chair time. Completing the project. Finishing your sh— Er, um. Finishing your excrement?

So, let’s say you’re past the gummy shallows of Starting Your Story. Hip-deep in the ooze of character development and subject-verb-agreement, you plunge your arms into the raw, mushy heat of creativity, clench your fists around what sticks, and explode up out of that muck with pizzazz. Sling those words around like a monkey throwing poo! Smack your immediate universe with all the gloppy characters and gooey plot points you possibly can.

Just don’t give in to the temptation to stop and edit.

You know how it is, lovelies. You sit down at your computer, your typewriter, your pen-n-paper, your reed-n-clay-tablet — ready for your keyboard-pounding frenzy (don’t break your reed stylus, those are delicate) — and the next thing you know, you’ve spent an hour nitpicking a paragraph or prodding a recalcitrant sentence into just the right shape….

And ya coulda spent dat hour writin’, kid. Ya coulda been a contendah.

(I just wholly dated myself, and I don’t care.)

(I make an awesome date.)

(I do not create fruit.)

*ahem*

NOT TO WORRY. You’re still a contender. You are still fiercely amazing for even attempting the fabulous shenanigan of Writing A Novel. The point is: the Dread Pirate Editing is a dire foe to many. It ever looms, threatening to pillage our time and loot our progress.

If we give in to the Dread Pirate Editing, our novels might take a looooooong walk off a very short plank. (And there are sharks down there. They eat plot bunnies.)

In plain English: spend your time polishing words, sentences, and paragraphs — instead of generating new words — and you will not. Complete. Your Excrement.

Thus...WHAT TO DO?

I can’t make you write.

I can’t make you exercise self-control and stop fiddling with old words instead of making new ones. I wouldn’t do it even if I could, because I wouldn’t be doing you or myself any favors.

But I can offer a few tips that work for me. Your mileage might (and probably will) vary. But maybe you can adapt these to fit your style:

1. Heed the Writing Sages:
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.” —C. J. Cherryh
"You can fix anything but a blank page." —Nora Roberts
Write your story, and don’t be afraid to write it.” —Nnedi Okorafor

—> i.e. DON’T WORRY. JUST WRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITE (write).

2. Do word sprints.
For ten, twenty, thirty minutes, force your butt into the chair and make words. Any words. Free-associate. Just write, write, write.

Use a timer. When it goes off, stand up, walk around, get a drink/snack, pee, run around the block. After ten minutes, get your butt back in the chair and write some more.

Via Twitter hashtags #wordprints #wordmongering #wordgrab, find other Gorgeous Wordslingers Like You(™) who are sprinting together (or against each other — a little competition might light fires under your cute, melded-to-chair tushie).

3. End your writing session in the middle of a sentence that excites you.
I know, this sounds agonizing. But trust me. If there’s anything that can cannonball you directly into the goopy mass of Story, it’s sitting down to your next writing session and plunging right into that cramazing sentence you so desperately wanted to finish. Finish it — then let the momentum carry you like a bulbous sludge-shark hauling you through the gook. Keep going. Don’t stop.

You’ve got this, O Writer. Ye’re a wordslinger, Harry! You wield your words like a mage their wand, an Annie Oakley her gun, a seven-year-old her fistful of mud, a chimp his excrement. Sometimes you make magic. Sometimes you sling glop. It’s FINE. That’s exactly what it’s like for every other writer in existence ever. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

We writers dive headfirst into what makes other people wrinkle their noses in disgust...and we have a raucous good time. As we say in the Hot Tub Crime Machine, hop in. The goop is great. Keep getting your hands dirty.
Courtney Cantrell has nine published titles to her name, including the Legends of the Light-Walkers series (epic fantasy), The Elevator (sci-fi), and the Demons of Saltmarch trilogy (paranormal fantasy). Expect her first fantasy whodunit, The Priestess Murders, in 2020. Courtney loves unicorns, cats, chocolate, coffee, and dancing. She blogs at Court Can Write and tweets @courtcan.

What about you, sailor? What keeps you going in The Miry Story Depths? What are your tips for when the going gets tough and the end of the story is nowhere in sight? Jump in the Hot Tub comments and let’s swap big fish stories!

Comments

  1. This is sooooooo hard for me. I have yet to ever (ever ever ever even just once) sit down and start writing, without first tearing through yesterday's work and fixing (often making worse) whatever I did. I'm going to have to give your middle of the sentence exercise a shot (possibly by editing said sentence to the point that I'm no longer excited by it!) and try to curb the edit-fiend who ever lurks in my first cup of coffee. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Ken! I totally get ya on the difficulty of actually putting this technique into practice. It's ridiculously difficult to tear yourself away from the story when it's flowing well! What got me into writing without (spending ALL my time) editing was NaNoWriMo. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea, and I don't participate as much as I used to. But something about that ridiculous deadline gets my Inner Editor to sit down and shut up. Another type of deadline would definitely work, though! As long as you stick to it and force yourself to write instead of editing, until the habit is set. In the meantime, I will also try to practice what I preach! ;) --C.

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