Resources for Writers
Start Writing and Don’t Stop: Pond Scum by Michael Lilly
Writing is beautiful. Writing is also frustrating, fickle, and ugly. The muse is a beast elusive and majestic, gracing us with its presence at inopportune times and taunting us with its absence into the unholy hours of the night. It laughs at us as we stare at a blinking cursor, waiting to strike until we’re on our way into the depths of slumber.
One of the most frustrating things about writing is that there’s so little to back up The Right Way or The Wrong Way. Authors will swear by writing at the same time very day, while others will assert that time is irrelevant and that the only way to write with authenticity is to have a notebook within arm’s reach at all times, so as to capture the essence of one’s muse the second it shows its face.
On an individual basis, the only way to be certain what works for you is to write. If 99.999% of authors insist on doing things in a certain way, but it just doesn’t work for you specifically, then for you, that is the wrong way.
In essence, you need to find a way to nurture your inner artist. Because that’s what you are. Writing is a mess of calculations, plot dynamics, and telling a story (or two or three), with words as your medium. But above that, above anything else, it’s art. Artists are people who use media to express emotions and explore the deep, untouched nethers of our souls.
That said, all I can say about The Right Way to write is that which works for me. To preface that, I should relay the relevant circumstances of my life. First, and perhaps most importantly, for the duration of my writing up to this point, I have worked a night job that has afforded me time to write—first by laptop, then, after a revision of policy, by hand.
While I enjoy writing by hand (and admit to this being largely an aesthetic preference), it of course doesn’t compare to the speed and versatility of a computer. Maybe you, too, write by hand. Perhaps you prefer using your computer, or a typewriter, or flashing rapid Morse code to a team of highly trained pigeons with ink on their feet. Whatever the case may be, and what has been so for me, the sort of Nirvana-level state to aspire to is to crave it. For me, this manifests as an itch to pick up my pen and notebook. It used to be the desire to pull out my computer and type away, but however this sensation comes to you, indulge it.
Now, you may be thinking, “Great, so how do I make myself feel that way? Where does that itch come from?” And of course, being the super helpful mentor I am, I’ll tell you: I have no idea. It has many sources, to be sure: inspiration from one’s surroundings or other media, sudden ideas, or just feeling the need to get some words out. So once again, I’ll tell you what has worked for me.
Aside from the odd spark of inspiration, the only way I’ve been able to summon my muse with any shred of regularity or reliability is through habit-forming. For many, this means writing at the same time of day every day. Maybe get up early and write a thousand words before work/school, or on your lunch break. For me, this means the taste and smell of coffee, a pen in my hand, and the feeling of my notebook, full of possibilities, underneath my pen. When these factors align, my mind knows: It’s time to write. And again, this can be as personal and specific as a fingerprint. Of course, mine is the generic hipster answer, but perhaps you like to surround yourself with smoke and play Weird Al as background noise. If you can get yourself to write regularly, you’re likely to find your own little ritual to facilitate it.
Now, you’ve sat down in your smoky room. In the background, “Will the real Slim Shady please shut up?” blares. Your muse has shown up and is ready to roll.
“But what in the hell do I write?”
Many authors assert, “Write what you know.” True, to an extent, but I think this is misinterpreted often. Too many writers—beginners and veterans alike—treat this as a law limiting what they’re allowed to write. The bottom line is that you have something to say, a story to tell, and you’re allowed to tell it using whatever tools and plot devices you want. That’s kind of the whole thing about creativity. The phrase “Write what you know,” in my opinion, is not meant to limit, but to empower.
If you don’t know anything about fantasy or magic systems (or, in my case, crime and forensics), write about the things you do know, and do the necessary research to write your story. In doing so, you’re expanding your knowledge in your genre, deepening your knowledge in what you do know, and gaining experience as a writer.
In this interpretation of “Write what you know,” not only do you produce more, but you grow in several facets of being a writer.
And now you’ve gotten started. Maybe you don’t know much about writing sci-fi, but you do know a lot about empathy, compassion, friendships, and love. Thus your story is born. And you resolve to put yourself in your smoky Weird Al room tomorrow and the next day. And after many “the next days,” your story has evolved, taken on direction you never expected, born characters and dynamics you only kind of anticipated, and formed into a first draft.
To summarize: Start writing. Don’t stop.
(c) Michael Lilly
Author photograph (c) Bethany Breck (Instagram: @bethanybreck)
About Pond Scum:
My name is Jeremy Thorn, and I’m a serial killer.
Jeremy ‘Remy’ Thorn is a detective from a small town in Oregon. He does his job well and keeps to himself. A past of trauma and abuse, and a compulsive need for balance have shaped him into the person he is today: a decisive, effective killer.
His routine is simple but trustworthy.
Step one: Find two targets. The first, an abomination of a human being whose only contribution to the world is as fertilizer. The second, a detriment to society, perhaps a sidekick or accessory.
Step two: Kill the first. Frame the second.
After his latest, and most personal kill, all seems to be going well. He makes it home by morning and continues with his plan as normal, with each perfectly timed maneuver all mapped out. But to his horror, he finds that the man he was trying to frame—a hotshot detective from a major nearby city—has been called in to work the case. And what’s worse … he’s privy to the truth.
Order your copy online here.