I don't know if you're an author (meaning your writing is published), a writer in pursuit of being an author, or one of those voracious readers. However you fit into the reading/writing world you will have a unique perspective on what I'm about to unpack. Something I've learned about myself as an author (and only because my aunt pointed it out to me) is that my writing comes from a place so deep within me, that I rarely comprehend what's being put on the page as it occurs. It took a few years after some of my books came out and for me to go back and read chapters in order to realise what season of life I was in.
The depths of writing
Writing is not a tick-box exercise for me and I can barely fathom the idea of writing prompts. Practice writing by responding to words or phrases in order to produce ideas? I would be at the bottom of the class. My words are birthed from a place that only time, life experiences (which I then fictionalise), a completely unrestrained imagination, and sometimes, subconscious dissonance can produce. My words cannot be prompted by someone telling me to prompt them. I couldn't practice my craft by jotting down ideas relative to words or phrases. It just isn't deep enough for me. The story and characters must somehow truly resonate (even in a completely fictional scenario) and when I do it that way, the floodgates open, word count sky rockets, and then I hope people are gently challenged and changed through what is produced. My writing comes from me, but it isn't for me. It's for my readers. When writing becomes all about you and your accomplishments as a result, I'm inclined to think one has lost focus. Art is about blessing other people, not glorifying yourself.
I've had waves of quietness where I write nothing for days. Alternatively, I may produce upwards of 6,000 words day after day for a period of time. It completely depends on where 'I am at'. I wish I thoroughly understood how to tap into that latter ability so I could write upwards of 6,000 (or more) words every single day for years on end. But then, where is life being lived so that I can reproduce? One's imagination needs time to play. The imagination is kind of like a toddler. Bear with me: it's intrinsically trusting of its parent (you) and runs around creating scenarios and 'what ifs' out of ordinary, everyday circumstances. It's unbridled in passion because there's joy in the freedom it has. Imagination is not governed by time or finances. The only fencing put round one's ability to create is the 'parent' (you) who hovers and redefines the fascinating and intriguing into, 'that would never happen,' or, 'no one will read this because it's stupid.' I simply don't allow myself to work like that. If you want to succeed in your craft and draw readers into the world they picked up your book to experience, then do us all a favour and don't be a helicopter parent to your imagination.
What if you allowed yourself to go to 'that place' and write 'that scenario'? Here's a gentle reminder *whispers* you can delete it later if you don't like it. Some people are so afraid of writing what it is they really want to write because they're in a mindset they don't need to be in during development. Editing exists for a reason. You can't edit until you get it all out. You cannot write without getting out of the way of your imagination and allowing it to do what it exists to do: create. No one needs to see the words before the piece is finished, so it's okay to bleed over the keyboard or pad of paper. Trust me - it really is okay. You may even decide you don't want to refine it later. Perhaps you said exactly what you wanted to say. Now, are you satisfied with its depth? Could you be more detailed or more intriguing, or more real? Try it. Don't like the results? Okay, delete it. You didn't die by letting yourself go there, did you? Let yourself touch emotions or circumstances you normally corral. I don't refer to any genre in particular, either. This can be applied to any person writing any piece on any subject. However, the level of depth you reveal in your piece, is dependent on whether or not you have a word limit. If you're writing for a contest or an assignment whereby you cannot go over so many words, manage your imagination - don't limit it.
And now a little lecture
I think of the detail in a story having several layers. With different word count limits or goals, it automatically flares a response from you to be aware of the level of detail you can successfully reveal. If you're writing a 30,000 word novella, you may not have a consistently deep level of detail without sacrificing elsewhere. Not with 30k. If you're writing 90k - HOLLA!! The book is your oyster and you can explore the ocean's depths to world build. Your imagination can still be unbridled at 30k, just not at the level of freedom you have when there are no limitations. The keystone here though is to make sure it's all relevant. Do not write detail simply to fill space or to increase word count. Readers sometimes like to think they are the judge of what is and isn't necessary in your story. Adorable, but untrue. If you're a reader don't be a offended by that statement; be graceful in learning how much soul goes into writing. You consume books for your own reasons. Well, we write them for ours. After four years of being published and eight books, I have heard my share of 'I hate filler.' Don't reduce my heart and soul to that of 'filler.' I just gave every writer unprecedented permission to let their toddler - er - imagination run around the garden with their hands waving around in the air. There needs to be an understanding of expectations and a lot more honour showed in how you receive what we create. Don't be quick to decide something I've pulled from my imagination or experience is irrelevant because you don't think it needs to be there. I put it there for a reason.
On the other side, readers will know if you're just filling blank space. You don't need to prove anything to anyone by increasing your word count on purpose. It's distracting and it disappoints readers when they are thrown off course unless it adds to the chapter, book or series as a whole. There needs to be a balance between you pushing yourself to go deeper in your writing, and spreading out those details to the most influential places throughout the piece.
Why are you writing this piece? This manuscript? The book? What are you really trying to accomplish? If your motivation is to tick a box, maybe we need to have a coffee and chat. I would be interested in hearing what goes on behind your art that has nothing more to it than a 'well, I did it.' I wouldn't believe you if you said that anyway. Creating art in any form is one of the only places you can be yourself completely in the process. You can express emotion you might never share with people or display in real life - by hiding it in your characters. That is freeing. Going a step further, what do you sincerely want to accomplish? What is the motivation that drives you to stay in on a Friday night and write when everyone else is out? What causes you to steal away and create worlds and characters on your lunch break? How do you hope to influence the world or help people heal through your work? Do you hope for those things at all? Search yourself thoroughly and then get out of the way and let it bleed.
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