It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to have a whinge at myself in the name of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.
I’ve been writing a fair bit over recent months, trying to keep a variety of plates spinning, writing for different sites on varied subjects.
There are many writers who are much more prolific than me, but I’ve been stepping up the amount of writing I’ve done – most of it web-based, as well as writing a few bits of fiction.
I have let down a few people, unfortunately – for instance I discussed writing something topical as a guest author, but because of being busy/having less than ideal time management, I let it slip away. I’ve got a similar backlog of what I think are decent ideas tucked away in the back of my head or in a Word file somewhere or other.
I’ve also found that working on so many things at once can lead to making daft mistakes.
For instance, in recent months I’ve been writing about football statistics for Squawka.com.
One of the problems with writing on a statistical basis about players I’ve only watched irregularly is that I feel that people who watch the players on a regular basis, who’ve seen every game that player has been involved in, will know things about the player’s performances that I’ve not seen.
I made one particularly amateurish mistake – in a piece talking about Manchester United midfielder Nani, I mentioned in passing that his midfield rival Antonio Valencia was in his second season at the club – it was actually his fourth.
Obviously this kind of thing isn’t all that important, and didn’t affect the broad strokes of what I was arguing… but it’s still annoying to let that kind of mistake slip by.
I’m a fiction writer by instinct, and find research a bit stressful.
As much as I enjoying expanding my knowledge, learning more about the subjects that interest me, I find myself thinking about the information I’m not seeing as much as what I am. I’ve been writing a ‘Lower League Week’ for a year and a half now, and it can be a bit difficult to get my hands on information for some of the less well covered teams in England’s professional leagues. Coverage of what’s going on inside the clubs can be hard to come by, and there’s always the worry of local media glossing over the complications to keep their contacts inside the club, and fans reactions being clouded by emotion, often over-reacting one way or the other.
Personally, I prefer to get the foundations right, and then go off on tangents, inventing my own stuff. Unfortunately, I think this tends to be frowned on in factual writing.
Stieg Larrson, a very influential journalist in his field, reportedly wrote the ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ books in the evenings, as a way of unwinding. Previously I hadn’t been able to understand that – I’m generally the kind of writer to plan things out in massive detail in advance, before getting started. I take story structure and character development very seriously, it winds me up enormously when a character behaves in a way that I feel clashes with their previously established behaviour, or a twist comes along that feels forced and artificial.
But I’ve been finding in recent months that, when I’ve got so many ideas going round in my head, there’s some that excite me more than others, and it’s useful to think of those as a kind of treat – things I can let loose and be more natural when writing, without worrying quite so much.
It might not be the ideal way to accomplish it, but one of my key aims when setting up this blog was to get myself writing more quickly and on a regular basis, rather than trying to make everything perfect, moving at a snail’s pace, and finishing nothing.
I’m currently trying to reach a pace of writing that I find difficult, but it’s better than the alternative.
As with actual spinning plates there are techniques to make the trick easier.
Just this past week I’ve gotten half a story written on Sunday night, 2 and a half thousand words written in a few hours. Not only was this a decent achievement by my standards, it left me feeling refreshed, and more energised for the factual work I had in my ‘to do’ list. I’ve also enjoyed collaborating on what could be a rare case of football-themed comedy that actually ends up being funny.
Really, I need to be better at both de-stressing and forcing myself to sit down to get first drafts of things completed. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I feel as if I’m moving in the right direction.