I spend a lot of time over games of solitaire or Cubis, letting ideas marinate, trying to work out plot points. I spent most of yesterday doing just that. And yet it's easier than it was; still slow but easier. Ideas come more often, plotting becomes smoother, characters are chattier. I have a plot for a short story roughed out today, right on the heels of sending the previous one out to a magazine. I actually have two things submitted right now, and I think that's a first for me.
Probably what I'm saying here is that the paperwork is always there but you get more used to it. It becomes easier. So for what it's worth, here are a couple of... not rules necessarily, but things I've learned about my writing. Maybe they'll help yours.
- You have to have ideas before you can have ideas. You know that old joke about how the most common question asked of writers is "Where do you get your ideas?" Well there's a reason for that. Ideas are hard. Either they don't seem good enough, or they're too big, or too small, too derivative or too weird. They drag their feet and thumb their nose at you and don't give a damn that you actually are prepared to sit down and write. They hide under the sofa or in cupboards, and can often be found in the shower, sucking up all the hot water. My point here is that you have to get into the habit of having ideas. Have a few, work with them. More will come to you and beg for food. Eventually you'll have flocks of them chasing you around the field, trying to get your attention.
- Don't rewrite until you've finished the story. Yeah I know you have to read back a ways to know what you were saying before you can pick up the thread again, but for the love of all you consider holy, resist the urge to read from the beginning and correct mistakes. Because I promise you that you will end up rewriting the beginning of your story a hundred times and then race through writing the end because you've gotten sick of it. Just don't do it.
- Don't tell your whole story to people. Once you've told it, however imperfectly, you'll lose some of the urge to make it concrete.
- Pay attention. Take notes. Ask questions. You have to engage your brain and your senses if you want to write.
- Read. A lot. All the time. If I have to explain this, you're not a writer. Go do something that will earn you a lot of money, and stop pretending.
These points won't necessarily make you a better writer -- I'm not remotely qualified to teach anyone that skill -- but if you take them to heart you might just get something down on paper for a change. Give it a shot.