Friday, October 7, 2011

Quit Netdecking Your Writing

In collectible card games, "netdecking" is when a player builds a deck using a list of cards someone else posted online.  By itself, it's frowned upon because someone else did all the work of making the deck playable and you're just blindly copying their idea.  And when tons of players do this, it turns a game about deckbuilding skill into Simon Says Act Like A Xerox.  People seem to agree, though, that a netdeck can be a good starting point for a type of deck you want to play, provided you make your own changes.

You should do the same too, but not just in card games.  When you netdeck blindly, you're just plugging and playing.  Not even thinking if anything could make it better.  Oh, this printer works fine enough, whoops running out of virgin blood ink, better go a knifin'!  Same's true for your writing process.  If you plug and play, you might miss out on some great ideas that could make your writing kick ass.

In fact, I'm gonna suggest that you'll be the King or Queen of the Sucking Prom UNLESS you quit netdecking.  And I'm not talking about changing up your word quotas or writing different genres or other low-level stuff.  If you really want to quit netdecking your writing, you need to quit netdecking life itself.  And that means challenging all the beliefs and opinions forced on you by The Colloquial MAN.

I Gotta Believe

I mean, think about it.  You started writing because it was fun.  And I bet you kept doing it anyway even though you got sick of bopping through life listening to people tell you that it's a waste of time, that you'll never make serious dough off of it.  "What a load of crap!" you said.  "Eat THIS, Grandma!"  And then that Christmas would never be mentioned again.  But I think you can take that further.  Hell, I think we all can stand to look at what we've accepted as true and really see which beliefs worth keeping, especially the ones we have about writing.

I used to believe that, to write good fiction, you had to practice with stories first, then move up to the novel, and writing outlines was evil and my sentences had to pass some imaginary CIA skillful-metaphor pop quiz in my brain to be good.  Nowadays?  I just play RPGs.  Got no problem with telling cool stories about interesting characters there.

I used to believe that networking and promotion wasn't my bag because I needed self-confidence to talk to people about "business".  Le screw that.  I decided to make it fun and rewarding, and I'm doing the same to cold-calling/pitching  because thinking that I have to pitch prospects that ONE EXACT WAY is no good.

Getting back to that whole writing topic.  When you quit netdecking your writing, you start asking yourself what you can do different.  You ask how you can be unconventional, but effective.  "How can I do it the way I want and still get the results?  And if there's no getting around some things, what angle can I approach it from to make it easier and worthwhile to do?"  Ask about everything.  Writing, revision, getting ideas - the whole brain factory.

Kick, Punch, It's All In The Mind

Now, I'm not saying everyone else's ideas suck.  In fact, I want you to learn even MORE.  But then you do the Bruce Lee thing.  You absorb what is useful and discard the rest.  You don't toss it into the garbage along with Mom's Russian Roulette of a casserole because you never know if it'll help you later, but right, doesn't suit your thing.  And that's fine.  Your path to success is gonna change over time, but right now you're better off doing it the way you want.

It's all about taking the road less travelled, passing the one that everyone says is full of gangster wolves with tommy guns and taking the one over that sweet river that doesn't shoot back.  "Oh, it's hard to write this much a day."  Oh yeah?  I'm gonna shake-a my fist at you and find a way to do it with mimimal effort and maximum fun.  It's not about trying to show up people, though.  Don't be one of those fist-shaking buttheads of legend.  But just don't buy what you hear at face value.

It can be tricky, no doubt.  But I love working that way - strategizing over how to make everything smooth and fun.  Life's all about making this current moment as awesome as possible.  Why shouldn't your writing be like that too?

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