Writers Monday: The Art of Junk Writing


I’m often pressed for time writing-wise. I work full time outside of the home, and I’m a single parent of two. People ask me how I do it – the answer is, I have a schedule and I stick to it.

Writing time for me is between the hours of 7 pm and 9 pm on work nights and as much as I can on days off – sometimes if my mind is really spinning, I’ll write instead of brushing my hair for work (hello messy bun).

But so many of those work weeknights my mind is tired. I have the ideas, but I’m too exhausted for coming up with clever similes and metaphors. The words that come out onto my paper aren’t crisp, and they read juvenile. And I know I’m not alone here.

I hold myself accountable for writing a minimum of 1600 words a day. Which means, I’ve learned to embrace the junk writing. I have the base idea for a scene, or a conversation – I know it’s a good idea, but it all comes out like jumbled crap. WRITE THE JUMBLED CRAP.  Get the idea out of your head( see the picture above) It’s a first draft, a rough copy – whatever you want to call it. First drafts are never perfect. They are meant to be amended and edited.

The above picture is “junk writing”. I had just finished my final round of edits on The Space Between Us – but I had these scenes swirling around in my head. My brain was TIRED from the previous book – but this meet cute and intro scene were just too good. I would never publish that in a book, I would never send that to a beta reader – but the base idea for the scene was there, the core of it is something to go back and work with.

Here is the same text, after round one:

A woman can drive a sane man to do crazy things in the same way hunger, greed and lust can. A woman like this could cause me to go insane.

I could fire her. I should fire her. What I really should do is call Sean, the staff manager, and let him deal with her.

But one look inside those big green doe-shaped eyes, and I crumbled into specks of dust. And just one word falling from her bow-shaped lips, smooth and sweet like honey, tempted my ears in the hopes for more. I wondered what she sounded like when she was having sex. Did she moan? Whimper? Scream?

Christ, I needed to get laid. I blanked my face to hide any devious thought or emotion from showing.

Outside my office, the kitchen was picking up in speed. The closer it gets to dinner time, the wilder it gets back here. It’s a carefully calculated orchestra of skill and chaos. A faint perfume of butter and sautéed garlic wafted through the door, and my mouth watered much like it did when I saw her wandering around the market.

It’s my driving force in life. Food that is.

Again, still not perfect, but better. Round two, round three – you get the idea. It gets cleaner, tightens up and flows.

Next time you’re stuck, I challenge you to try it. Don’t worry about the words and flow. Don’t worry about dialogue tags and actions. Get your ideas out of your head and move on. Yes, you’ll be embarrassed if someone were to read over your shoulder. Yes, you’ll read it and think “this is a flaming pile of shit” – and it is – but you can fix it later. I’ve written entire chapters this way, thinking to myself – this is such crap, I’m going to have to delete this and start over – some of them wound up being my favorite chapters/scenes in my book.

Next week I’ll talk about my other trick I use for when I get stuck. I call it, the what if game.

So go on now. Write some junk and turn it into something glorious.


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