Tag Archives: Writing process

The cyclical nature of the creative process.

WordCount

A couple weeks ago Chuck Wendig wrote an excellent post about the emotional milestones of writing the first draft of a novel. It describes my own experience perfectly with all the highs and lows, so I would definitely say it’s recommended reading.

That post also made me think about the creative process in general and the various stages I go through between the new idea in my head and the finished product. And I realized that that process also has its highs and lows, but that in the end, it’s cyclical. I thought it would be fun to share my observations with my readers and see if anyone’s experience is similar to mine.

1. Shiny new idea aka rabid plot bunny.

That’s the beginning of every new story, isn’t it? A fluffy plot bunny comes hopping  into your brain and kicks every other idea out until its the only thing you can think of. It’s so fresh and new and exciting, and you can’t wait to start writing this story down, because you know without a doubt that it has all the makings of a true masterpiece.

There is only one slight problem. The plot bunny is never a whole story. It might be a scene, or an idea, or a group of characters, or even just a “what if this happened?” moment. No, the true story is still playing hard to get. You need to do some archaeological digging to get to it. That’s where stage two starts for me.

good-luck-road-sign

2. The rough outline.

Now this stage might differ from writer to writer, depending on whether you are a “pantser” or a  “plotter”.  Some writers might even skip this stage altogether. I’m not saying that one method is better than the other. I’m just saying that I’m very much a plotter. I can’t write a story without knowing where it’s going and having an approximation map of how to get there, so I tend to write rather extensive outlines.

That’s the stage where I grab that plot bunny by its fluffy ears and shake it until the details of the story start tumbling out.  By the time I’m done with my outline, I know exactly how the story will start and how it will end, but most of the stuff in between reads like “stuff happens to get the protagonist from point A to point B,” or “I have no idea how she ends up here, but I’ll think of something.”

But it’s a good enough road map to follow and I’m usually so sick with the whole outlining process by that time that I’d rather start on the first draft now, before I get too tired of the story, and work out the kinks later.

3. The First Draft.

Chuck gave a very accurate description of the emotional roller coaster a writer goes through during the first draft. Needless to say that after the three months it usually takes me to finish the first draft of a normal length novel, I am an emotional mess, and the only thing I want to do is throw that draft in a drawer and forget about it.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want to tackle another first draft. Sometimes, depending on how difficult the story had been for me, I feel like I never want to write another new story ever again… So by this time I have reached the next stage of my creative process.

4. The editing adventure.

Since I don’t feel like chasing another plot bunny right at the moment and going through the highs and lows of a first draft again, I go digging into the Dropbox folder where I keep all my stories and unearth a story I had put aside when that plot bunny had gotten me distracted 3-4 months ago. I print out the story, get my faithful blue pen out and dive into editing.

I know a lot of people dread that process, and it can be tedious and heart-breaking to take the jumbled mess of a first draft and make the words better. But after the trials of the draft when you give birth to the story, having a stack of pages to edit feels really good. So I dive into my edits, I hack and slash and rewrite about 80% of the draft until I’m more or less satisfied with the end result. And by the end of that process, I’m so burned out on editing that I start actually looking forward to writing a new story again, even if I had swore in stage 3 that I would never do that again.

So I send my edited story to some brave beta readers and eagerly open my mind to the next plot bunny willing to hop in and take me for a ride. And the cycle begins again…

It’s funny to discover that I start each stage of the process full of excitement and energy, and that I’m usually burned out and eager to move to the next stage by the end.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced this cycle as well? Is your creative process different? Drop me a few lines in the comments, because I would really like to hear from you!

Editing woes – the burnout.

In the past four months, I have been steadily working on rewriting / editing my novel Of Broken Things, and in the past two months I had been doing only that and nothing else. I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo with this revision, so the pressure was on.

On hindsight, joining Camp NaNo was a mistake, because I had been struggling with motivation to pick up my work for the last two weeks, and I was feeling increasingly guilty about it… which made me even less happy about diving into the revisions… which made me even guiltier for not doing it. Vicious cycle!

Lack of Motivation
Lack of Motivation

It took me a while to realize what was happening, but last night it hit me like a ton of bricks – I had burned out on revisions. This realization was rather surprising, because it never happened to me before. Well, to be honest, I have never had to tackle such a big revision either. I had only edited two short stories before and both of them had been knocked out in a couple weeks. So this is the first time in my (short) writing career that I meet face to face with this particular monster.

I have learned two things from this misadventure.

1. Burnout happens even when editing.

I had read plenty of blogs about writers experiencing burn out when they write their first draft, but never about the same happening during the editing stage. Guess now I know that you can get burned out while editing as well. Lesson learned. Moving on.

2. I need variety to thrive.

I guess I have a mind form of ADD, because I can’t concentrate on one project for a significant amount of time. I think two and a half months is about my limit. That’s how long it took me to write the first draft Of Broken Things. Anything longer, and my attention starts wandering.

I had started editing the novel in April, but I took a couple breaks to finish writing a novelette as well. However, since about May, I have been doing nothing but editing. So I definitely need a change if I ever want to get to the end of this process without ending up hating my story with a passion.

Conclusions:

1. I am putting Of Broken Things away for a couple weeks at least and starting on a new short story, which will be a continuation of the short story A Small Detour published here. I already have the outline ready and printed, just need to sit down and put pen to paper. I think the freedom to just write whatever comes to mind and not worry about grammar or punctuation will be exactly the change of pace I need.

2. Sadly, I will have to withdraw from Camp NaNoWriMo this year, but I will definitely be there for NaNoWriMo in November! I even have a bright new shiny idea for the novel I want to write during that month. With characters and even a beginning of the plot as well! Can’t wait to start on that one, actually.

And finally a question for my fellow writers. Have you ever experienced this kind of burnout? What do you do to shake it off and get back on the writing horse again?

NaNoWriMo – 15 days to go.

ImageWell, we are half-way through November already. Time just seems to fly by, doesn’t it? This is my first NaNoWriMo and to tell the truth I wasn’t sure if I could make it. But as of today I am at 30k words and about one chapter way from finishing Part 1 in my novel. And I still have 15 days to write another 20k words. That looks a lot less daunting than the big 50k from November 1. So I start getting more hopeful about the fact that I can make it to then end and win.

I would like to use this half-way point to go over some of the observations I made so far about my writing process. Hopefully, someone else will find them useful too.

1. Discipline helps. I haven’t missed  single day of writing so far. I made sure that I would find time to sit down and work on my novel every day, rain, snow or storm. It doesn’t matter how much time I have, even a five minute coffee break spent scribbling in a notepad can produce 100-200 words. A lunch date with a pen and paper adds another 400-500 words. And in the end, it all adds up.

2. Setting goals and working towards reaching them is essential. When I decided to do NaNo, I set myself  a daily goal of 1700 words. And I made a vow not to go to bed until I reach that goal. So it doesn’t matter if my pen is flying so fast that makes the paper smoke or if my muse packed up and went on vacation, I will sit and put one word after another until I get that goal done. And most of the days I end up with 200-300 words over that goal.

3. Celebrating small and big achievements is a sure way of boost motivation. I had a piece of chocolate cake and a fresh cup of tea when I reached my first 10k. I pored myself a glass of wine at the 20k marker. I sneak attacked my husband in the bedroom after I flew by the 25k :). Those little celebrations really make you want to go on writing, and thinking about your next reward helps when the fatigue sets in and you start getting discouraged with your writing.

4. Word wars and prompts help. No, seriously, they really do! There are days when words are just not coming, no matter how much you stare at the blank screen. I found that picking up a prompt or joining a word war either on the site or on twitter @NaNoWordsprints helps me get the ideas on the page. I tend to procrastinate less when I have a deadline.

5. Do not get discouraged. Whether you are 5k ahead or 10k behind, keep writing. You still have 15 days to go, don’t abandon you novel now. Every word you add to it is more than you had before. Word by word, the novel will get from “Once upon a time” to “The end”.

So how is everyone else doing at his half-way point? What are you guys happy about or struggling with?