Friday, February 5, 2016
My Writing Process // Currently
It takes several books before writers really figure out how they write.
The writing process is somewhat elusive. It's not sit down and turn on some creative tap. It's really a personalized mix of planning, grit, and inspiration that all come together in a unique formula for that author. Some people write without knowing what's going to happen beforehand. Some people write knowing everything that's going to happen. Every writer has a slightly different process that works for them.
Emily's post on her story planning process over at The Herosinger inspired me to do a spin-off post on the key ingredients that have become an essential part of my writing journey. In this two part series, I thought I'd give you a little peek into what I've tried, learned, improved, and experimented with in the last six years or so. Today I'm going to talk about the current elements that I consider essential, and next Friday I'll talk about how I got there.
My Key Ingredients to Writing Success
Baseline goal of 2,000 words Monday-Friday
After years of random methods, sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional--writing by chapter, writing by time, and writing by various word count goals--I've settled on the fact that 2,000 words a day is what I can realistically handle at this point in my life. I can stretch myself beyond that when I need to, or if writing is going very well, but I like having a maintainable baseline goal to march to every day. Generally, I can get that done in a couple of hours of steady work, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how the day goes.
Scrivener is also important to my writing process. Being able to divide the scenes into folders according to chapter is vital for going back and fact-checking, or moving scenes around. Plus, Scrivener is a happy place. The very program itself seems to inspire writing, and having everything in one place instead of hunting around through various folders and word documents is incredible.
You should see some of my earlier pre-Scrivener folders for War of Loyalties. They are all organized according to my own particular system, but they would be a terror to navigate to the uninitiated.
If there's one thing I've learned so far, the key word "discipline" is really important to my writing process. I can do pretty much anything as long as you set me to grinding. Have a goal, will do, by hook or by crook. It's as if I've signed my name in blood and must get it done. I think that's really important, and a key success to the writing industry. There are few occasions when that's not a wise tactic. But it's surprising what our minds have the capability to do, if only we will require it of them. Discipline strengthens our muscles--just like the discipline required for healthy eating or exercise--and it also teaches us one of the most important Christian principles of self-control.
That being said, I want to give warm hugs to all those people who have been going through hard writing times lately. There are times when discipline, however much you want it to, just doesn't get the words on paper. There are seasons of incredibly challenging life events (I've gone through those) where you look back on your word count and realize you didn't even come close.
It's OK, writer friend. Just keeping showing up--push yourself as much as is emotionally healthy for you--and it will get better.
Camaraderie in the Creative Process
Sometimes my mental brain is a little toxic if I write with my story world door closed for too long. I was really happy when I read Austin Kleon's Show Your Work, and he encouraged people to share their art process while it was in process. I get excited sharing posters on Twitter, texting snippets to friends, and sharing stuff along the way. And their excitement encourages me too, and gives me fresh energy. Sometimes the project has to be really secret and I keep it to one or two people--but for most projects, I find the camaraderie of talking about things with other folk indispensable.
I've also found, through NaNoWriMo and other times, that word wars are incredibly important to me. If I can find a friend or fellow writer on Twitter or Facebook to war with, that's a huge help. It makes my word count more efficient, so I'm willing to do it during "work hours". If you're looking for someone to war with in the mornings, drop me a line? I'd love to!
When all else fails, and I can't find anyone to war with, I'll set a timer on my computer for fifteen minutes at a time. It's generally enough to raise my competitive streak into productivity.
Most of all, a key ingredient to my writing process is faithfulness. I've actually had a theme song for over two years now that encapsulates that concept for me--Now and For Always, from the LOTR musical. I love the hobbits' commitment to steadiness in the first two verses, the combination of anguish and perseverance on the part of Frodo, and the brave Samwise (or beta readers) who have listened to snippets and read drafts and spoken encouraging words along the way. This song reminds me that you keep putting one foot in front of the other. This draft will get better. This book will get published.
But only if you keep showing up.
So be brave and get up, show up, write up, every single day while you wait for your dream to come true.
What does your writing process look like? What concepts, words, or tools are essential as you put your story on paper?
In part two, I'll share how my writing process grew into what is today--from tattered folders with cats on them to a sleek Scrivener software. :) I'll talk about all that next Friday.