Friday, April 24, 2009

Finding Your Process

I was talking with a writer friend (if you're a writer and you don't have one of these, GO GET ONE!) about how I prefer to write.  He looked at me like I was absolutely nuts.  He told me about how he likes to approach a project, and I thought he was crazy.

Finding your own process is the most influential part of writing.  It's so important, I can't even put it into words.  That said, it is so highly individual that I can't sit here and blog about how you should approach your writing.

My process is probably a little exhausting for some people.  First I outline my novel, getting a rough idea of how I want the plot to go, and sketch out the characters, settings, themes, and chapters.  Then I write 1,000 words a day, until I reach my goal, and every so often, I review what I've done.  I check my chapters and my outlines, to make sure everything is chugging along, and then I revise the outline if things aren't happening as I want them to.  When Im done writing, I give it a few days, then begin to revise and edit.

See?  This is probably not the way that you might want to write, which I totally understand.  My way is not for everyone.  But here are the ways that you can find your process.

  • What time of day are you most effective?  Are you a morning, daytime, evening, or night person?  If you're writing when you're exhausted, you'll dread it.  If you're writing when you're at your best, you'll look forward to it and actually get things done.
  • How much can you reasonably write a day?  If you simply don't have the time to write a thousand words, or don't like writing for hours at a time, write what you can.
  • Do you like writing longhand, or do you prefer to type?  I'm a typer, myself, but some people have a very strong connection to a paper and pen.
  • How do you prefer to research?  I'm not much of a researcher myself, and I tend to do it in fits and starts while I'm writing, if I come up against something I need to look up, but some people like to get into their research and learn everything before they put fingers to keys.
  • What can you give up to write?  You might not be able to go out every single night if you're writing a novel, or you may have to wake up a little earlier every morning.  Or, if you're a daytime person, you might have to write during your lunch break at work and miss out on the water-cooler conversations.  If you really, honestly, can't give something up, you will resent the time you spend writing, and that is not conducive to writing a book.
  • Where do you like to write?  What environment do you need? Can you work in complete silence, or do you need noise?  Do you feel better about writing at home, or do you prefer to be away from it all to write?
  • How many breaks will you want to take?  Breaks are important, as the part of your mind that finds inspiration will most likely be most active during a break.
Most importantly though, if your process isn't working and you're not making the progress you really want to make, don't feel weird about editing it.  I never used to outline, until I realized that I was losing the plot of my novels midway through, and then I started to outline and found that the plot got lost much less frequently after I started outlining.  You will edit your novel a million times before it gets published, so why not edit your process?

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