The Writing Process
Since I’m starting this blog with the intent of talking about writing, and that sort of thing, and I’m starting a new approach to what it is that I’m currently working on, it seems appropriate to begin my yammering with some talk about the writing process itself.
There’s a lot more that goes into it, honestly, than most people think. I didn’t realize that my own concept of it was so narrow until a class I had last fall. It was an English class titled “Writing for Teachers of English”, but really it should have been called “Life Lessons for Future Teachers of English.” I probably learned more in that class that I will actually use and need on a daily basis than in any other class that I’ve even been in since grade school.
We had a lesson on the writing process, one week, in which the professor pointed out that our processes encompass more than just how we get the words onto the page. What time do we write best? Do we have food or drink around us? What’s our preferred environment? Quirks? What medium do we use? What music?
When I talk to people about their writing process, a lot of times I just get a lot of blathering about outlines, character profiles, and detailed notes. Now, don’t get me wrong, those things can all be part of the process, but there are a lot of other things that play in to how a person writes.
Medium. I used to be able to write whole (godawful) novellas by hand in grade school; once I hit high school, that kind of went out the window. Writing for more than five minutes by hand makes my arm cramp up to the elbow, and I can’t seem to think clearly if I don’t have a word processor. I prefer to use Microsoft Word – that’s just what I’ve always had – and although I may be able to scribble out short scenes by hand while I’m in class, or on a napkin or the back of a receipt while I’m at work, I can’t get the detail or the focus that I need when I’m writing by hand. Some people work best writing by hand, which is great for them, but I do suspect that a lot of people prefer to use technology. While most people probably use Microsoft Word, I’ve known others to use Notepad or other word processing programs. For a short while I tried to use a wonderful little freeware program called yWriter, which has all these awesome little gadgets and capabilities, but eventually I decided it would work better for me as a revision tool, instead of a first draft tool.
Environment. This may not matter so much to some people as it does to others. Some people need to write in an office, in their bedroom, in the living room, at a table, outside, in the daylight, at nighttime, etc. I personally write best at night, although I can make myself function during the day if need be. I prefer to be in my room – which must be clean and clutter-free – at my desk. The room must be well-lit, and I must be already showered and in something other than my pajamas. I’ve been known to get ready to sit down and write the same way that my mother gets ready to go to the office.
Quirks. I almost always need to have music – but not just any kind. Right now, as I’m typing this, the music doesn’t really matter, because I’m not trying to evoke any sort of mood or emotion. (For the record, I’m listening to “Night by Night” by Chromeo on repeat.) When it does matter, though, I have specific playlists made up on iTunes, each one labeled for which writing project that it works best for. Most of them are made of Hans Zimmer film scores, although deAngelis also has some Linkin Park, Evanescence, Fireflight, and Immediate in there, among other things. Pandora is also a GREAT tool; I have separate channels for each project, and it keeps me from listening to the same damn song over and over again. Another non-musical quirk I have requires me to always have something to drink at hand while I’m writing – usually Diet Coke or tea, although every once in a while a beer or a whiskey and Coke is just as good.
I don’t outline when I write – I may have a very loose outline – but I used to do these great big long detailed ones, they would be almost ten pages long, and those just stopped working for me after a while. As I grew as a writer, I realize that I got to know the characters more while I was writing than I did while I was plotting. By the time I was moving along in the story, I was changing the outline anyway, because Outline Me really had not had a clue what the main character would have done in This Situation, and Writing Me did. Anymore I do outlines AFTER I’ve finished a draft, to trim off the excess plot that I didn’t need.
Character profiles are kind of hit and miss with me. deAngelis right now doesn’t need one, but later in the series, when things start dealing with a horde of Representation personnel, I will likely do very brief ones, just so I can remember who everyone is and what they’re good at. As it is, I keep a Word document or a handwritten page nearby with the character’s full name, a VERY brief bio, and the reason that they’re important to the story. After I finish, I’ll go through and do profiles.
The thing to remember is that the story and the characters are always evolving as you write, and trying to lock yourself into something that may not work, whether it’s a plot point or a character’s backstory or relationship with the character, is just dumb. Give yourself the freedom to CREATE.
- Four Examples of Word Processing Software (brighthub.com)
- How might an outline make the writing process go more smoothly and How might an outline contribute to the success of a paper (wiki.answers.com)
- The Writing Process | 2wheeledlife (2wheeledlife.com)
- The value of putting something down on paper (gointothestory.com)