"Write what you love and love what you write." -Ray Bradbury
The other day in a group text a good friend lamented, "How does Deirdre write and edit so much and not lose it?" I didn't answer because I had to think about my response.
Sometimes I do lose it. Sometimes my butt goes numb from sitting for five hours. Sometimes when the phone rings I don't answer it because I don't want an interruption to break my flow. Sometimes I do answer and am so deep in my mind I forget how to have a real conversation and not one between two fictional characters. Sometimes when I unfold myself from a hunched position I can practically hear my yoga teachers cringing. Sometimes I write, write and write and scrap it all. Sometimes I edit and edit and edit and wonder who the heck wrote this? Was she drunk? (FYI: I don't drink so there's that mystery.)
So yeah, sometimes I lose it. I lose the path, the thread, the way. I really do. But I love writing so much I can usually find my way right back.
For now, this is my writing process...
- I become inspired by an idea I think is so great I'm willing to commit 100% of my creative resources to it. Or become inspired by an idea I think has potential and see where it takes me. Sometimes nowhere and that's okay. If I keep my eyes, ears and heart open usually there's another just behind it.
- I jot down ideas, whole scenes or that singular inspiration that may or may not have potential on paper in a notebook with a pen or pencil - the old fashioned way. I keep the notebook by my bed because if a story really hooks me it will scratch and claw at the doorway to my mind until I let it in, think it through and write it down. (Those kinds of ideas I do not want to forget.)
- As I sit with the story, usually for about a week or so names, places, pertinent details will continue to come as if beckoned by catnip and I'll add these to the growing pages in my notebook.
- I clear as much as possible from my to-do list. I am the kind of person who requires that my space, etc. has some semblance of order otherwise I feel distracted. That's just me. So I tackle the todos within reason, but don't let anything keep me from getting to work. For example each day I take about a half hour to put away the dishes, toss in a load of laundry and make sure the bills are paid. After all, my laptop needs electricity. There's always more to clean, more to do, etc. but likely it can wait until later, but I don't put off writing for another day...Tsk. Tsk that day may come and go and likely I will remember a story I wrote but not how organized and clean my house was, unless I'm writing a book on the subject. For me it is simply a matter of striking a balance.
- Then I start writing. I copy the ideas from my notebook into a document and have at it. I find, after sitting with the story, generating ideas on paper, it usually flows pretty readily from fingertips to keys. Blocks, challenges, etc. are a subject for another post.
- Depending on what I am writing I may go back to my notebook or open a new document and create an outline or at least cover the major plot points. It depends on the material. For my first YA fiction I wrote then got myself into a position where writing down, what was going to happen and when, was essential if only to keep making sense. On my second YA fiction (still WIP) I did an extensive outline and for my most recent Women's Fiction I just made sure I was clear (I get clear by actually writing things down in this case just in note form- not a ten page outline) on the story arc, conflict, etc.
- When I think I'm done with the book I use the spell/grammar check then read/edit it directly on the computer.
- Then I print it out and edit it again, this time on paper with a pink pen.
- Then I copy over those edits into the draft in my computer then reread the whole thing again. Aloud.
- Then I print it out once more and read and/or give it to a friend to have a go at it. During this time I often wonder, what have I done? I sent my baby into the world, will she be okay? Will she be taken care of? What if it's awful? What if no one likes her? I wring my hands and pace.
- Then I let it sit for a while, a week, sometimes less, sometimes more to have a break then read it again. And sometimes again. And again. And again. Editing it over and over.
I use a version of this process for everything I've written, but each story and experience is unique, so I may read and edit more on one than another or offer a copy to multiple friends or just keep it greedily to myself.
I can't say enough about editing. That being said, if you can read the same thing over and over, maybe a dozen times and still feel as in love with it as you did the first time or sometimes even more, well that in itself is what writing and creating is all about. I would say a hearty yes to an agent and publication, but the pleasure and pride from having written something you love is a mighty good feeling. And that my friend is how I don't lose it.
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson