I thought I would take some time today to discuss my writing process. I’ll begin with a compare/contrast of the way I wrote when I first started out 6+ years ago and my writing process today.
Then: Sit down to write, knock out a few sentences or paragraphs, stop when “stuck” or bored.
Now: Sit down to write, know I have a minimum goal of 2,000 words to reach, break when I feel stuck, but come back to it an hour later with new inspiration.
Then: Write thinking it’s the best ever.
Now: Write knowing it’s utter crap but will get revised later.
Then: Longhand first, in a fancy journal purchased at Barnes and Noble.
Now: Longhand first, in a fancy journal purchased at Barnes and Noble.
Now: Maybe not so entirely derivative after all.
As you can see, not much has changed in my writing process as far as the physicality of it, but so much has changed in my mentality. Really and honestly, in high school I was so excited about Sunstone but it was for all the wrong reasons. Now I’m excited about it because I can see where I’ve grown but I can also see my weaknesses. I know where to find resources to help me strengthen those weak spots when it comes to revision, too.
And of course the most important one of all is that it’s more deeply ingrained in my psyche to write now than it was through high school and most of college.
My first draft is never truly my first draft. Let me explain. When I write in my fancy-schmancy journal purchased from Barnes & Noble (weird, I know) it’s my first draft. I’ll cross some things out as I go along, sometimes as much as 1/2-3/4 of a page, but generally what is written is what’s in my head. (Except for those glorious moments where a character takes over their story and you hear their voice for the first time.)
But the first draft anyone might ever see in printed form is not my first draft. It’s the second draft. For whatever reason, my mind likes to revise as I transcribe my longhand version to the computer. Usually it’s a matter of tweaking the word order in a sentence so it actually makes sense as opposed to the jumbled mess on paper that resulted from not knowing where the sentence would end when I began it. (Long sentence to explain that, huh?)
My senior year in high school I got to chapter 5, titled “Logan” (now currently chapter 6), and completely stalled. It took me months, most of the summer in fact, to finish his chapter. When I finished, I moved on to a completely new fancy-schmancy journal just to get past the mental associations I had with the one Logan’s chapter was written in.
To show how much my process has improved, and how much my mentality has changed, I’ll just say this: In the five days I’ve spent writing so far this month, I’ve written a prologue and 3 chapters. That’s a far faster pace than I ever wrote before. Granted, it’s probably because I’m really just re-writing from scratch what had been written previously, but it still feels like such a huge leap in my ability as a writer. I’m trying not to care about the quality of this first (second) draft because I know I’ll spend loads of time revising in the coming months and years. Which is a vast leap over the chasm that separates my writing abilities from then and now.
This is a very long, rambling post, but what I’m trying to explore here is that I really have improved as a storyteller. I abandoned this series of novels once because it felt too much a conglomeration of books I’d read in the past. But then I struck gold and came up with a brilliant idea to fix the most prominent of these sorts of derivations. The rest, I’m seeing, are just my use of genre devices that are interpreted in various ways by a lot of different fantasy authors. Is this derivative? Maybe, but it’s less so than I was originally thinking.
What do you find works best for you in your writing process? How have you improved now vs. then?