Friday, July 23, 2010

The Daily Grind - The Creative Process: Part Eight

Sitting down to write every day is sometimes more fiction than fact. But on the days when it does happen there are certain things one must be prepared for.

The key thing is this: Writing is work.

While you might have days when writing is fun and words just seem to flow, chances are they will be outnumbered by the days when every word is a struggle. Having a routine can help put you in the proper "space" to write.

My routine goes something like this.

First, turn on the computer. While it's booting up (several minutes if I'm using the laptop, just under a minute if I'm using the desktop) I get something to drink. Coffee. Tea. Ruby grapefruit pomegranate juice. Whatever. This means I won't have to get up for a while.

If I plan to write for an extended period of time I find a snack too. (Usually potato chips or half a chocolate bar or something that will satisfy the "must-snack-and-thereby-procrastinate" urge. Once I have my provisions I open up my document and take stock of where I am.

I do NOT edit what I've previously written. (Unless, of course, I'm working on a later draft and then only if I'm in the "editing" phase.) I MIGHT read through what I wrote during the previous session to see what I haven't gotten to yet. This is usually unnecessary if I'm actually writing every day. When I've been busy with more pressing concerns (feeding 19 cats and finding them loving, caring homes) I have to refresh my memory before my fingers hit the keyboard.

Once I'm up to speed I start writing.

Rough drafts are just that. Rough. I include every nitpicky world-building detail that strikes me. I ramble. My characters smile and shrug and whirl a lot. They look tense and shove hands in pockets and slam books onto shelves. I spend an entire paragraph describing a desk in a room that is otherwise undescribed. But the story gets onto the page.

I also change names part way through the manuscript (with a note in [brackets] to indicate I will have to edit accordingly), skip scenes that seem boring and throw in twists that may or may not make it into the next draft. But the story gets onto the page.

Bit parts turn into sidekicks. Friends turn into villains. Mysteries are rather dubiously solved and the final conflict takes up a much higher percentage of the draft than is proper. But the story gets onto the page.

After I've spent an hour or two (if I'm lucky) writing, I save my work, back it up on an external drive and resolve to finally reach the end of that chapter tomorrow.

It is not rocket science. The simple thing about writing is that you just have to write. Every. Day. Whether you feel like it or not. Whether you know where the story is going or not. Whether the words seem golden or not. You just have to write.

"But," you say. "The stuff I wrote yesterday was pure shite!"

Yeah, me too. Here's the secret that keeps me sane. When it's time to edit I can cut any damn thing I like back out.

And the second thing is this: Your story-writing self is smarter than you think.

As I've been working my way through the fourth draft of Gaslyte I've discovered a marvelous thing. Things that I wrote in the first draft, things I then scrapped because I thought they were terrible, now make sense. Of course, some of them come in far different places in the story than I'd first envisioned. And some had to be reincarnated a little. But the whole of the story has been there all along. It just needed to be unearthed (or as the professionals like to say, developed) a little more.

With that thought in mind I drink my (now cold) cup of coffee and eat my stale potato chips and make an appointment with my cramped little desk for the same time tomorrow.

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