Friday, June 10, 2011

The writing process (part 1)

There are so many resources online pertaining to the writing process, and most of them have different ideas about what is and what isn't in this process. Prewriting, writing, revising, editing, and publishing seem fairly elementary but what folks think is [should be] included in each seems to differ somewhat. So, I'll add my two cents to the views.

  • Prewriting
Obviously, writing starts with an idea. Even if you are looking at a blank page and just free write, you still have an idea in your head. Maybe that isn't what ends up being written, but its the idea at the beginning that gets a person writing. From that idea, there are lots of opinions on how to proceed. Outlining, brainstorming, free writing, etc. I have seen countless websites that say "You MUST have an outline for your novel; Outline the entire story, each chapter, and each scene!" What you end up with is an outline within an outline within an outline. Blech! That gets way to confusing to me.

I approach prewriting oddly I suppose. I detest outlining. It makes me feel confined to a determined outcome, regardless of how the story might change as I go along. When I wrote Immo1, I started with my prologue. It was the singular thing resonated in my mind. From there, I spent several days thinking of how I could turn the prologue information into a full length novel. I wrote down each idea, or plot arch I suppose, and reevaluated how each idea made me feel as a reader. If it sounded like it would get boring, I deleted it. Then I evaluated what was left as a writer. I asked myself, "Which of these sounds like it would be fun to write?" I chose the one that best fit me as a reader and a writer.

  • Writing
Back to outlines. When someone creates an outline, he should know all of the major events that will happen in his story. He may not know details, but he knows Character X bludgeons Character Z with a frying pan in Chapter 2. As a reader, I am really bad about looking up the characters and plot of a book I'm reading because I hate surprises. I'm reading Fablehaven right now, by Brandon Mull, and I already know all about each character, who betrays who, who dies, etc. Wikipedia is incredibly handy.

As a writer, I do not want to "know" what is going to happen. My style of writing has been called "by the seat of your pants" writing, and that is because I don't have everything planned out. I wrote the first scene of my book with a lot of replacement words. My main character didn't have a name. She was "female main character, FMC" for a good week. I didn't have names for other things, such as towns. I sat in a bookstore coffee shop and stared out the windows for names, looked at random Google images, and turned a random radio station on to a low setting. I picked names as I went along because I'm terrible at names.

I started writing...and just kept writing. I didn't worry about names, unimportant details like colors, and settings. The story was the important part. I did go back through later and fix it all, but I just wanted to get my story on paper. Everyone knows the hardest part of writing is defeating the blank page. I was determined to do that, and I did. So all you "pantsers" out there, keep up the good work. And, if you are one of those people (most people, I guess) that live by outlines, character biographies, and binders full of notes, keep on keeping on if it works for you. If it doesn't, try a new method. It couldn't make you write any less than staring at that blank page.

I'll say this now. I am an incredibly finicky writer. I love to sit in coffee shops and write for hours on end. People watching helps me stay sane and I get an incredible amount of writing done. It may or may not have anything to do with the insane amount of coffee I consume in one sitting. Even if I sit on the patio, with traffic noises, screaming kids, and random creatures that gravitate toward me (I'm looking at you, wasp), there is nothing like sitting at your favorite coffee shop with a fresh brew, soft music, and a story.

Writing at home is different, and more difficult for me. I feel more inclined to be social at home with friends and family. I get on the internet. I play computer games (Hearts, I will win one of these days...). The cats want fed every 5 minutes. Even retreating to the computer in my bedroom doesn't help. I can't just "unplug" from the internet. I use reference sites all the time. I can't spell to save my life, but neither can Microsoft Word. is my lifeline. Wikipedia is great for checking how others have portrayed a type of character. I use Google to make sure the idea in my head isn't in there because the book I read last week used it. I like to stream music when I write. Unplugging doesn't work for me.

You have to find your writing spot. Sometimes, the perfect writing situation isn't available all the time. I can't go to the bookstore every day. So I compromise by keeping a fresh pot of coffee on, leaving the door cracked so I can hear my family and friends (most of the time), and resisting the urge to cuddle the furrballs. I still get a decent amount of writing completed when I sit down to write.

Part 2 to come...

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