Okay, so I know I said I’d only do ONE post on my writing, but I found this on my old blog and felt compelled to publish it here.
A couple months ago, I was asked the question, “How do you write well?”
I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then, and I’ve realized there’s no answer to that question. If this was a math problem, the answer I’d put would be Ø. No solution.
Because the question shouldn’t be, “how do you write well?”, but “what does your writing process look like?”. That’s what I’m going to tell you.
I do all types of creative writing, including novellas, novelettes, short stories, poems, essays, nonfiction writing, and novels. Each type of writing is different for me.
For example, with my short stories and poems, what I write in my first draft is what generally makes up the bulk of the finished draft. I make some minor edits, but usually if I change my short stories and poems too much, they end up as complete garbage and they were never good in the first place, anyway.
My novellas, novelettes, and novels are different.
While I can sustain a good quality of writing for a limited amount of time, I find I can’t keep it up for quite as long as it takes to write, say, 10,000 words. Or even 5,000. So I generally write the basis and then add in the emotionally triggering, eye-catching, captivating parts later, when I revise (or, at least, that’s my plan).
So, for the most part, my novel writing looks like this (you’ll notice, by the way, I prefer to write in third person past-tense; if you don’t like it just change it to first in your head):
Sam sat down and sighed. “I don’t know, John,” he said. “It’ll be dangerous.”
John stared into his eyes, a deep blue. “I’m ready, Sam,” he said in reply.
Here’s the edited version (spelling and grammar may or may not be correct):
Sam sat down on the metal crate, put his face in his hands, and sighed into them.
“Sam–” John began, but broke off. He was silent for a second. “I can’t convince you to come with me, can I, buddy?” he asked quietly.
“No. No, you can’t,” Sam replied, a strong vigor in his voice. He had lifted his face from his hands and was looking at John. Sizing him up. “I’ve already decided.”
John didn’t reply, but Sam could see the jump of excitement in his eyes. John opened up his mouth to talk, but his friend cut him off.
“But I don’t know, John,” Sam said, a little softer now. “It’ll be dangerous. You up for it?”
John didn’t have to consider for a second. His brown eyes met Sam’s. “I’m ready, Sam,” he said confidently in reply. “I’m ready.”
Obviously, you can see there’s a huge difference between the first and second drafts. In the second draft, the scene which I wrote in two sentences became a 143-word scene. The original scene (the first draft) was only 29 words. I put in 114 words between the first and second scenes.
Of course, there will (eventually) be many, many drafts, but that’s basically how my novel-writing process works.
Then, of course, there’s the hard part. Coming up with the idea.
Usually my ideas are flashes of inspiration I get from my volunteering/advocacy work, or they’re just things that come to me. Or, like in the case of my CW story, they’re originally small ideas that eventually develop into whole different worlds. (I’ve said too much on the subject already, I generally don’t like talking about my works-in-progresses online. Or in person, for that matter.)
Nevertheless, I’m not the type of writer to keep a writer’s notebook. I mean, I do have a notebook and enjoy taking notes, but it’s mostly for my hobbies of crocheting and note-taking. It was supposed to be for writing, but maybe having a writer’s notebook just doesn’t work for me.
I remember in sixth grade we had to keep an actual writer’s notebook.
It was horrifying and annoying. I kept forgetting to bring mine to class.
But that’s besides the point.
After I get an idea, I usually type out the first two paragraphs to the first chapter right away (depending on how much inspiration I have and how much of the plot situation and characters have sprung from that flash; it also depends on whether I have to name my characters or not or if the names come with the plot setting; also, when I get the inspiration: when I get it at the gym, I’m likely not going to get it written down until I get home. I mean, it’s not like I can run and type on the treadmill at the same time… can I?).
I just can’t jot down notes like “Sam and John” on a piece of paper and keep it in my pocket and consider it remembered and going to be written in the future. And not just because I’m going to forget it and it’ll go through the wash cycle without ever being taken out of my jeans pocket. It’s just because when I write something down like that, I’ll lose my inspiration and my drive. It’s like somebody’s let all the gas out of an inflated balloon.
But that doesn’t mean I sometimes don’t jot down notes with my first two chapters. I really sometimes do.
Oh, and then I have to finish the draft, finish the plot idea, patch up holes, and, oh… edit to my heart’s (or rather my writing’s content).
MY WRITING IN A NUTSHELL
1. I come up with an idea.
2. I type out or jot down the first chapter or two.
3. I sometimes include important characters or thoughts as a side note.
4. I finish the first draft (depending which type it can take an hour to a couple years).
5. Edit to my heart’s content.