You can’t rush the process.

In the last year, I’ve learned a lot about my writing process, but I also know that there’s a lot to learn. I know that our writing process changes and evolves as we grow as writers. But I also think that having a basic understanding of our creation process can help us stay on the right track when writing and revising.

Sometimes the biggest lessons come from our missteps. The last story I wrote, a 16K novelette/novella, needs a lot of work–I mean a major overhaul. I’ve set it aside to gain some distance and perspective and am now working on a new story, but I’ve also come to a few realizations:

One: You can’t rush the process.

I’ve felt this need to produce work at an ever increasing pace, but what I’ve overlooked is that getting to know a story can take time. We’re exploring a new world, meeting new characters and discovering their voices, their motivations, their quirks, their fears, their desires. I’ve been rushing the process, too concerned with adding to the story that I haven’t stopped to use the exercises that work—character backgrounds and questionnaires, character voice journals, world-building exercises. We can’t chart a new world overnight anymore than we can learn about a different culture by stepping out of the airport. It takes time.

Two: Word count doesn’t have to mean just words on the page.

I’d like to do a better job tracking my word count this year. Usually I keep track on a weekly basis and then move on, charting week by week. But in order to better understand my process, I’d like to keep monthly and yearly records. I think I’ll learn a lot about my writing process that way. I’ve already created a spreadsheet to keep track; I just have to remember to use it. I’m also thinking about changing the way I track my word count. Normally, I don’t count character work, voice journals, backstory, etc. But all of that adds to the story, even if it doesn’t put words on the page. It’s necessary work, and it’s work that I can’t skip. Not if I want to make my stories sing.

Three: Be patient.

Building a writing career and growing in our craft takes time, energy, discipline, and patience. We don’t always realize how much we’ve grown, and sometimes the biggest struggles are what help us grow the most. For example, last year I struggled with revising a novella, but my struggles paid off. The story is so much stronger than it was before—and I now recognize how much I learned by not giving up on it.

What about you? How do you get to know your characters and worlds better? What exercises work for you? How do you track word count?

Lastly, my Sunday ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 3,401 words in a new novel, tentatively titled “The Phoenix Feather.”

2.) Read two books on the craft/business of writing. 1/2. Read “Let’s Get Digital” by David Gaughran. Loved it and highly recommend it. It’s tailored toward self-published writers, but it contains a lot of info that any writer, whatever his or her publishing path, can benefit from learning.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Met for every day except Monday.

2.) Blog twice a week. Blogged once. Missed Wednesday’s check-in.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. Met for every day except Monday.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 2/3.

2.) Do something related to volunteer work or spiritual practice at least once a week. No progress. Update: I totally forgot, but I had Tibetan singing bowl therapy on Friday, which definitely counts as spiritual.

3.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. 2/5.

***

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants. denise signature

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12 thoughts on “You can’t rush the process.

  1. You are sooooo right with all of this! I wish I could just sit down and write like Dean Wesley Smith, but my creativity doesn’t seem to work that way. I have to do some outlining and pre-planning, and even then I wind up with a lot of holes. I just realized that I started my current WIP one year ago tomorrow. I expected it to be done in six weeks. Hah! I thought it was a short story, maybe a novella, but those characters had a LOT more to say! As in 90k worth, and still going… O.o

    • Exactly. I think we all need to move at our own pace, and each story reveals itself to us over time. We don’t figure out an entire world in a few days. We learn about it as we dig deeper. And our stories–and characters–have layers, and it takes time to peel back those layers and hear what they’re really trying to tell us. I understand where you’re coming from with your WIP. I have a story that started out as a novelette that definitely wanted to be a novel. My characters, like yours, had a lot to say and a lot to experience–more than I could fit in that length. Good luck with your WIP!

  2. patience is certainly needed after three easy come stories I thought this WIP would be easy as well – not!! after tearing apart and rewriting it could be on last path – not holding breathe. You’re right to persevere nothing happens overnight. you seem to have done well on goals – all the best for coming week:)

    Jennette me too with my first – a short story – kept on growing now first in a four part-er!

    • I understand where you’re coming from. Last year I wrote a story that practically wrote itself. But when I went to write another story in that same world, it felt like each scene was a struggle. Some stories are just easier than others, for some mysterious reason.

      Have a great week, Alberta!

    • Thanks, Bev. I’m still learning to be patient and let each story reveal itself over time. I mentioned in one of my earlier comments that our stories have layers and as we write and revise we’re peeling those layers back, and I have to remind myself that that’s the process.

      Have a great week!

    • I’m fascinated by how different writers have different processes. I like learning how others write. I feel like it helps me understand my own process better, and the more we learn, the more we realize there isn’t one right way to approach the creative process. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks, Michelle. Actually, that would make a great post. If I’m setting a story in a fictional place, it helps to make a map. That makes the logistics of writing a lot easier–you’ll know about how long it takes to travel from one part of the world to another and the names of important places and geographic locations.

      I also will create Word documents in which I explore the major historical events that took place in my world, how the governing system works, etc. If there’s magic, I’ll figure out what the rules of magic are in that world and how it works. If there are magical creatures, I might make a glossary listing their names, abilities, basic backgrounds. I also find it helpful to look up pictures of my characters or important buildings or geography online. That helps me bring the world to life.

  3. Denise, wow, you are spot on. And when we do rush, it shows. And patience? Yeah, tell me about it. What a learning curve. But you’re doing really well. And what comes out the next time through will be amazing! 🙂

    • Thanks, Karen. I sometimes find myself rushing to get words on the page, and I have to remind myself that the story will unfold at its own pace. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to meet my goals, but that I have to be patient with the process. Thanks for commenting and for sharing my post!

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