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…
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.
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.