The topic: The writing process. Obviously, I accepted the invitation. I’ve never participated in a blog tour before, so I’m grateful to be a part of this summer project. So, without further adieu, as they say, here are my answers:
How do you start your writing projects? Where do you find inspiration? Do you outline? Do you jump right into the writing? Do you do all of your research first?
I am somewhere between a plotter and panster, and there’s little organization to my process; I have no outlines or index cards. I just start with an idea and then I start writing about the story – what do I want it to be about, how do I want to the narrative to flow, who do I want the characters to be – nothing too complex. I let my imagination run wild during this “pre-writing” stage and let the idea take me where it wants to. I call it “pre-writing,” but it’s really a first draft, since I map out my plot pretty comprehensively (especially for longer stories); I still tweak and change the plot once I start writing, though. But without this first step I cannot get inspired – I have to know what I’m writing thoroughly before I get started to help me picture the characters and their world. I’m very, very visual. This “pre-writing” also includes extensive character development – I do not start a story until I have a firm grasp on the characters.
How do you continue your writing project? How do you find motivation to write on the non-creative days? Do you keep to a schedule? How do you find the time to write?
I was a staff reporter at a newspaper for five years and today I continue to work for a handful of publications, a couple print ones locally and I have a part-time freelance job at Newser. I don’t understand the concept of finding motivation because that has never been a factor in my professional career. You just write, and if you don’t – well, kiss your job goodbye. Editors don’t wait for you to find your muse. So that “suck-it-up” mentality bleeds into creative projects as well. If I don’t feel like working on a story, I’ll pick up another one – but I’m always working on something. This happens every day, without exception. Stories don’t write themselves. I am very lucky to work at home and to have a second part-time job at the family business in the evenings, which frees me up the rest of the time to do my writing. My schedule changes daily – sometimes I write first thing in the morning, sometimes it’s the last thing I do before wrapping up for the day, but I usually tell myself that I’ll write until such-and-such time – and I stick to it.
How do you finish your project? When do you know the project is complete? Do you have a hard time letting go? Do you tend to start a new project before you finish the last one?
Well, once I finish a first draft (second if you count my pre-writing) I let it rest for a week. Then I start structural revisions. I basically add, subtract and rewrite – because I’ve learned that the plotting I did in the first step didn’t work, or the story gets boring in one part or goes too fast in another. This structure has to be perfect before I move on to other revisions – changing nitpicky details while also altering the structure is just too confusing for me. This is usually when I ask people – family, the Hubs – to read it. I ask them to point out any structural flaws and give me comments that’ll start to direct my revisions in the next stage. After the structure is finished, I use revision templates – which I wrote about here – to pick apart my story layer by layer. I revise for character in one stage, then dialogue the next, etc. It can get maddening, but that way I can isolate each craft element and perfect it before I move on to the next. I don’t have trouble letting go of a story at all, but I always have more than one going. I usually start a new project when I’ve finished the first draft of another. That way I’m not just revising all the time, but writing, too.
Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.
The only challenge I can offer is related to discipline. You can’t wait for motivation to write; you just have to do it, even when you don’t want to. Write when you’re tired, when you have a headache, when your friends all go out for a night on the town, when you’re sad or angry. Write at the time when you’re least creative. You have to develop that discipline, I think, to succeed and excel at any pursuit.
So there you have it, my long-winded (truly, I didn’t intend to ramble) answers to some pretty cool questions. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about how my gray matter functions.
Part of this blog tour deal is passing the baton to another blogger, and I’ve chosen Mr. Andrew Knighton, who writes science fiction and fantasy. He has had over forty short stories published in magazines and websites, and someday soon he’ll finish a novel. I hope you’ll hop on over to his blog next Wednesday and check out his answers.