Where the Hell is that Writing Process thingy anyway??

One of the most frustrating things I’ve discovered about my own writing process is that I don’t have one.

Okay, let me explain that a little more thoroughly.  I HAVE discovered my own personal writing practice for poetry that stems directly from my personal philosophy about what poetry should be.  So while revision of my poems requires quiet and concentration, the initial pulse of energy comes from life, wherever I’m at–right then.  To be able to take advantage of that, I notice that there are times when my ‘poetic’ vision is strong, and in those moments  I can be extremely prolific.  I always carry around a little notebook in my purse–and even once, scribbled line after line on bar napkins I swiped from the impatient waitress.  While that poem needs revision, the title, “The Bar Tab Chronicles” sounds promising.

Fiction is a whole other place, and ironically, the area where I’ve received the most ‘formal’ training.  Unfortunately, despite the wealth of suggestions out there on process, I have tried many and find none that seem to ‘fit’ comfortably.  When I was in school and had the luxury of keeping my own night-owl hours, I wrote continuously, fully immersed.  Many first drafts of 5,000-7,000 word stories were completed in one long session.  I would also chain-smoke, burning black spots into my keyboard.

That process prepared me zilch for writing in the real world.  Writer H.B. Berlow does an excellent job of explaining this crash of the FANTASY of what a writer does (or wishes we were doing), versus the reality of simply living, working, shopping, and cleaning.  You can read his idea of the merging of The Complete writer this month on the KWA blog here.  Even as I tackle my own dream of completing a first draft (completely) of a LONG work, I find myself struggling to identify exactly how this will be done for me–I am essentially trying to discover how I will blend these two aspects.  I have a strong feeling I will wrestle with this one for some time.

Will I write in spurts, turning off my internal editor? (and how DOES one do that exactly??)

Will I schedule chunks of days, so that I can immerse myself in the novel? (only this time I’m pregnant, have a 4-year-old, bills and responsibilities, a husband that might like to see me, and let’s not forget that I actually quit smoking 5 years ago)

Will I simply rewrite and revise the first 5,000 words over and over? (so I’ve already ruled this one OUT as completely unproductive and unsatisfying at this time)

Today, I added new material and revised old material.  I’m pleased.

word count: 4,180


7 thoughts on “Where the Hell is that Writing Process thingy anyway??

  1. mfryhover says:

    Oh, honey. I feel your pain! I am asking myself many of the same questions, and have been caught in the vicious cycle of revising the same old mother f-ing parts and adding NO NEW material. I was on FIRE last summer when I started this novel (as were you), and it’s so disheartening when I realize I SHOULD BE DONE NOW! Ugh! But, we must forgive ourselves and move on. We can do this! One word at a time. ♥ Hugs ♥

  2. AprilinWichita says:

    I know–who knew forgiveness would need to be part of the process of WRITING? But it SO does! Otherwise, that writer’s guilt will overshadow every effort, not to mention, that “it’s all crap anyway” little demon that whispers away. We WILL do this mfryhover, yes we will. I am NOT where I expected to be, but if I stop and look around for a moment, I’m NOT sorry to be right here.

  3. David Miller says:

    I’ve run into this very problem constantly. The one answer I receive every time I ask those questions you have just asked is this; A writer writes. Set aside a specific amount of time during your day to write and then use it to put your thoughts on paper. Let the story tell itself to you while you take notes and watch it unfold. Make one day, two at most, days specifically for revision if you must, but on the non-revision days focus only on pushing ahead and reaching your goal. You can’t revise it if you don’t write it in the first place. If you can’t schedule a time (I fall into this) due to everyday living chaos, then work to find snipets of time each day and free write, get it on paper no matter how imperfect it is, then in the foreseeable future plan a day for review and revision of your work. First drafts are supposed to be crap so don’t beat yourself up over them. Your hardest critic is yourself. When I wrote “L. Albatross” I hated it. I thought it was crap and had no hope of ever getting published. I revised it three times and still really didn’t like it. Yet, of all the stories I have written, it is the first one i have managed to get published. There is a book I highly recommend which has helped me tremendously, it is called “How not to write a novel.” I’m at work right now so I can’t provide the authors. I will get that info to you later. I can’t recommend it enough. Very informative and very easy to read. Hang in there and good luck. When you are struggling keep in the back of your mind you are not alone. Stephen King struggled. As the story goes; his novel, it was either Christine or Carrie, was rejected so many times he became fed up and threw the whole thing in the garbage. His wife retrieved it from the trash and sent it to one last publisher without his knowledge and look at him now. I can be done as long as we don’t stop ourselves from doing it.

    • AprilinWichita says:

      Hey David–You give great, sound advice. It’s not the rejection I’m so concerned about at this stage (although sometimes it DOES stop me in my tracks). It really is just finding the time to be that writer, that artist. I LIKE life, am NOT an introvert, and often find myself making excuses NOT to write. And yet those stories still need telling and in moments of stillness, I’m overwhelmed by the need to just keep plugging away. I’m looking up “how NOT to write a novel.” So thanks!

  4. H.B. Berlow says:

    Thanks for the shout out. I believe my ideas were formulated by the fact that I was turning 50 and wanted to balance, if you will, Life and Art. It’s a constant struggle, one which I’m sure will be prevalent over the course of 2013.

  5. Tina Sorensen says:

    Hi April! One of the most difficult things for me to do is write without critiquing. I truly need to practice what I preach to my students: be creative first, then be a critic second. As a fellow educator, you and I have the same problem in that we want to organize and compartmentalize everything we do. It’s a challege to just let our creativity flow without editing as well! When I finally figure this out, I will let you know. 🙂

    • AprilinWichita says:

      That is definitely part of the problem, that internal editor that has to make snarky comments. But it’s also that I’m lazy, want to get it ‘right’ the first time, and often want to skip over the revision portion. On that note, that is EXACTLY like my students.

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