A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Process? You Mean I'm Supposed To Have A Process?

Yesterday I mentioned how the members of The Literary Lab were walking through their own writing processes for us. After reading Lady Glam's post, I decided it would be fun to put up my own version. Since my process has been evolving over the last year or so, I thought I'd give everyone a glimpse into where I started and where I'm headed. It's a long post, so I hope you'll bear with me.

When I first decided to write, I had an idea that popped into my brain. What was really awesome was that I came up with the title immediately (which is really rare for me - I still haven't named my NaNo WiP). It is called "A Moment To Breathe" and it's about a homeless woman and the man who decides to help her.

My process at that time consisted of sitting down and writing. I just started with a first sentence and wrote continuously. Names were made up on the fly (I'm terrible at deciding on names), and twists and turns occurred whenever they wanted. I don't think I consciously paid attention to rules, sentence structure, anything at all. I was just getting the tale down, as quickly as I could type.

Then I had a writer friend critique part of it, and the results almost made me quit writing. My lack of "thinking" about things as I wrote made for HUGE holes and embarassing problems. For a long time, I actually doubted I could ever write anything again. Then I buckled down and thought seriously about what my friend was really saying. I took her advice, and I learned to pay attention. Well, a little more anyway.

So began phase two. I put the homeless story to the side, primarily because it's a tale close to my heart and I want to tell it right. I didn't think at that time (and still don't) that I had the skill to write it well enough. I chose to start something fresh and new (still untitled, mind you). I began writing as before, just writing. But in my mind, I was thinking more about where I was going with it. I did alot more with characterization, thinking about who the main character was, why they would do this or that. The process was still in my head though, with nothing being written down. No org chart, no listing of chapters. No overall idea where the story began and where it would end.

So began NaNO '09. I was finally beginning to realize the importance of an outline, of structure. I sat down and tried mapping out some chapters, character names, overall storyline. I got nowhere. It was too alien, and I could not be creative that way at all. I already had the story idea (yes, still untitled even though I'm about three chapters away from finishing the rough draft). I did manage to (in my head) envision the beginning, the middle, and the end. There have been twists to the plot I did not initially plan on (like the MC killing his mother...I still don't know where that came from, but it works), which satisfies the pantster in me. Keeping the overall goals in mind has helped me become slightly more organized though too.

After all of this, what is my process now (or in the future going to be)? Well, I see some really neat things I can borrow (okay, I'm stealing 'em, heh heh) from Scott, Davin, AND Lady Glam. I would like to be able to (either on my current WIP's second draft or a future project) actually write down a basic plotline like Scott's example.

1. Guy signs up to be foreign exchange student.
2. Guy is actually exchanged to another planet.
3. Guy finds a way to cope and/or return home.

Yeah, the above is one of those story ideas I have in the back of my mind. I have more details than that, but this is a good example. I would also like to be writing down the questions that Davin poses to his characters:

1. Why is Guy choosing to be a foreign exchange student?
2. Why did they lie to him about where he is being sent?
3. Does Guy really object to the new environment or is he just scared?

I still want to be able to go chaotic from time to time, like Lady Glam.

1. Maybe Guy is actually secretly CIA and carries a secret decoder ring.
2. What if I toss in some talking alien geckos who want to sell Guy interplantary insurance?
3. What if Guy's girlfriend gets jealous of the green alien females and chases after him with a futuristic rocket launcher?

The final answer is that my process is still very much changing. I am trying to become more organized but still maintain a high level of creativity. Sometimes I just start writing and see where it goes. Sometimes I have nothing more than a scene in mind. From that scene will spring a whole story.

Eventually, I'd like to be able to take that little spark of creativity and build it (on paper no less) into something way more cohesive and well developed. I don't ever see myself being completely organized, to where I map out every chapter, every character, every plotline from the get-go. Ain't gonna happen folks. That would probably take divine intervention. But I WOULD like to be able to organize things prior to writing (or before I get too far along in a story) and actually use that information to improve the writing.

If you haven't already answered this question in the Lab's comments, what is your process for writing? Are there things you wish you could do better in this area? If you feel the need to do your own post on the subject, let me know so I can come check it out.


Lost Wanderer said...

I haven't read the posts at Literary Lab this week, but funnily enough I am doing a post about my processes.

I think what you want - being organised without losing creativity - in my opinion is completely possible. You just have to perfect it so that it works for you.

Erica said...

Interesting process. Let's see... I usually get ideas out of the blue, like a tv show or a good book prompts something. What I used to do, was start writing (pants it) but after NaNo I outline, because it is so much easier. I'm not a planner, but that was the most helpful thing I could've done and it contributed to my completing my first NaNo!

I'm sure my process will change as will yours ;o) It'll come in time!

Iapetus999 said...

This is a hella-long post but it's my NaNo '09 postmortem where I talk about my process.
And here is a follow-up as I delve into revision:
Revision Reschmision

That's the best I got so far.

Davin Malasarn said...

Eric, this is a great post! When I was writing my post, one of the things I wanted to say is that my process may well evolve too. But, when I thought about it more, I realized that I did generally stick to a similar process. I think that's just how my brain functions.

Like you, I've got some stories that mean a lot to me that I don't feel able to write well yet. And, like you, I'm working hard to hold onto the inspiration of a story as I develop it. I think that's the most important skill of all.

Lady Glamis said...

You know my process, but like you, it's not set in stone and it's constantly changing. Like you and Davin, there are stories in my head that I'm holding off on writing because I know I'm not ready and my process isn't polished enough yet.

Good post!

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Hi, Eric.

Next time, I'm gonna try a piece of software that implements a process many people seem to like, but is new to me, Mind Mapping. I like the software aspect of it because it's easy to rearrange and move things around. Oh, the software, XMIND, is free, by the way. I blogged about it some time ago. here's the URL... http://www.galenkindley.com/blog/?s=mind+mapping

If you copy and paste that in your browser, or drop by my site and use the search box, you'll find the post and the details.

Best Wishes Galen.
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