In any case, now that I have finished phase 1 of publishing “Eadric the Grasper” (though I imagine my work is far from over!), I am happily returning my focus to what I love most: writing. I promised some time ago that I might go into greater detail about my writing process. Last time I talked about my personal motivation to write, because that is such an important part of how I go about writing at all. But regardless of the motivational factors, there is still a general process I follow.
First of all, I must mention that I don’t believe there’s one right way to write a book, and if there is a “wrong” way, that differs from writer to writer and his or her personal style. What may be a bad tactic for me might work for you and vice versa. So this is simply my way of doing things and you can take from it what you will.
When I’m inspired to write a book, I rarely get a complete picture of that story in my head. Quite often, in fact, a book for me starts by envisioning a single moment I want to write about, and the more I think about it and split that imaginary moment apart, the more I see the story behind it. So my stories begin with a concept, a feeling, a snapshot. It probably doesn’t even make much sense to me at first, which is why it intrigues me so much. So once I feel a seed like that appear in my head, I nurture it in the ways I know best.
To nurture a new idea, I don’t begin by thinking of it in rational terms. Simplifying an idea as soon as its born is kind of like wrapping up a child’s feet at a young age so they never grow to full size. I nurture my moments of inspiration by very indirect means. Listening to music is a very important part of this process to me. Usually I’ll look for music that fits the mood I’m feeling and let my mind drift while I’m listening. This is something I do regularly, and it’s almost like turning on a TV in my head. I play the soundtrack I want and the picture fills itself in without effort. And that’s the idea: to let it grow naturally.
For me, taking a walk in the park with my dog, taking a long shower, or meditating are other activities during which my ideas tend to grow of their own accord.
In any case, once that initial concept–call it the story’s beating heart–has developed its proverbial head, arms, and legs, then gradually I feel I am ready to sit down and start beating out an outline.
I won’t go into too much detail about my outline process, because this differs from book to book, and is rather complicated. Some writers write entire books just about this process. But I will say that my techniques revolve around what I learned while getting my bachelor’s in screenwriting. Hashing out a plot begins by answering several vital questions.
–Does my main character change, or is this story about the fact that he/she is unwilling to change? If he does change, who is he in the beginning and who is he in the end?
–What makes him change, or why won’t he change?
–What is each character’s goal, and what gets in the way of each goal? (Along with being a physical goal, there should also be an emotional/thematic one)
–What are all the plot arcs/sequences I want to include? How do I order and fit these into the entire book’s plot arc?
–If I could sum up the theme of the book in one sentence, what would it be?
These are the sort of questions I ask myself, and many more. For some of those questions, I may not have a complete answer before I start writing. I think almost every single book I’ve written was split into three parts, and I have found that I write best if I have part 1 completely outlined by the time I begin the novel, even if the rest remains a little hazy. Whatever the case, I believe that as long as I am asking myself those questions throughout the entire book, then I can keep myself on the right track. Many answers fill themselves in instinctively. (Yes, I put a great deal of faith in my subconscious. It rarely lets me down.)
Now comes the issue that seems to come up the most, however, when people ask me about my writing process. And that question is: how do you find the time?
Firstly, I want to point out that a good-sized novel can be written in less than a year at the very humble pace of a page or two a day. If you are dedicated, and set aside just an hour or two a day to devote to writing, you will be surprised by what you may accomplish so long as you don’t let it fall by the wayside.
However, if I wrote at this pace all the time, personally, it would probably smother me. I’m the sort who may write a novel in a few months, then go the next few months writing nothing at all. And yes, I have a full-time day-job spent away from home not writing. So here is how I do it.
On weekdays when I get home from a long day of work, I may not have much writing in me. The best way I can describe it is that there is too much *noise* in my head from the issues I’ve dealt with at work. It takes me a while to wind down, relax, focus, and clear my mind enough to hear those deep inner voices. Because this takes awhile, it may not be until 9 or 10pm at night until I actually start typing. But even so, I do usually manage to crank out a page before getting exhausted, going to bed, and starting the process over the next work day.
The weekends are a whole different story, and here is where my life may be very different from yours. I keep my weekends as open as possible. If I have people I want to see or errands I need to run, I will try to squeeze them all into one day. But I try to leave at least one full day completely open for nothing but sitting at the computer and chomping out my story.
Therefore, the weekends are when I get the bulk of my writing done. In the morning I slowly get the juices flowing. If I keep the rest of my day free, by the time I go to bed I may have cranked out a chapter. Yes, it is exhausting. But it also feels awesome. Usually, the hardest part about getting up and going to work the next day is that I hate to close the floodgates of creativity I’ve unleashed the day before.
When it comes down to it, though, I must confess that writing a book is often a lifestyle choice, no matter how you may try and get around it. I realize that some people just can’t make writing one of their top priorities the way I do. There are a lot of things in life I don’t do so that I can devote my time to writing instead. As selfish as it may sound, I will delay having a child, for instance, until I know I’ll have the time to write while raising it. That is how important writing is to me and my own mental health. While I believe that almost anyone can find the time to write if they really set their mind to it, that still requires making time, and for some people that may mean sacrificing something else too important.
Once again, I feel that the question of how to go about writing always comes back round to the core question: how important is it to you, and how much of yourself and your life are you willing to pour into it?
More of my posts about writing: