Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shedding old process, and growing a new one

I have a clearly established novel writing process, that's worked well for me in the past.  I have confidence in it, and feel secure in my approach.  It's similar to how people Nano, though I've actually never done it in November.  It works like this: in the days or weeks before diving in, I research and clarify what I'm going to write, knocking out most the world building and getting a good sense for the characters.  I may even make skirmishes into certain scenes, or write short snippets of back story.  Then, when I actually start writing the novel, I commit to the process of writing my book and focus intently on it.  I don't read any other fiction, especially in my genre or age category.  I clear my calender of any non-writing commitments I can, and put the family on auto pilot.  I use the playlist I built while developing the project to tune everything else out, and I write.  Usually I average 3-5k words a day, depending on how well I cleared my calender and what the family's needs are.  On good days I hit 7k plus words.  My book becomes my everything, and even when I'm not writing I'm obsessing about it, dreaming about it, and busily working on plot cards to keep it rolling forward at optimum speed.

I love that process--and it's turned out some pretty great books!  Using this method, I've written up to three books in one year while also keeping up a break-neck schedule outside of writing.  It works for me.  But, right now, I'm throwing it out the window.

Why would I do that?  Why, if I'd found a method of writing that was successful, would I toss it out?  Because my life has changed, and I've realized that if I don't adapt with it, my writing will suffer.  I have editing commitments now, both to the publisher I freelance for, and to writing friends who are up against deadlines of their own, and who I don't want to disappoint.  Editing involves reading, obviously, and means I can't obsess over my book and push all other books aside.  I've also started a book club (which involves reading, of course!) and find I simply can't clear my mental schedule so thoroughly as I did in the past.  So, I've taken the aspects of my old process that seemed most essential, and renegotiated my approach in hopes that I can adapt them to my new process.
  • First up, was mental space.  I can't stop reading other books, but I can designate when and how I'll work on those other projects.  Where possible, I've moved the reading of other books (that aren't my WIP) out to the couch, in the living room.
  • Second is focus.  Since I can't close out the world so thoroughly as I'd like, I've created a new space where I can write behind a closed door.  In that space, I've forbidden myself from using the internet (except for the briefest research, directly book related) and where social networking, email checking, etc. are absolutely forbidden.
  • I've extended the influence of my playlist to other things which help me focus, and heighten my writing mood.  These include treasures I've collected over the years, as well as papers that inspire me.
  • I've dialed back my goals for word count each day--I'm only aiming at 1,500 to 2k words a day, now.  This will be more achievable than my prior word counts, given my other commitments, but will let me still reach my goals and have the sense of accomplishing my task.
I think setting up a new space was the key factor in making this work, and for that I de-junked and reorganized one half of my bedroom closet.  It's a little odd to be writing surrounded by my shirts and skirts, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Most important, so far, it's working!  And realizing that I can adapt, as a writer, and press on no matter what changes my life brings gives me a confidence that is well worth any initial discomfort.  Here's hoping I can keep it up, and that the book I produce is my brightest to date!

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