I thought I’d write a little about the process I’m using right now, although it seems a little presumptuous seeing as 1) I can’t really say that it has worked, just that it is working, and 2) hardly an impressive resume to give weight to what I think about writing. However, thinking through how this project has been different from others has been a useful exercise, so selfishly I’m glad I did it. I wouldn’t suggest that any of what you’re about to read is the best approach, I can’t guarantee it works, and I can’t even guarantee that you’ll be glad you read it. On the other hand I have 20,000 words written, it’s still May, and so I can say this is, at present, working ok.
One thing that is definitely different about this project than other things I have written is that I plotted the whole thing out, in rough outline form, before I wrote anything. I know how it ends. (Actually, I’ve written the ending, but we’ll get to that later) I never used to operate that way, and I know I’m not the only one – another part of that Stephen King introduction is his response to people who wanted to know how The Dark Tower series was going to end: he didn’t know until he wrote it. That’s basically what I used to do as well; I always had a vague idea of what the story would be like but then upon sitting down to do it I was more or less making it up as I went along.
I didn’t consciously want to get away from that, but for practical reasons I ended up doing things a little differently. Even though I had decided on doing this project during the winter, I didn’t actually have time to write, so I pushed it to the summer when I would have no excuse for not having time to write my 1,000 words every day. What I did have time to do was tinker with the plot and putting together a bunch of scenes and the order they would go in. So I ended up with an outline, and it’s made the process of writing every day significantly easier. If I don’t sit down with a clear idea of what I want to write, well, I just write what’s supposed to happen next as well as I can.
That sort of brings me to the other thing I’m doing differently, because often what I want to write and what comes next are not the same thing. I decided there was no real reason to write this thing in order from beginning to end – I’m going to write whatever part of the story I feel most excited about writing at that particular time. I started doing this with essays and eventually my thesis, writing bits and pieces that I felt ready to write and then stitching it all together into a whole at the end, and it worked pretty well in getting over the paralysis of the blank screen with the cursor blinking at you as you try to write the perfect opening sentence. Seems to be working pretty well for writing this thing as well, so far.
Partly it helps with just getting going; instead of trying to force something out that doesn’t want to come, I can go ahead and write the part that is ready to roll. The other good thing too is that when I have an idea for a point I want to make (papers) or dialogue that works perfectly (fiction) I can write it immediately instead of having to hope I can remember exactly how it was supposed to work when I get to that part of the piece later, which I usually don’t.
Anyway, this is all very preliminary and by the middle of June I may be feeling deeply dysfunctional but so far this slightly different approach from how I used to write fiction is going well enough.
That was a great deal of introspective muttering. I’ll try to do better the next time.
Word Count: 20,860