I write fiction one of two ways:
1. I write without editing and go, go, go until I stop or feel stupid (I’m working on that last part).
2. I write a few pages and then when I get stuck/confused/forget my train of thought I re-read and edit what I just wrote.
Sometimes I’ll set something aside and look at it again the next day. Sometimes I’ll delete and re-write a sentence 10 times before I feel comfortable enough to move on.
My ideal way to write is to just sit down and have the ideas flow out of my brain like a magical river.
This rarely happens. And it never comes out perfect.
Pulling ideas out of the air is more fun for poetry. But my fiction likes fermentation more than spontaneity.
What on earth does that mean?
I use the word fermentation because (like my academic writing) I need to think for a long time and brainstorm (aka daydream) about my story before I actually write it. Because that’s how my brain likes to structure stories.*
Now, when I write poetry I’m a complete “pantser” or discovery writer. I love the unknown of the blank page. Not so much when I write fiction. I’m not a complete “plotter” and if I write an outline I end up spending more time on that than actually writing. But I need some sort of structure to jump off of.
I am a huge fan of free writing. I love hearing other writers talk about it, I love witnessing it. I even love doing it but for the last 2 years I’ve been hopping between 3-4 established drafts of different projects so the opportunities to actually create prose have been few and far between.
I have added new paragraphs or expanded chapters here and there, I call this filling the p(L)ot holes. But not actually writing what I would consider “new” material. Now, here’s the thing. There is one big place in Work In Progress 1 where I need to write at least 2 brand new chapters. There are three places in Work In Progress 2 that need at least 20,000 words of new material. And I need to write a new ending for Work in Progress 3.
But even though I have set up deadlines for myself (again) this year and am DETERMINED to finish these particular projects THIS FUCKING YEAR I am having serious trouble getting into a creative groove and writing this new material because, I feel like, I’ve been editing and considering (too much) where my decisions have taken me and the parts of the storyline that I’ve already locked in place. I’ve closed myself off to just pulling random shit out of the air and running with it.
Editing while I write isn’t bad, sometimes I need it to remind myself where I left off or revisit the tone I was going for, or I found a better tone and I need to change it. But then I either
1. Get distracted and forget the image or feeling I was trying to insert into that section.
2. I get bogged down by all the grammar fixes and structure changes I needed to make along the way and by the time I get to the end of the edit I’ve lost the momentum/motivation to write the new things.
Does this happen to you too?
And then I get upset at myself because how can I ever not want to write?
The problem I have with brainstorming is I sometimes (okay, I a lot of the time, I’m working on it) I feel like I have to get everything perfect in my head before I can write it down. And then I get frustrated or overwhelmed.
I don’t really have a solution to this problem other than I have to REMEMBER to remind myself, whenever I feel that way, that writing is fun and I want to tell my story. Be as stubborn and persistent as you need to be to get the words out.
One thing that has been helping me is a kind of trick or game I’ve started playing with myself. When I’m stuck I challenge myself to write as SHITTILY as I can. To write the worst draft ever. On purpose. Because I can go back and change it later. (Now this might be the start of a vicious cycle because the worse it is the more I have to edit later while I’m trying to write new material and then I tell myself to write that badly and I do and on, and on, and on).
Another thing that I do is if I find I need to cut a big chunk of text or an entire paragraph out but I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do, I copy it over into another document and save it for later. If I never use it again I can always delete it or turn it into a “deleted scene” that I might post on my blog later. I hate having a digital folder filled with loads and loads of files but if that’s what I need to do to keep writing, that’s what I need to do.
I hope this little ramble has been helpful. Camp NaNoWrimo starts tomorrow and I wanted to send something out that, maybe if you write like this too, will make you feel less alone.
My Camp project this year will be Book 2 of my paranormal horror series, The Slaughter Chronicles. I’m hoping to finish all the things with Book 1 over the summer and publish it this winter. If you’re interested, you can check out the series’s prequel novella right here 🙂
*I keep saying my brain like I’m compartmentalizing. Is that part of the problem?
Photo by Tamara Gore on Unsplash