writing process

Greater Thoughts About Writing

Estock_commonswiki_126921_lI've been thinking a lot about the novel I'm writing lately.  Thinking, not writing, because with the demands of the Emma Jean book release and attendant promotion, there's not been a lot of time to write.  I knew this going in and decided to give myself a free pass on working on the novel this month. 

The thinking is going well, thank you.  Just yesterday I uncovered a major issue with the novel and starting figuring out ways to fix it.   This is all going on in my head.  Well, there's a little bit of process writing around it, but no official work on the actual novel.

Along with thinking about my novel, I've been thinking about thinking.  For a couple of reasons.

First, I'm taking a class at my church and one of the things I've learned is this: a greater thought always trumps (pretty sure that's not how they put it exactly) a lesser thought.  In other words, if you truly allow a greater thought in to your packed brain, it will ultimately dissolve the lesser thought.

To me, a greater thought is one that speaks to our higher nature and knowledge.  The one that knows you truly are an unlimited being.  The one that connects you to your concept of the divine. So, you can replace I'll never be a published novelist with something like I am happily published now.   Like that.

I know, I know, this is basic stuff, Affirmations 101.  But the twist for me is that you don't have to spend a lifetime uncovering and eradicating all the bad thoughts and limiting beliefs we harbor.  This, for me, is huge, seeing as how there are huge industries built around getting rid of those beliefs.  And a lot of us hold onto a limiting belief that its our limiting beliefs that are holding us back.

But the good news is that you really can change your mind.  You can replace a lesser thought with a greater thought.  And that brings us to Reason #2 that I'm thinking about thinking: I'm reading Deepak Chopra's new book, Super Brain.  In it he and his co-author, Rudy Tanzi, talk about how to maximize the brain's functions, utilizing the huge leaps in our understanding of brain science.   They talk about reshaping the brain, saying, "It means being more mindful of your own thoughts and feelings and becoming more proactive in taking charge of your brain."

Pa dum.

Being mindful of your own thoughts and more proactive about it is exactly what I'm talking about here.  And honestly?  Taking the attitude that I would find and fix the problems with my novel if I just stayed open, rather than grumbling that something was wrong and I probably would never figure it out is exactly why all my brilliant thoughts have occurred.

I'm still working my way through Super Brain, but I really like it so far.  My buddy Deepak (don't know him from Adam, but I follow him on Twitter, so, you know, that means we're friends) is good at equating the science with the spiritual point of view, which, of course, I love. And the overwhelming message of the book is so positive–that we can retrain our brains for maximum performance at any age.

All of my thinking about thinking is still a work in progress, so I'd love your thoughts.  How do you maximize the old noodle?

**And if you would like to buy my published novel, click here.  And thank you so much in advance.

Image by Wyglif.

Process Writing

I mentioned process writing recently in another post but I want to look at it more in depth today.  Why?  I'll tell you why.  Because I've realized that nearly all of my product writing has its origins in process writing.  As in, blog posts, articles, and notes for scenes flowing from my pen.  As in, I start out in process writing and suddenly I'm in product writing.
Fountain_pencil_writing_238392_l

But first, a refresher.  I'm borrowing these terms from Roseanne Bane, who discusses them in detail in her book, Around the Writer's Block.  Reading her book has solidified the efficacy of these same habits in my own life and so I share them with you.  Bane says that the path to subverting writer's block on a regular basis takes three forks: process writing, product writing, and self care.  Process writing is the kind of writing you do that supports product writing, which is your writing writing.  That novel or memoir or article you want to finish.  Process writing is journaling, morning pages, free writing, not sitting down with intention to work on your current project.  Self care is just that–getting enough sleep and exercise and eating right as well.

It's easy to discount process writing.  Easy to think you have limited time to spend on your writing anyway, so why waste it on navel-gazing or rant-filled journaling? Easy to believe that free writing just results in a bunch of meaningless words on the page.  But I've learned that none of that is true.  Process writing, if done in a deep, attentive manner can be the springboard not only for your product writing but for creative ideas and visions as well.

My process writing occurs first thing in the morning because that's when I like to do it.  I feel better all day long if I've written right after I get up. I used to call this habit writing morning pages, but I don't any longer because I like to think I'm going deeper than that.  There's nothing wrong with morning pages, mind you, it's just that mine too often devolved into a to-do list or on-the-page worrying about what I needed to get done that day.  Yeah, left to my own devices I can get numbingly boring to myself.

These days, I've been practicing a different kind of technique called soul writing, popularized by Janet Conner.  I'm not an expert in this kind of writing by any stretch of the imagination and I'm sure that the way I practice it is probably different in some ways than that which Janet propounds.  She recommends getting yourself into a theta state by activating the five senses.  You've got touch and sight going already with the writing, but you might also want to put on some soothing music and light a scented candle.  As for the taste, well, I always have a cup of coffee and a glass of water nearby anyway.

But here's what really makes it work for me: instead of just talking to yourself on the page, you find a higher power to chat with.  This can be anything that works for you and may likely come to you as you write.  Janet calls hers The Voice.  I call mine God, and when I say God I mean the God within each of us and everything on the planet, not the mythical guy up in the sky that wreaks havoc when he feels like it.  The other key aspect of soul writing is to ask a lot of questions.  What you're doing is opening yourself up the channels for your creativity to come through, and asking questions facilitates this.

What happens to me is I'll ask a question or remember that I wanted to write a blog post that day and suddenly I'm doing it.  I'll think of an idea for my WIP and whoosh I'm writing a scene.  There's something about this kind of writing, this willingness to be open, that makes the creative juices flow.  This post, for instance, was written by hand in my journal a few mornings ago. 

So that's my rant on process writing.  If you're stuck or feeling blah about your writing, I recommend you try it.  And please check back and let us know how it's going.  Do you do any kind of process writing on a regular basis?  Leave a comment and let's discuss.

***My favorite kind of product writing is novel writing and my debut happens next week.  Join me for the Emma Jean Virtual Release Party!  There will be prizes.  More information here.

Image by brokenarts.

Fear of Writing

Edvardmunch-thescream-1163553-lWhen I was invited to speak to the Living Writer's Collective in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, my topic was the Fear of Writing.   The subject was enthusiastically received, with several writers sheepishly admitting to me that they suffered from it (and Lord knows I've dealt with it off and on throughout my career), so I thought I'd adapt part of my talk here.

I've identified two broad arenas that your fears of writing might fall within:

Process

This is when you fear sitting down and putting words on the page.  You might not think that you actually have this fear, because fear is a sneaky beast that masquerades as all kinds of other things.  Like suddenly needing, desperately needing, to do laundry.  Or mop the kitchen floor.  Or go grocery shopping.  Or do just about anything but get to the page in the time you've allotted to write.

The fear of the writing process can also pop up once you've actually gotten to the computer.  There you sit, facing that wonderful blank screen.  When you get tired of looking at the screen, you gaze out the window.  And then maybe you go grab yourself a cup of coffee and stare out the kitchen window for awhile.  I've got news for you–all this staring is not writing.

Or, has this ever happened to you?  You are writing along, lost in the process and suddenly your fingers come to a halt.  You've written something that's threatening to the old ego.  And now you're terrified.  All was fine one minute and then next, well, it's not.

Product

Product fears gather around putting your work out in the world.  What if you're rejected?  What if people don't like your book when it's published?  What if you get a bad book review or your mother reads it and is shocked?  What if you wrote a thriller about a murdered and people think you have first-hand experience with crime?  The what ifs go on and on and on, and many of them are as silly as the last one I listed.  But here's the deal: fears are often silly.  But they take on enormous power despite this.

So what's a person to do?

Antidotes

Here's the bad news: the only way out is through.  Well, it may not be the only way out, but it's the best way out.  Yup, to get over your fear of writing, you must write.  And then put it out in the world, even when you don't want to.  In so many ways this is counter-intuitive and probably not at all what you want to hear.  Wouldn't it be just so much easier if there were an actual program you could take that conquered your fear of writing without you having to do any writing?  Well, that program is, you guessed it, writing.

Here are a couple ways to approach it that might help:

–Try freewriting.  This old favorite really does work.  If you do it correctly, it bypasses the conscious mind and taps you into something deeper, beyond fear.  The way to do it is this: pick a prompt (any prompt, it doesn't matter), set a timer for 20 minutes, and then write.  Write without stopping, even if you are writing the same word over and over again.  Keep the flow going–it is this that subverts the fear.  And don't worry about staying on topic, you probably won't.  When you're done, underline or highlight anything that you might find useful and use this as a starting point for another writing session.

–Chunk it down.  Many of us writers are big-picture people.  We look at a project and see the whole thing all at once.  This has many advantages, but a big disadvantage is that it can be overwhelming.   Remind yourself that you only need to look at your project in little bits.  Make a loose outline and take one line of it at a time and write to that.  Then take the next line, and then the next, until you have a rough draft for each item on the list.

–Take time for process time.  In a book called Around the Writer's Block, author Roseanne Barr talks about how important process time is to writers.  By this she means things like journaling, or morning pages.  It can be a conundrum: take precious writing time to journal or get right to the project at hand?  But studies have shown that taking time for process writing helps you beat writing resistance on a consistent basis.

–Approach it playfully.  Try some fun writing exercises every once in awhile.  Open a dictionary at random and fun your finger down the page.  Use the word you land on as a prompt.  Combine it with anothe word and make the start of a sentence and then use that.  Cut up old manuscripts into long strips, one line to a strip and put them in a box. Choose one and use as a prompt.

–Write something different.  I know I get stuck on thinking that I must work on my novel and only my novel.  But last fall at a workshop I tried my hand at Flash Fiction and loved it.  Writing that could be a quick warm-up to displace your fears.  So could writing Haiku.

–Remember to write and let everything else fall into place.  Because it will.  Your job is to put words on the page.  This is the best thing to remember when you feel that fear of putting your work out in the world, or of submitting it to editors or agents.  Your job is to write.  It's not to worry about what people are going to think of the final product.  At the heart of it all, you just need to write.

What about you? How do you banish your fear of writing?  Leave a comment!

**Today is the last day to get $50 off tuition for my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  Learn more here.

Photo of Munch's The Scream by Oddsock.

Writing Every Morning

I'm participating in Nanowrimo this year.  Sort of.
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I doing it, but not really doing it.  The Nanowrimo rules state you can do as much prep work as possible up to November 1st, but you can't actually start writing until the first day of the month.  And I'd already written about 60 pages of my next novel, so I can't actually compete.

But I can use the energy of a gazillion people writing novels to boost my own creativity. 

And that is exactly what I'm doing.   I've been clipping along, writing by hand every morning, but my muse warned me I was coming up on the time when I didn't know exactly what happened next in my story.  And I realized that this was a danger zone, a time when my every-morning writing habit might fall apart under the weight of uncertainty.

So I resolved to use Nanowrimo to take me to a new level of seriousness and commitment to this novel.

I committed to writing 2,000 words a day, as I had when I wrote Emma Jean, and  carved out a bit of time on Halloween to get organized for the next push, as in, please God and handsome Muse, (my muse is a hot young male who favors tight jeans and T-shirts that show off his muscles), please help me to figure out where I'm going next.

What became evident immediately as I pawed through the hand-written pages of my notebooks was this:

I didn't know where I was in the story.

And if I didn't know where I was, how could I figure out where I was going?

So my first order of business was to get my hand-written pages onto the computer, 2,000 words at a time.  I had to abandon my hand-writing habit if I was ever going to wrap my brain around the entirety of this novel.

This morning I finished feeding the words in and got to the part where I'm writing new stuff.  I was a bit nervous, because I'd also asked my muse if we could please compose on the computer again.  I'm so, so grateful for the month I sat on a chair in the living room and wrote by hand every morning because it got me going on the novel again.  But it is hard to keep track of story and characters doing it by hand.

Today, the words flowed.  I organized the next few chapters in my mind, and whipped along, typing away.  It actually took me less time to write 2,000 words of original material than it did to feed those hand-written words in.

Phew.

So here are my two take-aways from this experience that might be helpful to you:

1.  Writing every morning is glorious.  It is the best thing ever.  Period.  After I've written my 2,000 words every day, I feel great.  I'm in love with the world, because I've done the most important thing to me first.  And that makes everything flow better.

2.  It's helpful to stay flexible throughout the process.  I'm learning that the process for every novel is different.  You might write the first one in strict chronological order and then find out that doesn't work for the next one.  Like me, you might start our writing on the computer, switch to writing by hand, and then return to the computer.  The point is, it doesn't matter.  Do what gets the words on the page.  Do what works for you in the moment!

 What about you?  What's your writing process?

 Photo from Everystockphoto.

By the way, if you're truly stalled on your writing and can't make any progress, my favorite thing to do besides writing novels and blog posts is coach writers.  Check out my services page for more information.

Beyond Free Writing

Letter-texture-imagination-43303-lI'm a huge fan of free writing ( writing to prompts, when you set a timer and write, not stare off into space, not think deep thoughts, write, just letting your hand move across the page), and I recommend it as a practice all the time.

I even have a page on my blog devoted to prompts.

And yet….

Sometimes free writing does not serve writers well.

Sometimes free writing can take you away from the subject at hand.  Sometimes free writing is hard to reconcile with your work in progress.  Sometimes it can feel silly.  And when writing time is so precious, who wants to take time to write on some random topic?

Or what if you're a new writer, free writing away, and suddenly you feel the desire to shape one of your free writes into a story?  What then?  How do you move beyond free writing?

Here are some suggestions:

–Use a sentence, line of dialogue or description from your current WIP (work in progress) as the prompt.  This can open up all kinds of avenues for your story.

–Use a random prompt, but hold the idea of your WIP in your head as you write.  I find that when I'm engrossed in a WIP, I automatically default to writing about it when free writing.

–After a free write, go through and highlight all the sentences you like.  Then use these as prompts. (Alternatively, you can cross out everything you dislike and use what's left.)

–Try transferring your free writes to the computer.   I always find this step pushes me to rewrite, revise and shape.  Before you know it, a story might emerge.

–Challenge yourself to write flash fiction during your free writes.  By letting the words flow freely and attempting to create a full story, you'll train yourself to think in story.

–Do a free write in the voice of your character.  Pretend it is her writing to a prompt instead of you.

–Free write a description of something in the room you're sitting in.  This marries free flowing words and directed writing.

That's all I've got for now.   But I bet my wise and wonderful readers have some good ideas.  How do you move beyond free writing to crafting your words?

My students and clients use free writing and all kinds of other exercises to get words on the page.  And it works!  I've got people ripping through books and stories at the moment, writing like crazy.  Wouldn't you like to be one of them?  Email me and let's talk.

Photo by svilen001.

Priming the Writing Pump

Priming the pump–an old cliche, right? Yet sometimes cliches have things to teach us. I've been thinking about priming the writing pump lately because I've had a successful experience of it.

Pump_station_rusted_893111_hMy idea of priming the pump is doing a bit of pre-work to get a flow going.  But I decided to look up the exact meaning.  Here it is:

Encourage the growth or action of something, as in Marjorie tried to prime the pump by offering some new issues for discussion.
In the late 1800s this expression originally was used for pouring
liquid into a pump to expel the air and make it work. In the 1930s it
was applied to government efforts to stimulate the economy and
thereafter was applied to other undertakings.

(Definition from Yourdictionary.com, a cool site I just discovered.)

And here's how it works for writing.  You're stuck.  You're blocked.  You don't know where to go next.  Your first inclination is to stare off into space, wondering how you'll ever write again.  But then, being the wise writer that you are, you decide to do things a bit differently. So you make some notes about the scene you're working on.  Or you write something else.  You do some research.  You prime the pump.

I had an enlightening example of this in my own writing life last week.  Since finishing the Emma Jean edits and my trip to Nashville, I've been trying to get back to working on the new novel, trying being the operative word.  Progress was minimal because I was stuck on a scene, as in I didn't know where to go with it next.

I made some notes on it.  Jotted down what few ideas I had.  Nothing loosened the grip of my block on this scene. Finally–I'm a bit slow sometimes–I gave myself permission to write out of chronology.  (I did this earlier in the writing of this book but went back to my old stuffy ways.)  I was actually excited about writing a scene coming up in a few more chapters. 

And a funny thing happened as soon as I began writing that scene.  Ideas and images about the scene I'd been stuck on flooded in.  So back I went, roaring through the original scene.  Plus I had good stuff going for the new scene as well.

That, my friends is the power of priming the pump.  So this is my current motto:

Writing something, anything, is better than writing nothing. 

And now excuse me, I have a novel to get back to writing.  (Actually, I have an editing job to finish.  And a newsletter to write.  And a manuscript to read.  But I'm going to find time in there somewhere to work on my novel because I'm excited about it.)

What about you?  How do you prime the pump? Have you had any similar experiences?

Speaking of newsletters, and we were, a paragraph ago, you might want to sign up for mine.  You also get a free copy of my Ebook, Jump Start Your Book With a Vision Board.  The form is to the right of this column.  And thank you.

 

 

The very cool photo is from iboy_daniel.

Fanning The Flames of Your Writing

Bonfire_night_bonfire_268843_lIt's the state we all desire—that white-hot obsessiveness when we're madly throwing words on the page, totally at one with the moment, completely absorbed in our creativity. But sometimes it is not so easy to get to this state. Is it even possible to access on a regular basis? My answer is yes—but you may not want to. Read on to learn some ways to coddle and encourage your white-hot writing, as well as when to aim for it and when not.

1. Know That Creativity is a Cycle

Sometimes you're writing in that white-hot heat I described above and others you're in a more sedate mode. The quieter moments are no less valuable, they are just different. While it would be wonderful to write in a white-hot heat every time you sat down at the page, you'd also burn yourself out very quickly. So aim for the intense sessions part of the time, perhaps during rough draft writing.

2. Appreciate Where You Are

Each stage holds its own gifts. Rough draft work, where you're most apt to be transported away, encompasses the thrill of discovery. But other stages such as editing and rewriting allow you the joy of reshaping and honing your work. Each writing process offers its own rewards.

3. Stay Connected.

Utilize the concept of momentum to power your writing and you'll experience more white-hot states. Keep your Work-in-Progress uppermost in your mind. Work on it as often as possible. Re-read it often. Take notes about it and brainstorm in your journal writing. Keep your project file open on the computer and sneak over and write a few lines during the day.

4. Train Like An Athlete

Sleep, rest, meditate, exercise, eat well. Your brain and your body are your instruments when you're a writer, so take good care of them. It does you no good to stay up late in a white-hot writing session because you'll just crash and burn the next day. Aim for balance. (I know, I know. It can be a goal, a work in progress.)

5. Refill the Well

Yes, I know your creativity fills you up and energizes you. But when you're working on a long project, it also drains you. That inner creative well needs constant replenishing, just the way your body needs more water (and lots of it) every day. Refresh and renew your creative spirit by doing things you love, like taking a hike with your dog, or visiting an art gallery.

You're looking to make a creative life for the long run here, not just blazing progess on one project and then a huge collapse. These tips ought to help with that goal.

How do you refill your well?  How do you fan the flames of your WIP?  I'm all ears.

Photo by John-p.

An Approach to Writing Scenes

During one of the free sessions I did last month, I talked with a writer about foreshadowing and how sometimes getting it in is really clunky.  Like, you might as well scream it from the rooftops, "I'm foreshadowing something important here," clunky.

And since I went right from that session to working on a chapter for a novel, I thought about how sometimes writing a scene is like that, too.  Sometimes everything is just too obvious: your dialogue is informational, and the point of the scene might as well be written in neon.

But sometimes if not always, you've got to let obvious rule the day, knowing that you can come back later and smooth it out, tamp it down, and make it less obvious.

As I was writing and pondering all this, a sort of seat-of-the-pants framework for writing scenes occurred to me.  Actually that makes it sound like it was a new idea, and it wasn't.  Rather, it was a discovery of my process, which occurred to me might be helpful to you.

So here it is (and this applies to all kinds of scenes, fictional and non-fiction, as in a memoir):

1.  Note the elements of the scene.  You can do this on a notepad or in your head, but I'm so visual I like to write it down.  This is just a list of the things that you know have to happen in the scene, plain and simple.

2.  Trust yourself and begin writing.  Plunge in, the water's fine.  Actually the water is probably a bit cold and scary at first, but shortly you'll get used to it and wonder why it took you so long to jump.  And here is one of the most important things I can impress upon you (and remember myself): more nuances of the scene will come to you as you write.

3. Use the concept of the placeholder.  Sometimes you know you need to get something in but there's no clear way not to make it clunky.  Just put it in, as noted above, knowing that you can come back to it and make it work later. 

4.  Write the scene all the way through.  The writing can be bad, the dialogue stilted, the descriptions laughable, but you'll have a finished scene.  And now you've got, on paper, all the elements of it (and you've probably discovered more as you followed #2).

5.  Rewrite and move on.  I'm a big believer in writing the discovery draft from beginning to end and then starting on a second draft, but I also like to do a rough rewrite of chapters as I'm writing the discovery draft.  This feels like part of the shaping of the story to me–so much comes out in this process that it's good to hone it a bit.

So that is my process for writing scenes, what's yours?  Do you tear your hair out over getting all the elements in or is an easy thing for you?  Please comment!

And don't forget the upcoming Authenticity + Creativity class that is coming up next Tuesday.  Woo-hoo!  Square-Peg Karen and I are going to be rocking and rolling this topic.  Just click the snazzy button to the right for more info.

 

A 5 Step Process for Dealing With Rejection

So, I'm looking for an agent.  I have an offer to publish my book and in the old days this would be a slam dunk.  I remember sitting in sessions at writing conferences hearing stories of people who got a contract with a publisher and were told it was a sure-fire way to get an agent.  Now, not so much.

Mostly they just ignore you. Baseball-sports-woman-441118-l

And it turns out that indifference is just as bad as rejection.  So I'm thinking a lot about rejection.  (And, for the record, I sent out my novel to a gazillion places before I got this acceptance.) 

It is important to remember that rejection is not just a mental and emotional response, but a visceral, physical one, too.  Here's how it goes for me:

It starts as a shimmery feeling all through me, then a surge of adrenalin and a punch in the gut, sometimes so hard it makes me want to double over.  This is no doubt a fight or flight response, and it is damned uncomfortable.

Then the head stuff begins:

  • I'm a failure
  • This is the one thing I love doing, and nobody will let me do it (note victim mentality)
  • All is lost
  • Now everything is ruined, even my Work in Progress (WIP)
  • No use working on my WIP because I'm such a failure

Sound familiar? 

After quite awhile of wallowing in this stage, comes the false bravado:

  • I will do it!
  • They can't stop me
  • Who are they to judge me?
  • I'll make it happen if it kills me

This is a semi-helpful stage because it indicates you're moving out of the wallowing, but be aware that false bravado is predicated on the empty space inside you that remains when your ego collapses.  And this is not the empty space the gurus speak of, it is the empty space that is hurting and scared.  Not a good foundation to build upon.

So what's a writer to do?  How in the hell does one deal with rejection?  Like this:

Feel your pain.  Our automatic response to an uncomfortable feeling is to run from it, or try to change it.  Don't.  Sit with it.  Feel it fully and deeply.  Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now and identify it.  One of the keys to dealing with hurt and rejection is allowing yourself to process it fully, which we don't do.  Because it is scary.  But then number two comes in:

Let go.  Oh lordie, it is easier to let go when you've processed something fully.  You can feel it.  But whatever feeling you are feeling is going to hang around until you've felt it, so don't think you can skip number one to get to the good part.  Huh-uh.  A handy visual for letting go: imagine your thoughts and worries as balloons and watch yourself release them into the air.  Feels good, doesn't it?

Affirmations.  They really do work to change your mindset, but not when you're busy trying to cover up stuff that is still clogging you up.  So do not skip to this step whatever you do.  But when you've processed and released, get you some positive statements to say to yourself.  It's like laying sod on a new field or planting new seeds.  Okay, I'll stop with the cheesy metaphors.

Begin the process again.  Get back to work on your WIP, or start a new one.  Here's your job: set your intention (sell my novel, get an agent, etc.), put it out into the universe, trust that the universe will act on it for you, and get writing.  Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Enjoy success.  Don't forget to celebrate even the smallest of victories along the way.  It is what makes living worthwhile.

 

Create a successful, inspired writing life:  Next time you get a rejection, remind yourself it is all part of the writing process.  And then activate the process above to help you through it.

I'd love to hear how you deal with rejection?  Do you scream and cry?  Throw things?  Or maybe you've developed some more useful reactions.  Please share them with everyone.  Fairly often the best part of my blog posts are in the comments, cuz my readers rock.

The photo is public domain from the Library of Congress. 

The Writing Process According to Novelist Gabrielle Kraft

 

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I've been hiding from the world because of my new hair color cleaning my office and going through old files and I found a sheaf of notes from a long-ago writing class that I took.  (It was in 1991, to be exact, because I dated it.)  What happened was that my writing group at the time hired a local mystery writer to teach us the ins and outs of writing novels.  That mystery writer's name was Gabrielle Kraft.*

 

Kraft taught me the writing process I follow today, with a few adaptations.  She was convinced that every process needed a structure, and if one simply followed that structure, one would end up with a finished project.  This idea appealed to me then, and it appeals to me now.  Here are those steps:

1.  Idea

2.  Synopsis

3.  Rough draft

4.  Rewrite of rough draft

5.  Edit your rewrite

6.  Polish your rewrite

7. Professionalize yourself as a writer

Here's a bit more on each stage.

1. Idea

"Your imagination is a muscle–use it or lost it."  Direct quote from my notes.  Think about ideas all the time.  You'll learn by setting problems and goals for yourself.  You can also glean ideas from pictures (I love to do this in workshops)  Ask, who is this person?  Where did she buy her coat?  What is she doing in this photo?  Who does she love? Remember, what's important is what you do with the idea. 

2. Synopsis

Kraft thought this was vital.  I rarely write one, preferring a loose outline to being boxed in to a synopsis, which I find painful to write.  But I concede there is value to writing a synopsis.  "Accept that is it useful to do it," I have in my notes. Take one month to write it. Many agents and editors ask for them when you're querying them.  (As an alternative or addition to a synopsis, I'd suggest a vision board for your book.)

3. Rough Draft

"Be impractical."  I love this advice!  Kraft further advised us just to get it out on the page, and to be emotional.  Write extra and leave room for slashing. (Contrary to popular opinion, what I see most often in student work is that more needs to be added in rather than cut.  So this is good advice.)

4. Rewriting

To Kraft, this was "chiseling away the extra pages."  Cut away everything that isn't a novel.

5. Editing

One line might well do.

6. Polishing

The ultra-fine tuning.  Be obsessive about it.  Change commas, periods, words.  This is "putting the sparkle on it."

7. Professionalize

Alas, the notes for this step of the structure are lost to the recycling Gods.  But from what I recall, this referred to understanding your chosen profession.  Learn about the publishing world and what it requires of you.  I also fancy that if Kraft were giving this class today, she'd be talking up the need to master social media.

I've followed a variation on this structural theme for every writing project I do ever since I first learned it from Kraft.   I know that in general there are two kinds of writers–the process writers and the perfection writers.  Process writers write a rough draft from start to finish, and follow something similar to what I've outlined here.  Perfection writers insist that every word and sentence is polished before they move on.  Don't know about you, but that sounds like living in the depths of hell to me.

So, what's your take on this?  Do you write a synopsis?  Follow a structure in your writing?  Or, do you have a teacher who influenced you the way Kraft influenced me?

 Create a successful, inspired writing life: Commit to following this process or a similar one (I won't holler if you leave out the synopsis step.)

And don't forget, there's still one more day to enter my Valentine's Day giveaway!

*I've lost touch with Gabrielle, and an internet search brings up only links to Amazon and Abe, which are selling her books second-hand.  I believe she worked in Hollywood before turning to mysteries.  I'd love to find out what she's doing now, if anybody knows of her.

Photo by cogdogblog.