Yep, just five tidbits on the process of writing. Specifically, my process of writing. Because it’s fun. These are not guaranteed to work for you, but hopefully you’ll find them at least entertaining. One of the things that you need to do as a writer is to learn to listen to what your body and your brain are telling you. You don’t have to understand how you know what they’re saying, so long as you know.
1) I don’t have a fixed writing spot.
I know a lot of authors swear by this. One space, solely dedicated to writing, so their minds knows that it is time to write and work and do lots of other cool things that brains do when you have that approach.
I have my preferred spots, but having just one will inevitably and invariably stop working at some point. I like movement. I enjoy change. I think I might very well like working on a train all day if I could afford the year long ticket and just move from city to city, enjoying the landscape changing around me as I take tiny little brain-breaks, and I didn’t have to deal with all of the other passengers who will inevitably be more of a distraction than I bargained for.
Anyway! That’s not the point. My point is that I have several spots I move between. I’ll know it’s time to move when sitting in one spot starts to tire me out more and faster than it normally does. I can keep writing here, but it’ll result in far less productivity than if I were to just, y’know, move to another location. It doesn’t take a lot of time and all I really lose is a couple of minutes while I drag my brain back to writing.
2) I can’t write on if there’s a major problem in the plot.
This one is a bit more common to writers that I’ve seen. If there’s a major issue with the plot somewhere, my brain shuts down and I can’t work on the story. I need to backtrack and fix it. Well, first I need to figure out quite where the story broke and why it did. There’s always that.
Writing, to me, happens without a lot of conscious planning. Most of my plot descriptions are mindmaps which go in half a dozen directions because if I write down just the one it’ll be obsolete in about two sentences. Having a mindmap allows me to explore all the options and lets the story guide me along the path it wants.
But it can still cause the kind of block that says “Okay, you made a big mistake. Backtrack now”. I can’t really describe the feeling very well. It’s perhaps a bit like trying to pull a proverbial donkey in a direction it doesn’t want to go in? It’s a different sense from, say, “I am too depressed to write” and pushing through it won’t do me any good. It just means I end up with a lot of stuff that gets tossed to the side.
3) Silence, oh, glorious silence.
For me, I need silence when I write. I can just about write with instrumental music, but I really prefer the quiet. This is something that I’ve mentioned in the past as being a change from my writing habits. It used to be I wrote better to music. I couldn’t you how or why that changed, but it did and now I prefer silence. Or at least noise that I can block out.
Very occasionally, I’ll write to mood music if I’m trying to get a very specific feel, but again silence is preferred.
4) A piece must have a title.
It can be a working title! Just as long as a piece has a title that isn’t “Untitled”. Titles are, in part, a focal point. They’re what I use to signal to my brain what I’m going to be working on in a session, so it’s vital that a piece have a recognisable title.
I prefer to have the actual title for the piece as soon as possible, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. The story about the Demi-Princess I’m working on? Doesn’t have a proper title yet. The sequel to A Promise Broken? Definitely already has a title. Courage Is the Price went through a couple of working titles, getting stuck with Space Ghosts in the end.
5) Controlled distraction is gold.
We’ve all seen the blog posts, right? We’ve all heard the stories. Shut down the internet when you’re writing. Don’t use Twitter. Stay away from Facebook. Focus on the writing and nothing but the writing.
And then we also get the posts that go “If a writer is staring into nothing, they are working. Do not disturb” and the articles that try to explain why working at a coffee shop is generally better than working at home in a quiet office area.
Me, I really need those little distracting moments. Give me half a minute to tweet about what I’m doing and I’m ready for another half hour of actual work. Don’t give it to me and I’ll stare blankly at the screen. Social media is the jolt of distraction people get in a coffee shop for me.
But, and there is a very big but to this, using social media this way is incredibly dangerous. It requires a lot of discipline to stay away from the rabbit hole filled with cute cat pictures or the weird marine creatures or the interesting links someone just tweeted. For a lot of people it’s genuinely better to stay far away from social media because it’s too distracting. Admittedly, I don’t always manage. I usually fail at the times when I need to succeed most. Those are the times I do stay far away from social media of all sorts.
When I write, I do my best to take into account how likely I am to get distracted by social media. On a bad day, I stay off. On a good day, it’s one of the most useful tools I’ve got for productivity.
And there you are. Five things that are a part of my writing process. I hope you’ve enjoyed it! And if something I do sounds like it might be useful, give it a whirl. I won’t guarantee it’ll work better than what you’re doing now, but I’ll guarantee that it’s worth finding out. The more you know about your own writing process, the easier it is to tailor it to your needs.
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