If you have spent anytime crawling through the trenches of the World Wide Web, looking for information on how to become a more better writer/blogger/rejectee then my new Sunday special is for you. Likely, you have discovered by now that no two writers have the exact same method of getting those font sized twelve, double spaced, nuggets of pure lust down on the page.
The key to any amount of measureable success (in the form of completion- and not that other kind of success which we will discuss later) is knowing what you need to function at peak performance. If I had the power to make, and leave for you all, your very own fortune cookie saying “To write is to know thine self.” I would, but since they would be expensive and entirely unpractical, this blog can be like the fortune cookie for your soul. Or whatever other bad food metaphor you would like to substitute.
The Writing Process Demystified #1: REM for your writing.
The time I like to write, and the time I am best at it refuse to line up. When I was a young kid (think Junior High) I used to write every day after school. I did it almost every day for three whole years of my life. Some overly writer types will tell you, that you should write every day, and while I will for the sake of this blog refuse to agree or disagree I will tell you this: 15 years later and my body is still programmed to sit down and do nothing but write for that exact same time, in that same time zone, every day without fail.
Just to clarify, it’s not like I walk around like a zombie until I sit down at my laptop, or in my case locate some paper and pen, and hammer out some words without being able to process what is going on in the world around me. It is just that I have never not been able to write at this time, because my body seems to know what it should be doing even if I don’t. (Save for days where the table is too clean, the world has ended etc. etc.)
Since I know not everyone does not have the luxury of having trained themselves to plug along like a high speed train from Las Vegas to fantasy land BEFORE they say--knew how to use most of the truly awesome forms of punctuation. I am going to offer some ideas for how to improve the amount of quality time you spend writing. Just like sleep, you sleep better in REM then when just fall asleep. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could just play a song and slip into that deep deep sleep- or you know, your creative mind?
Well the truth is you can.
Some writers are babies, we need routine.
Routine doesn’t have to mean the same time, the same amount of time, or anything like that. After achieving what vaguely resembles a life I can tell you I don’t always have available 4pm CST M-F to write. So I have invented ways of recreating that feeling, tricking my body into thinking it is that time. Even if it’s 8pm or 2:47 AM. The key is, when the time devoted can’t be the same, it helps me if everything else is.
I relate my writing routine to putting on my favorite pair of old pajamas. Comfortable. Warm. It gets me ready for bed like this process gets me ready to write.
Step One: Acquire the tools. Yes I have mad OCD, I like to line up my pencils, and other writing utensils and nicely. And I like to have everything I will need to work i.e. paper, ink, notebook-both kinds, and caffeine (more on this in next weeks Demystified: The Truth About Oral Fixation). Laying out whatever you need to write saves you from getting up, wasting time, and ruining the mood.
AND you NEVER want to RUIN the MOOD. Just saying.
Step Two: Play Music. I am not writing JACK without a playlist about him. But if you ask my critique partner Karen, she would tell you that was a deal breaker; she has to have SILENCE. If you are searching for your own writing process, I recommend my way over hers. Not because it’s MY WAY but because when you live with other people SILENCE is a ridiculous expensive commodity, and there are even FEWER places outside the house where you can achieve it.
Step Three: Hit play. No, not the music you already did that in step two I am talking about the movie in your head. Don’t have a movie in your head? Get one. Some people are ploters, some people are seat of your pantsers, I like to think of myself as a 3D movie in my head film director. The good news is, my way works for both the people with the fifty page outline and the people who make it up as they go along. It sounds so easy when I write it, but really all it is, is this: Think about what you are going to write before you do. But don’t think about the sentence structure; don’t get hung up on the words. Pretend for a minute, you are watching the film of the century and you want to absorb everything. Pretend you are seeing it for you blind best friend/ spouse/ mother sister WHOEVER. Pretend you will make their EXISTANCE if you can just adequately describe the way the sun seems to bounce off the sea, or the way the main character’s eyes shine when she realizes some sort of startling revelation. Now pretend your special someone can’t hear or smell or touch either and include all those senses. (Heh!) If you already have a living, breathing, version of your world and your characters in your head ready to unpause at a moments notice it is considerably easier to write about them.
Now remember, the only ones writing process I am an expert is my own. I even manage to goof up that one from time to time, but I’d love to hear about yours. Leave a comment, let me know, and I might bring it up later.